How to Improve Your Laptop's Wi-Fi Reception

Take steps to improve the range and speed of your Wi-Fi connection.

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Wherever you use a laptop computer, a strong Wi-Fi signal is necessary to ensure reliable connectivity and good connection speed. Laptops with limited signal range are likely to suffer from slow or dropped connections.

Modern laptops have a built-in wireless network adapter. Older laptops require an external network adapter such as a PCMCIA card or USB adapter. Either way, you can take steps to improve the range of your laptop and the speed of your connection if you are having problems with your Wi-Fi connection.

Environmental Factors That Affect Wi-Fi Range

Several environmental factors can cause a weak Wi-Fi signal. You can do something about these common culprits, at least in the home network environment.

  • Distance from the router affects signal range and strength. Move your laptop nearer the wireless router to combat this problem. Use one of the many online speed tests and test the speed of the laptop connection at various locations around the house or office. You'll see a clear difference based on distance from the router. 
  • If you can't reposition the router to a central location or move the laptop closer to the router, add a signal repeater. You plug these typically small devices into a power outlet located between your laptop and the router. The device boosts the signal from the router to give a stronger connection and expand the Wi-Fi range.
  • Raise the height of your router if it is positioned on the floor or near it. This improves the signal.
  • Take note of any metal structures or large appliances between your laptop and the router. These can obstruct the signal. Relocate your laptop or desk to avoid these signal killers.
  • For the strongest signal, limit the number of devices that access the Wi-Fi connection simultaneously. With the popularity of streaming movies, tablets, mobile phones, and smart devices, your laptop isn't the only equipment attempting to use the Wi-Fi connection.

    Update Your Equipment and Software

    The strength of a Wi-Fi signal and its range are also dependent on the router, its drivers and firmware, and software on your laptop. 

    • Replace your router when technology standards change. The most current routers are classified as 802.11ac. These are much faster and stronger routers than earlier standards: 802.11n, 802.11g, or older. In addition, they can connect to multiple devices at the same time, instead of switching between devices.
    • Keep the software on your laptop updated. Drivers affect how your laptop connects to the network. Old drivers can affect the range and speed of your connection. Keep your laptop system software up to date.
    • Update router drivers and firmware by visiting the router manufacturer's website to check for any updates or by checking Windows Update for driver updates.
    • Replace the external network adapter in older laptops. You may have been using the same adapter for years, but technology improves. Look at the newer alternatives.
    • Add a USB external adapter to a late-model laptop that has a malfunctioning internal network adapter. 

    Avoid Frequency Interference

    Older routers run on the same frequency as many home electronic devices. A microwave oven, cordless phone, or garage door opener that runs on the 2.4 GHz frequency can interfere with a Wi-Fi router signal at that same frequency. Modern routers have moved to the 5 GHz frequency precisely to avoid home electronic interference.

    If your router functions only at the 2.4 GHz frequency, change the channel your router operates on to see if that helps the range. Available Wi-Fi channels are 1 to 11, but your router may only use two or three of those. Check your router documentation or the manufacturer's website to see which channels are recommended for use with your router.

    Check the Transmission Power Settings

    The transmission power can be adjusted on some network adapters. If available, this setting is changed through the adapter's driver interface program, along with other settings such as the wireless profiles and Wi-Fi channel number.

    The transmission power should be set to the maximum of 100 percent to ensure the strongest signal possible. Note that if a laptop is running in a power-saving mode, this setting may automatically be lowered, which decreases the adapter's range and signal strength.