If you’re among them, you might be wondering if there’s something you can do to extend the range of your WiFi so that you have a strong signal regardless of if you’re standing right next to your router or several rooms away from it. The answer is yes!
Before we explain how to extend WiFi range using an additional wireless device, let’s take a look at several general recommendations to help you get the most range out of your existing WiFi router. The chances are that you won’t even need to purchase a second WiFi router or a WiFi booster to achieve the desired coverage.
Even the best WiFi router available won’t be able to provide satisfactory coverage if it’s positioned poorly. As you may know, the WiFi signal is affected by all kinds of interference, including walls, furniture, electronic appliances, and other wireless devices. While it may seem convenient to hide the router inside a cabinet, the strength of your signal will suffer considerably.
Just like computers and smartphones, routers receive updates from their manufacturers, and it’s important that you install them as soon as possible to keep your router secure and in good working order.
The good news is that most routers make the update process easy, and you should be able to accomplish it directly from the administrator interface. Some routers even have a companion app for Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing you to take care of firmware updates with a simple tap.
Even if the update doesn’t solve your problems with insufficient WiFi range, you can at least be happy, knowing that your router is more secure.
Most WiFi devices today use the 2.4 GHz frequency band, but newer devices also support the 5 GHz band. Because of its higher frequency, the 5 GHz band is able to offer superior speeds and, in some situations, better signal strength. Its biggest downside is its shorter range and inferior ability to penetrate solid objects.
However, if you live in a densely populated area, surrounded by WiFi networks broadcasting on 2.4 GHz, the 5 GHz band is an easy choice. To learn more about nearby WiFi networks and the bands they broadcast on, you can use NetSpot’s Discover Mode, which quickly gathers a wealth of information about all WiFi networks within reach and presents it in the form of an interactive table.
Just like walkie-talkies, all WiFi routers broadcast on a certain channel. In the 2.4 GHz band, there are 11 channels, and the 5 GHz band has 45 channels. That may seem like plenty of channels to choose from, but the reality is different.
Only channels 1, 6, and 11 are spaced far enough from one another to not overlap. The remaining channels can be used, but they are more likely to experience interference resulting in slowdowns, particularly in heavy use.
That’s why you should sign in to your router’s administrator interface and set it to use one of the three non-overlapping channels. Which one? The one that’s used the least by other WiFi networks in your area.
If you have a router with a replaceable external antenna, you can easily improve its performance by getting a better one. The gain of WiFi antennas is indicated in dBi (antenna gain in dB above an isotropic radiator). Many budget routers come with a small antenna with just 2 dBi, and replacing such antenna with a high-gain alternative is guaranteed to provide a significant boost in WiFi range.
To reinforce a particular area of signal weakness, you can point a directional antenna toward it, but you need to keep in mind that other directions may suffer. That said, most router antennas tend to be omnidirectional.
If our general recommendations didn’t help extend the range of your WiFi, it’s time for a more drastic solution: extending WiFi range with another router.
Before you purchase another router and set it up, we highly recommend you check your WiFi coverage using NetSpot so that you have reliable data that you can use to determine whether the change you made produced a desirable result.
If your current router has a free Ethernet port, you can simply connect another router to it with an Ethernet cable and place the new router anywhere you want. Since the maximum recommended length for Cat5e cable is around 100 meters, you can position the new router pretty much anywhere you want.
Because your existing router is almost guaranteed to support and use DHCP, a network management protocol that dynamically assigns an IP address and other network configuration parameters to each device on a network, you can simply connect the new router to it and use it as an access point—no additional configuration required.
Connecting two routers with an Ethernet cable can be a lot of work—not to mention that high-quality Ethernet cables are not exactly cheap. At the cost of some performance, you can extend WiFi range with another router without a cable by setting up the new router as a wireless repeater.
The job of a wireless repeater is simple: rebroadcast the signal from your main router. Unfortunately, not all WiFi routers can work as repeaters, so do your research and select one that can. Alternatively, you can replace the stock firmware with DD-WRT, an alternative router firmware with plenty of useful features.
Extending WiFi range outside is relatively easy, provided you have the right equipment for the job. Because a regular WiFi router wouldn’t be able to survive the exposure to the elements, you need a device that’s meant to be left outside regardless of whether its freezing or raining. We recommend an outdoor WiFi extender, sometimes called a WiFi repeater or access point.
Your outdoor WiFi extender of choice must have a sufficiently high ingress protection (IP) rating, and the temperature range it can withstand must cover even extreme temperatures in your area. When it comes to setting up an outdoor WiFi extender, you simply connect it to power and position it within the range of your indoor WiFi router.
WiFi extenders are also available without any ingress protection for use indoors. Such WiFi extenders are usually considerably less expensive than their outdoor counterparts, and they’re just as easy to install. Some WiFi extenders can take advantage of your home's electrical outlets and use them to transmit data packets.
Regardless of which type you select, make sure to use NetSpot to determine the optimal placement for your WiFi extender so that it extends your WiFi range as much as possible.