Wi-Fi networking range is like money, candy, and free time. You can never have too much of it. Getting more range out of your wireless networking gear can be a challenge, but it isn’t impossible. Here are some pointers on how to extended your Wi-Fi range, hopefully letting you cover your entire house or office.
- Upgrade to 802.11n – OK, it’s not a free solution, but it’s the best one there is. The new 802.11n gear (even though it has yet to be finalized by the standards body in charge of it) has dramatically better range, speed, and stability than 802.11b or g: After simply upgrading your router to an 802.11n model, you will likely find that your signal is stronger and more reliable in every room, plus you’ll experience faster throughput all around (especially if your laptop has 802.11n technology in it). I’ve also found that 802.11n routers crash less frequently, another big bonus. A new 802.11n router will set you back from $60 to $180.
- Try a Range Extender or Repeater – You’ll find lots of hardware like this on the market. Some of it works well, some doesn’t. In general, I’ve had the best luck with extenders when they are made by the same company who made your router. Some vendors also offer “high-gain” antennas as a replacement for the little ones on your router. They’re worth a try.
- Move Your Router – Got DSL or a cable modem? You can attach your network hardware to any working phone line or cable outlet, respectively, in the house. Obviously, picking someplace central to connect your equipment will give you the best overall coverage throughout the house. But even if you can’t move the equipment to another location, minor changes can have drastic effects. Wi-Fi signals are blocked by thick metal and concrete, so try picking the router up off the floor and putting it on a table or mounting it on the wall. Pulling the router out from behind your monster TV or entertainment center can also boost the signal dramatically. Experiment by watching your Wi-Fi client’s signal meter to see if something helps.
- Tweak Those Antennas – They’re not just for decoration: Orienting your antennas (try horizontal, vertical, and/or a 45-degree angle) differently can offer decent results with minimal effort. In general, all antennas should be oriented the same way. Again, experiment to see what works best.
- Change Channels – For this tweak you’ll need to get into your router’s management screen, either through an installed application or by typing the IP address of the router into a web browser. You’ll find a “Wireless Channel” (or similar) setting in the wireless configuration portion of your router. Most routers default to channel 1, 6, or 11, but if your neighbors are all on channel 6, then you might be seeing slow speed and lower range due to interference. Try one of the other channels (start with 1, 6, and 11, but other channel numbers are worth a shot, too), to see if you get a better signal with them. Remember that your neighbors may also replace their equipment at some point, so if you see a sudden drop in range or speed, try a new channel.