Smart displays are wonderful cooking companions: you can easily follow a recipe, call someone while preparing your meal or have fun while you clean. But depending on where you install your smart screen or other electronic devices, you might have problems.
Microwave shielding, explained
Microwave ovens work by heating your food with short radio waves. These radio waves cross a small channel, called "waveguide", to the food compartment. The turntable allows you to cook food so that they can be cooked as evenly as possible. In addition, the metal of which your microwave is composed causes the radio signals to sound inside the food compartment. The molecules inside your food begin to vibrate quickly, warming your meal.
The metal frame also serves as an electromagnetic shield. The microwave emits radio waves and the shield keeps the bulk of it inside the food compartment, but the shielding degrades over time. If you have already had your wireless network act up when you heat snacks, it's most likely because you have an old microwave and the shielding has become less efficient.
How to test the microwave shielding
The best way to test the shield of your microwave oven is to download a Wi-Fi analysis application. Here's what you need:
- A desktop computer or a Windows 10 laptop, configured to connect to the 2.4 GHz frequency
- WiFi analyzer from the Microsoft Store
Step One: Force Windows to connect to 2.4 GHz
Forcing your device to connect to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi is important for the test because it is the frequency at which microwave ovens also work. Most modern devices and networks automatically switch between 2.4 GHz and the faster 5 GHz frequency. Microwaves do not interfere with the 5 GHz spectrum, so we must remove this option if we want to test the shield.
To force your Windows device to use the 2.4 GHz frequency, start by clicking on the Windows logo at the bottom left. Type "device" and then select "Device Manager".
Select the drop-down arrow next to the "Network Cards" 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 on my computer is called "Intel (R) Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265". In the pop-up menu that opens, select "Properties".
In the Properties window, select the "Advanced" tab. Open the "Value" drop-down menu, select one of the values starting with "2.4 GHz", and then click "OK."
You do not need to restart or anything. Your Wi-Fi card should now connect only to the 2.4 Ghz frequency.
Second step: use WiFi Analyzer to test your network
Open WiFi Analyzer. You will see the details of your network near the top. You should see the indicated frequency in the 2.4 GHz range. Select "Analyze" at the top left.
Select "Graphic" at the bottom right.
The graph shows the real-time status of your network, as well as the interference (if any) resulting from the use of your microwave oven.
This graph shows the strength of the network signal over time. The blue line with a 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 2.4 GHz devices. The signal strength is measured in decibel milliwatts (dBm). The lower the number, the better the signal.
My test bench consists of my desk in its usual location on my desk, my microwave on the left side of the desk and my router about six feet from the microwave. The microwave is placed between the desk and the router, so we can see if my microwave is harming my 2.4 GHz network.
The WiFi Analyzer graph shows approximately two minutes. I've therefore captured a screen capture of two minutes of normal activity, without using the microwave. Here's what it looks like:
Then I set my microwave for two minutes, pressed Start, and then looked at the pretty colors of the graph. Here's what it looks like with the microwave on:
I have run the microwave several times, with comparable results. This is a brand new microwave, the shielding has not been sufficiently degraded to cause concern.
And this concern only affects a few of your devices. If you use a smart screen, high-end tablet or laptop to track recipes, it probably supports 5GHz technology. This means that even if the shield of your microwave oven begins to weaken, the unit will be able to use the other frequency to broadcast recipes and movies. If you have an older device (and even new low-end tablets), the Wi-Fi chip it contains only allows 2.4 GHz connections, which would make the shielding of the microwave more efficient.
If the shield of the microwave oven is defective, it will not necessarily spoil your gadget. However, interference from the microwave oven may mean your gadget is not getting as powerful a Wi-Fi signal. Your recipe, video call or other content may be interrupted.
You still do not have to place your smart screen near your microwave
In addition to potential interference, another good reason not to keep electronics near your microwave is that microwaves can easily become coarse. Your microwave has vents, and it's not uncommon to find fat and food particles on top and around. Placing a smart screen or tablet on top simply means that the device is covered in dirt, which at best is simply disgusting and at worst, your device could be damaged.
The best place to keep your gadget
The rest of your kitchen counter can also accumulate grease, which may not be the best place to place a display. You can put a tablet on your fridge if she has very strong magnets (or if you do not mind buying it a magnetic support), or follow the recipes on your living room TV if possible. You can also place the screen on a portion of the counter on which you know that food will not fly.
It may be wise to put your smart screen or other gadget in its place in the kitchen, but if you position it perfectly, you can watch and make incredible recipes, make a good show while cooking and more!