Making A WiFi Signal Stronger

by on November 16, 2007

Q: The community where I live provides WiFi. In my home, the signal is weak and fluctuates between 2 & 3 (out of 5) signal bars. Is there a way to bridge/boost/amplify the signal so that my laptop receives a stronger more consistent signal? I have an Intel PRO/wireless 3945ABG network card.

A: I am happy to answer your question. Just be aware that the “signal bars” for WiFi connections are not necessarily the best indicators of internet connection quality, in my experience. For example, I once configured a computer for WiFi and the signal strength measured about 40%. But the internet was fast and stable on that computer. I have found that the best indicators of internet speed and stability are webpages loading and files downloading. If webpages load quickly and files download fast on your computer, it may be best not to mess with a good thing.

If you choose to proceed, you will need a wireless repeater to strengthen your WiFi connection. In order from easiest to most difficult to configure for your needs, devices that are capable of “repeating” a WiFi signal include:

  1. wireless range expanders (page 7 of an About.com article called Wireless Product Equipment…)
  2. wireless bridges
  3. wireless access points (page 2 of Wireless Product Equipment…)
  4. wireless routers (page 1 of Wireless Product Equipment…)

Keep in mind that the above list is also in order from least versatile to most versatile. For someone who has never configured a wireless network before, a wireless expander may be the best option. There is an article from gizmodo.com called 5 Ways To Peak Your WiFi Feng Shui… that does a good job of explaining your various hardware options. The article is over a year old — ancient in tech-time — but the advice is still valid and well presented. I recommend using the advice in reverse. That is, try the empty Pringles can trick and work your way up to the 27-inch wide parabolic antenna! The actual procedure that you will use to configure your wireless repeater will depend on the hardware you choose and the type of WiFi connection that your community provides. Consult with the appropriate person/people in your community to get connection details and product recommendations.

I hope this information helps!


One Response to “Making A WiFi Signal Stronger”
  1.  

    Also it is worth noting that if you have an xternal plug for an external antenna, you could buy an antenna to boost your singal even further – and additionally, you could build a simple Parabolic Reflector (if the antenna is omnidirectional) which will also amplify the signal even further by taking the ‘wasted’ signal going in the other direction, and turning the omnidirection antenna into a directional antenna. Only downside is, you’ll have to aim it. :P