Digital Nomad Tips | Wireless Hardware

Wireless Hardware

Although your digital nomad laptop likely has a built in wireless card and the operating system (Windows or Mac) does a decent job of detecting obvious wireless networks, you’ll want to increase the range of both. Start by upgrading your hardware and increase the physical range that your computer can detect a wireless network.

Digital Nomad Wireless Antennas

The wireless cards built in to most laptops give you an effective range of 100mW. While it’s hard to quantify the distances of the wireless networks that will put you in range of (since it depends on the strength of the incoming signal) 100mW won’t get you very far. Walls, weather, and other obstacles in the environment can really restrict the quality and quantity of signals you can find.

Two great options for USB wireless antennas are made by Alfa and can extend your wireless range to 300mW to 500mW.

  • wireless usb antennasAlfa AWUS036EH (300mW) – Running around $40 this antenna the size of a USB thumb drive will give your Macbook Pro about 3 times the wireless range. The Alfa AWUS036EH comes with software for Mac, Windows, and Linux systems.
  • Alfa AWUS036 (500mW) – Giving up to 5 times more range than a conventional built-in wireless card, the Alfa AWUS036 is a bit bulkier than the AWUS036EH. It won’t plug directly into your USB port, instead it comes with a USB cable to connect the device to your laptop. Slightly less convenient and a bit less conspicuous than the AWUS036EH but will put you in touch with wireless networks more than a mile away.

Once you can physically get a hold of some wireless networks, you’ll need the right software to access, unlock, and secure your connections. Fortunately there are a number of free programs that can used with little configuration for starters. There are also wireless software programs that require a bit more configuration and technical knowledge but can be valuable assests especially when you’re in places where wireless is hard to come by.

To find out more detailed information on each of these topics, click the links below for specifics:

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