Solve dropped signals and other wireless annoyances
Your old Wi-Fi network can't cut it anymore? Here are some fixes for everything from dropped signals to choppy music and video.
Extend your Wi-Fi signal
The breadth of your Wi-Fi coverage depends on a lot of variables, including everything from the distance and number of walls between a networked device and the Wi-Fi router to the weather and time of day. If your Wi-Fi reception is okay up close but iffy a room or two away, you may find that boosting the signal helps -especially if you're still using an older 802.11b/g router (802.11n gear significantly improves coverage).
You have several ways to do this. One is to replace your router's built-in antennas with better third-party ones, which will send out a more powerful signal. Such products are available in two flavours: Omnidirectional antennas (the kind that most routers come with) broadcast the signal in all directions, while directional antennas let you focus on a problem area. (Note that the FCC places limits on antenna signal strength, but these consumer products fall well within them.)
Since these antennas work only with routers that either let you remove the original antennas or provide a jack for third-party antennas, check your router to see whether replacing the antennas is even an option. Several vendors offer so-called high-gain antennas; when shopping, make sure to find one that supports your current Wi-Fi technology. A few older units on the market work with 802.11b/g gear, but if you've upgraded to 802.11n, confirm that the new antenna supports the latest and fastest Wi-Fi standard.
A DIY antenna is a cheap way to revitalize your Wi-Fi network. The £25 Buffalo Technology AirStation WLE-2DA Directional Antenna supports 802.11n and claims to boost a router's signal from the standard 1-2db to 6db; it's a big, flat gizmo that you point in the direction of your problem spots.
Do-it-yourself types can experiment with a homebrew antenna, such as the one I found on a site called FreeAntennas.com, which uses foil. (I've never done this, but links to testimonials are on several forums, and I've also seen the design referenced on Lifehacker.)
What if your router doesn't support external or replacement antennas? Investing in a repeater might help. This is basically a device that you position on the outskirts of--but definitely within - the range of your router's reliable coverage; it receives, amplifies, and rebroadcasts the original signal, thereby extending the range. Hawking Technology offers a model (the HWREN1) that supports 2.4GHz 802.11n and is designed for indoor use; the Netgear WN2000RPT delivers similar functionality for £50.
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