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How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House

 
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dystopia
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How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« on: March 31, 2008, 05:08:07 PM »

So I had some wifi issues in our house a few months ago.  It was essentially a range/distance problem because the wifi router was in the kitchen, and I encountered problems in the furthest bedroom on the opposite side of the house.


Here are some of the steps I went through before eventually finding a solution that I was happy with.  Ironically, the long-running "really long cable" joke turned out to be part of the solution.

Essential Utility
The free wardriving tool, NetStumbler was essential in my travails.  It made it much easier to chart and log signal strength to compare when changing the variables around (doors open/closed, Location 1 vs. Location 2, adapter a vs. b vs. c, antenna X vs. antenna Y, etc.)  I highly recommend when trying to deal with wifi strength problems.



Idea #1 - Relocate Router with existing outlets:
At that time we had DSL, but since then we've switched to cable internet. Either way, the best place for the wifi router is in the kitchen. Another option was a little used bedroom by the garage with both phone and cable jacks, but that's an even less direct route to the target bedroom.
Rejected

Idea #2 - Buy a Wifi Repeater/Extender or Hack a Linksys WRT54G
I was very tempted to make the problem go away quickly by buying a repeater or picking up an old WRT54G to mod.  But we've got a baby on the way, so just in case it turns out that Wifi EMFs are unhealthy, this kid doesn't need an extra source in the next bedroom.
Rejected by the wife

Idea #3 - Rewire the target bedroom
I considered adding a phone jack to the target bedroom, but it was rainy season here back then, and the crawlspace under the house is extremely muddy and unpleasant.  Going through the attic was an option, but to be honest, I spent a lot of time in the attic and crawlspace of our last house wiring the living room for 7.1 surround and home-theater lighting, so I'm not in any hurry to repeat that.
Rejected out of laziness

Idea #4 - Build a homemade antenna
I did this in our last house, and it worked pretty well.  I build the Parabolic Reflector style antenna.  It worked well, but that was a smaller house. Plus, it looked like crap.
Rejected. Been there, done that.

Idea #5 - Bigger antenna on the router side
My wifi router came with a dinky 2dBi gain antenna.  But, luckily, it has an RP-SMA connector, so I tried replacing it with a larger antenna.

I went to the local hardware shops and found these options:

Central Computer
Linksys 7dBi Wifi Antenna $36.95
Bountiful 7dBi Wifi Antenna $22.95

Micro Center
D-Link 7dBi Wifi Antenna $39.99
Hawking 7dBi Wifi Antenna $39.99

Fry's
Airlink 10dBi Wifi Antenna 17.99
USR 5dBi Wifi Antenna $24.99

I ended up buying the Airlink antenna from Fry's because I'm a cheap bastage.  Also it's supposedly 10dBi and has a small cable and stand.  I figured that gave me more options to position the antenna on a different shelf or something.

After lots of tests with Net Stumbler, the results were inconclusive.  At times the signal strength seemed better, but there seemed to be no difference at other times.
Rejected.  Inconclusive Results


Idea #6 - Different Adapters on the laptop in the bedroom
My laptop has a builtin Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG Wifi Adapter.  When I bought my wifi router years ago, it came bundled with a DWL-G630 Cardbus Adapter.

Using the Card Adapter actually had a slight improvement over the laptop's builtin intel 2200BG, but would still cut out on me occasionally.

So I went searching for a USB Wifi Adapter with an external antenna.  This was surprisingly harder to find than I expected.

I ended up buying this one from Micro Center:
Wireless-G USB Adapter with Removable Antenna for $39.99 ($29.99 after rebate)


The results were better yet, but still not perfect.  For some reason, I encounter different wifi conditions during the course of the day.  I don't know if there's more interference at certain times or more doors closed or something, but there were moments where this setup still had problems.
Slight Success

Idea #7 - USB Wifi Adapter plus honking external antenna
The USB wifi adapter in Idea #6 came with a small antenna, but the connection is reverse SMA, so it works with the larger antenna I bought in Idea #5.

This combination is what I use now in that bedroom.  When I use my laptop in that room, I connect the USB wifi adapter that's in turn connected by a wire to the external free-standing wifi antenna.  Those pieces always stay in that room.  When I take my laptop to other rooms, I use the computer's builtin wifi adapter.  It's only that one room that's a black hole for wifi signals in our house.
Moderate Success

Idea #8 - A Really, Really Long Cable.
At this point, I got greedy and tried to see how much I could boost the signal strength to that room.  Unfortunately, the cable outlet in the kitchen is in a poorly located corner.

Luckily, in my old gaming days I used to the occasional LAN party. There was one party where we were playing Starcraft or Warcraft in teams, so we had one team all connected to one switch in the living room and the other team all connected to another switch in the family room.  As a result of this I still have a 50 foot Ethernet cable that doesn't get much use anymore with Wifi everywhere.

So I grabbed this massive cable and connected it to the cable modem still sitting in its unfortunate corner.  But I now have the "freedom" to put the wifi router up to 50 feet away.  After several positions and testing with Net Stumbler I put the router on top of the refrigerator.  At that spot it has a straight shot down a hallway through most of the house to the Black Hole Bedroom.  The really long cable runs along the edge of the kitchen under a rug and duct-taped under the kitchen cabinets.
Complete Success

So, that's it.  I'm a testament to the tdcoly "Really Long Cable" solution to Wifi problems.

Now I probably could have just jumped to Idea #8 and just saved my self some time.  Next time I think I'll get an even longer cable and just skip wifi altogether. Grin
« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 05:13:38 PM by dystopia » Logged Return to Top
Uisce Beatha
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2008, 05:11:51 PM »

Shocked



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Fuzzy
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2008, 05:21:06 PM »

After reading that I feel like I should pay you in advance for solving a problem that is bound to cross my path someday.  Grin
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From Oh the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)
stroh
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2008, 05:23:12 PM »

That's cool dys.   Thumbs Up

That's an awesome story.  LOL
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Seamus
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2008, 05:25:04 PM »

You lost me after...

Quote
So I had some wifi issues
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dystopia
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2008, 05:26:37 PM »

LOL  Grin
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tdcoly
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2008, 06:26:23 PM »

tada!!
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spacey
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2008, 06:29:28 PM »

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E-A-G-L-E!
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2008, 06:46:41 PM »

Now I probably could have just jumped to Idea #8 and just saved my self some time.  Next time I think I'll get an even longer cable and just skip wifi altogether. Grin

But beginning with step 8 would have taken away much of the fun!
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geo1
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Re: How I Solved the Wifi Range Problem in Our House
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2008, 05:36:30 PM »

Now I probably could have just jumped to Idea #8 and just saved my self some time.  Next time I think I'll get an even longer cable and just skip wifi altogether. Grin

But beginning with step 8 would have taken away much of the fun!

Same reason why I don't ask for directions!!!

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