Connecting to weak WiFi access points

To summarize: I want to connect to a normal (standard off-the-shelf) WiFi Access Point from a location that is distant enough that a normal laptop can’t maintain a stable connection.

Basically, the AP has an omnidirectional antenna, and the laptop has an omnidirectional antenna. I can’t do anything about the AP (can’t replace it, put a better antenna on it, etc.) so I’m wondering if using a directional antenna with the laptop will improve the situation. I’m thinking an external WiFi adapter with a directional high-gain antenna.

Google searches turn up results that talk about replacing the AP (not possible), using a point-to-point system (again, not possible), using mesh networks/repeaters/extenders (won’t help as the laptop location is already as close as I can get to the AP).

Have any of you tried anything like this?

(If you are wondering, this is when I travel and I stay at cabins/lodges in remote locations. The main offices usually have a starlink dish and a small AP and if you are lucky enough to be in a cabin/room near the main office, everything is fine, but more often than not, I’m too far away and have to end up sitting in my truck parked next to the office)


What is between the AP and the laptop? If there are walls that might be the limiting factor.

Have you checked the actual signal level you’re receiving at the laptop? Not sure how to do this on a PC but on Android there is an app called “WiFi Analyzer” that will show you the signal levels of all the APs in the area. The other thing it’s great for is to check if your AP is on a congested channel. A lot of APs use the same default channel and sometimes just switching to a clearer channel gives you the extra signal to noise ratio you need.

Anyway, I would try that first before buying anything to gather information and possibly even solve the problem with a minor config change.

If you could find an external Wi-Fi adapter with a directional antenna it should be better so probably worth trying…

If the AP is serving up both 2.4g and 5.0G you may have better luck with a 2.4G only adapter as the Wi-Fi system may be preferring the 5.0G connection over the possibly better 2.4G connection…


Yes, I have used WiFi Analyzer on my phone. The locations are usually so remote the spectrum is clean, but the signal level degrades a lot (yes, walls, but often just trees).

I don’t have any control over the APs, so can’t change the channels (it wouldn’t make a difference, like I said, the spectrum is clean, usually only 1 or 2 APs broadcasting), and yes, I tried 2.4 and 5, with 2.4 performing the best.

Sometimes all I need to do is sit just outside the cabin and it’s enough signal to rsync, but if it’s cold out or raining …

I was looking for somebody who has actually tried it as there is so much equipment out there, it’s hard to pick gear that will play nice with each other.

For now, I picked this antenna: now I need to find a good WiFi external adapter to connect to it.


If you have a dual-band wireless LAN controller in the notebook computer then I guess you already have an IEEE 802.11n or later controller in the notebook computer but maybe you can still achieve better results by upgrading the controller in the notebook computer to use a newer/different version of IEEE 802.11 given that the wireless network interface controller is often on an actual removable card as opposed to the monolith of hardware that is the motherboard in a notebook computer, at least x86 notebook computers. Sometimes the card uses SDIO instead of PCI, though. I mean PCI in a general sense because the software interface is still the same for PCI Express as for parallel PCI. I successfully upgraded this card in my now almost completely retired Dell Latitude X1 model of notebook computer in around 2017, got really high wireless LAN throughput on a slow but fanless computer. Actually, the low-cost Lenovo notebook computer my former coworker had that used SDIO instead of PCI for the wireless network interface controller may have used an IC soldered on the motherboard instead of on a removable card for the wireless network interface controller. I think the IC did both Bluetooth and wireless LAN but I do not remember which model of IC it was but I was surprised that the IC uses SDIO instead of PCI.

1 Like