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What the Signal Strength Bars mean in Wireless hardware?

The signal strength is a combination of the actual 802.11x signal + Phone + Microwaves + other sources that might generate 2.4GHz “Noise” + Brain emissions of the user’s anxiety state (j/k), in other words it is visual representation of all the 2.4GHz in the atmosphere around the your Wireless hardware.

I.e. you might see High Signal Strength that Shows:  Excellent (5 bars), but it is actually  30% signal + 70% noise.

Such a signal would be the reason for low bandwidth, and or frequent disconnection of the Wireless Network.

In contrast, a  medium level  Signal (3 Bars) that does not contains any noise would provide a match better connection.

The real meaningful measure of the Wireless' signal capacity is Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), a measure that takes into consideration the relevant Signal adjusted to the Noise Level.  Unfortunately, none of the Entry Level Wireless drivers provides such a measure.

There is a freeware utility that can be installed on a Wireless Connected computer and would provide SNR: Netstumbler 

Netstumbler would show valid SNR only with Wireless cards that provide the raw information to the program, see here for list of cards (http://www.stumbler.net/compat/ ).

If your card is Not on the list you can still use Netstumbler to scan your environment, and find out if there is add ional WIFI signals around.

As an example, if you find a neighbor using his Wireless Network set to channel 6, try to change your system channel to 11, and thus avoid noise interference between the Networks.

If you can not id and eliminate noise sources, the best recourse is improving the range and bandwidth of the signal.

The following pages include information that might help in such an attempt.

Extending the Distance of Entry Level Wireless Network.

Wirelessly Bridging Home / SOHO Network.

Hi Gain Antenna for Entry Level Wireless.

How to measure the Speed of transferring files between Networked Computers?

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