How can I maximize my laptop's ability to pick up wireless signal?
June 28, 2009 9:25 AM   Subscribe

How can I maximize my laptop's ability to pick up wireless signal?

Hi everyone,

I don't have regular internet access at the moment because I am traveling and staying at a (crappy) hotel for 2-3 months. Dialup is not an option because of the way the hotel's phones are set up - they are digital and I wold get charged for making calls anyways. My hotel doesn't have wireless internet but a nearby apartment complex does. I can just barely connect to their network on a good day, but it cuts in and out because I am on the outer bounds of the network. I have permission to use the wireless network, but I am just barely out of range. What is the best way to strengthen things on my end?

I have already borrowed a friend's Wireless USB network adapter - the one pictured here - which is about as strong as a wireless card you can buy, but it doesn't seem to pick up signal much better. I am reading stuff about making a coffee can directional antenna or pringles can antenna, but these would both involve building something, which I don't really have the tools for at my current location. Also, I don't understand how I would connect the antenna to the computer itself anyways. My laptop has an internal wireless antenna (like most laptops) with no external connector, and the Belkin doesn't have an external connector either.

So, what is the best way to expand my wireless pickup ability? I am willing to purchase additional products if necessary.

posted by btkuhn to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Directional antennas don't have to involve both ends, it boosts the signal both sending and receiving. If you want the expensive but easy solution, get a wireless card that supports an external antenna, and a commercial yagi antenna.
posted by fings at 9:39 AM on June 28, 2009

Though if you want to give something cheap a try first, you could try sticking your wireless adapter through a strainer. I have no idea how well it would actually work, though.
posted by fings at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2009

I've had good results with this before. Don't know where you would get it in the US.

You could try the pringles tube antenna and stick the usb adaptor through a hole in the side at the correct distance. Get a freeware signal meter and fiddle with how far you stick it in (ooer missus).Mileage may vary.
posted by fistynuts at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2009

Erm, you don't have the tools to make the pringles antenna? If you already have the USB wireless adapter, it takes a knife or scissors or probably even teeth and nails, plus some adhesive tape if you want it to be stable.

Shameless self-link, I was in the same situation last summer.
posted by themel at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2009

You might want to look at Wireless Range Extenders or Repeaters. These will take a signal and rebroadcast it, effectively increasing the coverage size of the network.
posted by sophist at 3:25 PM on June 28, 2009

Previously. My reply is here. I continue to use and like the Alfa USB adapter, and it sounds like you would like it in your situation, since you can move it over to the window or disconnect the comes-with antenna and hook up your own antenna.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:56 PM on June 28, 2009

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