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Author Topic: Extend WiFi range  (Read 8349 times)
KE2KB
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Posts: 127




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« on: July 30, 2007, 02:17:36 PM »

Hi;
I am having trouble with weak signals from my D-Link DI-724U wireless router to my PC which has a D-Link DWL-G520 PCI adapter installed.

The router is downstairs at the back of the house, and the PC is upstairs at the front of the house.
The total distance between the two is only about 25ft, but being that the signal has to go through several walls and a floor/ceiling it is being attenuated significantly.

I have tried moving the router around a bit, but there is a limit to how far I can move it due to it's connection to wired ethernet cables.
I do have a second D-Link router (DI-624) which I could use as an access point, and disable the radio on the 724U. This would give me the advantage of having only one ethernet cable rather than 3 to deal with when I position the router. The 624 also has an 'extended range' mode, which the 724U does not, but I have tried connecting the two, disabling the radio on the 724U and turning on extended range on the 624, but it made no difference in signal strength upstairs. The 624 was placed in the same location as the 724U for that test.

The reason I need the 724U at all is that it has a USB printer port, which the 624 does not.

The router has the stock antenna. The PC has an external antenna, with 3' cable, which is a vertical, 3" high. This seems to be 5/8 wave.  The antenna (not sure of the brand) is 'supposed to' have some gain, but probably not a lot.

The signal I get using the Atheros driver and Gigabit utility is two bars at best. Much of the time, it goes down to one bar, and the position of the PC's antenna is extremely sensitive, as I would expect under weak signal condx.
At the same time, I have a Dell Inspiron 8100 notebook with a D-Link DWL-G650 card, and it has no trouble at all with signal strength in exactly the same location as the other PC.


I have been Googling for ways to improve the WiFi range in the house, and have been considering either a repeater or a better antenna.
I prefer the better antenna route, as I have always thought this is the best way to improve range on the Ham bands, so why not for the WiFi band?
Besides, adding a repeater will also make my WiFi signal more available outside the house, and despite my using encryption, more prone to being picked up and hacked into.

With all the online ads for 'hi-gain' WiFi antenna from tubular 'guns' to home-made kitchen variety dishes to simple wall mounted products, I haven't been able to make a qualified decision on what would be best for me.

I have come here because we are hams, and who knows antenna better?
I have to admit I have been inactive on the low bands for many years, and use my 2m/70cm HT's very infrequently, and then it is with the store-bought variety antenna, so I don't have much experience in building antenna.

Is there anything on the market for $50 or less that would work? If not, what about building my own.
I don't want to spend a whole day building an antenna that won't perform any better than a $50 store bought, but if I can make one that will give me superior performance, I will go that route.

Any ideas?
Thanks

FW KE2KB
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3721




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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2007, 06:09:27 PM »

hi frank,

what channel are you using and have
you tried a different channel ?

in my area, almost everyone uses the
stock setting channel 6, no security either !

73 james
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KB3LSR
Member

Posts: 297




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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2007, 01:20:09 PM »

You can get a Linksys WRT54G WiFi router and modify it for a higer Tx power.  Only versions 1 through 4 (I believe) will accept the 3rd party firmware.  The WiFi channels are shared with the ham bands, so as long as you use your ham callsign as the SSID (and don't use encryption), the higher Tx power output is perfectly legal.  I put on some 9db gain antennas on my router, that really worked well.  The higher Tx will work wonders though.  The 3rd party firmware can be found at: http://www.dd-wrt.com/


The WRT54G's have a lot of potential when you open them up!


73 de KB3LSR
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3721




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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2007, 02:10:37 PM »

hi,

are you using any 2.5Ghz phones in the house ?

changing the channel on the phone may help,
and avoid using channel 6 on the dlink.

are you using the latest firmware for the dlink ?

http://support.dlink.com/products/view.asp?productid=DI%2D724U

73 james

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KE2KB
Member

Posts: 127




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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2007, 02:36:11 PM »

I was using channel 6, but switched to 11, and there is no difference in signal strength.

The higher output of the Linksys sounds interesting, but I wouldn't want to use an unencrypted network, since this is the primary connection to the Internet for 3 computers in the house.

I believe the firmware is up to date, but I will check.

I think a better antenna is still the best solution.
Perhaps I should construct the "Pringles can-tenna"

Thanks

FW
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KE2KB
Member

Posts: 127




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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2007, 02:37:44 PM »

Oh, forgot to mention about the cordless phone. Yes, there is one in the house, but I'm not sure what freq it operates on.
Can I assume that if the phone is in the cradle that there would be no transmitted signal from it?

FW
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KB3LSR
Member

Posts: 297




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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2007, 07:11:48 PM »

If you use the Japanese drivers, you can use up to channel 13.  That is within the ham band, but outside the scanning range of your average computer.  I used this for a while without any problems.  Some devices wouldn't work on channels that high, so I had to revert back.  Use 3rd party WiFi scanning software to see what channels are heavily used near your location.
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3721




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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2007, 07:49:56 PM »

hi frank,

download this no cost utility from Eeye Security
Retina WiFi scanner, great tool to have on any pc.

http://www.eeye.com/html/downloads/index.html

see what other home networks are using in your area,
bet many are on ch 6 w/o any encryption and wide open.

you can buy a better antenna at walmart,
linksys has them not too expensive, worth a try.

linksys now has version 5 and higher, you can't
run third party s/w on it, they changed the processor.
Increasing the output power level won't do it for you,
if you only have 20 % with full power.

73 james
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3721




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« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2007, 07:52:50 PM »

hi frank,

the phone may put out a signal, most newer models can have additional handsets added to the base phone.

or a neighbor could be using a phone in that range.

good luck

73 james
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KF6RDN
Member

Posts: 39




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« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2007, 09:54:01 PM »

"At the same time, I have a Dell Inspiron 8100 notebook with a D-Link DWL-G650 card, and it has no trouble at all with signal strength in exactly the same location as the other PC. "


This statement makes me suspect the card in your PC is perhaps weak.
Perhaps before trying different routers and such, try a different NIC.

25 feet even through walls shouldn't be a problem unless there's alot of metallics in the walls/floors.
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KE2KB
Member

Posts: 127




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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2007, 06:34:26 AM »

Our cordless phone is an older model, probably 900mhz. I have a freq counter that I could use to check it, but that equipment is temporarily unavailable to me.

It is quite possible that a neighbor has a long-range cordless operating around 2.5G.
What I really 'need' is a spectrum analyzer<g>.

I am going to look around for a better antenna. If that doesn't work, I will run a long ethernet cable so I can place an access point in a different part of the house. I think that would do the trick, as it would change the dead spot that I am now in.

I did check into the possibility that the wireless pci adapter in the pc is weak. But after removing my whole computer to another room in the house, I get an excellent signal.

Perhaps I'll erect a 30 foot tower in my backyard. On it I will put a tri-band yagi or quad, wifi, and cell.
Then I will get a good lawyer<g>

FW
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N4RLL
Member

Posts: 34


WWW

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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2007, 02:54:22 PM »

Two things to consider:

1. The gouge about phones is 100% correct if it's a 2.4GHz phone. You may have to play around to find the best. A WiFi scanner program will show you what channels are most open to use.

2. A gain antenna is great - but one thing about them is that they have a lower takeoff angle and "flatter" radiation pattern. If you imagine a vertical antenna element, the radiation pattern generally will resemble a doughnut, with the element sticking up through the hole. If the "doughnuts" aren't in roughly the same plane, there's a LOT of loss. That factor is exploited on towers with transmitters and receivers operating in the same band to reduce interference and receiver desense.

Possibly using a stock antenna or orienting the antennas so that they are parallel will help you out. Another option might be to elevate the router so you can bring the doughnuts into alignment.

Good luck!

-- Jason
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KB1LKR
Member

Posts: 1899




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« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2007, 06:42:01 AM »

<quote>
The WiFi channels are shared with the ham bands, so as long as you use your ham callsign as the SSID (and don't use encryption), the higher Tx power output is perfectly legal.
<end quote>

Um, *some* of the 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g channels (1-6; 2412-2437 MHz) are shared w/ the (US anyway) 13 cm ham band (2300-2450 MHz). US channels 7-11 (and 12-14, also allowed in Japan and perhaps elsewhere) are outside the US amateur allocation.

Also, depending on your distance from other 2.4 GHz WiFi users (your own wireless 2.4 GHz cordless phone included) you may want to use Ch1 or Ch6 over Ch2-5, as 1, 6, & 11 are the only three with spacing  far enough from each other to avoid adjacent channel interference due to overlap, as the occupied bandwidth is fairly wide for WiFi.

The other issue w/ running higher part 97 power levels vs part 15 power levels is the prohibition  on encryption: so I don't believe you can legally transmit encrypted WEP or (better) WPA keys, even w/ your call in the SSID as a result you'd have an unsecured network (with extra range!).

The other angle to look into is buying/building very directional antennas (yagi, tin can waveguide, etc.).
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KE2KB
Member

Posts: 127




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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2007, 08:29:22 AM »

I have solved the problem by placing a second wireless router (as an access point) at a different location downstairs. This involved only running a long cat5e cable between the main router and the second one.
I set up the second router with a different network name, but on the same channel.
I am now getting a "very good" signal upstairs instead of a "very weak" or no signal.

FW
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KB9RNS
Member

Posts: 3




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« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2007, 02:56:26 PM »

htt://www.hyperwrt.org/ this is the link for the firmware for the linksys wrt54g router, it allows you to turn up power output,gives more channel selections,offers more security options, there are outher updates that will allow you to link wireless routers! this router is linux based and is free licensed[anyone can use or change the program]software is usually free, the wrt54GL has more onboard memory than the wrt54g.
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