Depending on the layout of your home and the location of your wireless router, it becomes difficult maintaining a strong Internet signal throughout your residence. This problem becomes obvious when trying to stream videos or other types of rich media far from your router. In this situation, WiFi extenders provide a great option to prevent buffering and poor video resolution.

In this guide, we cover the basics of WiFi extenders. This includes how they work and tips for using them properly to optimize the WiFi signal in your home. We also look at other tips and tricks that you can use to increase the range of your router and ensure full coverage.

What is WiFi?

WiFi is a type of radio signal using radio waves to transmit a signal from your router to your device. Note that WiFi is compatible with Ethernet cables. Essentially, these are the wired counterpart to the wireless WiFi signal.

Contrary to popular belief, “WiFi” is not short for “wireless fidelity.” However, the term’s similarity to the words “hi-fi” and “lo-fi” led many to think so. The term was actually coined by a brand agency in the late 1990’s and is surprisingly meaningless. The agency simply needed a better, more consumer-friendly name than the technical term for WiFi’s signal protocol: IEEE 802.11.

Like other radio signals, certain materials block WiFi. Additionally, certain locations and geographic positions make it harder to transmit. For example, driving through a parking garage while listening to AM radio sometimes causes interference. The concrete obstructs the waves, making the signal break up or drop out entirely. WiFi is similarly susceptible to obstruction, and as a fairly concentrated signal, it uses a smaller range.

Why is my WiFi signal weak?

A number of factors cause a weak WiFi signal making problems difficult to diagnose. Before buying a WiFi range extender, first figure out the cause of your WiFi troubles.

Does your router affect Internet speed? Absolutely. When your WiFi device lies too far from the router, buying an extender is not the answer. When dealing with connection loss, buffering, or an inability to connect, check out these troubleshooting steps:

  • First, determine whether the problem is with your WiFi or your device. Try to connect using a different device. If the WiFi won’t load on your laptop, but loads just fine on your phone (and your phone is connected to the WiFi), then the problem is likely with your laptop.
  • If the problem is with your device, simply reboot it. Cycling the device helps refresh any blockages preventing a connection to the WiFi. Also verify the device’s network settings to ensure that WiFi connectivity is on.
  • If this device’s WiFi works, consider your router. Again simply reboot the router. Either use the power button, if available, or unplug the router, wait a few seconds, then plug it back in.
  • If a problem still exists, note that some routers have hard reset functions. This approach typically requires using a paper clip or pin to press a small button in a hole on the back of the router. Press it, then simply let the router restart itself. Look up your specific router model to ensure no further actions are required.
  • Finally, if nothing works, call your ISP. A repair technician likely needs to make a visit.

If your WiFi works properly but the signal becomes weak the further you get from your router, boosting the router’s signal strength becomes critical. In that case, consider purchasing a WiFi extender.

What is a WiFi Range Extender?

A WiFi range extender simply repeats the signal emitted by your router. It boosts the router’s signal, extending the WiFi connection over a broader area. WiFi range extenders offer a relatively inexpensive way to spread your wireless signal throughout your home.

Expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $150 for a decent model. They typically plug directly into a wall socket, so place the unit close to your home’s most bandwidth-intensive Internet activity. Close to a home entertainment center makes perfect sense.

Many extender models support dual band routers. This lets you extend the signal of both networks at your home, including the 2.4G and 5G networks. If your router and range extender both support WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) technology, a simple button push on both devices transfers the network password information to the extender. That makes it easy for someone accessing your network using the extender, provided they know the password.

Look for your network name on your streaming device, usually appended with an “EXT.” Simply log on with your password, and commence viewing. Additionally, be sure to perform a quick speed test to verify the Internet speed through the extender supports HD video. In most cases, the improved wireless signal strength makes a noticeable difference in Internet performance.

How do WiFi range extenders work?

How do WiFi range extenders work? They function in a similar manner as routers, but without being the origin of the WiFi signal.

Setting up your WiFi extender

The setup for your specific model of WiFi extender depends on the brand and model. However, expect some general similarities in most WiFi range extenders. Follow these general setup rules to help your extender work as efficiently as possible.

  • After purchasing the device, simply unbox and plug in the extender. Look for indicator lights that turn on at this point, showing a functioning WiFi extender.
  • Usually, the extender emits a default signal; likely the name of the brand, plus EXT or some other abbreviation.
  • Follow the included instructions to find the website that allows you to interface with the extender. Using a code, setup your administrator credentials.
  • After completing the setup, most models let you connect your extender to the main source of WiFi using the administrator portion of the setup website.
  • This creates a new network based on your original WiFi network.

The benefits of WiFi extenders

After understanding how WiFi and WiFi extenders work, it helps to learn the benefits of installing an extender at your home.

Check out these advantages to help decide whether a WiFi extender makes sense for your situation:

  • WiFi extenders boost your network, creating a larger area of signal coverage.
  • Larger homes with many rooms and floors experience fewer connectivity issues.
  • Move from room to room without losing the signal.
  • Having a wider signal decreases the chances of dead zones.
  • Those with separate guest suites simply extend the range of their WiFi to accommodate the space.
  • Backyard WiFi access is faster, allowing Internet access outside.

Connecting a myriad of devices in your home remains another benefit of WiFi extenders. When embracing the Internet of Things at your residence, this makes it easier to control distant IoT devices. In short, range extenders help optimize the performance of your digital smart home.

Most of the major companies producing routers, like Linksys and Netgear, also manufacture range extenders. Research the various models online or at a store to determine which model offers the best performance for the price. If you live in a large house, a range extender provides the best option to improve your home network performance.

Tips & tricks: How to place a WiFi extender

After purchasing a WiFi range extender, it becomes time to set it up. Check out these tips and tricks letting you fully enjoy the benefits of extended WiFi. Finding just the right spot for your router and extenders takes some work, but it’s worth it in the long run.

  • Place your router in or near the rooms where the Internet gets regular use. For instance, when remote working, a home office becomes the ideal place to set up your router. Also, a home theater room is another valid option.
  • After setting up the router, think about optimal locations for the extender. A sweet spot is close enough to the router for a strong signal, but not too close.

Most routers reach between 150 and 200 feet, depending on the walls in your home and other factors. Ensure that your extender fits within that range for best results.

  • WiFi range extenders are expensive devices, so keep them in a secure location. If installing an extender in the kitchen, plug it in far away from the sink counter. Preventing splashes becomes critical. Also keep it away from tool benches and power tools in a garage.
  • Also password protect your router and WiFi extender. With the extended range, your network becomes detectable to many more devices. Choose a secure password including a mix of capital and lower-case letters, numbers, and unique characters. This helps prevent hacking.

After installing a WiFi extender, use our WiFi speed test to ensure an excellent signal from the extender and the router. Expect small differences in speed. However, if the speed on your extended WiFi is much slower than the router, consider your extender placement. Is it too far from the router?

Fast, responsive Internet simply improves your quality of life, making work more productive, and entertainment more enjoyable. Don’t sacrifice for less; use Bandwidth Place’s WiFi speed test and informative blog content to ensure you’re getting the Internet service you deserve.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams

Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.