When it comes to connecting to the Internet, three options are the most popular. You can use a dialup connection, which is the slowest kind. A wired broadband connection will let you browse the web faster but it still means that you’ll be plugged into a cable in the wall. In other words, you’re bound to a laptop or PC in a fixed location -you can’t move around while you work. Wireless networks, on the other hand, allow you to be mobile. Set up a router in your workspace and you’re free to move around and access the Internet within the coverage area. But maximizing or optimizing that coverage area is where most people make mistakes, limiting their mobility. Follow these simple steps to help with a greater coverage area and better wireless connectivity.
It’s just a matter of understanding the simple mechanics behind the system. A router emits a signal that enables you to connect to the Internet. Often, people associate a poor signal with a faulty router, when that may not be the case. A signal will not improve if you’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken!
Location, location, location!
If a wireless connection throughout your home or office is what you’re going for, placing a router in the corner of a room may not be the best thing to do. Instead, place the wireless router at the center of the workspace for maximum coverage area at an even signal strength. Metal objects tend to hamper signal strength. So don’t put your router on a filing cabinet! Also, keep your router away from thick brick walls or large objects that could interfere with a wireless signal. The simple rule: don’t place obstacles in the path of a signal that it needs to penetrate before reaching you. By the time the signal makes it past those hurdles, what you have is a weak signal that isn’t much help.
An add-on for a router
Sometimes, your router may need some help -that extra “picker upper”, especially if it’s an omnidirectional antenna. This is the most common kind of antennae that come with wireless routers and true to their name, emit wireless signals in all directions. “Omni” means “all” in Latin. But if you’re only going to be working in one direction of the router, placing it at the center won’t make much sense because much of the signal will be lost to the surroundings. Instead, what you might try doing is getting an HGA antenna that emits a narrow, focussed signal in one direction. That way, you ensure that the complete signal is used. But be sure to check that the router you use comes with a removable antenna before you make this switch.
Thick brick walls and large objects aren’t the only culprits of signal interference. Other wireless gadgets commonly found around a home or office like cordless phones, garage door openers and television remotes function through radio signals that most likely emit the same frequency as your wireless router. This can interfere with the strength of your wireless signal. Place your router away from such wireless equipment or adjust the frequency of the wireless router so that these signals don’t interfere with each other.
Similar but not the same
Just like figuring out why you’re signal strength may not be as good as it should depends on factors like location and the kind of antenna you use, rather than a fault with the router, so does signal strength as distance increases between your computer and the wireless router. As you move your computer further away from the wireless router, the signal will inevitably weaken. To boost signal strength at the periphery, a repeater, or Wireless Access Point (WAP), and not another router, may just be the answer.
Stay within the family
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. At least not in the case of wireless routers. Although this is not a fixed rule or guaranteed to affect a router’s performance, buying a router and network adapter of the same brand may be a good idea. Often, manufacturers produce routers and network adapters that are compatible and may increase signal strength. Alternatively, routers and adapters of different brands may (though not always) conflict and result in weakened signal strength.
It’s time for an update
Something old or in less than working condition will cost more to maintain than just buy a new one. Almost always. The same applies for a wireless router. That’s not to say that you need to border on the brink of bankruptcy buying the latest technology. But it couldn’t hurt to visit the website of your router’s manufacturer from time to time. Downloadable firmware can fix old problems, improve your router’s performance and increase signal strength. Also, update the firmware of your network adapter. More serious problems however, may require more serious solutions.
Don’t always blame the router
As mentioned earlier, the less than satisfactory performance of your wireless connectivity may not be because of the router at all. Replacing or upgrading the router will not solve an unrelated issue. In addition to all of the above, you’re computer should also be well-equipped to receive these signals. Here, a reflector or wireless USB network adapter may help.
Do It Yourself Reflector
Treat this as a very useful craft project. Like a high gain antenna, a reflector can direct the existing signal, allowing you to take advantage of the signal the router is providing. Unlike an antenna, a reflector actually reflects an emitted signal in the desired direction. A tinfoil reflector acts like a mirror and is something that you can make easily. All you’ll need is some tinfoil, cardboard and sticky tape.
1. Cut a piece of cardboard into a 15 x 10 cm rectangle and wrap it completely in tinfoil.
2. Cut an additional piece of cardboard (or paper) into a circle. Bend the shape slightly.
3. Slip the antenna into the paper figure. The mechanism will serve as a dish to receive signals as well as reflect and redirect them.