I want to be able to connect to my wifi network from downstairs in the garage. My apartment is three floors up, and, while the signal is detectable there, it's very weak.

I have tried lifting the laptop up higher. The reason is depicted here:

How can I extend the range of my wifi router?

11 Answers 11

up vote 34 down vote accepted

I've had a ton of luck by building a little 'dish' on the receiving end using a mesh colander and a USB WiFi adapter.

I've used this to get on the neighbours WiFi while waiting for the new internet to arrive:

the one I rigged up with the stand

Obviously, mine is very temporary. A much nicer and more permanent one could be made.

  • 5
    +1 because this is one of the most ridiculous-looking yet functional alternatives to upgrading the antenna. – Nathan Osman Mar 8 '16 at 3:09
  • @NathanOsman Couldnt agree more! – Kiwu Apr 26 '16 at 7:20
  • 1
    "Jabardast" Idea – Fennekin May 3 '16 at 9:53

Few tips about improving WiFi reception of your WiFi router:

  • it may sounds obvious, but moving your router is one of the most effective ways of improving the signal you can get around the home,
  • if you live in an apartment or townhouse complex where other wireless routers can be competing in the same airspace, try to find an optimal wireless channel for your router and as far as possible from your neighbour's WiFi router as it is just as important as the proper placement of your router (every base station within range will show its broadcast channel when you scan WiFi network),
  • invest in WiFi booster/repeater and place it halfway (extenders that simply repeat the original signal over a further distance),
  • Put large furniture along the exterior walls of your home. Signals that don't have to travel through large, cumbersome furniture will make reception better.
  • Minimize mirrors. All metallic surfaces reflect WiFi signals, including the thin metal layer found in most mirrors.

    As electromagnetic waves, and in this case, wireless signals travel, they interact with objects and the media in which they travel. As they do this the radio signals can be reflected, refracted or diffracted. These interactions cause the radio signals to change direction, and to reach areas which would not be possible if the radio signals travelled in a direct line.

  • Place your router to maximize effectiveness. Where you place it has a lot to do with how it performs. When placing a router, consider putting it:

    • Near the center of the house, on a top floor. Radio waves best travel down and laterally.
    • Off the floor, ideally on a wall mount or high shelf.
    • Select a channel that nobody else (or the least number) is using.
    • Away from cordless phones and microwaves, which operate on the same 2.4Ghz frequency. (There are some cordless phones that are WiFi friendly).

    • Away from power cords, computer wires, microwaves, baby monitors, and halogen lamps. These wires and waves can interfere with radio reception.

      Experts recommend placing wireless network components far from other devices in the house that can cause interference, like cordless phones, microwave ovens, baby monitors or halogen lamps. Of course, people living in crowded urban areas face a greater risk of outside interference from neighbors' wireless networks and devices.

  • Place your router halfway between your access point and your computer for an instant boost.

  • Aluminium Can Signal Booster.

    • Using kitchen foil:

      1. Use aluminum foil. This will reflect the wireless signals from your router.
      2. Check your speed/Mbps and keep note of the number that is displayed (I.E. 72.2 Mbps).
      3. Tear off a sheet of foil that is around the size of normal printing/copying paper (8.5 x 11 in.).
      4. Curve the sheet of foil. If you want to make it easier/quicker, just wrap the sheet around the label area of a 2 liter soda bottle, and hold it there for about 5 seconds. Unwrap it and it should be curved.
      5. Place the curved sheet of foil on its side (where it's standing up horizontally) behind your router.
      6. Check the Mbps/speed. It should be faster than the original speed before you placed the foil behind your router.

      Aluminium Foil Signal Booster

      photo and solution by @wifi_guy

      by David Nield

    • Using beer can. Read more: How to boost your WiFi signal with a beer can (7 Photos) Aluminium Can Signal Booster

    • And other. E.g. Boost Your Wireless Signal With a Parabolic Reflector, Ez-12 Parabolic Reflector Template (video).
  • Use a WiFi Mapping app (such as NetSpot), so you can diagnose placement and what obstacles are causing your poor signal. You draw a basic map of your home within the app and then move around your space testing the signal at various corners. This will give you a more detailed look at where exactly and what could cause your issue.

Links:

Things that I use:

LifeHacker.com:

  • Place it in a area that is not crowded. I usually place it on a window sill because that gets better reception.

    If you want the best signal, you'll need it out in the open, free of any walls and obstructions. Point the antennas vertically, and elevate the router if you can (one reader found that his attic was the perfect spot). Lastly, make sure it's in the center of your house, so you have the best coverage possible throughout your home.

  • Make sure that fewer people are using the Wi-Fi when you plan on connecting, this increases chances of Wi-Fi working better.

  • Update the Firmware

    Perhaps the easiest way to improve your router's performance is by ensuring that its firmware and driver are up to date. Check the device manufacturer's website regularly for these updates to keep your router in peak operating condition.


Additional Info

DIY tricks.

As shown above, by carefully folding tinfoil into a parabola, you can boost your wireless strength tremendously. The fellas in the video saw gains from 82% to just under 100%, though I only saw boosts of around five percent, so your mileage may vary. This project should only take about three minutes and will hopefully leave you with impressive results. If you don't want to attach unsightly parabolic boosters and you're using the same basic router as the fellas in the video, you can also upgrade your firmware to DD-WRT

You could also upgrage your firmware to Tomato

Why Is Wi-Fi Coverage So Bad in My House, and How Can I Fix It?: This is also very helpful.

Use a sheet of aluminum foil behind the antennas. By using foil, you will reflect the signal going away from your devices back toward your devices.


However, since your goal is to transverse multiple levels of floors, this won't be very effective. Instead, get a wi-fi repeater. If you have -- or a friend is willing to give you -- an old router, there's a good chance it can be setup as a repeater, perhaps on the second floor.


if you're unable to obtain a repeater or place it on the second floor, and the tin foil trick doesn't help, your remaining option is to buy a more powerful router.

  • Your suggestion for the repeater is good. On the foil idea, though, wifi communication is two-way, though, and if I'm just boosting the signal from the router, how would I boost the signal from my connecting devices? – Adam Miller Dec 19 '14 at 2:24
  • 2
    @AdamMiller The foil reflects the received signal as well, providing a similar 'boost' – fredley Dec 19 '14 at 9:22

I notice that the appartment is two floors above the router. Because of the way the radio signal is emitted from the antenna, almost none of it goes straight up if the antenna is vertical. (One trick to visualise where most of the signal goes is to imagine a donut threaded onto the antenna. No signal at the ends of the antenna, but all around the sides, good signal.)

This means that you must point the side of the antenna towards the direction in which you want to have the best signal. In this case, that would mean setting up the antenna so it's almost parallel to the ground.

This will work with any router which has a positionable antenna. Plus, it's free!

A note about multiple antennas: place the antennas at 90 degrees from eachother, in a "V" shape, to get the best overall coverage, since each antenna will be covering the other's "dead zone".

I hope this helps :-)

According to this picture the access point is on the floor, if possible place it near the ceiling and put a metal sheet or aluminium foil under it (the sheet should be bigger than the AP). Instead of metal sheet you can use alluminium cup for backing or something similar

This isn't really a lifehack, but I can say from experience that just buying an antenna can be a great solution. Yes, it's a little pricey, but it works better than most of the things listed here (trust me, I've tried most of them).

Alternatively, if you're into making stuff, you can build one very cheaply.

wi-fi is just like a 2-way radio, so you need to think in the same way

A. if this is your wi-fi

  1. why do you have your wi-fi in the garage , why not extend the cable and move it to the 3rd floor or somewhere in between ?

  2. turn off, remove some plastic from the top of the antenna, and either elongate it ( the antenna) with a thicker copper wire about 1 meter, or with a thinner wire up to your room

B. not your wi-fi, maybe you are renting

  1. use a thin copper wire, like from a transformer, wrap it around the antenna, all the way up to your room, and then wrap it around the end of a piece of a thicker copper wire even if its a stranger's wi-fi you can do this and they cant see it , assuming you have access to the wi-fi location

  2. get yourself a thick copper wire, longer this time ( like 2 millimeters in diameter ) fix it on the desk with the length to be the same as the width of you laptop then stick it out the window about 2 meters in the wi-fi's direction , this will carry your signal thru the walls ( put your laptop on the desk over the wire )

ps: of course a more direct , hard linked route carries more signal

I would purchase a signal extender. Many electronic stores have numerous models/options from dirt cheap (poor quality) to better quality hardware.

  • 1
    While this is a solution, it's not very lifehacky because not many people have this laying around in their house. To make it a good answer, you could include a way to create this using household goods – Zach Saucier Dec 24 '14 at 14:34
  • @ZachSaucier, makes sense. =) – R3X Dec 24 '14 at 22:06
  • @darth, what's with all the rollbacks? – Shokhet Feb 17 '15 at 0:32

If you don't have foil or if that doesn't work (for the asker or anyone looking here for an answer), I recommend a jug of water. I know from experience that the water amplifies the signal well, and should work in your case. Try a two liter (or 1 gallon) jug filled with plain tap water, and place it next to the router. It may not seem like much, but the water molecules amplify the signal of the Wi-Fi. I currently have this setup to increase the range to an upstairs room in my house, and devices receive Wi-Fi where they didn't before.

It's not a life hack, but a power line option is a fantastic alternative to give you a wired connection anywhere in your building.

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