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The adaptive synchronization and cell search algorithm, which is the first step for a mobile station to access the communication network, for WCDMA systems is presented. A three-stage synchronization and cell search procedure is suggested by the 3GPP specifications. Based on this procedure, we propose an adaptive algorithm to detect synchronization codes according to the channel conditions, which is estimated by a power meter. Computer simulations are conducted to evaluate the performance of the adaptive synchronization and cell search algorithm in different channel conditions. It is shown that, using the proposed adaptive algorithm, the average computation complexity is reduced with little increased acquisition time at good channel conditions.