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Boosting WiFi Reception

Increasing WiFi Range - from RadioLabs

One of our most common questions at RadioLabs is about how to boost the range of a WiFi or wireless signal. The answer to that question depends on the devices you are trying to connect and the distances at which you’re trying achieve. You also have to keep in mind that WiFi was originally developed for high speed wireless connections over a short distance and not invented to go to the moon and back (however, extremely long range has been reported). This article is specifically for increasing the range of your WiFi network, so it is broken down into:
  1. High Power, Laptop / Notebook WiFi Cards
  2. Increasing Desktop WiFi Range
  3. How to Boost your Access point or Router's signal
  4. What causes WiFi Interference
  5. Increasing Outdoor WiFi Range
  1. High Power Laptop / Notebook WiFi Cards

    Increasing the WiFi range of a notebook or laptop computer is relatively simple as RadioLabs sells high power upgrade WiFi cards with antenna connectors for a significant boost in your signal. There are several types of cards available, but it is imperative to have an external antenna connector so you can install a coaxial cable and antenna to your card. You will have to purchase a WiFi card with an external antenna connector to plug in any type of antenna. All notebooks or laptops have an internal or integrated WiFi card, so the connectors are impossible to get to. The wifi cards are enclosed inside of your computer and near impossible to modify.

    There are multiple WiFi cards available from a number of different manufacturers in different configurations. PCMCIA and Express Card style (which fits the newer PCs), and the newest and most popular USB style WiFi cards with external antenna connectors.

    WiFi Card Types - USB - Express Card - PCMCIA

    The PCMCIA and Express Card style WiFi cards are convenient because they fit nicely inside of your computer's built-in slot. However, if you upgrade to a new computer and you want to use your WiFi card in another you will have to have a matching PCMCIA or Express Card slot. Once you have installed the card into the side of your computer, you can simply install an external antenna, or you can purchase an entire Laptop Antenna Kit and your problem is solved. Be careful selecting your card, however, because most cards on the market have an internal antenna and very few have external antenna connections on them. All of RadioLabs’ high power PCMCIA or Express Card style cards have external antenna connectors for connection to a small notebook antenna kit, or external pigtail and cable, to an external antenna. We make this available in a Laptop WiFi Kit.

    Notebook WiFi Kit
    WiFi Card with External Antenna
    Notebook Wireless Kit
    External WiFi Kit - For Home

    This is the reason USB WiFi cards are more universal, as most laptops made in the last 10 years have a USB 2.0 port. USB technology is a high-speed, cross-platform way to exchange cards between computers. RadioLabs specializes in high power USB marine WiFi cards with external antenna connectors. These cards have high output amplifiers and very sensitive built-in receivers, which, in most cases, are more sensitive than any internal or external card on the market. We manufacture these products in the USA out of high quality CNC Machined aluminum. Also available is the lower cost WAVERVII-HP high power WiFi card, with very good sensitivity, but in a CNC laser cut chassis. All of our cards have very long range, very stable power and provide low-dropout WiFi connections. These high power cards are manufactured using RadioLabs Laser CNC Machine.

    When selecting a card for your notebook PC, even if you are not purchasing one of our cards, look for the highest possible power output, the lowest receive sensitivity factors and solid manufacturing. The WiFi Receiver amplifier is just as important, if not more important than the transmit power. If you travel with your notebook a lot, damages can happen and if you drop a low cost, cheap plastic injected WiFi card, it can break. The antenna can snap or the connector can come off of your card. If your notebook travels in a portable laptop case, you can accidentally bump your notebook bag on an object and destroy your card, connector or break the case. A well-made WiFi card using impact resistant plastic or Solid Machine aluminum can help keep you from being without a solid Internet connection, stuck miles from your home with pieces and parts of your WiFi card laying in useless pieces.

    One of the most important factors in a good wireless network connection, even when using the highest power card available, is line of sight. Walls, doors, office partitions, and virtually anything between your WiFi card and the AP or router can cause you to lose signal. For optimal signal, you want to have as clear a line of sight to the remote AP or router location as possible. With line of sight, you can achieve very long ranges with our external cards, antennas and routers.

    One additional thing about our High power WiFi cards. There are a lot of resellers, who are claiming "1 watt power output". WiFi requires a lot of power. The power output is not very efficient. This means your ultra-high power WiFi adapter is going to put out heat. Our aluminum adapters dissipate heat. You can feel them get slightly warm while operating. We truly transmit 1 watt of power. The cheap plastic chassis on some, so called, high-power WiFi adapters do not dissipate heat. They do quite the opposite, they contain heat. This means the chipset will heat up, causing it to fail very rapidly and also decreasing the power, the receiver sensitivity and creating internal chip noise. Why do we make it out of aluminum? Because, it's the correct way to do it and no other adapters compare. It's expensive, because we did it the right way. The Aluminum acts like a heat sink, much like an air-cooled motorcycle engine. The aluminum absorbs the heat from the high power wifi chipset, and the air cools the heat sinks. The WaveRVII has thermal heat dissipation grooves, but if you are using the WaveRVII in high heat areas, please consider one of our CNC Aluminum high power cards.

    Wave Magnum - 1 watt adapter
    WaveN High power adapter
    Wave Magnum - High power adapter
    Wave N Aluminum WiFi adapter


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  2. Increasing Desktop WiFi Range

    Desktops can use the same cards, as most of our long range cards have a USB Connection for simply connecting it to your PC. Desktops has specific cards which you can put into your PCI Card slot in the back of the computer. We feel these cards are a very bad design however, as you are left with the WiFi card's antenna coming out the back of the computer, behind the metal chassis of the PC, in the worst location possible. If your PCI card has an external antenna connector, you can put an external antenna on the desktop PC and place the antenna in the clearest location possible to receive the best signal.

    The first thing you will have to determine is if your router is local in your home/office, or if you are getting your signal from another source, such as a free hotspot, public access point or just a random free AP or router (Where legal. We don't condone stealing your neighbor's WiFi signal or leaching off of someone without permission)

    If you have a large residence or office and you have your own router or access point, but just can't seem to get the signal on the 2nd floor of your house or back section of your office, the best advice is to increase the range of your desktop card, as well as adding a higher power, higher sensitivity router to your system. The combined power of both units, as well as the better WiFi sensitivity in our products will bring your signal up from a barely connected or non-existent 1 bar or less, to easily an almost full signal strength with a solid signal in all locations of your house or office building.

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  3. How to boost your Access Point or Router's Signal

    In any situation, whether you have a notebook, desktop, or a home / office network you are trying to increase the range of, the RadioLabs o2Link, o2point, or o2storm WiFi products will act as a repeater.

    A repeater acts as kind of a "go-between" wireless device, which will take the signals from both units, in this case, a notebook computer in the lower level of a house, and transmits the data between the two WiFi devices. Our repeaters work unlike most equipment on the market, because our repeaters will talk to any WiFi router in Universal repeater mode. This mode translates between any brand router. The only negative to repeating a signal is the speed will slow down slightly, but it is still faster than most incoming internet connections and the benefit of the high power signal will more than outweigh the slight speed decrease.

    Note: If you are using only RadioLabs WiFi router / repeater products, the repeater has the ability to operate in WDS (Wireless Distribution System) mode, which you will not see any negative affects at all, even on multiple computers. WDS mode is beyond the scope of this article however and is covered in the product's manual.

    WiFi Repeaters are very simple to set up, operate without any cables except power and if your router and notebook card do not have an external connector and you are looking for a simple solution, Any of our AP/Router products will operate in this mode. Setup time on the software will take approximately 5-10 minutes at the most and the benefits and signal increase are incredible.

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  4. How obstructions cause WiFi Interference

    A simple approach to increasing your WiFi signal could be as simple as moving the router or access point just a few feet, or moving it around an obstruction. Remember that WiFi signals operate at the same frequency as a microwave oven or higher. Even if you don't think you have a slight obstruction, there could be something in the way. Ever wonder how you can look into your microwave oven, see your food cooking, yet your skin doesn't burst into flames? This is because there is a fine mesh screen on the front of the microwave glass blocking and reflecting the signal back into the microwave. You can still see inside the microwave, but there is a almost invisible obstruction, the screen.

    If this small obstruction can block, reflect and absorb 1000 watts of microwave power, enough to cook a potato, imagine what metal, fine mesh, or virtually anything between your WiFi signal path will do to your signal. In fact, anything that will heat up in a microwave oven, will obstruct the path of your signal. This is why RadioLabs has been very careful of what materials we select in building our WiFi antennas, radome materials and plastic to select the lowest radiation absorbing plastics, fiberglass and paint materials available which will not absorb microwave energy. It is crucial to the design of a WiFi antenna.

    So, simply moving or relocating the router or access point, moving the notebook, or in some cases, just a simple piece of furniture that you think may be blocking or affecting the signal can be all you need. Know what your house material is made out of. In many cases, a house with stucco has fine mesh in the walls and if you are trying to receive a signal outside of your house, Stucco could likely be your gremlin. Buildings and businesses have additional problems because many structures are made completely out of metal, or cement and rebar construction. There is also an insulation material which uses a foil backing, so even though your house has wood siding, the insulation foam could be causing more problems than you think.

    If you are in a situation where you need to receive a signal outside of your house, it is advisable to purchase a KIT, or a cable and antenna which will adapt to your WiFi card to increase the signal significantly from the outside.  See our article on "Selecting a WiFi antenna" for more information on this.

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  5. (coming soon.... ) Increasing Outdoor WiFi Range
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