We have written this blog post specifically for internet users in Canada struggling with a weak Wi-Fi signal. The same general advice applies to all ISPs, including smaller ones like Sasktel, Videotron and TELUS. What home networking solutions are available to solve the problem of a weak Wi-Fi signal?
There are a number of home networking solutions that can help with a weak Wi-Fi signal in the home. Range extenders are a very basic wireless only solution; powerline adapters can be useful for gamers and streamers, and Wi-Fi Mesh Systems are the most advanced and expensive solution for better wireless coverage over larger areas.
We will look at each of the products in turn below and suggest different scenarios when each product might be preferable. Before that though we’ll also go over some quickfire tips for trying to solve a weak Wi-Fi signal for Canadian internet users.
Quick Tips For Solving Weak Wi-Fi
Weak Wi-Fi can happen for a number of reasons, but the main reason is simply that Wi-Fi 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 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.
- 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.)
- Make sure your router is upgraded to the latest firmware.
- Check if you can at least get a proper connection plugged into your router. If not, the router itself may be broken, and you’ll need to contact your ISP for repair or replacement.
- Use an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi if possible, for a stronger connection.
- See our article on weak Wi-Fi for tablets and iPhones for some additional tricks you can try with these devices.
- 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.
Basic Solution – Range Extenders/Wi-Fi Boosters
These are the most basic of the home networking solutions, but can be very effective in some cases. Wi-Fi range extenders are a simple single plug adapter which is plugged into a wall outlet, and they simply capture and amplify the existing Wi-Fi signal from your router, hopefully extending better Wi-Fi coverage over a slightly larger area.
See the excellent video below for a quick demonstration of how range extenders are meant to work.
Click here to view a selection of single plug Wi-Fi boosters/range extenders on Amazon.
Range Extenders can be an excellent solution for more basic needs and can also be bought very cheaply – they are the simplest of the home networking products. They can be great if you’re struggling with wireless coverage in one specific corner or room, and not too far away from the main router.
If you start putting more distance between the extenders and your device, then performance can start to be more hit and miss. But for lighter browsing over shorter distances, single plug range extenders can give you what you need.
Powerline Adapters For Weak Wi-Fi
Powerline adapters are a clever solution to the problem of weak Wi-Fi, using the existing electrical wiring of the house to deliver wired instead of wireless connections. They consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one of which is plugged in and connected to your router, the other of which is plugged in and connected to your device, as per the diagram just below
The two adapters then communicate through the electrical wiring to send the data from the router to the device connected at the other end. If the circuitry is sound and in good condition, the the signal delivered will be very strong, with many users reporting almost as much bandwidth delivered as if they were plugged directly into the router in the same room.
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.
They are an excellent and at present underutilized solution to the problem of weak Wi-Fi, delivering a strong wired connection between a device and the router without the need for running long network cables all though the house. The house’s (hidden) electrical wiring is doing most of the work so they are elegant plug and play solutions requiring no DIY or complex setup.
They are especially suited for gamers, who need low latency, and streamers, who need reliable bandwidth. Powerline adapters deliver a wired connection, which is almost always more reliable than wireless as we have covered in another article.
However, they can be used by anyone who wants a stronger connection at distance from the router. Pages will often load faster and downloads will also be quicker using powerline adapters.
They will also work fine in the majority of houses. In standard properties where all rooms are wired off the same general meter or feed and the wiring is in good condition there should be no problems.
In a small number of older and larger properties which have more complex circuitry such as extensions or annexes, or where the wiring is in poor condition, they may not be able to work.
See our article where we cover these instances. This tends to be rare nowadays and they will work fine in most homes.
How Powerline Products Work
What About Connecting Tablets, iPhones etc?
Standard powerline adapters deliver only a wired connection, with the different models having between one and three ethernet ports depending on the number of devices you want to connect up at the receiving end.
This is great for games consoles, streaming devices and PCs. For users who also want to be able to connect smaller devices like tablets, iPhones and Notebooks at the receiving end, then a wireless powerline adapter is the product to go for.
These are very similar to standard powerline adapters, except they also produce a cloned wireless access point at the receiving end as well as having one or more ethernet ports. You can then connect your smaller devices to this closer and stronger Wi-Fi access point for better reception.
It is like installing another mini wireless router in wherever you plug the adapter in, extending better wifi coverage to that part of the house. Your devices can then connect to this access point if desired rather than the main router to get a better Wi-Fi signal.
See our page on wireless powerline adapters for a complete breakdown of the different TP Link products. We recommend getting one of the full wireless powerline adapter kits further down the page rather than the simpler single plug “Wi-Fi booster” models near the top, which are cheaper but less sometimes less reliable in boosting the signal.
Advanced Option – Wi-Fi Mesh Systems
For users wanting a more advanced, completely wireless solution to the problem of weak Wi-Fi, then a Wi-Fi Mesh System is another home networking product that can deliver more reliable wireless coverage around larger properties.
Wi-Fi mesh systems consist of a set of two or three nodes or pods which can be laid out around the home to spread the Wi-Fi signal more evenly and consistently to all parts of the home.
You plug the first node in and connect it to your existing router with a network cable. This will connect to the existing Wi-Fi on your router and become your new main router. You then place the other one or two nodes at certain points in the house, where they can pick up and amplify the signal from the main node and disperse it to more remote parts of the house for better coverage in these areas.
When installed properly they can allow for more consistent bandwidth on Wi-Fi even much further away from the router, allowing for better streaming and downloading in more remote rooms which may have struggled to do these things before.
You may also be able to get coverage in outdoor locations like gardens and garages where you couldn’t get Wi-Fi reception before.
The Netgear Orbi RBK40 Mesh System is an entry level kit which will spread reliable wireless coverage for an average 4 bed, 2 floor property up to 3000 sq ft. Click here to view the model on Amazon. See our Mesh System page for links and product reviews for more brands and models of mesh systems which can cover larger properties.
Wi-Fi Mesh Systems can be excellent solutions but the major drawback is that they tend to be very expensive products, often costing several hundred dollars for a three node kit.
They have also had mixed reviews in terms of the reception they deliver, though in fairness performance seems to have improved as manufacturers have released firmware updates to improve reliability. They are a reasonably new form of technology and are improving all the time.
Installing and Testing a Mesh System
Which Product Should I Go For?
We gone through some of the pros and cons of each product as we described them above, but let’s do a compare and contrast summary to finish.
Here are our main product suggestions summarized.
Wi-Fi Range Extenders – Good For:
- Small budgets
- Boosting Wi-Fi to a particular device or room eg. a home office.
- Short to medium distances without so many obstructions in the way.
- Open plan spaces.
- Lighter activities like browsing and basic streaming.
Powerline Adapters – Good For:
- Online gamers for low ping
- Online HD streamers for fast speeds.
- Houses where circuitry is in good condition.
- When further away from the router
- Any users who prefer a wireless connection.
- For users who also want wireless connections, wireless powerline models are also available.
Wi-Fi Mesh Systems – Good For:
- Larger budgets
- Larger homes and offices, especially three storey houses.
- Users who want to stay on wireless connections only for convenience.
- Houses where you need to spread reliable Wi-Fi over a larger area to multiple users and not just one corner or room.
For shorter distances and for more basic needs, a simple range extender might give you what you need.
For larger spaces, we maintain that in the majority of circumstances, standard or wireless powerline adapters are a better solution, because they are often much cheaper then Wi-Fi mesh kits and can do much the same job as long as the wiring of your house is solid enough to deliver the signal effectively between the two adapters.
In most cases it will be. See our article for the rare cases in which you may have problems.
For users that need to connect up smaller devices on Wi-Fi , then wireless powerline adapters can do this for them, whilst also having ethernet ports to use wired devices as well. Even the best wireless powerline adapters models are comparable in price to entry level mesh systems and so are a better bet in many cases. Entry level powerline adapters are much cheaper than mesh systems.
However, for surfers who live in particularly large or old houses where powerline adapters may struggle to work, or who want to send internet coverage to parts of the house on a different feed to the rest of the property, then a Wi-Fi mesh system may be a better bet, despite the hefty price tag for a decent kit.
To kit a large house out entirely with powerline adapters everywhere you need them is possible – see our article on creating a powerline network in the home – but may start to push the cost up to the point where getting a mesh system may start to make sense.