Best Way to Extend Your Wireless Network

Created by: :: Sep 02, 2015 5:20:10 AM PDT

Wifi Extender vs. Access Point

I ran into a problem recently, where our wifi signal from our router was weak in parts of our house. Most of the house receives adequate signal, but as you round some corners down the hallway - it's drops fairly quickly.

The first reason is that the house is filled with three roommates who play games, stream TV and videos, and use the internet around the clock. Our router gets taxed quite a bit, even if it is top-of-the-line! Even though there are just three of us (with the occasional guest), the signal gets really weak during those peak-hours.

If you're having wifi-signal troubles, there are a few things to check before spending $$.


Location:


1) High Grounds: Believe it or not, it is best for your router to be in a high location (shelf, wall, ... server rack?). The key is that the signal going to/from the router is less-obstructed by stationary objects. Having it up high also prevents the non-stationary (people, pets, etc) beings as well.

2) As central as possible: Being central is an estimated guess of where your family (roommates, users, whatever) uses internet the most. Keeping mind of where each person's computer is helps - but also keep mobile-use in mind. Think about rooms and parts of the house that you would like to use the internet. I like to go mobile in the bathroom every now and then... sometimes newspapers just don't cut it.

TIP: For a two story house, being on high-grounds on floor 1 will ultimately improve performance for the upstairs.


Antennas and Placement:

  • Despite what you might think about the importance of antennas, the right type of antennas pointed in the right direction can make a huge difference.
  • Built-in and hidden antennas aren't always the best, especially if you're trying for a long-distance, wall-piercing signal.
  • Try and aim for the latest-and-greatest with multiple antennas and bandwidths.

Channels:


My last piece of "free" advice is to deviate from the default channel that is shipped with your router. Your router will have a 2.4 GHz and/or a 5 GHz band set of antennas.
  • Routers with the 2.4GHz band will probably be pre-shipped on channel 6. Change this to the far edges, either 1 or 11 and see if your quality improves. If you live in a close-quartered community, like an apartment complex, there is a very good chance that other routers with the same signal are nearby.


This didn't help (or help enough!), what now?

Now it's time to consider burning some $$. But what you decide on getting is crucial, because there are two ways to accomplish the end goal.

  1. Buying a wifi extender: A wifi extender (also called wireless range extenders or wireless repeaters... an any similar variation between these names!) is usually a small device about the size of a nightlight. It connects to your wireless router as a client, and then turns around and broadcasts that signal to it's proximity.
    1. Pro: Cheap, easy, and self-explanatory for setting up. No other equipment necessary!
    2. Con: The process that the repeater connects to your router as a client, while broadcasting that signal, also means that you will receieve half the original bandwidth. Not good for streaming on, especially if others are connected to it!
  2. Using another router as an access point: A great alternative, if you know what you're doing, is to connect two routers by their LAN ports and turn one into a simple access point. This process involves disabling DHCP on the "second" router.
    1. Pro: Reliable, great potential bandwidth
    2. Con: A bit technical, requires a wired connection between the two devices, and may be more costly. Let's walk through this...

What I did: Use another router as an access point.

Luckily for me, I was able to wire both routers together and keep the wiring hidden. Good ol' fashioned hole in the wall never hurts (please don't try this at home!).


Materials Required:
  • Additional Router (let's call this one router #2)
  • Ethernet cable (At this point in time, I recommend going CAT-6 or CAT-7 for this type of cable)
  • Access to the control panel on each router
  • Computer for testing any and all of the above

1. Find a good place for both devices, and plug them in, if necessary.
2. Make sure your computer is currently connected to router #1.
3. Check your IP address and your gateway
  • In windows, type cmd in the taskbar, then ipconfig at prompt to reveal this info.
  • Write down and remember the Default Gateway and IP address! 




4. Using the recommended settings from your router's manufacturer, access the control panel on router #2
5. On router #2, disable DHCP and assign a static IP. The static IP should be incremented +1 from your Default Gateway.
  • So for me, my gateway ends in .1. For the static IP for the router, I chose .2
6. Save your settings, and connect your routers by LAN ports (not WAN).

7. I highly recommend that you set the router SSIDs and passwords to be EXACTLY the same. This will enable you to roam between the routers without interruption.



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