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Wi-Fi boosters and extenders: What are they and how do they work?

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If you’ve ever had issues with Wi-Fi connectivity in your home, you may have considered picking up a Wi-Fi booster or extender to help.

Boosters and extenders can help spread your connection further around your home, so whether it’s just one room that struggles to get online or you’re having problems connecting in the far corners of your home, picking up a boosting device might help you make the most of your Wi-Fi.

If you’re living in a sizeable home you’ve probably experienced connectivity issues in the rooms furthest from your router. This can happen regardless of your internet provider, and isn’t a reflection of bad service but rather your router struggling to send out the signal to the farthest reaches of your home. A booster can help extend the signal by connecting to your router (either wired or wirelessly) and then using its own internal radio to send out a new wireless signal, creating a larger range.

Wi-Fi range in a home with extenders

What is the difference between a Wi-Fi booster and extender?

There are a few products on the market that all help your Wi-Fi signal reach further. Wi-Fi boosters, extenders and repeaters are essentially the same thing. There are no specifications that require a product to be named any differently among the three, and any device with these titles will be performing the same function.

Regardless of the name, there are a few different ways in which these signal-boosting products can work, so we’ll go into that below.

How do Wi-Fi boosters and extenders work?

As we said, these are devices that extend the range of your Wi-Fi by connecting to the existing signal from your router (either wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable). As this new device is connecting to your Wi-Fi signal and then transmitting it out again, you should be prepared for a bit of a drop in speed, but it shouldn’t be too substantial with most units.

Some extenders will work with an individual unit, which will take in the existing Wi-Fi signal and send it back out in a way that it overlaps and extends your current connection. Other devices will require two units; powerline extenders, for example, take in the existing signal via a direct wired Ethernet cable connection and then send it to a second unit over your home’s power lines, with the second unit transmitting the Wi-Fi outwards to create another point for your devices to connect to.

How do I know if I need a booster or extender for my Wi-Fi?

Simply, this type of product makes sense if you find your Wi-Fi connection struggles to reach areas of your home that are further away from the router.

It is worth noting that if you have an older modem or router, picking up a newer replacement (or asking your internet service provider if a newer option is available) might solve your problem. Newer models may be able to send out the Wi-Fi signal further than an old router would, but there’s still no guarantee this will cover all of your home.

You should also ensure that your router is plugged into a spot that’s central in your home. This is in order to spread the signal around evenly. Most routers send a signal out evenly in every direction, so placing yours in a central location will provide the best coverage possible.

If you’ve still got issues getting connected to Wi-Fi in some areas of your home, a Wi-Fi booster might be able to help.

What should I look for in a Wi-Fi booster or extender?

The most important thing to check when purchasing a Wi-Fi booster or extender is that it’s compatible with your modem. Modern boosters and extenders are usually able to connect to any router, but this information will always be displayed in the product specifications.

Some boosters and extenders, particularly older models, are only compatible with certain brands of routers or specific router types, so it’s important to check that you’ll be able to use your new product. Ideally, you want to choose an extender that has the same or better Wi-Fi specifications as your router.

If you end up with an extender which fails to meet the specifications of your router then you’ll find more significant issues with speed loss and potentially have troubles connecting the devices. Ensure your extender meets the range that you need in order for it to pick up the signal from your router and retransmit the signal to the areas of your house you need covered.

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Last updated 20 July 2024
Cooper Langby
Cooper Langby
Money writer

Cooper writes across all aspects of personal finance here at Mozo. With a double degree in Journalism and Communications & Media from the University of Wollongong, Cooper has previously written sports content for the Fansided network. He is now turning his focus to finances and is always looking for new ways to educate himself and our readers on the best ways to save money, and budget effectively.