[HOWTO] Boost Your Laptop's 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 stronger 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 at home, you may be wanting a stronger signal in rooms that are farthest from your router. 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 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 N300 High Gain USB Adapter (TL-WN822N) to a friend and she loved it. A gadget like that may double your WiFi reception range. At the higher end are $30-$40 1000 mW WiFi extended-range adapters like the Alfa AWUS036H. 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 your router has a removable antenna, you can swap in something like the Hawking Hi-Gain HSB2 WiFi Signal Booster and extend your wireless network range up to 6 times.

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 "[HOWTO] Boost Your Laptop's Wifi Reception"

Posted by:

Richard Adamson
02 Nov 2016

Two words: iDrive.One. Three more: Works.Love.It.

Posted by:

Jim Pietruszka
02 Nov 2016

Good article Bob. Are you aware of WiFi adapters/antennas that work with a Chromebook? Chromebooks do not allow the installation of drivers and also exe files cannot be run. The device would literally have to be plug-and-play.

Posted by:

Ross Maxwell
02 Nov 2016

A few months ago (July 2016) I purchased a Range Extender (D-Link DAP 1520, @31.65 total) to see if I could get better reception from the Router on the opposite corner of the house. My speed (per Speedtest.net) went from 0.x - 5.x to upwards of 10 Mbps, consistenly. Just checked it and got 10.82 Mbps.
It really WAS a great investment!

Prior to seeing, and purchasing, this, I was looking at USB addons for my PC, but since I'd need one for each PC (I have 3) even the lower cost per unit (TP-Link N300 is $17.32 on Amazon) would mean a higer total.
I think that I made the right choice for me and my environment.

Posted by:

Patti Bryan
02 Nov 2016

I have a question on booting the Wi-Fi reception on my laptop.
I take my laptop over to my boat. The RV Park at the Marina has Wi-Fi and I get excellent reception when I am in my car, closer to the office, but my boat is a little too far away from the office to good reception. What can I use to improve this?

Posted by:

george W.
03 Nov 2016

My next door neighbors share their biz/Comcast service . From the room that I use my laptop I got 5Mbps but I bought a USB dongle($6) and a 12 foot USB 2.0 Extension Cable($8-$10).Now I get 54Mbps .

Posted by:

03 Nov 2016

I am with you P.B. - In my home, I am on dial-up ,$12.00 a month ,when I need live video streaming etc ,I go out on my patio with my laptop and use Linksys [insecured] with my Dell Wi-Fi card downloaded at purchase and pirate streaming video ,last fall somebody in my neighborhood is using up my radio waves. The UBS adapter I purchased was for PAID internet service. I need a UBS adapter outside {extender} for a laptop that does not have a $40.00 a month internet fee.
That's the UBS adapter that I need that "BOB" rec amends.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2016

TP-Link you have to be kidding. It is the worst device on the market. I know I got a virus off of it on the their site you're supposed to use to get it functional. Honestly stay away from it. There are many other reviews that state the same. I actually had to do a complete fresh system install... Thank goodness I have backups of everything.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2016

Here's my review on Amazon:
1.0 out of 5 starsBEWARE "tplinkrepeater.net" may have Malware!
ByRoberton January 22, 2016
Model: N300|Verified Purchase
It worked for a few months and then I couldn't connect. The website the instructions told me to connect to "tplinkextender.net" has a damn virus! Another website I was directed to "tplinkconnect.net" was for sale! I finally ended up at http://tplinkrepeater.net and still couldn't get into the device. It seemed it just stopped transmitting its wi-fi signal.... I did a reset on the device and was able to receive a signal and then was able to log into tplinkrepeater.net as admin with my Mac Air. It was almost finished when a popup said my Adobe Flash was out of date. I didn't click on that and closed the browser. I decided to try reseting it and try again on a different computer running Win 10. I got it to load up and there wasn't any popups for outdated flash, but a weird search site replaced the TP-Link site. I shut down my browser and opened it again, no problem. I went and connected my desktop ethernet cable into the TP-Link Range Extender and I was connected to the internet, but when I opened the browser it said I have a virus and to call the number they provided for tech help. I couldn't open another tab. I closed the browser without clicking on the notice and unplugged the ethernet cable and restarted my desktop. I opened up the browser and the notice popped up again. So now I have some kind of malware I have to deal with all because I used TP-Link's websites to get access to their device! I am dumping this and getting something a little more dependable...

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bob, it's unfortunate, but the domain tplinkextender.net has no connection with the TPLink company. If you follow the setup instructions carefully, entering tplinkextender.net in your browser will take you to the internal server of the TPLink device, to access the setup screens. But if you are connected to a different wifi access point or wired connection, it goes to the external domain, which is owned by someone in China. I don't think the TPLink folks anticipated that someone else would register the domain name.

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