Monday, July 28, 2008

Tips to Improve Your Wireless Connection

Wireless technology makes it easy to get rid of the cables and take computing away from the desk. It's becoming the household norm, and while the technology is advancing quickly, there are some easy things you can do to improve your own wireless connectivity.
1. Position your Router
A wireless signal doesn't carry far, and any walls or large objects may cause interference. For this reason, a wireless router should be centrally located in your home to insure the best range possible. Place the router on a flat surface off the floor and away from obstructions. Additionally, there could be interference from a neighboring wireless signal. Make sure that you're using a unique wireless channel to limit interference.
2. Replace your Antenna
The antennas shipped with most routers are small antennas with omni-directional capabilities. These antennas broadcast a signal in all directions, which can be useful if you need wireless throughout your house, but the range is quite short. A directional antenna can improve range by focusing the signal in a specific way, allowing you to aim it where it's needed. These antennas are often called "high-gain" and the signal increase is measured in decibels (dB).
3. Get a Repeater
A wireless repeater is the easy and safe way to boost your signal. A repeater works very much like a router, but instead of creating a signal, it relays an existing signal. A repeater is easy to install and doesn't require any additional wires or connections. Multiple repeaters make it easy to create a home or business network with complete connectivity.
4. Make an Antenna Booster
It's possible to make a homemade reflector or antenna to improve your wireless signal. There are templates and building instructions on many Web sites across the Internet to use materials as commonplace as foil and cardboard. Common designs are a parabolic satellite shape and a "coffee can" yagi antenna. Both can increase range and direct your signal, though homemade quality will vary.
5. Upgrade Firmware
Router manufacturers publish firmware updates regularly and upgrading your router can provide a performance boost and access to new features. Another option for the tech savvy is to install third-party firmware. There are a number of free, safe alternatives that may be compatible with your router. One project, DD-WRT, offers more robust features than many of the official firmware packages.

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