What Is a Repeater in Computer Networking

Get rid of Wi-Fi dead spots in your home with a repeater

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Network repeaters receive and retransmit incoming electrical, wireless or optical signals. With physical media like Ethernet or Wi-Fi, data transmissions can only span a limited distance before the quality of the signal degrades. Repeaters attempt to preserve signal integrity and extend the distance over which data can safely travel.

Typical Uses for a Repeater

A typical router is usually strong enough to supply a signal to fill a small house or an apartment with a Wi-Fi signal, but it may not be strong enough to serve a large house. This results in "dead spots" in the home where no signal is available. You can benefit from installing a repeater:

  • If your office or home has a wireless internet connection that is strong in most of the areas but weak or nonexistent in the far reaches of the home or office
  • If your Wi-Fi is suffering from a line-of-sight problem such as a metal wall between you and your router.
  • If you'd like to be able to stream a sports game outside while you are grilling.

How to Use a Repeater

A repeater (also called a signal booster or range extender) is a small device that plugs directly into a power outlet. Positioning the repeater in the right location is important. Locate the repeater where the Wi-Fi signal is strong. A location halfway between the router and the weakest reception area is ideal. Then, following the instructions that come with your repeater, log in to the Wi-Fi repeater on your computer and enter the login information and password of your Wi-Fi network. The repeater connects to the Wi-Fi network and boosts the signal strength from its location outward.

Some range extenders boost the signal equally in all directions, but if your repeater has antennas, you can direct them toward the areas of weakest reception. 

Before you install your repeater, use an online speed test in an area of poor reception. Then rerun the test after you install the repeater to see the speed improvement the repeater gives you.