What options are available for solving a weak Wi-Fi signal on your home internet package? An unreliable and inconsistent Wi-Fi signal can be annoying and interrupt browsing, streaming and gaming. What solutions are available?
There are some quick things you can try to get a better Wi-Fi signal, such as resetting your router and devices. Failing that, there are home networking solutions available such as range extenders, powerline adapters and Wi-Fi Mesh Systems to get better internet coverage throughout the home.
We’ll run through some rapid fire tips for solving weak Wi-Fi in the home, and then examine the different home networking products you can get to solve this problem in more detail.
Regardless of the internet service provider you have, the problem and the solution are the same, so we have grouped together some of the main American ISPs in this article. The same applies for any other provider like AT&T. Let’s look at the issue in more detail below.
Quick Tips For Solving Weak Wi-Fi
Weak wifi can happen for a number of reasons, but the main reason is simply that wifi signals always tend to degrade and weaken the further they get from the router. See our article on the technical reasons for this. Thankfully there are some good home networking products like powerline adapters which can help with this problem and boost internet coverage around the home.
There are also some general steps to take which may fix the problem. Here are the common ones:
- Move closer to the router.
- Move the router to a more central location in the house if possible.
- Reset the router.
- Reset your device.
- Make sure your router is upgraded to the latest firmware. See here for a guide on this.
- Use an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi if possible, for a stronger connection.
- Move and clear and obvious large obstructions out of the way which may be blocking the signal (eg. movable furniture, stands, racks, household or DIY “stuff” lying around etc.).
- Check to see if your router and/or local internet service isn’t down. Make sure other devices in the home can connect, and also that you can connect with a cable. If you can’t, it may be your router that is the issue, and you’ll need to contact your ISP.
- See this article for some resources on creating a wired home network, either using long cables or powerline adapters.
- See our article on weak Wi-Fi for tablets and iPhones for some additional tricks you can try with these devices to solve weak Wi-Fi.
- Signals may be weaker in general at busy peak times when lots of people are using the internet at the same time. Try again at quieter times or try plugging into your router instead,
If none of these steps work then you may have to use some home networking solutions to get a better internet connection around the home. Let’s look at some solutions in more detail below, starting with the most basic ones and then moving onto more advanced products.
Range Extenders/Wi-Fi Boosters as a Basic Networking Solution
Probably the most basic product to solve weak Wi-Fi in the home is the single plug range extender/Wi-Fi Booster models.
These consist of simply a single plug that you install in a wall socket which “captures” and amplifies the Wi-Fi from your existing router, spreading stronger Wi-Fi coverage to a larger area in the home.
You are best installing these products in direct line of sight of your main router, and free from any major obstructions. They can be very effective is delivering more reliable coverage to areas which may have been “deadzones” before, receiving a weak or inconsistent signal just using the main router.
See the great quick video below for a demonstration of how Wi-Fi boosters work and how to best install them.
Range Extender Positives:
- Very cheap products – plenty of models for less than $30; some even less than $20
- Very easy to install and use – pretty much plug and play in most cases.
- Can be great over short to medium distances, and for delivering a better signal to a very specific area or room (eg. home office).
- Great for delivering a better signal for portable devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops).
- No electrical wiring issues – just plug them in in direct line of sight of the router and they should work in boosting the existing Wi-Fi.
Range Extender Negatives:
- Hit and miss in terms of performance, especially over longer distances and with more walls in the way. Will not work reliably in all homes.
- Still keep you on Wi-Fi, which still has problems with congestion and weakening signal over distance, even when boosted.
- Will probably not provide comprehensive coverage over larger homes – Wi-Fi Mesh better for larger areas – see further below for more on this.
- Also not always ideal for higher bandwidth or lower latency things like HD streaming or gaming. Powerline adapters often a better solution in these cases – see next section.
Click here to view a selection of range extenders on Amazon.
Powerline Adapters as Another Solution
Powerline adapters are a slightly more advanced solution to this problem which are currently not well known about. They consist of a kit or pair of plugs, one of which is plugged in and connected to your router, the other of which is plugged in and connected to your device.
The two plugs then communicate through the electrical wiring of the house to deliver a strong wired internet access point to any room you like, even several rooms away from the router.
It is a little known fact that copper wiring can be used to send data as well as electricity and they are ingenious home networking solutions, allowing for strong wired internet access to your router but by using the house’s existing electrical wiring instead of having to run long network cables through the house.
They are plug and play devices requiring little or no setup and can extend reliable connectivity to all parts of the home.
TheTP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.
Powerline adapters will give you all the benefits of being on a wired connection, such as increased bandwidth and reliability, and avoid the problems of unreliability of wifi as the signals keeps dropping out. They are great for people wanting to stream, game and download at distance from the router who keeps having problems with the wifi signal.
What If I Want to Connect Portable Devices as Well?
Standard powerline adapters provide wired access points only, with the different models having one, two, or three ethernet ports depending on how many devices you want to connect. See our Quick Product Comparison Table for a breakdown of the different TP Link products.
What if you are having problems with weak wifi on smaller modern devices like tablets, iPhones and notebooks which do not have ethernet ports and only allow for wireless connectivity?
In these cases then a Wireless Powerline Adapter is the product of choice, since these models have both wired and wireless access functionality.
They produce a strong, cloned wireless access point on the receiving end as well as having one or more ethernet ports, meaning you can connect your portable devices to this closer and stronger access point, giving you are more reliable signal than the main router further away. You simply plug your second adapter in wherever the signal needs to be strong around the house.
Full wireless powerline adapter kits consist of two adapters and actually produce an entirely new access point so they are generally more effective than more basic extender models if you really want reliable wireless connectivity around the home. See our page for a breakdown of the different types of these models.
Are There Any Downsides to Using Powerline Adapters?
Readers might wonder whether there are any catches to these devices. The main thing to consider for powerline adapters is that the circuitry of the house needs to allow them to “talk” to each other for them to work and pass the signal from the router to your device.
In the majority of modern and semi modern houses which are wired normally, they will work fine and deliver a very good or serviceable internet connection to any room in the house, even at distance from the router.
This is precisely the advantage these devices have over Wi-Fi, which is prone to signal degradation over distance as well as congestion on busy home networks. Powerline adapters avoid this by getting the user onto a wired connection, which is by and large stronger, more reliable and allows for more comfortable streaming, browsing and gaming.
Both adapters must be plugged in on the same general circuit. This rules out annexes, extensions, detached buildings, some very large houses and any other situation where you have parts of a property running off different meters or feeds.
These cases are comparatively rare though; in most houses they will be on the same circuit and will work fine. See this excellent FAQ page for a breakdown of how and when they will work.
The electrical wiring of the house must be in good enough condition to transmit the data properly. Too old or worn copper will mean a reduced or perhaps no signal, but in reality is rare again. It may be the case in much older houses but in most houses they will work fine. If the wiring can send electricity then it can probably also deliver a usable internet connection.
Powerline adapters can also be susceptible to interference if certain heavy power consumption devices like washers and dryers are being used nearby. They also don’t like being used near certain devices with alternating currents such as phone chargers and dryers.
This problem is usually avoidable by moving the adapters away from these devices. The newer models of adapter we link to on this site are also better at filtering out this kind of electrical “noise” or interference than the older models from the 2000s.
They also work much better when plugged into the main wall socket and not into extension leads or power strips. Models with a passthrough plug socket are available which allow you to do this and plug a device into the adapter itself so you don’t lose the plug socket.
Our Product Comparison Table breaks down all the product by features – number of ethernet ports, wifi functionality, passthrough or not – so you can get the exact model you need.
In the vast majority of cases powerline adapters will work fine and can be an excellent alternative if your wifi is proving unreliable in certain parts of the home. Most problems you may encounter in rare cases can be worked around. See our troubleshooting guide in case you do run into any problems, and also our article on the instances when a powerline adapter will not work.
Powerline Adapters Positives:
- When they work, deliver a strong, wired connection to your router, bypassing Wi-Fi altogether.
- For this reason, great for gaming and streaming to deliver best possible connection.
- Big range of models available with multiple ethernet ports, integrated plug socket and Wi-Fi functionality.
- No nonsense, plug and play devices. No complicated setup.
- Allow you to install wired internet access points anywhere in the home, without any DIY or long cables trailing around.
- Will work fine in most houses, especially newer ones.
Powerline Adapters Negatives:
- Will not work reliably in all houses – wiring needs to be in good condition to allow adapters to communicate.
- May struggle in older homes where wiring is in poor condition.
- Also won’t work if parts of a home run on separate meters or feeds eg. annexes or extensions.
- Also prone to interference from other heavy power consumption devices. Can usually be resolved by moving them away from these devices.
Click here to view some powerline adapter models on Amazon.
Wi-Fi Mesh Systems as Another Alternative (More Expensive)
Wi-Fi Mesh Systems are another alternative to powerline adapters for improving home connectivity. They consist of a kit of two or three nodes or pods, which are placed strategically around the home and which “catch” and extend the wifi signal from your main router to all parts of the house.
These are more expensive networking solutions, running into several hundred pounds or dollars, but appear to be very effective and are receiving mostly good feedback from users.
They are especially useful for larger or multi storey homes, where the coverage can drop out and leave dead spots in more remote corners.
Perhaps you would struggle in these larger homes using just the basic single plug range extender models we covered above, and this is where Mesh Systems may start to make sense despite the greater cost, as they spread Wi-Fi more reliably over a much larger area. They can be seen as much more advanced versions of the basic range extenders.
Different models are available depending on the size of the home you need to cover. They provide access to more of the available bandwidth of your internet package more consistently in more parts of the home, and have the added benefit of being all wireless devices for convenience.
Mesh Systems Positives:
- Very effective at delivering comprehensive wireless coverage over large areas.
- Great for very large, multi-storey homes, where a good signal is needed for many different devices in many different rooms.
- Great at delivering more of the available bandwidth to devices further away from the router – great for streaming.
Mesh Systems Negatives:
- Very expensive products – often several hundred dollars for a good kit.
- Still may not work perfectly in some cases, though reliability is pretty good now and continues to improve.
- Not absolutely necessary in all cases – the much cheaper range extender and powerline products can sometimes give you what you need for much less money.