Wireless Internet access and Wi-Fi connectivity offer increased convenience, productivity and potential monetary savings when you build your own Wi-Fi antenna using a USB connection. Getting a signal is more difficult than getting over-the-air TV reception, because the radio waves in the 2.4 gigahertz spectrum are more directional. Building your own parabolic antenna, however, can be surprisingly economical and efficient, because there is no signal loss with USB cables and connections, unlike with coaxial cable. The result is far stronger signal strength and range in connecting to wireless access points.
Purchase a USB Wi-Fi adaptor. Wireless G adaptors can be found on eBay for £9-$16 (all prices as of 2010); at Staples for as little as £19. Wireless N adaptors cost up to £65.
Secure the pie pan (or wire strainer) to one end of a 12-inch piece of broom handle. Secure the wood to the back side of the pie pan with a U-shaped connector that has screw holes on either side.
Cut a rectangular opening in the centre of the bottom of your pie pan. The opening should hold the Wi-Fi adaptor snugly.
Insert the Wi-Fi adaptor into the rectangular cut in your parabola (the pie pan). The increased surface of the parabola will boost your signal strength 12 to 15 dB.
Connect a female-to-male USB cable to the Wi-Fi adaptor.
Plug the male end of the USB cable into a USB port on your computer.
Follow the on-screen set-up instructions to set up your Wi-Fi reception. A set-up CD often comes with Wi-Fi adaptors, but otherwise the software, much like downloading a printer driver, can be downloaded from the Internet.
Position the antenna. Point the parabolic surface and the Wi-Fi adaptor in the direction of your nearest access point. You can mount the antenna in the yard, on the roof or, for a small one, in a window.
Position the antenna for maximum signal strength. Radio frequencies are very directional. You can gauge signal strength from the ability to quickly render web pages, or a freeware download like Easy Wi-Fi Radar will graphically display signal strength with a series of green, yellow and red dots; green being the strongest signal.
If you have an old satellite dish lying around, try attaching the Wi-Fi antenna to it for even greater signal boost due to the larger surface area of the dish. Easy Wi-Fi Radar automates Windows XP and Windows Mobile connections, which are otherwise a series of steps within the Windows operating system that are cumbersome to set up. Run Easy Wi-Fi Radar, and it connects you for FREE to the Internet automatically. Easy Wi-Fi Radar will connect to open hotspots, showing the signal strength of access points as green, yellow or red dots. Works on Windows XP and Windows Mobile; does not work on Vista.