Monthly Archives: February 2017

Some Ways to Boost a Wi-Fi Signal

One annoying limitation of Wi-Fi networks is their signal reach. The range of a typical Wi-Fi network sometimes doesn’t even cover a house properly. Fortunately, Wi-Fi networks can be boosted, meaning that their signal strength and corresponding coverage area can be increased via various methods. Consider the below options to boost your Wi-Fi signal.

Relocating the Router (Gateway Device)

The placement of a Wi-Fi broadband router (or other network gatewaydevice) directly affects its signal reach.

Experiment by repositioning your router in different locations that can best avoid physical obstructions and radio interference, two common range limiters for Wi-Fi equipment. Typical sources of these Wi-Fi signal impediments in residences include brick or plaster walls, and microwave ovens or cordless phones in use.

Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number

Range-limiting wireless interference may also be caused by neighboring Wi-Fi networks using the same Wi-Fi radio channels. Changing Wi-Fi channel numbers on your equipment can eliminate this interference and improve overall signal strength.

Upgrade the Router (Gateway) Radio Antennas

Stock Wi-Fi antennas on most home network equipment do not pick up radio signals as well as some aftermarket antennas. Fortunately, most modern routers feature removable antennas for this reason. Consider upgrading the antennas on your router (gateway) with more powerful ones.

 Some router manufacturers advertise “high-gain” antennas on their products but these tend to be offered only on more expensive models and even then may still benefit from upgrading.

Buy Antennas for Your Router on Amazon.com

Add a Signal Amplifier

A Wi-Fi signal amplifier (sometimes called signal booster) attaches to a router, access point or Wi-Fi client at the place where an antenna normally connects.

Bi-directional boosters amplify the wireless signal in both transmit and receive directions, important as Wi-Fi transmissions are two-way radio communications.

Buy an Amped Wireless High Power 1000mW Wi-Fi Signal Booster on Amazon.com

Add a Wireless Access Point

Businesses sometimes deploy dozens of wireless access points (APs) to cover larger office buildings. Many homes wouldn’t benefit from having an AP, but a larger residence can. They especially help cover those hard-to-reach corner rooms or outdoor patios. Adding an AP to a home network requires connecting it to the primary router (gateway). A second broadband router can often be used instead of an ordinary AP as many home routers today offer an “access point mode” specifically for this purpose.

Add a WiFi Extender

A wireless extender is a stand-alone unit positioned within range of a wireless router or access point. Buying a WiFi extender will serve as a two-way relay station for Wi-Fi signals. Clients too far away from the original router or an AP can instead associate with the same local wireless network through the extender.

Tips To Upgrade Your Home Network to Wireless N

When you finally get your home network set up and running reasonably well, probably the last thing you want to do is change it. If your network lacks Wireless N capability, though, you could be missing out on faster speeds and better reliability.

The term “Wireless N” refers to Wi-Fi wireless network equipment that runs the 802.11n radio communication protocol.

More – What Is Wireless N?

The Benefits of Wireless N

Wireless N allows you to transfer data between devices in your home faster.

For example, older 802.11g based equipment could communicate inside the network at a standard rate of 54 Mbps. Wireless N products support a standard of 150 Mbps, roughly three times faster, with options for even higher rates also available.

Wireless N technology also improves the design of radios and antennas built into the network hardware. The signal range of Wireless N routers often exceeds that of older forms of Wi-Fi, helping to better reach and maintain more reliable connections with devices further away or outdoors. Additionally, 802.11n can operate on signal frequencies outside the band commonly used by other non-networked consumer gadgets, reducing the likelihood of radio interference inside the home.

Although Wireless N generally improves the speed of the movie, music and other file sharing inside the house, it does not increase the speed of the connection between your house and the rest of the Internet.

Wireless N Support in Consumer Devices

Wireless N gear began appearing on the scene as early in 2006, so there’s a very good chance the devices you use now support it. For example, Apple added 802.11n to its phones and tablets starting with iPhone 4. If the computer, phone or other wireless devices you’re using lacks hardware support for 802.11n, you cannot gain the benefits of Wireless N on that particular device.

Check the product documentation to determine what form of WI-Fiyour devices support.

Devices can support Wireless N in two different ways. Dual-bandDevices can use 802.11n to communicate on two different radio frequency bands – 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, while single band devices can communicate only on 2.4 GHz. For example, the iPhone 4 supports only single band Wireless N, while the iPhone 5 supports dual-band.

Choosing a Wireless N Router

If your home network router doesn’t support 802.11n, your Wireless N devices can only get the benefits of 802.11n when they are connected directly to each other in ad hoc wireless mode. (Otherwise, they fall back to older 802.11b/g Wi-Fi communication.) Fortunately, most models of home routers sold today include Wireless N.

All Wireless N routers support dual-band 802.11n. Products fall into four primary categories according to the maximum data rates (network bandwidth) they support:

  • 150 Mbps
  • 300 Mbps
  • 450 Mbps
  • 600 Mbps

Entry level Wireless N routers support 150 Mbps bandwidth with one Wi-Fi radio and one antenna attached to the unit. Routers that support the higher data rates successively add more radios and antennas to the unit to be able to manage more channels of data in parallel.

300 Mbps Wireless N routers contain two radios and two antennas, while 450 and 600 Mbps contain three and four of each, respectively.

While it seems logical that choosing a higher rated router will increase the performance of your network, this does not necessarily happen in practice. For a home network connection to actually run at the highest speeds the router supports, each device must also have matching radio and antenna configurations. Most consumer devices today support making only 150 Mbps or sometimes 300 Mbps connections. If the price difference is significant, choosing a lower-end Wireless N router in one of these two categories makes sense.

On the other hand, choosing a higher-end router may allow your home network to better support new gear in the future.

See also – How to Choose a Wireless Router

Setting up a Home Network with Wireless N

The process of setting up a Wireless N router is nearly the same as for other types of home routers with the notable exception of dual-band wireless configuration. Because 2.4 GHz is the wireless band heavily used by consumer gadgets, many homeowners will want to utilize the 5 GHz band for any devices that support it.

To set up 5 GHz connections on your home network, first ensure the router option for dual-band operation is enabled, usually via a button or checkbox on one of the router’s administration screens. Then enable the device for 5 GHz channel operation similarly.

Is There Anything Better Than 802.11n?

The next generation of Wi-Fi devices after 802.11n support a new communication protocol named 802.11ac. Just as Wireless N provided a significant improvement in speed and range compared to 802.11g, so 802.11ac provides similar improvements above Wireless N. 802.11ac offers theoretical data rates starting at 433 Mbps, but many current or future products support gigabit (1000 Mbps) and higher rates.

Wi-Fi Network Security

A consideration on any computer network, security is especially important on Wi-Fi wireless networks. Hackers can easily intercept wireless network traffic over open air connections and extract information like passwords and credit card numbers. Several Wi-Fi network security technologies have been developed to combat hackers, of course, although some of these technologies can be defeated relatively easily.

Network Data Encryption

Network security protocols usually use encryption technology. Encryption scrambles data sent over network connections to hide information from humans while still allowing computers to properly decipher the messages. Many forms of encryption technology exist in the industry.

Network Authentication

Authentication technology for computer networks verifies the identity of devices and people. Network operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Apple OS-X include built-in authentication support based on user names and passwords. Home network routersalso authenticate administrators by requiring them to enter separate login credentials.

Ad Hoc Wi-Fi Network Security

Traditional Wi-Fi network connections go through a router or other wireless access point. Alternatively, Wi-Fi supports a mode called ad hoc wireless that allows devices to connect directly to each other in a peer to peer fashion.

Lacking a central connection point, the security of ad hoc Wi-Fi connections tends to be low. Some experts discourage the use of ad-hoc Wi-Fi networking for this reason.

Common Wi-Fi Security Standards

Most Wi-Fi devices including computers, routers, and phones support several security standards. The available security types and even their names vary depending on a device’s capabilities.

WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. It is the original wireless security standard for Wi-Fi and is still commonly used on home computer networks. Some devices support multiple versions of WEP security

  • WEP-64-bit key (sometimes called WEP-40)
  • WEP 128-bit key (sometimes called WEP-104)
  • WEP 256-bit key

and allow an administrator to choose one, while other devices only support a single WEP option. WEP should not be used except as a last resort, as it provides very limited security protection.

WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access. This standard was developed to replace WEP. Wi-Fi devices typically support multiple variations of WPA technology. Traditional WPA, also known as WPA-Personal and sometimes also called WPA-PSK (for pre-shared key), is designed for home networking while another version, WPA-Enterprise, is designed for corporate networks. WPA2 is an improved version of Wi-Fi Protected Access supported by all newer Wi-Fi equipment. Like WPA, WPA2 also exists in Personal/PSK and Enterprise forms.

802.1X provides network authentication to both Wi-Fi and other types of networks. It tends to be used by larger businesses as this technology requires additional expertise to set up and maintain.

802.1X works with both Wi-Fi and other types of networks. In a Wi-Fi configuration, administrators normally configure 802.1X authentication to work together with WPA/WPA2-Enterprise encryption. 802.1X is also known as RADIUS.

Network Security Keys and Passphrases

WEP and WPA/WPA2 utilize wireless encryption keys, long sequences of hexadecimal numbers. Matching key values must be entered into a Wi-Fi router (or access point) and all client devices wanting to join that network. In network security, the term passphrase can refer to a simplified form of an encryption key that only uses alphanumeric characters instead of hexadecimal values.

However, the terms passphrase and key are often used interchangeably.

Configuring Wi-Fi Security on Home Networks

All devices on a given Wi-Fi network must use matching security settings. On Windows 7 PCs, the following values must be entered on the Security tab of Wireless Network Properties for a given network:

  • Security type refers to authentication options including Open, Shared, WPA-Personal and –Enterprise, WPA2-Personal and –Enterprise, and 802.1X. The Open option utilizes no authentication, while Shared utilizes WEP for authentication.
  • Encryption type options available depend on the Security type chosen. Besides None, which can be only used with Open networks, the WEP option can be used with either WEP or 802.1X authentication. Two other options, called TKIP and AES, refer to specialized encryption technologies usable with the WPA family of Wi-Fi security standards.
  • An encryption key or passphrase can be specified in the Network security key field when required.
  • The Key Index, a value between 1 and 4, refers to the position of the matching key stored on the wireless router (access point). Many home routers allow four different encryption keys numbered 1 through 4 to be configured in order to support legitimate clients without forcing them to all use a common key.