Do You Experience Poor Internet Connection in Some Areas of Your Home?
You're sitting on your bed scouring Google for different ways to improve your home WiFi. You're trying to read articles and watch videos to understand why your WiFi network isn't working. You want to find a solution! When you open a page, it takes forever to load. When you try to watch a video, you get 10 seconds in and it starts buffering.
It’s extremely frustrating not having a strong internet connection in every room, especially when you are paying for high-speed internet.
Why Doesn't My WiFi Reach Every Corner of My House?
There are a few different reasons why your internet signal doesn't reach every nook and cranny of your house:
WiFi Router Location
The WiFi router is the device that broadcasts the wireless signal your devices use to access the internet. If the router is in an enclosed area like a closet, in a drawer, or under a desk, the WiFi signal strength will weaken as it travels. When the signal moves through the air, it will need to travel through obstacles like walls, doors, furniture, and floors; these obstacles interfere with the signal strength. As a result, you experience weak signal and dead spots in certain areas of your house.
WiFi router only transmit wireless signals within a specific range. Think of a wireless speaker. You’re listening to music through your wireless speaker that is connected to your phone via Bluetooth. If you slowly drift away from the speaker you will notice the sound quality worsens; the music starts cutting in and out, and eventually, the music stops, and the speaker disconnects from the phone. The same concept applies to WiFi routers; the further your wireless devices are from the WiFi range, the weaker the WiFi signal gets. The WiFi signal range can be affected by the size of your house, obstacles, the age of your router, or a combination the three.
WiFi Router’s Age
Older routers can hinder the communication between connected devices. They are more susceptible to signal interference, slower speeds, and shorter range. New routers often include antennas that do a better job of receiving and transmitting signal. In addition, newer routers support the latest WiFi 802.11ac and 802.11ax (also known as WiFi 6) standards which have speeds that are much faster than the previous standards (802.11n, 802.11g, etc.). Plus, they have MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) technology, meaning more devices can be connected to the router simultaneously without hindering the internet speed.
To improve your internet connection, try moving the router to a centralized location if possible. Sometimes the router can’t be moved because there are wired devices connected to it, or the router is connected to a modem that can’t be moved. Moving the router can help improve the WiFi range, eliminate dead spots, and reduce the number of obstacles that can interfere with the signal. Also, double-check if your router is up-to-date. If you have an older model router, upgrade to a new router with the latest WiFi standards for better and faster speeds.
What if My Router is Up to Date and in the Best Possible Location, BUT I Still Have Poor WiFi Coverage?
A great solution to improving your WiFi signal and eliminating dead spots is investing in a WiFi extender. These devices connect to your router and extend the WiFi signal to the areas you experience little to no signal; basically, they improve your wireless network connection.
What is a WiFi Extender?
Before we discuss what WiFi extenders are, you need to be familiar with some terminology…
WiFi extenders are commonly referred to as wireless range extenders and WiFi range extenders.
Many people also call extenders WiFi repeater, WiFi booster, or WiFi signal booster; they rebroadcast signal to improving your WiFi connection, so they are similar to extenders but work differently.
A WiFi extender is a wired or wireless device that extends the range of the signal your WiFi router transmits. Essentially, a WiFi extender is a bridge between the WiFi router and the wireless devices that are out of the WiFi router’s range.
How Do WiFi Extenders Work?
WiFi extenders will wirelessly connect to your WiFi router. They communicate with each other via sound waves. The sound waves are transmitted through frequencies which are measures in gigahertz. There are two frequency bands that are used to transmit wireless internet - 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The difference between the two bands is speed, range, and bandwidth. The 2.4 GHz band provides a larger WiFi coverage with slower speeds. In contrast, the 5GHz band provides high-speeds with less WiFi coverage.
Through these frequencies, the extender is able to pick up the wireless signal transmitted by the router. Then, the extender will create its own signal and broadcast it into the areas you are experiencing network connection problems.
Keep in mind that the WiFi extender DOES NOT amplify or strengthen the wireless signal transmitted by the router. It gets the internet access from the router and broadcasts its own signal into the space where the wireless signal did not originally reach.
As a result, you expand your WiFi coverage area. The places that were originally dead zones or had a weak WiFi connection, will be immediately eliminated.
How Do I Install a WiFi Extender?
WiFi range extender makers like Netgear, Linksys, D-Link, and Tp-Link have different installation processes. The following will be a general set of instructions that applies to most extenders.
Connect the WiFi Extender to the WiFi Router
To connect the devices, you will need to plug-in the extender into a wall outlet in the same room as the WiFi router. Some extenders will require you to press the WPS button on both devices to connect them together. Others will require you to go to a specific website to finish the connection process. After the wireless range extender is synced, you can move it to the recommended location and plug it into the wall outlet.
Choose the Locations for the WiFi Extender
You want to be strategic about where you place the extender. Its recommended to place the extender close enough to the router to get a strong signal, but far enough away to broadcast signal into the desired areas.
Some extenders have wired connection capabilities; they have an ethernet port you can use to connect wired devices to them. If you have wired devices, you can use a fast ethernet cable or a gigabit ethernet cable and connect the wired device to the extender after choosing the location. Typically, wired devices experience better internet speeds because the number of obstacles is greatly reduced.
Read our article on The Differences Between Internet, Ethernet, WiFi and Cellular to discovered additional differences between WiFi and Ethernet.
WiFi Extender Broadcasts Signal
Once the WiFi extender is connected to the router, it will broadcast its own wireless signal through its external antennas, acting like a wireless access point (WAP) allowing laptops, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and game consoles to connect to it.
Since the extender is broadcasting its own signal, it's almost like having another wireless router in your home. Therefore, the extender will have its own WiFi network name (SSID).
How Many WiFi Extenders Can You Have in Your House?
To have the best wireless coverage area, you can use multiple WiFi range extenders.
However, keep a few things in mind:
- Every WiFi extender will need to be connected and in range of a WiFi router to access the internet.
- Do not connect one WiFi extender to another, because it will cause one of the extenders to not work.
- Each extender will need to have a different WiFi network name from each other to prevent them from connecting to one another.
How Will I Connect My Wireless Devices to the WiFi Extender?
When you have your WiFi extender connected to your router, it’s almost like having two routers to create a larger wireless coverage area.
When you connected your smartphone to your router, you had to go through the WiFi setting on your phone. You choose the network name that corresponded to your router and entered a password to access the internet. You will go through the same process when connecting your wireless devices to your “new router”.
By default, the network name for the WiFi extender will be the same as your routers' name, but with EXT (short for extender) added at the end.
Router Name: Home WiFi
Extender Name: Home WiFi EXT
Remember, if you have multiple extenders you will need to change the default names.
Will My Wireless Devices Switch Automatically Between Networks?
If you are 100% out of your router's range, your wireless device will automatically switch to the extender’s network.
However, there will be some areas where your wireless device will be able to detect both your original WiFi networks and the WiFi extenders network. When this happens, you will have to disconnect and then reconnect from the original network to the extended network and vice versa.
Are WiFi Extenders Secure?
Yes, they use the same security as traditional WiFi: WEP, WPA, and WPA2.
WPA and WPA2 are better to use than WEP. If you want a more secure extender, make sure the extender you get supports WPA or WPA2.
It’s possible to change your encryptions from WEP to WPA or WPA2; it just depends on the type of extender you have.
What Would Be the Best WiFi Extender for My Needs?
Before choosing a WiFi extender, you need to know the types of extenders that are out in the market.
There are three types of WiFi extenders:
Single-Band WiFi Extenders
Single-band extenders only have the capability to transmit a 2.4GHz frequencies. Due to the frequency, the signal has the ability to travel through obstacles like walls, furniture, and floors better. However, many devices like old cordless phones, baby monitors, and microwaves use the 2.4GHz frequency. Due to numerous devices using the same frequency, it can cause you to experience slower speeds. Also, since signal-band extenders receive and transmit signal on the same frequency, they tend to lose 50% of their bandwidth.
Dual-Band WiFi Extenders
Dual-Band extenders are the most common, they have the capability to broadcast 2.4GHz and 5GHz. They are able to use both frequencies to communicate between devices; it will use once to communicate with the WiFi router and the other to broadcast its own signal. As a result, fewer devices interfere with the signal, and you are able to enjoy faster WiFi speeds because they have more bandwidth.
Tri-Band WiFi Extenders
Tri-band extenders feature two 5GHz bands and one 2.4GHz band to provide you with the best WiFi coverage. Your devices will experience the least amount of interference, faster WiFi speeds, and long-range coverage. Tri-band extenders (also known as mesh extenders) are most commonly used for mesh networks - a group of devices that act as a single WiFi system.
Do WiFi Extenders Need to be the Same Brand as My Router?
An extender will work even if you have a Linksys router and purchased a Netgear Nighthawk extender through amazon.
But, regardless of which brand you go with, keep in mind that the extender should match your router's specs.
For example, if you have an ac1200 dual-band router, get an ac1200 dual-band extender. Or if you have a router that supports MU-MIMO, get an extender that supports this technology.
Do WiFi Extenders Really Work?
Short answer: yes, WiFi extenders work.
The location of where you place the extender is key. It should be close enough to the router to get a strong signal, but far enough away to broadcast signal into the desired areas. As long as the WiFi extender is placed in a good spot, you will see an immediate improvement in the rooms you were experiencing dead spots and poor WiFi connection.
You could even test it out.
Before installing your extenders, you can conduct a speed test. You can go into different rooms and test the upload and download speeds. After installing the extenders, conduct the speed test again in the same rooms. Write the results down so you can compare the before and after results.
Why Should I Get a WiFi Extender?
The benefits of owning a WiFi Extender:
- Your WiFi connection will improve in every room.
- They help eliminate dead zones around your home by bypassing walls and building materials that block WiFi signal.
- Your WiFi coverage will double; it can even expand into your backyard.
- All of your wireless devices will maintain a strong signal and experience faster speeds.
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