What Is a Repeater in Computer Networking?

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

Happy senior man using laptop on outdoor sofa

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Network repeaters are small devices that receive and retransmit incoming electrical, wireless, and optical signals. They help bring a signal to spots where Ethernet and Wi-Fi data transmissions, which can span only limited distances before the signal quality degrades, can't reach. Repeaters attempt to preserve signal integrity and extend the distance over which data can travel.

Typical Uses for a Repeater

A typical router is usually strong enough to supply a Wi-Fi signal throughout a small house or an apartment, but it might 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 areas but weak or nonexistent in its far reaches
  • Your Wi-Fi suffers from a line-of-sight problem such as a metal wall between a room and your router.
  • You'd like to be able to stream content outside — for example, while you're grilling or enjoying your back yard.

How to Use a Repeater

Positioning a repeater in the right location — where a signal is strong — is important. A location halfway between the router and the weakest reception area is ideal. Then, following the instructions that come with your repeater, log into 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. Rerun the test after you install the repeater to gauge the speed improvement the repeater gives you.