Oh My Tech: Extending the range of your wireless network
Among best solutions are getting a Netgear router or a range extender.

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: May 18, 2012 12:03AM
Updated: May 23, 2012 09:51AM
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Vince Horiuchi

I have a house where the people at one end don’t get a very good WiFi signal from my router. I put in another router, set it up as an access point, and gave it the same SSID as the original so users could access it from the other end of the house. If people get on the network for the first time at the other end of the house, it works just fine. However, if they move from one end to the other, their computer never switches to the more powerful access point/router. That means their signal gets very weak, and my network gives them no advantage. Is there a way to make this work better? — Clayton Johnson.

For a lot of people who are in big homes (unlike me!), it sounds like a great idea to set up two routers so that you can extend the wireless range of the network from one end of the house to the other. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to watch “Modern Family” on one side of the house and then walk to the other with your laptop without interrupting the video stream?

Unfortunately, the way Clayton describes how he tried to do it is not the way to go about it.

The problem is when you are connected wirelessly to the Internet, say with a laptop or mobile phone, that device stays connected to that first router until it loses the signal completely when you get too far from it. So, the way Clayton has it set up, it won’t connect to the router on the other side of the house until it completely loses the signal from the first router.

There’s a couple of ways to approach this. First, you can buy a router with better range.

I’ve had really good luck with Netgear routers. Like most, they support dual-band frequencies so your router can work without getting interference from other appliances such as cordless phones. But it also boasts superior range, which I’ve found to be true after testing five routers from other brands. By now, I’m sure companies such as Belkin, Linksys and D-Link offer good range for wireless connectivity.

The second solution is to get a WiFi range extender. It’s a box you set up in your home away from the router. It then boosts the wireless signal from your router to dead spots in your home. Netgear even sells a version that kind of looks like one of those AC-powered air fresheners that you just plug into a power outlet.

Range extenders can run from $50 to $70, which is on average the same price as — if not cheaper than — a second router.

It takes trial and error to find the sweet spot. Distinctive factors in each person’s house, such as what walls are in the way and which other electrical devices are nearby that can cause interference, can affect the speed of your router.

My suggestion is to take the time to test several models in your home to find the best one. Just make sure you purchase them from a store that has a good return policy.

If you have a question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.