Does A Wi-Fi Extender Need To Be Plugged Into The Wall?

Wi-Fi extenders can be really useful home networking gadgets to improve wireless range and coverage, but for first time users there can be some confusion as to how they work and how to use them. For example, do Wi-Fi extenders need be plugged into a wall socket? Or do they work some other way, like off a battery or by being connected to the router?

Wi-Fi extenders/boosters must always be plugged into a power outlet to function, since they are not battery operated devices. They must also be wirelessly connected to the host router to work, since this is where they draw their signal from.

In other words, yes, Wi-Fi extenders do always need to be plugged into the wall to be used. Let’s explain in more detail why.

Wi-Fi Extenders/Repeaters/Boosters Need A Power Source

To get a Wi-Fi extender to turn on, it must be plugged into a power outlet. Extenders can also theoretically be plugged into power strips/extensions and not directly into the wall socket; there’s nothing stopping you doing this (unlike powerline adapters, which don’t work so well in strips and are better plugged into wall outlets directly).

You know an extender is at least powered on when the LED on the front lights up. Here is you general color coded key for different states:

  • Solid green light – plugged in, connected to the router and working fine (some extenders also do this when first plugged in and not configured yet)
  • Flashing green light – Searching for the router when using the WPS/Pair feature to set it up.
  • Orange/Red light – Some kind of fault or problem. Either not connected properly to the router, or lost connection. Or some kind of technical fault with the extender.

But to even begin setting up and using a Wi-Fi extender, it must be plugged in to the wall, and from there you connect it to your router’s network to use it (it doesn’t need to be physically connected to the router, but can be if you want).

How Wi-Fi Extenders Work

Once a Wi-Fi extender is plugged into a wall outlet and drawing it’s own power supply and is properly configured and connected to the main router, they work by capturing the wireless signal of the router and spreading it over a wider area for better overall coverage.

They essentially create their own separate network, where they “draw in” the existing signal/data from the router, and forward it on to devices connected to it. They’re like a mid point “booster” between the router and device, amplifying the signal so it has a better chance of reaching more remote areas further from the router.

But in order to get to this stage, extenders need to be:

  1. Plugged into a wall socket and powered on
  2. Properly connected to the main host router to capture and forward on internet data/traffic to the devices that need it (usually connected wirelessly though, don’t need to be physically plugged into the router, just the wall outlet).

See our Extenders page for links to some reliable models in different price brackets

Can You Unplug Or Turn Wi-Fi Extenders Off?

A logical follow up question is whether you can actually unplug/turn off your extender and/or move it to try and get a better signal. The answer is yes!

Wi-Fi extenders will always retain custom settings even when unplugged or turned off, so you can absolutely try moving your extender round for a better signal, or just turn it off when it’s not being used, such as at night.

When you turn it back on, everything should come back online as before, but you might have to wait 30-60 seconds to be able to connect again while it reconnects with the router. The only thing that totally wipes all settings is a factory reset, but just turning off/on is fine.

The Best Place To Install Wi-Fi Extenders

When first setting up a Wi-Fi extender, it’s best to place it close to the router so it captures the best possible signal. However, once you’ve finished the setup, you are free to move it around wherever you want to get the best signal.

In general, it’s best to place the extender roughly halfway between the router, and the Wi-Fi “deadzone” that you’re hoping to improve the signal in by using the extender.

Of course, house and apartment layouts vary and this isn’t always possible, but aim to get it as close as possible to some kind of mid-point between the router and where the signal is weak and needs improving.

See the video below for a good visual demonstration of how to best install an extender:


Here are some tips from the video, plus some more of our own on placing extenders:

  • Try to find an outlet without obstructions, and halfway between the router and “deadzone” (where this isn’t possible in houses, you’ll need to experiment using it in different sockets and see what works best).
  • Make sure the extender is in range of the router so it can ALWAYS pick up it’s signal and not drop out
  • Try not place extenders behind or under furniture or other obstructions
  • If the extender has got antenna, point them in the direction the signal is needed.
  • The more walls the signal has to travel through, the less likely performance is guaranteed
  • In open plan spaces, try to place the extender in direct line of sight of the router
  • In more difficult situations in houses where your router and deadzone are diagonally opposite (eg. The router is installed in the front lower room and you need the signal reach the upper rear room), it’s more tricky and may need some experimentation. I’ve got this problem right now, and I get the best results plugging the extender in on the upstairs landing. It’s still close enough to the router that it can pick up it’s signal, so it works quite well. Try downstairs and upstairs sockets and see what gives the best speeds/signal.
  • When the signal is needing to travel through more walls, use the 2.4 GHz band on dual band extenders, since this works better over distance and through objects than 5 GHz.

How To Set Up A Wi-Fi Extender

Connecting a Wi-Fi extender to your router is usually pretty easy, and can be done in a couple of minutes max if doing it manually, and even in seconds if using the quicker WPS/Pair feature.

Here’s a quick rundown of the main ways to set up a Wi-Fi extender:

Using a device browser:

  • Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup
  • Note down login details on your extender and plug it in.
  • Find the extender’s SSID (network name) on your device and connect
  • Open a web browser and type in the access URL
  • Enter the default username/password
  • Set up a new SSID/username/password if desired
  • Find and connect to your router’s Wi-Fi network.
  • Either copy or modify your router’s credentials for the repeater.
  • Save settings and connect the device to the new network.
  • A green light indicates the repeater is connected and working.
  • Then move the extender round to find the best location as per the tips given above

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

WPS/Pair method:

  • Plug the extender in near the router for initial setup
  • Plug your extender in and wait for it to initialize
  • Press the WPS/Pair button on your router until it flashes/blinks
  • 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.
  • Give up to 2 minutes for the router and extender to “find” each other via the WPS feature.
  • Once the LED on your extender turns solid green, you know the router and extender are connected.
  • When setup via WPS, your extender will share the same network name (SSID) and passwords as your main router.
  • Then move the extender round to find the best location as per the tips given above

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

How Much Energy Do Wi-Fi Extenders Use?

If Wi-Fi extenders do always need to be plugged in, a logical follow up question might be how much electricity they use and therefore how much they cost to keep running. The answer is not much.

Wi-Fi extenders only use a minimal amount of energy, at current electricity prices costing between $10-20 per year to keep running, even if left on all day, every day.

That’s nothing compared to other household devices which use a lot more. See our full article where I looked into the power use of extenders/boosters/repeaters in more detail.


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

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