How to Extend WiFi

If the wireless network coverage in your home isn’t quite reaching all the desired areas, we’ve found the solution for how to extend WiFi range. This method will also make your WiFi faster in areas where WiFi is slow due to the distance from your existing router.

First, we tested a few routers with the hopes of extending the WiFi with a single device. The tests were unsuccessful. Next, we tried flashing two routers with DD-WRT and found the coverage to be better, but doing so required some advanced knowledge, and it had the annoyance of having to connect to different WANs as we roamed the area.

Ultimately, the best device we found to cover well over 4,000 square feet, or 371 square miles, was Orbi by Netgear. Satellites can be added to the Orbi system if a larger coverage area is needed. In our testing, we found the one router and one satellite kit system to be very adequate.

Our objective was to get coverage in a 3,500 square foot home with coverage extending to an outdoor patio and carport. However, the total area needing coverage was about 5,000 square feet. For testing purposes, the main WiFi router was always located in a central location, as close to the middle of the house as possible.

Methods We Tried To Extend WiFi Coverage

In order to find the best method for strengthening the WiFi signal and eliminating dead zones, we had to try a few methods. So that you don't have to spend time trying them for yourself, we've included these four methods below. All the methods worked to some extent, but they didn't provide as much range as was needed. Here was our experience with each of these methods.

Method One: Provided ISP Router

This first method we attempted was using the provided WiFi router from the ISP (ZyXel P-660HN-51). We tried elevating the router, changing channels, and changing frequencies, but had no luck getting coverage beyond the inside of the house. In some areas of the house, the WiFi coverage would drop.

Method Two: Range Extender Antennae

This second method was adding range extender antennae to an already owned Linksys WRT54GL. When this was put in place, we disabled WiFi on the wireless router provided by the ISP to eliminate interference. Coverage was only slightly better than the ISP router. Internet speeds were no faster or slower. We changed channels, changed frequencies, and elevated the router. The results were the same with only slightly extended coverage.

Method Three: Netgear WiFi Routers

In the third method, I took to Facebook and asked my friends which WiFi router they thought has the best coverage. The two most popular answers were the Nighthawk AC1900 and the Nighthawk X6 AC3200, both by Netgear. Although the coverage did extend slightly with both of these routers, the WiFi still didn’t quite reach all areas we needed. I will say that network speeds on both of these routers was noticeably faster. My devices connected in less time and pages loaded quicker. If you need to extend your coverage just a little bit further or simply want a faster and more stable WiFi, I’d recommend either of these routers, hands down.

Method Four: Linksys Routers with Range Extender Antennae

This fourth method was flashing two Linksys WRT54GLs with DD-WRT while having range extender antennae on both routers. After some semi-advanced configuring on both routers, which took well over an hour, they linked up without issue - no Ethernet cables or cords needed. The coverage worked very well and extended to all areas we needed. Network speeds were also consistent. The biggest downside to this setup was that the WiFi wasn’t seamless. At one end of the house you needed to be connected to Network1, while at the other end, where the Network1 WiFi didn’t reach, you had to connect to Network2.

This isn’t a problem with static devices like Rokus, desktop computers, and the like. However, if you’re roaming the house with your phone or other portable devices, manually switching to the strongest network was definitely an inconvenience. This setup was in place for over a month’s time and the routers only lost each other once or twice. A simple power cycle of each router got the wireless signals reconnected.

Best Method to Extend WiFi Range: Orbi

After the other four attempted methods, we tried using Orbi. Orbi works similar to method four in that it involves connecting two devices to extend coverage. However, in this case, the instructions and setup were both extremely simple. The system only has one network name and password and eliminates the need to change networks as you move, like with the Linksys routers. It has tri-band WiFi, which is more powerful than dual band, and dedicated 1.7Gbps 5GHz bands exclusively for extending Internet speeds to Orbi satellites.

Orbi is also convenient due to the fact that Orbi satellites don't need to be within sight of each other or within sight of the Orbi router. You have increased flexibility when placing the satellites and can set them up wherever is most convenient without worrying about losing coverage.

It took less than thirty minutes to complete setup of the whole system, and it became apparent that it was accessible for people with all levels of technological knowledge; my mother, who knows very little about routers, was able to set up the system herself. We found that WiFi coverage over the desired area was successful: the kit that includes one router and one satellite lives up to its claim of 5,000 square foot coverage. 

In our test, it’s well beyond the claimed coverage range. The connection between satellites is virtually seamless. When roaming the area with a mobile device, you can watch the network signal degrade for a second and quickly go back to full strength as it alternates between devices. This system has been in place for a couple of weeks and the router and satellite have remained connected to each other without any issues.

In Short: Users Have Options to Extend WiFi

In summary, there are several options out there to extend your WiFi network coverage. I hope our testing will save you some time in choosing the right device(s) for your scenario.