Upgrade Your Life

Upgrade Your Life: How to Extend Your Wifi Range

Upgrade Your Life

If you use a wifi network at home, there are undoubtedly limits to where you can access the signal. You might get a strong connection at the kitchen table, but take your laptop to the living room and you lose the signal. If you're looking to boost your signal a few feet or get a strong connection all the way upstairs in the back bedroom, we've got a handful of simple tricks and more advanced techniques to get you on connected to your home wifi from anywhere in your house.

Move your router:

* It's so simple, but many people don't realize that where you put your router really does make a difference. Obviously a central location is best, but for many, you are tied to putting the router where the Internet connection comes into the house.

* Beyond simple proximity, consider the router's height. The higher your router is on a shelf or cabinet, the less physical interference it's likely to encounter. Move the router to the best possible position to take advantage of doorways and open spaces instead of walls and corners. Wifi might move through the airwaves, but furniture, walls and appliances can weaken your signal substantially.

* Signal interference is one of the biggest culprits that might be at work if your wifi is weak. Walls and physical obstructions block your signal, but signals emitted by any electromagnetic household object do too. Scoot your router away from anything that might interfere: cordless phones, microwaves, wireless game controllers, other wifi-enabled devices (TVs, etc.), Bluetooth devices, and even flourescent lights and elevators.

Technical tweaks:

Once you've got your router in an ideal spot, take a look at your equipment. These next steps can help you further improve your wifi signal.

* Did you know routers have channels? If you live in close proximity to someone else with a wifi network you may both be trying to use the same channel and degrading your signals.

To find out if you are "crossing the streams" use WiFi Stumbler or inSSIDer to find the best and least-trafficked channel for your router to broadcast on. Once you've found the optimal channel, follow these step-by-step instructions to get your router on the right track.

* Depending on the age of your router, it may be slower than newer models. Upgrade an older b or g router to an n router to extend your range for relatively reasonable cost. There are some new n routers for as little as $30. An n router can handle local electrical and physical signal interference better than b and g and may get you quite a bit more range.

* Lesser-known fact: The "current standard" 802.11n routers can operate at either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands, and 2.4 GHz is far better at travelling through walls. So if you already have a Wireless-n router and need it to extend farther, make sure it's set to use 2.4 GHz instead of 5 GHz.

* The internal antenna on your laptop itself can be a factor in how much range you get. Even if your laptop has built-in wifi, it could be well worth picking up an external USB adapter, like this $30 option from Netgear.

This could also help an older laptop without Wireless-N support take advantage of faster speeds and improved range from a new 802.11n router.

Invest in network extension options:

* Wifi repeaters amplify and extend your wireless signal. Put a repeater within range of your existing wifi router and it will relay that signal out to hard-to-reach locations around your home or office. They cost about $90 and while they can theoretically double your range, real life results tend to vary considerably. If you've had good or bad luck with a repeater, we welcome any advice or testimonials in the comments section below.

* Powerline networking uses the electrical wiring in your house to extend your Internet coverage. This is especially good if you want to get Internet access in a back room or you want to connect a gaming console that's on an old TV in the garage. Plug one powerline adapter into your router and the other into an electrical plug. Then in the far room where you want connectivity, plug the other powerline adapter into an electrical plug and voila - you've got Internet, you can even put a second wireless router on that connection. Setting up an alternative powerline network using your home's own AC power adapters can circumvent many of the most common wireless connectivity problems, and you don't even need to give up wifi altogether. If you look into getting started with a powerline setup, be sure to stick with one manufacturer when buying your equipment to avoid any compatibility issues.

More about wifi networking:

Making sense of the different breeds of wifi

Getting the most out of your home wifi performance

More tips on improving your wifi network's range

View Comments (597)