How to Get a Better Connection Using a Wireless Laptop

by Steve McDonnell
A high-frequency wireless connection can be as fast as a wired connection.

A high-frequency wireless connection can be as fast as a wired connection.

When you're trying to get a better connection using a wireless laptop, first check the wireless signal strength on the laptop. If you have low signal strength, you'll need to either reduce the distance between the computer and the router or increase the distance the wireless signal travels. If your signal strength is good, examine the frequency and wireless modes supported by your router and laptop and upgrade the device with the lower speed. If you don't mind potentially upgrading both devices, you may be able to get a wireless connection that's as fast as a wired connection.

Move Devices Closer

Indoor wireless signals without any obstructions have a maximum range of about 150 feet. If the wireless signal strength symbol on your laptop shows only one or two bars, you can usually get a better connection by placing the laptop closer to the router and by moving the router away from objects that obstruct the signal, such as brick walls and metal beams. You can also try broadcasting on different channels by changing the router's channel setting to determine if a different broadcast channel improves signal strength.

Add a Repeater

If you can't place the laptop and router closer and your signal strength is low, consider adding a repeater to your wireless network. Repeaters are hardware devices that receive the wireless signal from your router and rebroadcast it so it travels farther. If you have a second wireless router of the same make and model as your primary router, you can usually configure it to operate as a repeater so you don't have to buy a separate device. Although a repeater increases the signal strength to the laptop, the speed of the connection will only be about half as fast as a connection at the same signal strength without a repeater.

Use Wireless-N

If signal strength is not an issue, you may be able to get a better connection by upgrading your router or the wireless card in your laptop. At the 2.4 GHz frequency, there are three wireless modes -- B, G and N -- that your router and laptop use to communicate. Wireless-B is the slowest, G is faster and N is the fastest. However, if your router supports Wireless-B, G and N, and your laptop only supports Wireless-B and G, the two will communicate using the slower Wireless-G speed. Check the specifications for both the router and the laptop and upgrade either or both devices so they can communicate using Wireless-N.

Upgrade to 5 GHz

If you can position the router and laptop close to one another and you don't mind upgrading your hardware, you can get a wireless connection that equals or exceeds the speed of a 100BASE-X wired Ethernet connection by using the 5 GHz frequency instead of the 2.4 GHz frequency. You'll need a router and laptop wireless card that are both capable of operating at 5 GHz. Most 5 GHz devices also support 2.4 GHz, and many support simultaneous communication on both frequencies. At 5 GHz, the distance between the router and laptop becomes more important because higher-frequency waves are shorter; they don't travel as far, and they are more easily blocked by walls and other obstacles. However, they travel faster and carry much more information than lower-frequency waves.

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