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Some routers and laptops support 5GHz Wi-Fi and using it usually means a faster, better internet connection. Here’s how to find out if your laptop supports it and how to enable 5GHz. In general, Wi-Fi is easy to use and reliable. You select the name of the router, enter the password and forget about it. But when you want to use 5GHz, things can get horribly complicated. Here we explain how to work out if your laptop supports it and how to enable 5GHz.
Find out if your router supports 5GHz
Unless you already know for sure that your router is a dual-band model and definitely has a 5GHz radio, it’s worth checking that out first. There’s no point enabling 5GHz Wi-Fi on your laptop if your router doesn’t support it.
The easiest way to do that is to check the manual, or log in to the router and check the settings available in the Wi-Fi section. In fact, some routers have the same SSID (network name) for both 2.4 and 5GHz, so it’s worth changing one so you can easily identify each network from your laptop, phone or tablet.
Which Wi-Fi standards work on 5GHz?
802.11a, 802.11n and 802.11ac all work on 5GHz, but with 802.11n it’s optional. This means that as most current routers are 802.11n models, you will probably need to find out if yours has a 5GHz radio in addition to the more common 2.4GHz one.
Not all routers can use both frequencies simultaneously, so if yours can’t it’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to use 5GHz at all. The reason being that if even one of your Wi-Fi devices doesn’t support 5GHz (many don’t), it won’t be able to communicate with your router when you set it to 5GHz.
This isn’t a problem for dual-band routers which can run both radios at the same time, but bear in mind that using different frequencies can still cause problems as devices on different frequencies may not be able to communicate with each other. For example, an iPhone 6 Plus connected to a BT Home Hub 5 via 802.11n on 5GHz won’t be able to see a Google Nexus Player which connects to the same router on 2.4GHz.
How to find out if your laptop supports 5GHz
Unfortunately there’s no easy way to get this information. The best way is to open Control Panel, go to Device Manager and find the make and model of your laptop’s Wi-Fi under the Network adapters section.
Our laptop, for example, has a Qualcomm Atheros AR9285 adaptor. Searching online for this make and model brings up plenty of results for its specifications which show that it works only on 2.4GHz. If your adaptor supports 802.11a, it will definitely support 5GHz. The same goes for 802.11ac.
You can also right-click on the adaptor in Device Manager, click Properties and then switch to the Advanced tab. You’ll see a list of properties, one of which should mention 5GHz. If you don’t see an option to enable or disable 5GHz, either your adapter doesn’t support it, or the wrong drivers are installed.
If you really want to use 5GHz because you have too many neighbouring 2.4GHz networks, you can buy a USB Wi-Fi dongle for your laptop. These are inexpensive – around £10-30 – and mean you can upgrade your laptop’s Wi-Fi without opening it up.