- Wi-Fi range extenders rebroadcast the signal from an existing network to increase the reach of your home’s Wi-Fi network.
- Range extenders require an available electrical outlet and must be placed in a location that balances proximity to the existing router and the signal range.
- Range extenders broadcast an entirely new signal with a different SSID, and devices must manually connect to the one with the best signal.
- A better alternative to range extenders is using extra access points or a mesh router, which allow for seamless network transitions and better coverage.
With so many household devices requiring internet access, you may find that your Wi-Fi signal doesn’t reach every part of your home. These are dead zones, and it’s where your current internet signal can’t quite reach. A common solution is to use a Wi-Fi range extender, but many buyers don’t understand how it works.
Although range extenders offer an affordable way to increase your home’s network, they have a major problem you won’t discover until you start using them.
There are far better alternatives, which are as simple as moving your existing router or adding a wireless access point. Keep reading to see how a range extender actually works and why it doesn’t do what you’d expect it to.
Background on Wi-Fi Networks
Before we get to range extenders, let’s review the basics of your home’s network. The internet company’s wiring goes through a modem, which interprets the signal.
Usually, this comes in the form of a cable or telephone wire. Some modems have a router built-in to broadcast the internet signal wirelessly throughout your home. Otherwise, you likely have a separate router that connects to the modem to broadcast the internet signal to other devices.
The problem is that you are limited as to where you can place the modem and router based on the wiring coming into your home. This can leave dead spots in the far areas of your house, which is where a range extender can help.
How Do Wi-Fi Extenders Work?
Wi-Fi extenders are pretty simple devices that take the signal from an existing network and rebroadcast it. All they require is an electrical outlet and an existing wireless network, which makes them easy for a homeowner to set up. The steps below explain how range extenders work and how to set one up in your home.
Step 1: Power Goes into the Extender
Range extenders require power, and the most common ones are small blocks that plug directly into an outlet. Power is one of the most critical factors because it limits where you can plug in a range extender. That brings us to the first limitation of Wi-Fi range extenders: you need an available electrical outlet.
Step 2: The Wi-Fi Extender Connects to an Existing Network
But here is where things get complicated: a Wi-Fi range extender must wirelessly connect to the existing networking. Meaning, it must be on the edge of the current signal.
If you place the extender too far away, it will not be able to connect to the existing network. But you cannot put the extender too close to the current router because it will not broadcast far enough to boost your signal range.
Therefore, you must find a balance when selecting a location. As far as connecting the extender, most devices are simple to set up, only requiring you to sign in to the existing network.
Step 3: The Wi-Fi Extender Receives a Signal From an Existing Network
Once signed in to the existing Wi-Fi network, the extender begins receiving a signal. Keep in mind that older range extenders may be limited to receiving a signal from a 2.4GHz network.
Once you’ve completed the setup process, the range extender begins receiving a signal from the existing network, but it isn’t ready to broadcast it yet.
Step 4: The Wi-Fi Extender Broadcasts a New Signal
The final part of the setup process involves choosing the network configuration of the extender. This is where things start to get confusing for some people.
Most assume the range extender just broadcasts the same signal. In reality, range extenders broadcast an entirely new signal with an SSID that you choose while setting up the device.
This is completely different from a Wi-Fi repeater that uses the same network ID and channel. In most cases, the extended network cannot use the same SSID as the original one.
Another limiting factor is whether the extender can broadcast 5.0GHz or if is limited to 2.4GHz. This is important because some extenders can broadcast both, but not simultaneously.
Step 5: Computers Access the Extended Network
Lastly, wireless devices like computers and tablets connect to the range extender like any other network. Remember that the SSID and password for the extended network may be completely different from those for the regular Wi-Fi signal.
That means the devices cannot seamlessly transition between the original and extended networks. So, you will have to manually connect to the one with the best signal, which is annoying if you go between different parts of the house.
When to Use a Wi-Fi Range Extender
Wi-Fi range extenders are a good option for extending the reach of your network in very specific circumstances. The most common reason to choose one is that they are easy to set up since they require no wiring.
Therefore, they are a good choice if you’re renting or feel uncomfortable running wires in your home. Additionally, range extenders are often a good option for extending the signal to a nearby shop or garage.
It is important to note that range extenders work best with fixed devices, such as a streaming box or a desktop computer. Unlike a phone or a laptop, these devices would not need to switch between the original and extended networks.
A Better Alternative to a Wi-Fi Range Extender
A better option for most homes and businesses is extra access points or a mesh router. The problem is that access points require additional wiring, while a mesh router system is expensive.
You can easily configure an old router as an access point, but you will need to run an Ethernet cable to the existing router. Mesh routers are gaining traction because they work similarly to a range extender.
The TP-Link Deco is a great choice because it receives and broadcasts both 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals at once. Best of all, wireless access points and mesh routers allow users to move around a home without worrying about switching networks.
As you’ve seen, range extenders are a good option in certain circumstances because they are affordable and easy to use.
Just plug it in and follow the setup instructions to instantly increase the reach of your home’s Wi-Fi network. If you want to learn more about extending your network, check out our guide on boosting Wi-Fi signal strength.
|Step 1: Power Goes into the Extender||Range extenders require power, and the most common ones are small blocks that plug directly into an outlet. Power is one of the most critical factors because it limits where you can plug in a range extender.|
|Step 2: The Wi-Fi Extender Connects to an Existing Network||A Wi-Fi range extender must wirelessly connect to the existing networking. It must be on the edge of the current signal. The location of the extender is crucial for its effectiveness.|
|Step 3: The Wi-Fi Extender Receives a Signal From an Existing Network||Once signed in to the existing Wi-Fi network, the extender begins receiving a signal. Older range extenders may be limited to receiving a signal from a 2.4GHz network.|
|Step 4: The Wi-Fi Extender Broadcasts a New Signal||The final part of the setup process involves choosing the network configuration of the extender. Range extenders broadcast an entirely new signal with an SSID that you choose while setting up the device.|
|Step 5: Computers Access the Extended Network||Wireless devices like computers and tablets connect to the range extender like any other network. The SSID and password for the extended network may be completely different from those for the regular Wi-Fi signal.|
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