In a modern household it can seem like everything has a Wi-Fi connection. But is the number of Wi-Fi enabled devices an issue, and is there a limit? In this article we’ll not only answer these questions but also show you how to kick off unwanted devices.
Is there a limit to Wi-Fi connections?
Network devices, such as routers, will have a maximum number of devices that can be connected to them. However, with many in the hundreds, this is rarely communicated. Some devices, though, have much smaller limits.
As a couple of examples, the Google Nest Wi-Fi has a 200 device limit, whereas some of the recent Netgear Orbi models have a limit of only 40 connections. Be wary of manufacturers using words such as “support” and “concurrent” when referring to this maximum number, as they may try and confuse the number of devices that can be actively connected at any one time to the number that the router can simply know about, connected or otherwise.
How do I know what my router’s limit is?
From experience, this can be difficult, unless the manufacturer is good enough to provide this in its specifications. ISPs can be particularly reluctant to divulge this information about their routers.
If the limit is not easy to come by, reach out to the manufacturer of your router, whether it’s ISP supplied or not, as the limit is with the hardware and not the provider. This site may be able to help you find the manual for your router.
How can you tell if you’ve hit the limit?
A new device will try and connect to the Wi-Fi and will fail somehow, whereas existing devices are working fine. If your router has an administration site or connected app (many non-ISP routers will) then this may show the number of devices connected to your Wi-Fi – this may reveal if you’ve hit your device limit.
What can I do to fix this?
Other than buying a different router, with more available connections, your best bet is to reduce the number of devices that you’re trying to connect to Wi-Fi.
Time needed: 5 minutes
How can I reduce the number of Wi-Fi connections to my router?
- Switch to Bluetooth devices
Some devices will use Bluetooth for connection, rather than Wi-Fi. This normally requires some kind of central “hub”, which itself will then use Wi-Fi. Depending on how many products you’re replacing, this may still be a practical solution.
For example, Philips Hue bulbs use this, so no matter how many bulbs you have in the house, it will only consume the one Wi-Fi connection.
The smart home service you use can play a part in this too. Apple HomeKit operates using the same technique – HomeKit devices use Bluetooth to communication to either an Apple TV or to a HomeHub.
- Switch to alternative connections
If a device has an Ethernet port then make use of this instead of Wi-Fi, where practical. If it’s not easy to have a wired connection from that device’s location, consider the use of a HomePlug, which connects you to the internet via your home’s mains power. You can then combine this with a simple switch to allow lots of devices to all connect in the same way. I use this technique for a number of devices behind my living room TV – Ethernet connects to TV, the Humax Freeview box and Blu-Ray player, all via a switch and through to a HomePlug.
- Combine Wi-Fi connections
Travel routers will create their own Wi-Fi connection – you can use one of these and connect a number of your devices to this. In turn, the router will, via a single Wi-Fi connection, then connect to your home router. It’s also possible to use some Wi-Fi extenders in a “bridge” mode to do the same thing.
- Remove devices
This seems excessive, but consider all of those devices that are on Wi-Fi – do you need them? Do they need to be powered on and connected all the time? For example, I have a Roku Streaming Stick which was on all the time, but I moved the power connection to the TV, meaning that it only comes on when the TV does.