By expert • Georgina Lord from broadband provider Zen.co.uk
Forget the Spring Clean - this season is all about the Digital Device Declutter
It’s spring clean season, but this year there’s a new Hinch-style home hack that you should consider -a digital device declutter! Many people will have heard of a digital detox, but let’s face it - now is not the time to disconnect from the tech we’ve become so dependent upon. Instead, why not use the annual big clear out to clean up and speed up internet connectivity in your home - by ditching the devices and a few bad habits that could be slowing you down.
Check out our five essential ways that you can declutter and restore some digital harmony to the home.
Georgina Lord from broadband provider Zen.co.uk explains: “Laptops, tablets, mobile phones and gaming consoles have become a lifeline for many in the past 12 months. From keeping up with family and friends, home schooling and working to online tutorials and personal training sessions - a huge part of our lives has been lived through a screen.
“And it’s probably not surprising to hear that the average Briton now has access to more than nine connected devices - with most actually constantly connected to the WiFi in some way as well. What is more, a household with three children now typically has nearly 16 internet-enabled items. These can include computers, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, Connected TV boxes, video game consoles, smartwatches, smart speakers, thermostats and smart plugs - the list goes on!
“With so many of our gadgets and technology working flat out using the same connection, it’s time to look at easing the pressure to ensure that the whole household can exist in harmony, without the issue of connectivity and internet speed getting in the way.”
Your five-step guide to a digital declutter: Step one - switch stuff off when not in use
You may not realise it but tablets and smartphones often work in the background - even when they aren’t being used. So, if you’ve got devices that you think are using your bandwidth (by downloading updates in the background, for example) start your digital device declutter by switching off the WiFi option on anything you aren’t using - you could also put it on airplane mode. A laptop will keep connecting to the WiFi if it is on and open, so shut it down completely when you have finished using it. Gone are the days when a computer takes a good ten minutes to fire up so get into the habit of doing a complete shut down every day.
You might want to check wireless devices that may sit dormant most of the time too. Things like wireless printers can be switched off when they aren’t needed. You can also try turning off specific streaming settings - for example, HD streaming. Netflix allows you to change the data usage setting when you login in and select ‘playback settings’ under your profile. If there are times when a lot of devices are being used collectively, this could remove the dreaded buffering mid-stream.
Step two - remove any ‘shadow’ devices from your network
Giving your router a quick spring clean is a great habit to get into and you could be surprised at what a difference it makes. Use your router’s admin interface to find out exactly how many devices are connected to your network. Deleting the devices you don’t recognise or don’t want connected can help to ease the pressure and speed up connectivity. It is also possible to prioritise the most important devices to make sure that they always get the best possible connection. So, whether it is your games console, work laptop or smart TV, you can choose which device gets priority when there’s not quite enough bandwidth to go round. Do this via the router settings page of your broadband provider and edit the wireless settings to add priority to your chosen devices. Of course, it might be a good idea to check with the rest of the household first!
Step three - create device free zones
Tempting as it is to have always-on devices like Alexa and automated WiFi plugs dotted around the home, it may be causing excessive strain on the router. Try making certain rooms in the home internet-free zones, especially the bedroom. This will bring more ‘zen’ and health benefits too, especially if you’re worried about the effects of blue light on your sleep and eyes.
Step four - show your router some love and attention
Let’s face it - despite the crucial role that they play in keeping us connected, a router isn’t ever going to be the centrepiece of an interior design scheme. Many end up shoved under furniture, behind curtains, in cupboards and anywhere else that they can be hidden from view. In reality you should be putting a little more thought into where you keep a router - this could improve your connectivity no end.
Place your router as close as you can to the centre of a home for a consistent connection. If your router is downstairs, keep it as high as possible, and as low as possible if it’s upstairs. It is also recommended that you keep it as far away as possible from domestic appliances. According to a recent Ofcom report, even the microwave can reduce WiFi signal - so make sure it is off during those important work calls. Baby monitors, stereos, speakers, TVs and halogen lamps can all also affect WiFi if they’re too close to your router too - so spare a thought for this priceless gadget and give it its own special place in the house.
Step five - consider plugging in
Plugging your laptop or console into a router might seem a bit 1999 but if your device is near enough, then an ethernet connection could be the answer to the consistent, high speed connectivity you have been craving for the past 12 months. Keeping a wired connection between the router and your device will help to keep latency low while reducing congestion on your wireless network (which is good for other devices too). Ethernet is extremely reliable, secure and fast, so if you can make it work with the router and device layout then it is definitely worth considering, especially if you have a large family that is in the habit of draining all the bandwidth on your network.