If you’re Wi-Fi connection isn’t quite as good as you’d like it to be, there are a few options available.
You might have considered switching broadband providers, but this may cost you more and there are no guarantees of a faster connection. A Wi-Fi extender or mesh Wi-Fi system might help, or you could move close enough to the router for a more rapid wired connection.
But there’s another potential solution that’s much easier. Most routers have what’s known as ‘dual-band’ Wi-Fi, meaning it broadcasts two separate Wi-Fi networks at the same time.
2.4GHz is usually the default, as it provides decent speeds over a longer distance. However, if you’re dissatisfied with your current connection, it’s worth considering a switch to 5GHz. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Essentially, it comes down to reliability vs speed.
2.4GHz can pass through walls and floors much more easily, making it a more reliable option for all rooms of the house.
However, if you’re near the router or have few obstacles, switching to 5GHz is likely to lead to a much faster connection.
Does my router have 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Unless you already know for sure that your router is a dual-band model and definitely has a 5GHz radio, it’s worth checking that out first. There’s no point 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 in to the router itself and check the settings available in the Wi-Fi section.
It’s fairly common to combine the two bands and use just one network name (SSID) for both 2.4 and 5GHz. This has advantages and disadvantages. For a start, if combined, it’s not possible to force your laptop to only use the 5GHz band, so it’s worth splitting them out into two separate Wi-Fi networks if your router offers this option. Newer BT Home Hubs have the setting:
When you have separate networks, you can rename them (with 5GHz at the end of the 5GHz one, say) so you can easily identify each network from your laptop, phone or tablet and know which one you’re connected to.
If your router doesn’t support it, almost all of the best routers do.
Does my laptop support 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi specs aren’t the first thing you think about when buying a new laptop, and manufacturers don’t always quote them.
But if you already have a Windows 10 or Windows 11 laptop, it’s easy to find out, and the method is the same on both.
Using the search bar next to the Start menu, search for and open the Device Manager
Expand the ‘Network adapters’ section
Find the make and model of your laptop’s Wi-Fi – either ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘Wireless Network’ is usually mentioned in its name
Search for its specific name online
This laptop, for example, has a Qualcomm Atheros AR9285 adaptor. Searching online for this make and model brings up plenty of results for its specifications which show that it works only on 2.4GHz. If your adapter supports Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), it will definitely support 5GHz. In most cases, 802.11n adapters will also support 5GHz.
You can also check directly from Device Manager:
Right-click the adapter and choose ‘Properties’
Select the ‘Advanced’ tab, then look for the ‘Property’ list
If it supports 5GHz, you should see it mentioned here. If not (as is the case in the example below), either your adapter doesn’t support it or the wrong drivers are installed
But even if it’s bad news, there’s an easy fix. You can add 5GHz Wi-Fi to any laptop which doesn’t have it by adding a dongle. These are relatively cheap, and there are plenty of great options.
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 on it and then click ‘Connect’. Enter the password and that’s it.
Here’s what it looks like on Windows 10, although the process on Windows 11 is very similar.
In the image above, you can see that there are two separate networks being broadcast from one BT Home Hub 5 router. Click the Wi-Fi icon on your Windows laptop (then the right arrow next to it on Windows 11) to see all wireless networks in range.
Switching to 5GHz not having the desired effect for your connection? Check out more ways to speed up Wi-Fi.