Boost Laptop Wifi Reception

Category: Wireless

Boosting your laptop's WiFi reception is a good idea, no matter where you are. Out in the country, wireless Internet hotspots can be few and far between. But even in urban areas where WiFi hotspots are plentiful it's good to have more networks from which to choose. Here's how to get a stronger wifi signal...

How to Boost Your Laptop's WiFi Signal

If you're in a crowded downtown café there may be so many people sharing the WiFi network that Internet speeds slow to a crawl. But in the same area there may be other networks, just out of range of your standard WiFi network adapter, that are virtually idle. If you boost WiFi reception range you may get a full 54 Mbps connection all to yourself.

Similarly, if you're in a hotel that charges for wifi access, by increasing your wifi range you might be able to pull in a free wifi signal from outside the hotel. Here are some tricks to help increase WiFi reception on a laptop.

First, update your network adapter's driver if you haven't done so lately. You can triple the speed and range of your WiFi adapter by using the latest driver instead of the generic Windows driver or a five year-old OEM version designed for an operating system you've long abandoned. Check the website of company that makes your wireless adapter (or the laptop vendor) and look for driver downloads.
Wifi Signal Booster

An external antenna can pull in WiFi from distant hotspots. High-gain USB WiFi adapters are plentiful, cheap, and effective these days. Some are small, simple USB dongles with a 6-inch stick antenna that will give you 5 dB gain for under $10. That may double your WiFi reception range. At the higher end are $30-$40 30 dB, 1000 mW WiFi extended-range adapters like the Alfa AWUS036H. Dish antennas are highly directional; that means you'll have to rotate the antenna slowly to pull in distant signals as the antenna faces the transmitters.

Antenna specs can be confusing if you are not a radio geek. Generally speaking, more is better: more milliWatts (mW), more decibels (dB), more dBi (signal gain relative to an ideal isotropic antenna), etc. Look for specs of 5-15 dB gain, or 25-30 dBi.

How Far Can You Go With Wireless?

You might be amazed by far your WiFi reception range can be extended. Campers report pulling in WiFi signals from access points up to four miles away, using a high-performance adapter like the Alfa from atop a mountain. A completely clear line-of-sight between the access point and your laptop network adapter is necessary to achieve maximum range such as that. But even within a building, or in the woods, a high-gain WiFi adapter or antenna can double or triple your range.

The quality of any WiFi connection is also improved by using a signal booster on the router. If your router has a removable antenna, you can swap in something like the Hawking Hi-Gain HSB2 WiFi Signal Booster (about $70) and extend your wireless network range up to 6 times.

A stronger signal means fewer dropped packets or lost signals and re-connections that can slow downloads. Quality of service becomes especially important when watching streaming video or making a VoIP phone call.

Boosting WiFi signal reception range and quality can get you out of hotspot traffic jams; enable you to connect in places you never thought possible; and improve your Web surfing experience.

Do you have something to say about boosting your wifi signal range? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Boost Laptop Wifi Reception"

Posted by:

bill collins
01 Dec 2010

...if you are right on the limit of your wifi router's range you may also make a really cheap and simple signal enhancement with a square piece of ordinary kitchen foil:-

1. Fold the square in half to form a rectangle...
2. Turn the right and left side edges over by half an inch to stiffen the piece of kitchen foil in order that it may stand upright unaided...
3. Fold it into a semi-circle like a parabola...
4. Place the piece of foil behind the router's antenna so that if you were standing behind the silver foil you would be seeing the foil, followed in close proximity by the wifi router, followed by, in the distance, your laptop or PC...

...bear in mind that there's never a free meal; whatever signal strength is added to one side, will be deducted commensurately from the other side...!

Posted by:

01 Dec 2010


I purchased the Alfa a few years ago and it was a 500mw adapter. I'm surprised they now have a 1W version because it looks exactly the same.

Posted by:

02 Dec 2010

The FCC has maximum legal RF output for WiFi, so that includes the output power TIMES the gain. To stay legal, you need to be below their maximum effective radiated power.(at least in the U.S.)

Posted by:

John Maldaner
14 Dec 2010

Bob, I want to boost wifi reception at an RV park. The manager offers free wifi from his office, which does get to our site, but barely. We are not using laptops or devices with USB ports, so I am looking for a solution that will not need to be hard-wired to our devices. Is there a method of boosting that wifi signal reception in our trailer?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like the best idea would be to install an booster on the wifi router in the office. Maybe the manager will split the cost. :-)

Posted by:

14 Dec 2010

I have had great success with EZ-12 (formerly the Windsurfer). It is a parabolic antenna you can make from cardboard and tinfoil (or more durable materials).
If you are in a house, rather than buying a dongle, you might consider building these for your router. The only potential downside is they make the boosted signal pretty directional (maybe not so good for the RV park).
If you are really trying to suck in a distant signal think about coupling this with that Alfa antenna above or using it to boost a less expensive antenna alternative.
Plus it is a fun, near-free little project!

Posted by:

John Maldaner
15 Dec 2010

Well, I agree with the booster in the office. Not sure the manager will go with that. I would be willing to pay for it. But, he is pretty unusual in even offering the free wifi to the extent it is now offered. Is there not any device (antennae...) that could be installed on the receiving end that would not need to be hard-wired to the user's devices?

Posted by:

Paul R
15 Dec 2010

John, take a look at this item I found on Amazon. Alfa AWUS036H 1000mW 1W 802.11b/g USB Wireless WiFi network Adapter
I don't have any experience with this device, but I'm thinking about buying one soon as a gift for someone. It looks like it is getting good reviews.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2010

My house is fairly large, about 2500 square feet. It's a center-hall colonial, so I have a main floor and a full second floor. I have a half basement, and that's where my teenagers hang out mostly. Because of the half basement, one side of the house is on a slab.

I have a dual-band DIR-825, which was top of the line a year and a half ago - it provided a much stronger signal than the DIR-655 that it replaced. It sits not far off center at the back of the house, but it's actually over the slab. The center of the first floor (the kitchen and entrance) has a nice granite floor with sparkley metal flecks, which I'm sure wreaks havoc with the wireless signal. Overall, it works pretty well, but I have two problems with it.

First, the PS3 directly across the room, about 18 feet away, gets a nice strong signal, which it should considering its proximity. But when I try to stream video, anything with a fairly reasonable bit rate (say over 1kbps) freezes and stutters. The higher the bit rate, the more frequent the problems.

Second, the signal to the basement is problematic for all the wireless devices. The kids found that it's not bad when one device is using the wireless, but when more than one tries to connect, one of the devices loses its connection.

Now I know that the 2.4Ghz band has better range than the 5Ghz band, but the PS3 and most of the devices only support 2.4Ghz. Only a couple of the laptops support 5Ghz, and these live mostly on the first and second floors. Other than the PS3 streaming issue, these floors have no problems at all.

Thinking the DIR-825 was defective, I replaced it, but the same problems remained. So either the DIR-825 is problematic, or my house's architecture is too difficult for the power limitations imposed on wireless equipment.

After reading the reviews on the Hawking HSB2, I bought one to try. After much experimenting, I found that by placing it in kitchen (much to my wife's chagrin), the basement problems are mostly resolved, if not perfect. So the kids are happy. Note that the kitchen is over the basement, so there's no slab, but with metal-laden granite in between. But it seems close enough so that the signal is strong enough.

Note that nowhere I placed the HSB2 would it improve the PS3 streaming problem. Not even when I placed it next to the PS3 or next to the DIR-825.

So methinks my only solution will be to run Ethernet cable to the PS3 and the basement, and run another wireless network in the basement. My wife is adamant about not seeing that wire, and since there's no basement where the DIR-825 sits, I have to run it under the carpet. So that's not happening until we recarpet again. I should have done this when we recarpeted five years ago, but this was before we had the PS3 and the kids had all those wireless devices.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Posted by:

23 Dec 2010

TanMan, You could set-up a couple of access points around your home fairly easily. Maybe one upstairs & one in the basement. As far as the PS3 goes, sound like maybe you might need to make some adjustments either in your router settings or possibly the PS3 (sorry not very familiar with PS3 setup)

Posted by:

25 Dec 2010

I did a lot of research on the Alfa's. You should get the AWUS036H 1000mW b/g. It's a little more powerfull than the 500mw model. You can adjust the output power so if you don't need the full power capability, and it's better than the 2000mw model that does the N standard because public WiFi's use the 'b' standard and the the AWUS036H connect better to these.

I also found this comment on the interent:

"There are a lot counterferit was sold on the market, so far only or is a verified reseller and, if you wanna buy a newest edision model you can also purchase at or , I bought one from this seller and is verified genuine from the manufacture. make sure to contract the manufacture to verified if your product is genuine. just telling them the mac address and serial number "

Posted by:

Bob Isman
27 Dec 2010

I have a Lenovo X301 laptop running Vista Business 64-bit with built-in wireless WAN and SIM card from ATT. Network card is Intel WiFi Link 5300 with PAN and is described as being compliant with 802.11a/b /g and n(draft). There is no external antenna connection. As I'm often in locations that don't get great ATT reception, I'm interested in boosting their signal (as well as of WiFi hotspots) but don't know best way to do this with this laptop. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Posted by:

11 Feb 2011

last week ive got a wifi booster 2000 mb ($150 dolars)... its a lot.... it improves the signal but it seems the data trafic is slower.....

Posted by:

06 Apr 2011

In my opinion best wifi adapter would be UAWIFI UA3 model made in USA by
This adapter is unbreakable and super powerful, I don't know why people still buy cheap adapters, which break every 2-3 month.

Posted by:

14 Mar 2013

When adding an antenna, which port on the router do you connect it to? My present router has 3 antennas, I checked the manual and manufacturers site but I couldn't find any guidance.


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