Boost Your WiFi with a Range Extender
I love the WiFi 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 WiFi 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 WiFi range extenders. These are small boxes that can extend the range of your WiFi signal by boosting it and retransmitting it.
What brand to buy?
When looking for a WiFi range expander of your own, you don't need to buy from the same manufacturer as your WiFi 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.
Check on setup
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 WiFi box and the expander have WPS (Wifi Protected Setup). Pushing both of those 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 WiFi 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.
Signal strength indicator
How do you know where to put your expander for the best signal boost? Too close to your WiFi 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.
Western Digital's WD My Net Wi-Fi Range Extender ($89) has all the bells and whistles we covered here. We particularly like the 18 LED lights on the side that give you a great indicator of the signal strength. We also recommend Netgear's Universal Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender ($99). It's compact and fits right up against a wall socket or can be placed on a flat surface.
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.