10 Tips for improving your wireless network

10 tips for improving your wireless network

If Windows ever notifies you about a weak signal, it probably
means your connection isn’t as fast or as reliable as it could be. Worse, you
might lose your connection entirely in some parts of your home. If you’re
looking to improve the signal for your wireless network, try some of these tips
for extending your wireless range and improving your wireless network
performance.

1. Position your wireless router (or wireless access point) in a central
location

When possible, place your wireless router in a central location in your
home. If your wireless router is against an outside wall of your home, the
signal will be weak on the other side of your home. Don’t worry if you can’t
move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your
connection.

2. Move the router off the floor and away from walls and metal objects
(such as metal file cabinets)

Metal, walls, and floors will interfere with your router’s wireless
signals. The closer your router is to these obstructions, the more severe
the interference, and the weaker your connection will be.

3. Replace your router’s antenna

The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be
omni-directional, meaning they broadcast in all directions around the
router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals
will be sent outside your home, and much of your router’s power will be
wasted. Most routers don’t allow you to increase the power output, but you
can make better use of the power. Upgrade to a hi-gain antenna that focuses
the wireless signals only one direction. You can aim the signal in the
direction you need it most.

4. Replace your computer’s wireless network adapter

Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer.
Sometimes, your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer,
but your computer can’t send signals back to your router. To improve this,
replace your laptop’s PC card-based wireless network adapter with a

USB network adapter
that uses an external antenna. In particular,
consider the Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless USB network adapter, which adds an
external, hi-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly improve
your range.

Laptops with built-in wireless typically have excellent antennas and
don’t need to have their network adapters upgraded.


5. Add a wireless repeater

Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring
you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your
wireless access point and your computer, and you’ll get an instant boost to
your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless repeaters from
ViewSonic, D-Link, Linksys, and Buffalo Technology.


6. Change your wireless channel

Wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels, similar to
the way radio stations use different channels. In the United States and
Canada, these channels are 1, 6, and 11. Just like you’ll sometimes hear
interference on one radio station while another is perfectly clear,
sometimes one wireless channel is clearer than others. Try changing your
wireless router’s channel through your router’s configuration page to see if
your signal strength improves. You don’t need to change your computer’s
configuration, because it’ll automatically detect the new channel.

7. Reduce wireless interference

If you have cordless phones or other wireless electronics in your home,
your computer might not be able to "hear" your router over the noise from
the other wireless devices. To quiet the noise, avoid wireless electronics
that use the 2.4GHz frequency. Instead, look for cordless phones that use
the 5.8GHz or 900MHz frequencies.

8. Update your firmware or your network adapter driver

Router manufacturers regularly make free improvements to their routers.
Sometimes, these improvements increase performance. To get the latest
firmware updates for your router, visit your router manufacturer’s Web site.

Similarly, network adapter vendors occasionally update the software that
Windows uses to communicate with your network adapter, known as the driver.
These updates typically improve performance and reliability. To get the
driver updates, do the following:

Windows Vista

  • Click Start menu, click All Programs,
    and then click Windows Update.
  • In the left pane, click Check for updates, and then
    wait while Windows Vista looks for the latest updates for your computer.
  • Install any updates relating to your wireless network adapter.

Windows XP

  • Visit
    Microsoft Update
    , click Custom, and then wait while
    Windows XP looks for the latest updates for your computer.
  • Install any updates relating to your wireless adapter.

9. Pick equipment from a single vendor

While a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often
get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the
same vendor. Some vendors offer a performance boost of up to twice the
performance when you choose their hardware: Linksys has the SpeedBooster
technology, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement.

10. Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g

802.11b is the most common type of wireless network, but 802.11g is about
five times faster. 802.11g is backward-compatible with 802.11b, so you can
still use any 802.11b equipment that you have. If you’re using 802.11b and
you’re unhappy with the performance, consider replacing your router and
network adapters with 802.11g-compatible equipment. If you’re buying new
equipment, definitely choose 802.11g.

Wireless networks never reach the theoretical bandwidth limits.
802.11b networks typically get 2-5Mbps. 802.11g is usually in the 13-23Mbps
range. Belkin’s Pre-N equipment has been measured at 37-42Mbps.

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