If your router and laptop support 5GHz Wi-Fi, it will give you a connection that is faster than 2.4GHz. We explain how to make everything work.
Unless your router is really old or entry-level model, it almost certainly has 5GHz and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. Often called ‘dual-band’ it actually means producing two different Wi-Fi networks, one on each frequency.
2.4GHz can be relied on over longer distances and over walls and floors easier than 5GHz, which is much faster (or can be) at closer distances with fewer obstacles.
Does my router have 5GHz Wi-Fi?
Unless you know for sure that your router is a dual-band model and definitely has a 5GHz radio, it’s a good idea to check first. There is no point in activating 5GHz Wi-Fi on your laptop if your router doesn’t support it.
The easiest way to do this is to check the specifications online, search manually, or log in to the router itself and check the settings available in the Wi-Fi section.
It is quite common to combine the two bands and use only one network name (SSID) for 2.4 and 5GHz. This has advantages and disadvantages. For starters, when combined, it’s not possible to force your laptop to only use the 5GHz band, so it’s a good idea to divide them into two separate Wi-Fi networks if your router offers this option. The newer BT Home Hub has settings:
When you have a separate network, you can change its name (with 5GHz at the end of 5GHz, say) so you can easily identify each network from your laptop, cellphone or tablet and know which network you are connected to.
If your router doesn’t support it, see our best router collection or – better yet – Wi-Fi mesh system.
Does my laptop support 5GHz Wi-Fi?
The best way to find out is to open the Control Panel – look for it in the Windows search box – then go to Device Manager and find the Wi-Fi brand and model of your laptop under the Network Adapters section.
This laptop, for example, has a Qualcomm Atheros AR9285 adapter. An online search for this model and model produced many results for its specifications which showed that it only works at 2.4GHz. If your adapter supports 802.11ac, it will definitely support 5GHz. In most cases, 802.11n adapters will also support 5GHz.
You can also right-click the adapter in Device Manager, click Properties, then switch to the Advanced tab. You will see a list of properties, one of which must mention 5GHz. If you don’t see the option to enable or disable 5GHz, your adapter doesn’t support it, or the wrong driver is installed.
And if you find that your laptop doesn’t have 5GHz Wi-Fi, you can easily add it by buying a USB Wi-Fi dongle for your laptop. It’s not expensive – around £ 10-30 / $ 10-30 – and means you can update your laptop’s Wi-Fi without opening it.
How to connect to 5GHz Wi-Fi from your laptop
This is the easy part. If you can see the name of your router’s 5GHz wireless network in the list of available Wi-Fi networks, you can click on it and then click ‘Connect’. Enter the password and that’s it.
In the picture above, you can see two separate networks that are broadcast from BT Home Hub 5. Click the Wi-Fi icon (highlighted) to see wireless network coverage.