How to Boost Your WiFi Signal

by techtiptom

Originally posted to wibc.com on 09/19/2011

How to Boost Your WiFi Signal

(Reprinted)

  1. Strategic positioning – Say you want to cover a floor with WiFi. There’s no point having your wireless access point in the corner of the room because the area that it can then distribute a signal to is much reduced. Instead, plan out where you want to cover and work out where the best place is to station your router. If you have a nice big open, flat office space then I would recommend setting up the router in the middle of the floor. This way the omni-directional antenna (an type of antenna that radiates the signal) can distribute more evenly over a greater area. In a duplex situation, placing the router on a ceiling in the middle of the building is a good way to radiate the signal further and stronger.
  2. Mount the router on the wall – My WiFi coverage was at its worst when I had my router sitting at the back of my desk. If you want to boost the signal, a cheap and easy way to do so is to simply wall-mount the thing. This will increase the distance between it and all the possible interference around your computer.
  3. Buy an antenna – There are a multitude of booster antennas on the market at very reasonable prices. The idea is that you plug them into your router then direct the signal in a certain direction. Try using a high gain (gain is the measure of how well the signal is focused) directional antenna to increase the range and strength of a network in the direction pointed.
  4. Add extra access points – You wire in additional devices that provide antennas and signal.
  5. Try a repeater – If you don’t want to spend on an extra access point, then try a repeater. What a repeater does is receive the WiFi signal, then repeat it, hence the name. But it means that the repeater must be inside the range of the WiFi network, otherwise it won’t receive a signal in the first place. Linksys, Netgear and Belkin all make repeaters, and they’re typically quite affordable. The added extra is that they do not require any extra cabling as they receive the signal wirelessly, instead of via an Ethernet cable.
  6. Add a powerline extender – There are a range of powerline extenders that send a signal via a powerline, instead of over an Ethernet cable. Plug one into your router and another into a power socket in a poorly covered area, set it up and away you go. Just be sure that you are all on the same circuit, otherwise it will not work.

And now for some of the more wacky / DIY options.

  1. Homemade Pringles antenna – Eat a packet of Pringles (ready salted would be my choice) then follow the tutorial at http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/view/wlg/448 to convert it into a functioning directional antenna. Point it where you need a signal boost.
  2. Make a parabolic receiver for your laptop with a kitchen strainer – An enterprising young man studying abroad in Russia has turned a run-of-the-mill strainer from Ikea into a Wi-Fi super antenna using little more than the aforementioned strainer, a marker, and tape.

How’d he do it? It actually looks ridiculously simple:

Parabolic kitchenware is well known to some as not only kitchenware, but also do-it-yourself directional dish antennae with which you can augment weak signals with the use of a receiver of some sort. Equipped with my new Swedish strainer, I used some scotch tape (all tape here, by the way, is simply referred to as “SKOTCH” in Russian) and one of my Prismacolor markers that I don’t like to mount my USB wifi receiver as close to the apex of the parabola of the metallic mesh as I could possibly eye-ball…

After fiddling around with the positioning of his finished creation, he went from being able to see three Wi-Fi networks to being able to see a whole bunch of them. The only problem now is that he has to hold the dish juuust right in order to keep connected, a problem he says he might attempt to solve by attaching the apparatus to an adjustable lamp arm. Well played.

Of note: I wasn’t able to find the strainer on Ikea’s website, so if you’re thinking of doing this maybe you could pick up a strainer wherever strainers are sold. Like Strainer Hut or Strainers-R-Us. Basically anything in the strainer complex, which is located in the strainer district.

  1. Cantenna – This is basically a pro version of the Pringles tin hack. For $50 you can buy a Cantenna (www.cantenna.com) that plugs into your router and extends your WiFi signal. It also looks cool.
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