How to Modify a Wireless USB Adapter Antenna

Written by bear naff
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How to Modify a Wireless USB Adapter Antenna
This humble strainer will form the base of your new directional antenna. (colino image by Renato Francia from Fotolia.com)

USB Wi-Fi adaptors are incredibly flexible devices when it comes to connecting a computer to a wireless network. While most are plugged directly into the USB port they use, it's easy to use a variety of methods to extend their range, methods that are much easier than extending the range of a built-in or PCMCIA wireless card.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • USB Wi-Fi adaptor
  • USB extension cable
  • Curved bowl-like mesh strainer with handle
  • Sharp knife
  • (optional) Cable ties
  • (optional) Non-metallic paint
  • (optional) Hot glue gun with glue

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut a hole in the bottom of the strainer using a sharp knife. It's probably easiest to do this by cutting down into the parabolic bowl-shape from above. The hole needs to be just large enough to admit the socket end of your USB extension cord. Cut a bit then try the cord. It's much easier to make a hole bigger than it is to make it smaller.

  2. 2

    Feed the socket end of the USB extension cord in through the bottom of the strainer. It should fit very snugly in the hole you made. If it is loose, or falls out with a light tug, carefully affix the socket to the strainer's base with hot glue. Be very careful not to get any glue into the USB socket itself!

    Optional: Once the socket is secure in the strainer, you can cable-tie the USB extension cord to the handle to act as strain relief. Doing so will help prevent the cable from coming loose.

  3. 3

    Plug your USB Wi-Fi adaptor into the socket end of the extension cable. It should be firmly centred at the base of the strainer and point straight up. Adjust the placement of the cable and the adaptor until the adaptor is centred.

  4. 4

    Plug the other end of the USB extension cable into your computer and verify that everything works. You should now be able to receive better wireless signals by pointing the strainer at different access points. Affix the handle of the strainer to a convenient object, or keep it free if you want to be able to point the antenna in different directions to find wireless access points.

    The antenna works because the metal mesh of the strainer reflects radio waves just like a satellite dish. This makes the USB Wi-Fi adaptor's antenna much more directional, but improves its reception and transmission abilities.

Tips and warnings

  • You can paint the strainer and USB Wi-Fi Adapter with non-metallic paint to make it better match your decor.
  • If you know how you want to secure the handle, make any modifications to the handle you're going to before starting to modify the strainer. Any work you do will be much easier without a cable getting in the way.
  • Be very careful when cutting, a missed cut can make it very hard to secure the extension cord.

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