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Boost Your WiFi with a Range Extender

posted by Dan O'Halloran on January 15, 2014 in Computers and Software, Computers & Accessories, Internet & Networking, Guides & Reviews :: 11 comments

I love the Wi-Fi service available in my home. I have my PC, my smartphone and my tablet hooked up to it so I can check my email or surf the web from anywhere in the house. Well, almost anywhere.

The Wi-Fi box is installed towards the back of my place and the further I go towards the front of the house, the worse the signal. If I try to do much more than check email in my front room, it takes forever. Streaming YouTube or Netflix is out of the question.

Fortunately, this is why they make Wi-Fi range extenders. These are small boxes that can extend the range of your Wi-Fi signal by boosting it and retransmitting it.

What brand to buy?

When looking for a Wi-Fi range expander of your own, you don't need to buy from the same manufacturer as your Wi-Fi box (though it doesn't hurt, either.) The features you are looking for are easy set up, matching frequency band (2.4 and/or 5Ghz) and a signal-strength indicator.

Two-button set up

If you aren't especially tech savvy, you'll want to stay away from extenders that require you to fiddle around with its internal settings through a web browser. Watch out for any product that comes with a CD or software.

The easiest set up is if both your Wi-Fi box and the expander have WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). Pushing the WPS buttons on both your Wi-Fi box and your extender at the same time allows the systems to talk to each other and take care of the setup without you having to muck around with the settings.

Match the frequency

Is your Wi-Fi box running on a 2.4 or 5Ghz band? Make sure the extender matches. If you have a choice, boosting a 2.4Gz signal will go further, but boosting the short-range 5Ghz signal will be stronger. Dual-band extenders cover both.

Signal strength indicator

How do you know where to put your expander for the best signal boost? Too close to your Wi-Fi box and you won't get the best coverage. Go too far and the weakened signal won't do you any good. Look for extenders that give an indication of signal strength so you can find just the right spot.

Netgear WN2500RP Dual Band Wi-Fi Range ExtenderOur recommendation

Netgear's WN2500RP Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender ($79.50 on Amazon) has all the bells and whistles we covered here. We particularly like the LED lights that give you a great indicator of the signal strength. 

That's all there is to it. With an extender in place, you can be streaming music in your garage or checking Facebook on the porch in no time. But what if an extender can't get the Wi-Fi to the room you want? Then it's time to consider a powerline adapter kit.

 

TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter KitWi-Fi extender alternative

A powerline adapter creates a wired connection from your router box to the room you need it without having to run a cable between the two areas. It does this by using the existing electrical system already built into your house.

It's as simple as plugging one adapter into a power outlet next to your router and using an ethernet cable to connect them. Then plug the second adapter into an electrical socket in the room where you need it and plug another ethernet cable from that one into whatever computer, game console or smart tv requires an internet connection. Pair the two adapters by pressing the buttons on the front of them and you're good to go.

A powerline adapter will likely provide a faster internet connection than a wi-fi repeater, though it will depend on how your house is wired. It is ideal if you ware only trying to connect one device that has an ethernet port.

If this sounds like the option for you, we recommend the TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit ($40 on Amazon). It is small, powerful, secure and has an energy-saving mode. You can buy extra adapters if you want a signal in more than one room.

[Updated Jan 14, 2014]

[Frustrated woman image via Shutterstock]

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Discussion loading

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try this before spending a $

From Kdog on February 27, 2013 :: 12:22 pm

As an IT consultant my first place to check for wireless issues is a free app on my droid phone called wifi analyzer.  I’ve seen dramatic affects just by choosing a “better channel” recommended by the app.  Technically its as simple as a log in to the router and change the channel.

At home in suburbia, the same holds true.  Easy fix.

The one gotchya is the app does not show “hidden” or “non-broadcast” networks (unless you are signed into it).  However, I have found the recommended channels does take into acoount the interference from the hidden networks.

Changing the channel may or may not help, but its free, simple and worth a try prior to buying any additional equipment.  It will NOT be equivalent to a range extender in signal strength, but may get you by.

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Great info - does a cell coverage extender exist too?

From Donna on February 27, 2013 :: 12:40 pm

Thank you this is great info. I will share with others. The wireless seems to work great throughout my condo, but unfortunately it seems I need to stand at the ends of the bldg., on one foot, pointing south to get coverage for my cell phone.
Do you know if an extender also exists for this?

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The Only Way To Go !

From Dale L Bailey on March 09, 2013 :: 8:43 am

WITH THESE TWO ITEMS HERE I HAVE FOUND THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO !


http://usa.asus.com/Networks/Wireless_Routers/RTAC66U/


http://www.ampedwireless.com/products/sr20000g.html

Range is unbelievabile all through my house and this home is just a little under 3000 sq ft . Three stories with the Router on the third floor and the Range Expander on the first floor .

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Turn off DHCP and lock the IP address down

From Patrick McFadden on March 09, 2013 :: 10:41 am

Last year I installed a WIFI extender and had some issues, sometimes a message that you cannot have to IP addresses that were the same or I could not log into the extender. After some research I found out I had to lock down the IP address on the extender: turn off DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) on the extender by typing in the IP address and navigating through the menu on the extender and set the IP address and DNS address’s. And of course a soft reboot of the extender. When I check the status on the main router (usually IP address 192.168.1.1) the extender came up as STATIC. After doing this, I have had not one issue and the security camera’s and laptop in the back garage are all on-line, all the time. If you get a dual band router you must configure each band width as a separate IP address and lock them down as well.

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Experience with D-Link DIR-505

From Patrick on March 11, 2013 :: 11:23 am

Anyone have any experience with a D-Link DIR-505 Multifunction Travel Router?  This device’s main selling point is that it is small and can easily be used in hotels or other places where you want to set up your own, secure wireless net.  But it can also act as a repeater/extender, which is the main reason I bought it.  It is simple to set up and when I set it up as a repeater, it seemed to work quite well. Using it as a repeater, you give it the same SSID and password as your main router, so my iPad and laptop didn’t need to be told about connecting to a new network.
But when I powered down my desktop computer and cable modem/router, as I do every night, and then powered them up in the morning, strange things happened. The first thing I noticed was that Windows 7 said I was now connected to a new network and asked if I wanted it to be classified as Home, Public, or whatever.  I was puzzled why I was now on a new network, but selected Home, since I wanted the usual file and printer sharing options.  But then I found that my iPad was not getting any internet access.  It was still connected to a LAN, apparently via the DIR-505, which did not seem to be connected now to my main router.  The desktop PC, which has a wired connection, was still getting to the internet, but apparently not seeing any other devices.  I unplugged the DIR-505 and restarted my cable modem/router and everything was OK.  My iPad was again getting to the internet, though with a somewhat weak signal, which was the reason for my getting the DIR-505 in the first place.
Anyone know why this situation occurred and what I might do to avoid it if I want to continue using this DIR-505?

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airport express

From mbaldwin on January 16, 2014 :: 3:23 pm

If you have an apple airport wifi system in your house, extending the range couldn’t be easier. Just buy any additional airport product (express, extreme or time capsule). plug it in to a power supply and run the airport utility from your laptop or mac. It does everything for you. Just did this a few weeks ago and was amazed at how automatic it was.

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Mixing Brands of Wireless Extenders

From Sportsjunkie on February 14, 2014 :: 10:56 am

Can you mix different brands of router/wireless extenders? I have Brand A router. I already have Brand B wireless extender. Can I use another Brand C wireless extender? To sum it up, 1 router and 2 wireless extenders and all 3 are different brands. Is this okay?

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Mix It Up !

From Dale on February 14, 2014 :: 11:10 am

I know of no reason why not . As long as your router sees it go for it.

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Making Choice

From Dale on February 17, 2014 :: 8:11 am

Links you have provided never open ?

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Making Choice

From Dale on February 17, 2014 :: 8:20 am

Sorry they finally opened , I would go with the faster one myself. Your laptop does not have built in Wi-Fi ? 

http://www.sfcable.com/AD-WL-01.html

Those are really not range extenders any way just wifi connectors or just antenna your router will more than likely see them .

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