Free Tools for Optimizing Your Wireless Setup

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 29, 2011

Over the past several years, many of us have become increasingly dependent on Wi-Fi in our connected lives. Even devices that connect to cellular networks also take advantage of Wi-Fi for connectivity. The irony is, though, that most people who have home Wi-Fi networks do very little to optimize them, and often even tolerate being dropped from their connections, slow speeds and more. There are some free, open source solutions that can make a difference if you don't have an optimized Wi-Fi setup, and this post covers some of the best choices.

Many people solve problems with dropped Wi-Fi by simply rebooting their routers, access points, the computers that they're connected to, and other devices that drive a wireless connection. Some others solve interference problems by changing channels on their routers. You can find out how to do both here, inlcuding how to do a cycled reboot of your wireless devices.

In the world of open source Wi-Fi tools, two of the best apps to know about are Tomato and dd-wrt.  If you don't know about dd-wrt, it's worth getting it and at least poking around. It started out as a Linux-based firmware replacement for one Linksys router, intended to add various types of authentication options. Since then, it has ballooned into many downloadable versions for almost any common Wi-Fi router. With dd-wrt, you get a whole lot of router options that you wouldn't otherwise have, and you can get better performance around your home or office.

InfoWorld has a very good post up now on dd-wrt. As it notes:

"DD-WRT includes extensions to allow the truly adventurous to do things with their router that the manufacturer never intended -- adding external USB connectors or aftermarket memory card readers, for instance. Though beyond the realm of most ordinary users, they open up fascinating possibilities for the hard-core hacker."

With dd-wrt, you can increase your Wi-Fi performance and prevent dropped Wi-Fi. You can set dd-wrt so that you have a router reboot in the middle of the night each night. Open source firmware like dd-wrt also decreases the likelihood that a hack or malware is going to affect your router.

Tomato is a very popular Linux-based alternative to dd-wrt that also adds several typs of functionality and troubleshooting to your Wi-Fi router. It can help you pull up detailed charts of signal strength and much more to optimize your setup.

Give these tools a try if you're having Wi-Fi headaches.