With so many complicated guides and tech comparison mumble jumbo around WiFi Range Extender, we have put together some easy to follow best practices and walkthrough tips. These simple explanations will help you determine what wifi extender to buy and how to actually place your Wifi Range Extender.
Wifi Range extenders work to improve the signal strength for different purposes such as gaming (consoles like ps4 or xbox) or smart TV streaming, or general laptop and mobile devices like iPad or iPhone. Imagine that they either provide another route of your devices to reach the originating router, or “extended” the range of signals that your routers can reach.
Please note that this WiFi Range Extender information and setup guide is written especially for general users who do not know too much about tech or how to optimize it to the maximum speed. The information explained here on the pros and cons provided here is intentionally written to be general and easy to understand. In short, we will help you to make it work to your advantage and help you with your internet setup.
We will go through some basic and general tips. These practical solutions should help you decide the best methods and installation setup to solve some of the most common wireless range extender issues and questions.
It should be noted that this guide will not go into the “actual” installation process as different brand of Wifi Extenders have different installation interfaces.
How Does WiFi Range Extender Work
Most home use consumer wifi extenders are wireless “repeaters”. The range extenders receive wireless and “repeat” the signals into the air. Now because you can place the repeaters away from your main router, having a range extender can effectively increase the overall coverage of your wireless transmission.
However, the increase in area coverage comes with a cost. The “overlapped” or common areas between the repeater and the router can suffer performance issues. As the same transmissions occur over the same frequency and channel.
Signal Booster vs Range Extender
Some people confuse signal booster with most commercially sold retail wifi range extenders. Signal boosters are usually attachments to your router or computer devices to amplify or increase the signal strength. Range extenders are typically stand-alone devices that repeat the signals of your network.
Signal boosters can be limited in ways that even if your routers can send signal to the devices, your client devices may not have the ability to transmit that information back. However, they can be great for 1 way transmissions. Signal boosters can still suffer performance issues if the wireless signal is blocked by multiple walls or metals.
Determine If a Range Extender Will Help
Do you actually need a Wifi Extender or a Router Upgrade or Placement Optimization? The first rule of thumb router wifi extender is really an “extension” of your router, but if the source (router) is bad or old, having a Super Fast Wifi extender will not help much speed or performance. It can actually potentially make your wifi connection worse or slower than before.
Consider upgrading your router first if your router is old or slow using older speed standards. For example, at the time of writing this guide, you should upgrade your router if you are still using a 802.11G only connection. Consider upgrading to a router setup with N / AC may be the best as AC is the highest accepted standard at the time of writing.
Next, consider optimizing your router’s physical location if possible. Consult our Router Placement Guide for some practical tips. After you have made sure that your home router is running optimally with decent upgrades, you should then consider setup Wifi Extenders to cover the deadspots around your household.
Finally, because of the performance issues that occur with having Range Extenders, you should almost never setup multiple wifi Range extenders within the same area. As the signals that they transmit can interfere with each other.
Choosing Your Wifi Extender Brands and Model
Without digging deeper into the brands or best models of Wifi Extenders, as this guide is not intended as a comprehensive Wifi extender buying guide, we will simply suggest you purchasing the same branded Wifi Extender as your router. For example, if you have a netgear router, buy a netgear wifi extender. And use a motorola wifi extender if you have a motorola router.
The reason behind this simple recommendation is that although WiFi is a standardized technology, different manufacturers can still design or code things a little differently. Some manufacturers implement minor differences or “features” to boost their performances and may use different technological wording or terms.
These small differences can cause unforeseen errors or problems that are hard to diagnose down the road. Compatibility is the number one consideration when picking out your ideal wifi extender. Save yourself potential hassle by simply going for the same brand setup. This way you only have to deal with 1 set of terms or even customer support rather than having to cross reference and research.
So if you are “renting” a modem/router combination from a Cable Company such as Comcast, Time Warner or At&t’s U-verse. Simply check the brand of that router, and opt to purchase the same branded wifi extendesr.
Getting the Right Extender Speed
Your next option is the speed rating of the Wifi Extender. In general, you should always choose the same speed rating as your router. Your entire WiFi network is only as fast as the slowest link, this means that you will have wasted resources by having a slower node or access point within your extended WiFi network.
This means that if your router is running on 802.11N network, you will need to have a Extender having N or higher. For example if you have a N300 rated router, you should use a N300 rated extender, and the same for N600 router + N600 Wifi Extender.
And if your router is running on 802.11AC, you will need to have an AC enabled extender or else your network will be slowed down to the slowest link.
Optimal WiFi Extender Placement
After buying the best Wifi Extender suited for your need, your next task is to actually install it and place it in the right place. Having the wrong or bad physical placement is the number one reason why your internet disconnect or dropping connection often.
First of all, think of your WiFi extender as an access point or another “pseudo-router” that relays information from your devices to your main router wirelessly. This means that you will need to follow all the best practices of a Router Placement.
Secondly, ensure that a full connection is available between your wireless extender “to” the main router. If the wireless connection between your WiFi extender to the router is slow or weak, your speed is limited to the slowest connection even if your devices have full bar connection to the Wifi Extender, you will also lose connection often.
If the signal between the extender to the router is not stable and drops often, that means your relayed signal to the main router will be unstable and dropped accordingly.
Your next step is to figure out the best location for the Extender to actually reach the deadzones around your house. Think about the areas that you spend the most time with your devices, then make that calculated choice. Some extenders have directional antennae to help you reach those spots and you should use that to your advantage.
Setting Up Wireless / Frequency and Channel and Security Login
When you are setting up a Wifi Extender, you will usually need to select the same wireless frequency and bandwidth channel.
Next, make sure that the security profile is the same for both your router and the range extender. For example, if you are using WPA2, make sure that the security level is the same. You typically do not need the same wifi password, however, having the same password can help you manage your network much easier.
WiFi Extender with Same or Multiple SSID
When you are setting up your Wifi network range extender, some extender models offer you the ability to use the same or different SSID.
We recommend you to use a different SSID than your main router even if you have the choice to use the same SSID. The reason is that having different SSID’s can ensure a proper connection between your device to the “right” place. Many connection problems can arise when you take roaming into consideration when you are moving around with your mobile device inside the house.
Your mobile devices such as Google Android phone or Apple iPhone typically keep a wireless connection even when it is weaker. In short, when you have the same SSID for both the WiFi extender and the router, your mobile devices will almost always stick to the weaker one instead of disconnecting you and switch to the stronger one.
Your mobile devices is usually setup so that it will “look” for a new wifi connection when the existing one drops below a certain rating.
When you have both main router and the range extender with different SSID’s. You will have much easier time to “force” your devices to connect to the wireless node that makes the most sense.
For example, you have a router setup in the living room next to the TV. You installed a Wifi extender by the kitchen since your wifi connection for the bedrooms upstairs on top of the kitchen are much weaker. The poor signal may be caused by the piping between the first and second floor. You are able to achieve much stable connection by using this setup.
However, when you first walk into the house, your phone automatically connects to the stronger wifi signal inside the living room. It keeps the connection alive even when you are upstairs inside your bedroom instead of switching to your Wifi Extender in the kitchen. This failure to roam and switch will then slow your internet connection down whenever you use your devices in the bedroom. Since your devices never switch to the range extender even if it offers better signal strength.
This means that if you use your mobile devices more often inside the bedroom, consider setting the main router’s password security login to “non-autmatic” to improve your overall experience. And if you have the same SSID for both the Extender and the router, this can be tough to do without changing some complicated device settings.
WiFi Extender with LAN Port or “Hardwire”
If your WiFi extender has LAN ports and its actually in a position where you can hardwire ethernet cable connection. You should always do it. By routing some of the wireless connection into hardwire, you free up some of the air time and generally improve the speed of your entire network.
This is true for the devices that exist within the overlapped area between your router and range extender, it makes sense to try to hardwire them wherever possible. This can prevent the wireless packets being transmitted duplicated times between your devices.
With our previous example with the living room and bedroom, let’s say you also have a TV inside the kitchen, it can be beneficial to hardwire the streaming devices such as Apple TV or Chromecast to the range extender. Instead of connecting the devices wirelessly to either the main router or the range extender.
Prioritize Utilizing Main Router Instead of Extender
If your client device is having the same signal strength from both the main router and the range extender, always connect to the main router’s SSID instead of the range extender. You should do this if your devices tend to stay in one spot and do not roam.
By connecting directly to the main router, you avoid having duplicate broadcasts done by both your device and the range extender. Only switch to the wifi range extender when you actually need wireless to work for the “dead zone” location intended.