Ask HTG: Boosting Your Wi-Fi Range, Resetting HDD Permissions, and Remembering Folder Positions

By Jason Fitzpatrick on May 9th, 2011


Every week we dip into our reader mailbag and answer your pressing questions. This week we’re extending Wi-Fi networks, resetting the access permissions on an external HDD, and training Windows to recall folder locations.

Boosting the Range of Your Wi-Fi Network


Dear How-To Geek,

I have a wireless home network with a broadband modem from my telephone company. The signal is not very strong, and won’t reach the desktop computer I have in my garage. The company advertises a 3G “microcell” add-on, but they want to bill  my wireless account for minutes and data. Is there another option to increase the signal strength of my network?

3Gless in Missouri

Dear 3Gless,

You definitely want to skip the MicroCell option. The AT&T MicroCell is designed to boost your 3G signal. It sounds like you get a signal from AT&T to your house just fine, the issue is getting a strong signal between the wireless node in the house and the garage. It’s much cheaper to strengthen your Wi-Fi signal than it is to shell out money for a MicroCell.

The easiest thing you can do, if it’s an option, is move the Wi-Fi router connected to the broadband modem closer to the garage. Often times just relocating the router is enough. Barring that you can purchase an inexpensive Wi-Fi router that is compatible with DD-WRT (most Linksys routers are) and then configure that router to function as a repeater instead of a router in order to amplify the signal. You can read how to do in our guide to boosting and repeating your Wi-Fi signal here.

Taking Ownership of a Locked External HDD


Dear How-To Geek,

I have an external hard drive with a lot of data on it. My computer went wacky last week and I had to recover it back to factory. Now when I click on the hard drive (H) it says either that I do not have rights to that file or that I need to format it. Specifically the error says that access is denied to the drive. I’m running Windows 7 Professional, what do I do?


HDDless in Oregon

Dear HDDless,

It sounds like you need to reassign permissions for the drive. Rather than walk you through the annoyingly long process of doing so, we recommend you take advantage of this right-click menu hack we previously shared. Once you install it you’ll be able to take ownership of the drive in a single click.

Getting Windows 7 to Remember Folder Locations


Dear How-To Geek,

In previous versions of the Windows OS, the OS remembered the size/placement of many of your separate folder windows after you closed them, and restored them to their previous states when they were opened again.  Is there any way to activate this feature in Win7 x64?


Hopeful in the City

Dear Hopeful,

You’re not alone in missing that feature. While Windows 7 does have some folder-recall functionality it doesn’t take on the same appearance most people are used to. Fortunately for you there is a simple and free application called ShellFolderFix that picks up the slack and remembers window size and placement in Windows 7. Check out our step-by-step guide to setting up ShellFolderFix here.

Have a burning tech question? Shoot us an email at and we’ll do our best to solve your problem.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/9/11
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