Skip to main content

Do you need a Wi-Fi extender?

If you have a weak Wi-Fi signal in your home, but you know you have a decent router, then you may benefit from a Wi-Fi extender (sometimes called a "booster" or a "repeater"). There are, however, quite a few things to consider before buying one and potentially wasting your money.

How does a Wi-Fi extender work?

Wi-Fi extenders help to boost your Wi-Fi signal by acting as a sort of lightning rod, receiving the signal from your router and broadcasting it to the area of your house that could use a signal boost.

Not all extenders work the same. Some involve two devices that plug into your wall outlets and transfer your connection via your home's electrical wiring. One plugs into your wireless router and the other plugs into an internet-ready device, like a smart TV or laptop.

The other type of extenders are generally known as "wireless repeaters." These comprise two wireless routers: one for picking up the signal, which transfers it on to the second router, which then transmits the boosted signal.

If you're looking for a wireless option to signal boosting, then go with a repeater. We recommend the TP-Link RE200 for most folks, since it's easy to set up and works like a dream. If that doesn't catch your fancy, then definitely check out the rest of our favorites.

What to consider before you buy a Wi-Fi extender

Before delving into the world of wireless extenders, there are a few things you should double-check.

Is your wireless router in an optimal spot?

If your router isn't in a place in your home that's most conducive to a solid signal, then an extender isn't going to help you all that much. Try moving your wireless router around your home until you're completely sure that an extender is necessary.

If it's in a corner of your basement, you may find that moving it to the center of your basement helps. Play around with it and see.

Is your wireless router any good?

First of all, your router should offer 802.11ac support, which is the current standard. You can still buy wireless N routers, but you shouldn't; 802.11ac offers more than twice the maximum speed of 802.11n and is backward compatible with older devices, so don't worry about upgrading and just do it if you haven't already.

Use signal-mapping software and test your speeds

There are apps you can use to help determine just how strong your current Wi-Fi signal is and where in your home it may be dipping. WiFi Analyzer is available for free and can help you find the best placement for your router and the best Wi-Fi channel to use.

You'll also benefit from a speed test, which will let you know if you internet is properly functioning (and giving you at least the speed your were promised when you signed up).

Consider your usage

Are there 10 people with smartphones on your Wi-Fi network, plus a smart TV that's streaming Netflix, a laptop searching the web, and an Xbox connected to Xbox Live? That could be your problem. If your internet isn't fast enough to support many users at once, an extender isn't going to help you.

However, if it's just you, your phone, and Netflix, and Netflix keeps stopping to buffer, then your router sucks or you need an extender.

Is it more practical for you to use a wired connection?

If you absolutely depend on a consistent internet connection, then you may want to consider going with a wired setup. It's the only way to guarantee a decent connection and, unless your ISP is having issues, you shouldn't have any either. Also, any device you remove from your wireless network frees up bandwidth for other devices.

Mike is a staff writer at Mobile Nations and fancies himself a musician and comedian. Keep dreaming, Mike.

45 Comments
  • If the device has a permanent home somewhere, i tend to use powerline. if it moves around, then it's on wireless.... with 1 an extender setup just in case.
  • I had to get a Powerline adapter recently because I kept getting ping spikes while gaming on my computer wirelessly. I couldn't just connect through a wire to the modem/router because it was too far away. I've found that I get the reliability of a wired connection with the Powerline adapter, but I only get around 15-20 Mbps on 100 Mbps internet. But honestly I'll take it because I can actually game without the ping spikes now.
  • You need to be careful with powerline adaptors. I used to use power line adaptors to connect two routers and switches via powerline ethernet and WiFi handshake via WDS (otherwise it's a manual disconnect / delay auto connect when moving from floor to floor). However after a prolonged use, the electricity rings no longer carry any data. So now I have a ethernet cable running from host router to second router and to the switches.
  • Wireless access points are much better than Wi-Fi extenders since Wi-Fi extenders have to receive the connection wirelessly and then re broadcast it wirelessly so the rebroadcasted connected will have the bandwidth halfed. I recommend using Ubiquiti 's UniFi wireless acess points, plug how many you need into your router or switch and you can configure the APs from Unifi's controller software. When you have multiple UniFi APs you can use zero handoff which means you device can seamlessly transfer from one AP to the other. ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap/
  • Is this, by chance, and Eve product?
  • +1.  I came here to say the same thing.  Not mentioned in the article is that extenders/repeaters can effectively half your available bandwidth because of how they work.  In general, half your signal is used by the repeater to communicate with the base station, and the other half to connect to wireless clients.  Optimal setup would be to use an access point rather than extender.  extenders are generally cheaper than access points (which in the world of consumer network equipment is generally another decent wireless router that can be configured as an access point). The downside of an access point is they require a wired connection to the main router (this can be easily solved with a Ethernet over power/powerline adapter).  In short, an extender may work perfectly well for you if your not streaming movies, gaming, or doing anything else where you need as much throughput as you can get.  If you do, i suggest going the access point route.  I have two netgear R7000s - one configured as my main router handling DHCP, NAT, etc. The other is configured as an access point.  Been super happy with it.
  • bought myself a netgear R7000 as well - best decision I ever made, now I get my full 240 mbps on wifi on the 10+ devices connected to it. not the cheapest but no more annoyance over wifi :)
  • Another +1 for UniFi.  I always had WiFi issues in my house, even with 2 routers.  But that caused additional problems with the different bands.  I was looking at some of the new and expensive mesh wifi units on Amazon and I saw the comment about UniFi.  After some research I decided to try that and I couldn't be happier.  For $103, I have a wifi access point that covers the whole house without any issues (I disabled the wifi on my router).  Great solution! 
  • @Rob Cannon, which model did you purchase? The LR model?
  • Re: Rob Cannon,
    I am presently researching a solution for my home. I'm looking at the mesh solutions (Eero and Luma) and UniFi.
    May I ask how you solved your home for only $103 USD? Did you:
    - buy one device, (which one?)
    - place it in the center of your home,
    - run Ethernet cat 6 from the device back to your existing router? Just curious.
    Best Wishes
  • Also since they use POE, you have a lot more flexibility in terms of placement. I'm waiting on 802.11 AC to become more affordable so i can upgrade my network in one go.
  • Re: TechFreak1,
    May I ask, are you saying that the Ubiquity UniFi are not 803.11 AC?
  • Not at all, there are 802.11 AC models. But not cheap; to get the best of 802.11 AC. Everything must be 802.11 AC capable from pci-e cards, laptop, console etc. Otherwise you're not really utilising 802.11 AC to it's full potential. For me that just entails just a handful of machines, consoles are hardwired. I envisage by christmas my network will be bottlenecked by the current set up as none of the temp routers in place support gigbit or 802.11 AC. Only solution for me right now is to build a pfsense box for a proper QOS filtering. So if i'm going to spend on 802.11 AC i'm going to make sure it's able to multiple handle 4k streams with ease.
  • So pretty much a wifi extender with enternet cables all over the place?
  • No good signal
  • You could try a wireless access point. Wireless access points are much better than Wi-Fi extenders since Wi-Fi extenders have to receive the connection wirelessly and then re broadcast it wirelessly so the rebroadcasted connected will have the bandwidth halfed. I recommend using Ubiquiti 's UniFi wireless acess points, plug how many you need into your router or switch and you can configure the APs from Unifi's controller software. When you have multiple UniFi APs you can use zero handoff which means you device can seamlessly transfer from one AP to the other. ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap/
  • Do you guys have any reccomendations for a extender, or wireless bridge router? I have a setup on the second floor that is not all wireless, which would benefit from a wireless router bridge, as 2 of the connections can be wired, and would benefit more probably.
     
  • Wireless access points are much better than Wi-Fi extenders since Wi-Fi extenders have to receive the connection wirelessly and then re broadcast it wirelessly so the rebroadcasted connected will have the bandwidth halfed. I recommend using Ubiquiti 's UniFi wireless acess points, plug how many you need into your router or switch and you can configure the APs from Unifi's controller software. When you have multiple UniFi APs you can use zero handoff which means you device can seamlessly transfer from one AP to the other. ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap/
  • This seems like an giant ad for Wireless Access Points, almost like something an Amazon Mechanical Turk would do.  I only say this because you literally just copied and pasted your same comment 3 times on this site. 
  • @DSR11, to be honest any cheap N routers will suffice. I can put up a guide later. Let me know if that would be useful by PM.
  • All Wifi Extender even though shows strong signal it would reduce the internet to half. I tried TP-Link, Linksys, Trend etc extenders without any reliable internet connection. Also tried powerline but it tends to fail to regain after electricity power goes off and comes back. The best solution I found is to run the cable to the second router and create AP connection and clone the wifi - SSID, password, channel of the main router. With some little tweaks on mobile devices, it connects to best signal.   
  • If you do this you have to make sure to disable DHCP on the second router.
  • you mean not to clone the channel right?  The device would still pick the strongest signal or should but the devices should be on different channels so they don't interfere.  That's how I have seen it setup but I haven't tried.
  • After having too much wireless interference in my house, I used my Tivo as a MoCA entry point. It has been extremely stable since I installed it about a year ago. The devices that are still on wifi are more reliably connected as well. 
  • "You'll also benefit from a speed test, which will let you know if you internet is properly functioning " Except when your internet connection has a higher speed than what your device can support.    
  • We first had multiple extenders. It didn't go well because the speeds were very slow on them. Then we bought a secondary router that's physically connected to the primary. this works much better than extenders. Plus it emits it's own signal so my laptop isn't affected by the heavy Netflix streaming on the primary network
  • Thats what I have set up, but both share same channel and ssid. For seamless auto-auth.
  • It shares also the same channel here. But not the ssid. But the secondary password is much easier to remember so that's not a problem. :)
  • In that case you would benefit from not over lapping channels. Use the WiFi analyser app to identify which would be best in your surroundings. Use the uncommon ones like 2,3,7,8,9 etc.
  • I prefer DD-WRT on a good Wi-Fi router than a custom piece of hardware. This provides flexibility without a cable. You can name the additional access points with separate SSIDs so that you can ensure your device is always connected to the one with the strongest signal, otherwise if you move in your house so you're barely connected to the old Wi-Fi access point, you may be waiting several minutes for the handoff to the other one with the better signal.
  • Re: GraniteStateColin,
    I am learning about this topic to improve the wifi in my home. Do I understand correctly that you are proposing separate routers issuing separate SSIDs? You are saying this provides better handoff?
    Again, I'm new to all this, but i think I've read that isn't recommended?
    Could you clarify? Thoughts?
  • Yes and no in terms of a better hand off. A) all devices will have two ssids saved, B)the handover time maybe shorter but you may get attachment problems such as a device remaining connected to a ssid even though it's not in range. With single ssids a)single ssid and one password b)you too can have attachment issues if ssids aren't merged using wds (that merge is broken on resets if routers don't support it natively - i used a third router to set it up) . It happens on my L930 time to time now. I imagine it's how they set up WiFi polling in WM10.
  • WDS is a very different kind of connection to the standard Repeater-Bridge (or Client-Bridge if you just want to connect devices by cable to the remote router) connection you can do with DD-WRT. WDS generally requires two identical routers with the same hardware. I have not had good luck with WDS. Even when it works, it seems to require frequently (two or three times per month) rebooting one or both routers. With Client-Bridge, there is virtually never a need to reboot. It's just much more stable.
  • It doesn't affect the hand-off either way, but it enables you to manually control force it if desired. When the SSID's are the same, you can't select a different access point, because you will only see one listed. The benefit to that approach is that you only need to join the network once, and then you seamlessly roam, but with the downside that hand-off's don't always occur when you would want them to. When the SSID's are different, if you realize that your signal is poor, you just select the other and you're instantly back in business.   Also, DD-WRT gives you lot of great tools. You might not use any of them (and that's fine), but I find the bandwidth analysis and QoS controls to be excellent. Also, for versatility, buying two regular routers gives you more flexibility in the future then one plus a functionally fixed extender.
  • The device looks like Windows modern interface, but its not. Its a fake. No way thats running Windows 10.
  • I have had really good experience with the new eero (eero.com) mesh WiFi network. They are expensive, but it not only extended WiFi to every inch of my large house, they allowed my XB1 to stream smoothly of my speed challenged microwave internet connection (12Mb down).
  • Why would anyone put a wifi router in the basement, of all places???? I highly recommend wiring the connection between the two routers, or to any specific zone you want to have a permanent connection or use as a broadcast point. I guess the powerline technology is good enough though here in my country it's not a viable alternative because it's expensive and for technical reasons.
  • I do and the ASUS RT-N66U provides complete reliable coverage on both bands through the entire 2800 sq ft 3 storey shack plus outside.  
  • I setup my old Linksys router with DD-WRT firmware as a repeater, it works great.
  • I wonder how the "mesh network" type of wifi works? Luma and Eero seem to be getting a lot of buzz of late.
  • got powerline and im very satisfied
  • The image given above is securifi almond right?
  • I miss the college days back in 2000 when we had cat 5 wires running through the rooms, no slow or bad connections
  • Couldn't help but comment on the sentance:
    Wi-Fi extenders help to boost your Wi-Fi signal by acting as a sort of lightning rod, receiving the signal from your router and broadcasting it to the area of your house that could use a signal boost.
    This is absolutely nothing like what a lightning rod does. A lightning rod attracts lightning and transmits it to the ground so that nothing else is touched by it, kind of the opposite of what a WiFi extender does. You might as well say
    Wi-Fi extenders help to boost your Wi-Fi signal by acting as a sort of hippopotomus
    It makes as much sense.
  • Any tips on counteracting a neighbor's Wi-Fi that interferes with ours? I can be a mere 15 feet away from my router and Wireless Analyzer will still show the intrusive signal stronger than ours. I've considered doing a Faraday on the house, but I'd rather do something less drastic.