In the olden days (AKA two years ago), making sure you were technologically prepared for Christmas simply meant making sure the phrase ‘batteries not included’ didn’t ruin the day. My mum used to fill a biscuit tin with enough Duracell to power an army of bunnies, yet she still often had to do the ‘battery shuffle’ that rendered the remote control useless until Dad made a fuss because he wanted to watch The Queen’s Speech.
Anyway, now it’s not just power you have to worry about – there’s also the demand that the smartphones, tablets, games consoles and Wi-Fi speakers that Santa sneaked into your stockings are going to put on your home Wi-Fi network. Oh, and not to mention all that festive catch-up TV you’ll want to stream. So to make sure you stay online this Christmas, I’ve got 10 top tips to ensure you’re getting the best connection:
1. Check you’re getting the right speed You can do this by conducting a speed test at websites such as broadbandchoices.co.uk. Now check your broadband plan and if you’re not getting the speeds your provider is promising, give them a a call. You can discover some of my favourite broadband packages in the February 2014 issue of Ideal Home, out in early January.
2. Check your router Keep it off the floor and away from electrical equipment and metal objects such as TVs and radiators. In the middle of the house is best, connected directly to the master socket where your phone line enters the building.
Also try a quick reset by turning the power off and on again and see if that helps, but then I’d advise that you to leave your router turned on If you switch it off regularly (for example, when you go to bed), your broadband speed might be reduced because the exchange thinks your line is unstable and can’t cope with high speeds.
3. Use powerline extenders These plug into your sockets and ‘carry’ your internet connection through your wiring, bringing it to parts of the house your existing Wi-Fi signal might not reach due to beams or thick stone walls. ‘Hotspot’ versions create extra WiFi hotspots, while standard extenders let you to create a wired connection with an Ethernet cable.
Girl About Tech recommends: dLAN 500 Wi-Fi network kit, £124.99, Devolo at Amazon
Create two extra wi-fi hotspots where you previously had no access with this ‘best of breed’ adaptor kit. It comes with a free app that you can use to set up parental controls and guest accounts so any visitors can log in with a separate password and be unable to access the files on your network.
4. Fit microfilters Plugging a microfilter (usually supplied with your router) between your telephone socket and your broadband router stops the two services from interfering with each other. Without one your broadband will be slower and you’ll hear high-pitched noises when making calls.
5. Set up a password Otherwise neighbours can log in and share your connection, slowing it down.
7. Buy a dual-band router or converter kit The routers supplied with most broadband packages are single-band versions that communicate on one 2.4GHz frequency. Dual-band routers are more efficient because they broadcast on two frequencies, so you can perform basic tasks like emailing at 2.4Ghz, while streaming movies on the 5GHz band.
Girl About Tech recommends: D6200 modem router, £139.99, Netgear at Currys
This dual-band router is ideal if you’ve got a houseful all downloading, streaming and working on the same network. Also, if you plug a USB hard drive directly into the router, you’ll be able to access it from anywhere in the world via the internet.
If your supplier states in its terms and conditions that you only use their router, ruling a dual-band router out, you could buy a dual-band converter kit that upgrades an existing single-band router.
Girl About Tech recommends: Dual-Band Wi-Fi kit 600, £64.99, BT
This will upgrade any single-band router. And although many consoles, Smart TVs and tablets will talk to dual-band systems quite happily, if you have an older computer – which might not – a dongle is also included in the kit so you can upgrade it.