The number of internet-connected devices in homes has exploded in recent years. Where households once just had a computer or two online, now there are phones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles, smart home devices like video doorbells and thermostats, and more that require constant Wi-Fi connectivity.
While all these devices provide convenience, entertainment, and security, they can also wreak havoc on your home network if they‘re all trying to access the internet simultaneously. Downloads stopping and starting, laggy video calls, endless buffering – these are all symptoms of an overcrowded, congested wireless network.
Before you call your internet service provider demanding faster speeds, realize the solution could already be inside your home. By using your router‘s Quality of Service (QoS) tools to prioritize devices on your Wi-Fi network, you can optimize the way your bandwidth is allocated for a smoother internet experience.
What is Quality of Service?
Quality of Service, usually shortened to QoS, is a feature found on many modern routers that allows you to prioritize certain types of internet traffic over others.
Here‘s a quick overview of how QoS works:
- The router analyzes the different types of traffic flowing through it – things like streaming video, gaming, voice calls, file downloads, web browsing, etc.
- You configure QoS settings to define which traffic types or specific devices should receive priority access to your available bandwidth.
- The router then throttles less important traffic in order to guarantee sufficient throughput for high priority traffic when bandwidth is constrained.
By keeping your most critical internet tasks free from congestion and lag, QoS ensures you get the best possible network experience for the applications you care about most – whether that‘s smooth video calls for work, stutter-free Netflix streaming, or responsive online gaming.
The Benefits of Prioritizing Devices on Your Wi-Fi
Here are some of the key benefits of using your router‘s QoS capabilities to prioritize devices on your home network:
Reduce Video Call and Live Streaming Issues
Video conferencing has become vital for remote work and keeping in touch with family and friends. But glitchy video and audio disruptions can ruin the experience. Prioritizing traffic from your video chat apps ensures your calls don‘t freeze up when your kids start streaming HD videos in the next room over.
Optimize Gaming Traffic
Online gaming requires low latency for a responsive, competitive experience. Lag spikes and rubber banding disrupt gameplay and can cause you to lose matches. By making your Xbox/PlayStation/gaming PC traffic high priority, you‘ll keep your pings low for smoother online sessions.
Eliminate Streaming Buffers
Few things are more annoying than getting comfortable on the couch to watch Netflix, only to have your show stop continuously to buffer. Streaming buffers most often result from congestion, not insufficient internet speeds. Prioritizing traffic from your streaming devices means you can binge watch without relentless buffering wheels.
Control Bandwidth Hogs
Some devices or services will soak up all available bandwidth if you let them – file downloads and torrents are common culprits. By setting torrents and downloads to low priority, you prevent them from cannibalizing bandwidth needed for other tasks.
Limit Devices or Users
Does your roommate binge YouTube all day long and lag out your Zoom meetings? With QoS, you can restrict the maximum bandwidth certain devices or users are allowed to consume so they don‘t sabotage high priority traffic.
How to Set Up QoS on Your Router
The process of enabling QoS and configuring priority devices will vary depending on your router model and brand. Here are walkthroughs for a few popular router brands to give you an idea of what‘s generally involved.
TP-Link QoS Setup
TP-Link routers have robust QoS options. Here‘s how to get started:
Access your router admin page by going to
http://192.168.0.1in a web browser.
Login with your admin credentials. The defaults are username
- Go to the Advanced tab and select QoS.
- Under Bandwidth Control, click Edit next to Total Bandwidth and enter your internet speeds. You can click Test Speed to automatically populate this.
- Click Save.
- Go to Application Priority or Device Priority to assign priorities by traffic type or device. Choose High, Normal, or Low.
That‘s the basic process – TP-Link offers granular control here so be sure to explore all the options available to build the right policy for your network.
Netgear QoS Configuration
Here‘s how to enable QoS on Netgear routers:
Access your router admin page by going to
Enter your router admin credentials if prompted. The defaults are
adminfor both username and password.
- Select ADVANCED > Setup > QoS Setup.
- Choose your Priority Category – Applications, Ethernet LAN Ports, or MAC Addresses.
- Select the traffic type, port, or device MAC address you want to prioritize.
- Choose your desired priority – Highest, High, Normal, or Low.
- Click Apply when finished to save your policy.
Netgear makes it easy to optimize your network for applications, wired devices, or wireless devices connected to your router.
Google Nest Wifi QoS
Google Nest Wifi routers have basic QoS functionality via the Google Home app:
- Open the Google Home app and select your Nest Wifi network.
- Tap on Devices within the Wi-Fi menu.
- Select the device you want to prioritize.
- Tap Prioritize device.
- Choose how long you want to prioritize the device for – 30 mins, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, or 8 hours.
- Tap Save.
The Google Nest app makes it easy to temporarily prioritize a device for a set amount of time. However, you can only prioritize one device at a time.
Refer to your router manufacturer‘s documentation for specific instructions tailored to your model. The setup process outlined above requires accessing your router‘s admin console – if you‘ve never done this before, look up a setup guide for your router brand and model to help gain access.
More QoS Tips and Tricks
- When first setting up QoS, try deprioritizing bandwidth hogs like torrents before prioritizing critical devices to see if that alone provides relief.
- Always double check bandwidth values if your router asks you to specify your internet speeds. Incorrect numbers can badly skew QoS performance.
- Monitor your network for a few days after enabling QoS to see if you need to make any adjustments to improve the experience.
- Limiting bandwidth for specific users may require setting up separate SSIDs and assigning devices to designated networks. Consult your router admin guide for details.
Now that you‘ve optimized traffic on your home network, another great way to boost speeds and reliability is to install a VPN router.
Improve Your Router with a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts all traffic entering and leaving your home network. This masks your IP address to protect your privacy while also securing your devices when connected to public Wi-Fi.
But VPNs provide another useful benefit – by encrypting your traffic, they prevent bandwidth throttling by your internet service provider (ISP). Some ISPs deliberately slow down traffic from bandwidth-intensive sites and services. A VPN prevents the ISP from seeing your traffic contents and selectively throttling services.
Installing VPN software directly onto your router creates an encrypted tunnel that will boost security and speed for every device on your network. It also saves you from having to configure VPN access individually on all your devices.
Top Router VPN Recommendations
Here are some of the top-rated VPN providers offering apps that work with popular router models:
ExpressVPN – With ultra-fast speeds perfect for streaming, zero logging of activity, and apps for routers, ExpressVPN is a premium option held in high regard by users.
NordVPN – NordVPN offers next-level security via features like Threat Protection to block malicious sites. It works on most major router brands.
Surfshark – For budget-friendly pricing and unlimited device connections, Surfshark is a great VPN solution. Its router app has rave reviews.
Check out our guide on how to install a VPN on your router for step-by-step configuration instructions. Adding a VPN takes your network optimization to the next level.
Frequently Asked Questions About QoS
How do I know if my router supports QoS?
Most modern routers support basic QoS functionality, but quality varies. Check your router admin console for any settings related to bandwidth management, traffic prioritization, or QoS to determine if any options exist.
Should I get a dedicated gaming router?
Gaming routers optimize for low latency traffic but are expensive overkill for most. Try configuring QoS on your current router first to prioritize gaming devices before upgrading.
What‘s the difference between band steering and QoS?
Band steering moves devices between 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands to reduce congestion. QoS prioritizes traffic types regardless of band. Use both together for best performance optimization.
What happens if I set the wrong bandwidth with my ISP plan?
Inputting incorrect upload/download speeds when setting your internet bandwidth with QoS can actually hurt performance. Always check your plan details to set this accurately.
Can I prioritize a device that‘s connected to a switch or extender?
Devices hardwired to the router or connected to wireless extenders on the same network can be prioritized but may require knowing the device IP or MAC address.
Get the Most Out of Your Home Network
It‘s easy to assume lag and buffering are inevitable side effects of having so many devices relying on your home internet connection. But by leveraging your router‘s built-in QoS capabilities, you can take control and create an optimized network tailored to your usage needs.
Prioritizing the devices and apps most important to you, while limiting bandwidth hogs, results in a smoother internet experience across the board. Combine QoS with a VPN router for enhanced security and speeds, and you‘ve got a home network running at its full potential.