Solutions For Weak Signal Even When Using a Wi-Fi Extender


This can be a really annoying problem, when we buy a Wi-Fi booster/repeater/extender to get a stronger signal, but we still find the signal is poor even when doing this.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, simply because Wi-Fi is so fickle and unpredictable, that even when boosting the signal from the router with an extender, it can still sometimes not be very strong or reliable. But there are some things to try if you have this problem.

Here are your main options if your Wi-Fi signal is weak even if you are using a repeater/extender:

  1. Move obstructions out the way.
  2. Reduce Interference
  3. Reset devices
  4. Use a better extender if your current model is poor.
  5. Use a Wi-Fi Mesh System
  6. Use powerline adapters
  7. Install a DIY wired home network if possible
  8. Have a Home/Mesh network installed

Let’s run through all of these options in more detail, first covering things you can do to try and make the extender work better, before turning to alternative home networking options if extenders don’t seem to be delivering the signal you need.

1. Move Obstructions Out The Way

This is the main reason why Wi-Fi signals can be weak – there’s too many walls, floors, and other obstacles between the extender/router and the device. Try moving closer for a start if you can, or at least position yourself to minimize the amount of obstructions that could be blocking the signal from the extender or repeater. Try and create as direct a line of sight as possible between the device and the extender.

2. Reduce Interference

This can be another factor that reduces the quality of a wireless signal. Make sure your router is not too close to other RF/EMF emitting devices, like microwaves, household appliances, game consoles, security cameras and so on.

One specific point to make is that it is usually NOT a good idea to install an extender literally right next to the main router. For sure, in direct line of sight is a good idea, but still at some distance from the router, to reduce interference.

3. Reset & Check  Devices

Another quick solution you can try – simply try resetting your device, which can sometimes refresh the signal and make it stronger. For devices that allow it, you can also try disabling and re-enabling your Wi-Fi network adapter from the Network/Wi-Fi settings menu, which can again sometimes refresh the signal.

See our article on fixing weak and disconnecting Wi-Fi for more on doing this for PC’s and other applicable devices.

It’s also a good idea to compare your device to others – is everyone struggling with a weak signal when connecting to the extender, or is just your device in particular? Test the signal on different devices and in different parts of the house. The Wi-Fi Analyzer app for Android is a good tool for this.

If it’s just your device that seems to be struggling, then it may that the Wi-Fi card inside it is faulty or has been knocked out of place. For phones, it might be an idea to take your it to a local shop to get them to make sure all the internal components are properly positioned and working properly

4. Try a Better Extender

This solution is worth mentioning, but probably in most cases NOT actually recommended. If you’re getting poor performance from a Wi-Fi repeater, it’s a probably a sign you need to try a different home networking solution to get the coverage you need. We’ll cover some options further below.

However, it can be in some cases that if the extender you are using is a cheap, generic extender from a unknown brand that just isn’t a high quality product, it won’t deliver a good signal. If you check on Amazon and other retailers, and find your specific model has average to poor reviews, you may consider upgrading to a better extender model from a reputable brand, that DOES have decent reviews overall.

Extenders are a strange product in this regard. It can be difficult to find established models that have 5 star average reviews, or close to it, like you can with other products, simply because Wi-Fi is so complex and variable, and every user will get differing results because there are so many variables that go into how strong wireless signals are.

Nevertheless, there are some Wi-Fi extenders/repeaters that do stand a little bit ahead of the pack, with good average reviews, even if not quite 4.5-5 star average, because they can never work effectively 100% of the time for everyone.

See our article on whether Wi-Fi extenders are any good, for a breakdown of when these products can and cannot be useful, plus links to some better known models from reputable brands that have good average review scores.

Overall though, I wouldn’t usually recommend this option, unless the extender you’re currently using is a really cheap, poor model, and you’re pretty sure that’s what’s causing the poor signal rather than distance and home layout.

5. Use Wi-Fi Mesh Systems

This is an option if you have a larger budget and want to stay on wireless connections only, but need better overall coverage and signal strength. Wi-Fi Mesh Systems can be seen as more advanced and expensive forms of the single plug Wi-Fi extender models.

They consist of a kit of 2 or 3 “nodes” or pods that are placed around the house at certain points to boost the overall signal across the home. So whereas a simpler extender model is just a single adapter plug that’s installed in a wall socket and boosts the signal over a smaller area, a Mesh System should allow better coverage and signal strength over a much larger area, as you’ve got multiple nodes spread out across the home, capturing and amplifying the signal.

See the video below for a demonstration of how Wi-Fi Mesh technology ideally works, plus our article on the topic. Basically, they are working on the same general idea as Range extenders/boosters, but using more sophisticated technology, with a heftier price tag as a result.

https://youtu.be/ZSnKZXrlt2s

Click here to view the Netgear Orbi 3 pod Wi-Fi Mesh System on Amazon.

(There is a 2 pod version, but availability is limited as of spring 2021 due to current events. This should eventually improve).

Here are links to other some popular Mesh Systems on Amazon:

  • LinksysClick here to view the Linksys Velop Tri-Band Mesh System online. The starter kit covers 3000 sq ft homes; other kits are available to cover up to 6000 sq ft properties.
  • GoogleClick here to view the Google Wi-Fi entry level 2 pod mesh kit, which can cover properties of up to 3000 sq ft.
  • AsusClick here to view the Asus Lyra 3 pack kit that can cover up to 6000 sq ft homes.
  • See our Mesh Systems page for links to more models and review videos.

Here are some scenarios when Wi-Fi Mesh can be a good option:

  • Larger and multi-storey homes
  • You have multiple users AND you want to stay purely on wireless, with no wires trailing around.
  • Where you have a lot of Wi-Fi users all over the home, and therefore
  • Where you are finding that bandwidth/speeds are dropping considerably for users further away from the router, and you want to preserve bandwidth more so that speeds are more consistent across a larger home, even in rooms further away from the router.
  • Modern Mesh kits are also set up to allow seamless roaming between the nodes, which can be configured to all have the same Wi-Fi name. There’s no messing around having to connect to different access points – it can be set up so your device connects to the best node for you at that moment.

However, on the downside, you are often paying a lot for one of these kits – the more advanced ones can run into several hundred dollars or pounds – so be sure to check this is what you need, and compare with the powerline adapter solution we’ll cover in the next section.

However, if you are not getting what you want from a simpler range extender/booster, and want a more advanced wireless boosting solution, then a Mesh System is the product to consider.

6. Use Powerline Adapters Instead

This is another home networking solution that may or not be worth considering, depending on how much you need to stay on wireless connections.

Powerline adapters are 2 plug kits, where one adapter is installed and connected to your router, and the other adapter is installed and connected to your device. The two adapters the communicate through the existing house wiring to deliver a wired internet connection to your device.

These products can therefore be a great way of bypassing Wi-Fi routers/extenders altogether if the signal is weak and switching instead to wired ethernet connections, even when further away from the router. The existing house wiring carries the signal, so there’s no need to run long network cables all through the house.

But in the modern world, most users want to stay on wireless, right? There are wired and wireless powerline adapters available; let’s explain each model in more detail.

Option #1 – Standard Powerline Adapters – These are the simpler models that allow wired connections only at the receiving end, with 1-3 ethernet ports on the adapter that you can connect devices to, like games consoles, PCs, laptops, streaming devices (anything that has an ethernet port on it). The simplest option if the devices you want to use can connect via cable and don’t need to stay on wireless.

An example:

Click here to view the TP Link Nano Powerline Adapter kit on Amazon.

See our page on standard powerline adapter, for more models that allow wired connections only (ethernet ports), but no Wi-Fi.

Option #2 – Wireless Powerline Adapters – It’s true that nowadays, most people don’t use just wired connections; lots of smaller devices can only connect via Wi-Fi so users need a wireless connectivity option for this.

For this, there are wireless powerline models also available, that provide ethernet ports, but also a cloned Wi-Fi access point on the receiving end plug, so you can cannot portable devices to this closer and stronger access point instead for a better signal than the main router.

An example:

Click here to view the TP Link WPA-4220 Kit, with ethernet ports AND Wi-Fi connection options at the receiving end.

See also our page on Wireless Powerline Adapters for advanced models with more ports, faster dual band Wi-Fi options and integrated plug socket.

Here’s a good quick video on Powerline technology:

 

This is a good option if you’ve got a mixture of wired and wireless devices you want to connect. You can plug static devices into the ports and connect iPhones etc to the new Wi-Fi access point in the adapter, which you’ll now be right next to, for a better signal.

Moreover, because they work differently to Wi-Fi extenders, you aren’t relying so much on signal amplification, which can be disrupted by obstacles in the way. With powerline adapters, the signal is sent through the house wiring, and once it reaches the receiving end adapter, a totally new, cloned Wi-Fi access point is set up, so there’s less need to worry about signal obstruction.

You just need to make sure the wiring of your house is in good condition to allow the adapters to reliably and consistently communicate, which in many homes will not be a problem (there are some exceptions).

We’ve covered a lot in the last few sections on different products, so to help with product/information overload, we’ve done some comparison articles on all these 3 types of products (Wi-Fi extenders, powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi) so readers can more thoroughly compare products before making a decision to decide which is best for them:

7. Install a Wired Home Network (DIY)

Again, this is more of a specialized solution for certain users, but if your devices can all connect via cable and you’d rather do this, and you’re prepared to do some DIY, then you can set up a wired home network, feeding ethernet cables all through the house and using ethernet switches as well if needed, to provide wired access points to every room that needs it and simply bypass Wi-Fi altogether.

Most users probably can’t or don’t want to do this – most of us have at least some devices that need to connect via Wi-Fi now – but it’s there as an option if you want.

See our article on creating a wired home network for some of the tools/products needed to do this, plus steps.

8. Have a Specialized Home/Mesh Network Installed (can be expensive)

When we mentioned the Mesh System option above, we are really talking about just buying one off the shelf and installing and setting it up yourself.

But you can go even more advanced if you like and pay a company to install a whole-home mesh system, which features nodes attached to walls and can deliver a signal pretty much anywhere as long as it’s installed properly.

You can also go wired with this, paying a networking or office IT company to kit out your building with wired or Mesh connections in every room, using a combination of discreetly fed ethernet cables/nodes and/or installing multi-port switches in each room to provide wired access points everywhere they are needed. This is sometimes what is done in schools and university campuses for example, but is obviously very costly and cumbersome work to undertake.

You might have seen this kind of solution used in hotels, where there are nodes or access points along every floor, but it can also be done in residential homes as well, though it’s an expensive option for sure.

Also, not everyone is happy with having wires trailing round the house, but if you pay a company to install it, they’ll be able to use as discreet a wiring system as possible to get the access points installed.

See here a good Yelp search page for these kind of home networking services, where you can get a quote from a provider in your area. If you communicate with a company that specializes in home networking, explain what your problem is, what you’re tried already, and your home layout, they may be able to offer a solution for you that provides better connectivity in the home.

Oliver

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

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