Sometimes the WiFi signal doesn't get as far as you would like. There are of course devices for sale to do something about this, but they cost a lot of money. We'll show you how to build a WiFi antenna with parts you already have lying around or can easily buy, no new software is needed and your computer doesn't have to open either.
Step 1. Buy a USB WiFi adapter, aka dongle
With this small device (about the size of your thumb) you can use your laptop wirelessly. You'll also need this if your computer already has a built-in Wi-Fi adapter.
- Buy a dongle with 802.11b and 802.11g standard.
- Check Beslist.nl or Kieskeurig for simple cheap dongles.
Step 2. Buy a passive USB extension cable (male to female)
With the extension cable you can connect the WiFi antenna to your computer in no time.
- The antenna is directional, so you must be able to position the antenna so that it is pointed at the wireless access point. Make sure the cable is long enough to properly direct the antenna, a 5 meter cable is very useful.
- You can also connect multiple extension cables together.
- With an active USB extension cable you can make much more length, maybe you can even run a cable to a Wi-Fi antenna outside the house.
Step 3. Take a strainer
Take a sieve with fine holes, preferably an Asian one in the form of a large spoon. These have the ideal shape and they have a long wooden handle.
- You can also use a regular strainer, lid or lampshade, as long as they are saucer-shaped and made of metal.
- A bigger option is an old satellite dish. That gives more signal, but it is more difficult to mount. A diameter of no more than 30 cm is the most convenient, also with a view to the wind.
Step 4. Assemble the system
Secure the WiFi dongle and USB extension cable to the dish with pieces of wire, tape or glue.
- The dongle must be on the "hot spot" of the dish - the radio signals enter the dish and reflect to a point in the center, a few fingers above the surface of the dish.
- The best place for the dongle can be found through simple experimentation. One method is to cover the dish with aluminum foil, then you see where the most sunlight is reflected, that is the hot spot of the dish.
- You can place the dongle with a small support stick.
- You can also stretch wire over the dish, like a spider web, and attach the dongle to it. Or hollowed out garden hose, or even chopsticks!
Step 5. Plug in the antenna
Plug one end of the extension cable (male) into your computer and set it on your computer as the WiFi card to use.
Step 6. Align the saucer
Locate the Wi-Fi channel you want to reach.
The Wi-Fi antenna is very directional, so aiming is very precise
Step 7. Adjust the dish further
Once connected, you can aim the dish even more accurately using the signal bars on your screen.
- A program like [NetStumbler] for Windows or [KisMAC] for the Mac can be useful when looking for the best signal.
- This raised antenna arrangement often provides a much better signal than the built-in WiFi adapters that are located at desk height. Your new antenna will allow you to receive Wi-Fi over a much greater distance.
- This approach also works with other radio wave technologies such as a bluetooth dongle. However, it does not work with infrared.
- A wide-mouth plastic bottle can be useful for keeping the dongle dry in an outdoor setting, but keep it away from direct sunlight or you'll damage your dongle.
- Wifi "borrow" is not appreciated by everyone.
- Some WLANs are password protected.