Can a WiFi booster increase speed?

Using a WiFi booster is one way to potentially increase your wireless internet speeds. WiFi boosters work by receiving the existing WiFi signal from your wireless router, amplifying it, and then rebroadcasting the boosted signal. This can help extend the range and coverage of your home’s WiFi network, allowing you to get faster speeds in areas that may have poor reception.

Can a WiFi booster increase speed?

How do WiFi boosters work?

A WiFi booster (also known as a wireless range extender) works by picking up the existing WiFi signal from your wireless router, amplifying the signal, and then transmitting that boosted signal.

The booster has at least two internal antennas. One antenna connects to your existing wireless network and receives the signal. A built-in amplifier then boosts the power of that received signal. The second antenna then broadcasts the boosted signal.

This amplified signal is stronger than your router’s native signal. So devices that are farther away or that struggle to get a strong signal can now connect to the boosted network from the range extender.

Key benefits of a WiFi booster:

  • Extends the range of your WiFi network to cover dead zones
  • Amplifies a weak signal to provide improved speeds
  • Allows more devices to connect and stay connected to the network
  • Provides a stable connection to devices that are far from the router

Factors that affect WiFi speeds

There are many factors that can impact WiFi speeds. Boosting the wireless signal strength is just one potential improvement. Maximum speeds will still ultimately depend on your internet plan and the type of devices connecting.

Some key factors that affect WiFi speeds include:

  • Internet Service Provider (ISP) plan – The maximum speeds advertised by your ISP will set the limit for internet speeds to your home. A range extender can’t exceed these limits.
  • Router capabilities – An older 802.11n router may only support speeds up to 300 Mbps while a modern 802.11ac router can do over 1 Gbps. Your router needs to support faster WiFi versions to see faster speeds.
  • Device capabilities – The WiFi standards supported by your device also affect connection speeds. If you have an 802.11ac phone but an 802.11n laptop, the laptop will connect more slowly.
  • Distance and obstacles – Being farther from the wireless router or having walls and objects blocking the signal path will reduce WiFi speeds. Boosters help mitigate this.
  • Bandwidth overload – Too many devices using bandwidth intensive applications can congest the network and slow speeds. Boosters help relieve network congestion.
  • Interference – Signals from devices like microwaves, Bluetooth, or neighbors’ WiFi can interfere with and slow down the wireless network. Boosters can’t do much about external interference.

How much speed increase is possible?

Exact speed increases from a WiFi booster depend on your specific setup. But in ideal conditions, you may see:

  • 2X faster speeds if you currently get 100Mbps speeds.
  • 3X faster speeds if you currently get 50Mbps speeds.

However, if your wireless router is only capable of say 300Mbps speeds, your booster also won’t exceed 300Mbps even if your ISP plan offers higher speeds. The router or extender’s maximum WiFi spec sets the limit.

Here are some example scenarios:

  • You pay for 300Mbps internet but only get 100Mbps speeds in your bedroom. A good WiFi booster can potentially double your speeds to 200Mbps in that room.
  • You pay for 100Mbps internet and currently measure 50Mbps in the backyard. A booster can potentially increase to the max 100Mbps out there.
  • You have a dated 802.11n router that tops out at 300Mbps. A booster will not provide speeds higher than 300Mbps though it can help reach that maximum speed in more locations.

So while WiFi boosters are great for improving signal strength and reliability, their speed increases are still limited by your internet plan, router model, and devices connecting.

Where should the booster be placed?

To get the maximum benefit, you will need to find the optimal location to place your WiFi range extender. Here are some placement tips:

  • Place the booster halfway between your wireless router and the weak signal area. The booster needs to be able to receive the existing signal before it can amplify and rebroadcast it.
  • Avoid placing near other electronics. Try to keep a few feet of clearance from devices like microwaves, Bluetooth speakers, TVs, etc. that could interfere with signals.
  • Elevate the booster if possible. Placing it higher in the room can improve the extended signal coverage area.
  • Test the signal strength. Move the booster around and run speed tests from devices in problem spots to determine the best location.
  • Visibility line of sight is best between router-booster-devices but distances can be longer if passing through only 1 or 2 walls.

Ideally, the booster is close enough to the router to receive a good signal but also in the general vicinity of devices needing a boost. Testing different positions can help optimize.

How to choose a good WiFi booster

Not all WiFi extenders are created equal. Here are some features to look for when shopping for a reliable booster:

  • Dual-band – Supports both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi bands. This allows you to boost networks on either frequency.
  • 802.11ac – Compliant with the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard and can provide speeds up to 1300Mbps or more. This ensures compatibility with modern routers and devices.
  • Antenna design – Units with external adjustable antennas allow aiming the antenna for best reception. Models with internal antennas need careful positioning.
  • Wired ethernet port – Having an ethernet port allows the booster to be connected to a router via cable. This is preferred for bandwidth intensive applications.
  • Secure setup – Supports WPA2 encryption and allows wireless security settings to be passed through to connected devices. Easy to setup WPS pairing with router is also convenient.
  • Device connections – Can support up to 20 or more WiFi devices without slowing down. More is preferred for larger homes and networks.

Selecting a booster with these specs provides the best performance, compatibility, and user experience.

How to install and set up a WiFi booster

Installing a WiFi extender is typically quick and straightforward. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Place the booster – Identify the optimal location halfway between your wireless router and problem location. Elevate the booster if possible.
  2. Plug in the booster – Connect the booster to a power outlet. Wait for it to boot up. LED indicators will confirm when it is ready.
  3. Connect to the booster – On your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, search for and select the new wireless network name that is created by the booster. This shares the settings.
  4. Pass through settings – The booster should automatically detect your main router network name and password. Confirm that it passes those settings through to its own new extended network.
  5. Connect devices – Now try connecting devices like your laptop, TV, smart home gadgets, etc. to the new boosted WiFi signal. They will connect the same way as to your main router network.
  6. Confirm connectivity – Run speed tests and browse the internet from devices in previously unreachable spots. They should now have a solid, speedy wireless connection through the booster.

If the router and booster have WPS one-touch setup, it can make connection even simpler. Overall the process takes 15 minutes or less for most boosters and routers.

Tips for getting the most from your WiFi booster

To maximize the benefit from your new WiFi range extender, follow these tips:

  • Connect computers and smart TVs via ethernet cable when possible to conserve wireless bandwidth for other devices.
  • Place the router and booster in centralized locations to optimize coverage area.
  • For media centers, position the booster by the TV or streaming box, not the router. This ensures a strong signal where high bandwidth is needed most.
  • Update router firmware and booster firmware to the latest available versions for performance improvements.
  • Limit crowding. Spread connected devices across the booster and main router networks to prevent bandwidth congestion.
  • Set devices like laptops and tablets to connect to the 5GHz band when possible as it offers higher throughput than 2.4GHz.
  • Adjust the transmission power from the router and booster admin panels to balance performance vs. interference.
  • Set a unique network name and password for the booster to avoid confusion about which network you are connecting devices to.

Following these tips helps ensure smooth performance and connectivity from your extended WiFi network. Check speeds regularly from problematic locations and move the booster as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Do WiFi boosters really work?
    Yes, WiFi boosters are an effective solution for improving signal coverage in homes and offices with dead zones or weak reception areas. The extended signal provides faster, more reliable wireless speeds at longer distances from the main router.

  2. Where is the best place to position a WiFi booster?
    Ideally halfway between the wireless router and the area with poor reception. Elevated in the room also helps spread the signal. Run speed tests to optimize the location. Keep the booster away from potential sources of interference.

  3. What is the difference between a WiFi booster and WiFi repeater?
    A repeater simply extends the network without amplifying. Boosters actively amplify and strengthen the signal for better performance at range. So a booster is preferred.

  4. Do boosters create a new WiFi network?
    Yes, the booster broadcasts its own network. But it passes through the main router’s SSID and password for seamless device connectivity between networks.

  5. How many devices can connect to a booster?
    Typically 20 or more devices depending on model. Connect devices across both networks to balance usage and avoid congestion issues.

  6. What is the best WiFi booster brand?
    Top brands like Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, and ASUS all make reliable boosters. Compare specs and features to choose one that fits your needs.

  7. Do I need a booster if I have a mesh WiFi system?
    Mesh WiFi systems have dedicated backhaul links and may not need traditional boosters. But they can still improve weak spots in a mesh network.

  8. Can I use the same SSID for both networks?
    Yes, you can set the booster to share the main router SSID and password. But using a different SSID helps segment devices across the networks.

  9. Where is the best place to buy a WiFi booster?
    Online retailers like Amazon offer a wide selection of boosters at competitive prices. Local electronics stores may have limited selection.

  10. Do boosters lose speed the farther you are from the router?
    Yes, the booster will provide slower speeds at its maximum range limit since the signal degrades over distance. But it still provides improved coverage compared to an unboosted router signal.

  11. Can a booster be connected to the router by ethernet?
    Yes, some boosters have a wired port allowing connection to the router by ethernet. This is preferred since it avoids relying on wireless uplink.

  12. Do wireless boosters require special setup?
    No, most boosters can be setup easily in minutes after plugging them in. Some may have WPS push button pairing with your wireless router for even simpler install.

  13. Can boosters improve 2.4Ghz network performance?
    Yes, a dual-band booster can amplify and extend both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz WiFi bands. So it can help expand coverage on either frequency.

  14. Can a booster interfere with my router signal?
    If placed poorly, yes. Ideal placement is halfway between the router and weak coverage areas. Keep the booster away from the router direction to avoid interference.

  15. How can I measure the speed increase from my booster?
    Use speed test sites to check wireless speeds from problem locations before and after installing the booster. This quantifies your signal boosts.

  16. Is it better to get a single booster or whole home mesh system?
    That depends on your coverage needs. For a couple dead zones, a single booster is cost effective. For whole home issues, mesh systems provide robust coverage.

  17. Do I need an expensive gaming booster for fast gaming WiFi?
    Gaming boosters help reduce lag but regular boosters also work. Focus on dual-band, latest WiFi gen support, antenna design, and wired ports for lag-free gaming.

  18. Can I use the same SSID and password for the booster?
    You can, but using a different SSID and password for the booster keeps devices segmented. Same SSID makes roaming between the networks seamless.

  19. Will a booster slow down my main router network?
    No, the booster has its own wireless radio so it will not impact the main router speeds. Connect devices across both to avoid congestion and slowdowns.

  20. Can I install multiple boosters in a large home?
    Yes, you can install several boosters for very large homes. Place them strategically to propagate the network and provide good coverage everywhere.

Conclusion

Adding a WiFi range extender or booster is an easy and affordable way to spread a wireless signal into hard-to-reach areas of a home. The extended signal provides faster and more reliable connectivity by amplifying the router’s native WiFi coverage. Units with dual-band radios, 802.11ac support, wired ports, convenient mounting, and WPS setup provide an optimal experience. Strategically placing the booster is key for the best performance. When configured properly, WiFi boosters can significantly improve wireless performance and connectivity dead zones. Carefully selecting the right booster model and optimizing the installation location allows you to take full advantage of this useful upgrade for robust whole home WiFi.

 

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