How a wireless signal (Wi-Fi) extender works and where to place it

How a wireless signal (Wi-Fi) extender works and where to place it

A wireless repeater/extender (used interchangeably throughout this article) is a device that takes a WiFi/wireless network and duplicates it to add more range or distance for a wireless router/base station. It is able to pick up the existing WiFi and duplicate the signal to reach farther or into areas that may be blocked by objects or walls that don’t let signal through – as is shown on the example graphic below.

How Wireless Extender Operates

An extender will require smart positioning, power, and some basic configuration to work effectively. Below are some basics you need to review to make sure your equipment works well.

  1. Make sure your wireless extender matches your existing wireless hardware

    Before you try setting up a wireless extender you should see if your existing wireless network supports your extender. On the box of your wireless extender there should be a set of 1-2 letters after “802.11”. If these letters are AC, G, or B, then the extender is compatible with an “802.11AC” router. If you have an “802.11N” extender it is compatible with “802.11N” router.

  2. Make sure you are in range of the wireless base station

    First, you have to find a place where you can still access the existing Wireless Network. An optimal place would be one where you have full bars for the strength of connection to the Wireless base station – this way you’ll make sure that you are extending a strong signal. You can figure out how to find the wireless base station strength by looking at your wireless settings. Or you can also take a laptop or mobile device along with you and monitor the number of connection bars as you search for the location – place the extender in a place where your laptop or mobile device still has a strong WiFi signal (full bars or close to that).

  3. Install and configure the wireless network extender / repeater

    This will vary between models and I can only outline the general things you must configure. I strongly recommend that you find the manual or configuration brochure for your wireless extender. If you don’t have the documentation for any reason, you can try going to the website of company that makes your wireless extender and search for documentation there. Alternatively, you can also search online (on Google, Bing or other search engine) for “user manual” of your device’s brand and model. Either way, below are some basics:

    • Find an optimal position and power the device. Place the wireless extender in a place where it won’t be in the way, and where it won’t be exposed to dirt or water. I’d recommend dedicating a power plug to the extender so you never have to unplug it to use other equipment temporarily. Also avoid placing the extender inside a concrete room or a room lined with metal – these types of walls are likely to block or diminish signal (both signal coming in and out). The best location would be in an open space, or in a place with drywall walls.
    • Configure the wireless extender. The specifics of this will vary from device to device. It is likely that you will have to physically (using a wire) connect a computer to your extender to make sure it connects to your existing wireless network. It is best to consult the documentation for specifics on this – there are likely easy to follow instructions in the manual for the extender. You would need to know your existing wireless network’s name and password, if the network is password-protected.
  4. Test your environment and troubleshoot if needed

    You should be able to use a wireless device farther from your router than before. Take a wireless device like a tablet or laptop and see how far your range has been extended into the direction of your aim and how good is the signal that you are getting. Also, make sure that your device is still able to connect to all the services you have. If something still isn’t working well, consider checking position of the extender relative to the WiFi router/modem – it is possible that connection between router and extender is weak due to distance or signal-obstructing walls. If this doesn’t help, perhaps it may be worth a call to the technical support of company who made your device – that number should be on your device on inside the user manual.

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