Quester about router range

Yet another computer question.

I have a wifi router. It stays in one place. I have usually used my laptop at my desk which is on the other side of the room, probably around eight feet from the router.

I recently signed up with Hulu and I have been moving my laptop over to my bed at night so I can watch TV shows and movies before going to sleep. The laptop is right next to the router when I do this, around two feet from the router.

I would have expected moving the laptop closer to the router would either have no effect or maybe make the signal stronger. But the opposite is the case. The signal strength drops by at least half when I move the laptop closer to the router. (This is not just my subjective feeling. I’ve run several online tests at both locations.)

Is this some common phenomenon I was unaware of? Does a router have some minimum distance it needs to be from the computer in order to work properly? Is there some directional effect I am missing?

It may be that the router is unable to lower its output power enough to void overloading the input stage of the laptop’s WiFi receiver.
Hard to say what you can do to ameliorate that.

If the signal bars in the laptop’s WiFi control panel show low signal it might be more messy. I don’t think you could reasonably find yourself in local null. 2.4Ghz has a wavelength of 12.5 cm. So you would expect interference nulls to come and go moving by about half that. So close to the router could involve unwelcome nulls, but I don’t really see it. You could try rotating and shifting the router. But I doubt this is it.

Possibly interference from another network?

Can you move the router a few feet, to try to work out whether it’s associated with the location in the room, or the position of the laptop relative to the router?

I wonder if antenna orientation is relevant?

This doesn’t sound likely. My wifi signal is genrrally understrength. I haven’t contacted my provider over it because it hasn’t been a big issue prior to this.

I’ve tried this. No effect.

That doesn’t make much sense. The WiFi base transceiver is inside the router box. At least it usually is. It isn’t a function of the internet connection. Even if your internet connection was disabled, the WiFi should still function exactly the same.

I don’t think this is likely. I open my network window and my network is the only one showing four bars. I see other networks but they’re all three bars or less. So I my router appears to be sending me the strongest signal.

I can’t move it very far. The router is on a pretty short leash. I have tried moving it around the few feet that I can and it doesn’t seem to have had any effect.

There is no antenna.

There is always an antenna. Some devices just put them on the inside. Which is part of why moving the box about still matters.

Can still be interference. You could try forcing the WiFi base station to a different channel. If you get one of he many WiFi diagnostic apps, you can view all the visible participants and which channels they are on. They try moving to a different one. Just because your base station is shouting the loudest doesn’t mean you reception is interference free.

If you are seeing four bars from your base station, I would still suspect too much power. I’m not sure how this matches up with “generally understrength WiFi.”

This is probably a reflection of my ignorance of computer operations. I am measuring the “strength” of my connection by online internet speed tests that are measuring the upload and download speeds and latency.

I just ran a couple of them.

At my desk (eight feet from the router):
3.41 Mbps download
0.48 Mbps upload
Latency: 41 ms

At the bed (two feet from the router):
1.90 Mbps download
0.35 Mbps upload
Latency: 33 ms

And this is less of a drop than I usually see.

Okay. But if the antenna is inside the box, I can’t do much about its orientation other than move the box around.

This may be something. I opened up the network connection window again with my laptop at the bed. My network is still showing four bars. But two other networks which were only showing three bars at my desk are now showing four bars as well.

Ah, OK. Generally, when we talk about speed we tend to use the same word when describing qualitative effects. Signal strength is all about the radio link. The equivalent of how loud the signal is.

Speed is measured is information per unit time (so bits per second).
Signal strength a measure of power, usually expressed as dBm (decibels referenced to 1 milliwatt). That is the number you will see inside a technical information summary panel.

So rewinding. A very high signal strength is capable of overloading the input stage of the WiFi receiver of the laptop. This is not dissimilar to turning the volume up on your stereo so high that the signal gets turned into distorted mush. So suddenly from working really well, the system can go to working really badly. Normally WiFi systems are expected to dynamically manage signal levels, so your router would be expected to realise that it was very close to the laptop (and vice versa) and reduce power levels. It may be that it is so close I can’t manage enough. Maybe.

Yup. See if you can work out how to switch channels. You may need to be able to log into your router. I’m afraid I have no clue about Windows. Others are probably better here.

Do you know how to log in to your router?
IP address is usually
Or follow guidance here

Sounds like you found the problem. Wireless routers usually have a “site survey” option or something similar that shows you what channels are in use nearby and their signal strength. As others have said, your best bet would be to change the channel at the router (you probably need to change it from “auto” to “manual” and then pick one that’s not in use). Your client devices will automatically find the new channel.

for antenna orientation, then, rotate the box.

Seriously – 2 feet away?
For under 5 bucks you can buy a 5-foot patch cable. Then you can leave that cable next to your bed, and plug it in when watching movies. It will work at the full speed of your internet connection, with no problems.