18 WebsiteCompass FAQs Dr. Webbie Answers your frequently asked questions QUESTION: Why does unplugging and plugging back in often work to resolve issues I have with my devices? ANSWER: You’ve no doubt been told by many technicians over the years to try this power-cycling technique first when a device isn’t working properly. That’s because it’s perhaps the most effective hardware troubleshooting technique known, and it works more often than not. Why does it work? Because many consumer-tech devices—such as cable modems, routers, streaming TV boxes, smart TVs, and smart home equipment—have tiny internal computers. These internal computers run built-in software, called firmware, that controls the behavior of the device. Sometimes the firmware includes bugs that might lead to error states, memory leaks, or crashes. Unplugging, waiting 30 seconds, and then plugging them back in forces those computers to restart, which clears out the device’s memory and makes it reload and re-execute the software from a known good state. Generally, it’s best to only unplug devices designed as consumer appliances, such as the ones listed above, that don’t have On/Off switches. Their firmware generally won’t be corrupted from an abrupt power cycle. Both hardware and software can sometimes get into odd, unex- pected states that only a complete restart from a known good state can resolve. Rebooting is the name for the technique used for software. QUESTION: I’ve heard people talk about Wi-Fi 6. What exactly is it? ANSWER: Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi, and we can all be grateful for its simple name. Until recently, Wi-Fi generations were referred to by an arcane naming scheme that required you to understand whether 802.11n was faster than 802.11ac, and whether 802.11ac was faster than 802.11af. To fix that, the Wi-Fi Alliance decided to rename Wi-Fi generations with simple version numbers. The current generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, became Wi-Fi 5. This new generation, previously called 802.11ax, is nowWi-Fi 6. How is Wi-Fi 6 different than Wi-Fi 5? The theoretical maximum speed for Wi-Fi 6 is 9.6 Gbps—up from 3.5 Gbps for Wi-Fi 5. Keep in mind that 9.6 Gbps can be split up across a whole net- work of devices. This is an important benefit of Wi-Fi 6. When Wi-Fi 5 came out in 2015, the average U.S. household had about five devices connected to Wi-Fi. Now homes have an average of nine Wi-Fi devices, and that’s predicted to rise to about 50 within several years. Wi-Fi 6 introduces new technologies to help mitigate the issues that come with putting many Wi-Fi devices on a single network. It lets routers communicate with more devices at once and send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast. It also lets Wi-Fi devices schedule check-ins with the router. Together, those fea- tures should keep connections strong even as more devices start demanding data. You may be wondering if you should upgrade your router to Wi-Fi 6. The short answer is probably “yes” if your current router is more than three years old.