5 easy hacks for your PC and Wi-Fi network

Speed up your CPU and graphics card, add advanced features to your wireless router, boost your network's range, and tweak your PC's power consumption for extra efficiency.

Add Advanced Features to Your Wireless Router

Difficulty: Moderate Time: 45 minutes

Your wireless network may be growing, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to purchase new networking hardware. As your network expands, you can use third-party firmware to add features to your existing wireless router, matching or (in many instances) exceeding the abilities of a new device. With this hack, you can boost antenna power, configure a repeater to blanket a bigger Wi-Fi area, improve your wireless security, isolate Wi-Fi traffic from your wired network, set up a VPN, and much more.

The X-Wrt firmware supports many Asus, Buffalo, Link­sys, and other routers; check the Web site to determine whether yours is listed. (If you don't see yours, search online for "your router model firmware hack," in case a similar hack could work for your device.)

Connect the router directly to your PC, using an ether­net cable, and log in to the router's configuration page. Check for a system settings menu and scan it for a firmware option. Use the buttons there to select the new firmware file and upload it to the router. Don't unplug the router before the update finishes, or you'll risk permanently damaging the hardware. The process can take up to 15 minutes.

After the update is complete and the router restarts, use your browser to reconnect. The X-Wrt interface will replace the default design, prompting you to set a new password. You can now reestablish your wireless connection, but it's best to perform most management tasks through ethernet.

In the updated firmware menus, change your broadcast power by clicking Network, Advanced Wireless Settings, Transmit power. Tune the number upward to reach longer distances or downward to keep the network from spilling over to neighbors' houses. Under Network, QoS, enable the de­fault quality-of-service settings that give certain peer-to-peer programs less priority, so you'll always have the most possible bandwidth for immediate tasks. Under the Graphs tab, you can see real-time charts that show bandwidth usage and other details. Be sure to click Save Changes on each page in the lower-right corner and click Apply Changes when you're ready to make an update. And if you ever want to go back to your stock firmware, download it from your router manufacturer and then upload it on the System, Upgrade page.

The modular nature of X-Wrt permits you to add and remove specific features. Click System, Packages to browse through other upgrade packages that you can add to the router. You don't have to use any of them, but their presence means that you might never outgrow your router.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zack Stern

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?