If your laptop has a weak built-in WiFi card, a WiFi antenna booster can help it get better reception.
They can also upgrade a laptop’s WiFi protocols that have been introduced in recent years.
There are many available in all shapes and sizes, with the best long-range units having a larger antenna.
Below are our picks of the best USB WiFi adapters that can boost a WiFi signal for a laptop, along with reviews, speed tests, and compatibility.
As always, be sure to read the reviews on Amazon, here, or on forums to be sure a unit is a right fit for you.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Our Picks for Best WiFi Antenna Boosters for Laptops
- D-Link WiFi-6 Adapter
- BrosTrend AC3
- EDUP AC600
- Alfa AWUS036ACH
- TP-LINK Archer T2UH
- Panda PAU09
- Alfa AWUS036AC
This wireless USB adapter from D-Link has the new WiFi-6 802.11ax WiFi protocols.
It is dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5GHz unit with a rated top speed of 1200Mbps.
While testing, the unit was very impressive, with a wireless speed of 454Mbps, which was the fastest USB WiFi adapter we have tested.
It also uses a USB 3.0 for faster transfer speeds.
Like all WiFi-6 devices, it can use the new WPA3 security, which is a big improvement over the older WPA2 wireless security protocol.
The BrosTrend AC3 is a USB WiFi adapter with two 5dBi antennas to help get a better wireless signal.
The adapter uses the 802.11AC (WiFi 5) protocols and is dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz adapter.
It will work with almost any device, old or new, and has a good range.
During testing in the 5GHz band, it gave some excellent speed results of 225Mbps Download and 20Mbps Upload.
The EDUP AC600 is a Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi adapter that works in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.
802.11AC is a fast WiFi protocol and works in the 5GHz band.
The 2.4GHz band is for legacy devices and works mainly with the older Wireless-N protocol.
This makes it a good wireless USB adapter that will work in almost any WiFi network.
The 2dBi antenna, while not the largest, is much better compared to a laptop’s built-in antenna.
If you need a signal from a distance, there are units with bigger dBi antennas.
Larger antennas can be bulkier but do work much better receiving a WiFi signal.
The EDUP AC600 did very well during the speed test, with the 5Ghz range giving 213Mbps Download and 21Mbps Upload.
It is a good unit that will give a laptop WiFi a boost and has broad compatibility and the newest WiFi protocols.
The Alfa AWUS036ACH is a long-range wireless USB adapter that is compatible with most operating systems, from Windows 10 to Linux.
It is a Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi dongle that works in both the 2.4Ghz and 5GHz ranges.
During testing, it gave some impressive WiFi speeds at 213Mbps Download and 21Mbps Upload.
Two large 5dBi antennas are attached to get a better signal from a distance.
The TP-LINK Archer T2UH is a dual-band USB adapter and uses the 802.11ac protocol.
It is backward compatible with other wireless protocols, such as N or G; this makes it fit into almost any network.
It uses an external Omni-Directional antenna to get a better range than a laptop’s built-in antenna.
The Panda PAU09 is a dual-band wireless USB adapter with wide compatibility, from Windows 10 to Linux.
It has two large 5dBi antennas to improve a signal while transmitting and receiving.
The one downside is it is only an 802.11n adapter, which gives it a max speed of 300Mbps.
Even though it only supports wireless-N, it still is an excellent unit to use and work with most operating systems with good range at a low cost.
Alfa makes many USB adapters and is notorious in the wireless Pen Tester/Hacker community.
The AWUS036AC is one of their adapters that is built to get a signal at a distance.
It is dual-band and works with any WiFi protocols so that it will fit into almost any network.
Two 5dBi antennas are used to get a better signal. A USB extender cable can also be used to move it about obtaining the best possible bars.
Its size makes it bulkier than small dongles, but the gain is a big boost.
WiFi Frequency Protocols and Laptops
In late 2013 the 5GHz frequency was introduced to routers and connecting devices.
5GHz was introduced to help relieve the 2.4GHz band that has become overcrowded.
Along with a new frequency, a new protocol was also introduced called WiFi 6 802.11ax.
The 802.11ax protocol can transfer data much quicker than the previous 802.11ac and 802.11n protocols.
802.11n, also called Wireless-N, can transfer data at 150-300 Mbps, while 802.11ac has a transfer speed of 750 Mbps.
This is a good upgrade if you need high speed WiFi connection.
It should be noted that 5GHz frequency does not travel as far as 2.4GHz frequency waves. This is because of the physics of lower frequencies able to travel farther than higher frequencies.
So while the new 5GHz band combined with 802.11ac can move data faster for distance, using 2.4GHz is still better.
So What is the Best WiFi Antenna Boosters for Laptops
A 2.4GHz USB WiFi booster will be able to transmit and receive better with distance.
The exception to this is in a crowded WiFi environment where many WiFi signals are transmitting.
When two signals collide, a router must resend the data, which slows down the entire network.
A 5GHz booster may be better in a crowded WiFi environment, even if a signal cannot travel as far.
The best scenario is to get a USB booster that can do both, using either 2.4GHz or the new 5GHz frequencies.
When a booster can transmit on both frequencies, each band can be tested to see which one sends the best signal.
Windows 10 has become a real pain in the neck, can’t even find an antenna booster that works with it
Anyone know of an usb antenna that will work with a pre-intell 10.5.6 mac?
I live in Spain and have just upgraded to W10. Apart from some very annoying residual gliches and incompatibility with some of the remaining programmes, I now cannot receive the WiFi signal from my neighbour which I have used for the last 4 years. My laptop is now perched on top of the washing machine in the annex off the kitchen by the window! The signal booster – SWEEX – which I previously had plugged into my laptop with a USB extensiion wire is no longer effective.
I have no idea how I can improve ths situation so any serious and sensible suggestions would be gratefully received!
Get an internet subscription on your own name. Problem solved.
Colin, check to see if the new unit is compatible with your neighbor. Find out which signal his system uses and compare it to yours. If you up dated and your new computer has only an 802.11 “ac” signal and he does not like a “n” or “g” signal, that might be your issue. In that case one of you has to add to the signal type. like you, getting a wifi card with all the older signal types. Just a thought….
I just tested two external adapter/antennas. Bolse N300 was the last one. Both ran out of signal in a shorter distance than the original adapter in the 2006 Dell inspiron laptop, which worked with 1 bar signal most of the time in its location. The external boosters worked at shorter distances but completely lost signal in the laptop’s usual 1-bar location. Both were under $20. Maybe I will try a more costly Riezen SKU506612 next.
I know that this might sound stupid, but are those bad for our health in any way?
No, they’re just bigger antennas. What they give off is no different to what’s given off by radio transmitters of any other other kind, including CB radios and the like.
I am just worn out. For the last 2 month I have been looking for a wifi antenna for windows 10. I bought 8 of them that said they work with windows 10. They did not work. Do you know one that will work with windows 10. I wood be THANKFUL.
Are you attempting to pick up a free public Wi-Fi signal from a long distance or are you trying to boost the signal coming from your private router?