5 free ways to get faster Wi-Fi away from your office and home

Here's how to juice up your speed on public networks.

Find yourself at public Wi-Fi hot spots that don't seem so hot? I've got five foolproof ways to speed up you connection.

Compare hot spots before you connect

Wi-Fi hot spots have become so ubiquitous that you have have a choice of several when you're connecting. So may sure you connect to the fastest one. Start off by using the free Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector, which shows all nearby Wi-Fi networks and provides a great deal of information about each, including signal strength. You can then connect to the one with the greatest strength.

Keep in mind, though, that signal strength does not necessarily mean the fastest network. A network with a strong signal may still be slow -- it may have a strong signal only because it's located close to you, while another higher-speed Wi-Fi network may be further away and show a lower signal strength. So when you connect to a network, test its bandwith by going to site that checks your actual bandwidth, such as the Ookla Speedtest. Try the speed test on multiple networks to find the fastest one.

Find the hottest hotel hot spot

If you're going to be booking a hotel, you can find out ahead of time which ones have the fastest wireless connections where you're going. To do it, use the Web site Speedspot.org, or download the Speedspot app for iOS or for Android. Type in your destination, choose the class of hotel you're interested in, and you'll see a list of all matching hotels, along with their Wi-Fi speeds. And keep in mind that these are real, tested speeds, not those that the hotels promise you.

Block images and plug-ins

Tweaking your browser settings can help get the most out of a sluggish connection. If you've got a fast connection, you won't necessarily need to do this, but on a slower one, it can help a lot. If you block images and plug-ins, you'll see an immediate speed boost. Keep in mind that when you do this, there will be lots you can't do, such as using YouTube. Still, it's worthwhile as a last resort. Gizmodo has good instructions for doing this in Firefox and Chrome.

Block ads

Ads can significantly slow down your browsing as well, and there's a simple way to block them -- get the free Adblock Plus. It blocks banners, pop-ups, and video ads. Yet you can configure it to allow some ads through if you want.

Use your cellphone as a hot spot

You may not realize it, but your cellphone plan may allow you to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hot spot. You'll need to check your plan as well as your phone itself. Particularly if you have a 4G connection, this can be a great way to get a solid connection if there's no good Wi-Fi nearby. Just keep in mind that if you have a data limit on your cellphone plan, it will add to the amount of data you use. So use it wisely.

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