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How to Build a WiFi Amplifier / Antenna

written by: Steve Mallard•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 12/8/2009

Want to extend your wireless network? Have a workshop, garage or two story home and very little wireless signal? You can build your own WiFi Antenna / Amplifier for around $25. These wireless antennas can be used on laptops or desktops.

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    How to Build a WiFi Antenna

    If you would like to build a homemade Wi-Fi Amplifier or Antenna, you can boost your wireless antenna signal by making a “cantenna." These antennas are easy to make and cost less than $25.00.

    * Purchase a USB wireless adapter. (These adapters can be found for < $15).

    * Carefully peal the side stickers from the USB adapter.

    * Gently pry the USB adapter apart. Be careful not to scratch the board with your screwdriver or tools. Some adapters may have small screws under the labels or have a small amount of glued area.

    * Cut a small slit into a pringles can (This is best used on a cardboard canister - non conductive. (Do not use a metal can unless you insulate your slot with silicon, with some form of rubber or plastic). This slot can vary. Cutting the slot 1.25" from the metal base should be adequate. Depending on the adapter, this can vary.

    * Purchase a USB extension cable for < $8.

    * Carefully slide the USB adapter (antenna side up - usually 1/2″ by 3/8″ metal plate on one side) into the can.

    * Silicon around the USB adapter and slot in order to hold the USB adapter in place. Allow the materials to dry for 4 - 6 hours.

    * Connect the USB extension cable to the adapter (Do not plug into your computer).

    * Load the software for the USB Adapter. Again, it is important to do this prior to connecting the adapter.

    * Plug the USB cable into your laptop or desktop. Make your connection to your wireless access point or router.

    With the can(tenna) pointed towards the wireless source, the signal should increase at least 10db more than the original strength prior to the modification. In a ranch style or two story houses, the cantenna should be pointed towards the wireless source. With this test, I gained approximately 26db. Test results will vary based on materials used in the home's construction and from interference in the 2.4 Ghz range.

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    Making a Wireless Adapter Antenna

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    Conclusion

    This DIY project can increase your wireless signal strength. Laptops today have wireless adapters built in that may not give you the range of an adapter with an external antenna. The USB adapter and antenna can be stationary in a workshop, home, or they can be portable. Remember, DIY projects always have risks that the external wireless device can be damaged or the desired results are not gained. However, for the cost, this DIY project can't be beat.

    To measure your signal, use inSSIDer or Netstumbler.