How to use a Wi-Fi extender or Wi-Fi booster, plus other tips to improve your internet
Do you have a spot in your home such as a bedroom or out on the deck where it’s just harder to get a reliable Wi-Fi signal? You’re not alone. Luckily, through better Wi-Fi router placement or tech such as a Wi-Fi extender or Wi-Fi booster, you can easily enhance your internet strength. Here’s what you need to know.
Several things can impact your Wi-Fi signal.
Think of Wi-Fi as a bridge between your devices and the internet. Wi-Fi lets you use your smartphone to send or receive information on your home network rather than on your mobile data plan. To access it, you need a Wi-Fi router, which distributes a signal to your computer, printer, phone, tablet and any other device and creates a network.
Wi-Fi isn’t perfect. The signal gets weaker the longer the distance between you and the Wi-Fi router or the more physical obstacles — such as a corner or a brick wall — between your device and the router.
In a pinch, you can temporarily create a hotspot with your mobile phone to supplement your Wi-Fi. But for a long-term fix, it’s worth it to check whether your Wi-Fi router is placed correctly or whether you can supplement the signal with a Wi-Fi booster.
Check your Wi-Fi router settings and placement.
Like any piece of tech, a Wi-Fi router may be out of date — both the software and the hardware. If the physical router itself is very old, contact your internet service provider about an upgrade. In addition, make sure that the device’s software is current; many times software updates will correct functional issues and boost security.
Tweaking the location of your Wi-Fi router is one way to help improve signal strength. If you can, resist the urge to tuck the Wi-Fi router inside a closed cabinet, and instead find a spot in the center of your home for it. An open shelf with no obstructions — and no other electronics around — is best.
Improve your Wi-Fi with a Wi-Fi booster.
There are 2 different types of simple home devices that can help improve your network’s Wi-Fi strength and both — a Wi-Fi extender and a Wi-Fi repeater — are often referred to as Wi-Fi boosters. These Wi-Fi boosters may be simple desktop accessories or plug directly into outlets. Once set up, both create secondary networks — for example, your original “Network” becomes “Network1” — and your devices can automatically access whichever signal is stronger.
In addition to these add-ons, there’s also a different type of option, called a mesh Wi-Fi system. It blankets your whole house with an improved Wi-Fi network but is more expensive and complicated to set up.
Extend range with a Wi-Fi extender.
The first Wi-Fi booster is a Wi-Fi range extender. A Wi-Fi extender picks up the Wi-Fi signal sent out by your router and lengthens it without negatively impacting overall internet speed. For example, if you get very poor service on a second floor and want to watch YouTube TV at night, you can place a Wi-Fi extender in a bedroom or bathroom. And, you can use multiple Wi-Fi range extenders to increase signal strength in different areas of your home. One key thing to note: check the signal on your router — typically a number such as 802.11 — and find a Wi-Fi extender that matches it.
Add signal strength with a Wi-Fi repeater.
A Wi-Fi repeater is a second type of Wi-Fi booster. This piece of hardware actually has 2 wireless routers — one to grab your existing network and a second which takes that signal to create an enhanced network with a bigger coverage area. To work well, the Wi-Fi repeater should be placed in a spot that already receives a strong signal — say, in the mudroom where it picks up the network from a router in the kitchen. The repeater can then increase the network strength to a deck so that you can work at home if the weather is nice. One tradeoff: the signal is generally strong with a Wi-Fi repeater but the bandwidth may decrease, so response time may lag a bit.
Invest in a mesh Wi-Fi system for advanced home coverage.
What’s immediately different about mesh Wi-Fi systems is the equipment: there’s a router as well as a series of satellite modules. These are placed around your home to create a unified network that covers every room and location. Because of this, a mesh Wi-Fi system means there’s no need to toggle back and forth between networks. However, much of the time just improving your router placement or investing in a less expensive Wi-Fi booster may be enough to meet your needs.
Choose the best way to boost your home’s Wi-Fi.
If you can’t improve the placement of your Wi-Fi router, you have options for tech that can help. If you need better signal in a particular room such as a bedroom, a Wi-Fi extender may be best. If you want to be able to access Wi-Fi more broadly — for example, when you’re outside — a Wi-Fi repeater may be a better match. Finally, if you have a large home needing better Wi-Fi everywhere and you have room in your budget, a mesh Wi-Fi system may be your best bet. Of course, to ensure you’re never without Wi-Fi — as a backup for your home internet or even when you’re not at home — consider a mobile hotspot or jetpack.
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