4 Ways to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal

I?m sitting my upstairs office using my PC writing this piece. I could also get my laptop and go to the bedroom where my wife is watching Dr. Phil and work on it there. Or I could take my tablet and work downstairs in the kitchen. (But I?m not very good on the tablet keyboard, hunting and pecking with one finger). All this is possible because of the marvelous wireless modem/router I have installed. But as great as it is, there are ways to improve your wi-fi signal

Then I came across David Nield?s article on Esquire.com in which he explains how you can make your Wi-Fi signal reach farther. I don?t have much need for that since mine reaches most every place in my house I would work, but I?m talking about it for those of you who might need a bit of a boost in range. Some of these tips are a bit technical and expensive, (and honestly some of them I don?t truly understand) but they are offered for your perusal.

The Obvious ? Relocate Your Router

4 Ways to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal
4 Ways to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal
What I?m going to tell you I am not doing myself. Why? Because I?m lazy and don?t want to hassle with disconnecting things and putting them back together. I ought to get over it, but I?ve known about this ever since I got Wi-Fi. I?ve just never convinced myself I need to do it.

Position your router in an ?open? location. Mine is under my computer desk, so I could probably get better service out of it by dragging it out from under there and putting it on the desk?s top shelf. That?s pretty close to the center of my house and the coverage umbrella would certainly be expanded.

Router signals have a tough time getting through metal and walls; be realistic in expectations. If you place your router in the basement in the corner behind the hot water heater, you may not get the best signal in your attic office.

Software that gives you the capability of changing your router?s channel is helpful but will not increase your speed or bandwidth. Assigning a different channel will reduce breaking off or getting lost.

Because the position of your router can make such a difference, consider moving your router to a more central location in your home before trying to repeat its signal. If the router supports it, there’s also the option of upgrading its antenna to boost the source signal. In fact, an antenna upgrade alone may be enough to remove any dead spots you have on your property.

Use Your Ethernet

Using the built-in Ethernet option ought to be your first step. Ethernet access is the opposite of Wi-Fi; you have to use a wire. Before you howl in objection, look at the advantages:

  1. Wired access has always been the best way of getting online.
  2. It’s faster than Wi-Fi.
  3. Other UHF signals – like baby monitors, microwave ovens, cordless phones, garage door openers – don?t interfere with it.
  4. It’s the most reliable option.
  5. It is not very expensive to do.

Hook up one end of your cable to the router and the other end to your device. Only very rarely do you find a device without an Ethernet port, but if so, adapters are usually available. As a tip-off, Ethernet cables? male plugs look like telephone jacks but are much larger.

There are ?outdoor quality? cables you can use if you want to set up a connection in the back yard. Bury the cable deep enough to avoid being clipped by your lawn mower or uncovered by animals. It might be a good idea to use that PVC conduit piping to go from where the line comes out of the house to where you want to set up.

There?s another way to get that access as you swing in the hammock. Rather than running the Ethernet line all the way across the lawn, terminate it with an old, unused router that emits Wi-Fi. Now you?ve created your own personal ?hotspot.?

Think practicality here. Setting up a smart TV in the basement might work neatly, but operating your laptop at the end of the row of peas in your garden might not.

Get A Wi-Fi Repeater

Back in the old days of CB radio and 4-meter radio, amateur associations built ?repeaters.? The idea was the signal was pulled in, amplified, and then spit back out on another frequency. Commercial FM radio is now doing the same thing, bringing stations some distance away and re-broadcasting them on available frequencies. It works the same with your router signal, like connecting ripples in a pond. The problem is, those ripples get weaker the further they go.

Repeaters (or ?boosters?) are the easiest way to maximize your Wi-Fi, but diminishing signal strength is a problem. You might not be able to stream HD videos depending on the depth of your basement or the length of your backyard. Most repeaters can duplicate the original signals, so you don’t have the issue of switching from one network to another as you move.

Sources for Wi-Fi repeaters:

  • TP-Link
  • Netgear
  • D-Link

It’s worth going for a well-known brand name to make sure you get the reliability and support you’re going to need.

Some packages are labeled ?extenders?, which do a repeater’s job but usually create a new network name at the same time. Manufacturers and retailers don’t always use the correct terms, so make sure you know what you’re getting when making a purchase.

Get A Powerline Kit

A ?powerline kit? uses an existing wired network, namely the electrical wiring in your home. Using your home wiring isn?t that new; power companies have been using it since the 1920?s to control and monitor your electric meters. The new ?smart? meters being installed today capture and transmit back to the utilities your power use trends.

In theory, connect a transmitter to your router, and then another one in an electrical outlet elsewhere in the house. This will have a USB jack or will transmit the Wi-Fi signal. Obviously this will work best for the basement scenario, but it can also be useful for the backyard if there’s a socket near the door or window.

The market place is filled with powerline kits so shop around. There are some disadvantages; they are expensive and their effectiveness relies on the quality of your home?s wiring system. Ever since we move in here we?ve had issues, so I doubt our house would be a good candidate.

A warning: power strips and surge protectors can interfere with powerline hardware, and you will of course be taking up an outlet – unless you buy one of the adapters with AC pass-through. Again, try to go with a well-known brand when out shopping, though it doesn’t necessarily have to match your router. Setting the system up usually only takes a few moments, and you typically have to download and install some software on a computer to get everything working correctly.

If you’re able to find devices that work in your home (hang on to the receipt just in case) then powerline networking can be a straightforward and reliable solution to extending Wi-Fi into dead zones. If there’s an outlet in your backyard or garden shed then so much the better.

Moving my router is the only solution I?ve listed here I?m interested in, so I can only pass along this information I got from Mr. Nield?s article in the current online edition of Esquire. I?d be interested in hearing from any of you who have tried these techniques; you might be educating me!

( Photo by h_okumura )

2 Responses to 4 Ways to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal

  1. Hi Bill – I’d like to add one more to the list, from experience: replace your router. We had to do that when we moved to New Hampshire. Comcast gave us the budget router and internet speed was slower than dial-up. Then my son suggested that we buy our own router, a premium router. It cost us $200+, but it brought us up to 21st Century internet speeds.

    We could have had Comcast come and do that, but they were going to charge us a service visit then some ridiculous add-on fee for the upgrade. BTW, they never even suggested upgrading the router when I called complaining about the internet speed!

    Bonus: our cable bill got cut by $10 per month since we’re no longer renting their crappy router.

    Live and learn!

  2. Great suggestion, Kevin! Technology improves every day, so what you got a year ago may be outdated tomorrow. We can’t do it since our router manages our internet and telephone. Have to be careful!

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