No Signal? 5 Quick Ways to Boost Your Cell Phone Reception. Updated.

By Paul Michael on 13 December 2007 (Updated 28 November 2011) 71 comments

Anyone with a cell phone has suffered from those "no signal" or "service lost" moments. And they usually happen when your car has broken down or someone's chasing you through the forest with a large axe. As I live in snowy Colorado and have a Virgin Mobile (weak reception) I have been researching and testing methods to boost my phone in case of emergencies. Here are the five methods that worked, with varying success, for me. (See also: The 1-Cent Cell Phone Protector, and Other Hacks)

Metacafe has once again come to my rescue on this one, it's a great resource for those how-to videos I love so much. And as always, I've tried to find cheap methods that require little-to-no technical know-how. So, grab a pen, jot down your favorite and make your very own cell-phone booster. It could literally get you out of a potentially dangerous situation.

1. A simple piece of wire

Very simple and cheap method using insulated wire.

2. Major boost using empty cans

This one got me from zero bars to three bars, in an area I never get a signal in. I keep this one in the trunk when the weather sucks. The additional wires I got on eBay for a few bucks each. Takes less than five minutes, looks stupid but works well.

3. The paper clip booster

This one didn't work as well as I had hoped, but it did give me an extra bar (which is great when you have zero bars). Good if you're in the office and need to use your cell, maybe for making one of those "personal" calls.

4. The Tesla coil effect

Hands down the easiest one I found. All you need is tape and those little twisty-ties you get with cheap garbage/sandwich bags. Worked better than the paper clip for me.

5. An old radio antenna

From YouTube. I apologize in advance for the quality and illegibility of this video (I don't speak the language, if there is anything out of order here I'm sorry) but the idea is a great one. Just grab an old radio antenna and keep it in your car for those times you need a boost. Terrific. Worked a treat, although not as well as the cans.

Of course, I'm always open to new ideas so if you have any better ways to boost your signal, let us know.

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Guest's picture
BR

I am when it comes to spending money on essentials essentially Cheap. I use this as a bad term as it implies that I ignore essentials to spend money on non essentials (such as hobby books and video games) When it came to buying a new cell phone (the antenna fell off my old one because it was old and during a snow storm... damn Canada) I used a paper clip and some tinfoil to prolong the length of my old cell phone. THIS IS NOT A PERMANENT FIX! After about two weeks it had damaged the cell beyond the repair of a cheap tinfoil and paperclip solution but it held in place almost long enough to get a new cell and O definitely suggest it (especially for college students) for people who rely on the their cell for alot of their life. I know it is not really useful to the topic of prolonging the life but I do want to share it for frugal users. If your cell has an antenna space and breaks, this is a legit suggestion for keeping in contact until you get a new one.

Guest's picture

These are great. I always hate not being able to hear on business calls, and I am too "frugal"/cheap to buy any addons for my phone.

Guest's picture
Rachel

I seriously don't have a port on the back of my cell phone! It's a Sanyo SCP-3200...in case anybody has an idea.

Guest's picture
Guest

I had to take the cover off to find mine, and then remove the batterey in order to secure my paperclip. It might not be in an easy place to find!

Guest's picture
Guest

I couldnt find mine either.. but i finally found it under the battery cover

Guest's picture
Chad

My phone has an internal antenna with no external antenna jack. Is there a way to locate where the internal antenna is at and just use one of these methods as close to it on the phone as possible? Thanks for any advice.

Guest's picture
Guest

Please execuse the spelling i am only 13.Just google "internal antenas"(spelled correctly) and you should find a stiker that goes in your phone that you can buy for a reasonable price. Enjoy and keep hacking!

Guest's picture
Anon

don't buy the sticker.
It kills your phone.

Guest's picture
Steven

I have the same problem, I have a Sony Ericsson s500i which also has an internal antenna and no jack. I live in australia and I have never seen a jack like that ony anyone's phone. Is it an American thing?

Guest's picture
Kipp

Some cell phones have the antenna hidden behind the mirror.

Also, the relationship between the length of an antenna and the wavelength of the waves being received it is important. For example, the wavelength of an 800MHz signal is 1.23ft -- an antenna exactly that long would work best. Also, exactly half that length should receive signal very well too.

Guest's picture
Chad

My phone has an internal antenna with no external antenna jack. Is there a way to locate where the internal antenna is at and just use one of these methods as close to it on the phone as possible? Thanks for any advice.

Guest's picture
Guest

Try using the MAX cell phone signal booster: www.buythemaxnow.com. It's the only portable, wireless, non-electric cell phone booster that works and it's only $25.

Guest's picture
Tony

Did you check behind your battery cover? I just opened up my Samsung A900 because it didn't have a rubber piece anywhere on the phone, but low and behold behind the battery door there was a tiny piece of black plastic glued over it. Take a look.

Guest's picture
John Boy

I own an SCH-u340 and I can't seem to find one. I decided to look at the battery side and still could not find one. I ran into this reply and thought that you could have a suggestion. Any ideas on how on locate mine?

Guest's picture
Guest

"(the antenna fell off my old one because it was old and during a snow storm... damn Canada)"

Yeah well I dropped a nickel in the rain in Michgan once... damn U.S.A.

Guest's picture
Guest

Lmao, plus fifty points, dude!

Guest's picture
Emmett

I'm like that one guy up there whose antenna fell off, i'm really cheap, considering i am a high school kid, i'm really cheap. and i'm like that other guy i have a phone, a sony ericsson w580i. i live out in the country and i get service basically anywhere on the ranch. except in my dads shop thats made from tin roofing, and my bedroom thats in the north end of the house. i don't recommend the sony ericsson because its so different and is not a flip phone so while your working it presses buttons and calls people, and its so hard to find accesories for it, but thats not the point the point is, that the phone does not have a antenna jack, and thats really kind of a problem because i text alot and so at night when i'm laying in bed trying to text, the only place i have reception is from my bedroom window, and i only have like two bars there. i was wondering is there any way were i could make kind of a ghetto antenna that i can mount on my roof and run a reciever or something like that into my room?

Guest's picture
Guest

For Sony Ericsson candybar-phone like yours. You should use the auto keypad-lock function. It automatically locks ur keypad after a short idling time. To unlock press * and select "unlock". Check your phone manual for details.

Guest's picture
Guest

Dont use video for everything.

Guest's picture
Anon

That sucks....
haha FUSTERATED...

Guest's picture
Guest

same thi9ng happened to me, broke my damn dare. now i ONLY get reception if a paper clip is in there!!!!!! FUH

Guest's picture
sandra B

Hey! Thanks for these hints for boosting my reception! All the ones I tried worked. The best easiest for me was a modification of a couple of them. I used a piece of copper wire like the first one, but made it smaller. I poked a tiny hole in the antenna plug and stuck the copper wire through it. Now it holds the antenna in place and I used a small amount of tape to secure it.

My signal has gone from non-existant in parts of my home to 4 bars!!!! Just with a 4 inch piece of copper wire and a little twisting!

Thanks again!

SB

Guest's picture
Guest

if a 2 cent piece of wire could improve reception, every cell-phone company would just include it with their phones.
Some of the above suggestions can actually RUIN your phone.

There are no magic fixes, these idiots think its funny to get people to wreck their phones trying these useless ideas.

I'll tell you what would be funny - if people who followed your advice and wrecked their phones got lawyers and sued you and your parents (if you're a minor) for everything you own!
HAHAHA, yeah THAT would be funny!

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Guest

HAHA you ruined your phone huh?!

Guest's picture
bc90

FYI the antenna on the cellphones is basically just a 2 cent piece of wire so YES brands include it on their cellphones, and basically you have no knowledge whatsoever to argue about what this makes to a cellphone because you have no idea how it works

Guest's picture
Smitty

If a 2 cent piece of copper wire was able to ruin the phone sir/maam then why did all the manufacturers put an external wire port on all their phones? If you buy an adapter to go on it, all that is is a 2 cent piece of wire with a fancy plug on it to hold it in place. You obviously don't understand electronics or radio frequency. The 2 cent peice of copper you add to the phone increases the ability of the phone to pickup radio waves (i.e electromagnetic currents in the air) which are transmitted through the copper to the radio tuner or resinator. The resinator then amplifies the frequency it is set to and reduces all other frequencies so that it can capture the data being transferred on the appropriate signal. Because electormagnetic current does not penetrate the copper antenna, but runs along the exterior of it, the antenna must be insulated from the rest of the electronic components in the phone. In order for the antenna to penetrate the insulation and cause damage to the phones other components it would need to recieve an extraordinarily high frequency signal equivilant to that of an arc welder. So basically, in lamens terms, don't stick your custom antenna in a power socket or get struck by lightning while using it and you should be ok.

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guest using nokia e63

I use a nokia e 63 but cant find the antenna hole can i i get loads of wire / tape and just wrap it all the way around the phone?

Guest's picture
guest

I have found out my phone dont have an antenna jack is ther a way to boost signal with that.

Guest's picture
Robert

Hey, is this for real? I don't want to wreck my phone, ... but I can't any calls from inside my house! If I go outside, it works fine (one bar). Please, someone reply if this 'really' works!

Guest's picture
Guest

um like the old saying if somebody told you to jump off a cliff would you?? dont blame other people because you jacked your phone up trying these tricks. as with anything on this planet, its gonna work for some and not for others. don't try it if your worried its gonna mess your phone up.

Guest's picture
Guest

As for the external antenna jack and this all being a joke.....WRONG!! The external antenna jack is very real. This is something we've all done at some point may it have been on a radio, TV, or your car everyone has ghetto rigged an antenna before with some copper wire or coat hanger lol. Listen people please do yourself a favor.... If you don't have some basic reasoning skills don't attempt stuff like this. Exposed bare wires around electronic components is dangerous if you don't know how to take the proper steps to prevent damage to your phone.

Guest's picture
Guest

How do you fail at pluging something in?! I feel bad for your boyfriend/girlfriend if you even have one. And for voiding the warranty and acting like you didn't know WOW that has earned you the "King Dumbass" title. Even a fucking chimp could tell you anything you do to any object with a warranty voids it. NO company covers retards like you sorry man companies just can't afford it to many dumb Americans like you lurking on the shortbus!

Guest's picture
Mature American

"to many dumb Americans"? Actually it should be TOO many... By the tone and spelling of the above rant made by some punk kid, it is obvious that Americans are not the only ones capable of being dumb, jackass.

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BAGOL

bener ga

Guest's picture
Guest

I work on occasions in East Timor in a place where mobile phone reception is very poor to non-existent. We have a directional antenna on a pole with a wire running down to the inside. On the end of that is a twisted loop of wire which simply re-radiates the signal without needing to plug into a jack. You simply hold your phone in close proximity to the end loop when using your phone. Ideal for a fixed installation that can be used by anyone with any phone.

Guest's picture
saltysenior

please more details.....need something like that at hunt camp..

Guest's picture
shani

I Found out that You can Hold your phone up to your forhead and can get signal i know it sounds weird but it does Work (atleast for me).. I dont know why It works like that but whenever i need to use my phone and dont have signal i do that and it gives me maybe like 2-3 bars... If you move it slowly while making a call from your forehead to your ear it should still have signall...

It may sound stupid but whatever it works :)

Guest's picture
Greg

you got a plate in your head or something??? ;) lol!!! just kidding.

Guest's picture
Guest

To the guy who broke his phone...you're the idiot for paying that much for a phone to impress your friends and then destroying it by your own hand.

There are also some tips for jumping off a ciff on the web so you may want to stay away from those. Then again, maybe you shouldn't.

Guest's picture
Guest

How to boost your cell phone signal with no problem in your house works!!!! I tried this one with the coffee cans and wow man did it work !!!!

Step 1.
You buy two steel contructed coffee cans; not from China because of lead in steel and in plastic.... To make sure the coffee can is metal: use a magnet, becareful the magnet may pinch a finger, so slide the magnet... Be sure of the negative polarization on the magnet: test by repelling the magnets one side, negative one side positive..Becareful and watch your fingers.

Step 2.
Recycle the plastic lid, for this could cause interference with reception. Turn the coffee cans upside down. Use a Hammer and 1/8 inch punch. Hit the coffee cans dead center on both cans.. Use Safety Goggles, and Watch your hands!!!! Do not punch more than one hole in each can: this would cause a loss on connectivity between the cans and the wire when connected between the two coffee cans..

Step 3.
Insure you use a nylon string for insulation of copper wires, take 2 strands of 3 foot long copper wire, 1/8 in diameter (more maybe required determine the distance to a local window or door) Twist the nylon string around the two copper wires for insulation enough to hold together and insulate the copper from the weather..

Step 4.
Place one end of the wires through the coffee can and the other end through the second coffee can.. Make a L shape on each end of wires after you put through each coffee can. Hang the coffee cans above your door or near you porch light front or back; most likely where you have best cell reception outside the house.... Make sure you fasten this properly with the wire above door ways of you house.. Works great with French Style Doors and Sliding Glass Doors...

Step 5.
Now turn you cell phone on and test the signal boost...
Hope This work, it worked for me... My neighbors now do the same.. I think alot of people use this method in our area now.. simple lifes has its simple life turn of events turn of events.... This is geared for those who dont want to damage a cell phone with a paper clipp and have internal antenna on their cell phones......

Guest's picture
Bryce Noble

Thank's for sharing! I'm slightly confused on what you mean by twisting nylon string around the copper wire though. I will try what i think you mean. Picture would be nice though Quality Digi cams are pretty cheap now adeays anyway thank you Ryan Farish Check the music out Deo Favente Kol Tuv Everlasting!

Guest's picture
darkside

I don't know about America(s) but here in Europe almost none of the phones currently on the market have jacks for external antennas. I mean no holes, covers, rubber thingies that cover hidden jack etc. No phone that I know have it and none of my friends' phones has it. So I guess, you live in a different world than me.

Guest's picture
Guest

CONCEALED ANTENNA PORTS

I was convinced that no phones of mine had external antenna ports, even under the battery cover, but I just found one! It was hidden beneath a round sticky label, cunningly disguised as hard plastic! Keep looking.

Guest's picture
Guest

I followed your instructions to the tee. And now I have reception throughout my house. I appreciate it. I thought this cannot work, but it did. Thanks whoever you are....

Guest's picture
npc

Nice trick, but some of the stuff parts are hard to find in Indonesia for general use. >.<

Thanks for the trick, the bazooka antenna works for my 3G USB Modem.

Guest's picture
donnamaz1

I own a Samsung SPH m330 and there is no visable port on the back side of the phone, either in slide position or normal. Is there someway you can tell how to boost my signal strenght with this type of phone? Thanks... :)

Guest's picture
Guest

These are pretty strange. I would never try any of these. As for the internal antenna booster, here is a review page link:
http://home.pacbell.net/mtom168/internalantenna/

I have had the internal booster on 3 phones. I only get shotty signals in my office. Everywhere else is OK. These give a better signal for me. 2 bars more on average. I have not seen any damage done to my phones with these personally.
As with anything, think, don't believe everything you read (even the review I posted). It's a judgment call on your part. I can only tell you what has worked for me personally.

Guest's picture
nick449

instead of buying an expensive antenna for your usb modem try buying a female to male 10' usb cord and run it up away from your other electronics it worked for me i went from 200 kbps to 850 kbps in 2mins.

Guest's picture
Guest

im sure you hav answered this and i didnt see it but my antenna fell off for my old Palm Treo ive tried using tin foil but it didnt work. is there anything i can do besides buyig a new phone (me and my family are really cheap)

Guest's picture
Guest

I got a hiptop a year ago, had reception fine, then i moved now i dont get reception. Im on a 24 month plan and i still have over a year to wait, and now i dont get reception im paying around $70 a month and i dont even use it!!!

Guest's picture
Duesche Bag

I love how everyone one is talking about Americans in this post but the man talking in the number one video is not an American so good luck to everyone who has been to this post and puts down Americans please do some research first before you put all of us down. Thank you.

Guest's picture
Guest

Please don't do the stupid mistake of purchasing from the BUYTHEMAXNOW.COM website like I did. It doesn't work and they promise guarantee in which when you go and request a refund they will not even email you or answer their phones. They are scammers!!! Save your money and buy a real booster.

Guest's picture
cheap cellular phones

Oh.. great article.so many video help for getting more information.Some cell phones have the antenna hidden behind the mirror.this will clear out your prl(prefered roaming list) this is a list of suitable cell towers to use that gets updated by the network as you move. sometimes moving quickly or just the phone having a glitch will cause the phone not to update the PRL. The only way to know your phone is moving from one cell tower to another is that it has zero bars. otherwise its always reaching out for that 1 tower 10 miles away when you got 1 right next to you. that why some people same network same phone have different coverage

Guest's picture
Guest

hi,
i have sony ericsson w 910i. i tried external antenna using a copper wire as shown. I tried once ance and removed it, now the phone has nil signal. can anybody help what might have happened and how do i retrieve. when i touch with some pin external antennal slot, signal comes for a fracion of a second.
-Ram

Guest's picture
Curious Electrician

Answer, sort of, for internal antennas:
Capitalism at its best! I assume that they are doing away with external antennas to make it harder to fix it ourselves and make us buy their boosters (some I have seen for more than $300).
I have a Samsung M900 and was curious how these antenna boosters work without a external antenna, so I took the thing apart and searched for the answer.

The short answer:
Internal antennas are strips of metal that attach to the circuit board with a small white antenna cable that has snap-in connections.
Here are the websites that I found this info:
http://www.ehow.com/how_6858048_do-samsung-blackjack-apart-antenna_.html
This one above tells you about the white cable.
http://www.zdnet.com.au/photos-cracking-open-the-iphone-339279684.htm
This one is for an iphone, but it is basically the same components and it has lovely photos! This guy is awesome!
I am pretty sure if you tried to attach a piece of wire to this it would short circuit your phone (I wasn't even tempted to try). If you are not delicate with electronics I do not recommend you dissembling your phone. It took me 3 tries to put mine back together and get it working properly.

The solution? I am still working on this. They do make adapters that plug into where your headphone jack is.
Here is a site selling it for $3.05: http://www.goodluckbuy.com/fm-radio-gprs-antenna-mobile-cell-phone-signa...

I do not recommend the ones that adhere to the back of your phone. I cannot find the site, but it showed not much of a boost for those kinds and can possibly damage your phone if you get the wrong one or put it in the wrong place.

Also, there are 3 black plastic squares located on the back (after the back cover is removed) that are labeled "R1", "R2", and "G". I pealed back (its like a plastic sticker) the "R1" and it revealed what looked like a mini RF connector.
Does anyone else have these squares?
I am going to research this more and report what I find. Trust, it was a long adventure trying to find all this information. I am determined to find an answer!

Hope this helps! And remember, if you do any of this, PLEASE be prepared to kill your phone! These new phones are mini computers. Even if you are a computer technician you run the risk of breaking something or short circuiting these delicate (stupid) devices.

:o)

Guest's picture
Curious Electrician

Update for internal antennas:

FYI internal antennas work on radio waves. If you read your cell phone's manual, it states: "Your device is basically a radio transmitter and receiver".

I bought a 3.5mm stereo male to RF female and connected it to an antenna (meant for t.v.'s but it said it picked up radio as well). I plugged the 3.5mm into my headphone jack and got nothing, not even a blip of reception. Not sure if this is because I "Frankensteined" it, but I am giving up on that theory.

Checked out the R1/R2/G ports on the back. By inserting a twisty tie into the R1 port, it seemed to give me a bar of boost, which is better than none. I tried all the ports and different combos with different arrangements of the wire (Tesla's coil, straight, bent at 90 degrees, etc.) and it seemed to not make a difference. The one marked "G" does nothing for the service signal. I believe that is used for wifi signal, which doesn't help reception. "R1" seems to be steady with one bar and sometimes spikes to three, but this is only momentarily. Needless to say this does not help a great deal. I still cannot make phone calls.

The only productive thing that happened is that with the one bar I can send and receive text messages now. I turned off my wifi as well, which might have helped.

Sad to say, I am just going to get a land line phone.

P.S. This site is pretty cool about buying a booster and it's worth:
http://home.pacbell.net/mtom168/internalantenna/

Guest's picture
bc90

if you measure the copper wire that you have inside the can to be a multiple or submultiple of your cellphone reception wavelenght you will probably have full boost, try it, ;)

Guest's picture
Tesla's Teacher

Use a metal colander (spaghetti strainer) instead of a weak azz coffee can you and get tremendous results. Problem is with most home made antennas is YOU HAVE TO CHECK THE SWR's of the antenna or you blow out you final output transistors, DUH. So get an SWR meter to make sure your "Standing Wave Ratio" is correct for your transmit frequency.

Guest's picture
nathan

Hey, I would like to try the Tesla effect one, but my phone doesn't have an antenna. What should I do?

Guest's picture
INFAM0US

Well while these tricks can improve signal quality, they can also cause your phone to "disconnect" from its primary antenna. I tried #1 with the wire, and although it did not give me better reception in the sense of "more bars", it did make my connection more stable. I use my phone to share internet with my laptop, and the signal can jump back and forth between 50kb/s and 250kb/s. After connecting the wire my connection only jumps between 150kb/s and 250kb/s. For that I am satisfied, but now my phone is reliant on the external antenna, as taking it off will lose all reception. I only use my phone for internet purposes, and not for calling/texting, so I can care less if I have to leave the antenna in. As a warning to others thinking of using this, use it only as your last resort.

Guest's picture
Guest

i dropped my phon on the road. that day onwords i im getting low signl. so is there any way to get signl generally?

Guest's picture
taz

i have a verizon motorola razr and it gets the absolute worst service ever...only around the city i live of course. i called verizon and they said that i should be getting about 3 to 4 bars and im getting 1. my old phone used to get that many bars but i think something is wrong with the razr. i have tried reprograming it several times manually and through the *228 and i have tried option 1 and 2, but when it says activation successful and to push ok, i do that and it doesn't do anything, so i have to reset the phone manually. the phone is pissing me off to no end and to top it off sometimes the roaming signal appears and charges me unnecessary amounts of money when there is no way that i could be roaming! please help!

Guest's picture
Guest

the one with the twisty things works pretty ok i get signal somewhat here in mexico cause of it

Guest's picture
john

I found if you take an old wheat penny, not a new penny it doesn't work as well, but a wheat penny that is mostly copper and put it behind your battery it gave me 2 steady bars at home where I had only an intermittent signal before. It even goes to full signal from time to time!! I've never had that here!! My phone is the lg 500 g from tracfone.

Guest's picture
Heather

My phone doesn't have an Antenna Block on it. I have a Motorola Cliq 2. Maybe you could tell me where to find it?

Guest's picture
Erik

im really interested in the Can Antenna, but i cant seem to see any movies... can u please post some Picture instead of a Video?
the office sent me to a small town with very little to no coverage at all ... please if u can post some picture for the Can Antenna (seem like its the best method)
Thank You

Guest's picture

This is really awesome. I think it;s good to let people know how they can boost their cell phone signal without buying the expensive devices. Sometimes though the only way is to buy the signal booster, but i love these tips here. These ideas are brilliant and looks like they work.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just buy a new phone.?

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Guest

Same for me,when i removed my battery.i couldn't find any external antinne stufs.just only a sim slot and a dot like thing.please help me

Guest's picture
Guest

I just found that stick a small aluminum leaf from aluminum foil as big as 25 cent coin on the upper face of your cell phone battery, It works for me.

Guest's picture
Guest

What if you put the radio antenna on the can and what kind of can like pop can or a thick can I was thinking about mixing the wire with the can because if I'm correct don't you have to have your phone on the can?