Low Signal Strength on Wireless Network

 

Subscriber Jody Bellinghausen wrote to ask about a wireless connection problem…


I have a Linksys Wireless G Broadband Router hooked to my PC. When trying to use my laptop in my bedroom, (two rooms away from the router), I either get NO SIGNAL or LOW or VERY LOW signal. My house is 1900 sq ft., so I figured the router would work all over it. Any ideas what the problem could be?

I wrote back to Jody to tell her that I thought her problem may be either the construction materials of the walls or perhaps things that are in the walls, or in rooms in between the router and the laptop. I have a friend who could not get their wireless connection to work a couple rooms away — and they had an air-conditioning system in a closet directly on a line between the router and the laptop.

The solution was to move the router about 6 feet so that it was no longer blocked by the materials in the walls.

She might have a similar issue if you have a kitchen or bath with wire mesh on/in the walls as support for decorative tiles. The wire mesh will act as a signal barrier.

Walls themselves will also reduce the signal strength received. When you see usable distance quoted in a wireless router’s documentation, there’s usually a footnote saying something like "unobstructed outdoors."

Jody wrote back to ask:

That makes sense….is there a stronger router I could get or is this the best I can do? I appreciate your input and love getting your newsletter!

I responded to her that I didn’t know how old her router is, but if it’s 2-3 years old, she will find that today’s routers operate faster internally and will give her better reception.

She also might want to go to an 802.11n router, even if she don’t plan to put an N adapter on her laptop. The N versions should be backward compatible and should give better G reception, too.

She could try the "high gain" antennas that you can put on the Linksys G routers — or a corresponding one for your laptop (although that would be kind of bulky for a laptop.

A directional antenna might be more help, too — most antennas are omni-directional. That would be especially helpful for the laptop because you could always point to the router.

There’s another possibility, which I run into occasionally, and that is connecting to the wrong wireless network. This happens sometimes if I have taken my notebook somewhere, e.g. a coffee shop, and used the open, unsecured wireless connecion available there. If they’ve got a Linksys router with the SSID at the default "Linksys" I often will accidentally connect to a neighbor’s router — at just enough power to make the connection and not enough to do anything else.

How can you prevent that connection from happening? It depends on whether you’re using Windows’ own wireless control system or the one that came with your wireless card (or wirelss USB device). Either way, it should enable you to set a priority for which networks connect.

Some allow you to set the wireless card (even if built into your notebook, I’m still calling it a card) not to connect to unsecured networks without permission. Others will allow you to reorder the SSID’s that it will remember and to which it will connnect. That was my fix — to move my secured wireless router’s SSID to the top of the list.

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