Low Cost Ways to Boost Wifi Signal at Home

In many homes there are places where you find your wifi signal is weak or not useable. The first step to a cure is to find low cost ways to boost wifi signal at home where possible. Most of us who have a wireless router at home got it from our ISP (Internet Service Provider) when we signed up for an Internet connection. Buying a new or additional router as a means of getting a better wifi signal should not be your first option unless your router is ancient. If the issue is largely to do with poor wifi signal reception in certain parts of your home then first consider these low cost ways to boost your wireless signal. The first thing to do is to measure your wireless signal levels where you want to use wifi in your home. You will need to do this in all the places you want to use the wifi signal to get the best compromise.

Test Your Wifi Signal Strength

You will need to test your wireless signal strength at different points in your home to get the best results. To do this take a look at our article How to test your wifi signal strength

How to Correctly Position Your Wireless Router

Low Cost TP Link WR740N Router with fixed external omni antenna

Putting your router in the right place can make a big difference to the extent and quality of the wireless signal received in your home. If your wireless router has one or more external stick antennas that can be rotated to a vertical or horizontal position then ensure the antennas point upwards pointing at the ceiling. If the router has internal antennas then just place the router in its designed position.

omni stick antenna signal pattern

The reason for this is to spread the doughnut shaped signal out in the right direction like the signal path shown in the image. Try to position your router in a position closest to the points where you use the wifi signal in your home. If you need signal also in adjacent rooms try and position the router so that some of the doughnut shaped signal reaches out sideways and passes through corridors, windows or open spaces to reach them.

Avoid where possible passing the signal directly through solid walls dividing the rooms. The wifi signal will pass through walls but a simple partition wall will pass much more signal through it than a solid brick one. Remember each obstacle a wireless signal passes through weakens the signal passed on to other parts of your house. Do not obscure the router behind furniture or other obstructions.

Place your router in an open space central to the points of use and at least at table height above the floor and high enough to avoid the signal being blocked behind furniture etc. Try to avoid placing the router directly adjacent to external walls to avoid excessive signal loss. Wifi signals will bounce about in your home so experiment by testing wifi signal strength where you need it by moving the router around to find the best position to get the best signal possible at all your usage points.

Change Your Wireless Channel

The Wifi Analyzer app also shows all adjacent channels in use among those of your own router any neighbouring routers or access points. You want to avoid using the same channel number as others in your vicinity. The other channels in use can be seen as interference if you are on the same channel. Try and find another channel that is not in use or has the minimum amount of use and select that for your home network channel.

Routers can operate on a number of different wireless channels, and you may be able to strengthen your Wi-Fi by switching between them. You can use the other testing tools mentioned above like Wi-Fi Stumbler to find the wireless channel with the least interference. However, channel congestion is easily the biggest problem, probably due to neighbours Wi-Fi systems. Remember also that electrical or electronic appliances in the vicinity of the router like microwave ovens, TV, other wireless devices (keyboards, mice, cordless telephones, central heating controls etc) can all be causes of interference. To change the wireless channel you need access to your router control panel which is often just accessed by a web browser. Read the documentation that came with your router, or visit the manufacturer’s website, for details of how to configure it. If it remains a problem and your ISP will not allow you access to the router ask them for support so they can assist you. Once your router is set up your computer and wireless devices should detect the new settings automatically.

Replace Your Detachable Antenna

The physical reach of a wireless signal depends on a number of factors. At it source, the router signal strength and quality are influenced by the radio power and antenna gain combination. Most domestic routers operate at power levels of from 10 to 20 dBm and have small external or internal omni antennas giving a signal gain of 1.5 to 5 dBi. From a raw power point of view the more radio power and the greater antenna gain the further the wireless signal will reach. So basically more radio power plus higher gain antennas means greater signal reach.

omni detachable stick antenna

Making high power quality linear amplifiers for wifi radios is not easy or cheap to do. The better quality branded routers offer low noise wireless’s and this is reflected in the price you pay. The best way to increase wifi signal reach is by adding a better higher gain antenna at the router where possible. This is not always possible as most ISP supplied routers come with built in or non-detachable antennas so they cannot easily be replaced. Where possible choose stick antennas with a gain above 5 dBi. There are many wifi antennas of 7 to 9 dBi which are ideal and not to heavy to be supported by your router.

Home Made Wifi Antenna Solutions

Doing a simple search on youtube for DIY wifi antenna extentions will reveal a number of home made antennas add-on’s made from simple pieces of cardboard, tin foil or tin cans. One model you can buy in kit form is called a “windsurfer” and attaches directly to your existing stick antenna. These paper and tin devices are often shaped in parabolic forms to reflect the wireless signal from your router antenna. The main aim of these add-on’s is to refocus the standard wifi stick antenna signal pattern and make it more directional. They simply attempt to redirect your existing wireless signal from your stick antenna or from your router if it has internal antennas. This may solve some of your wifi signal problems if you can get the main path of the wifi signal to propagate to all the places you need to get a good signal. It will be a very hit and miss affair but you may have some partial success with these tricks.

Use a Low Cost Wireless Repeater

wireless repeater extender

Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range. They effectively receive the existing wireless signal from your router and retransmit the signal with more power. They have the advantage that you don’t need any extra wiring. Normally you simply plug in the repeater in a normal electrical wall socket at a suitable distance from your main router where you can still get a reasonable wireless signal from your router so it can repeat the signal in the new location. You position it so that the signal it produces extends into areas that were previously unable to get a good wifi signal but where you want to get one. The main down side of these devices is the fact that they effectively halve the wireless speed for connected devices. But this is often not a problem except in extreme cases where streaming and gaming applications are in use. Anyway for basic Wireless G network speeds having a wireless connection internally of 13 Mb/s will not be a problem for a lot of people. Wireless repeaters offer an easy way to increase the effective range of your wireless network and are not to expensive.

Add a Wireless N 300 Mb/s Network Router to Your Wireless G Network

If you want to spend some money to get better wifi coverage at home and at the same time boost your wireless network speed to 300 Mb/s. One slick way to upgrade your wireless network to add the latest N300 Wireless N router to your existing Wireless G router. So rather than discard your existing wireless G router use it as normal to provide your ISP Internet access only. Then simply ethernet link directly to your new Wireless N 300 router extender to provide a high reach and high speed local wireless network.

300 Mb/s N router with external antennas

The Trendnet TEW 637AP N300 Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader router for example upgrades your old, perfectly functioning router, to high speed wireless n. This device has the potential to eliminate wireless dead spots with increased wireless signal range. Enjoy up to 12 times the speed and 6 times the coverage area of a wireless g network.

The compact 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader is designed around ease of use, performance and environmental friendliness. The latest in wireless encryption ensures wireless security. Advanced Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna technology eliminates wireless dead spots. Wireless Protected Setup (WPS) lets you integrate other WPS devices into your network quickly.

Use Powerline Non-Wireless Extenders

powerline wireless extenders

Power line adapters are a convenient way to extend your network even thought this is not in itself a wireless network solution. These devices use your domestic wiring to extend your normal wired LAN signal. Two devices together form a LAN bridged switch providing an ethernet port at a remote location. One device is normally plugged in, near your router, to an electrical socket and is connected to your router with a small ethernet cable. Another similar device is plugged in at another location in your home, like an attic, garage or out building where you want to get access to your LAN. At this remote point you can connect your computers directly or via a network switch. You could also create an another wireless network by adding an additional router in bridge mode or a similar wireless bridge device acting as a local access point. In this way you can extend your wired network or create another wireless access point in your home to extend your wireless network. Network bridging is needed to put all connected devices on the same LAN segment so each host can see all the others on the local network.

Protect Your Wireless Network with Network Security

It is possible for your home network to be compromised without strong security and a good encrypted password. Without good security your network broadband capacity could be stolen. This could lead to apparent lapses in network speed and latency issues giving the impression of poor signal quality. Protect your router by configuring personal network security using WPA/2 with TKIP or AES encryption.

WPA Personal also known as WPA-PSK (Pre-shared key) mode is designed for home and small office networks and doesn’t require an external authentication server. Each wireless network device authenticates with your router access point using the same 256-bit key generated from the password or passphrase you choose. Without any proper security anybody hijacking your network could also be involved in unsavoury or illegal activities which could potentially be traced back to you so always protect your home network.

Recommended Devices to Extend Your Wifi Coverage

A Really Powerful professional Quality High Speed N 300 Mb/s SOHO Router to Boost Wifi Inside and Outside

Powerful 1000 mw professional grade Wireless N MIMO SOHO Router

Upgrade or replace your Wireless G network with this powerful Wireless N 300 Mb/s router. This router packs 30 dBm of radio power with dual MIMO 2.5 dBi internal antennas to reach out to all those nooks and crannies in your home. This router is a professional class device with many flexible configuration options. Yet is comes with a very simple initial setup web based interface to get you started with an AP router in minutes. You can even add an additional external antenna should you ever need that!

MikroTik Powerful SOHO Wireless N 300 Router

Extend Wifi For Whole House With Wifi Repeater Edimax 7438RPn

This is a very affordable and reliable wireless repeater 7 extender.
Wireless Repeater Edimax 7438RPn

Trendnet TEW 637AP for Wireless N Router Upgrade

To Upgrade your Wireless G to a Wireless N 300 Mb/s network this is a good choice.
N300 Wireless Easy N Upgrader Trendnet TEW 637AP

An Affordable Wireless N 150 Mb/s Router

An affordable Wireless N 150 Mb/s Router / Extender / Bridge for extending your wired and/or wireless network this is a good budget choice. This deice can easily be converted to DD-WRT firmware for the enthusiast offering even more functionality.

TP Link WR740N Wireless N Router with 4 port Switch