How To: Build Your Own WiFi Signal Booster

Boosting a WiFi signal can be an expensive proposition, requiring the purchase of either a second wireless router, or a wireless signal booster. Unless, of course, you build one yourself. From Instructables:

The parabolic Asian cooking (dumpling) strainer is the perfect candidate for this project. I was able to pick up 20 more access points in the city and connect to a network a few blocks away! This is BY-FAR the most simple of all Wifi extensions!

To build the booster, you need a USB extension cable, any USB WiFi adapter, and a tight-mesh parabolic cooking strainer. To reach WiFi signal heaven, stick the USB WiFi adaptor through the center of the parabolic strainer and connect it to the USB extension cable.

If east-meets-west is not your style, metal steamers or strainers also seem to work well. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Wifi Signal Strainer [Instructables]

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  1. Now that’s a nifty hack right there. I’ll have to check that out for myself.

  2. buxton says:

    Definitely going to give it a go. Ironically, I have a strainer of sorts from a closing-down chinese restaurant sale. The guy uses it for noodles, but it’s pretty much the same concept. Will have to try it out.

  3. cv says:

    So if you wear that on your head, you’re protected from the aliens because your brainwaves are being reflected back, right?

    Or does that cause you to hear voices inside your head?

  4. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Interesting enough, but does it come with fried rice?

  5. yugo777 says:

    My wireless internet connection has been at 1 bar for quite some time now, even losing signal occaisonaly.
    I read this, stuck a metal strainer behind my computer where my receiver is, and now I have 4/5 bars!

  6. charman says:

    A signal repeater is about the same price as a usb wifi adapter. It might be the easier and more practical way to do things.

  7. ZipperSeven says:

    In the old days, we used to have problems using our cell phones in our house…and when your cell is your primary phone (no landline) sometimes you really need to make sure you are getting a good signal. We used to put prop our phones with bamboo chopsticks (as not to interfere with the signal) in a metal bowl that was attached to a cheap mini-tripod for digi cams and hook our hands free headset to them. Looked a bit MacGyver-ish but worked well. We could aim the bowl at the nearest tower to get a good signal, and still use the hands free to sit comfortably on the couch while talking.

    These days we have phones and service that pick up a signal just about anywhere, but as soon as I saw this, it reminded me of those days.

  8. anmlStyl says:

    I’ve seen tips regarding the use of such asian wire basket ladel with use of access points, such as Apple’s Airport Express Base Station. I found the tip over at Consumerist’s sister site, Gizmodo

    http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/peripherals/airport-express-wi+

    Why, I’m going to the Asian shopping center tomorrow to pick up a couple of said ladels to extend the network here.

  9. bunyip says:

    Here in Australia I was taught that if you needed to use your UHF/VHF radio in your ute (that’s SUV to you) and the signal was really weak, drive into a creek and wait a few minutes for the ripples to subside. The signal can bounce off the mirror-like surface of the water.

    Please keep that in mind when you’re lost in the Aussie bush.

  10. Er… why does this work again?

  11. FROST1 says:

    IT just does Victor…it just does……

    I tried this myself and it does seem to work right, in one corner of my basement my wifi signal was only at 40% and cut off every 30 minutes….now it’s at 86% and never cutting off….yay cheap rice cooking materials…(which i got at the goodwill)

  12. karmaghost says:

    @VictorStillwater: It works because the mesh doesn’t allow the radio waves through, but rather redirects them towards the middle (where the USB dongle is), much like how a satellite dish works. That way you collect errant radio waves and increase the signal. They work pretty well, actually, but the key is that you have to find the sweet spot before you mount the USB-guy. There’s actually a mathematic formula you can use to find the focal point.

    This has been around for a while, but it’s definately a good find.
    http://www.usbwifi.orcon.net.nz/
    This site was one of the very first to bring up and test this idea back in either 2003 or 2004. It’s actually quite interesting if you take the time to read it. I’ve tried this with the dish-shaped top of one of those tall halogen lamps that you use in dorms/apartments.

  13. Man I bet that goes great with a tinfoil hat.

  14. emax4 says:

    This also works with used cans of Pringles as well, but the Pringles can trick takes a little more work and a few extra parts.

  15. pestie says:

    @charman: Maybe so, but this requires no external electric power source (it’s USB-powered) and, most importantly, it doesn’t cut your bandwidth in half like a repeater does. A repeater receives a packet (or group of packets), then retransmits them on the same frequency. But it can’t transmit and receive at the same time, so it receives, then transmits, then receives, then transmits, etc., thus cutting your bandwidth in half.

  16. TVarmy says:

    I should also mention that many people with desktop/older laptops already own the USB dongles. Plus, this is directional and so it can be aimed to find more places with WiFi. And Asian cookware can be extremely cheap if you find a restaurant supply store or buy from AceMart.com, my restaurant supply store of choice (Cheap cookware that looks cruddy but does a great job and lacks the Williams Sonoma packaging). Plus, cut the hole just so and you can still use it to cook. I can’t imagine frying without one!

    Of course, I would probably set up something more permanent if I had an in-home wifi setup. Perhaps a Pringle’s can and tripod delicately painted to look like an executoy?

  17. TVarmy says:

    Does anyone know if this can pick up HD off of the air, as well? The commercial HD antanas are crazy expensive, and I’ve never found one with 100% good reviews.

  18. pestie says:

    No, Wi-Fi and over-the-air HD are two completely different things. You don’t need an “HD” antenna for over-the-air HD. You just need a directional antenna of some sort (basically, anything that can be aimed/pointed, vs. “rabbit ears”). Non-directional antennas tend to have serious problems with HD signals, due to the HD standard in North America (ATSC) being one that’s especially susceptable to multipath interference (signals bouncing off nearby buildings/structures and arriving slightly later than the main signal, causing interference). Any cheap Radio Shack directional antenna should be fine if you’re in a city, but you might need a much larger outdoor antenna, and maybe a rotator and/or amplifier, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

  19. jimhalpert says:

    For this to work, do you have to be within view of the main internet box? My computer is in my room, but the computer that has the main internet box is in the office which is across the house from my room.

  20. cave12man says:

    so does this work with airport? im running a G4 quicksilver and my internet connection just moved across the street out of range…will the usb adapter still work for me or is there another way? also if anyone has the time…is there anyway to boost my signal so i can get my mac outta my kitchen and into the bedroom where it belongs

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hello all,
    i have a quick question. i’ve been trying to setup something similar, however when i connect the USB wireless adapter to the USB extension cable(10 m), Windows says that the device is not recognized. This is strange because when i attach any other USB device to the extension cable i have no problems. Any ideas ? btw i have a D-Link DWA-120
    Thank you so much in advance for any help
    Regards