Troubleshoot low wireless signal quality problems

If a wireless network has a low signal strength, the transfer of information across the network could be slow or you might not be able to access certain parts of the network. Here are solutions to some common problems with low wireless signal strength.

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Your computer is too far from the wireless router or access point.

With 802.11b or 802.11g routers and access points, the maximum range is up to 150 feet (46 meters) indoors and 300 feet (92 meters) outdoors. With 802.11a routers and access points, the maximum range is 50 feet (15 meters) indoors and 100 feet (30 meters) outdoors. These ranges are in optimal conditions with no interference. Make sure that your computer is within this range and as close as possible to the router or access point. If the computer is portable, try moving it around to determine the range of the wireless signal and the best place to put the computer.

If you are unable to get closer to the router or access point, you might want to consider buying and installing an external antenna to your wireless network adapter. Many wireless network adapters are set up so that you can attach an external antenna to them, which will provide you with better reception than the built-in antenna. Check the information that came with your wireless network adapter to see if you can install an additional antenna.

The wireless router or access point is turned off or is not working properly.

There are two things to try:

  • Make sure the router or access point is turned on and that the wireless signal light is illuminated.

  • Reset the router or access point by turning it off, waiting at least 10 seconds, and then turning it back on.

If you don't own the access point or don't manage the network, contact the network administrator.

There is interference from other devices.

If you have 802.11b or 802.11g network hardware, it uses the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency. Other devices that use this frequency include microwave ovens and cordless phones. If you have 802.11a network hardware, it uses the 5 GHz frequency. Some cordless phones also use this frequency. These devices can cause interference between your computer and the network.

There are two things you can try in this situation:

  • If any devices like these are near your computer, turn them off temporarily or move them farther away.

  • Change the router or access point settings to use a different wireless channel, or set the channel to be selected automatically if it is set to a fixed channel number. Sometimes one wireless channel is clearer than others. In the United States and Canada, you can use channels 1, 6, and 11. Check the information that came with your access point or router for instructions about setting the wireless signal channel.

The network you are looking for is set to not broadcast its network name (SSID).

Wireless routers and access points can be set up so that they don't broadcast the network name. In this case, you can't detect that the network is in range (in order to connect to it) unless you have previously connected to the network or you manually connect to the network using the service set identifier (SSID). To connect to a network that is not broadcasting, follow these steps:

  1. Open Connect to a Network by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Connect to.

  2. Click Set up a connection or network.

  3. Click Manually connect to a wireless network, and then type the network information.

    The network will be added to your list of networks and will be available to connect to in the future when your computer is in range of the network.