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How to boost Wi-Fi signal
Being a computer science student has its perks. Your friends and relatives start to think that you are the almighty guru who has the power to solve all their computer-related problems, for example. So, it's not a surprise that I am often asked this question: how can I boost Wi-Fi signal? What can I do to get a better wireless coverage in my home? That's exactly why I chose to write this article; hopefully, it will help some of you as well.
Many people have poor wireless connections in their homes. It's a fact! They buy inexpensive routers, which don't have enough signal power. So, they know that they should buy better routers when they encounter Wi-Fi related problems. This is often a good idea, because just like our smartphones, routers tend to get outdated. It's not that their hardware has become less powerful; router manufacturers are simply "forgetting" to release patches for the older models, thus making them vulnerable to potential security threats. You can't blame them that much, though, because their main goal is to increase profits, after all.
So, investing in a better, more modern router is often a wise choice. But if your laptop is the only one having Wi-Fi problems, replacing its wireless module, which is often connected to the board through a tiny U.FL cable, is a very effective solution. I had great results with wireless modules that use Intel chips, so that's what I always recommend. Don't go for this upgrade if you don't know what you are doing, though; you may destroy your laptop's motherboard. It happened to me in the past, and it may happen to you as well.
Still, if poor wireless signal is your main concern, you can probably fix the problem for good by purchasing a pack of omnidirectional Wi-Fi antennas for $20 or less. It's a pity that so many router manufacturers fit their products with low-end wireless antennas, which are a major bottleneck when it comes to wireless signal coverage. Fortunately, decent Wi-Fi antennas are quite cheap.
If the new router antennas don't bring in the expected signal strength increase, it's time for more radical measures. The location of your router (actually, the location of its antennas) is crucial. That's why I always recommend using longer cables to connect the wireless antennas to your router. By doing that, you can easily point the antennas in two or three separate directions, and thus ensure that the Wi-Fi signal is sent towards the devices that need it most.
To determine the best antenna position, use a Wi-Fi analyzer application that can be installed on your smartphone for free, and then pick the best location by monitoring the app's signal strength value. It's always better to have a friend help you with this, of course.
Any obstacle that sits between your router and its clients (your devices) will reduce signal strength. As you may know, routers can utilize two frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Believe it or not, radio waves that are utilized for the new 5 GHz band will bounce off obstacles much more, because they have a shorter wave length. So, if you want to get a consistent signal strength boost, you should switch your router to the 2.4 GHz band. It also helps to reduce the number of obstacles (walls, water bodies, etc.) if it is possible to do that.
Truth be told, some router manufacturers love their customers as well, and not just their money. So, they will often release firmware updates that patch security holes and may increase wireless signal strength. To get the best performance out of your router, you should visit their sites regularly. However, if you can't find new firmware for your device, it may be wise to switch to an open source router OS, such as DD-WRT. By doing that, your router will be kept up-to-date, its signal power may increase, and it may even gain some new, useful features.