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Connecting to Wi-Fi is easier the closer you are to the access point. That's another reason to not use someone else's connection in the neighborhood.

I'm on the fringe of Wi-Fi and cannot connect. Why, when I can get closer, I can connect and when I return to the same spot, already connected, it stays online at that spot? The place where I could not connect now works if it's already connected when I move there?

In this excerpt from Answercast #73, I look at how Wi-Fi connections are created and why distance matters.

Connecting to WiFi

So, I believe that the actual process of establishing a Wi-Fi connection is, in fact, more complex than simply using an existing connection.

I believe that the hardware actually has to do some interesting detection of what frequencies are in use, and negotiate how to set up the connection, and so forth. So it doesn't surprise me that you may be able to take a solid connection when you are closer to the access point - and then move to an area where you wouldn't be able to initiate a connection, but you would still be able to use the connection you initiated.

Sharing Wifi

Now, the concern I have is that the right solution to this problem is to get yourself another Wi-Fi hotspot. Get yourself coverage closer to the area in which you are trying to connect in the first place.

Remember that Wi-Fi is yours... you need to have Wi-Fi from your own internet connection.

If what you're talking about is that you're too far away from the coffee shop that's offering free Wi-Fi - that's bad. You're using their Wi-Fi without their permission. They usually require that you come in and at least have a cup of coffee and use the Wi-Fi on site.

If you're actually within range of somebody else's Wi-Fi and are using it without their permission, that's not something you should be doing.

On the other hand, if this is a Wi-Fi access point that you've set up on your own internet connection at your home, or in your business, then the right solution is to set up another wireless access point closer to where you want to make the connection.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6071 - November 26, 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.

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2 Comments
Ashkan
November 27, 2012 10:38 AM

I had the same problem with my WiFi at home. It turned out to be an interference with my neighbor's and changing the router's frequency channel did the trick.

Engineer10388
December 3, 2012 1:25 PM

Here's a simple fix that may solve WLAN signal strength issues for some: My TRENDnet Wireless-N router, located on one end of the 1st floor of our home, has 3 antennas. I selected it in the hope it would provide a good signal at the far end of the floor above. Though better than my previous router, the signal was borderline. So I took three small styrofoam cups and punched a hole in the bottom of each so they would slip down over the antennas, which then stick up just beyond the lip of each cup. I cut aluminum foil strips and taped them to line 180 degrees of the inside wall of each cup. Once the cups were in place, with their antennas centered, I rotated each cup so the foil was positioned to act as a reflector, directing the signal toward the far end of the house. The WLAN signal was then *much* stronger there! Problem solved in minutes, with just a few pennies worth of cups and foil. It saved the cost and hassle of installing a repeater or a hardwired system.

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