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Stay cool, calm and connected this summer

Optimise your Wi-Fi signal or use your mobile as a modem

On those rare occasions when the sun comes out in Britain, it's a wonderful feeling to be able to unhook your laptop from the mains and stroll with it into the garden. There's only one problem: a reliable web connection may not be assured.

Smartphones and netbooks coupled with Wi-Fi networks have made remote working easier, but their small keyboards and screens aren't always practical for prolonged use. Fortunately, it's possible to extend your home Wi-Fi to reach the garden, and a few adjustments may also improve the signal inside your house.

And if you prefer to take your laptop further afield - to a local pub's beer garden, perhaps - you can use your mobile phone as a modem. You'll need a mobile signal to do so, of course, and there are still places in the UK where this won't be possible.

If your internet access is dependent on a flaky connection, try out Google Labs' Gmail Offline. While offline, you can search through your messages and write emails, which are stored in your outbox and sent when you next connect to the web. Now all you need to do is decide where to spend those precious hours basking in the sun.

Optimise your Wi-Fi signal

While you can't conjure up wireless internet connectivity from nothing, you can almost certainly tweak your existing home Wi-Fi network to work over a broader area. As with many things, location is key.

Wireless signals are broadcast omni-directionally. To ensure all areas of your home are covered, the router should be positioned as close to the centre of your house as possible, rather than in a corner. It shouldn't be hidden away in a basement, either, and raising it high on a shelf on the ground floor or lower down on an upper floor can considerably improve its range.

Note that the further away from an access point you are, the less bandwidth you'll get. If you're repositioning your router specifically for outdoor use, place it close to where you plan to sit. The signal can travel more easily through panes of glass than it can through thick brick walls.

Wireless signals travel more easily through glass windows than thick walls

Wireless signals travel more easily through glass windows than thick walls

Flicking channels: The channel your router uses is important, too. If your neighbour also uses a Wi-Fi router, and it's positioned near yours and overlaps with your channel, you'll experience reduced bandwidth. You can check for interference - and other network problems - using inSSIDer.

It's worth asking your neighbour which channel they use, and avoiding that one. But it's a fair assumption that you'll get better performance if you change from the preset channel. Many routers use channel 6 as their default. You can change your router's access channel via its web interface. Look for the option on its settings page.


Experiment with channels to avoid losing bandwidth to a neighbour

Experiment with channels to avoid losing bandwidth to a neighbour


You could also try changing the router's antenna. The majority of models come with a 2dB screw-in antenna; you can simply swap in a stronger 7dB antenna. This will treble the power of the router and increase the range by as much as 75 percent.

It's also worthy of note that although the typical Wi-Fi antenna is omni-directional, the router offers better coverage in the horizontal plane. In single-storey buildings, position the antenna at right angles to the router for best results. In multistorey buildings, you should place the antenna diagonally or parallel to the floor.

Also bear in mind that radio interference can affect Wi-Fi signals, so remove anything that uses radio waves, including baby monitors, from within 2ft of your router.


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