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Boost Your Mobile Hotspot's Signal Strength--at Home

Using a MiFi card or other aircard for Internet service at home? Here's how to improve reception for faster connectivity.

Reader Lois just moved to an area of California where there's no cable or DSL Internet service available. (Hard to believe, right?) She considered satellite service, but learned that those options are "slow and expensive."

Cleverly, she's trying a Verizon MiFi mobile hotspot--a great solution, but it's also proving to be slow. (Lois notes that she gets only two bars on her call phone, so obviously she's in an area with poor cell-tower coverage.) Ultimately, she's "tired of paying for [a] less than quality product."

My mother-in-law is in a very similar situation: no cable or DSL where she lives, and she recently deployed a Verizon MiFi card. Although the signal strength isn't great, she's finding it good enough (and definitely better than the dial-up she was using previously).

So what's the answer for Lois, or anyone else using a MiFi or similar aircard for home Internet? I recommend trying a signal booster, most notably the Wi-Ex zBoost YX545 SOHO or YX540 Metro. They're expensive ($399 and $299, respectively), but based on the reviews and anecdotal evidence I've seen, they work.

These gizmos are basically large (relatively speaking) antennas you mount outdoors, then wire to an indoor receiver. They're designed to improve all kinds of cellular signals, meaning they should help with your cell phones as well.

If you're looking for something a little more affordable, I've heard that the Wilson Electronics Sleek (a universal cell-phone booster designed for cars) can help with the MiFi--though only the 3G versions. I've seen it selling online for around $90--but make sure you buy the optional AC adapter as well so you can use it indoors.

Obviously I can't say for sure that either product will help with your situation--there are just too many variables--so make absolutely sure the store you buy from offers a money-back guarantee. Good luck!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at [email protected], or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.

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