WiFi is certainly convenient in everyday life, for all of us who don't enjoy ethernet cables running through the house. Sometimes, however, we struggle with poor reception, either because of obstructions between the router and the connected device, or because the distance is too long. Below you will find some clever, low-cost ideas for a DIY WiFi booster, that will help you increase your router's signal strength.
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The easy way
Most people won't bother too much with a DIY construction and prefer to buy a device that works as intended out of the box.
However, this WiFi booster is pretty simple and straightforward. More importantly, it's almost free of cost. The only thing you'll need to pay is to buy your router a beer.
We will need:
- A beer or soda pop can
- A pair of scissors
- Marker (optional)
Time: 5 minutes, including the time it takes to drink the beer
Before we start, we should mention that - although it's not a dangerous process, it is wise to be careful with the aluminum can, as it is very sharp when cut.
Also, after you empty the beer or soda pop can, make sure you wash it thoroughly and let it dry completely. We don't want any beer, soda, or water remnants near our router.
If we want to make it a little easier to cut, we can mark the cutting lines on the can before we begin. In the picture below you can see the result we aim for.
First of all, make a hole in the can with the scissors or a knife at the base of the can. If you shotgunned the beer, that hole will also work nicely.
Start cutting around the base, until you trim it off.
Cut a straight line lengthwise on the can, and stop before you reach the other end.
From there, go around once again, but this time from both sides. Make sure to leave about an inch of aluminum in the middle.
That was it. We made a DIY antenna that we can use as a WiFi booster. All we have to do is put it on the router's antenna, so as it faces the way we want to extend our signal strength.
If you have a router without an antenna, you can always place the device on top of it or behind.
According to our tests, this thing works surprisingly well.
Testing the antenna
Our router had no external antenna, so it was an excellent opportunity to test if our WiFi booster works in a situation like that.
Thus, we put the extender on the router, took the laptop outside the house, and tested the signal strength.
The green line marks the signal when the laptop and the router were in the same room. We can see that the signal strength is around -47 dBm.
Outside the house and about 30 feet away from the router, the strength went down to -85 dBm (red line).
With the DIY WiFi booster, we saw an improvement of 10 dBm, since the signal strength was approximately at -75dBm (blue line). Not bad for a 2-minute project.
The above project is for babies, not for hardcore DIY experts like some of us. If we want even better WiFi signal, we can make an actual DIY antenna with a RP-SMA connection, that will work as a directional WiFi booster. We will be able to connect this device to our laptop, desktop PC, or the router.
We based our attempt on this guide, and the end product should look like this.
Warning: This is a more challenging project that requires the use of a soldering iron, drill, and so on. Thus, you should be extra careful and follow the necessary precautions.
What we need
We will see more details below for the materials we'll need, but here's the list in short:
- A tin can
- Female N connector
- Female RP-SMA to male N connector
- Copper wire
- Soldering iron and - of course - solder
- A drill or a hammer with a nail
- Wire cutter
About the can
Our metal can should have precise measurements. Depending on our router's channel, we will find the most efficient measurements in this calculator.
First of all, the inner diameter should be around 83 mm (3.27 inches). Find a can close to that, measure the bottom's diameter, and note it down.
Next, visit the page above and insert your router's channel.
In our case, we used a coffee can with a diameter of 92mm (3.62 inches). Thus, we added the number 92 on the relevant form and pressed "Compute."
From the results, we want to pay attention to "Inside Lenght," "Probe to Reflector," "Probe Length."
As we can see in the picture above, the can's length has to be close to 152.7 mm (6.01 inches). Ours was 144 mm (5.67 inches), and since we can't add length, we had to settle for that. However, the closer we are for the dimensions, the better the WiFi booster.
That said, you can take a ruler and head to the nearest supermarket.
If a supermarket worker comes by and asks you why you measure the cans, maintain silent eye contact to assert dominance. Extra points if you don't blink until they leave and/or call the cops.
Copper wire and connectors
The "Probe Length" measurement refers to the copper wire's size. In our case, it is 31.1 mm (1.22 inches). Such a wire is easy to find for free, especially if you are a DIY fan.
As for the connectors, we can buy those from most electronics stores.
Once we have all the pieces, the first we should do is solder the copper wire on the female N connector.
Prepare the can
The most difficult part is to make the right hole on the can, to connect our antenna. The "Probe to Reflector" measurement we took above represents the distance from the cans bottom to the hole we'll open.
For us, it is 50.9 mm (2 inches). Remember to measure from the inside if you want to be more precise. You will have to mark your measurement with a marker.
Now it is time to open a hole big enough, that the female N connector will fit nicely, without falling out. Use the drill to open the hole or a hammer with a nail.
Caution: We will mention once again that you should take precautions in this step. You don't want to end up with better WiFi signal, but with fewer fingers.
After a while, our project will look like this from the inside...
...and that will be the outside.
The hardest part is over. All we have to do now is join the two connectors and start testing the signal.
From here, we have two options. We can either connect the DIY antenna on our router, or on an external USB antenna and straight to our computer.
Not all routers have a RP-SMA connector though, so make sure yours support it before you build the device.
We tried the USB route, so we had to remove the default antenna and put our RP-SMA connector.
Testing the "cantenna"
We repeated the test once again, and we got the following results.
As you can see, it performed much better than the beer solution, giving us another 10 dBm in signal strength. In fact, the strength was steady ad -63 dBm.
The WiFi booster cost us less than $15, and as we can see, it did a great job boosting our signal.
Do you need a WiFi booster?
A WiFi antenna can be very useful in many situations. How about you? Did you try any of the above DIY projects? Do you have any other DIY ideas that boost the WiFi signal?
Leave a comment below.
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