Today, Wi-Fi is more than just a convenient way to connect to the internet — it’s a vital tool that everyone needs to remain connected, efficient and productive. Along with the rise of advanced wearable tech, smart appliances, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices, easily accessible Wi-Fi has become a necessity. We’ve dramatically hiked up our standards when it comes to signal strength, speed, and security. 

And if those standards aren’t met, we turn to the latest networking hardware such as Wi-Fi Extenders, boosters, and Powerline Adapters in an attempt to not only improve the quality and security of our internet connection but to ensure that we can stay connected at all times. As a relatively risk-free investment that can drastically improve our Wi-Fi experience, it’s no surprise that we’ve been fervently typing on our search engines to ask the question “how do Wi-Fi extenders work?”

How do Wi-Fi extenders work?

Unlike a Wi-Fi booster, which connects to routers directly and boosts the signal from the main access point, Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters rebroadcast an existing Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi extenders are normally plugged into electrical outlets and use two antennas to receive, replicate, and extend a designated connection. 

Do Wi-Fi extenders work? 

The simple answer is, yes. They’re particularly useful if there are connectivity dead zones or problematic areas, often caused by stairs, corners, electrical appliances, and various Wi-Fi repelling building materials. 

In addition to homes, Wi-Fi extenders are ideal for bars, cafes, and restaurants that have multiple seating areas/floors and Wi-Fi-killing kitchen equipment like microwaves. As they effectively ‘boost’ the signal, Wi-Fi extenders are also commonly referred to as boosters (just to complicate things a little more).

How Does A Wi-Fi Repeater Work?

A Wi-Fi Repeater effectively contains two wireless routers, similar to the wireless router you already have in your home or office. One of these wireless routers picks up the existing Wi-Fi network. It then transfers the signal to the other wireless router, which transmits the boosted signal.

What’s the difference between a WiFi booster, repeater, or extender?

Wi-Fi boosters, repeaters, and extenders are essentially the same thing — devices used to improve Wi-Fi coverage. There isn’t a clearly defined difference between devices that manufacturers describe as “repeaters” and devices described as “extenders,” however, not all Wi-Fi extenders work in the exact same way. There are several different kinds of devices available and below we aim to explain what those differences are and how they work so that you can choose the best Wi-Fi repeater for your circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

  1. I have trouble getting a Wi-Fi signal in some areas of my house. What should I try first?

There are a couple of solutions to try before opting for a Wi-Fi extender. The simplest is to try moving the location of your Wi-Fi router. It should be in the most central location possible. If that doesn’t help (or if changing the location just isn’t practical) check if your router needs to be upgraded. If you’ve had an older model for many years, it could be time for an upgrade to a more powerful model.

  1. How do I choose hardware and how do I make the most of my purchase? 

Are you ready to get going with some Wi-Fi-improving hardware, but don’t know which solution is going to work for you, and are also wondering how can you ensure you get the most for your money? Here are a few more things to consider:

WiFi extenders, boosters, and Powerline Networks are available from a number of manufacturers with varying transmitting and boosting capabilities. 

While this makes for some considerable variation in price, quality, and effectiveness, the general consensus on these solutions is that they are effective and easy to use.

  1. Is placement also important for WiFi extenders/repeaters? 

While many of us may be inclined to place an extender in the area with the weakest signal (usually the furthest point from the router), it’s advised to place them partway between the router and the problem area. By doing this, the extenders receive a stronger signal from the router which can then extend appropriately.

If you want to go the extra mile, there are also some creative steps you can take. Believe it or not, WiFi paint exists that reflects WiFi frequencies, allowing you to concentrate the signal within your space and block other intrusive networks nearby. And let’s not forget the classic Beer Can WiFi Booster – a common and free solution for improving WiFi within smaller spaces.

  1. My WiFi is in the best location possible and the router is up-to-date, but coverage is still unreliable?

A WiFi extender could be the solution for you, and there are a couple of different options. One of the most straightforward is a powerline ethernet kit. The kit allows you to send your internet signal over the electrical circuit in your home or office. It comes with 2 adapters; one plugs into a power socket near your current router, and the other in the location where you need a signal. Connect the first one to your router using an ethernet cable, and connect the second to an ethernet device (e.g. a Smart TV or games console). The second adapter could also be connected to a WiFi router for a second WiFi network.

The great advantage of this solution is that it is fast to set up — just plug and go. Secondly, it’s fast in bandwidth terms. An extender that uses WiFi will usually see some speed loss. Because they’re communicating with the router over Wi-Fi, there’s a big speed drop if the extender talks to your devices on the same band it’s using to talk to the router. There are ways to get around this but the powerline ethernet kit bypasses the whole problem. By using the existing electrical circuit in your house, you create a link from your WiFi router to your device that is faster than WiFi and can be set up in just a few minutes.

This is a particularly great solution if, for example, you had a games console in the basement that wasn’t getting a sufficiently fast or reliable signal. The kit can plug right into the console’s ethernet connection and connect it to the router in another part of the house.

But powerline ethernet adapters aren’t for everybody. The distance between power outlets can have an impact on performance, and so can the kind of wiring you have in your house. If a powerline ethernet adapter isn’t right for you, we recommend considering a WiFi repeater.

And that’s all there is to know about Wi-Fi extenders, should you consider getting one. It’s all fairly straightforward, but whether you get one or not is completely up to your needs and preferences. All in all, Wi-Fi extenders are a huge help when it comes to improving and strengthening our Wi-Fi signals. Their simple and minimalistic design allows us to be more connected at home and gives us more ways to stay online, whether it’s for Facebook, work, or playing games. There are plenty of advantages to getting a Wi-Fi extender, so finding the right one is the next step.