If you’re looking to improve your Wi-Fi, one of the first things you might consider is replacing your router. While this can have an impact, the key to speeding up your connection can be as simple as switching to a 5GHz connection.
Most modern routers have ‘dual-band’ Wi-Fi, which means it creates two different Wi-Fi networks. The default is usually 2.4GHz, which usually provides a stable connection over longer distances.
Here’s everything you need to know about these two frequencies and how to convert between them.
What is the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Basically, it depends on reliability and speed.
2.4GHz can penetrate walls and floors much more easily, making it a more reliable choice for all rooms in the house.
However, if you are near the router or have few obstacles, switching to 5GHz is likely to result in a much faster connection.
Does my router have 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Unless you already know for sure that your router is dual-band model and definitely has a 5GHz radio, you should check that first. There’s no point in enabling 5GHz Wi-Fi on your laptop if your router doesn’t support it.
The easiest way to do that is to check its specifications online, look in the manual, or log into the router itself and check the available settings in the Wi-Fi section.
It is quite common to combine two bands and use only one network name (SSID) for both 2.4 and 5GHz. This has advantages and disadvantages. For starters, if combined, it’s not possible to get your laptop to use only the 5GHz band, so you should split them into two separate Wi-Fi networks if your router offers this option. Newer BT home hubs have this setting:
Once you have separate networks, you can rename them (such as 5GHz at the end of 5GHz) so you can easily identify each network from your laptop, phone or tablet and know What network are you connecting to?
If your router doesn’t, see our roundup of the best routers or – better yet – mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Does my laptop support 5GHz Wi-Fi?
The best way to find out is to open the Control Panel – search for it in the Windows search box – then go to Device Manager and look for the make and model of your laptop’s Wi-Fi in the Network adapters section.
For example, this laptop has a Qualcomm Atheros AR9285 adapter. An online search for this product and model yields many results for its specifications, showing that it only works on 2.4GHz. If your adapter supports 802.11ac, it will definitely support 5GHz. In most cases, 802.11n adapters will also support 5GHz.
You can also right-click the adapter in Device Manager, click Properties, and then switch to the Advanced tab. You will see a list of properties, one of which should mention 5GHz. If you don’t see an option to enable or disable 5GHz, it’s possible that your adapter doesn’t support it or the driver is installed incorrectly.
And if you notice that your laptop doesn’t have 5GHz Wi-Fi, you can easily add it by purchasing a USB Wi-Fi dongle for your laptop. These aren’t expensive – around £10-30 / $10-30 – and mean you can upgrade your laptop’s Wi-Fi without opening it up. We’ve rounded up the best USB Wi-Fi adapters.
How to connect to 5GHz Wi-Fi from your laptop
This is the easy part. If you can see your router’s 5GHz wireless network name in the list of available Wi-Fi networks, you can click it and then ‘Connect’. Enter the password and that’s it.
In the image above you can see two separate networks broadcast from the BT Home Hub 5. Click the Wi-Fi icon (highlighted) to see the wireless networks in range.
Switching to 5GHz doesn’t give your connection the desired effect? Check out other ways to increase Wi-Fi speed.
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