Routers do a good job of selecting channels automatically, based on what else is operating nearby. If, however, you notice that your router is operating on the same channel as another router nearby, or you think you might benefit from switching to something better suited to your surroundings you might want to consider changing it manually.
You could go some way to counter competition from other Wi-Fi networks by changing the band you are using and channel you’re on.
There are three bands of Wi-Fi available and your router will either use the 2.4GHz band, the 5GHz band, the 6GHz band, or all of them. The 5GHz and 6GHz bands offer more bandwidth than the 2.4GHz band and is less susceptible to interference because other domestic appliances don’t use that frequency, however, because the 2.4GHz band uses a lower frequency it can get through thick walls and other objects.
If you have a new 6GHz router it uses the 1200MHz wide Wi-Fi spectrum, which is much larger than the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums. It also adds seven 160 MHz channels to the mix. You can only take advantage of these with a Wi-Fi 6E router. See: What Wi-Fi 6E means for Apple’s new Macs and the iPhone 15.
If your problem could be solved by using the 5GHz or 6GHz bands – and they are available to you – follow these steps:
How to switch to the 5GHz or 6GHz band
To use the 5GHz or 6GHz band on your dual-band router you’ll need to separate the 2.4GHz and 5GHz/6GHz networks on your router (check its manual to find out how) and give them different names.
Click the Wireless Options button at the bottom of the window and click the box next to ‘5GHz network name’. Now give it a different name.
Once you’ve separated the 2.4GHz and 5GHz/6GHz networks, you need to tell your Mac and iOS devices to join 5GHz/6GHz in preference to 2.4GHz.
- In macOS Ventura or later open System Settings and click on Wi-Fi. Select the 5GHz/6GHz network and connect to it. Right click on the 5GHz/6GHz network and make sure Auto-Join is on. Deselect Auto-Join on the 2.4GHz network.
- In macOS Monterey or earlier go to the Network pane in System Preferences and click on Wi-Fi. Choose the Advanced button and drag the 5GHz/6GHz network to the top of the list.
- On an iOS device, tap on Settings, then Wi-Fi. Tap on the ‘i’ next to the 2.4GHz network, and slide ‘Auto-Join’ to off.
We have a tutorial about How to switch to 5GHz on a Mac here.
How to change the channel in the 2.4GHz band
If your router is too old to offer 5GHz or 6GHz, or the 2.4GHz band is better suited to the thick walled building you live in, you could try changing the channel.
There are 13 channels on the 2.4GHz bands of which all but 1, 6 and 11 overlap. You’d be wise to pick a channel as far away from the one your neighbours use if possible.
The steps you need to follow to change the channel on your router will depend on your router software. To access your router software you need to know the IP address of your router. Most routers have an IP address of http://192.168.0.1 or http://192.168.1.1.
Open your web browser and type the IP address into the address bar and press enter. This will bring up your router software. Look for the channel information and log into your router to change it.
Don’t just move it to the next available channel, however. Channel frequencies overlap, meaning that narrowband routers use five channels concurrently and wideband routers use seven. So, if you manually change channels, make sure you move at least five or seven channels away from the one your router is currently operating on.
As you make changes, keep monitoring the graphs in Wireless Diagnostics so you can see which ones make a significant difference to signal quality.
Alternately you could configure your Wi-Fi network channel to Automatic so that it selects the best channel to use.