Best USB Wifi Antenna
One alternative to using a wireless extender or repeater is to get yourself a USB WiFi antenna instead. Rather than boosting the signal from your access point a WiFi antenna will just improve your signal and range you have access to from your wifi adapter.
But before you start looking around trying to find the best one you can find there’s a few things you need to consider.
First of all, does your wireless adapter even support using an antenna? You’ll need to check your adapter and possibly replace it with a new one. And don’t assume it will work just because your adapter already has an antenna doesn’t mean it will work – you need to be sure you can replace it with another. Try to unscrew your current one and see if you can replace it with a new one. Most PCI adapters will allow this but internal wireless cards and a lot of USB ones won’t.
If you’re going to install a long range USB WiFi antenna it doesn’t hurt to have a good quality wireless adapter to begin with. There are plenty of antennas which ship with a wireless adapter included but it helps to know what you need.
Secondly know what you want it for. In some situations you might just be better with a wireless range extender instead. Especially if you’re just trying to get a better wireless signal around your house or office then it’s easier to setup an extender somewhere rather than having to constantly carry around an antenna which can be awkward with a laptop.
And lastly it helps if you know whether you want a directional or omni-directional antenna. A directional antenna will get you a stronger signal when placed facing towards your target (another computer or access point for example). An omni-directional will improve your range in general without having to worry about where it’s facing but generally not as much.
If you’re really struggling to get a signal then a directional might work for you but a wireless repeater might give you a stronger signal and you won’t have to worry about accidently knocking the antenna to face the wrong direction.
DIY USB WiFi Antenna
There has been some great antenna hacks posted online boasting some crazy ranges (apparently the longest range so far has been 125 miles). This can be anything from a Pringles can to a full blown mounted dish. Range is always going to depend on a bunch of factors but the guides are posted online if you want to try your hand at it. Of course that depends how computer literate and ‘DIY handy’ you are. I don’t know if any consumer ready antennas can get 125 miles but they can certainly improve the range.
Wireless Repeater With WiFi Antenna
Some repeaters like the Amped Wireless repeater and range extender uses antennas to boost its signal. They come as standard but you can also improve the range it can both receive and send a signal by upgrading the antenna.
Some wireless routers (like the hugely popular WRT54G for example) use external wireless antennas which you can also replace. It does exactly what you’d expect it to do – instead of boosting what your adapter can receive it boosts the signal that your router is able to output.
Yes, you certainly use one on both your router and your wireless adapter but just ensure that you’re getting one which will fit your model.
Best Long Range WiFi Antenna
I’ve never had much success with a directional WiFi antenna so I find it hard to really suggest any of them at the moment. I find them too fiddly and it’s too easy to lose the connection if you need to use directional like that.
For most uses an omni-directional antenna will do the job and the best results I’ve had is with the TP-Link TL-WN722N Wireless Adapter and the Alfa 9dBi Wifi Booster antenna.