Help, I need a stronger wifi signal!
November 2, 2009 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Help! I live in a basement and need a stronger Wi-Fi Connection!

I live in a Basement of a townhome and pay for internet which my landlord provides via Wi-Fi.

The problem is that he has the router on the third floor of the house, and I am in the basement. It probably doesn't help that it is an old building, so there is a lot of brick and mortar. Anyways, he uses Comcast so in order for us to have a land line in our residence we would have to pay for a completely new cable package/modem etc.

In my room I am getting like 25% signal, 2 bars out of 5 pretty much, and get a really shitty and slow connection. If I move my computer out to the main room my speed and connection increases 10 fold.

Anyway, I'm not the greatest with this kind of tech stuff so I was wondering if people out there had options for me. I haven't talked to my landlord about it but wanted to confront him with some options.

Anyone have ideas, especially if you are familiar with comcast. Are those "Range Extenders" worth it? Can you add a router to a lower level somehow to increase the range? Is there anything comcast can do?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by OuttaHere to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know two people who use powerline products for their home successfully.

It sends the network signal down through your power cables in your home. Hook one into the power-plug where the router is and connect it up, then the other down in your basement and then either directly into your computer, or into an access point if you want to move around.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:06 AM on November 2, 2009

Is asking your landlord to move the router down to a lower floor an option?

Alternatively, ask if he's willing to run a long ethernet cable down the back of the building from his Comcast router (which should have an extra ethernet jack) to the basement, which you could then plug into any router you want? This would also give you your own private network.
posted by mkultra at 8:10 AM on November 2, 2009

Response by poster: That powerline product looks interesting, but is that basically sending out a wifi signal to the receivers? In other words if he connects the accesspoint up to the outlet, on the 3rd floor, and I connect the receiver in the basement by my computer to I connect the receiver via ethernet to my computer? I didn't even know these existed.

I might ask my landlord if we can move the router, but I'm thinking its on the 3rd floor because that's where his office and cable modem is setup. So in order to bring it downstairs he would have to have an internet connection downstairs due to the fact that Comcast charges you for ever cable access point, I believe.
posted by OuttaHere at 8:22 AM on November 2, 2009

Seconding the range expander. It's basically a repeater that connects to the router upstairs and broadcasts a signal lower. So if you can place it in a spot that gets good reception (near the top of the stairs?) it might be a good option.
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:43 AM on November 2, 2009

A [maybe] slightly cheaper option would be to use the DD-WRT firmware [or one of the other similar options] for linksys routers to turn a regular router into a repeater.


DD-WRT is a third-party replacement for the software in many off-the-shelf routers that adds features. You can often get one of these basic routers for less [half, perhaps] than a specialized off-the-shelf device like the extender linked above. You might be able to find one of the required routers even cheaper via craigslist or someone who switched to another one.

I had a $40 linksys router configured to do this very thing in my house last year. Worked well, but setting it up was a bit tweaky. The instructions linked above cover it pretty well, but if your eyes glaze over while you review them, it might not be for you.
posted by chazlarson at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2009

Oh, and as far as the landlord moving the router:

In my house, I've got a cable modem plugged in just inside the house [2 feet from where the cable enters the building], then an ether cable across the basement to the router. I could move the router anywhere in the house that I could get an ether cable [and as I searched for the optimal location it was all over the place] without the cable company being involved.

If his setup is similar to mine, he may be able to move the router independently.

My parents' DSL service has a single integrated modem/router box; in that case they'd have to move the whole she-bang. If his setup is similar to theirs, he maybe can't move the router without a new jack [unless he's already got a cable jack on the second floor].
posted by chazlarson at 9:12 AM on November 2, 2009

Ditto the range expander / second router idea, and make sure to orient your antennas horizontally (the strongest reception is perpendicular to the antenna)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:15 AM on November 2, 2009

Range extender is the way you want to go here, place it halfway between the router and your PC for best results, i.e. approximately at the first floor. Some access points also support a range extender mode.

You can also invest in better antennas for the router and your wireless cards, but good antennas are not cheap and three floors down is already stretching things.

The powerline adapters might work, but your electrical wiring might be such that you can't use them. Basically, the outlets you want to use must be connected to the same phase (assuming the house gets 3-phase power), ideally without any fuses/switches and the like in between. If you and your landlord have separate power meters, chances are it won't work. It would be best to borrow a pair of adapters from somewhere and see if you can get a connection before buying your own.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2009

Get a basic Linksys range extender! They are built for exactly what you're trying to do. They aren't "tricky" to set up, so long as you follow the instructions. If you do need help, Google will provide a billion tutorial pages. Or call a techie friend...
posted by cp7 at 11:34 AM on November 2, 2009

Outtahere-- Essentially it turns the power-cables that run all through the house into ethernet cables.

He plugs the router into one powerline adapter and then plugs that into the wall power-socket, then you plug the powerline point into a wall power-socket in your room and it's as if you ran a ethernet cable between the two rooms.

It's not wireless (radio signals) as it actually piggy-backs the signal through the electricity cables in your house. You can get a wireles
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2009

You can get a wireless version for your end of the connection, so the connection travels down the power-lines into your room, then your end acts as a regular access point.

This explains it better the I can in text.
posted by Static Vagabond at 1:54 PM on November 2, 2009

You didn't say how your computer gets its wifi signal. If you're using a basic wifi adapter, such as one built in to your computer (laptop?) you can easily increase your signal strength and speed of connection by plugging in a USB wifi adapter. In my experience, the Alfa AWUS036H typically provides two bars of increased signal. (A marginal 1 or 2 bar signal becomes a usable 3 or 4 bar signal.) It's easy to install and available lots of places, just google the name and model number. Expect to pay less than $50 with shipping. (This is the easy way out since it's something you do yourself and don't have to bug the landlord.)
posted by exphysicist345 at 2:45 PM on November 2, 2009

I had a similar situation, and had some luck with a bigger WiFi antenna. (bonus: cheap)
posted by blue_beetle at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2009

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