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How To Choose The Right WiFi Extender For You

How does a WiFi extender work to increase the range of your wireless network, and which type is right for your specific needs?

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What's Inside

Many home and business networks rely on WiFi connections for their devices and users. However, not all wireless signals are the same, and various factors affect the coverage area of the router. A WiFi extender is a simple solution to expand the range of your router. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to choose the right WiFi extender by explaining the key features that should inform your purchasing decision.

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What is a WiFi Extender or Booster?

Sometimes referred to as a WiFi repeater, WiFi booster or network extender, a WiFi extender lets your home or business network have a more thorough and greater coverage ability. This is an ideal solution for networks that experience low or no connection in areas around the office.

How Does a Network Extender Work?

A network extender works by receiving the WiFi signal from your network and amplifying the boosted signal to all devices on the network, even those in the outskirts of the WiFi range. Have you always dreamed of streaming Netflix while you work in the yard? A network extender can give you that power by effectively doubling the range of your WiFi.


Benefits of a WiFi Extender

The benefits of a WiFi extender are easy to understand. These devices allow you to:

  • Eliminate Dead Spots. By extending the range of coverage, an extender can eliminate those pesky network dead spots in your home.
  • Improve Network Speed. Though the connection may not be completely dead, areas on the edge of your current systems range can experience slower speeds. If you have been experiencing slower speeds in certain areas of your home, an extender may be able to help.
  • Cost-Efficient. Rather than purchasing multiple routers and placing throughout your home or office space, you can use an extender to simply extend the range of your existing router.
  • Enjoy WiFi Outdoors. Walls can block or slow WiFi. If your router is indoors, its signal may not be strong enough to allow for reliable connection for users outside of the property. An extender can help to extend the range of the signal to your outdoor areas as well.

Types of WiFi Extenders

While WiFi boosters, repeaters and network extenders are nearly interchangeable terms for the same piece of equipment, there are different types of network extenders that work in slightly different ways:

  • External Antennas. Some extenders have external antennas that connect to wireless devices to send and receive WiFi signals. Generally, these are plug-and-play devices that require little to no technical knowledge to install.
  • Powerline Adapters. Another standard design for a WiFi range extender is a powerline adapter. This kit allows the electrical circuit in your home or office to send the internet signal. The package usually comes with two plugs. One plug goes into the router and the other plug installs on the device you wish to connect to the internet. This type of setup is most often used with game consoles and smart televisions. This type of extender does not typically experience the network lag issues sometimes seen with other extender types.
  • Weather-Proof Extenders. There are weather-proof designs that can boost WiFi signal. These are great for adding more coverage to areas like a backyard, several different floors of a building, basement area or anywhere that has previously been a challenge for devices to receive WiFi signal.
  • Router/Extender Combos. Another design that is gaining traction with users is the combination router and range extender. This combo unit plugs into your modem and leverages a satellite that receives, repeats and boosts the original WiFi signal. These devices use a single name on the network (SSID), so the connection is simple and seamless. This type of WiFi extender may also be designed with Gigabit Ethernet ports to enable wired devices and a faster WiFi standard.

Frequently Asked Questions

We often receive questions from people who are trying to find the right WiFi extender for their needs. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and some helpful advice to make the shopping process easy:

Do Network Extenders Make Your Network Slow?

Network extenders can make your network slower — if you allow your extender to talk to network devices on the same band it is using to talk to the router. Powerline extender models do not have this issue, as they link through the electrical circuits to the router, so the network device is faster than the WiFi signal. The drawback to powerline extenders, however, is that you have less freedom of movement because your device must be near a power outlet.

Are Extended Networks Secure?

The extender works over the same signal and has the same levels of security as traditional WiFi routers using WEP, WPA, WPA2 and other standard communications protocols. If your network is secure, your extender is also protected. No additional security measures are required.

What is the Best Way to Avoid Lag and Speed Loss with an Extender?

Even the best network extender may experience some speed loss. The key is to use at least two channels: one to receive and one to rebroadcast the signal. When an extender receives and retransmits each data packet on the same channel, it can reduce speed by up to 50% for single-band extenders. Merely using a dual-band configuration that allows signal input on one channel and output on another keeps your WiFi in the fast lane. 

Is a Network Extender the Same as a Wireless Access Point?

While an extender boosts the range of your WiFi signal, it does not expand the network bandwidth. If you have numerous devices connected, it can diminish the speed of the network. However, a wireless access point can create a wide local area network (WLAN) and broadcast a signal to a specific area, such as a different floor of an office building. Extenders can be used with wireless access points to boost the coverage area and WiFi signal strength.


Find the Right WiFi Extender at CDW

Using a WiFi extender can allow you to get the full power of your WiFi network. If you previously thought you had to "just deal with" dead spots in your coverage, a network extender may be the solution for you.