It has happened to you and it happens to me all the time: the hotel advertises free and awesome hotel internet connection speed in your room but once you get to it you pull out your laptop only to find that the signal is too weak for you to work (update your Facebook status? Tweet??) effectively. After checking that only 1 bar out of 4 is on and a few seconds of cursing you then grab the laptop and begin to walk around the room looking for a stronger signal, sometimes leaving it and pacing down the hotel hallway with only one thing in mind: finding a good internet hotspot. Maybe the signal will be better at the stairway? By the elevators? Where’s the darn router for the third floor?
While the hotel’s internet setup is crucial for getting the best speed available, there are a few things you can do to improve your hotel Wi-Fi signal strength when what’s being delivered is a far cry from reality. Let’s look at several things you can do to make the most out of your situation.
Plug the Computer
When running on its battery laptops slightly cut the energy supply to the resources that require most power. You will notice this when the screen becomes slightly darker, but it is not only there that the laptop is saving some energy. By plugging it in you might get the extra boost of energy that could well be enough for you to be able to do what you want to do quicker.
Go for a Walk
No, I don’t mean head to streets to do some sightseeing hoping that the hotel internet connection speed has picked up while you’re out and about, I mean with your computer. Walking around the room, down the hallways or to the lobby will at some point get you closer to where the router is, hence improving the connection dramatically. Sure, this is not the most convenient way, but if you don’t mind working at the lobby or in some unusual spot in the hotel it certainly is the fastest. Tools like Heatmapper (Windows) or Netspot (Mac) can show you via a heatmap locations where the internet connection should be stronger and JiWire is perhaps the largest guide to hotspots worldwide. It may even help you by pointing out a nearby hotel that has free internet access where you’ll be able to work at comfortable at the lobby. For free.
Buy a USB Wireless or Long Range Antenna
I have one of the first, they certainly make a difference, and it’s one of the easiest ways to improve wifi signals anyhwere. Costing 10-50 USD they can improve the signal a bit or a lot (specially the long range antennas), depending on the model you buy. They take up little space but they do use more power than your internal antenna, so again remember to plug your laptop. Usually this is the most convenient way to boost the signal and be able to work online from the comfort of your room. There are lots of USB models; I have a small and portable Tp-Link Antenna (check on Amazon.com) ( Update May 2017: I have upgraded to a better and newer model of this laptop wifi antenna )which you can see below but as for the long range antennas the Alfa AWUSO36NH is apparently one of the best out there and may become another of those essential things to carry in a backpack when traveling.
Connect to Hidden Wireless Networks
This might not be as applicable in your hotel room, but if at an airport, train station or bus terminal you could find one of these that companies provide to their workers without encrypting the signal and but simply hiding the public name. Asking around won’t probably help you much, but Netslumber (Windows) and Kismac (Mac) can uncover those hidden gems that might be around.
Convert Your Laptop Into a WiFi Signal Predator
On some computers it is possible to alter the amount of power devoted to the network adapter and make other changes such as altering the aggressiveness of the card’s search efforts of finding wireless signals. For Windows PCs, click “Start,” “Control Panel,” “Administrative Tools,” “Computer Management,” “Device Manager,” then find your wireless card in the list of devices; right-click on it and choose “Properties.” Click the “Advanced” tab,” set “Transmit Power” to “Highest,” set “Roaming Aggressiveness” to “Highest,” and click “OK.”
Convert Your Computer Into the Ultimate WiFi Signal Predator
This might me a little trickier but those of you who’re into technical stuff might find DD-WRT the ultimate tool to transform your router into the definitive signal predator by changing the router’s installed firmware from the under-performing manufacturer’s to the increasingly popular DD-WRT open source firmware. Setting it up is not super easy, but thankfully this guide on how to set up OpenVPN on DD-WRT will walk you step by step on how to do it. I have not tried it myself but from what I’ve heard it does wonders and may be the definitive push for the best hotel internet connection speed.
Improving wifi signal strength can be a bit of a pain, but some of these tricks are very easy to implement and will go a long way wherever you are.
Do you have any tricks you’d like to share with us? Product recommendations? Please share them with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you likes it or think others might find it useful!