November 25, 2020

How to Boost Wireless Signal – Part 4: Tips, Tricks and Other Solutions

 

The previous articles in the series “How to Boost Wireless Signal covered various Router related solutions (Part 1 and Part 2 ), whereas Part 3 looked at Non-Router Components.

This article looks at various tips, tricks or other solutions that have been reported to improve both signal strength and wireless range.

Analyzer

Aside from identifying the wireless channels in use (noted in How to Boost Wireless Signal: Part 1), an Analyzer is great for troubleshooting a variety of network issues.  Analyzers are available as either software of hardware based solutions.

  • Software: Well known examples include inSSIDer or NetStumbler.
    • Free and simple to install on computer.
    • Test effectiveness of a Wi-Fi antenna.
    • Determine effective range of Wi-Fi.
    • Find weak signal and dead spots.
  • Hardware: For example Wi-Spy USB Spectrum Analyzer with External Antenna
    • Wi-Spy is noted to be the worlds smallest spectrum analyzer used for troubleshooting Wi-Fi networks.
    • For the ultimate in setting up and tracking down Wi-Fi networks conflicts and issues.

Boost Wireless Signal tricks

There are numerous tricks and tweaks reported to Boost Wireless Signal that range from the reasonable to the outright bizarre. Here are a few examples:

  • Attach tin (aluminium) foil to Routers Antenna.
  • Use a coffee can, Pringles tube or an empty/clean soup can in order to make a high gain wireless antenna…a ‘Cantenna’.
  • A variation on the above is to put the Wireless Adapter into an empty and thoroughly clean soup can.
  • Use a reflector (Parabolic or Corner) to focus the signal and help transmitting/receiving.  A CD placed behind the receiving device/antenna can be used or alternatively, it is possible to make a DIY tin foil reflector to create a Parabola around an antenna. Results are variable although a  5-10% improvement is often stated.


Click here for a free Parabolic Reflector Template.

  • Mount Wireless Adapter to focal point of a disused satellite dish. Put adapter at end of pole where LBN used to be.

Computer Issues

  • Installing the latest drivers for a computers Network Adapter can bring noticeable benefits in performance. Your Network Adapters details can usually be found in the manual that came with your computer, otherwise access the information through your computer network settings.
  • Reduce intensive background operations that slow the system down.
  • Increase the RAM to make the computer run more efficiently.
  • Make sure the computer case (especially if it’s made of aluminium) doesn’t block the signal between the Router antenna and the Network Adapter.
  • Use WPA2  security to make sure that no outsider is connecting to your wireless network and stealing your bandwidth.

Equipment Consistency

Having a home network that uses wireless equipment from various brands/vendors may work satisfactorily, however, the system may not be functioning optimally. When the units are from various manufactures, the system can run slower due to various compatibility issues, overheads and data loss. The advantages of using Routers, Adapters, Antennas, Access Points, Repeaters or Boosters from a single manufacturer include:
  • Guaranteed compatibility meaning an easy and straightforward setup.
  • Improved reliability, signal strength and speed.
  • To get the full benefit of any proprietary signal booster technology, it will require all units to be from the same manufacturer.
  • When the units are from a single manufacturer you get the best possible signal because the units work in a synergistic manner to maintain an optimal signal.

Reducing Interference with Wi-Fi Friendly Products

It is possible to buy various Wi-Fi friendly household products and this is a trend that will increase significantly in the future. For example, one can buy the following Wi-Fi friendly cordless phones online at Amazon:

AT&T DECT 6.0 Digital Three Handset Answering System (SL82318)

Panasonic DECT 6.0-Series Dual-Handset Cordless Phone System
with Answering System (KX-TG1032S)

Vtech CS6219-2 DECT 6.0 Expandable 2-Handset Cordless Phone System
with Caller ID and Handset Speakerphone (CS6219-2)

 

Other Solutions

If nothing else works consider:

  • Your Provider. Upgrading to a faster connection speed with your broadband supplier can give you a  stronger signal or consider the possibility of switching provider.
  • Using an Ethernet Adapter that uses your home electrical wiring e.g. Powerline Model. This approach uses your homes existing wiring to send data between the modem and computer. The advantage is that it has the potential to be faster than Wi-Fi, but the disadvantage that interference can arise from other electrical items plugged into the electrical circuit. Good examples of this technology available readily through Amazon include:

 

How to Boost Wireless Signal – Part 3: Non-Router Network Components

 

Part 1 (free/inexpensive) and Part 2 (other solutions) of “How to Boost Wireless Signal focused on issues associated with the Router.

The third part in this series covers other network components that can improve the strength and range of the wireless signal. This includes the following:

 

Signal Booster (Wi-Fi Amplifier/External Antenna)

  • A Signal Booster attaches to the antenna connector of wireless devices e.g Router, Access Point, Wi-Fi Client/Wireless Adapter and as the name implies, they increase signal strength.
  • These plug and play units are easy to install, increase wireless distance and boost the performance of wireless networks. For example, the Hawking HiGain Signal Booster (see below) which has a peak output power around 500 mW (compared to a standard device of around 70 mW) increases the output power of a wireless signal up to 600%.
  • Although units range in complexity, in general, they function by making the signal flatter i.e. decrease vertical (Elevation) signal but increase the signal horizontally (Azimuth). This results in a stronger signal for users on the same level as the booster, but other users on different floors of the building may experience a weaker signal.

Examples of quality Signal Boosters currently on sale on Amazon are shown below:

Hawking HSB2 HiGain Signal Booster

ARGTek Indoor 1W 802.11b/g Fixed-Gain Booster/Amplifier Signal up to 1500MArgtek Indoor 1W Wireless 802.11 b-g-n Signal Booster
GSI Quality High-Powered Secure 1000mW, 2.4GHz, 802.11 b/g/n
Indoor Long-RangeWireless  Signal Booster With 9dBi Omni Antenna- Attach To Router Or Access Point

 

As the signal travels farther from the Router it weakens and will eventually lose integrity (Attenuation). Therefore, once the signal strength approaches 25-50%, adding a Wireless Access Point or a Wireless Repeater will be necessary to extend the connection range whilst maintaining signal quality.

Wireless Access Point (AP/WAP/’Hotspot’)

  • A Wireless Access Point will require a power supply and an Ethernet Cat 5 connection to the Router.
  • A major advantage of using an Access Point rather than a Wireless Repeater is that an Access Point does not cut the available bandwidth in half. A Wireless Repeater does this since it has to flip back and forth between transmit/receive with a single signal.

Examples of  boost wireless signal Access Points are shown below:

D-Link DAP-2553 Air Premier N Dual Band PoE Access Point,
Selectable Dual Band Draft 802.11n

Cisco WAP4410N Wireless-N Access Point –
PoE/Advanced Security

TP-Link TL-WA801ND 300 Mbps Wireless N Access Point
with 2x 4dBi Antennas

 

Wireless Repeater (Range Expander/Range Extender/Wireless Relay)

  • A Wireless Repeater will pick up the existing signal, rebuild it and retransmit/rebroadcast it at full strength.
  • Its major advantage compared to an Access Point, is that once configured, a Wireless Repeater will only require a power supply and will function as a standalone device that does not require an Ethernet Cat 5 connection to the Router.

Wireless Repeaters available at Amazon worthy of closer inspection include:

Hawking HWREN1 Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Range Extender

ERB9250 11N 300MB 11N Range Extender Removable
Antenna 1 10/100

Hawking Technology Hi-Gain Wireless-300N
Smart Repeater Pro (HAW2R1)

 

Secondary Router as an Access Point or Repeater

Many people choose to use a secondary wireless Router configured to act as an Access Point or a Repeater. The secondary Router connects to the primary Router, and the primary Router connects to the internet Modem.

  • Most newer Routers can operate in Access or Repeater Mode with a simple 1 click operation. For example:
ASUS RT-N12 Wireless-N Router, Access Point, and Repeater

 

  • If the Router is older, then the following procedure can usually be applied:
    • 1- Assign the same SSID and security information from the primary Router to the secondary Router.
    • 2- Turn the secondary Routers DHCP OFF.
    • 3- Connect secondary Routers LAN port to primary Routers Lan port.
    • 4- Assign the same addressing information from the primary Router to the secondary Router. For example:
      primary Router      IP=192.168.2.1  Netmask  255.255.255.0
      secondary Router IP=192.168.2.2  Netmask  255.255.255.0

Wireless Adapter

  • A Wireless Adapter contains an transmitter/receiver that supports certain IEEE 802.11 standards (depending on make/model of Adapter) and allows the device to join a wireless network.
  • Wireless communication is a two-way process e.g. between laptop and the wireless Router, and it is possible for a defective or poor quality Wireless Adapter to cause connectivity issues.
  • Wireless Adapters come in various forms:
    • Most modern Netbooks, Notebooks and Laptops have inbuilt/onboard networking capabilities with a Wireless Adapter ‘equivalent’  built right in to the motherboard. Therefore, they do not require a separate Wireless Adapter and their wireless capabilities are usually of a high standard.
    • USB Wireless Adapter. These provide an easy means to upgrade the networking capabilities of a computer to Wireless-N technology or circumvent a defective onboard network chip in a laptop etc. They are easy to setup (connect to a computers USB port) and can come with an external antenna.
    • PCMCIA/PC Card that slides into a dedicated port on the computer.
    • Desktop computers with PCI bus can have an internal PCI Wireless Adapter.

Click below to check out quality Wireless Adapters on sale at Amazon:

Hawking Technology Hi -Gain Wireless-150N USB Network Adapter with Range Amplifier (HAWNU1)

Belkin N600 DB Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter (Latest Generation)

ASUS PCE-N13 – Wireless PCI-Express Adapter – 802.11b/g/n – 2 External Antenna

 

Part 4 ofHow to Boost Wireless Signal will cover a variety of other options and tricks that have been reported to improve both range and signal strength.

How to Boost Wireless Signal – Part 2: Other Router Solutions

 

 

Having checked out the free or inexpensive Wi-Fi Router fixes noted in Part 1 of “How to Boost Wireless Signal, it is now time to consider the following options:

 

 

Router Upgrade

Upgrading your Router can bring many advantages and the latest standard is Wireless-N technology (802.11n).
Router Upgrade to Wireless-N

Router Upgrade to Wireless-N

The following chart lists the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards and some of their key features.

IEEE
Standard
Year Frequency
(GHz)
Bandwidth
(MHz)
Max. Data Rate2
(Mbit/sec)
Net Throughput2
(Mbit/sec)
Indoor
Range
(ft/m)
Outdoor
Range
(ft/m)
802.11n 2009 2.4/5 20
40
288.81
6001,3
100 230/70 820/250
802.11g 2003 2.4 20 54 19 125/38 460/140
802.11b 1999 2.4 20 11 4.5 125/38 460/140
802.11a 1999 5 20 54 23 115/35 390/120
1
802.11n  can utilize up to 4 MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) streams.
Therefore Max. Data Rate:
At 20 MHz: : 72.2 x 4 streams = 288.8 Mbit/sec
At 40 MHz : 150 x 4 streams= 600 Mbit/sec
2
Net Throughput = Speed after deducting communication overheads i.e. ‘real world’ speed.
Max. Data Rate = Theoretical maximum speed under perfect conditions.
3
Most Wireless-N Routers advertise Max. Data Rate=300 Mbit/sec which equates to a Net Throughput of approximately 60 MBit/sec

Advantages of Wireless-N Technology

Wireless-N (802.11n) has the following advantages compared to earlier standards:
  • Significantly faster.
  • Better range.
  • More reliable.
  • Less interference issues. Can operate at both 2.4 Ghz and the less frequently used 5 Ghz range.
  • When buying 802.11n equipment you are ‘future proofing’ you purchase.
  • It is backward compatible with the other standards.
  • Secure.
In addition:
  • The stronger coverage (link range) and performance (data throughput) compared with the previous standards comes without requiring additional transmit power.
  • A significantly improved bandwidth is achieved through the use of MIMO technology (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) that allows multiple antennas and signals (up to 4 streams) to be employed. There is a linear relationship with each antenna at each end and throughput, such that:
    • 2 antennas/2 streams  doubles throughput .
    • 3 antennas/ 3 streams  triples throughput.
    • 4 antennas/4 streams  quadruples throughput.
  • Channel Bonding, which allows 2 distinct non-overlapping channels to simultaneously transmit data, produces a significant increase in possible data transmission.

The following lists some examples of quality Wireless-N (802.11n) Routers which are cheapest online through Amazon with the links below:

SMC SMCWGBR14-N Barricade N ProMax Draft 11nWireless
Gigabit Broadband Router

Cisco-Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Simultaneous
Dual-Band Wireless-N Router

Belkin N600 Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router (Latest Generation)

 

It should be remembered that in order to get the full benefits of Wireless-N technology, the units within the wireless network need to support the 802.11n standard.

Fortunately, due to the technology being backward compatible, if you were to upgrade and future proof your purchase by buying a Wireless-N unit (e.g. the Router), this unit would communicate perfectly fine with any others in the system that used an older standard (such an 802.11g laptop). In such a case (and given that most people can only afford to upgrade one piece of equipment at a time) the laptop would still be able to operate on the network and access the Internet but would be limited to 802.11g specifications(even though the Router had the ability to operate at 802.11n).

Replace Antenna

Some Routers allow for their antenna to be removed and an upgrade can bring advantages of a stronger signal, greater range and reliability of connection. There are various types of antenna and these include:
  • Omni Directional
    These emit a constant field horizontally but have a vertical directional pattern. Therefore, they work well if situated in the middle of a room but are wasteful when placed in the corner or against a wall. Not only are they needlessly transmitting against/into the wall but possible security issues arise, given that a high percentage of the signal will be transmitted outside of the building.
  • Isoptropic Antenna
    These produce a constant field in both the horizontal and vertical plane.
  • Direction or High Gain
    These focus in one direction, meaning that the signal will be ‘tighter’ and located mostly within the building. This results in a better reception but also reduces security issues associated with a strong signal being broadcast outside of the building. To achieve more gain, a larger/longer antenna and electrical capture area (Aperture) is required. This produces a narrower and more focused beamwidth; such as employed with a Horn Antenna.
  • Multiple Antenna Model (MIMO Technology)
    Wireless-N technology can have up to 4 antennas for superior performance.

Examples of boost wireless signal replacement antennas available through Amazon are shown below:

Cisco-Linksys High Gain Antenna Kit for TNC Connectors HGA7T

GSI Quality High-Powered Secure 2.4GHz, 802.11 b/g/n Indoor
Long-RangeHigh-Gain 9dBi Omni Antenna With SMA Connector

– Attach To Wireless Router Or Access Point

ASUS WL-ANT191 – 2.4GHz Frequency – R-SMA Connector

 

Part 3 in the series “How to Boost Wireless Signal” will address Non-Router Network Components.

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