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I'm having some problems with my Wifi setup. In a nutshell sometimes the performance is fine, sometimes it's terrible. When it's bad it seems to oscillate quickly between good transfer and very poor transfer. One strange thing that I've notices while trying to diagnose the problem: My PC reports a full 5 bar connection, but if I look in the router admin tool (tomato) it's showing the connection to my PC as 1 bar. What does this signify? Perhaps that my PC is receiving a strong signal, but transmitting weakly?

Some possibly irrelevant specifics:

  • Router: WRT54G running tomato, in 802.11G mode.
  • Signal strength at PC (according to inSSIDer): -60dBm
  • Channel : 13 (there are no other overlapping WAPs according to InSSIDer and the router site survey).
  • Router noise floor (According to tomato): -95dBm

What does the discrepancy between the 'bars' mean?


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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I would guess that you have turned up the transmit power on the router too high. While this increases the range that the station can see the router, it doesn't make it any more visible to the router.

This is a mistake often made by users with wireless when they are trying to increase coverage/range. Since most consumer wireless use is heavily weighted to download, a certain amount of transmit power increase will often help.

However when you wind up in a situation when the station can easily see the access point but the access point cannot see the station, you run into a situation where the ACKs are not getting back to the AP and frames start getting re-transmitted. This can seriously impact performance.

The other option is that the transmitter on your station's wireless radio has started to have issues. While it can hear your AP just fine, it isn't transmitted well anymore. I would lean towards the first solution as being more common though.

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Thanks, I was wondering something along these lines. I'll turn down the transmit power on the router. Wierd that some times of the day it works perfectly, and on others it completely breaks down (perhaps this due to changing interference?) Perhaps a high-gain/directional antenna on the PC would help increase the signal power that reaches the router? – UpTheCreek May 10 '13 at 4:32
RF is impacted by many things, so it is highly likely you will get different results at different times of day. If there is a pattern to it, you may be able to identify some of those factors. That aside, yes, a higher gain and/or directional antenna at the PC would probably help. If you go directional, just make sure you have it aligned correctly. – YLearn May 10 '13 at 17:23

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