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Laptop WiFi Signal Boosters and High Powered USB Antennas

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

Need to increase your laptops ability to find and connect to wireless networks? Building a wireless antenna as a DIY project can be as cheap as $25, but users may opt to purchase network equipment for laptops that range from $50 - $160.

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    Laptop Wireless Connections

    Many users have found that the quality and speed of their connection and signal with the wireless card in laptops isn't always strong. Enterprises strategically place wireless access points throughout the business so that the the wireless signal reaches every room. Home users don't always have the ability to place multiple access points throughout their home and may be restricted to certain areas where their signal is good.

    You can improve your coverage in a home by relocating your wireless device (router or access point), changic channels, adding antennas to the device, or possibly by upgrading the firmware in the router. With these tips in mind, laptop users may find that these solutions are not enough at home or when they are traveling.

    To check a wireless signal and strength, you can use these two programs to look for and discover wireless networks. These applications can be loaded on your laptop to analyze networks that are available.

    Netstumbler

    inSSIDer (See the BrightHub Article on this excellent software)

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    Vendor Products and Options

    Today, laptop wireless cards and antennas are generally found inside of the computer and have good reception because of advances in technology. Given the scenario above, users may want to find external usb adapters and / or usb antennas that are high gain / powered.

    RadioLabs, a manufacturer of wireless USB antennas for laptops, is one of the leading suppliers of wireless adapters for laptops. With their Wave Magnum, the USB adapter for laptops (or even desktops) have 500mw of power (½ watt of power!).

    Ubiquiti Networks produces a laptop card that can reach out several miles or up to 500' indoors. Their SR71 CardBus adapter is one of the most powerful in the industry.

    With these antennas, the higher the db gain, the better the reception. Moving outside of the home, these antennas help users when traveling or for those who have a workshop or garage away from their wireless source.

    Many users opt for making a wireless antenna (See BrightHub article) to extend the range of their wireless network. This type of Do It Yourself Project is not for everyone and is not truly portable when going on personal or business trips.

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    Conclusion

    Laptop wireless cards are limited in power and range. Because of this limitation, users can purchase third party antennas and network cards to extend the range of their wireless network. Building a wireless antenna as a DIY project can be as cheap as $25 but users may opt to purchase network equipment for laptops that range from $50 - $160. Buying tips include purchasing the highest db antenna for laptops with the most mw (milliwatts) in power. Users should also look for portability (small profile) and ease of use and compatibility for their existing operating system.



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