Nothing’s worse than upgrading your internet service only to discover the Wi-Fi still doesn’t reach the bedroom or entertainment center. One important reason for purchasing higher speed, after all, is to cover all your devices in every room of the home.
How can I boost my Wi-Fi signal? We’ve collected five ways to extend the Wi-Fi signal throughout your home, beginning with a short discussion on internet speed and connectivity. With one or more of these steps in place, it’s possible to get the Wi-Fi coverage you want.
1. Internet Connection
You may have heard that money makes the world go round. In your home, it’s the speed and reliability of the internet connection. If you lack the appropriate speed to power multiple connected devices or to stream rich media content on the PlayStation 4, it won’t matter how good of a router, Ethernet switch, or extender you buy—the Wi-Fi signal won’t be strong enough.
Movies and television shows will become so choppy that they’ll look like pixelated seas. Your favorite character will disconnect from every round of Player versus Player (PvP), and no one will let you join a raid. Even browsing Instagram or Facebook on your smartphone could become problematic when the internet speed isn’t fast enough.
Fortunately, you can solve the speed problem in three easy steps. First, test your current speed. Second, calculate how much speed you need. The first tool shows how much speed you’re currently getting from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and the second demonstrates how much speed is needed to service both the size of your home and its devices. Once you know both numbers, you can complete the third step: comparing providers and selecting the one that fits your speed and budget requirements.
Find and compare the best high-speed internet providers in your area:
2. Wi-Fi Routers
If you already receive quality high-speed internet, it may be time to look at your home networking equipment. Not all modems and routers are designed to support large homes. Although they may work fine in your 582-square-foot apartment, they could utterly fail when transplanted to a 1,452-square-foot home.
In addition, modems and routers go extinct all the time, particularly as higher speeds and Wi-Fi standards come to market, and the routers simply buckle beneath the strain. Plus, older modems and routers feature security risks that simply aren’t worth the trouble. You want a fast, secure home network, and that means purchasing a top-tier Wi-Fi router.
Besides buying a good device, you want to consider a few other factors about your router that can affect your internet speed throughout the home:
- Location: To decide on the best placement for your Wi-Fi router, look for the most centralized location in your home. Think of it as creating a hub (the router) with spokes (the various rooms). By placing the router at the center, you make it easier for the wireless signal to travel across the home. You might want to tuck the router away, but don’t hide it so well that its wireless signal smacks against a wall.
- Resetting: You occasionally restart your computer or laptop to cycle its settings and settle it back into its best, normal groove. A similar process occurs when rebooting your router. Resetting it every so often lets the router clear the digital gunk that sometimes accumulates during daily use.
- Installation: Many times, you can self-install a wireless router. Router installations typically follow general guidelines, but each tends to feature some unique step. You should follow the instructions for the best chance of a successful installation. If self-installing worries you at all, you can always elect to have the professionals do the work.
- Configuration: When you install a router out of the box, it comes with a preset configuration. You should customize that configuration to a) protect your home network and b) power internet connectivity throughout the home. For example, you can log in to the router’s settings to add guest networks or set traffic priorities, something called “Quality of Service (QoS).” Some routers also claim external antenna with beamforming technology. The technology complements QoS, helping distribute traffic across devices, such as your streaming media player, gaming laptop, and smartphone. The antennas, too, deserve mention; you can adjust or replace them to further extend Wi-Fi coverage.
- Cat5 and Cat6 Hardwired Ports: Your router does a lot, and sometimes putting too much pressure on it through multiple connections can lower your internet speed. Hardwired ports help take the load off.
- Depending on the age of your home, it may feature Cat5, Cat5e, or Cat6 cabling. Cat5 is the oldest and typically slowest. Cat5e builds upon Cat5 and enables gigabit Ethernet connections. Cat6 is the latest and greatest, although you don’t need to rush out and buy it. Cat6 improves upon Cat5e but not by so much that you would notice it on a day-to-day basis. The three types of cables serve a purpose: they allow you to plug directly into the internet via the Ethernet, which cuts down on the number of devices accessing the Wi-Fi. However, you need a hardwired Cat5 or Cat6 port to plug into. Most rooms exhibit only one or two ports—that’s not nearly enough if you’re trying to connect your entertainment system or office equipment. Some homeowners meet the challenge by running extra Ethernet cables throughout the home. Others elect to go inside the walls and run Cat5 or Cat6 cabling, as well as install extra jacks and wall plates. The second option often costs more, but it mitigates the safety hazards and tackiness of yellow cords strung along the hallway. Besides adding extra cables, homeowners sometimes purchase Ethernet switches. These gadgets are extremely helpful as they can increase the number of accessible hardwired ports at both the router and within rooms. Some switches feature over sixteen ports, which should be more than sufficient when hooking up, for example, a 4K HDTV, a gaming console, a DVR, and Sonos speakers.
3. Wi-Fi Extenders
Wi-Fi extenders, or boosters, extend wireless coverage by piggybacking on your router’s Wi-Fi and are typically plugged into a strategic electrical outlet. For example, if the entertainment room suffers with lag, you might place an extender there. If you want to boost the Wi-Fi signal to several rooms, you might choose to place one in the hallway. And, if you want to spread Wi-Fi coverage to multiple locations, you would purchase and plug in several Wi-Fi extenders.
Wi-Fi Extender Considerations
Wi-Fi extenders work great as long as you keep some things in mind.
- Location: Extenders need to be placed strategically so they’re effective and don’t cause signal interference. Many of the newer extenders feature “hotspot” locators that identify the perfect place to plug them in.
- Compatibility: Extenders, like routers, depend upon Wi-Fi standards, and the two pieces of equipment must transmit on the same one to work together. If the extenders rely upon the 802.11ac standard but the router uses 802.11n, you won’t see any boost in signal strength or coverage. You can avoid the compatibility issue by purchasing a new, quality router. It will use the latest Wi-Fi standard (802.11ac) and typically feature “backward compatibility,” a term meaning the router will work with devices using the current and most recent standards, usually 802.11n, b, and g.
- Frequency: Newer routers tend to be either dual-band or tri-band, which allows the router to direct traffic on multiple frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). Directing traffic through multiple frequencies stops internet-connected devices from interfering with each other, therefore increasing each one’s speed. Extenders sometimes claim the same ability. If your router offers dual-band capabilities, look for dual-band extenders to ramp up home network connectivity.
- Installation: Some extenders are plug-and-play. Plug them in and they will automatically configure with your router. Others require a bit more elbow grease. Generally, you set up the second type of extender via a mobile application.
- Price: Extenders aren’t the most expensive gadgets, but you should still examine your budget before buying them. High-end extenders cost around $150 and generally run the latest Wi-Fi standard. Low-cost options may save you money but not frustration. They could run on previous standards and fail to extend wireless coverage across the home and its devices.
4. Powerline Network Adapters
Powerline network adapters augment the other solutions shared here. The adapters come in pairs, with the first one connecting to the router and a wall outlet. The second adapter plugs into another outlet and a device requiring a hardwired connection—like a Wi-Fi enabled TV. The TV can easily gut your Wi-Fi signal if you’re not careful, so a network adapter is a perfect solution.
The adapters differ from the Cat5 or Cat6 idea in that they connect to your home’s electrical lines and pass the internet connection along them. They also differ from extenders in that they won’t necessarily repeat the signal. These gadgets are primarily intended to enhance the router’s Wi-Fi signal to specific devices, such as the aforementioned TV.
Powerline Network Adapter Considerations
As with Wi-Fi routers and extenders, you need to consider a few items when purchasing powerline network adapters. Weigh the following five factors prior to deciding which adapters to buy.
- Dual Performance: Some powerline network adapters simultaneously operate as Wi-Fi extenders. If you wish to enhance specific connections, as well as the entire home network, you’ll want to focus on the dual capability.
- Network Speed: Your home network is only as strong as its lowest-speed device. To ensure top speeds, purchase compatible products for your internet service. For example, if you subscribe to gigabit internet from an ISP, you want a router and adapter that facilitate the high speed.
- Compatibility: Compatibility plays a role with every home networking device you purchase. Focus on the Wi-Fi standard and assess whether the adapter uses HomePlug AV2, IEEE, or both. The second can affect interoperability, so it becomes important if you decide to make the home “smart” with gadgets like a Nest thermostat or Philips Hue lightbulbs.
- Ethernet Ports: You essentially lose an Ethernet port when using powerline network adapters. Keep the ports open and available for use by selecting adapters with two or more integrated Ethernet ports. The goal is to maximize the Wi-Fi signal while minimizing the number of home networking devices.
- Price: Most powerline network adapters come in under $100, so they won’t break the bank. Remember, though, that you may purchase multiple adapters, as well as extenders and a new router. The items add up, so set a budget before digging too deep into any products meant to increase Wi-Fi coverage.
5. Google Wifi
Google Wifi is a new home networking system. To create it, you will need a modem and one or more Google Wifi units. A standalone Google Wifi acts like a traditional router, and multiple units unleash what’s called a mesh network. The first unit still acts like a router, but the other units extend wireless coverage and, if placed well, blanket your entire home in internet connectivity.
So far, reception of the new Google product has been positive. The only complaint centers on the lack of customization. If you’re a gamer and require easy access to port forwarding and other settings, Google Wifi may not be for you. That, however, is the point of Google Wifi—it’s an alternative to modems and routers that confuse and frustrate with all their functions and options.
Google Wifi Considerations
As with any solution designed to extend wireless coverage, you’ll want to take some things under consideration.
- Google Wifi Units: The size of your home impacts how many Google Wifi units you need. One Google Wifi should cover an apartment or home between 500 and 1,500 square feet. Large homes, those upwards of 3,000 square feet, require at least three units.
- Price: A single Google Wifi unit costs approximately $130. A set of three costs about $300. The cost can go up from there, depending on the size of your home. Google Wifi comes either as a single unit or a set of three in the United States, so if you only need two units, you’ll end up paying almost as much as you would for the three.
- Compatibility: Google Wifi employs the 802.11ac standard and works on dual-band frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). If the smart home interests you, good news: Google Wifi gets along with Google Home, and rumors about integrating the two products are circulating.
- Mobile Application: To set up and use Google Wifi, you must have a Google account and the Google Wifi mobile app. Some homeowners dislike the constant connection to Google while others don’t mind at all. It’s really up to you and your personal preferences.
- Ethernet Ports: Because Google Wifi requires an initial internet connection point, you either plug the unit into an Ethernet port on an existing modem or router. The unit doesn’t make up for the loss of the port very well; each unit claims two Ethernet ports. However, you can easily navigate the port shortage with a compatible Ethernet switch.
With the right speed, router, and accessories like extenders and adapters, you can receive the Wi-Fi coverage you want and need.
Find and compare the best high-speed internet providers in your area.