When You Should Use WiFi Repeaters and Extenders
April 1, 2021
If you’ve been getting a weak WiFi signal in your home, you may have thought about getting a WiFi extender or repeater. There are many of these products on the market, and while they all serve the same purpose, several carry out that purpose differently. Understanding your options as well as your needs will help you choose the product that’s best for you, and enjoy a strong WiFi connection anywhere in your house.
Before you consider buying a WiFi repeater or extender, however, you will need to make sure that you actually need one. If you’ve been having a hard time with your WiFi signal's strength, it could be for several different possible reasons.
Troubleshoot your router and rule out as many potential causes as you can. While you do this, be sure to look for whether your wireless signal is stronger in some parts of your home than others. If you have a weak signal in every room including where your router is located, it’s likely that your router is the problem.
If your devices have a solid WiFi connection when used near your router, but not in other parts of your home, try moving your router. Placing your router in a central location of your home is the best way to get a signal in every corner of your house.
If your router is in a central location and you’re still having trouble connecting to your WiFi in certain parts of your home, it’s likely time to look into a buying a repeater or extender. Let’s talk about what’s available and how to know which option is best for you.
A WiFi repeater that is completely wireless would be installed somewhere between your router and the area of your home that needs a signal boost. They work by receiving your router’s signal and then rebroadcasting it, essentially giving your WiFi a wider area of coverage.
Something to consider about a purely wireless repeater is that it will use a good amount of your bandwidth, much like how using a WiFi router will use more bandwidth than a hardwired connection. This is due to the device having to continuously receive the router’s signal and broadcast its own.
If you need the Internet in a wider area within your home and don’t use a lot of bandwidth to stream TV or play videogames online, a WiFi repeater that is purely wireless would be a good option for you. If you need your signal boosted without having to worry about slower speeds or interference, a device that uses a wired connection might be a better fit for you.
Wired Network Extenders
A wired network extender uses both wired and wireless connections to strengthen your WiFi signal in a room or area where it’s weak. Because of this, your signal can still largely rely on a wired connection, which will always be faster and more reliable than a wireless one.
But rest assured, this doesn’t mean you need to deal with more wires around your home. Many of these WiFi extenders that are wired can use your home’s existing wiring. Multimedia over Coax (MoCA)-based extenders use your coax cabling and Powerline extenders use your electrical wiring. These extenders usually come as a pair of devices: one that you plug into a coax or electrical outlet by your router, and one to plug into a coax or electrical outlet in the area that needs a stronger network connection. This will enable you to bring a strong signal to that area using a reliable wired connection.
If you’re considering using one of these extenders, you should first make sure the existing wiring in your home can accommodate it. If you’re interested in purchasing a MoCA or powerline extender, make sure you have the corresponding outlets available within reach of your router as well as in the area in your home where you plan to strengthen your connection.
If you have the corresponding outlets available in the necessary locations, and if you want to use as little bandwidth as possible, a wired network extender would be a good option for you. However, if you live in a larger house and find that the WiFi signal is not reaching many parts of your home at all as a result, a mesh network would likely be the better option for you.
A mesh network is a home WiFi system that typically includes several routers spread throughout your home, acting as individual nodes. Each node communicates with one another to amplify your home's WiFi signal and to extend its WiFi coverage.
If you live in home that is at least 3,000 square feet, a mesh network would be a great alternative to typical routers and boosters for you to look into. They’re also a recommended option for homes smaller than that if they have obstacles such as metal-framed walls.
Something to consider is that this multi-node setup would replace your existing wireless network and router. Mesh networks are also typically more expensive than repeaters and extenders, so it would only be worth getting one if there are many areas in your house without a strong WiFi signal. If the room or area you’re trying to bring WiFi to can be covered by an extender or repeater, there’s no reason you would need to pay the higher price for a mesh system.
There are several options out there if you're looking for something to help you boost your WiFi signal, and each one has it's own strengths. Hopefully, this has helped you figure out whether or not you need a WiFi booster, and which kind suits you and your home best. You can find any of these devices at either online or at an electronics store near you.