Smart displays Great kitchen companions: You can easily follow a recipe, video call someone while you’re cooking, or have fun while you’re cleaning up. But depending on where you place your smart display or other electronics, you may run into some issues.

Microwave shielding, explained

Microwave ovens work by heating your food with short radio waves. These radio waves travel through a small channel, known as a «waveguide», towards the food compartment. The turntable spins your food around so it can be cooked as evenly as possible, and the metal your microwave is made from causes radio signals to bounce inside the internal food compartment. The molecules inside your food begin to vibrate rapidly, which heats up your food.

The metal chassis also acts as an electromagnetic shield. The microwave blasts radio waves and the shielding keeps most of that inside the food compartment, but the shielding degrades over time. If you ever have worked wireless network, when you heated some snacks, it is most likely because you have an old microwave and the shielding has become less effective.

CONNECTED: Why does Wi-Fi use the same frequency as microwave ovens?

How to test microwave shielding

The best way to check your microwave’s shielding is to download the Wi-Fi analyzer app. Here’s what you need:

  • Windows 10 desktop or laptop configured for 2.4 GHz connection
  • WiFi Analyzer from the Microsoft Store

Step One: Force Windows to Connect to 2.4GHz

Forcing your device to connect to Wi-Fi over 2.4 GHz is important for the test because that’s the frequency microwave ovens operate on. Most modern devices and networks automatically switch between 2.4 GHz and the higher 5 GHz frequency. Microwaves do not interfere with the 5 GHz spectrum, so we need to get rid of this option if we are going to test the shielding.

To force your Windows device to use the 2.4GHz band, start by clicking on the Windows logo in the bottom left corner. Type «device» and then select «Device Manager».

Select the drop-down arrow next to the «Network adapters» entry. Right click on the name of your wireless adapter. This will usually have «wireless ac adapter» or something similar in the name. The wireless adapter in my computer is called «Intel® R Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265». In the context menu that opens, select «Properties».

In the Properties window, select the Advanced tab. Open the Value drop-down menu, select one of the values ​​that starts with 2.4 GHz, and then click OK.

You don’t need to reboot or anything. Your Wi-Fi card should now only connect on 2.4GHz.

Step Two: Use WiFi Analyzer to Test Your Network

Open WiFi Analyzer. You will see your network details at the top. You should see a frequency listed in the 2.4GHz band. Select «Analyze» in the top left corner.

Select Graph in the lower right corner.

The graph shows the status of your network in real time, and it will show the interference (if any) that occurs while using your microwave oven.

This graph shows network signal strength over time. The blue line with the Wi-Fi symbol on the left is the connection between our router and the computer, while each of the other lines corresponds to other nearby 2.4GHz devices. Signal strength is measured in decibel milliwatts (dBm), and the lower the number, the better the signal.

My test rig consists of my desktop placed in its usual place on my desk, my microwave located on the left side of the table, and my router placed about six feet from the microwave. With the microwave installed between the desktop computer and the router, we will be able to see if my microwave is harming my 2.4 GHz network.

The WiFi Analyzer graph shows about two minutes, so I took a screenshot of two minutes of normal activity without the microwave on. Here’s what it looks like:

Then I put the microwave on for two minutes, hit the start button, and looked at the pretty colors on the graph. Here’s what it looks like when the microwave is running:

I’ve run the microwave a few more times, all with comparable results. This is a new microwave so the shielding hasn’t degraded enough to be a concern.

And this only applies to a few of your devices. If you’re using a smart display, high-end tablet, or laptop to follow recipes, it probably has 5GHz support. This means that even if your microwave’s shielding starts to fail, the device will be able to use a different frequency to stream recipes and movies. If you have an older device (and even some newer budget tablets), the Wi-Fi chip inside it may only provide 2.4GHz connections, which can cause microwave shielding to kick in.

If the microwave shielding is faulty, it won’t necessarily ruin your gadget. But microwave interference can mean your gadget isn’t getting as strong as the Wi-Fi signal, so your recipe, video call, or other content could be interrupted.

You still shouldn’t put your smart display near the microwave

Aside from potential interference, another good reason not to store electronics near a microwave is that microwaves can easily get rough. Your microwave has vents and it’s not uncommon to find grease and food particles on top and around it. Placing a smart display or tablet on top means the device is covered in dirt, which is just rough at best, and at worst, your device could be destroyed.

The best place to store your gadget

The rest of your kitchen counter can also accumulate grease, so it might not be the best place to put your display. You can put the tablet in the refrigerator, if it has crazy magnets (or if you don’t mind buying magnetic mount ), or follow the recipes on the TV in the living room, if possible. Or you can just place the display on a part of the counter that you know won’t have food around.

Placing your smart display or other gadget in its proper place in the kitchen requires some attention, but when you get that perfect placement, you can watch and make amazing recipes, put on a good baking show, and more!

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