WiFi routers are some of the most common types of electronic devices you will find in most homes. While people know what its primary function is, not many are aware of how it works.
Almost every person we know has multiple devices at home that connects to the WiFi, but have you ever wondered how many devices can a router handle without letting the speed get affected?
Most homes are filled with devices that connect to WiFi. Some of these include PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, TVs, and several others.
How Many Devices Can a Router Handle Without Hampering the Speed?
While they may not be active all at once, there is still a limit to the number of devices that can be connected to the WiFi router.
So, we decided to dig a little deeper into this subject and shed some light on it.
Before we get on with it, though, let us talk about the WiFi router first.
Brief History of the Wi-Fi Router
The 802.11 wireless transmission signal and receiver protocol standards were first developed and introduced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or more famously known as IEEE.
This particular standard was then modified by Wi-Fi Alliance back in the 1990s to create something that is now commonly known as the Wi-Fi standards.
This refers to the radio signals and receivers' protocol through which the wireless transmission of the internet was sent and received.
The 802.11 spectrum is where the radio waves are transmitted.
Contrary to popular belief, Al Gore was not the person who was the inventor of the internet.
Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, computer scientists, are credited with the invention of the Transmission Control Protocol as well as the Internet Protocol, on which the concept of the internet is based.
Although Cerf and Kahn play a massive role in the whole making of the WiFi, it was Vic Hayes who is often referred to as the father of the WiFi.
Hayes, who is the chief of the IEEE, played a pivotal role to modify the 802.11 standards. Hayes’ modification to this standard plays a huge role in the whole WiFi technology even to this present day.
However, there is a group of people who also deserve credit for developing the WiFi network. These include Dr. John O’Sullivan, Dr. Terry Percival, Mr. Diet Ostry, Mr. Graham Daniels, and Mr. John Deane.
In the 1990s, this group of people worked for Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) for the development of the computer chip that aimed to enhance the quality of the WiFi signal.
Not only did this chip revolutionize the WiFi signal, but it also influenced our WiFi wireless routers at home up to this very day.
Wireless routers send binary signals that are provided to them by the ISP (internet service provider) through the airwaves and straight into a compatible device.
Each router creates its IP addresses for every new device on the network. The modern-day router is considered to be far more advanced than the ones in the past.
What is a WiFi Router?
When we talk about wireless routers, the most crucial aspect of it is WiFi.
You must be living under a rock if you aren’t aware of what WiFi is since it is very common these days.
You will find it anywhere and everywhere, including your favorite coffee shop, airports, and even grocery stores.
You can even say that today, the internet is almost omnipresent, which is no less than outstanding.
Simply put, WiFi is a process of connecting to the internet wirelessly with the help of radio waves.
This first began in the 1990s, when the standards for wireless technology were established and put by the WiFi Alliance. This WiFi alliance even exists today and is now a massive consortium of about 600 corporations and companies.
In simple terms, a wireless router or WiFi is a piece of networking equipment that takes the internet signal coming from your internet service provider and then routes the traffic from it through the air by using a series of different antennas and radios.
This signal then reaches the devices enabled with WiFi technology such as your laptop, smartphone, and several others.
Once it reaches these devices, the signal then translates the binary data into visible pictures, text, and also media content.
People often tend to get confused between a wireless router and a modem.
The former is made to only broadcast the signal that it receives, the latter is the one that is responsible for decoding it in the first place.
A modem is a device you get from your internet service provider, and this modem is specific to their service only.
You will notice that several internet service providers these days offer leases on the modems, which come with their very own wireless routers.
So, if you don’t want to spend the extra money upfront, opting for a wireless router/modem combination is a wise choice.
There is a common error by most people that call WiFi wireless fidelity.
However, there isn’t any evidence that proves that WiFi is short-term. The number of stories surrounding the origin of the name of the WiFi is quite a few.
One story suggests that in the early days of WiFi, to spread awareness of the new technology, people used the tagline, “The Standard for Wireless Fidelity”.
The term WiFi, however, stuck quickly and propagated.
In reality, WiFi has absolutely no meaning nor is it an abbreviation of something.
The Alliance specifically chose this term because it rhymes with hi-fi, which pertains to the sound and the reproducing of music with high quality or fidelity, and the Alliance hoped that this would make the term even more relatable to the public.
How Does a WiFi Router Work?
The way a WiFi router works is quite straightforward as the system has come a long way and has become incredibly efficient over time.
The wireless router directs the information that flows through to ensure that every bit of data gets transmitted to all the different devices that are connected at any given time to the internet.
It does this by taking in the DSL or cable information through a WAN connection.
The router can do this by assigning the local ISPs individually to every computer and then simultaneously handling each system as a separate avenue.
In addition to routing and translating data connections, the wireless router is also the technology that is responsible for the firewall.
As a network security device that is hardware-based, it is the router that works along with the security protocol software on the computer to prevent any unsolicited internet traffic.
This unsolicited internet traffic could contain hacking technologies and malware.
The router potentially acts as the first line of defense in the firewall that throws away unwanted noise that does not look like it is supposed to be assigned to any computer present in that network.
Not only does this keep your computer safe, but it also allows you to surf the web with absolute peace.
It is also important to note that while wireless routers do not necessarily differ in how they transmit, obtain, and output the data, not all wireless routers are the same or equal.
This, in particular, becomes very relevant when you are looking at the routers that have become ubiquitous for their access and ease.
Wireless routers are known to run and operate on two different protocols. These include 802.11g and 802.11n, which are also known as just G and N.
The newer models of wireless routers are capable of handling faster speeds. If your computer possesses an older wireless card, then you have to use a G-router.
However, N-enabled routers are known to have better and greater ranges than G-enabled routers.
So, if you find yourself dissatisfied with the range of your WiFi router, then take a look at your router and consider making a switch if needed.
How Does the WiFi Router Make the Internet for You?
What the router does to make the internet for you is it communicates with a cable or a DSL modem to provide the internet to you.
There are a few abstract principles we can explain this by.
It is important to note that every single piece of information is called a packet that the internet has.
So, when you go to a website, your computer will send out a packet of data and will, in turn, also receive a packet of data that loads the information you have requested.
Routers play a crucial role when it comes to transmitting these packets. They sort of serve as a switchboard operator for every single packet that is received and sent.
These communicate to each other across the extensive IP system to ensure that the packet data is returned and taken to the right nodes — for instance, from your device to Google’s servers and back to yours.
Without the router in between all of this, we would still be living in the analog ages.
Different Kinds of Routers
Wireless routers are responsible for keeping the data between the networks flowing and for maintaining all the systems connected to the internet.
Whether you already own a router and want to know more about it, or you are in the market for a brand new one, learning about the different kinds of Wi-Fi routers can be very helpful.
Wired routers are mostly devices that are box-shaped that can be connected directly to the computer via a hard-lined or a wired connection.
One connection port on a wired router will also allow the router to be connected to a modem to receive internet packs while the other set of ports will allow the router to connect to your device to distribute data packets.
You will find that some wired routers are capable of providing ports to distribute data packets to telephones and even fax machines.
One of the very common varieties of a wired router is the Ethernet broadband router. These routers are capable of supporting network address translation (NAT) technology.
This will allow multiple computers that are plugged into one wired router to share just one Internet Protocol (IP) address.
For security purposes, wired routers will typically utilize something called stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewalls.
To provide communication between the computers within just a network, the wired routers will utilize the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).
Wireless routers are quite similar to wired routers.
However, these connect directly to a modem with the help of a cable to receive data packets.
Instead of relying on just wires for the distribution of data packets to the devices, wireless routers also distribute data packets using one or more antennas.
The routers convert the data packets that are written in a binary code, which is in a series of 0s and 1s, into radio signals that the antennae will broadcast wirelessly.
Any device with a wireless receiver can receive these radio signals and then convert them back into binary codes.
Unlike a wired router that can only establish a wired local area network (LAN), a wireless router can establish a wireless local area network (WLAN).
The most common and well-known standard for WLAN is popularly known as WiFi.
To protect these networks, wireless routers will commonly employ wireless media access control (MAC) address filtering as well as WiFi Protected Access (WPA) security.
Since wireless routers now are more prevalent than any other kind of router, let’s dive in a bit deeper and talk about the different types of wireless routers.
Get to Know Your Wireless Routers
When you are looking for a wireless router, you will notice that the number 802.11 is always followed by the letter “B, “g” or “n”.
These letters mainly refer to the wireless communication standard on which that particular router is based.
So, it will look something like 802.11b, 802.11n, or 802.11g.
The very first generation of wireless routers came with the letter “b”, which was later followed by “g” and now is followed by “n”, referring to the newest generation of routers.
The main difference among all these three is the speed and range the router offers.
Single Band vs. Dual Band
Wireless communications are capable of operating in two bands, which are 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
All the routers are capable of running on 2.4GHz, also known as the single band. However, only the 802.11n is capable of also working on 5GHz.
Routers working on 5GHz or dual-band typically contain two different types of wireless radio channels that can support connection on both frequencies.
Single-band or 2.4 GHz is capable of only supporting one signal.
Having a dual-band will provide you with better performance, better coverage all over, and less interference.
The performance of the internet depends entirely on the wireless router you choose.
If you opt for a wireless router with the standard 802.11b, then it will only provide you with 11Mbps of speed, which is considered the slowest.
However, if you opt for the 802.11n standard, it will offer you the fastest rate of 300Mbps.
At the same time, even the fastest router speed also relies entirely on the Internet connection you have for its overall performance.
You could have an 802.11n standard router, but if you have chosen a 2Mbps internet plan, the speeds will not exceed that at all.
Even the “n” router will only perform at speeds going up to 2Mbps, but it’s always wise to opt for an “n” router.
Most routers as of this moment only support standard WEP securities as well as the more secure WPA2 and WPA.
If you wish to control what the users on that network access when they are connected to it, then you will want to opt for a router that will offer you decent access controls.
Certain router brands offer very effective access control settings, which will even allow you to limit the internet use based on what time of the day it is.
How Many Devices Can a Router Handle
Computers and several other devices on a particular network have to share a finite capacity of resources.
This is true even for WiFi and wired networks.
However, the exact limit for them depends on multiple factors.
For instance, you will find that when you connect your home WiFi connection to your laptop, and at the same time a couple of other devices are also connected to the Wi-Fi, your surfing speed on your computer could be relatively slower.
If you are on YouTube, you will possibly find the videos buffering often and automatically playing at a low-quality resolution.
This is because too many devices are eating into the speed of the internet at the same time.
Number of Access Points
In addition, you will also find that several public and home wireless networks function under a single wireless access point.
Conversely, an extensive business computer network can install multiple access points to expand the network’s coverage to a significantly larger physical area.
Each of these access points has limits when it comes to the number of connections and the amount of network load they can handle.
However, by integrating a number of them into one large network, they can increase the overall scale.
The Theoretical Limits of WiFi Network Scaling
To put it in figures, several individual wireless routers and several other access points can support up to 250 connected devices.
Routers are capable of accommodating small numbers of wired clients, typically between one and four, with the rest connected over wireless.
The speed rating of access points represents the maximum network bandwidth that it can support theoretically.
A WiFi router that has a rating of 200Mbps with 100 devices connected to it would offer, on average, 2Mbps to each device.
Not all devices are used in one go so the router will shift its available bandwidth to the devices that need it.
The Practical Limits of WiFi Network Scaling
While connecting 250 devices to a single network may sound all fascinating and theoretically possible, this is not exactly feasible for a couple of reasons.
When working on home networks, all the devices will share a single internet connection.
This will degrade the client’s performance as more and more devices start to join in on the same network and use it at the same time.
When three or more devices are using the same network together and using it for heavy performance such as streaming a video or downloading files, it can quickly and easily max out the shared internet link.
There is a high possibility of the access points overheating and can even stop working when it is operating at very high to extreme loads for an extended period.
This is also true even if it handles just local traffic and does not access the web.
When you have a large number of WiFi clients that are concentrated in very close physical proximity, such as an office building or in the house, it is capable of generating significant wireless signal interference.
When there is radio interference among WiFi clients, it can degrade the network’s performance due to the constant re-broadcasting of messages, which fail to reach the desired destination.
This, eventually, will cause connection drops.
Some routers, the ones used at home, in particular, include a feature that will allow the administrator to control the exact number of clients that can connect and work on the same network at the same time.
For instance, many Linksys routers automatically set a maximum default of 50 clients.
Administrators will often keep such a limit like this in place to keep the wireless router and the network running reliably.
Top Ways to Boost the WiFi Speeds
There are many techniques that you can do to boost the speed of your WiFi connection.
Here are some of the easiest ones:
Use the Latest Wi-Fi Technologies
To ensure that your network is offering you fast internet speed and at the same time reliable, you must make sure that your hardware is up-to-date.
Top companies such as Eero, Luma, and Google have come out with mesh network routers and even small routers that you can place all over your home to blanket in the WiFi connection.
The way these typically operate is with one device functioning as the base station whereas the others are plugged in at different points all over the home.
All of them feature a very quick and easy setup process that can be done on the phone itself.
By using an app, you are also allowed to monitor almost everything that is going on within the network.
This includes the devices that are connected and even finding out the most visited sites.
Place Your Router in a Perfect Spot
Without a doubt, routers aren’t the most good-looking device to look at.
While you may be tempted to store this device in the far corner of the house or even behind a cabinet where no one can see it, that would not be ideal for you.
To get the best signal, the router has to be in the open, far away from any walls that can cause an obstruction.
If the optimal space of your Wi-Fi is high on the walls or somewhere where there is no table to place it on, check first whether that particular brand of the router can support wall mounting, or whether it comes pre-installed with a mounting hole.
Additionally, always point the antennas on the router perpendicularly.
As much as you can, you must keep the router elevated. It is always best to place the router in the center of your house so that it is capable of providing the best coverage throughout every corner of your home.
Find the Right Wireless Channel
There is always a possibility that your neighbor’s routers could interfere with yours, which could hamper your router signal and cause it to degrade.
Wireless routers are capable of operating on a large number of separate channels.
You can use a tool such as a Network Analyzer Lire or WiFi Analyzer to find the perfect channel in your space where the WiFi is.
Set Your Wireless Router to Reboot on a Schedule
If you belong to the list of people that has to constantly reboot their wireless router now and then so that it does not flake on you, then there is a very simple solution.
You can run a few tests on the router to ensure that the problem is not just caused by heat, excess downloading, or even by old firmware.
The easy way to solve this particular problem is by simply allowing it to reboot every single day or two.
You can do this with the help of a regular outlet timer.
Check the Frequency on the Router
To boost the speed of your wireless router, you should first take a look at the network’s administrator interface and ensure that you have it correctly configured so that it offers you optimum performance.
If you have a router that has a dual-band, then you are most likely to get better output by switching to a 5GHz band instead of the very common 2.4GHz band.
If nothing else, then you are likely to encounter far lesser interference from other wireless networks around you because the 5GHz frequency is not used as commonly by many.
Switching to 5GHz is quite simple.
Simply check whether your router’s administrator interface offers you 5GHz, and if it does, then be sure to enable it.
Consider Setting Up a Wireless Range Extender
Wireless range extenders are quite popular and are cheap too.
These become essential especially if you live in a very large house and a wireless router is unable to send radio signals all over the place.
All wireless routers can broadcast very reliably only up to a particular distance. If it goes any farther from that distance, then the signals start becoming weak.
If you feel you are pushing your wireless router to cover a huge area, then consider a wireless repeater that will help boost the wireless router’s signals.
This is also a good idea for older homes that tend to have very thick walls.
The range extender is very similar-looking to your standard routers. However, they work entirely differently.
To begin with, they will pick up the existing signal from the wireless router and only rebroadcast it.
The placement rules apply for extenders too. It should be close to the primary wireless router so that it can pick up a solid signal, yet not so close that it will be incapable of spreading the signals to the areas that need it.
Try a Mesh-Based WiFi System
When you opt for range extenders, they will help bring connectivity to areas of the home that don’t get enough signal strength.
However, they will only provide you with half the bandwidth of what you get from the primary wireless router.
So, if you are looking for seamless connectivity, then you can consider opting for a mesh-based WiFi system instead.
This system is designed to cover absolutely every single corner of the house. It is made up of a few networking components.
There is a primary router that will connect directly to the modem and a series of nodes or satellite modules that you will place throughout your house.
All of these are a part of a single wireless network, and they all will share the same SSID along with the same password.
The difference between this system and WiFi extenders is that the latter uses 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio bands to communicate, whereas the former uses mesh technology to talk to each other along with the router.
Furthermore, a mesh-based WiFi system is catching on quickly because it comes with a user-friendly mobile app that will easily talk you through the whole installation process.
This app will also tell you where exactly to place the nodes so that you get maximum coverage and it will choose the best WiFi channel along with the radio band for you for optimal performance.
The only downside to this is that it is quite pricey, and becomes more expensive if you live in a very large home as you will need to invest in multiple nodes for the best performance.
We hope this comprehensive article has given you more than enough information about the workings of a WiFi router.
To answer the question regarding how many devices can a router handle, the answer is typically around 250.
However, that does not mean that connecting 250 devices in one go and using them all at once is a good idea.
That will be guaranteed to slow down the internet speeds and even heat the router.
Be sure to use all our tips on how to efficiently increase the WiFi speed without much effort to get the most out of your connection.