How to Install a Wi-Fi Extender

Get better Wi-Fi without upgrading your router

What to Know

  • Regardless of the extender you buy, an extender will connect to your existing router and use it to broadcast its new Wi-Fi network.
  • Place the extender in the center of the area which needs a stronger Wi-Fi connection.
  • An extender is a valuable piece of tech, but big houses with complicated layouts will benefit more from a long-range or mesh router.

This article explains how to connect a Wi-Fi extender to a router to improve your Wi-Fi network's strength and range.

When we say Wi-Fi extender, we're referring to devices that rebroadcast your Wi-Fi signal, creating a second wireless network. Some devices, particularly older ones, work to boost the signal strength of an existing Wi-Fi network. These devices don't work very well, and can sometimes be sold as Wi-Fi extenders.

How to Install a Wi-Fi Extender

Before you can install an extender, you'll need to buy one. These devices come in many different forms and price points, and many extenders are for a specific use, like gaming or portability or range.

  1. Once you have a Wi-Fi extender, before you can begin the actual setup, you'll need to decide where you want the extender to go.

    To some extent, placing your extender is about finding your home's sweet spot: A location close enough to your router to easily pick up your signal but far enough away so the extender-created network will cover the space you want.

    If you have a layout where your router is in one location, and you want to set up an extender at the other end of the house or up a few floors through various walls and ceilings, a mesh network may best serve you.

  2. To get started setting up your extender, you will need to consult its manual. Often, the manufacturer will offer an app or a website to walk you through the initial setup process.

    Either way, you'll need access to a phone or a computer. If your extender didn't come with a paper manual or you misplaced the manual, searching for your device's manual online is easy.

    Depending on your router and extender, you may be able to press a WPS button (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) or engage WPS mode on your router to connect your extender to your router. But chances are your extender will have some software it wants you to use to set up the device.

  3. Once you have your extender, the manual, and access to a phone or computer, you'll need to know some basic information about your router to follow along with the extender's software.

    Beyond your network's name and password, you'll need to know at what frequency your router broadcasts. Modern routers often can broadcast in 2.4GHz and 5GHz, which will often appear as separate networks but may not always.

    By default, a dual-band router will usually broadcast in both frequencies in the form of two wireless networks, generally including 2.4 in the name of one and 5 in the name of the other.

    If your router is dual-band, i.e., it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, you'll want to be sure your extender supports this as well, and vice-versa, you won't need to pay for a dual-band extender if you only have or use one band.

  4. Now you can plug in your Wi-Fi extender and follow along with its setup instructions. Once the device is powered on and connected to your network, you'll want to use the extender's software to check the signal strength.

    Without a solid connection to your original Wi-Fi network, an extender won't do much good. Once you confirm there aren't any signal issues, consider changing the name or names of your extended networks to match up with your pre-existing network setup.

    For example, if you have a "Netgear 2.4" and "Netgear 5" network, consider naming the extender's networks "Netgear 2.4 EXT" and "Netgear 5 EXT" or something similar.

  5. Once everything is set up and connected with a strong signal, you're good to go. You will likely have to manually join your extender's network when you are in its range and switch back to your regular network when you go out of range.

    However, some of the more premium, expensive extenders support seamless roaming. In this case, the extender's network and the original network appear as the same network and automatically switch as you come in and out of range of it.

    If you move the location of your router, make sure to check on or adjust the location of your extender, too. Connecting to the wrong network or ending up with a worse connection on your extender than your original network can be a hassle.

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

    Wi-Fi repeaters and Wi-Fi extenders serve the same purpose, and the terms are often used interchangeably, along with Wi-Fi booster and Wi-Fi amplifier. Technically, Wi-Fi extenders do not reduce network bandwidth, but the only way to know for sure is to read the product description carefully.

  • What is the difference between a mesh network and a Wi-Fi extender?

    Wi-Fi extenders and mesh networks both extend your Wi-Fi signal, but they work at different scales. Extenders are less expensive and require less setup, but they have a very limited range compared to mesh networks, which can provide a full Wi-Fi signal for every room.

  • What is wireless bridging?

    Wireless bridging is a technology that makes it possible for two wireless access points to communicate and act as a single network. Bridging can be achieved with Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth.

  • How do I measure my Wi-Fi signal strength?

    To check your Wi-Fi signal strength on Windows, go to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center and select the blue Wi-Fi link. On Mac, the Wi-Fi indicator is located in the upper-right corner of the screen. On Linux, use the command iwconfig wlan0 | grep -i --color signal.

Was this page helpful?