In this article we want to provide some solutions for a very specific problem – if you are struggling with a weak Wi-Fi signal in the home or office but you can’t or don’t want to switch to a wired ethernet connection. In other words, Wi-Fi is the problem, but you still need to stay on it and you can’t use wired instead.
How can we solve this problem and improve the wireless signal on it’s own without having to use ethernet?
Here are some quick fixes for a weak Wi-Fi signal if you can’t use ethernet:
- Reset and update your router and devices
- Move closer to the router if possible.
- Wi-Fi Range Extenders can help
- Wireless Powerline adapters can also be useful
- Wi-Fi Mesh Systems are the most advanced wireless boosting product.
There are some quick practical things you can try to improve wireless coverage in the home – we’ll cover these first – but if the problem is more long standing, then you may have to resort to one of the home networking products listed, that will allow you to stay on Wi-Fi but just get a better signal. Each of these products have their benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll also cover in detail.
This problem can arise when for whatever reason you want to stay on Wi-Fi and don’t want to use wired connections. This can be because you don’t want long wires trailing around the house, have no ports left on your router, or need to stay on Wi-Fi for using smaller portable devices like tablets and notebooks which cannot connect through wired ethernet connections.
Normally switching to ethernet can be a great solution here, since wired connections always deliver a more solid and consistent connection over Wi-Fi, but we realize not everyone is able to do this.
There are some home networking solutions which can deliver better connectivity and coverage whilst allowing you to stay on Wi-Fi. We will look at these further below.
Quick Tips For Fixing Weak Wi-Fi
Before we move to recommending actual products to improve wireless coverage, let’s quickly list off some easy things you can try that may sometimes fix weak Wi-Fi:
- Reset your router and device(s).
- Do a hard reset of your router and devices, powering them fully off and unplugging for several minutes before starting them up again.
- Move the device and router closer together.
- Move the router to a more central or more elevated location in the house if possible.
- See our articles on fixing weak Wi-Fi on laptops and tablets/iPhones for some other things you can try with the device itself to fix weak Wi-Fi.
- Make sure your router is updated to the latest firmware and drivers. Google your router brand and model and check for the latest drivers and how to install them.
- If there are any obvious and clear obstructions between your router and device that can be moved, then move them. (eg. movable furniture, stands, racks, household or DIY “stuff” lying around etc.)
- Try disabling and re-enabling the Wi-Fi/network adapter on your device to refresh the connection.
- Try changing the DNS servers on your device to Google DNS (188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206). This can sometimes give a better connection.
- See also our full article on fixing disconnecting Wi-Fi for more tips on improving a weak or unstable signal.
If none of these quick tips improve the Wi-Fi signal, then you will likely need to use some sort of home networking product to improve your internet coverage around the home. Let’s look at a couple of options in more detail.
Product #1 – Wi-Fi Range Extenders
This is the simplest of the home networking products designed to boost or amplify Wi-Fi. Extenders/boosters/repeaters are just a single plug model that you install in a wall socket, and they capture and amplify the wireless signal from the main router, hopefully spreading better coverage over a wider area without you having to run network cables through the house.
See the video below for an excellent quick demonstration of how Wi-Fi extenders are ideally meant to work and how best to install them.
Here is an example of a simple Wi-Fi Booster/Range Extender product – the Super Boost Wi-Fi
Here are some popular Range Extenders models (click affiliate links below to view products on Amazon):
Netgear Wi-Fi Range Extender EX3700 – Cheaper lower end extender model, but still has decent average review scores from plenty of ratings. Easy setup, small discrete white plug design, and generally reported to have decent range. Also has an ethernet port to connect up a wired device if needed.
Rock Space Dual Band Wi-Fi Extender/Booster – A mid price range product with a very good average review score from plenty of reviews at the time of writing. Small, discrete black plug design, compatible with all Wi-Fi types, very easy setup.
TP Link AC1750 RE 450 Range Extender – Generally well reviewed, easy setup, and delivers very good throughput in a large number of cases. More towards the pricey end though for single plug Range Extenders.
These products can be useful if you are just looking for better Wi-Fi over short to medium distances, and not for really heavy bandwidth use like HD/4K streaming or regular downloading. Budget models are available so you don’t need to break the bank to try one out.
However, on the downside, they can be more hit-and-miss in terms of performance and reliability once you start using them over longer distances. Wi-Fi is still Wi-Fi, even when boosted and amplified with repeaters, and can still drop out over distance.
However, these simple repeater models can give many users what they need in terms of better wireless coverage, without the need to use ethernet.
Product #2 – Wireless Powerline Adapters
Wireless powerline adapters are a more advanced form of a basic powerline adapter, which is a networking product designed to spread connectivity around the home. Standard powerline adapters consist of a pair of adapter plugs which use the house’s existing electrical wiring to create a new wired ethernet access point in a different room in the house.
You plug one adapter in and connect it to your router, you plug the other adapter in and connect it to your device and the two plugs communicate through the wiring to deliver a wired internet connection to any room in the house.
They essentially turn your wall socket into an internet connection and are a great way to create wired access points around the home, even at distance from the main router.
Wireless powerline adapters work in exactly the same way, except they also produce a cloned, wireless access point on the receiving end, as well as having one or more ethernet ports to connect wired devices.
You can then connect your Wi-Fi devices to this closer and stronger access point, for a better signal than if you were connecting to the main router further away. Hence they solve this problem of needing to stay on Wi-Fi.
See the embedded video below for a demonstration of how powerline technology works. It can be a very clever home networking solution to spread wired and wireless coverage around the home.
Click here to view the TP Link WPA-4220 Kit on Amazon, with 2 ethernet ports plus Wi-Fi at the receiving end.
See our page on wireless powerline adapters for a breakdown of some of the main TP Link models which have Wi-Fi functionality if this is your preferred way of connecting. Our product comparison table also compares all models at a glance; the models with wireless funtionality are in the bottom half of the table.
Product #3 – Wi-Fi Mesh Systems (Advanced Option)
Another more expensive but also more comprehensive wireless-only solution for getting better coverage around the home is to use a Wi-Fi mesh system. These consist of a set of two or more “nodes” or pods which are placed at strategic points around the home to deliver better all round wireless coverage to all parts of the property.
These products can be very useful in larger homes especially, where you are having problems with rooms further away from the main router getting too weak a signal and struggling to stream and download effectively. Wi-Fi router technology does get better year on year but sometimes we do still get problems with dead-spots and weak zones, especially in bigger houses with thick walls, multiple floors and so on.
Different mesh kits are available with two, three or more nodes for different sized homes, from standard 2-3 bedroom houses to 6000 sq ft mansions. You connect your first node to your current router, and then install your other nodes around certain parts of house, close enough that they can catch the signal from the main node and far enough away that they can boost the signal to more remote parts of the home which may be struggling with a weak signal.
When installed properly, a mesh system should deliver a more consistent and reliable Wi-Fi signal across a large area, for smoother browsing and streaming in larger properties. More users should be able to access more of the available potential bandwidth, even when further away from the main router where they may have been getting poor speeds before.
See the video below for a demonstration of this. When properly installed and working well they do seem to do this. As with powerline adapters there are some houses where they are less effective, again because of thick walls, sheer siz etc.
They are a relatively new product and manufacturers continue to issue firmware updates to deliver better and better performance. As of now they can made to work well most of time, and reliability continues to improve, but 100% success is not guaranteed for everyone in all houses.
Click here to see our Mesh Systems page, with links to different models.
Each Product Compared
As can be expected, each product has it’s benefits and drawbacks when they are compared side by side. Here are some of the main criteria we could think of to weigh up when deciding which product to go for to solve your problem of solving weak Wi-Fi without using ethernet cables:
- Wi-Fi extenders – The cheapest of the products, models available from $ 20-30.
- Wi-Fi Powerline – Only slightly more expensive than extenders for a basic model. Higher end models with 3 ports and faster dual band Wi-Fi are quite expensive.
- Mesh Systems – The most expensive product – can cost several hundred dollars for a good kit covering a large home.
- Wi-Fi Extenders – Can work well over shorter distances. May or may not work over longer distances. May not be so good for spreading reliable Wi-Fi over a larger home.
- Wi-Fi Powerline – Powerline adapters will work in a good number of houses; however not all houses, if the wiring of the house is old, worn or configured in such a way that the adapters cannot communicate.
- Wi-Fi Mesh systems – These do not rely on house wiring and are more reliable in this sense, though not completely infallible. Like extenders, they can prove to be ineffective in a small number of cases, but mesh systems are perhaps more reliable in that the technology has greatly improved since the first models were released.
- Wi-Fi Extenders – Better over smaller distances and to a specific corner of the house (eg. one bedroom or a home office). Work better in open plan spaces.
- Wi-Fi Powerline – Again, can be great for spreading wired and wireless coverage to a specific room or corner of a house in particular.
- Mesh systems – Can be better if you need to spead Wi-Fi over a larger area in general, like a big home with lots of bedrooms and a lot of devices needing to connect across a large area.
4. Type of online activity:
- Wi-Fi extenders – Good for lighter browsing, bit of streaming.
- Powerline – Good for gamers if you can use the ethernet port at the receiving end.
- Mesh Wi-Fi – Large, high bandwidth use households can benefit from Mesh Wi-Fi.
For gamers, wired connections are always better than Wi-Fi in keeping latency or lag to a minimum. Powerline can do this for you, as models always have ethernet ports at the receiving end. Wired connections will also deliver greater bandwidth for streaming and downloading; however Wi-Fi can still be used for these things if the connection is at least decent; just expect slower speeds than if you were using wired. A properly installed and well functioning mesh system alleviates much of this discrepancy by spreading better coverage and therefore bandwidth across an entire home, though it still may not quite match up to the speeds if you were plugged into the router directly.
5. Wired Functionality:
All three products do also provide ethernet ports to plug devices in if you do decide you need to do this at some point. However powerline products are pulling their connection straight off the wired circuitry which can give a very good connection as long as the wiring is in good shape. Extenders and Mesh systems are pulling a wired connection off the Wi-Fi data backbone network, which may deliver slightly less bandwidth.
Product Comparison Articles:
Click the links to see our full articles, which compare each of these products against each other in more detail for those still unsure of which product would suit them best: