Can Wi-Fi Extenders Go Bad?

Yes, and here's how to tell if an extender is about to fail

Wi-Fi extenders can go bad, just like any other electronic device. They tend to last a long time and do not require much maintenance or repairs, but that doesn’t mean you can expect your Wi-Fi extender to last forever. Internal components will eventually wear out and stop working, and extenders become obsolete as new technologies emerge. 

Why Do Wi-Fi Extenders Stop Working?

Wi-Fi extenders can stop working for many reasons, but heat is the number one reason they break down. Wi-Fi extenders generate heat like any other electronic device, but they typically rely on passive cooling and don't have fans or anything else to prevent heat from building up. They're also on all the time, which means they never get a chance to cool down.

There are a couple of ways that you can help prevent a Wi-Fi extender from failing early due to heat issues. The most important thing is to place the extender in a position where there's plenty of room for air to flow around it. Consider setting your extender on a bookshelf instead of on a shelf where there's less airflow. Also, avoid placing an extender inside a cabinet or any other enclosed space.

You can also extend the life of your Wi-Fi extender by cleaning it from time to time. Check the vents of your Wi-Fi extender, if it has any, and use canned air to blow the dust away. Taking apart a Wi-Fi extender to clean inside usually isn't worth the effort. Still, you may want to consider that option if your device has shut down due to overheating.

Wi-Fi extenders have also become obsolete over time due to new technologies. It's not always an issue, as you may not care if your extended network is as fast or can handle as many devices as your primary Wi-Fi network, but it is one of the main reasons people replace their extenders.

Do Wi-Fi Extenders Need Replacing?

If your Wi-Fi extender seems to be working fine, then there isn’t any reason to replace it preemptively. Unlike your main Wi-Fi router, a crucial component in your network infrastructure, extenders usually aren’t as important. If your situation is different, and you rely on your extender to provide internet access to important devices or parts of your home, then you may want to consider replacing it from time to time.

There is no definite time frame for replacing a Wi-Fi extender, and one can last for ten years or more. However, internal components do eventually go bad. If your Wi-Fi extender is filling a vital function, then you may want to consider replacing it every three to five years or if you notice a degradation in performance.

How to Tell If a Wi-Fi Extender Is Going Bad

Wi-Fi extenders usually don’t show too many signs before they go bad. In most cases, your extender will work fine one day, and then the next, it will shut off and stop working. You may see or experience some telltale clues, but that isn’t always the case.

Here are some of the more common signs you may notice that indicate your Wi-Fi extender is failing:

  • You need to reset the Wi-Fi extender regularly: If your extender stops working and has to be reset a lot, that’s an indicator that something is wrong. You can try factory resetting the extender, but it may need replacing.
  • You have trouble connecting to the Wi-Fi extender: If your devices connect to your extender but don’t stay connected, or if you have a problem connecting at all, you might need to replace the extender. Check for interference first, and change the Wi-Fi channel number if necessary.
  • The internet speed is slow when connected: If your extender is a lot older than your router, there’s a good chance that it doesn’t support the latest Wi-Fi technology, and connections will be slower. If your connection speed suddenly gets slower one day, there may be a problem with the extender itself.
  • Your connection drops when using the extender: If your devices can connect to the extender, but the internet connection drops out while continuing to work on your primary Wi-Fi network, there’s probably an issue with the extender.
  • The lights are off, flashing, or the wrong color: Check with your extender’s manufacturer for information about the lights. When they flash or turn different colors, that usually indicates a problem.
  • The Wi-Fi extender won’t turn on: Let your extender cool down, and try to turn it on again. You can also try plugging it into a different outlet and press the reset button if one exists. If it still doesn’t turn on, it’s probably time for a replacement.

How to Help Your Wi-Fi Extender Last Longer

Every Wi-Fi extender goes bad eventually, but there are some things you can do to help them last longer. Since most failures are due to heat and time, most solutions involve keeping the extender cool.

Here are some things you can do to help an extender last longer:

  • Place the extender in a well-ventilated area: When you set up your Wi-Fi extender, avoid placing it in an enclosed space, like a shelf, hutch, or cabinet. The enclosure will block the Wi-Fi signal, and it will also cause the extender to get a lot hotter, which can shorten its life.
  • Use a surge protector: If there’s space for a surge protector in the location you chose for your Wi-Fi extender, consider using one. Voltage spikes can destroy a Wi-Fi extender, so plugging into a surge protector can help.
  • Clean the extender regularly: Dust the outside of your extender, and blow dust from the vents with canned air. Overheating is often caused by dust buildup, so keep your extender as dust-free as possible.
  • Keep the extender updated: If you notice worsening performance over time, consider checking the manufacturer for updates. You may be able to install a firmware update to speed up your old Wi-Fi extender.

Can Wi-Fi Extenders Cause Problems?

When a Wi-Fi extender fails or starts to fail, you'll notice problems with Wi-Fi connectivity and speed. If your extender uses a unique SSID, you'll usually have trouble connecting to it. If you have a mesh network system or a network setup that uses the same SSID and password for your main network and your extender, you'll notice poor speeds and trouble connecting from the areas of your house that rely on the extender.

Wi-Fi extenders can also cause problems even when they're working fine. The biggest problem with Wi-Fi extenders is that they can cause Wi-Fi interference when running on the same channel as your primary network. Mesh systems don't have this problem because they effectively create one Wi-Fi network that passes devices seamlessly from one extender to the next. However, regular Wi-Fi extenders can cause issues with your main Wi-Fi router if they're on the same channel or overlapping channels.

  • How do I install a Wi-Fi extender?

    First, decide on an ideal location; the extender should be close enough to your router to pick up a signal and reach the area where you want to extend coverage. Next, plug in the extender and connect to it through the manufacturer's mobile app or website. Follow the instructions to connect the device to your network, set a new admin password, and change the network name if you don't want to use the same SSID as your router.

  • How many Wi-Fi extenders can I use?

    Your router's manual lists how many connections the device can handle. Follow this guidance to limit the number of extenders you set up. While you can use multiple Wi-Fi extenders with a single router, you should also take care to assign each extender to a different Wi-Fi channel to prevent signal interference.

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