Try These Tips to Boost Your WiFi Signal

Category: Wireless

A frustrated reader asks: 'How can I boost the wifi signal in my home? I finally got high-speed internet with a wireless router, but the wifi signal is weak in some parts of the house. What tweaks, tricks or gadgets do you recommend to boost wireless signal strength and distance?' I've got some, read on!

How to Boost or Extend Your WiFi Signal

Wireless devices are everywhere now... from laptops to smartphones, tablets, portable speakers, and ebook readers. Printers, hard drives, even light blubs and refrigerators can be connected to a wifi network. So it's important to maximize the wifi signal where it's needed in your home.

That starts with getting the best possible output signal from your wireless router. WiFi is a type of radio signal, so it's largely 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.

If the WiFi signal is weak in certain parts of your home (or out back in the hammock), there are some clever 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:

  1. 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.

    Boost Your Wireless Signal

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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 "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.
  4. 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, D-Link, and other vendors offer wireless repeaters, also called range extenders. I recently bought a TP-Link N300 range expander (under $30), 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.

  5. Gettin' Geeky - Some DIY geeks have come up with interesting ways to extend or boost your WiFi signal. One example is the Pringle Cantenna method. This may seem like a hoax, but the technique actually appeared in an O'Reilly book titled Building Wireless Community Networks. 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.
  6. Wired Wifi? - One idea that sounds counter-intuitive is to use the existing wiring in your home to extend a wireless signal. You can eliminate wifi dead zones with a tech called 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. Here's an example: Your internet signal will travel from the router or modem (via a wired or wifi connection) to Powerline Adapter #1, which is plugged into a standard electrical outlet. The signal then travels over the electrical wiring in your building to Powerline Adapter #2. From there, you can connect a desktop or laptop with an Ethernet cable, or provide a wifi signal to a mobile device. You can have additional adapters in other rooms if Internet is needed there. Several networking equipment makers such as TrendNet, D-link, and Linksys sell Powerline Ethernet gear. Starter kits including two adapters typically cost less than $70.
  7. 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 "AC routers" generally have a stronger broadcast signal, and they'll work even if you have an older "G" or "N" 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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, 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...

 
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Most recent comments on "Try These Tips to Boost Your WiFi Signal"

Posted by:

James Green
12 Aug 2019

How come you didn't mention a Node type of network, such as the TPLink AC1300? (And others). These type of devices form a "Smart" self healing node network that will improve your WIFI signal throughout your system.


Posted by:

ChrisR
12 Aug 2019

Another thing to check is that your 2.4GHz wifi router isn't using the same radio channel as your near neighbours. The channels are numbered 1 - 11 in the UK (1 - 14 in the USA) but because of overlap only 1, 6 and 11 should be used.

Use a wifi analyser to see which channels everyone is using and adjust your router's setting to pick the emptiest.

Some modern routers do this automatically, though.


Posted by:

Beverly Chapin
12 Aug 2019

You did it again - answered my question before I even asked! With all the articles about "buy your own and save the cost of rental" that are prevalent recently I had wondered if it was feasible. We do have a multi-use line incoming and I am not well enough educated in the intricacies to take on trying to replicate all the settings, so it is worth the rent to have service on call for any problems. Thanks again for a practical and complete evaluation.


Posted by:

GordonC
12 Aug 2019

In my case, an ASUS M32CD desktop PC, I disconnected the RealTek PCI wireless card and bought a 2.4G/5G USB wireless adapter by TechKey with a high gain external antenna for $21. It uses a RealTek driver. I also did a clean reinstall of Windows 10.

For the first time in the 2 years of owning the PC, I not only have a stronger, consistently stable 5G connection, the DNS errors that were a plague 6 days out of 7 have vanished. Completely. It's literally like having a new machine, there's that big a difference.


Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
12 Aug 2019

One thing to do is download/install on your cellphone or tablet one of the many Wifi Analizer apps*, which will lat you know immediately if your router is on the same channel as one (or several) of your neighours. Is it is, re-configure it to a less-used channel, to avoid interferences.

*I personnally like Wifi Analizer (Open Source) from VREM, which comes without adds or offers of (paying) upgrade.


Posted by:

Laurie
12 Aug 2019

I have AT&T U-Verse for my internet provider. They provide a modem/router (with WiFi) combo. Unlike some services, you have to use the gateway device they give you. (You cannot buy a modem option from Best Buy, for example, as you can for some services.) AT&T’s device is fine for bringing the service into the house, but isn’t so great as as a router. So, I just turn off their device’s WiFi router portion, and the only device I have connected to it is my own router. I use a node (“mesh”) router system to handle my routing and WiFi needs. I find it to be pretty robust in providing a consistent signal throughout my two story home. With the higher number of WiFi devices I have, I appreciate the consistency and features of the node system.

For anyone going with the “upgrade your router” option, a node system ought to be considered. No special skills required beyond setting up any other router.


Posted by:

Granville Alley
13 Aug 2019

Mesh Wireless Routers are a nice option. We have a Brick House that has been added onto 3 times (each time adding yet more brick walls) and so our WiFi Signal has to pass through as many as 3 what are essentially outside Brick Walls plus at the worst 3 more interior walls. We had previously used a higher end Router matched with its sister WiFi extender (Netgear Nighthawks) but we recently added yet another addition to the house along with completely remodeling the house by tearing the interior down to the studs (at least where the interior walls weren't brick.)

Our electrical subcontractor was contracted to pull both Coax and Cat 5 Network Cable to each of the 3 most distant locations from the point our FiberOptic Internet and Satellite TV enter the House. The Outlets for both Coax and Cat 5 were put in all three places but the contractor did not actuallty connect the cable to the Outlets which we did not find out until we tried to connect after all the drywall, finish painting etc. was complete.

Rather than tear up brand new walls we decided to get a Netgear Orbi Mesh Network instead and setup our Router with 2 Satellites Backhauled with Cat 5 from 2 Rooms that had outside walls we could pull Cat 5 through. This has given us excellent network performance through out our home. Our Lan Speeds where wired are Gigabit or better and the Wireless Signal is basically at max AC WiFi Speeds throughout our home and the Mesh Network makes handoff from Router to Satellite to Satellite seamless and unnoticeable as you go from room to room with devices. As the Mesh Network treats the Router and Satellites as a single network ID devices simply seem to see a single signal that just stays powerful as you move from room to room.

For Testing purposes we have also used the dedicated Wifi Backhaul just to see if there is a significant difference in throughput without the wired backhaul. There is very little if any difference at least in terms of being noticeable in everyday use. We can now stream Movies in every room. Our Internet is FiberOptic from a local Electrical Membership Cooperative so is Gigabit up and downstream.

We are very happy with this setup but wish our contractor had completed his pulls and connections correctly and feel the Orbi Mesh Network System saved us from being very dissatisfied with our remodel results.


Posted by:

VK2OTC
13 Aug 2019

My cable entry point is in a room at the very rear of the house (my computer room) and WiFi performance to the front of the hose was problematical. I didn't have much luck with a range extender (D-Link DAP-1320) - too slow.

My cable modem/router doesn't have an external antenna so I couldn't use a booster or bigger antenna.

I had a couple of spare routers that were no longer in use, s I grabbed the D-Link DIR-645 Router and installed it in the front room (lounge room). I then ran a cable under the house from the cable modem/router to the DIR-645 at the front. Both are set up with the same SID and password so moving from one end of the house to the other is seamless and speed is good everywhere.

It also gave me an ethernet outlet to connect to my entertainment system.

I've also been given a couple of Netcomm NP511 powerline adapters so I'll connect those up to give me ethernet to my free-standing garage in the backyard.


Posted by:

HowardL
13 Aug 2019

With this column and all over the Internet are ads for WiFiBlastShop.com. The ads are headed "Do This To Fix Slow Wi-Fi. The body reads "Finally, there is a new device that can double internet speeds and Wi-Fi reach"

When I went to the site, I approached with the feeling, "Uh oh. Another shuck." The ad was disguised as an independent appraisal, a sign something's fishy. Morever, I wasn't convinced about the technology, though I'm willing to be convinced.

Anybody know this device? Does it work as advertised?


Posted by:

Joyce
13 Aug 2019

Is there any way to boost WiFi if you are getting it from your landlord and you have no physical access to the router and have no idea where it even is?


Posted by:

Sterling Beddoe
26 Aug 2019

I use 3 Mikrotik Routers spread out through my home. I have excellent Wi-Fi throughout. I am thinking of using a power injector and another wireless router to add Wi-Fi to my tool shed in a remote part of my lot.


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