How to Extend Your Home Wi-Fi Network

plwk400 photo010
Credit: Linksys

If your router is one room and your TV is in another, your home Wi-Fi network might not be strong enough to reach it. Here are four ways to solve the problem.

I love my Victorian flat. But like many buildings from that era, it has lots of doors, lots of walls, and lots of old-school wiring, all of which interfere with my Wi-Fi network. My signal is quite strong in my office, where my router is, but the farther I move away the weaker the signal. I got tired of watching my iPhone drop connections in the living room so I decided to extend my network.

Anemic Wi-Fi is a common problem, and if you’re router and modem are far from your livingroom, streaming videos and the like can be difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to solve it.

  • You can run Ethernet cable from your router to a device (your TV or PC, for example) in another room
  • Buy a more up to date router
  • Add a Wi-Fi extender to your network
  • Use a technology called Powerline to improve reception in corners of home where reception is weak.

Running Ethernet cable will give you the fastest and most stable connection, but cutting holes in wall and stringing cable around the house may not work for you.

The second option only makes sense if the router you’re currently using is rather old. Routers that support the 802.11n and the newer 802.11ac standard do a good job extending your signal, so if you have a new router and still are having trouble extending your signal throughout the home, a new router probably won’t help.

Wi-Fi extenders, in effect relay devices, aren’t expensive, but the problem is if you put one in an area that isn’t getting good reception, the extender may not get good reception. You could of course, connect it by cable to your router and it would then broadcast a robust signal around that part of your house.

The last option -- setting up a Powerline network -- is the one I choose. Simply put, this technology moves data or your Wi-Fi signal around the house via your electric wiring. One adapter is connected via Ethernet cable to your router and then plugs into the wall. At the other end, a second adapter is plugged into the wall. You can either plug your TV or other device into it with an Ethernet cable, or simply connect wirelessly, which is what I’m doing.

A number of vendors offer Powerline devices. I went with Linksys, a company that makes a variety of networking devices. The kit I bought is the PWK400-RM. It consists of two devices, one adapter for each end of the network. I found a deal on a refurbished kit, but even new you should be able to get it for under $100.

In theory, Powerline extenders should be Plug and Play. Setting up my network, though, required a good deal of fiddling before I got it to work. It’s also important to note that Linksys says both devices should be on the same circuit breaker, something that’s not always possible.

The biggest problem with the kit is that the enclosed manual is incomplete. It leaves out necessary steps. For example, I had no way to know that the adapter should be plugged into Lan Port 1 of my router. Adding security to the network is possible (and you certainly want to do it) but the steps outline in the manual are murky and the included installation software is baffling.

Also getting both adapters to synch can involve a lot of trips back and forth between them, and far too much crawling under the desk if that’s where your adapter is.

Linksys has decent support, though the first tech I reached was more or less clueless and I was about to give up. I tried one more time, and reached a much more helpful tech and got my new network up and running.

All in all, I’m happy with the results of this project. Setting up networks using almost any technology can be tricky, but if you don’t mind a little work, extending your Wi-Fi is well worth the trouble.

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