Basic Network guide

Author: Mussels
Date: 2007-05-11 09:40:27

Boost a wireless signal

The most annoying thing about wireless is getting dropouts and disconnections in the middle of using the network, such as during gaming or downloading a file.

This page will cover some good tips and tricks to help you out.

Most wireless cards these days come with two things: an indication of speed, and an indication of signal strength. They are generally linked, as lower strength signals drop in speed to become more reliable.
Speed, as previously mentioned, is 11Mb, 55Mb or 108Mb by default, but when your signal weakens it drops by stages; a weak 55Mb signal may change to 24Mb or 36Mb, and an extremely weak signal could drop to 1-2Mb. Signal strength in windows is usually 5 bars, 1 for bad, 5 for excellent - this is simple enough to now if any tweaks have helped you.

On to the tweaks!

The first one is simple; it's all about positioning. Where are your PC and router located? If your router is locked away in the closet, any doors or walls in the way will hamper your signal. The best place is to have it relatively high off the ground, with as few walls/obstacles near it as possible.

Aerial polarity: 90% of desktop wireless cards and routers have an external aerial, which can be rotated in a circle. It is important that both your PC and your router's aerial face the same way - this simple tweak can give you a good 50% boost in some circumstances, especially if there is a height difference between the two (such as cases where the router is in the attic/on a higher floor).

Finally, you could always replace the aerial!

This here is a PCI wireless card for a desktop, with the stock aerial removed. The original aerial was a 2dB (decibel) aerial about half the height of the thick black one in the image - the one in the image is an upgraded 5dB aerial. The thin black aerial is a 7dB aerial, with an extension cord attached.
In theory, going from a 2dB aerial to a 5dB aerial, you gain 3x more sensitivity - going to the 7dB aerial is 5 times stronger than the original.

While these aerials are not free, if you upgrade both devices (router and PC, like I have) then you can extend your network to incredible distances; I've used my laptop 150 meters away from my house, with a 'strong' connection. The ability of the 7dB aerial to move around is also a bonus, as you can place the aerial on top of the PC or monitor, and improve the signal that way.

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