Home wireless network signal out of range

  thefoolmonte 16:32 04 Oct 04

I have recently installed a home wireless network to connect my desktop pc with my laptop and share internet access, printers and files. It all works fine in the same room - an upstairs office - but when I try to use the laptop anywhere downstairs the signal is too weak and I cannot get a connection.

I am using a Netgear dg834g 54 Mbps wireless adsl firewall router, a Netgear wg311 54 Mbps pci card in my desktop, and a Netgear wg511t 108 Mbps wireless card bus in my laptop all are 802.11g standard.

Someone suggested that I attach a Netgear ANT2405 antenna to my router to improve signal strength. Netgear support have advised me that antennas are designed to improve signal in a line of sight environment, hence in a home they tend to be useless. They suggest best solution is to purchase additional TWO wg602v access points which have repeater capacity. One plugged into dg834g set as a plain access point, and the other plugged into a power point and set into repeater mode, meaning it will pick up signal and retransmit it from that point. Need two as they cannot repeat signal from dg834g only from one another. I presume that the wg602v will supposedly send out a stronger signal than the dg834g that will be able to reach second wg602v successfully.

Apart from all the extra expense of purchasing two of these, and turning my home into a minor version of GCHQ, it does sound way over the top just to be able to use my laptop downstairs.

Can anyone out there recommend a cheaper and easier way of overcoming this problem please ? Obviously moving from a solidly built brick walled house to a more modern one with plasterboard walls is not really an option.

Having seen all the adverts with people using their laptops at the bottom of the garden and in various remote locations on beaches, etc are we being conned about their range ? I certainly did not anticipate all these problems otherwise I would have had second thoughts about buying all the gear in the first place ! Having already spent quite a few bob on it, I don't want to throw good money after bad.

Help please !!!!

  Valvegrid 18:31 04 Oct 04

You say downstairs, does that mean directly under the upstairs room, so you're looking at no more than 4-6 mtrs. The problem will occur if the signal has to transmit through the floorboards that are likely to contain hot water pipes, electrical cables, etc, which all will attenuate the signal.

I'm not sure how handy you are, but you can build a high gain antenna quite easily for 2.45 GHz the frequency of WiFi click here . The idea is not new, I have designs that date back to the 1950's using the same power levels as WiFi that will transmit over greater distance than you need.

Just build it and point the antenna to were your remote computer is.

  easyrider 19:41 04 Oct 04

thefoolmonte I take it that the dg834g is up stairs, if so what direction is the antenna pointing. If it is vertical try placing it horizontal.

  thefoolmonte 23:50 04 Oct 04

Valvegrid - thanks for your kind response. The downstairs room (my lounge) where I was trying to use the laptop is not directly underneath the upstairs office. I have just tried it in the room directly underneath and can get a weak signal there and at the bottom of the stairs, but moving further away the signal gets very weak and then disappears completely. As you say it is probably the hot water pipes and electrical cables in the floor of my office which are causing the problem. Don't really fancy sitting on the bottom step of the staircase with my laptop balanced on my nobbly knees.

Have had a look at the site you suggested and think that I will have a go at building one of their antennas. I am not very knowledgeable about radio waves and frequencies etc but the idea of building my own "tin can" antenna at a very modest cost does appeal to me. If it does not work then I have not lost a lot of money, and if it does work then hey I shall be over the moon and telling everyone about it !

Easyrider - Yes the dg834g is upstairs in my office close to the desktop pc. The antenna was pointing skywards and I have now altered it to a horizontal position but it does not seem to have made very much difference. Perhaps I will try pointing it downwards instead and see if that improves things.

Thank you both very much for your advice which is greatly appreciated. Am now looking for a suitable tin can.

  Valvegrid 06:30 05 Oct 04

I would be interested to know how you get on, if you need anymore information you are more the welcome to email me. I model antenna on my computer to find out how they are likely to work in the real world, so I'm supposed to know a little bit about them, its almost a hobby on its own.

  thefoolmonte 10:46 05 Oct 04

Hello Valvegrid. Having read through the article on "tin can" antenna again in the cold light of day there are a few queries which spring to mind. Please bear with me as unlike you, I know nothing whatsoever about antenna, wavelengths, frequencies and other technical terms.

1. The tests were carried out in a straight line of sight and outside environment (Notice that waterproofing is mentioned). Will the stronger signal obtained also apply to a setup within a house containing water pipes and electrical cabling ?

2. Are two of these tc antenna required one at router and another one for laptop ?

3. If so how do I connect to laptop as the cardbus used at present does not seem to have any provision for an antenna ?

4. Is it easy to solder the piece of wire to one end of the N type connector as I have never tried soldering before. Are there any pitfalls to avoid and can I damage the connector ?

5. I presume that the N type connector and any other equipment required can be purchased easily from somewhere like Maplins. Do these connectors come in different sizes and specifications, and if so what should I get ?

6. Do I use ordinary tv aerial cable to connect antenna to Router (and to laptop if necessary) - if not what should I use please ?

7. Is best position for tc antenna pointing down towards where laptop will be located ?

Your kind response to above queries from a non-techie would be appreciated please.

  easyrider 11:46 05 Oct 04

thefoolemonte- have you tried different channels, also if you have WEP on try it with it off. I had similar problem although I am in a modern house, I had 2 structural walls between my dg824m and my wifes computer which was as far away from the router as possible and still stay indoors, yet my sons computer was getting a perfect signal and his had one stuctural wall and a radiator in the way.

  Valvegrid 12:51 05 Oct 04

I must say, in a way I'm with easyrider on this, in spite of all the pipes, cables etc, I would have expacted a greater range than what you are getting, try his suggestions first.

Normally, if I remember correctly, they quote a range of 50Mtrs, I suspect that would be under ideal conditions, this could well reduce to 10Mtrs, or less, depending on the construction of your building. There could be other factors as well, like re-inforcing rods if its a concrete construction, each room would be like sitting in a faraday cage, which would screen radio signals, have you any idea of the construction of your building?

After reading your post, I think you maybe onto a non-starter if there's no provision to connect an external antenna. I'm not sure if you can un-screw the antenna, if you can it could be a stanard minature 'N' connector, which would be easy.

I'm at work at the moment, so I'll have a closer read of your post tonight if that's OK?

  easyrider 13:41 05 Oct 04

Another thing to check see if there is another wireless network close by it could be interfereing,also microwave cookers,cordless telephones,I think they have to be more than 3 metres away from both stations.

  ste_bla 13:47 05 Oct 04

i had same problem changed the connection spec to b which is slower 11mps but better range

  thefoolmonte 23:26 05 Oct 04

My house was built in 1933 with solid brick walls including internal ones, built with engineering bricks which are very hard to drill into. In addition there are central heating pipes and electrical cabling everywhere under the wooden floorboards.

I don't have WEP on, and don't know how to change channels - I'm a complete novice at wireless networking and haven't a clue I'm afraid. Can I change the settings anywhere from 54 Mbps to 11 if this would improve matters ?

The microwave and c/h controls are in the kitchen which is not in a direct line between the router and the lounge (where I would like to use laptop). We do have wireless telephones but is it really necessary to get rid of these and go back to corded ones ?

I presume that the antenna with the dg834g can be unscrewed and another antenna connected with a suitable connection. The cardbus in the laptop is another matter and I can see no way of connecting an antenna to that.

I have a horrible feeling that I am not going to be able to connect my laptop with the network downstairs and will just have to use it upstairs only.

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