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Hooking into a wireless from a basement apartment can be tricky, depending on construction of the house and distance from the router. You also need the right equipment.

I live in the basement apartment at my parents and I would like to know how I would be able to hook into their wireless with my desktop computer.

In this excerpt from Answercast #23, I talk about the difficulties that may be encountered in hooking up a desktop computer to a wireless router upstairs.

Desktop computer to wireless

So there are a couple of things that we want to talk about here. One is very simple. There are in fact wireless adapters you can get for desktop computers. They fall into two categories.

  • You can get an actual expansion card that installs like any other expansion card into your computer and provides a wireless adapter. It usually has an antenna sticking out the back.

  • The other approach is to get a wireless USB adapter. It's probably simpler in the long run; assuming you have a USB socket that's free and in a place where the adapter can stick out... because it's going to have to act as the antenna.

Installable add-on card

Now in your case, depending on the strength of the signal that's coming from your folks' wireless hot spot, wireless router, or access point, you may need to invest a little bit in a good antenna: which is why I think you may end up going down the path of getting an installable add-on card.

Typically, because of the way antennas are attached to those, they are better antennas. Or, they are antennas that can be replaced with larger antennas or even remote antennas. You could have your PC on the floor next to your desk, perhaps, but then have a cable that comes from that card to an antenna somewhere else in your room in the basement.

Signal strength

Ultimately, it's all going to depend on the strength of the signal from the wireless access point and whether or not it's even going to reach the basement.

I don't know how many floors we're talking about here. I don't know what kind of construction material we're talking about here. There's a lot of things that can get in the way of a wireless signal traveling through a number of floors and a number of walls.

That's the direction I think you're heading off to.

Ethernet cable

Honestly, I would actually think about seeing if there weren't some way that you could drop a cable; that you could run an Ethernet cable from their router down to your basement.

Even if it can't go all the way, that might be one solution to get a second wireless access point closer to your basement room. That might be able to give you a stronger signal than a wireless adapter on your desktop PC could reach.

Article C5421 - June 4, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 4, 2012 11:12 PM

it *sounds* like you could use a homeplug.

June 5, 2012 9:23 AM

netgear has wireless (may be the "homeplug" referenced above) network connectors that go through the home wiring system.

first, desktop has to have something that lets it be wireless, OR ACTUALLY it could plug into the netgear blx.

netgear box a, plugs into basement, directly to power supply, to acces home wiring. computer wired connection (or basement hub) connects to it.

netgear box b (actually it is a PAIR, a and b, doesn't matter where they go) plugs into wires upstairs, and router or computer upstairs plugs into it.

box a and box b talk to each other, over the home wiring, without you needing an ethernet cable between them; they are using th home wiring as their connection.

i have the same situation, baesment, and upstairs, and did not want to run ethernet.

the boxes work well (netgear, and others, manufactur them; I think mine is netgear; i'm not home right now to check their exact names)


June 5, 2012 9:24 AM

Wireless is just radio and reception depends on signal strength so... the closer the transmitter to receiver the better PLUS whatever's in the way affects the signal.
If the wireless signal isn't encrypted you can have major headaches but hard wired, with all that cable mess, is pretty secure.

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