Best WiFi Booster for Laptop Reviews and Alternatives
There are two things which says freedom to me. Wireless networking and laptops. And they make a great combination… when they work.
If your WiFi signal is poor then using the internet becomes a frustrating experience. Second only to not being able to connect to the network at all. Being able to move around from the couch to the garden and keep a wireless connection is great but it makes it harder on your wireless network than just reaching one location where your desk is for example.
But there are plenty of things you can do to improve your wireless connection. From the small stuff like making a few changes to the current network to upgrading your laptop wireless or a middle man booster device. I’ll go over a few options. Nothing too complicated or expensive and all tailored specifically at your laptop.
Step 1) Settings and Positioning Your Network
I won’t get too technical here (I’d rather you stayed awake long enough to get your internet sorted) but there are some things you can try before resorting to a new piece of hardware. Sometimes a few changes to your wireless network can make enough of a difference.
This isn’t guaranteed to make a difference of course. It depends on how much range you need to gain before your network signal is strong enough but it’s always worth a try and can be combined with the next step steps. So a quick crash course on setting up your network to be as strong as possible:
- Log in to your router and change your channel and/or band. No technical knowledge required it is usually a drop down box you choose from. There are applications which can help you select the best one but honestly there isn’t that much of a choice and software isn’t always accurate in practice so just use a bit of trial and error. Change a setting, restart the network and see what works best. Might take about 10-20 minutes to check them all but it is very area dependant so what works best for me might not work best for you.
- Position your wireless router as high up as you can and away from any big obstructions like walls or furniture. The clearer path it has to your laptop the better the signal. I’m not saying you need to start carving holes in the wall or leaving all your doors open but make it as easy as possible for the signal to reach you.
- Laptops will generally provide more power to the wireless card when plugged in. By default they will try to preserve battery power otherwise by using less power. You can change this setting on Windows for example but first I’d suggest plugging in to the mains and seeing if that gives you enough of a boost. I know my little work laptop can barely connect to a network a few rooms away when not plugged in.
If this fails then our next move is to use some WiFi boosting hardware specifically made to improve your signal.
Step 2) Stand Alone Repeaters
The bread and butter of getting a better signal. Call them whatever you want boosters, range extenders, repeaters or “weird flashing box” it’s all the same thing. These little boxes take a connection from your original wireless router and then create a second one which you can reach. The image below probably explains it better than I can.
The repeater connects to your original network and creates another itself. Yes, this means you have two wireless networks around the home but if you place the repeater half way between where you want the signal and where the router is it can cover the extra distance. Your laptop (and other devices) will know which connection is stronger and can reconnect themselves if you move around and they’ll always have the strongest signal.
There’s no technical knowledge required (anyone can set these up) but if you really want ease of use take a look at our #1 rated easy to setup repeater. With a touch screen itself you just plop it down and select which network you want to boost. Or if you’re OK with a little more tinkering (if you can change your router settings you can handle this) then our best wireless repeater overall costs less and gives a stronger signal boost.
Rather than review specific individual models all over again you’ll get a more up to date model by just using the top list. There’s nothing specific a laptop connection needs compared to any other device so the best overall booster for a desktop or tablet is going to be the best overall for a laptop.
Stand alone range extenders work for any wireless network for desktops or any devices. But they’re especially great for laptops because it means you don’t need to plug anything extra in to the laptop or deal with the extra battery drain. They don’t require constantly reconnecting and you can just set them up and leave them running. Keeping the laptop completely free to move around.
Step 3) Antennas and Adapters for Laptops
The problem with most wireless adapters for laptops is that they are internal. This means them portable and easy to work with but it does hurt the wireless strength. If you look at most desktop wireless cards (the better ones at least) you’ll see that they usually have an external antenna and try and move the receiver away from the rest of the computer. This cuts down on interference and obstruction to get a stronger signal no matter what network you want to connect to.
A laptop wireless card will never be that strong. Not only are they internal but they also have to balance performance with battery power with the rest of the laptop. Still not a bad option, however, if you don’t want to use a stand alone repeater.
The problem with using external devices for laptops is it makes it easier to damage the USB port or the laptop itself. It becomes a little more cumbersome and you also run the risk of forgetting it somewhere when you unplug it.
On the plus side they’re generally stronger than most internal wireless cards and can be fitted with an external WiFi antenna. While this usually means an extra drain on your battery life it does come with one distinct advantage over using a repeater. If you tend to travel with the laptop and use other networks this will help you no matter where you are. Provided, of course, you remembered to bring the antenna with you. It won’t matter if you’re connecting to a public network or your own these devices will suffer from less interference and get a stronger signal. You’ve also got the option of using a directional antenna for a strong signal in a specific direction.
Out of the three steps what is the best? Honestly? All of them.
A simple tweak to the settings might do the trick and generally positioning a stand alone wireless extender will cover the areas which wouldn’t normally get WiFi (and your laptop now will) and using an antenna or higher strength adapter on the laptop itself means you get a strong wireless signal to other networks and not just in your home or office. All of them have merit. I’d generally suggest you start with step 1 and try changing a few settings and see if that helps. If you’re only really using the laptop in a home or office then a device to boost the signal is perfect and if you tend to carry the laptop around I’d at least consider a stronger wireless card.
It is very much down to your situation and how you use (or want to use) your laptop. But none of the three are bad and you can combine them all to provide a stronger wireless network.