Improve Your Home Internet

See more remote resources for connecting from home.

  • The resources below provide tips and guidance to improve your home network experience. Every home setup is different, so please consult with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for details specific to your location.
     

    While ITS does not deploy, install, operate, or support home office internet or devices, our networking experts wanted to share these tips as a starting place for you to begin your research. Online guides, articles, and blogs are also a valuable resource that may address your situation more specifically.

     

    The tips in this document are provided by ITS Network teams, Neighborhood IT, and campus IT partners.

Connection Basics

  • Internet and WiFi experience: Many variables contribute to your internet and WiFi experience at home. 
    • Internet bandwidth available in your area.
    • Internet plan you have selected from your provider.
    • Home location and size.
    • Your work location and proximity to home router.
    • Number of other people connected to your home network and the bandwidth/performance requirements of their activities (e.g. playing video games, downloading files, or streaming video).
    • Number of devices connected to your home network, proximity to your WiFi router/mesh points (closer is better), and the type of WiFi radio technology in your devices. 
  • Determine what internet speed you need: Selecting an appropriate plan for your needs depends on the number of devices on your network, the cost-effectiveness of the plans available to you, and your specific use cases. Not all ISPs advertise their upload speeds. If you cannot find this information, it is important to ask. You most likely do not need the fastest internet speeds offered by your ISP, but it is useful to compare the Mbps per dollar of the plans available to you to find the most cost-effective one. 

     

    Test your network speed. Note: Speeds may be lower when using a VPN. We recommend testing both with and without the VPN enabled.

     

    Speed test results:

    • Download speed. How quickly content from the internet transfers to your computer.
    • Upload speed. How fast you can upload content to the internet. Upload speeds are typically significantly lower than your download speed.
    • Ping. The amount of time it takes data to travel from one computer to another on the network. Anything below 20ms is a great ping result, while anything over 100ms could result in noticeable lag. Normal results are in between these numbers and can vary widely. This is the least important of the three numbers unless it’s very high.
     

    The FCC defines a broadband connection as having at minimum 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. This is suitable for a small household that is not doing intense streaming on multiple devices or high-resolution gaming. Average speeds offered to consumers are higher than those for common technologies like fiber, cable, and IP-DSL. For larger households with multiple videoconferencing users, or for 4K streaming video resolution, a faster plan is recommended if available and cost-effective. 

     

    Consider:

    1. how many users are in your household,
    2. how many devices require a connection to the internet, and
    3. how they use each device.
       
    See BroadbandNow Internet Providers in Ann Arbor Michigan for a list of Internet Service Providers in Ann Arbor, their service offerings, and links to contact information, and plans and pricing information. Not in Ann Arbor? Enter your Zip Code in the Zip Code Search field of BroadbandNow to find Internet Service Providers in your area.

     

    Download speeds for common activities per device:

    • 1-5 Mbps for checking email and browsing the web
    • 5-10 Mbps for streaming HD video or video conferencing
    • 15-25 Mbps for streaming HD video and playing online games
    • 100+ Mbps for streaming 4K video, playing online games, or downloading large files
  • Relocate yourself or your router. Where you place your router can affect your WiFi coverage. The closer your device is to the router, the faster the connection.
  • Consider updating your networking hardware
    The following products have been identified during testing as high quality solutions for home use by ITS WiFi engineers, based on technical specifications, ease of setup, performance, support, and price. These products are widely available where electronics are sold. While these are not specifically supported by ITS, and there are many other products that may suit your needs, you might consider these as a starting point when you are looking for new equipment.
    • Cable Modem
      A cable modem connects to the TV cable jack in your home and provides internet service to your home network from a cable ISP like Xfinity or Spectrum. 
      Recommendation: Nighthawk Ultra-High Speed Cable Modem
    • Unmanaged Ethernet Switch
      An unmanaged switch allows you to connect ethernet plug-and-play wired devices to your network. The switch requires no setup or configuration to use. 

      Recommendation: Netgear 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch

    • WiFi Router 
      A WiFi router connects to your internet router and broadcasts a WiFi signal throughout your home. It's important to select a device that is relatively recent, released within the past year or so because WiFi standards are updated frequently.

      Recommendation: Linksys Max-Stream Mesh WiFi 6 Router

    • WiFi Mesh System
      If you live in a larger home, 1500 square feet or larger, you might consider a "mesh" WiFi product. Mesh systems include a main router plus one or more satellite devices that you place around your home to better distribute the WiFi signal. We do not recommend using WiFi "range extenders," which can diminish network service and cause radio interference.

      Recommendation: NightHawk Mesh WiFi 6 System

    • WiFi Adapter for Older Hardware
      If the WiFi radio in your laptop or desktop is not capable of at least WiFi 5 (802.11ac), you may experience slower speeds or other connectivity issues. One way to fix this without buying a new computer is to disable the integrated/existing WiFi radio and use a USB adapter with newer technology. If your computer is on the floor, in a metal enclosure, or other space that creates conditions for poor reception, consider using a USB cable to elevate the WiFi adapter for better performance.

      Recommendation: Linksys WUBS6400M AC1200 MU-MIMO USB Wi-Fi Adapter
      USB extension cable: Tripp Lite 6-foot Cable

  • Questions to ask yourself and discuss with your Internet Service Provider (ISP):
    • How many people are using your home network?
      The more people that are using your home network, the higher bandwidth you will require.
    • How is the network being used?
      Email and web browsing require limited bandwidth. Streaming video and online gaming require more bandwidth. Even if you are only using email, if others are doing video streaming and gaming in your home, their use of the network could affect you as well.
    • Do you have a data cap?
      A data cap is an ISP-imposed limit on the amount of data allowed over a network. Not every ISP has a data cap, but going over your data cap can mean paying extra fees. Hitting your data cap can also limit the bandwidth your ISP will allow.
    • How old is your service plan?
      As technology improves and ISPs offer faster speeds for similar prices, they do not necessarily upgrade their existing customers. Review your plan and cost against your ISP's (and other ISPs') current options. If there's a gap, calling the "retention" department of your ISP can help you get a faster plan, often for the same or lower cost.
    • How old is your cable modem?
      If your cable modem is more than eight years old, it is likely no longer supported by your ISP. If it is more than three years old, it likely cannot use the latest technology that your ISP has deployed. If you are in the market for a cable modem, we recommend investing in a DOCSIS 3.1 capable device, due to issues with older modem chipsets, a shorter support window for older technologies, and because a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem will provide you with a longer service life and a more capable connection to your ISP. See What Is DOCSIS and Why Does It Matter?.
    • Is your cable modem combined with a WiFi router?
      If you have a combined device, you may have one piece that is updated to new standards (cable modem), but the WiFi piece may have older standards. We recommend having separate devices so you can make sure your equipment is able to be updated as different standards are introduced.
    • Is your WiFI router up to date?
      Consider both your hardware and your software. Older routers with outdated standards may limit your WiFi capacity and capabilities. Purchasing a new router with newer standards may increase your network's performance. Ask your ISP how old the rented router/modem is before you make this decision. Other things to consider with your router include:
      • Is your router compatible with other internet equipment you have at home? Check online before buying a router or other internet equipment to make sure it is compatible with your current equipment and ISP.
      • Is your router secure? See Secure Your Home WiFi Network for more information.
      • We recommend using Wi-Fi Certified 6 end-user devices and routers.
    • How old is the physical cable connecting the modem to the wall?
      Worn or bent coaxial cable, old splitters, in-home amplifiers, and cable that is over 20 years old will cause reliability and service issues.
    • Can you use a wired connection?
      Though not feasible for all homes or people, consider using an ethernet cable to connect directly to your WiFi router if possible. A wired connection to your router can be faster, more stable, and less affected by other devices in your home.

Personal and public hotspots

  • Purchase a WiFi hotspot. Hotspots are used to access the internet when traveling or to boost areas of your home with a diminished wireless signal. Keep in mind that if you live in an area that has poor internet options, a hotspot may not improve your internet speed as they work using the available cellular connection.
    • Mobile WiFi hotspots: Most iOS and Android smartphones have a feature that allows you to use your phone's cellular data to create a mobile WiFi hotspot. The hotspot allows you to connect to the internet with a computer or another device that does not have cellular data.
    • Purpose-built mobile WiFi hotspot: These devices turn a cellular data connection into a WiFi signal. Those who travel for work or need a more reliable WiFi connection may be interested in purchasing one. You can purchase them from most cell phone companies.
  • Visit a public hotspot: Many businesses, including coffee shops, libraries, or even entire cities, offer a free, public WiFi connection. Keep in mind many businesses are closed or have restricted hours, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
     

    MWireless is available in the Diag and the North Campus Grove. Limited WiFi coverage is available north of the bus stop in parking lot NC90 off Baxter Road, and in the parking lot north of the Walgreen Center. See the WiFi coverage map for all university WiFi locations.

     

    eduroam is available to students, faculty, and staff when visiting other universities, national labs, and other institutions around the world. Configure MSetup before visiting other institutions for full access to U-M resources when using eduroam.

Advanced Troubleshooting

  • Do your research. There are options for hardware and other internet tools that can increase your internet speed. You should research these options before acting on them as they can be complicated to install. Making changes in your current system, or within your router itself, can cause unexpected issues with your internet.
  • Domain Name System (DNS): DNS is an internet service that translates domain names (e.g., its.umich.edu) into IP addresses that computers can understand. We use an IP address much like a postal address, in that it uniquely identifies one or more devices on a computer network. Sometimes, when a browser is unable to establish a connection to the internet, it is because the DNS server was unable to return a corresponding IP address. You may see an error such as "DNS server not responding." This error can be due to the DNS server being temporarily unavailable. When troubleshooting this issue try the following:
    • Navigate to a different website. It may be an issue with the particular website you're visiting.
    • Change your web browser. Navigate to the particular website you want using an alternative web browser (e.g., Chrome instead of Firefox). If this solves the problem, confirm you are using the most updated version of your preferred web browser.
    • Temporarily deactivate your firewall. If you can access the desired website when your firewall is temporarily deactivated, then the firewall is the issue.
    • Restart your router. Sometimes, you can resolve connection problems by restarting the server. You can do this by pushing the power button on your router. Another way is with a "hard reboot," which means pulling the power cord out of the plug and waiting 30 seconds before plugging it back in.

    Change your router channel. Signals from other wireless networks can impact your internet speed. Try signing in to your router's administrator interface and selecting a channel manually to see if the new channel provides a better signal and faster speeds. You can find how to access this admin interface via your router manual.

    • 2.4 GHz users: Choose channels one, six, or eleven.
    • 5 GHz users: Choose any of the channels listed.
     

    Use a Quality of Service (QoS) tool. Many routers come with QoS tools, which you can typically find under advanced settings in the network's administrator interface. You can use QoS settings to prioritize applications like videoconferencing.

     

    Expand your WiFi coverage. There are options to increase WiFi coverage to locations where you have a weak or nonexistent signal. One solution is a mesh-based WiFi system. Mesh WiFi consists of the main router that connects directly to your modem and a series of satellite modules placed around your house for full WiFi coverage. Mesh WiFi allows for faster speeds, smoother reliability, and greater coverage. The cost to implement a mesh-based WiFi system is often higher than just purchasing a router.

     

    Wifi Boosters/Extenders/Repeater: Due to the high level of knowledge and expertise to set-up these products, they are not recommended for use. Please consider the mesh-based system recommended above to achieve a better outcome.

Additional resources

 

If you have feedback or suggestions for this guide, please let us know. For other questions or to get help with the services in this guide, please contact the ITS Service Center.