How to Extend WiFi
May 4, 2020
WiFi connectivity can be a problem, even at home. If you’re living in a large home, it’s possible that your WiFi doesn’t reach every part of it. The good news is, you can boost your WiFi signal to ensure good internet connectivity in every corner of your house. Here’s how to extend the WiFi range so that you never have to face a weak signal again.
What does it mean to boost WiFi signal?
If you have had your WiFi signal drop significantly after moving a few steps, a boost to your WiFi signal is probably what you need. Inside a house, WiFi signals can get disrupted by several things like walls, mirrors and metal objects, or appliances that emit competing signals, such as a microwave oven. Boosting the WiFi signal circumvents all these obstacles and enhances the signal to reach upstairs bedrooms, the basement, even your backyard, improving WiFi connectivity throughout your home.
Why would someone want to extend WiFi?
The biggest reason to extend WiFi range is if you’re unsatisfied with its performance in certain parts of your home. If you have any of the following issues, it’s time to take steps to boost your WiFi signal:
You have WiFi “dead spots”
Your WiFi works perfectly well in the room where your router is, but the further you go from it, the lower your signal gets. There may also be places in your home where there’s no WiFi signal at all.
Your WiFi is slower than the wired connection
When you connect directly to the modem with an Ethernet cable, it’s as fast as it can get. But as soon as you remove the wire and start using WiFi, the speed comes down.
You want WiFi access in your backyard
Your inside connectivity is OK, but when you want to stream some music as you work on your backyard garden, the signal dies down.
You have a large house
A single router powers your large two-story or sprawling single-level house and your WiFi doesn’t properly reach every part of your home. Long-range routers can cover up to 3,500 square feet, but those with shorter range cover much smaller areas.
The issues mentioned above can be caused by a combination of factors which influence the performance of a wireless connection:
Low transmitting power
Unlike cell towers, WiFi routers don’t have very high transmitting powers because they’re meant to cover only your home. If they extended too far, they would not only get expensive but also cause problems for security if people on the streets near your home can connect to it, inviting trouble from freeloaders and hackers. Some low-cost routers struggle to provide a strong signal to even a small apartment, let alone a larger house.
Various objects in your home can partially or completely obstruct WiFi signals, including walls, furniture, ductwork, metal objects and even people. These obstacles have a worse effect on signals with high frequencies, so they affect the faster 5 GHz networks more than the lower frequency networks.
Several household appliances can interfere with your WiFi signal, including radios, microwave ovens, cell phones, etc., as they all occupy the same radio frequency band. Other WiFi signals can also interfere with yours, which is often a problem in apartment buildings or when several houses are close to each other.
All WiFi routers are not created equal. Some cheap routers can barely cover a small apartment, while others can handle larger houses with relative ease. A low-end router can’t power a busy office with several computers connecting to the network, just as a high-end one wouldn’t be necessary for a small apartment. If a low-power router is causing your problem, consider changing it before using the techniques below to boost your WiFi signal.
All this creates a need to boost WiFi signal. Here are some ways to extend WiFi range and ensure great connectivity wherever you need it.
How to boost WiFi signal
Here are some of the best methods you can use to extend WiFi and ensure signal coverage in every part of your home.
Method 1: Optimize your router location
It may sound too simple, but the location of your router matters. Things like exactly where the router is, in your house, what objects are kept around it, and even whether it’s on the floor or ceiling make a difference! Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Move WiFi router to a central location in your house. A WiFi signal extends out in all directions, so you want to take full advantage of that.
Step 2: Make sure not to keep the router on the floor, as that may severely limit your router’s capabilities. Remember: the signals don’t just radiate horizontally.
Step 3: Keep the router away from metal objects. Metals are one of the highest disruptors of WiFi signals, while other materials like wood, glass and plastics don’t have as much effect.
Step 4: It’s also a good idea to keep other appliances in mind as well. Any household appliance which emits electromagnetic radiation, like your microwave oven, your radio system, or your baby monitor, also tends to interfere with the WiFi signal because WiFi works on electromagnetic radiation in the same spectrum as these appliances.
Method 2: Change your antenna
The antennas on WiFi routers are typically not very strong. Besides, most routers come with an internal antenna. There are essentially two kinds of antennas: Omnidirectional, which sends signals in all directions, and Directional, which sends the signal in a single specific direction. In-built antennas are generally omnidirectional. To boost your WiFi signal, consider adding an external antenna.
Step 1: Depending on what you need, you can either replace your existing antenna or add an external one. If you’re facing signal problems in specific spots, it’s best to get an external antenna.
Step 2: Choose a good antenna that suits your needs. Your WiFi signal would probably not be weak in every direction. So to tackle specific weak signal areas or dead spots, get a “high-gain” directional antenna pointed in the direction of the weak spot to get the best results.
Step 3: Follow the installation instructions that come with the antenna to install it.
Method 3: Change the wireless channel
Similar to radio channels, a WiFi signal can be broadcast on multiple channels. Routers usually come with a default of Channel 1 or Channel 6, and most people don’t change it. This can cause congestion on these two channels due to interference with your neighbors’ signals. This is especially problematic in densely populated areas. This issue is easily solved: Find the least congested channel and switch to it. Here’s how:
Step 1: Use a network tool to find the best channel to switch to.
Step 2: To change the channel your router uses, first, login to your router’s web interface or app on your device, as admin. This usually entails connecting your device to the router using an Ethernet cable, if required.
Step 3: Go to the “WiFi settings” page or its equivalent on your router interface.
Step 4: Locate the “WiFi Channel” option. It may be directly visible or on an “Advanced Settings” page. Chances are that the channel will be set to “Auto” or “Default.”
Step 5: Select the desired channel from Step 1 and save the new setting.
Step 6: Restart your router.
Method 4: Keep your router updated
To keep your WiFi running smoothly, it is always better to have the latest updates, both in hardware and in router firmware. If your router predates the latest standard and you’re having problems, it’s time for a hardware upgrade. If you have a router with the latest standard and you’re still facing problems, check for firmware updates. Routers with the newest firmware usually offer better performance and security. Many of the newer routers come with an auto-update feature, but here’s how to update manually:
Step 1: Connect your computer to the router using an Ethernet cable (usually required).
Step 2: Log in to your router’s web interface or app as admin.
Step 3: Look for the “Firmware Update” option on the interface, and select it. This might take some digging, as each router’s interface is different.
Step 4: Wait until your router finds and installs the latest update. When done, restart the router.
Method 5: Use a WiFi extender/repeater/booster
WiFi extenders/repeaters/boosters are simple devices that take a signal from your router and rebroadcast it to a different channel, increasing the range of your WiFi signal to areas of your home where the signal is weak or non-existent. WiFi extenders are easy to install and typically cost less than $200. Here’s how to set up a WiFi range extender for the best results:
Step 1: The location of the extender decides its effectiveness. First, find the optimal spot to keep it. Ideally, it should be close enough to the main router to get a strong signal, but also close enough to the dead or weak zones to boost them.
Step 2: Once the place is decided, plug it in.
Step 3: Follow the directions specific to the router and extender to set it up. Most extenders come with an app to take you through the installation process. With some routers, the process is as simple as pressing the WPS button in both the router and the extender.
Method 6: Switch to a wireless mesh network
Mesh networks use multiple small routers, called nodes, to provide a seamless WiFi connection throughout a house and, if needed, outside. Here, the main node connects directly to the modem and the others pick up its wireless signal, extending it to surround the area they are placed in. With the various nodes in strategic locations through your home, the mesh network covers the entire house with a strong wireless network. One downside of mesh networks is that they don’t come cheap, especially if you have a large home requiring several nodes. But mesh systems are a great way to extend WiFi range. Here’s how to set up a mesh WiFi system:
Step 1: Most mesh WiFi systems require a mobile app and internet connection. Download the system-specific mobile app for setup.
Step 2: Create an account and an administrator password in the app.
Step 3: Decide the location of each router in the network. Make sure to install the main router close to the modem as they would be directly connected using a LAN cable.
Step 4: Place the other nodes in strategic locations around your house such that there are no spots with a weak signal, and no dead spots. Most mesh systems have either a physical LED on each node, or provide in-app signal tests to tell you if your node locations are optimal.
Step 5: Follow the step-by-step instructions in the app to complete the setup.
What do you need to extend WiFi
- Router: If you already have a router, make sure it’s in an ideal location.
- Antenna: External “high-gain” antennas provide better coverage than the ones routers typically come with.
- A network tool: If you want to try changing your WiFi channel, a network tool can be used to find out which WiFi channel is the least congested, and hence the best to shift your WiFi signal to.
- Your router’s application: Routers typically require you to install an app on your device to change their settings. Many routers also permit you to change settings on their web interface. This is required to change the channel your router uses. You also need this if you plan to update its firmware, though some routers allow updates through their web interfaces.
- WiFi extender: The best WiFi extenders can boost your WiFi signal and ensure great connectivity throughout your home, eliminating any dead spots. Some of the best WiFi range extenders available are:
- Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 Tri-band WiFi Extender: It’s highly powerful and provides the considerable benefit of keeping the same SSID as the main router, which saves you the hassle of changing your WiFi network every time you go to a different room. It’s on the expensive side, but worth it.
- D-Link DAP-1650 WiFi Range Extender (AC1200): This WiFi range extender is easy to install and has strong 5 GHz performance. It’s also reasonably priced at around $90.
- Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ WiFi Range Extender: Offers similar advantages to the Netgear Nighthawk X6S but at a lower price of $99 and slightly more compact in size.
- TP-Link AC1750 WiFi Range Extender (RE450): This is a powerful WiFi range extender that can expand WiFi signals to other rooms and even to other floors of the house. It’s on the bulky side, but comparatively affordable.
- Mesh WiFi system: It usually comes as a set of three or more routers, depending on the size of your home and your requirements. If the location of each router in the system is optimal, such a system provides a seamless wireless connection throughout your home. Here are some of the best WiFi mesh systems available:
- Google Nest WiFi: It’s a powerful system, providing coverage of up to 3,800 square feet with just a $229 two-piece system. Its sleek design, high-speed capabilities and bonus smart speaker make it well worth the price.
- TP-Link Deco M5: Although not as fast as some of the others, this mesh network system is a great value for the money. At only $169 for a three-piece system, it’s also easy to install and manage — ideal for those who don’t want to get too technical.
- Linksys Velop Tri-band: It’s on the expensive side, but it offers the great benefit of convenience. Setup is hassle-free, and it can cover 6,000 square feet without any additional units.
- Samsung SmartThings WiFi: This three-pack system is a little less powerful than its counterparts, covering only about 4,500 square feet. Its main strengths are excellent performance at close range and affordability.
1. How far is a WiFi range extender’s reach?
The distance a signal will reach when given a boost from a WiFi extender depends on the quality and strength of the extender itself. But typically, up to 50 feet. However, extenders often cut the bandwidth of the signal by half, hence causing the speed to reduce as you go farther from the extender.
2. What is the difference between a WiFi extender, a WiFi repeater, and a WiFi booster?
Functionally, not much. The difference is in how they work and sometimes, in the performance. WiFi extenders take the existing signal and rebroadcast it on a different channel through a wired connection. A WiFi repeater picks up the signal wirelessly on the same frequency and rebroadcasts it on the same channel. As extenders use a different channel than the main router signal, they typically have greater transmitting power than repeaters. “WiFi booster” is just a blanket term that refers to extenders and repeaters.
3. Where should a WiFi extender be placed?
A WiFi extender works best where it can pick up your router’s WiFi signal and direct the signal out to weaker spots. Place the extender midway between the router and the location where you want the signal. It also helps if the main router and the extender are not separated by a wall or door, and when metal appliances don’t obstruct the signal.
4. Will Mesh WiFi work if I have brick, stucco, or concrete walls in my house?
Yes! Mesh systems work in houses under all conditions. Most routers are affected by environmental factors like wall material and thickness, and other obstructions. That’s why the locations of routers in a mesh network are very important for effective boosting of the WiFi signal.
The bottom line
There are numerous ways to extend WiFi range, some very simple and some quite complex. When trying to boost your WiFi signal, consider the pros and cons of each method against your budget and household needs.