6 Ways to Get a Stronger Wi-Fi Signal at Home
Make a parabolic Wi-Fi extender in minutes and double your wireless router signal strength.
One or two bars on your laptop's Wi-Fi signal strength indicator is just one of the signs that you've got a weak signal. Movies take forever to load. Webpage loading stalls. Or maybe you've seen the dreaded message: You are no longer connected to the Internet.
You may be able to improve your Wi-Fi signal at home by making a few simple changes.
Reposition the router
Is your wireless router in the basement or tucked unobtrusively into a corner? You may be losing as much as half the signal. Most routers are omnidirectional, sending signals is a circular pattern like the ripples from a rock dropped in the center of a pond.
For best performance, position your wireless router in a central location away from exterior walls and off the floor. If you live in a multistory house, place the router on the main or middle floor.
Metal objects and water also will block the signal. Position routers at least two feet from things like metal filing cabinets, appliances and fish tanks.
Change the channel
Interference from other household electronics and your neighbor's Wi-Fi network can reduce your router's signal. Wi-Fi routers transmit signals on one of three channels: 1, 6 and 11 in the U.S. The default for most routers is set to 6 by the factory, but you can change it to a less-trafficked channel.
Find your router's configuration page address on the manufacturer's website. Open settings and choose a new channel. Wait a few minutes to determine if your signal has improved.
Trial and error is the only way to find out which channel is least congested. The best channel will vary from house to house, depending on which channels other wireless devices in your area are using.
Replace the antenna
Moving the router to a central position may not be feasible because the router must be connected to your cable box or other Internet modem.
If this is the case, you may be able to upgrade the router's antenna to a so-called high gain antenna, which could double your router's signal.
Check to see if your router's antenna is removable. Alternately, your router may have a jack available for an additional antenna. Verify that the new antenna will fit your router.
Replacement antennas begin at around $20.
DIY 25¢ option
With a 12-inch square of aluminum foil, some glue and a piece of cardboard, you can make your own device to rival a new high gain antenna. The flexible parabolic shape can be adjusted to direct most of the router's signal out into the room rather than losing it to the outside.
The Ez-12 Parabollic Reflector template is available as a free download from freeantennas.com. Watch the video first. The project can be done in under 30 minutes and has been shown to more than double signal strength.
Upgrade your computer's network adapter
If you're using an older computer that does not have built-in wireless capability and you are using a card-style network adapter, it may be time for an upgrade. Your router may be sending a strong signal, but if your computer's adapter is weak, you'll have a weak signal.
Older adapters send and receive signals based on older Wi-Fi standards denoted as 802.11 a/b/g. Today's faster standard is called "n" and offers data signal speeds up to 600 megabits per second compared with 54 Mbps for 802.11a/b and 11 Mbps for 802.11b.
Look for an 802.11n USB network adapter with an external antenna. It will be backwards compatible with computers built on earlier standards. Expect to pay between $10 and $20. It may be wise to buy an adapter made by the manufacturer of your router to eliminate possible compatibility problems.
Add a wireless repeater
Signals weaken the farther they travel from the router. If your house is large, a wireless repeater or booster can be used at the halfway point between the router and the points where family members are using their devices.
A Wi-Fi repeater can double the coverage area of your existing Wifi network. It is a stand-alone unit that is not physically connected to the network.
Once again, it's probably best to buy a repeater made by the same manufacturer as your router.