There are many antennas available on the market for use with any wireless networking card. You do have to consult you manual, or your WiFi card manufacturer’s webpage to find the type of connector for your card or router. However there are plenty of types available. Each type of is designed with a specific use in mind. For example a mobile laptop user who travels a lot is going to have different desires than a desktop that stays put even though both use the 802.11 g standard with WPA.
For the wireless router adding an antenna may serve as a signal booster. These almost always provide the best network connection with omnidirectional hardware which is a broad class of antennas that transmits in almost every direction, except possibly straight above or bellow it. You probably want it to be free standing antenna or possibly one that can be screwed to a wall, table leg, or other hidden location. The external antenna should be placed in the center of the coverage area. If you have to get network connection above or below the wireless router get one with as low a gain as possible.
With desktops you have the advantage of placing the external antennas and leaving them alone. A directional antenna (a higher gain) will definitely get much better wireless and considering it is stationary this probably fine. Select one with a gain as high as possible. You may need to point your new external equipment to the signal source. An omnidirectional version would work fine too. If you don’t want to mess with pointing it or risking the hardware getting accidentally turned omnidirectional equipment is probably the best for you.
A laptop has the most difficulty, especially if you tend to use them at multiple locations. A laptop has the most need for an antenna because there are mast likely to be used where there is a very poor network signal and has the most restrictions because it is supposed to be portable. There are small external extensions just a few inches long that clip directly to the outside of the adaptor. If you need better signal there are directional antennas you can use, although they would be very bulky and inconvenient.
Unlike the rest of the uses, a point to point connection isn’t concerned about providing signal to everything around it, as much as extending it straight out as far as possible. This equipment varies wildly in cost and how much of a window you need to guide the transmission into. You’re mostly interested in looking at the gain. Remember that gain is logarithmic so the improvement between 10 and 11 gain is still fairly substantial. You also get significant improvement if you can have directional antennas on both ends of the link. If you can mount them outside you will have the best luck. A grid or panel antenna is probably the least work as you don’t have to clear snow out of it, if this is a concern. If you don’t live in an area where there is snow, a dish is the highest gain. There are a handful of smaller dishes that have covers for snow. Remember, the higher the gain the more precisely you will need to target the other side to guide the signal where it needs to go.
There are a lot of types of antennas, and each application has at least one style of antennas intended for it. Laptop users have the most need and difficulty with antennas while wireless gateways can have help a lot of computers with better communications on their networks. There can be a lot of buzzwords floating around but hopefully this guide explained enough about external wireless antennas to help you. Remember, nearly any one will help over no antenna so even if you choose poorly it will help you out with wireless networking. Please continue on to: Wireless network antenna extensions.
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