Boost Your WiFi with a Range Extender
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'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.
Wi-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]