Sunday, August 13, 2006

Q My neighbor's WiFi signal comes in so strong that I think it's interfering with my wireless network. How do I clear this congestion?

AChange the channel. Although WiFi routers use the same 2.4 GHz radio frequency, they broadcast on only one of 11 possible channels. Like lanes on a highway, these channels are supposed to balance out the flow of traffic.

WiFi routers, however, aren't all smart enough to know when they're bunched into the same channel as other access points. You can see if that's the case and then find a less crowded channel by using two free diagnostic programs: NetStumbler for Windows 2000 and XP ( ) and iStumbler for Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 ( ).

Both will display your own network's signal and those of nearby WiFi routers. Note which channels your neighbors use, and especially the neighbors with the strongest signals. If your network also rides on one of those channels, use your WiFi router's control software to switch to a less-crowded alternative. Users who have tried that (including visitors to the site where I found this tip, have reported improved results.

Don't overlook other sources of WiFi interference in your own home; cordless phones and microwaves can also gum up wireless reception. Try to keep your WiFi gear as far as possible from these devices.

My laptop takes forever to wake up. How can I accelerate that?

Make sure it isn't set to "hibernate" instead of "standby." A computer can hibernate far longer on battery power than it can stand by, but it will also be slower to revive itself. To adjust Windows' sleep habits, select Control Panel from the Start Menu, then click "Performance and Maintenance," followed by "Power Options."

Under the Power Options window's Advanced tab, you can choose whether the laptop will stand by, hibernate or do nothing when you close its lid or press its power button. Choose its Alarms tab to change what the laptop does when its battery runs out.

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

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