Potential sources of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth interference

Learn how to minimize wireless interference that can cause slower performance or disconnection from your Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth devices.

If you see one of the following, check for wireless interference:

  • Low signal strength in the Wi-Fi menu
  • A slower connection to the Internet when using your Wi-Fi connection
  • Slower file transfers between computers over Wi-Fi
  • Inability to pair a bluetooth device like a Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad or Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Erratic or "jumpy" pointer movement when using a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad
  • Intermittent "connection lost" messages when using a bluetooth device

Sources of interference

These things can cause interference with Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices if they are nearby.

Microwave ovens

Using your microwave oven near your computer, Bluetooth device, or Wi-Fi base station might cause interference.

Direct Satellite Service (DSS)

The coax cable and connectors used with some types of satellite dishes can cause interference. Check the cabling for damage that could cause radio frequency interference (RF leakage). Try replacement cables if you suspect interference.

Power sources

Certain external electrical sources like power lines, electrical railroad tracks, and power stations can cause interference. Avoid locating your AirPort Base Station, AirPort Time Capsule, or Wi-Fi router near power lines in a wall, or near a breaker box.

2.4 GHz or 5 GHz phones

A cordless telephone that operates in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz range can cause interference with wireless devices or networks while taking calls.

Wireless RF video 

Wireless video transmitters that operate in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidth can cause interference with wireless devices or networks.

Wireless speakers

Wireless audio that operates in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidth can cause interference with other wireless devices or networks.

Certain external monitors and LCD displays

Certain displays can emit harmonic interference, especially in the 2.4GHz band between channels 11 and 14. This interference might be stronger if you're using a notebook computer with the lid closed and have an external monitor connected. Try changing your access point to use 5 GHz or a lower 2.4 GHz channel.

Poorly shielded cabling

External hard drives or other devices with poorly shielded cabling can interfere with your wireless devices. If disconnecting or turning off the device appears to help, try replacing the cable that connects the device to your computer.

Other wireless devices

Other wireless devices that operate in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidth (microwave transmitters, wireless cameras, baby monitors, a neighbor's Wi-Fi device) can cause interference with Wi-Fi or bluetooth connections.

 

Some devices might not specifically state that they operate in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. The product's documentation should indicate the bands the device uses to operate. These might be referred to as "Dual Band" or "Wi-Fi" or "Wireless" devices.

Wireless barriers

A device's location and building construction materials can affect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth performance. If possible, avoid barriers or change the placement of your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices for a clearer signal path. 

Examples:

  • Your computer is underneath a metal desk and you try to use a wireless (Bluetooth) mouse on top of the desk. The metal in the desk might act as a shield between the mouse and your computer. You might not be able to pair the device to your computer, or the pointer might move erratically.
  • Your AirPort Base Station is downstairs and your computer is upstairs. The material between the two floors is concrete with metal reinforcement. The floor might lower or block the Wi-Fi signal from your base station to your computer. You might see slower network speeds, lower signal strength, or might not be able to connect to your Wi-Fi network at all.

Radio Frequency (RF) reflective and absorbing obstructions include the following:

Type of Barrier Interference Potential
Wood Low
Synthetic material Low
Glass Low
Water Medium
Bricks Medium
Marble Medium
Plaster High
Concrete High
Bulletproof glass High
Metal Very high

Reduce effects of interference from other wireless devices

If there are many wireless devices connected to your computer or nearby, you might need to adjust the channels used by your Wi-Fi devices. 

To minimize interference between your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, try the following:

  1. Change channels on your wireless network. For AirPort Base Stations or AirPort Time Capsule, reset the base station and it will attempt to use the 2.4 and 5 GHz channels with the least interference when it starts up.
  2. Connect to a 5 GHz wireless network (if possible).
  3. Move your computer and Wi-Fi router (like your AirPort Base Station) closer to each other.
  4. Minimize the number of active Bluetooth wireless devices you have connected to your computer or nearby.

Wireless Diagnostics can also help you evaluate your Wi-Fi environment. 

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