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How to Boost a Wireless LAN Signal?

written by: Jesma•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 4/29/2009

There are ways to boost the strength and range of your wireless LAN signal without spending any money. If you're hard pressed for some extra power, you could always get a signal booster or high gain wireless antenna to help out.

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    One of the many down sides of wireless Internet via an access point or wireless router is the very tight limit placed upon range. Be it the result of interference, thick walls, or long distances, you may find that your wireless signal is not extending as far as you need it to. Is there anything you can do about it?

    There are several products on the market that advertise increased wireless range and signal strength. But in this economy, who wants to spent extra money if they don't have to. First, we'll consider some ways to naturally increase your signal strength and coverage, then we'll talk about purchasable upgrades.

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    Types of Interference

    First, let's identify the things that tend to interfere with wireless signal strength.

    1 - Walls Etc. Standard wood and sheetrock walls offer some interference in your wireless signal, but it isn't usually detrimental. The things to look out for are brick, stone, and concrete walls which do a lot better job of limiting the signal. The worst thing, though, is walls that contain chicken wire. I believe this practice was used several decades ago to hold in insulation. Older homes may have chicken wire in the walls and this will drastically hinder a wireless signal. While there isn't much you can do about these problems, you can minimize problems caused by walls by moving your access point or router to a more centralized location, with as few walls as possible between it and the intended users.

    2 - Electromagnetic and RF Interference - Another type for significant interference is in the form of other invisible waves competing against your wireless signal. Many devices today operate on the same wireless band and having them near each other decreases their function. An 802.11b or g wireless access point or router operates on the 2.4GHz band. Other things that operate on this band include: Microwaves, Bluetooth, Cordless Phones, and Car Alarm systems. If you think about it, you probably have at least two of those in or near your home or building. Moving the access point away from these devices, can help to minimize interference.

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    Other Tips for Improving Signal

    It is a known fact that if a signal originates from high up, it reaches farther and stronger than one that originates from the ground. A large part of this is due to waves bouncing off of the ground back into their intended target, instead of continuing on into the vast reaches of space. This same principle applies to wireless LAN signals. If you want your signal to be stronger, then move it up as high in the building as you can.

    Another signal strength boosting tip that will help a little bit is to orient all of the antennas used on the devices in your wireless LAN in the same way. This means that you want antennas throughout the building to be parallel to each other.

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    Antennas and Signal Boosters

    As mentioned at the outset of the article, you can purchase devices that will assist in increasing your wireless network range and signal strength. These devices are called wireless antennas or signal boosters. Not just any one will do, however. You need to ensure that you purchase a model that is compatible with your wireless access point or router. The way to tell is by reading descriptions and matching up model numbers or brands. The most common compatibility issue lies in how the antenna hooks up to the device. You can find a few of these wireless antennas on Amazon. Attaching them is typically a very easy and straightforward process.