Ten Ways To Boost Your WiFi Signal
How can I boost my wifi signal? I finally got high-speed internet with a wireless router, but the wifi signal is weak in some parts of the house. What tweaks or gadgets do you recommend to boost wireless signal strength and distance?
How to Boost or Extend Your WiFi Signal
Wireless devices are everywhere now... from laptops and netbooks, to smartphones, tablets and ebook readers. Even printers and hard drives can be connected to a wifi network. So it's important to get the best possible signal from your wireless router. WiFi is a type of radio signal, so it's simply a matter of eliminating interference and boosting that signal to extend as far as you need it to, and doing it in a way so you'll still get the same amount of power. There are ways to boost or extend your WiFi signal, and most of them won't cost a penny. Here are my ten ways to boost your wifi signal:
- Position The Router - Yes, where you place your router does matter. If your wireless laptop or tablet is in another room, the signal has to go through walls and other interference before it reaches you. You can change the positioning and give everyone equal access. For example, in an open office room setting, instead of placing the router in a corner, try putting it in the middle of the room, where the signal should extend out more evenly, giving better coverage to the entire office.
If you're looking for optimal wireless coverage in various parts of your home, position the router in the middle of the house. Moving it up off the floor, to a bookcase or shelf, should also help. If you only have one wireless computer, and it's always in the same place (ie: your office, the kitchen, or the hammock) then it makes more sense to place the router closer to the computer, rather than in the center of the house. But experiment -- I've heard of cases where there was a very weak signal, and the problem was that the router was TOO close to the computer.
- Avoid Bad Neighbors - Remember, wifi is a radio signal, so the signals from microwave ovens, cordless phones and even fluorescent lights may cause interference and signal degradation. Other things that can wreak havoc on wireless networks are bluetooth devices, wireless game controllers, your neighbor's wireless router, and powerful WiMAX signals in your area. Even poorly wired electrical connections in a home can interfere with wireless signals due to broad radio-frequency emissions. Steering clear of as many of these problems as possible may provide a boost to your wifi.
- Extend the Antenna - There are some decent wireless antenna boosters available that you can purchase as addons to your current wifi router to help the signal extend out further. You just plug them directly into the router base (sometimes called the Wireless Access Point, or WAP) and it can give you that boost in the signal that you need. Hawking makes several types of wireless antenna boosters. One of the most powerful indoor models is the Hawking Technologies HAI15SC, which can boost the strength of your wireless signal from the typical 2dBi up to 15dBi! The HAI15SC's hi-gain antenna replaces the external antenna of your Wireless Access Point, significantly improving signal strength, distance, and wireless performance. This unit sells for about $45, and can be found at Amazon and many other online retailers.
- Repeaters and Range Extenders - This little gizmo just takes in the wireless signal, boosts it up to full strength, and spits it back out again. Place the repeater within range of the router, and near the computer that needs a wireless signal. Linksys and D-Link offer wireless repeaters, also called range extenders. If you have an Apple computer, look into the Airport Express as a signal repeater.
- Gettin' Geeky - Some DIY geeks have come up with interesting ways to extend or boost your Wi Fi signal. One example is the Pringle Cantenna method. This may seem like a hoax, but the technique appeared in an O'Reilly book titled Building Wireless Community Networks, Nov. 2001. Another method that works is adding a home-made parabolic wifi extender to your router's antenna. Other techniques, such as the satellite dish using a cell phone are elaborate hoaxes, and I'll admit I fell for this one before a kind reader set me straight.
- Wired Wifi? - One idea that sounds counter-intuitive is to use the existing wiring in your home to extend a wireless signal. My article One Cool Solution to Weak Wifi Signals discusses how to eliminate wifi dead zones with powerline ethernet. In a nutshell, this technique uses your home's electrical wiring to transmit an Internet signal to another room, where it can be "rebroadcasted" as wifi.
- Upgrade Your Router - If you've owned the same router for several years, it might be good to go pick up a new one if you want to enhance your wireless network performance. Some of the latest models have a stronger signal. The newer "N routers" generally have a stronger broadcast signal, and they'll work even if you have an older 802.11B or G adapter in your computer. One caveat... if you have a router supplied by your Internet service provider, and you've got a tv/phone/internet bundle, you may have difficulty duplicating all your router settings on a new off-the-shelf router. Using a wireless extender or repeater would be a better idea in such cases.
- Tweak Your Settings - Your wireless router has special features that you may or may not want. Read the manual that comes with your router (or Google it) and tweak it to fit your needs. Most modern ones are "just plug it in" though there might be ways to boost signals or to make sure it is sending out signals that are optimized for your computer's wireless adapter. For example, most routers are set to broadcast on channel 6, but it's possible there may be less congestion or noise on a different channel. Try switching the channel to 1 or 11 and see if it makes a difference.
- Is Your Wireless Router Secured? - Make sure your neighbor isn't hogging all the juice from YOUR wireless router, or doing illegal stuff that could get YOU into trouble. Get your network secured so only you are using the signal. Tap into your router's security features and make sure you use secure passwords. See my Wireless Network Security Checklist for help with this. And if you're not convinced about the need to secure your wifi, read about The WiFi Security Mistake You MUST Avoid.
- Upgrade Your Router Software - Another thing you can do without spending any cash is to make sure your router software is up to date. To do this, visit the website of the maker of your router, whether it is Linksys, D-Link, or some other brand. Check for your model number and make any updates necessary. Another option is to use alternative firmware. While your router's original software (aka firmware) should be all you need, some routers do not output the signal at the maximum possible strength. You might want to check into alternative firmware, like OpenWRT's BackFire, which promise to boost the wireless signal. But be careful with firmware updates -- if you load the wrong code for your router, you can foul it up with no recourse. I'd recommend this option only for tech-savvy tinkerers.
Do you have any tips or tricks to boost a wifi signal? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Feb 2013
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