How Wi-Fi Extenders Work & 3 Best Ones You Should Buy

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Modern society would crumble if Wi-Fi technology disappeared overnight. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s hard to deny that we’ve grown so attached to wireless networking that we’d be lost without it.

And within the next decade or so, we’ll have next-gen innovations like the Internet of Things What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Internet Of Things & How Will It Affect Our Future [MakeUseOf Explains] It seems like there are new buzzwords popping up and dying off with each day that passes us by, and "the Internet of Things" just happens to be one of the more recent ideas that... Read More and Wi-Fi Aware Wi-Fi Aware: What's It About, And How Can You Use It? Wi-Fi Aware: What's It About, And How Can You Use It? What is Wi-Fi Aware and how does it affect you? Let's find out. Read More to look forward to (despite the potential threats in security 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You The potential benefits of the Internet of Things grow bright, while the dangers are cast into the quiet shadows. It's time to draw attention to these dangers with seven terrifying promises of the IoT. Read More ). Wireless connectivity is so ubiquitous that you can even get free Wi-Fi almost anywhere How to Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere How to Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere Public wireless networks are becoming more and more popular as a means of attracting people to a particular business or service, and this is just one of the many ways in which free (or almost... Read More today.

Except in your own house.

It’s possible that you don’t have the right wireless router for your needs 8 Key Questions You Must Ask When Buying A New Wireless Router 8 Key Questions You Must Ask When Buying A New Wireless Router Here are eight questions you should ask when buying a new wireless router. Read More and a common symptom is a Wi-Fi signal that doesn’t reach every room in your home or office with enough strength. If that’s the case, you need a Wi-Fi extender.

Wi-Fi Extenders Are Simple

Wi-Fi extenders, which are sometimes called Wi-Fi repeaters or Wi-Fi boosters, are auxiliary devices that can boost the signal from your wireless router 8 Tips to Effectively Boost Your Wireless Router Signal 8 Tips to Effectively Boost Your Wireless Router Signal If your wireless router's signal doesn't seem to reach very far, or if your signal keeps dropping for some weird reason, here are a few things you can do that might fix it. Read More , effectively extending its range.

Even though many wireless routers claim to be able to reach distances up to 250 feet or more, the actual distance covered may be as low as 100 or 50 feet depending on interferences. Before buying a Wi-Fi extender, first try optimizing your home layout for better Wi-Fi coverage Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Setting up a Wi-Fi network should be an easy prospect, shouldn't it? I mean, a house is a closed-in box, and you'd think when you place a device that transmits wireless signals in all directions... Read More .

But if you still need more range, then Wi-Fi extenders may be exactly what you need.


In short, you can think of an extender as a “second router” that connects to your primary router. The extender takes the primary signal and rebroadcasts it, effectively becoming a second network that devices can connect to — so on your smartphone or laptop, you’ll see both main router and secondary extender in your list of available access points.

Most modern extenders are easy to set up using Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), where all you have to do is press a button on your main router and a button on the extender to securely and automatically pair the devices. If WPS isn’t available, step-by-step setup isn’t too difficult either (but be sure to read your device’s manual).

What to Expect From a Wi-Fi Extender

All of this sounds great on paper, but there are a couple of caveats that you should be aware of before going ahead and buying an extender.

The first consideration is that traditional Wi-Fi extenders have a massive glaring flaw: reduced throughput. For any given user, an extender has two connections — one to the device and one to the main router — and can only communicate with one at a time, resulting in a 50% reduction in throughput rate.

So for a traditional single-band extender rated at 100 Mbps, you’d be getting 50 Mbps at best. In reality, extenders come with inefficiencies that can reduce throughput even further, so 50% is more like a best-case scenario.


However, modern extenders have found a way around this problem using dual-band Wi-Fi. Wireless routers can communicate on two bands: 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The 5 Ghz band is a newer specification so older devices don’t have that capability.

Dual-band How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes How Dual-Band Routers Can Solve Your Wireless Woes Using a router that supports the dual-band standard can significantly boost your Wi-Fi speeds in many circumstances. Read More extenders can communicate on both bands simultaneously, dedicating one as the connection to the main router and the other as the connection to end users. This gets around the loss in throughput.

N300 to AC1200

When purchasing an extender, be aware that the four most common types of dual-band models are N300, N60, AC750, and AC1200.

N300 devices can be single-band or dual-band, but dual-band devices are capped at 150 Mbps on each band. N600 devices are guaranteed to be dual-band with a maximum of 300 Mbps on each band.

AC750 and AC1200 are more recent types with more bandwidth, but are still on the cusp of widespread adoption. AC750 extenders can transmit up to 750 Mbps on the 5 GHz band while AC1200 extenders can go up to 1200 Mbps on the 5 GHz band. Speeds are slower on the 2.4 GHz bands due to limitations in the frequency.


With that out of the way, there are a few more caveats to consider.

To minimize risk of incompatibilities, try matching the brand of your extender to the brand of your main router. While Wi-Fi specifications are global and standardized, each brand may have special proprietary features that are only compatible with other devices from the same manufacturers.

Also, older generation extenders cannot repeat the signals from newer routers while newer models tend to be backwards-compatible, so make sure your extender can handle the same standards as your main router (i.e. 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards).

NETGEAR AC1200 Wireless WiFi Range Extender (EX6200) NETGEAR AC1200 Wireless WiFi Range Extender (EX6200) Buy Now On Amazon $74.90

The Netgear EX6200 is a powerful dual-band AC1200 extender that’s pretty much the best consumer model on the market at the time of writing this. It’s a bit pricey for casual weekenders, but it comes with a few nifty features that make maintenance and troubleshooting a bit easier.

For example, it comes with LED indicators that help you find the best spots for wireless coverage. It also has 5 Ethernet ports (while most extenders only have one) that let you use a wired connection when you need that stability. A solid purchase if you can front the cash.

D-Link WiFi Range Extender Gigabit Ethernet Port AC1200 Dual Band Wireless MediaBridge and Access Point (DAP-1650) D-Link WiFi Range Extender Gigabit Ethernet Port AC1200 Dual Band Wireless MediaBridge and Access Point (DAP-1650) Buy Now On Amazon $79.99

The D-Link DAP-1650 is another dual-band AC1200 extender that is more affordable than the Netgear EX6200. The extension range isn’t as long as the EX6200’s — then again, few extenders can actually beat it — but there’s a lot to like about this model.

The main benefit of the DAP-1650 is that it can connect to your main router through an Ethernet cable, which the EX6200 can’t do. It also has four Ethernet ports for connecting devices, which is one less than the EX6200 but still enough for most homes.

Belkin F9K1106 - Extensor de Señal Rango de Doble Banda Belkin F9K1106 - Extensor de Señal Rango de Doble Banda Buy Now On Amazon $31.99

The Belkin F9K1106 is a more primitive dual-band extender without some of the advanced features you’d find in the two models above. However, it’s certainly more affordable, making it a great choice for those who don’t feel compelled to have the very best and are okay with settling for good enough.

This is an N600 model so you get a maximum of 300 Mbps on each band, but that should be fine for most users. It comes with four Ethernet ports for wired devices. We wouldn’t recommend going much cheaper than this one due to potential performance hits and quality issues.

Wi-Fi Extenders Can Work Well

Wi-Fi extenders should not be your first solution to problems with Wi-Fi range and signal stretch. If you’re using an older router, definitely upgrade it to a more recent model before doing anything else, and make sure the router is situated where it will have minimal interference.

But if you’ve tried everything and still need more range on your wireless Internet, then an extender is probably what you need. As long as it’s a relatively recent dual-band model that’s compatible with your main router, you’ll be fine.

With all that being said, remember that wireless networks are vulnerable How Easy Is It to Crack a Wi-Fi Network? How Easy Is It to Crack a Wi-Fi Network? Wi-Fi security is important. You don't want intruders piggybacking on your precious bandwidth -- or worse. There a few misconceptions regarding Wi-Fi security, and we're here to dispel them. Read More to attacks and hijacks so make sure that you’re using a secure encryption mode WPA2, WEP, and Friends: What's the Best Way to Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? WPA2, WEP, and Friends: What's the Best Way to Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? When setting up wireless encryption on your router, you'll come across a variety of confusing terms -- WPA2, WPA, WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. Read More and that you haven’t made any of these wireless network setup mistakes 9 Common Mistakes Setting up a Wireless Network 9 Common Mistakes Setting up a Wireless Network Read More .

What have your experiences with wireless extenders been like? Which models would you recommend today? Share your expertise and thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Wireless Router LEDs by Deymos.HR via Shutterstock, Wi-Fi Mobile Device by CLIPAREA via Shutterstock, Wireless Connection Ports by Georgii Shipin via Shutterstock

Explore more about: LAN, Router, Wi-Fi.

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  1. Cyndi Frimel
    December 26, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    What can I use to extend my internet in the basement if I only have a Verison hot spot for internet service

  2. Ankita
    November 25, 2017 at 6:52 am

    What if my internet speed is at 100mbps (with 2.4ghz and 5ghz bands) and I use a 300 mbps single band router?

    In this case, I get 'upto' 150mbps on my device on the single band. So do i still need to upgrade my extender?

    So here's my doubt. I made 2 purchases of single band 300mbps extenders.
    And I'm wondering if I need to purchase a dual band 750mbps extender.

    First purchase: Returned this and got the 2nd one.

    Second purchase: I thought the antenna may be useful. I point one towards the router and one towards my laptop. Is the antenna really helpful? I see both 1 and 2 are 300mpbs extenders, so upto 150mbps for my devices.
    (Signal Rate: 11n - up to 300mbps dynamic
    Not sure what this means:
    11g - up to 54mbps dynamic
    11b - up to 11mbps dynamic - does this mean I'm getting only 54mbps or 11mbps connection on my devices?)

    Contemplating 3rd purchase:
    Dual band, so upto 750mbos on 5ghz band. Not sure what the speed is on 2.4ghz band. Would it be lesser than 150mbps though? Mybe I'd need to connect to the 2.4 band if the 5 band fluctuates.

    Then again, if my router gives me upto 100mbps, does it really matter which of these I buy?

  3. Joseph
    February 5, 2017 at 1:06 am

    Before reading this article, I new very little about wireless range extenders. I had purchase a Linksys RE1000W which did get the wireless to the back bedroom Vizio TV. But the quality of picture was not good. This article has given the information I needed to make a confident decision. I had nearly purchased a D-Link Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Range Extender & Access Point (DAP-1650) but I thought I better learn more before I made the purchase. Needless to say, after reading this article, I will purchase this D-link product.