Do You Need A Router To Use A Wi-Fi Extender?

Wi-Fi extenders/boosters/repeaters can be very useful home networking products to improve wireless coverage in the home, but there can be some confusion as to how they actually work, and what is actually needed to make them work. Specifically regarding how they function for example, do you also need a router to use a Wi-Fi extender? Or can they work alone without needing a router?

A Wi-Fi extender must be connected to a router in order to function properly, as this is where it draws it’s signal and forwards data to and from. Without a router, a Wi-Fi extender alone cannot get devices online.

In other words, yes, a Wi-Fi extender is dependent on a host router in order to do it’s job and provide a cloned SSID/network that users can also connect to in the home if their signal using the main router is poor.

What Happens If You Just Plug A Wi-Fi Extender In? (Without Connecting To A Router)

To flesh this point out more, let’s explain how an extender would basically be useless if plugged in on it’s own.

If you just plug a Wi-Fi extender into a wall socket, without connecting it to a host router, nothing will happen. It will broadcast it’s own open default SSID/network, but you won’t be able to access the internet via the extender, because it won’t be pulling in data from a host device which is connected to the internet.

In other words, Wi-Fi extenders are separate devices to a router on a home network, with their own IP address, and even create their own separate network/SSID that devices can connect to once configured, but they still rely on routers to function.

A Wi-Fi Extender Must Be Connected To A Router To Work

In order to actually get some use out of a Wi-Fi extender and be able to get online via a connection to them, they must in turn be connected to a host router which itself is connected to the internet. Wi-Fi extenders by themselves cannot access the internet directly; they must do so via a connection to a device that can.

You can connect a Wi-Fi extender to a router in a number of ways, which we’ll cover below. But however you set up your extender, it must be in some way connected to a main host router-modem which has internet access in order to work. Just left on it’s own plugged into a wall, an extender does nothing.

How A Wi-Fi Extender Works

A Wi-Fi extender relies on a router to function, because that’s exactly where it draws data from. They basically act as forwarding devices on a home network, capturing and amplifying the existing signal from the router to hopefully spread it over a larger area and reach “dead-zones” where you main router cannot reach.

There is some nuance to the issue, as Wi-Fi extenders do create their own separate network/SSID that needs to be connected to separately from your device’s Wi-Fi network list. But they’re still relying entirely on the router in order to forward internet traffic/data to and from.

They’re in a sense like “mini-routers” in that they broadcast their own network you can connect to. But they’re also nothing like routers in the sense they cannot access the internet directly, set up/manage home networks, issue IP addresses or DNS servers, or other such functions. That’s all still handled by the router; extenders just pass on data to/from the router, and reflect in their own interface what’s already configured on the router.

See the good quick video below for a demonstration of how Wi-Fi extenders work, plus how to best install and use them.


  • Try placing them somewhere halfway between the router and “dead-zone” where it’s needed, preferably within 5-10 meters of both the router and dead-zone.
  • Try not to place them in front of or underneath obstructions/furniture etc.
  • Make sure they are in a place where they can ALWAYS pick up the signal from the main router, as they need this to work properly.
  • They work best over short to medium distances, with perhaps one or maximum two walls in the way eg. boosting Wi-Fi to an home office one room away from the router.
  • See our article on how Wi-Fi repeaters work for more detailed information about how they work and their best uses cases and mode of installation.

How To Connect A Wi-Fi Extender To A Router (All Methods)

Now we’ve established that your Wi-Fi extender/booster must be connected to your main router in order to actually be usable, the next question might be how you hook up your extender to your router.

There are actually 3 main ways you can do this, and none of them are particularly hard or intimidating to do. Let’s cover each method in brief overview:

1. Quick Method – WPS Setup (quickest, no nonsense method):

  1. Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup and wait for it to initialize
  2. Press the WPS/Pair button on your router until it flashes/blinks
  3. Press the WPS/Pair/Connect/Wi-Fi button on your repeater. Sometimes you need to press and hold for a few seconds until it starts blinking.
  4. Give up to 2 minutes for the router and extender to “find” each other via the WPS feature.
  5. Once the LED on your extender turns solid green, you know the router and extender are connected.
  6. When set up via WPS, your extender will share the same network name (SSID) and password as your main router. Find and connect to it on your device’s Wi-Fi networks list.
  7. Then move the extender round for a better signal if needed.

See our full article on extender WPS setup for more detailed steps if you need them.

WPS Extender Setup – Quick Video


2. Manual Method – On a Device Browser (allows more customization):

  1. Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup
  2. Note down login details on your extender on the label and plug it in.
  3. Find the extender’s SSID (network name) on your device and connect
  4. Open any web browser on your phone/tablet and type in the access URL (on the label) into the address bar
  5. Enter the default admin username/password on the label (see screenshot below)
  6. Set up a new SSID/username/password if desired.
  7. Find and connect to your router’s Wi-Fi network on the list.
  8. Either copy or modify your router’s credentials for the repeater.
  9. Save settings and connect the device to the new extender network, which will have the same password as your main router.
  10. A green light indicates the repeater is connected and working.
  11. Then move the extender round to where you need it, still making sure it is within range of the router’s signal

See our full article on extender browser setup for more detailed steps.

3. Using a Tethering App:

Basically works much the same as browser setup, except that for TP Link extenders, they also have a bespoke app you can download to your phone/tablet to run through the setup process on. See our post on this method.

Can You Set Up A Wi-Fi Extender Without Physical Access To The Router?

If you don’t actually have physical access to the router, you can still connect and set up a Wi-Fi extender, as long as you know the router’s current Wi-Fi password/key.

If you know this, you can still set up the Wi-Fi extender using the device browser method (#2) detailed above, even if the router is locked in a room you don’t have access to right now. You just plug the extender in at least within range of the router’s network, even if not in the same room, log in to it’s default open network and run through the setup steps detailed above.

This way, you can use Wi-Fi extender on a home network without actually physically needing to touch the router. I’ve been using my current repeater for a few months now, and I’ve never actually touched or even seen the main host router it’s connected to. But because I was given it’s password, I was able to set the extender up nearby without any problems.

If you don’t know the router wireless password, it’s more of a problem. If you can’t find it out, you will have to factory reset it to revert the password to the default on the label, which does require physical access, then note down the defaults and use them to set up your extender nearby.


Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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