The advantages of a wireless network do come with some additional considerations that are absent in a wired network configuration. One of the most important factors that need to be addressed when setting up a wireless network is the range of the WiFi signal.
The ability of the signal to reach and adequately serve your users is the reason that a WiFi network was constructed in the first place. If the signal is weak or non-existent in portions of your intended coverage area your WiFi network needs to be tweaked. One of the primary ways to address this problem is to boost the WiFi signal.
There are several reasons that you might want or need to extend the WiFi range that you currently are achieving.
When faced with the need to extend the range of your WiFi network there are a number of options from which to choose. Some are simple and do not involve the purchase of any additional equipment. In other cases, you may need to make a financial investment to provide the WiFi range that your users require.
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 get the desired WiFi coverage.
Here are some methods that may extend the WiFi range and coverage of your network without spending a dime.
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.
Simply finding a new location for your wireless router can have a dramatic impact on your WiFi signal for a variety of reasons. You should strive for a central location that is free from physical obstructions like walls and doors if possible. Don’t keep your router in a closet or a desk drawer if you hope to realize its true potential signals range.
Try to place it as high as possible, with a line of sight to all devices that will be connected to it. While this is not always totally feasible, getting as close as you can to this goal will help you extend the range of your WiFi router.
You can easily find a better place for your router to extend your WiFi range using a WiFi analyzer and heat mapping tool like NetSpot. With this useful software application, you can visualize the strength of your wireless signal on a map and easily see all areas of signal weakness.
Keeping your device’s firmware current can help you obtain the best WiFi signal that the router can provide. 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.
Depending on the manufacturer there are different methods that need to be used to update your firmware. 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.
And some routers can be configured to automatically update the firmware. If your router is in that category, it is strongly recommended that you take advantage of the auto updates. 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.
Dual frequency routers offer you the choice of 5.0GHz and 2.4GHz bands. You might find that switching to the 5.0GHz band improves your WiFi range as it will incur less interference from other electronic devices since the frequency is used less often.
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, but 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, so it's important to use the least congested non-overlapping channel available in the 2.4 GHz band.
Fortunately, far more channels are available in the 5 GHz (45 channels) and 6 GHz bands (seven 160 MHz, fourteen 80 MHz, twenty-nine 40 MHz, and fifty-nine 20 MHz channels). As a result, issues with their overlapping are much less common.
In any case, a WiFi analyzer such as NetSpot can survey your own network as well as other networks whose signals may overlap with yours and make it easy to determine which channel you should use.
Once you know which channel is the most suitable, you can sign in to your router’s administrator interface and configure it to use it. Your router will then restart to apply the new settings.
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 you have exhausted the free methods of extending your WiFi range to no avail it might be time to consider purchasing some additional equipment in order to improve your WiFi coverage. There are a number of different ways you can do this.
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.
Basically, you are using the second router to catch the WiFi signal and push it to previously unreachable parts of your home or office.
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.
In a similar manner to a second router, a WiFi extender or booster also takes the original signal and repeats it to extend its reach. 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.
They come in a variety of styles including extenders that simply plug into a nearby electrical wall outlet and can solve the problems of an inadequate WiFi range. 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.
If your budget allows it, then we recommend you extend the WiFi in your house by replacing your existing router with a mesh system to create a so-called mesh network.
A mesh network is made up of two or more WiFi access points, typically called nodes, which together blanket a large area with seamless WiFi coverage. By setting up a mesh network in your house, you can gain the ability to roam with your devices from room to room uninterrupted by connection drops and slowdowns.
While often deployed on a large scale by enterprise customers, mesh systems are also readily available to home users, and their installation is so easy that anyone can do it. Here's how to set up a mesh system in a nutshell:
That's how easy it is to set up a mesh system!
Making use of a quality WiFi analyzer like NetSpot can help you tune your WiFi network and determine if the signal is strong enough for your intended coverage area. Let’s take a look at how to use this powerful tool both prior to installing your wireless network and using it to optimize it once it is in place.
You should conduct a site survey using the tool before you purchase any equipment for your WiFi network. The survey can alert you to potential problem areas in your projected coverage area and help you decide on the proper equipment to serve your needs. Plunging ahead with a WiFi implementation without a site survey sets you up for issues that impact your network.
You can also use NetSpot as a troubleshooting tool to address issues encountered by WiFi networks. The app enables you to determine factors like signal strength, overlapping channels, and Internet connection speed. It can pinpoint signal-to-noise ratio problems that may need to be resolved by reconfiguring your network or moving other equipment that is interfering with its performance. Periodic analysis of your WiFi network is an important component in its maintenance and optimization.
There are several ways how you can extend the range of your WiFi for free, including:
To increase the range of your WiFi router, you can download a wireless network analyzer like NetSpot and use it to determine the best location and settings possible.
Yes, you can extend the range of your WiFi with another router, either by connecting the two routers together using an Ethernet cable or by setting up the new router to function as a wireless extender.
You can purchase a WiFi extender or replace your existing router with a mesh WiFi system to create a seamless wireless network extending from your home to your detached garage.
That depends on which router you own, where it is installed, and how it is configured. Sometimes, the best way to extend your WiFi is to move your router somewhere else, but you may also need to replace it with a better model, and anything in between.