Using your neighbor’s internet service is not uncommon. The widespread use of wifi makes it easy to hop on any nearby network. It can come in handy if you are having issues with your service, can’t afford it, haven’t gotten yours hooked up yet, or just don’t want to take the time to get your own.
While you should never use your neighbor’s wifi without permission, some don’t set a password on their router, making it easy to use from a distance. I don’t recommend doing that because it can be considered stealing by some. There is a proper and polite way to use your neighbor’s internet. In the end, if you follow proper etiquette, it will work out best for everyone.
Your neighbor is paying for their internet service. You might think it won’t make any difference if you use it. In some cases, it probably won’t. But they may be a heavy data user—a gamer, for instance, or someone who works from home. If so, you’re using up their bandwidth and perhaps slowing down their service. It’s one reason to ensure you have a password-protected network.
Since most wifi networks are password-protected, you can’t connect unless you’re an excellent hacker and bypass their security. Let’s assume you’re not. If you need to connect to your neighbor’s wifi, for whatever reason, the best thing is to simply ask them. Explain your situation and let them know why, how much, and how long you would like to use their system.
You might offer to pay them, perform some chores for them, or give them something in return for using their service. Approaching the situation this way will have much better results—you won’t be seen as a bandwidth thief. They’ll know what you’re doing, which is much better than stealing wifi under a blanket of deception.
Problems With Using Your Neighbor’s Wifi
So, you finally found that friendly neighbor who is willing to let you use their wifi. That is excellent news!
When you share wifi, there is a good chance you will run into some problems. Their router may be a great distance from your machine. If not, there might be concrete walls, appliances, metal ductwork, or other obstacles degrading the signal. Here are some issues you’re likely to run into:
Weak signal will be the most common problem, especially if your houses are far away from each other. Wifi can only travel a limited distance. Manufacturers must design wireless routers with these limitations; it’s an FCC requirement. They’re enforced to limit the bandwidth usage and keep signals from interfering with each other.
You can still use a weak signal, but it’ll be unreliable. You will also notice slower data speeds, making it difficult to stream or transfer large data files.
Since the signal from your neighbor’s router will need to go through multiple obstructions, you will likely have some dead spots—areas where the signal is completely blocked. If you are already online and move to a dead spot, your wifi will be dropped.
Unless you have tiny houses that are close together or live in an apartment, you’re sure to see dead spots in some areas of your home.
If your neighbor has wifi service to share, they’ll be using it themselves. With their family using it and possibly yours, the band and even the service itself may get overcrowded.
A wifi band has limited bandwidth. Once there are too many devices using it, there will be slow down. The router will need to take turns to ensure all the devices’ requests are handled. Once it’s overcrowded, you’re basically waiting in line to use those resources. The result? Dawdling speeds and dropped connections.
This will not only affect your service, but your neighbor’s as well—and they will not be happy about it. This is a sure way to get your neighbor to quickly change his mind about sharing their high-speed data.
How To Improve The Signal
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to alleviate these issues. While it won’t be the same as having your own internet, it might work well to resolve your needs. Improvements can be made in two areas: first, on your side, or the reception side. Second, your neighbor’s side, or the transmission side.
Things You Can Do
Let’s start with techniques that will improve the reception side. Remember that you are using your neighbor’s service, not yours. Here’s what you can do on your end to improve reception.
1. Install the latest adapter drivers on your device.
Take a look at the wifi adapter on your device and make sure that it has the latest drivers installed. Having up-to-date software for your device ensures that you have the newest version, which will allow your wireless hardware to work at optimum performance levels.
2. Use a suitable wifi adapter.
Look at your laptop’s wifi adapter. If it’s an older or built-in adapter, it may not have the range that many newer devices have. Some new, top-of-the-line wireless hardware can grab weaker signals more effectively.
3. Clear obstructions.
There may be obstructions between you and your neighbor’s router. In that case, you may want to move them or move to a different location when using their wifi. If your car is parked between you and the router, it may interfere with the signal or even kill it entirely.
4. Choose the best band.
No, I’m not talking about your favorite music group. I am referring to the best wifi band. Wifi signals use either the 2.4 GHz or the 5 GHz band. While 5 GHz has higher data transmission speeds, it’s not as powerful as the 2.4 GHz band. 2.4 GHz is stronger due to its lower frequency and, more importantly, can travel greater distances. It’s also better at traveling through obstacles like walls or trees.
Since the 5GHz band is faster, your neighbor is most likely to use this one, meaning it also has a chance of getting overcrowded. You may find more room and better speed on the 2.4 GHz band.
5. Install a repeater or extender.
If all else fails, you can always install a repeater or a wifi extender. A repeater picks up the signal, amplifies it, then rebroadcasts it, giving you full-strength wifi throughout your location. These devices are readily available and very reasonably priced.
Just find a location in your house where you get a decent signal from your neighbor’s wifi, then install the extender. They normally just plug into a power outlet. Connect the extender to the wireless network per the instructions, and you are up and running. With a repeater properly installed, you should be able to access the signal throughout your home.
Things Your Neighbor Can Do
Whatever your arrangement might be with your neighbor, it’s awkward to ask them to do too much. After all, they are doing you a favor; you definitely don’t want to wear out your welcome. If you are paying them or are trusted friends with them, you might persuade them to try some of the below tips. Remember that the relationship is more important than your internet!
1. Place the router closer to your house.
If it’s not too tricky and it won’t create issues for your neighbor’s reception, you might have them move their router to the side of the house closest to yours. You don’t want to make them go out of their way—but if it’s an easy move for them, it might be something to consider.
2. Install the latest firmware on their router.
It’s always a good idea to upgrade to the latest software. It will help improve your neighbor’s connections and ensure that their network continues to run smoothly. Updates can sometimes even provide better range and reliability for all that use the network.
3. Remove obstructions.
If they have any large obstructions between you and their router, it can affect your signal. If it’s not too much trouble, have them move whatever’s blocking the wifi. Again, though, you don’t want to ask them to do anything that will cause great inconvenience.
4. Get a high-end router.
This one may be a stretch. If they have an out-of-date router with old technology, it will be hard to get a solid connection. You might try splitting the cost of a top-of-the-line router that will provide faster speeds and consistent wifi for all. Read our review of the best home wifi router to learn more.
5. Install a repeater.
The options listed above might not be viable. In that case, it might make sense to have a repeater or extender installed closer to or on their property. Again, this will cost money. You might purchase the extender yourself, then help them install it in a location where both of you get the strongest signal possible.
Using your neighbor’s internet—with their permission, of course—can be a great benefit. It can also be a plus for them if you are compensating them in some way.
Due to the distance between living spaces, you may need to take some steps to enhance your neighbor’s wifi signal. Just remember not to be pushy and consider your neighbor when working with them to improve or extend their network.
We hope these tips can help you. We would love to hear some of your stories about internet sharing and things you may have done to improve wifi signals.