Alexander: Why Wi-Fi is speedier than Internet

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 18, 2013 - 7:50 PM

Q You wrote that any Wi-Fi router you can buy today will be much faster than your Internet connection. Does this mean the wireless router can transmit data faster than my Internet connection can send it? If so, who cares?

Along those lines, what’s the best way to measure the Internet data speeds coming into my home via my cable modem? Is there a way to use the speedtest.net website to measure the data speed to a specific computer in the house? I’ve noticed that the Internet speed to my PC, which is wired to the router, is faster than the speed that my wife gets on her Wi-Fi-equipped laptop in another room.

Charles Solly, ST. Augustine, Fla.

 

A It might seem silly that your home Internet connection (typically less than 20 megabits per second) is left in the dust by your Wi-Fi router (300 to 900 megabits per second advertised, although 25 to 50 percent slower in practice). After all, you can’t share Internet data around the house faster than you receive it.

But it turns out to be important. When that fast Wi-Fi router is shared by several PCs, tablet computers or smartphones, each of those devices claims part of the router’s overall speed. The more Wi-Fi devices using the home network, the slower the speed that each one gets. So it makes sense to start out with a fast Wi-Fi router.

It is possible to measure the speed being received by each computer in the house. When you use speedtest.net (a credible and widely used site), you are sending the website a request to measure the time it takes to download or upload a preset amount of data to or from the PC you’re using at the moment. All things being equal, you’ll get about a 30 percent faster speed on a PC with a wired connection to the Internet compared with a PC in the same house that’s connected by Wi-Fi. In most cases, that’s a difference of seconds, not minutes.

Why? Once in your home, data can’t travel over the air as quickly as it moves through a wire. Obstacles for Wi-Fi include the walls in your house, which can affect signal quality, and radio interference from other Wi-Fi networks, microwave ovens or garage door openers (all share radio frequencies designated for public use).

 

Q The My Documents icon disappeared from the Desktop screen of my Windows Vista PC. How can I get the icon back?

Lon Cross, ST. Louis Park

 

A Click the Start button and select Documents from the menu. Use the “Restore Down” button at the top right of the screen to make the Documents folder cover only part of your screen, so that the Desktop screen is visible beneath it.

Then use your mouse to drag the Documents folder icon to the Desktop. The Documents folder won’t actually move, but the action will create a shortcut to the Documents folder on your Desktop.

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@

gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 ­Portland Av. S., ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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