Improve wireless router signal strength


Once upon a midnight dreary, while pondering work for a meeting the next day, you decide you've had enough of your desk. Henceforth, you declare, you'll work anywhere in your house your heart desires: the sofa, the bedroom, the backyard, the kitchen, the bathroom (well, maybe not the bathroom). So you buy a wireless laptop, install a wireless router, and after you check that it all works, give yourself a pat on the back. The next day you discover that your wireless network covers only half your house and that both your living room and your kitchen are shrouded in digital darkness. The package the router came in claims a range of up to 250 feet, but your Wi-Fi signal barely seems to penetrate into the next room. You return the router for a new one, only to discover that the replacement unit leaves you with the same dreadfully cramped coverage area. Condemned once again to spend your most productive hours at the desperate solitude of your desk, you acquiesce, take a seat, and start typing.

Insufficient range is a common problem for many wireless networks, but there are ways to extend your coverage area into the places you need it most.

1. Center your router.

Setting up a wireless network is like investing in real estate: it's all about location. Unfortunately, it's hard to know exactly what your coverage area will be before you install the equipment. Transmission power, antenna sensitivity, and environmental conditions such as walls and furniture all help shape your coverage area. Moreover, the router alone is not responsible for your range. Your computer's wireless adapter must also be able to transmit data to the router. An ultrapowerful router with a sensitive antenna transmitting at 1 watt does you little good if your adapter has a poor antenna and is kicking out only 30 milliwatts. Replacing your router will often do nothing to improve your range.

If possible, place your wireless router in the center of the area you wish to cover. The omnidirectional antennas on most routers radiate in a three-dimensional doughnut-shaped pattern around the pole. If your router is located in a corner of your house, much of that radiation pattern will fall outside your home. Also, consider mounting your router high on a wall or ceiling far away from furniture and shelving that can impede or block Wi-Fi signals.

2. Add antennas or repeaters.

Some wireless adapters and routers are equipped with a connector that lets you add a high-gain antenna. High-gain antennas focus the energy they radiate in a particular direction, and you can use them to extend yo
ur range into rooms where your wireless signal otherwise might not reach. This solution works best when high-gain antennas are added to both sides of the connection.

You can also use a wireless repeater to extend your range. Repeaters receive data packets and retransmit them at full power. Unfortunately, this double duty of receiving and transmitting each individual packet cuts the throughput of your network connection in half. Repeaters can also be difficult to install, especially if you're new to networking. To make it easier, Buffalo sells a router/repeater combo that comes preconfigured out of the box. Keep in mind that repeaters tend to rely on proprietary solutions that are vendor specific and work only when you use the same brand of router and repeater. Still, a repeater can significantly increase the range of your wireless network and is well worth considering if you want to add a few rooms to your coverage area.

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