In today’s IT infrastructure lesson let’s talk about extending the range of your WiFi. Why would you want to extend the range of your WiFi? Well, if you have the problem of either losing or getting a weak signal to your WiFi when you go to a certain area of your building then this is the solution to your problem.
Let’s get started with going over how a typical internet connection is set up.
Most internet service providers, if not all will give you a modem to start with and that’s enough if you are looking to only hookup one device to the internet. This device must have an Ethernet port as well because a modem is only the device that gives you internet as it converts analog waves into digital ones that your computer uses. The router on the other hand is what provides you with WiFi and the ability to connect several devices to your internet connection. To get this whole setup complete from a hardware standpoint, just connect your modem to your internet service provider hardware, followed by connecting your router to your modem usually with an Ethernet cable.
Alright so now that a typical internet connection is out of the way, here’s your two options when it comes to extending your WiFi. With the third being more homemade DIY remedies for your problem.
The cheaper of the two methods, this allows you to extend your signal after purchasing. However, it’s cheaper for a reason because instead of having one seamless, strong WiFi reception you get your WiFi network as an extension from your actual network. Meaning you will often need to switch the WiFi you are using on your device. Along with that is the fact that the extension will be slower due to the way the devices communicate with one another. Think like how voltage drop occurs when using long extension cords.
Installation of these devices often involve plugging them into the power outlet of the area that you are wishing to extend your WiFi to. Following this, assuming it’s plugged in properly is a quick setup that involves you going into your WiFi networks and finding the newly extended WiFi signal that has not yet been connected to your main router’s signal. A couple of clicks or taps later and your newly extended WiFi is ready for use. Keep in mind that as mentioned before, to use it you will need to manually switch over when you wish to use the extension.
This route could set you back as little as 25$ if you only need one extension and are looking to buy only the highest rated one on amazon.
Which by the way is: The NETGEAR N300 WiFi Range Extender (EX2700)
Here's a review, complete with how to set it up.
The more expensive option, this allows for a seamless extension of your WiFi without the use of an actual extended wi-fi network. This means one continuous strong WiFi signal throughout. The way this method works is through nodes. You purchase a set of nodes and connect one of them to your modem. You then place the other nodes in areas that have poor WiFi reception. Now instead of going into your WiFi settings and switching over to the extended network, your device will receive a signal that transitions to stronger ones; broadcasted from the nodes as it sees fit. Not only that but overall internet speed improves compared with going with the signal extender option. This is because the nodes don’t need to communicate back to a main router. Instead think of each node as it’s own router, meaning that distance and signal strength to the main one is no issue.
Here's a video that explains it in better detail
Now just to make clear, this option is many times more expensive. Take for example of how the most popular one which is made by google (linked here) will set you back more than two hundred dollars. Even the lower lesser known end of these products with questionable reliability such as this one will set you back almost a hundred dollars.
If all you’re looking to do is boost your signal strength in said problem room by a single bar, or perhaps try your hand and just getting one in it while there’s none; then these might just be the low-cost solutions for you.
- The placement of your router could be the thing stopping you from getting full coverage. This is especially true if you put it in an enclosed space such as a cabinet or something similar. For best reception put it in a place that meets as much as possible of the following criteria:
i. Central location
ii. No metal objects surrounding it
iii. No concrete or brick walls surrounding it
iv. Not near a microwave
v. High up placement
vi. Upward positioned antenna for vertical reach, sideways for horizontal
- For a purely extra boost of signal you can try an interesting hack that involves a soda can or something similar. Perhaps you can get yourself a nice cold beer before you start this. To increase the range of your router, have an empty can, a tool to cut said can, and tape. Then watch the following video:
3. If you have an old router lying around you might be able to turn it into a pseudo WiFi signal extender. To see how to do this watch the following video:
If you have a large office space and value having the ability to have consistent internet, then spend a little extra and go with the option of mesh WIFi. However, if the access to the internet on devices in rooms that receive poor reception isn’t too much of a concern then you can save yourself a bit of money and just go for the signal extenders. Slower speeds in rooms that don’t rely on WiFi usage don’t particularly warrant the extra spending. And finally, if you’re just looking to improve the signal just a wee-bit then you may want to try one of the DIY solutions. They’re practically free but you run the risk of your router looking unprofessional with a can over it. Of course if this sounds too complicated for you then you can hire people to do it for you too. Perhaps a managed IT provider?