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1) Do I have line of sight? "Line of sight" is literally being able to see the target you want to provide connectivity to, without obstruction.
2) How far apart are the two locations that I want to link? Equipment that's needed for a 500 foot link is much different than that for a one mile link.
3) How much money am I willing to spend on this project? Long-range wireless solutions can cost lots of money. You need to plan how much you're going to spend for each part before you start the project. You don't want to start the project, then not have enough money to finish it.
4) What kind of equipment am I going to use? Are you going to be using consumer-grade equipment or are you willing to use business-level equipment. There is a big difference in the two types. Reliability and support are typically gained, with the price being the trade-off.
5) How much time am I willing to spend trying to get this to work? If you don't want to spend more than a few hours on this project, you probably shouldn't start it. It's going to take days, even weeks to get long range solutions setup and working properly. Don't think it will take thirty minutes and everything will work just like you planned.
6) How do I want to link the two buildings? There are so many different options in how to link buildings. You can provide one AP on each end, or just simply try to broadcast the wireless signal into the building so one machine can use the signal.
Now that you've thought about those questions, I'll explain the different types of long range wireless links (and later offer some solutions for each type).
1) "Home to Home". This is in reference to linking two homes together. Usually people will want to do this when they have a friend next door, or a few houses down, and they want to share files and network resources. (For this setup I will assume the distance is less than 500 feet)
2) "Building to Building". Often companies want to link two buildings. For this sort of setup, you're going to want a very reliable connection and can't cut corners. You don't want your boss firing you because he can't access his files in the other office. (For this setup I will assume the distance is around 800 feet between buildings)
"Home to Home" procedure
First, you want to make sure there is minimal interference between the two houses. If the houses are in an urban area, and there are multiple houses in the way or adjacent to your link, there will most likely be lots of interference from other wireless devices. Wireless networks and phones can both lead to interference and cut down drastically on your range. You can check for wireless networks by using Netstumbler and walking the sidewalk from one point on your proposed link to the other. Make sure to save the list after you're done walking so you can refer to it later on. Netstumbler will report which channels the other networks were on. You're going to want to put your network on a different channel than all these other networks you find. If you left it on the same channel, you'd see interference and either not be able to complete your link, or notice very slow speeds.
After you've picked an appropriate channel, find where you're going to setup the wireless AP that will be broadcasting the signal to the other house. Preferably, place it near a window or somewhere that has direct line of sight with the other house. If you don't have line of sight, you might run into problems down the line.
Your first decision is whether to place an AP/bridge at the second house, or just try to broadcast a wireless signal to the other home's computer. If you want to put one AP on each side of the link, you're going to want to get an access point that's capable of "WDS", which will allow you to connect two APs together. Another option would be to put a wireless bridge in each home (preferably in line of sight with each other) and connect that way. If you just want to try and broadcast the wireless signal from your home to the other home (with no AP/bridge on the other end), you're probably going to want a wireless router that will support boosting the transmit power, via third-party firmware. Currently few routers support this, two of which are the WRT54G and WRT54GS.
After you've chosen which way you'd like to link the two homes, try it out. See if it works.
If it doesn't work, make sure you've still got line of sight and everything is setup properly.
If everything is setup correctly and you're still not getting the full range, you're going to want to look into buying a directional antenna. You want at least one directional antenna on each end pointing directly at each other. It's preferred to have directional antennas because they send the signal in one direction, compared to omni-directional antennas which send in all directions.
But in order for the directional antennas to work, your AP's current antennas have to be detachable. Most modern routers do have detachable antennas because many more people want to put more powerful antennas on. If you're not sure if yours are detachable, see your vendor specific forum and ask if they are detachable, and if so, what sort of antenna connector they take.
After you've figured out which type of connector your router takes, try going to a local computer store and finding a suitable antenna (preferably greater than 5dB, the greater dB, the more powerful). If you're unable to find the antenna type at a local store, you can try eBay or searching Google for compatible antennas.
After you've gotten your antennas and hooked them up, make sure the antennas in both homes are pointing directly at each other for best performance.
If you've setup everything correctly, you should easily be able to hold a constant connection at less than 300 feet with line of sight.
"Building to Building" procedure
You're basically going to want to follow the same procedure as the "Home to Home" but with a few added steps to achieve more reliable connections.
When you place the antennas, try to place them on the roofs of both buildings. This will help minimize interference between the two links.
You may want to consider highly-directional antennas to ensure a consistent signal. You can't afford downtime in your network. (A side benefit is increased security due to the narrow radio beam).
Also, when setting up a "Building to Building" network for a business, try getting higher powered APs. It'd be looked down upon to be using two Linksys WRT's on both ends of a business network. You're going to want to use Cisco or another business class vendors AP. They will be higher powered and provide stronger signals.
Now, if you've read through all of this and your network still doesn't work, here are some things to check:
1) Do you have line of sight? This is key. If you don't have it and you want to setup a link at more than 500 feet, you're going to have problems.
2) Do you live in a neighborhood with lots of homes? This could very easily be causing the problem. With lots of homes between/surrounding your link, you're likely getting tons of interference. If you followed the guide, you would have already checked for wireless networks that were in the way, but that doesn't account for wireless phones. Almost everyone has a wireless phone these days. Most of which operate at 2.4GHz (the same as 802.11b/g). The way you could get around this, would be to buy 802.11a equipment, which operates at a different frequency. Wireless security systems and even microwave ovens can also interfere with your wireless signal.
3) Have you read all the other threads that talk about setting up wireless links?
Take a look at these threads:
»Extended Range Connection
»Extending a wirless network
»[wireless] Options to Extend My Wireless Connection
»[wireless] WRT54G Range Problems
»[wireless] How to?: Long range 802.11g
»Need Help with extending wireless Range
»Wireless Range - Indoor - Help
»Confused about how to extend my wireless signal
»home wireless network with 3 blocks or more range?
»extending wireless coverage
»www.oreillynet.com/cs/weblog/vie ··· /wlg/448
Also see the FAQ entry /faq/10944
Thanks to Bill for this great FAQ.