Networking & Wireless forum


Signal strength - how good is good?

by RVHAT / August 27, 2012 2:04 AM PDT

I have a Linksys WRT120N router and a bunch of devices wirelesslly connected. My office, with my laptop and desktop are only about thirty feet away from the router and on the same floor. There are a few walls in the way.

My laptop connects very well and never drops the signal. inSSIDer shows a signal strength of -61 to -68 and Windows 7 calls that "Excellent". (BTW, inSSIDer is a fantastic tool to actually see how your signal strength varies).

My desktop, right next to the laptop, also Windows 7 with a Linksys AE1000 USB wireless adapter shows a signal strength of -71 to -75 and Windows calls that "Fair". Also, on this machine the signal gets dropped frequently (several times an hour) but reconnects quickly. It's a pain in the butt.

So, I have a few questions...

1) What is a good signal strength? Even when I bring the laptop so it sits right in front of the router the signal strength is -30 to -40 (quite a lot of variation). Is that good?

2) Why the difference in signal strength between the laptop and desktop given they are right next to each other. Is there that much difference between the network adapters?

3) Why does my AE1000 USB network adapter drop the signal so frequently. Is it because the signal is so weak or could it be that it's just not a good adapter? (I have two of them and there is no difference between them.) Can I get another USB network adapter with greater sensitivity?

4) I am considering getting a repeater to put in my office and then hard-wire it to my desktop. Would that be better than getting a better router with better coverage?

Any help is appreciated, TIA.


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Clarification Request
So, how does one measure signal quality?
by RVHAT / August 27, 2012 2:24 AM PDT

Thanks for the response. It sounds like the problem is more with my USB network adapter than with the router itself. Since the laptop never drops the signal that implies that the router is fine. Yes?



All Answers

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signal strength
by bill012 / August 27, 2012 2:17 AM PDT

This is mostly because there is no standard to what these words mean. Like cell phones and how many bars you get. Some devices like to make it appear they are better than others when they are not really.

If everyone had to use db levels then at least it would be a start.

But it all doesn't matter. Signal strength is only part of the issue. Signal Quality is much more important. Some wireless cards will actually show the quality based on how many errors it is getting in the data. Getting errors is what causes the cards to drop or at least shift to slower encoding methods.

The best example of why signal strength means nothing is take 2 radios and play them on different stations at maximum volume. You would hear lots of sounds but not a lot of usable.

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