Do Wi-Fi Range Extenders Work?

If you live in a large house or apartment, your Wi-fi network my generate a strong signal in the immediate area of your router. As you move upstairs or across hour home, you may find that the signal weakens or becomes entirely non existent. Wi-Fi signals usually reach reach 300-500 feet, but unless you live in a studio apartment with no walls, you are likely to only see a signal in the 75-150 foot range. Any type of construction material, such as cinder blocks, concrete, metal, or even drywall can block a Wi-Fi signal – so even if you live in that studio apartment, you may get a weak signal in the bathroom, if you even get one at all. (Why you would want a Wi-Fi signal in your bathroom is another story.)

You can use a Wi-fi range extender to boost the range and intensity of a Wi-Fi signal in your house or apartment, but you may want to consider moving the location of your router to see if that helps the range and signal of your current router, first. Simply placing the router in a more “centered” location can make a significant difference, both laterally and vertically. For those with a two-story house, the best location is centered on the second floor, but off the floor and away from walls and large metal – this places the router in that truly centered location but away from objects that can interfere with the signal. Near the top of a staircase can often work well in this situation.

If placing a router in the center of your home does not provide the desired Wi-Fi range and signal, a Wi-Fi Range extender, also known as a wireless repeater, can solve this problem by extending the range of your Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi range extenders are placed within the signal range of your original wireless router, and work best when placed within range of a strong signal from the original router. A Wi-Fi range extender can lower your Wi-Fi speeds on devices connected to the extender, though, but for casual internet users just surfing the web and checking email, this won’t be noticeable. Unfortunately, gamers and Netflix addicts might notice significant lag using a Wi-Fi range extender.

If you are considering a Wi-fi range extender, you will want to buy an extender that is manufactured by the same brand as your current wireless router. Check the manufacturer’s website for the best combination that fits your needs.

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  • http://youfailit.net/ Sangueffusor

    You could also try the Ez-12 12 dB Parabolic Reflector antenna from http://www.freeantennas.com/ which is easy to make and use.

  • Saracen11

    I agree with the article with one sharp difference. Placing the Linksys range extender at various midpoints did not work at all; there was no signficant boost in the signal. By trial and error, I discovered that the most effective boost is achieved by placing the range extender near the computer which I am trying to link to the wi fi router (also a Linksys router which purported to have extended range and speed). Once I did that, the signal strength and speed of the connection improved dramatically.

  • Tony Lang

    Hi,
    Re your comments on range extenders, My computer and router are downstairs at the front of the house. My daughters both have computers with wireless network cards upstairs at the back of the house. The signal at their computers was so weak that it was very difficult to connect and if they could the data rate was very low.
    I considered getting a range extender but before I did I searched around the web and found designs for cylindrical parabolic reflectors which sit behind the antenna on your wireless router and make it much more directional with a stronger signal. I did a simple experiment with a cut up pringles can, cardboard and sellotape and the signal at my daughter’s computers went up dramatically. I’ve since made a more robust unit with metallised plastic sheet. I’ve also added some higher gain antennas on my daugther’s computers and the signal strength is now full scale on the Netgear monitoring software.
    You can buy ready made reflectors but it’s so easy to make one that it’s well worth it.
    Regards
    Tony Lang

  • Kame

    Really concise and comprehensive article, thank you Ken, but you gotta love Tony Lang’s parabolic reflector made from a cut-up Pringles container and cellotape! What type of Pringles, regular or light? Seriously though, what was the cardboard for, to keep the parabolic Pringles cyclinder from rolling over? Actually, the direction you described, upstairs and other end of a house, is pretty much what I am trying to “bridge”, so I will definitely give a home made parabolic refelector a go. Also thank you Sangueffusor for the link. Nice site, bookmarked for sure!

  • Jennifer

    So how would you increase the range when your router has no external antenna, only internal? Netgear RangeMax Wireless-N Router WNR834B

    Router is connected to computer in mil’s house some 200 ft away. Getting low to no signal in our house on desktop and laptop. Need something to increase signal in our house.

  • http://themoneysavingcollegestudent.blogspot.com John

    Hello, I recently made both the EZ-10 and EZ-12 antenna reflectors (go to freeantennas.com) and tested them on my WPNT 834a RangeMax wireless router which has 3 broadcasting antennas and is a MIMO router. Today I woke up to having my DC transformer blown. And I am thinking it’s because these reflectors cause the router to suck more amps. Have you heard anything like this happening before? Luckily I have an universal tranformer I am using now to write here in this blog. Also, I have found that my EZ-12, which is 1.75x’s bigger than the original template doesn’t work as well as my 3 EZ-10s I have reduced by a 1/3 to fit on each antenna. For the Ez-10s I had to trim the left and right side of the outer antennas so they don’t interfere with the transmission from the middle antenna. Please if you have any input of why my transformer may have blown if it’s possible that these reflectors cause my router to suck more amps I would like to know so I can just do with out them and get another wifi router and use it as a repeater.

    ~John

  • The girl of your dreams

    I bought a range extender yesterday and it does nothing at all. Range extenders suck!

  • Julez

    “Why you would want a Wi-Fi signal in your bathroom is another story.”

    Well personally i use Wi-Fi with my phone for streaming music while having a shower, the radio is useless 90% yapping 10% music even thats being a bit generous.
    Other then that yeah i guess most have figured what that would be.

    • UWS_CA

      Don’t forget reading the iPad while pooping :)

  • fes

    I read the NYT in the bathroom twice a day and get my latest news pulled via Wi-Fi.

  • Imogen Harrison

    How would i go about changing the location of my router without re-wiring?

  • kim

    yes they work very well I am boosting my connection 300 feet. Yes I ment 300