Help, I’m Stuck in a Wifi Dead Zone!

Category: Wireless

I have a laptop and a smartphone that can both connect to the Internet via my wifi router. In certain rooms it works fine, but other places have an inexplicably weak signal. What can I do when my wifi hotspot seems more like a black hole?

The Solution For WiFi Dead Zones

In many home and office WiFi networks, there are areas where the WiFi radio signal is received very weakly or not at all. Such "dead zones" may be caused by physical obstacles interfering with the signal; distance from the wireless router; or RF interference from electrical appliances, cordless phones, and even other people’s WiFi routers. There are different solutions for WiFi dead zones.

Proper positioning of your wireless router can help minimize dead zones. The router should be in a central location. If it is against one wall of your home, the other side of the house may not get adequate signal. If the router is on the first floor of a two-story house, position it on a high shelf. Keep the router away from metal objects such as filing cabinets, refrigerators, screen doors, etc.
wifi dead zone

A high-gain antenna can boost the radio signal that your router puts out enough to overcome some dead zones. Most wireless routers have removable antennas, making replacement of the stock antenna easy. You may also find it beneficial to replace the WiFi adapter in your computer with a USB-powered high-gain adapter. This will work for laptops and desktops, but not your smartphone or tablet.

Repeaters and Wireless Access Points

A wireless repeater is another solution for WiFi dead zones. A repeater receives a WiFi signal from one device (router or computer), amplifies the signal back to its original strength, and then repeats it. Place a wireless repeater halfway between your router and computer to increase signal strength and range. The Netgear WN3000RP Universal WiFi Range Extender is a plug-and-play wireless repeater that gets good reviews for effectiveness and ease-of-use. Other wireless repeater makers include Linksys, Hawking Hi-Gain, ViewSonic, D-Link, and Buffalo Technology.

A wireless access point (WAP) is one more solution for WiFi dead zones. A WAP looks very much like a wireless router – in fact, every wireless router contains a WAP. A WAP enables WiFi devices to connect to a wired network. Place a WAP in a dead zone, wire it to the wireless router, and presto! You have WiFi in the dead zone. Check out this TP-LINK eXtended Range Wireless Access Point for an example under $30.

Instead of running Ethernet cable through walls, you can use powerline networking adapters to create an Ethernet link over a stretch of your home’s electrical power wiring. The wireless router plugs into one powerline adapter with a short Ethernet cable, and the WAP plugs into the other powerline adapter.

An old wireless router can be configured to operate as a WAP. It just takes a bit of fiddling with the router’s configuration settings, as described in this tutorial.

Do you have any good tips for improving the wifi reception in a home or office setting? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Help, I’m Stuck in a Wifi Dead Zone!"

Posted by:

Pete B
12 Aug 2011

You should also check which wireless protocol you are using. The sales material (which I believe to some extent) will tell you that 802.11g has a larger range than the earlier a / b. Again you need both the router and the device to support it (or use a USB wireless adaptor for your laptop). Probably no good for your smartphone.

Posted by:

Joseph Fischer
12 Aug 2011

You can extend the range of your WiFi using a small parabolic reflector, made out of stiff paper and aluminum foil. Do a Google search on WiFi parabolic reflector template.

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