How to Position a Wi-Fi Antenna

By Jeff Grundy

Modern wireless routers transmit data at about 50Mbps to and from computers within range.
i Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Most modern wireless routers do a reasonably good job of delivering clear signals to Wi-Fi capable computers and devices used near the device. However, depending on variables such as the structure type and size of your home, wireless signals may be weak or nonexistent in other rooms or areas farther away from the router. If you have "dead" or weak-signal spots in your dwelling, you can improve wireless coverage by placing and positioning your Wi-Fi router and antenna for optimal coverage.

Normal Wi-Fi Range

In theory, all Wi-Fi routers have much greater ranges than they deliver in a real-world installation. For instance, the maximum range specification for the 802.11n protocol -- the wireless protocol used by most modern modems -- is 660 feet. However, in practice, the maximum effective range of an 802.11n router is only about 150 feet indoors. The effective range of both the 802.11b and 802.11g protocols is roughly the same. With older 802.11a routers, the maximum reliable range of the Wi-Fi signal is only about 50 feet. Outside your home, there are far few barriers to block Wi-Fi signals, so most modern 802.11n routers can deliver a signal outdoors up to about 300 feet.

Router Placement

Where you should place your router depends primarily on the number of computers in your home, where they are situated, the location of the broadband modem and if you use other devices such as mobile phones to access the Wi-Fi connection. If you have only one desktop computer you use to access the Internet, you should simply position the router as close as possible to the PC. However, if you use multiple Wi-Fi devices or systems throughout your home, placing the router somewhere near the center of the residence generally provides the best overall signals. Another thing you must consider, though, is the location of the broadband modem. If the modem is in an area far away from the center of your home, you may need to run a long cable from the router to where your broadband connection enters the residence.

Areas to Avoid

When placing your router, avoid positioning at a height lower than large furniture pieces, cabinets or other items that may surround the installation area. Generally speaking, the higher the elevation of the router, the better the signal it transmits. Consequently, placing the router near the ceiling helps reduce interference and usually provides the best signal. Avoid areas where signals from the router may bounce off mirrors, windows or stainless steel surfaces and those where the Wi-Fi signal may degrade due to thick walls made of brick, concrete or plaster.

Aiming the Antenna

If your router has only one antenna, you should aim it in the direction of the area where you use most of your Wi-Fi devices if possible. If you install the router in the center of your home because you use Wi-Fi devices all over your house, pointing the antenna straight up or out may provide the best overall signal. In many cases, you may find it works best to turn the router around so that the front of the device faces the wall, and then aim the antenna towards your primary Wi-Fi usage area or straight out in a centralized location. If your router has two or more antennas, aim them to provide as much line of sight coverage as possible to areas in which you are most likely to use the Wi-Fi connection.

Wireless Repeaters

In a large home, Wi-Fi signals in rooms far away from the router are much weaker than in areas near the device. This applies even more if you live in a multistory dwelling or a home with many walls and partitions. In some homes, regardless of where you place the router, "dead spaces" where signals are very weak or nonexistent are unavoidable without the use of a Wi-Fi repeater. Sometimes called extenders or signal boosters, repeaters are merely amplifiers you place between the area where you require coverage and the router. Configuring a wireless repeater is usually relatively straightforward and requires no programming. However, before purchasing a wireless repeater, ensure that the device is compatible with your particular model of router. Most wireless repeaters only work with certain routers, so purchasing a compatible unit is essential.

Other Tips

Other things you can do to improve wireless performance in your home are to ensure that you avoid placing the router near other electrical devices that may cause interference with the Wi-Fi signal. Electric fans, items with motors, microwave ovens, fluorescent lighting and wireless phones are all common causes of Wi-Fi signal interference. If you use cordless phones in your home, set them to use different wireless frequencies or channels than that used by the router. If you cannot set the channel on the phones, the Wi-Fi router should have a setting in its control panel that enables you to select a channel manually or rotate frequencies automatically.