A desktop computer setup featuring a Wi-Fi card with an external antenna.
Syafiq Adnan/Shutterstock.com

If you use Wi-Fi on your computer and the connection is less than satisfactory, we’ve got a simple and inexpensive way to boost your Wi-Fi reception.

This Hack Won’t Solve Serious Wi-Fi Problems

Before we dig in, let’s get one thing out of the way. The Wi-Fi hack we’re about to share is a simple way to get better Wi-Fi reception for your computer.

It works for desktop PCs, and it can even work for some laptops, depending on how you get Wi-Fi on your laptop. But what it can’t do is make Wi-Fi out of nothing.

If the signal from your Wi-Fi router at the location of your computer is extremely weak or not even present, then that’s a bigger issue you need to address first.

We’d recommend using these tips to improve your Wi-Fi signal at the router and then, if necessary, move on to dealing with the signal strength where your computer is located. You might consider upgrading your router to get better coverage not just for your PC but everywhere in your home.

How to Get a Better Wi-Fi Signal at Your PC

For the purpose of this Wi-Fi-enhancing trick, we’re assuming that you have a setup similar to the Wi-Fi setup found in our tutorial on adding Wi-Fi to your PC.

Whether you added a Wi-Fi card to your PC, the motherboard came with a Wi-Fi card built-in (like the MSI motherboard I used in my Fall 2021 rebuild), or you’ve been using a Wi-Fi dongle on your PC or laptop, you can follow along.

There’s a simple way to get a better signal: use an extension cable to move the antenna or dongle where the signal is stronger.

Why is this so effective? It gets the antenna above the stuff blocking the signal. Let’s say your PC is sitting on your desk and your Wi-Fi router is a few rooms over.

The metal shielding in the computer itself can mess with the signal (which is why desktop PCs have external Wi-Fi antennas). The metal shielding in your computer monitor doesn’t help, either. Even your body absorbs some signal if you’re between the antenna and the router. Everything else between the antenna and the router also dampens the signal and, in our homes, the majority of all that “stuff” is about desk height.

So if your router is on a side table in the living room and your computer is on your desk across the house, there’s a whole lot of waist-height junk between the two antennas.

Simply unscrewing the antennas off the back of your PC, attaching extension cables, and then screwing the existing antenna into extension cables can help you get the antennas up and away from the radio-blocking stuff.

The connection points on Wi-Fi antennas are standardized and use a connection format called SMA (SubMiniature version A)—it looks a lot like a little miniature version of the coax cables you use for your cable box because that’s exactly what it is.

You can use a 3-foot extension to get it on top of the PC case or a little up the wall, or even a 10-foot extension to get it all the way to the ceiling.

Eightwood Dual Band Wi-Fi Adapter

Get the antenna out from behind your PC with this handy extension and antenna combo.

You can even replace the existing antenna with this extension + base for a more convenient way to place the antenna high up on the top of your case or a nearby shelf.

If you’re using a USB Wi-Fi dongle, you can use the same trick. You can use your existing Wi-Fi dongle and pair it with a high-quality USB cable. They even make USB extensions specifically for optimal dongle-mounting—which isn’t a phrase you get to use every day—that position the dongle in a vertical orientation on a small stand.

ASUS WiFi 6 AX1800 USB WiFi Adapter (USB-AX56)

This handy little USB dongle features Wi-Fi 6 and a dual-use design. You can plug it directly into your PC or laptop or use the included tether for better reception.

Or, especially if your particular USB dongle is a bit old and out of date, you could opt to buy a new Wi-Fi USB dongle that includes the extension like the TP-Link Archer TX20U or the ASUS USB-AX56, both of which support Wi-FI 6.

However you approach the problem, though, the goal is to get the Wi-Fi antenna higher than your computer and better positioned to get a direct “line of sight” shot at your Wi-Fi router with minimal stuff blocking the signal.

The Best Wi-Fi Adapters of 2022

Best Wi-Fi Adapter Overall
ASUS PCE-AC88
Best Budget Wi-Fi Adapter
TP-Link Archer T3U Plus
Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter
ASUS USB-AC68
Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming
TP-LINK Archer TXE75E
Best Small Wi-Fi Adapter
D-Link DWA-181
Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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