04 November 2006

Encryption choice dramatically effects WiFi range

I've had range problems with the WiFi in our house for a while. And more than that, it seemed that the older iBook we have in the kitchen simply wouldn't deal with our encrypted WiFi. Last night, after setting up WDS (Wireless Distribution System: basically a way to link many WiFi base stations up to provide a bigger network range) I learned the bigger reason.

The kind of encryption seems to make a BIG difference. I had been using the strong WPA2 Personal encryption. This worked just fine within close range of the base station. But, terrible in other spaces that had worked before with an older base station. Switching to WEP 128-bit dramatically changed things, and now I have excellent coverage again.

The WDS setup also helped in one room in particular, and is relatively easy to set up. In case you're interested in that, here's two resources for doing it when using a Linksys WRT54G base station and then either Airport Express or Airport Extreme as the extension:

Linksys WRT54G, Airport Express, and WDS
Extend a Linksys WRT54G network via AirPort Express

Upshot: our kitchen laptop, which is about the furthest point from our upstairs base station went from sometimes seeing the network, but never being able to connect, to now having a solid 4 bar connection. Similar improvements in other places.