Here's How to Boost Laptop Wifi Reception

Category: Wireless

Boosting your laptop's WiFi reception is a good idea, no matter where you are. Away from town and cities, 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 strong 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. Even in rural areas, you may find wifi hotspots provided by Internet service providers that "piggyback" on their customers' wireless routers. If you are a customer of the ISP, you can connect your laptop to one of those hotspots with your account credentials. But improving your range is key to get a good signal.

Here are some tricks to help increase WiFi range and reception on a laptop. First, update your network adapter's driver if you haven't done so lately. You may be able to double or 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 that will give you 5 dB gain for under $20. I recently recommended the TP-Link Wireless AC600 High Gain USB Adapter to a friend and she loved it. A gadget like that may double your laptop's WiFi reception range. At the higher end are 2000 mW WiFi extended-range adapters like the Alfa AWUS036NH Long-Range WiFi Network Adapter. This model gets excellent reviews, and comes with a suction cup holder that can be attached to a window.

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 you have access to the router, you can purchase an addon to help the signal extend out further. 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 "corner antenna" replaces the external antenna of your wireless router, significantly improving signal strength, distance, and wireless performance. This unit sells for about $40, and can be found at Amazon and many other online retailers.

A less expensive option for users where Wi-Fi signals have trouble reaching certain areas of the home is a range extender. I have a TP-Link N300 range expander (about $20), which is performing well in my home. Typically, installation of these things is very easy. Just plug it into a wall socket, connect it to your wireless router, and you're done. The only glitch I've found with this gadget is that you need to manually reset it if there's a power outage, or if someone accidentally unplugs it.

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 "Here's How to Boost Laptop Wifi Reception"

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
12 Mar 2020

Another point worth looking at for your home wifi: download and install on your phone/tablet one of the many free wifi analyzer apps, and run it to check if you are perhaps using the same wifi channel as all your neighbours.
If so, reconfigure your router to use a less busy channel, so you will have less interference.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2020

I have received a on the beach with an solid signal from 4 miles away on the beach, using my Alpha [n the window of my motor home.

Posted by:

12 Mar 2020

I have had problems in the past after downloading a new driver. In my case a microphone that has not worked since the driver update. And no, I could not go back to the old driver, it had disappeared from the list.

What steps should I take so that if the updated driver has unintended consequences I can go back to the old driver?

A back-up? A system restore point? Or something else?

EDITOR'S NOTE:A system restore point would be the best option. Not as fool-proof as a full system backup, but it should suffice.

Posted by:

Nathaniel Gildersleeve
13 Mar 2020

I have been using an Alfa Wifi booster, similar to the one described in Bob's article, for several years. I use it in an RV and it works fantastic.

Posted by:

Jeffrey Durkes
29 Mar 2020

What are the best ones for Chromebooks?

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