How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal

Ah, nature. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining … and your crappy Wi-Fi signal is preventing you from uploading a really clever Facebook status.

It’s hard enough for your Wi-Fi connection to reach the four corners of your house, let alone the backyard and beyond. To take your computing to the distance, you’ll need to seriously boost your Wi-Fi signal.

The following products, hacks and tips will ensure your Wi-Fi keeps you connected no matter where you are.

If you’re hoping to connect remotely, say on a camping trip, where there’s no Wi-Fi in sight, you’ll need to address one of two solutions: Enable your wireless plan to turn your phone into a hotspot, or get a Mi-Fi hotspot. These pocket-sized mobile hotspots connect multiple devices through your cellphone carrier. The device itself costs up to $50 with a two-year contract; add in data charges ($20-30 per month) for an expensive but convenient option.


Image courtesy of Flickr, Halans

Extending your current Wi-Fi signal to encompass the outdoor area surrounding your home is a little more complicated.

The first and easiest method is to check your router settings. Many current routers support two networking standards: 802.11b and 802.11g. Turn off the 802.11b option — it’s older, slower and will clog up your connection speeds. This should give you an extra bar, but probably won’t reach the far corners of your yard.

Don’t worry about updating your router to a new standard, just yet. New router standards like 802.11ac do exist and may give you a stronger signal, but sometimes suffer serious drawbacks, such as compatibility with your current devices. Your old router should work just fine.

Next, check the placement of your router. While that unsightly box might detract from your decor, avoid tucking it away in the deep recesses of your home or against an exterior wall. Wi-Fi routers work best without physical barriers, such as cement or brick, blocking their signal. Think of your Wi-Fi signal as a stream of water ripples, constantly moving outward but getting weaker as it expands. Centralize your router in your home, ensuring the strongest signal will reach as far as possible, or position it closer to the outdoor region you’re hoping to boost. Just know other areas of your home may suffer.

Now that you’ve got the router placed correctly, you can extend the reach of the signal. Some insist that a well-placed soda can or some aluminum foil will do the trick, if only to gain an extra bar or two. Check out the video below for a how-to on making a DIY Wi-Fi booster.

This sort of DIY mod is a great idea if you can’t center your router in the house, or if you’re trying to prevent a neighbor from stealing your signal, as it will bounce the signal off the metal in the opposite direction.

Another option is to replace the stock antenna on your router with an Omni-Directional Antenna. This simple fix could potentially double or triple your signal strength in every direction, and only costs about $30.

If you’re looking to even more heft to your signal, you’ll need to purchase a repeater or range extender. Place a repeater between the router and the “dead zone,” where it will catch the original signal and repeat it farther outward. Some old routers can convert into repeaters, or you can purchase one for about $40. One great option is the SharePort Mobile Companion by D-Link, which alternates as a router, Wi-Fi hotspot or repeater at the flip of a switch.


Image courtesy of D-Link

If your signal isn’t reaching as far as you’d like, you have options, many of which are free or relatively cheap. Remember, not everyone will have the same solution. Changes in something as simple as terrain can have a huge effect on signal strength.

Can’t live without your Mi-Fi? Do you use a repeater that powers up your whole block? Let us know your solutions in the comments.

Homepage image courtesy of Flickr, Dan Leppert


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