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How to Upgrade and Enhance Your Laptop’s WiFi Capabilities

2 of 14 in Series: The Essentials of Networking with Your Laptop with Windows Vista

A laptop with the latest and greatest WiFi equipment will communicate no faster or better than the router or wireless access point’s top speed. Here are some things you can purchase to boost your wireless network to the next level.

Upgrade your wireless hardware so that it matches the capabilities of your laptop. Current laptops come equipped with 802.11g or 802.11n WiFi circuitry; if your router is an 802.11b device, that is the speed you’ll get. The good news: prices for wireless equipment, like most technology, continue to go down even as capabilities improve.

Upgrade the standard antenna on your router from the omnidirectional design provided by most manufacturers. An omni antenna is meant to send the signal in all directions; a directional signal allows you to aim the signal where you need it. Check with the maker of your router, or electronics suppliers, for information about purchasing a replacement antenna.

Boost the capabilities of an older laptop’s wireless hardware by disabling its built-in WiFi circuit and antenna and installing an external adapter that uses the latest technology and has a larger antenna. External WiFi devices may plug directly into your laptop’s USB port or attach to it by cable. You can also purchase adapters that plug into a PC Card or ExpressCard slot.

Repeat or expand your signal. You can add a wireless amplifier (called a repeater or a range expander) that picks up the signal from your router and then retransmits it. The best use of this sort of device is to place it somewhere near the edge of your existing signal; it then rebroadcasts the signal to cover more territory.

Repeat or expand your signal using a wireless amplifier like the Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender.
Credit: Courtesy of Linksys
Repeat or expand your signal using a wireless amplifier like the Linksys Wireless-G Range Extender.
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