A WiFi connection allows you to access the internet wirelessly. A WiFi booster is a device that amplifies existing WiFi signals to provide better coverage and faster speeds. Understanding the difference between the two can help ensure you have the best wireless internet connection for your needs.
How WiFi Works
WiFi uses radio signals to provide a wireless connection between a router and your devices. The router connects to your internet service provider and projects a wireless network signal known as a WiFi network. When your device is within reach of that signal, it can “see” and connect to that network to access the internet without cables or wires.
Some key points on how standard WiFi works:
- WiFi router: The central device that uses an antenna to broadcast a WiFi signal to a specific area or range. It connects wired devices to the internet.
- WiFi network name: The Service Set Identifier (SSID) name that uniquely identifies the WiFi network. Examples: HomeNetwork, MyWifi123.
- Wireless radio signals: WiFi systems use these signals transmitted over specific radio bands to communicate data. Common bands are 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
- Range: Most WiFi routers reliably cover about 150 square feet indoors. Range can vary a lot between locations.
- Speed: Standard speeds for devices connected to WiFi networks are generally up to 54 megabits per second (Mbps) over the 2.4 GHz band and 450 Mbps over the 5GHz band. Actual speeds depend on your internet plan speeds.
- Security: WiFi network connections can be secured using encryption protocols like WPA2 to protect your privacy and block unauthorized access.
What are WiFi Boosters?
A WiFi signal booster (also called a repeater or extender) helps amplify existing WiFi signals for better coverage when there are areas in your home or office where the reception from your router drops off. Reasons for poor signal coverage include:
- Distance from the WiFi router
- Obstacles and interference
- Weak reception spots like far corners or rooms
Rather than using a router’s wireless radio to connect devices to the internet directly, a WiFi booster instead grabs the existing signal from your router then rebroadcasts/extends the signal farther so you can maintain that wireless network’s internet access:
- They pull in the weakening 2.4Ghz and/or 5Ghz signals from your router and boost outputs of those bands for areas your router can’t reach well.
- Your devices connect to the booster’s stronger broadcast signal instead to access the internet anywhere it now extends the network coverage.
- Any WiFi booster must be connected wirelessly to your existing router for the extended WiFi to work – so your router needs enough bandwidth coverage to where you place the booster.
In effect, WiFi boosters expand your current network’s range and speed instead of creating new, separate WiFi network names to connect through.
Key advantage: Improves WiFi signal quality in dead spots, so you avoid patchy connectivity or lost connections for devices in far rooms, the basement, backyards when roaming, etc. when the router alone can’t provide sufficient reach.
A WiFi booster extends your current WiFi network’s range and speeds to cover dead zones
Key Differences Between Routers and Boosters
While WiFi routers and boosters serve complementary purposes in delivering full wireless coverage, they work differently:
|Original source transmitter of the household wireless network signal and SSID name
|Extends existing WiFi signals farther, otherwise relies on the main router signal to work
|Connects directly to modem and internet providers like cable, fiber optic, or satellite
|Must link wirelessly to the household router for internet connectivity
|Manages core networking capabilities: firewall, DHCP, ports, WiFi channels, encryption
|Made for only amplifying signals – minimal config options beyond that purpose
|Covers areas within typical range of about 5,000 square feet
|Used selectively for hard-to-reach small dead zones that a router alone can’t cover
|Provides internet connectivity directly to devices trying to get online
|Devices don’t connect to the booster itself – it just makes the router SSID available farther away
|Most support latest WiFi standards like 802.11ax for best device speeds
|Boosters transmit based on the router’s WiFi types, may lack latest chipsets for maximum speeds
In essence, the WiFi router handles connecting your home or office to the internet and hosting the network itself. Boosters give supplemental signal extension in areas a router can’t reach well, letting devices access the same network name installed by the router.
Choosing Between Routers vs. Boosters
Deciding what will resolve common frustrations like laggy video calls, endless buffering, or certain spots with no wireless signal relies on mapping out the issues:
- Whole-home weak coverage: Upgrading the router itself, or adding a mesh WiFi system, often makes the most sense to cover larger spaces.
- Coverage gaps in certain rooms: Targeted booster placement in dead zones is likely the easiest fix.
- Speed drop-offs further from router: Boosters can amplify signals retaining better bandwidth at a distance.
Boosters are also a more affordable option if your router hardware is generally fine, but range limitations plague one or two far-off rooms. Take time surveying everywhere you want steady, strong WiFi to flow to determine if router tweaks or boosters are the right solution.
- WiFi uses wireless router antennas to broadcast signals that devices can connect to for accessing the internet without cables or wires.
- Boosters grab weakening WiFi signals and rebroadcast the wireless network’s connectivity farther with better power for hard-to-reach spots.
- Router upgrades or mesh WiFi systems tend to work better for whole home coverage issues. Boosters efficiently resolve small pockets with spotty or no signals.
- Analyze your existing WiFi network’s current performance and dead coverage zones to determine if boosters can conveniently provide missing connectivity.
WiFi routers create the backbone wireless network that allows devices to access the internet in your home or office. But if certain areas still suffer from sluggish performance, lost connections or no coverage at all, strategically placed WiFi boosters can amplify router signals to fill in dead spots for faster speeds and reliable access across larger spaces.
Evaluating where current coverage fails or falls short compared to where you need steadier signals for video calls, streaming or downloading is key when considering a booster upgrade. Focusing on improving hard-to-cover rooms or remote spaces often saves money over replacing entire router hardware. Combined with the router’s original WiFi network reach, boosters conveniently bathe more of your property in high-quality wireless connectivity for work and entertainment needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a WiFi booster?
A: A WiFi booster (also called a repeater or extender) is a device that grabs existing WiFi signals from your wireless router and retransmits the signal at higher power levels to “fill in” dead zones where devices can’t maintain reliable WiFi reception.
Q: How do WiFi boosters work to improve signals?
A: Boosters pull in the weak 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency bands from a router, amplify those signals’ strength using internal antennas, and broadcast “extended” WiFi network access farther out or deeper into tough-to-reach spots in a home.
Q: Do devices have to connect to the booster and not the router?
A: No. Devices still connect to the original SSID WiFi network name from your router. The booster just makes that same network’s signals available in areas the router itself can’t reach, delivering internet connectivity via the router for seamless access.
Q: Should I get a booster or upgrade my router instead?
A: If you have coverage gaps in a few rooms, a well-placed booster is often the easier fix. But if your router’s range doesn’t sufficiently cover larger areas, upgrading the router model itself or installing a mesh system for whole-home coverage may work better.
Q: Where are typical WiFi dead zones in homes?
A: Common dead spots far from routers include upstairs rooms, basements, backyards/patios, detached workshops or garages, corners of homes blocked by obstacles, and more. Boosters in those areas help grab, amplify and rebroadcast signals for full property coverage.
Q: How many WiFi boosters do I need?
A: Most homes only require 1 booster, strategically positioned to “fill in” coverage gaps for the router by grabbing and amplifying the router’s signal bands to extend reach. You can add more boosters to tackle multiple far-off dead zones depending on obstacles blocking signals from the router.
Q: Where should I position my WiFi booster?
A: Optimal booster placement is roughly halfway between your wireless router and the dead zone room. The booster needs reliable reception from your router while also being close enough to the no coverage area to fill it with amplified signal strength.
Q: Do walls, floors and metal affect booster performance?
A: Yes, obstacles like drywall, insulation, floors and metal beams will weaken a router’s WiFi signals from effectively reaching all rooms. That’s why boosters are often needed to better penetrate those construction materials for enhanced reception.
Q: Can I use a booster if my router is also a modem?
A: If your wireless router also includes the cable modem connecting your home network to the internet, you can still add a WiFi extender booster. Just ensure your router has an open LAN port via Ethernet to wirelessly link the booster if it does not support WPS connection capability.
Q: How do I setup a WiFi signal booster?
A: Boosters come with instructions on either hooking up over your router’s WPS handshake protocol (typical) or using a wired Ethernet connection from router LAN port to the booster for syncing WiFi credentials like SSID and password to receive its signal.
Q: Will a mesh WiFi system work better than a booster?
A: For small or moderately sized homes, a booster is often sufficient for coverage problems rather than a higher cost mesh system. Mesh WiFi kits also provide great whole-home solutions if router range is universally poor across the space.
Q: Why can’t devices find my WiFi network after adding a booster?
A: You may need to power cycle boosters and routers to force devices to rescan for the strongest signal if WiFi networks disappear. Also check if old router SSIDs show up requiring connecting to the new extended name.
Q: Can I plug a booster directly into my modem instead of my router?
A: No, WiFi boosters require first grabbing a wireless router’s WiFi signals before being able to amplify and rebroadcast that network. So there must be an established router network transmitting initially or the booster has no source WiFi signal to extend.
Q: Does a WiFi booster create a separate network?
A: Properly configured WiFi boosters join the existing wireless router network in your home to amplify the signal, not broadcast a new secondary network. So devices should still see your original SSID name now powered with better range from the booster.
Q: Will too many devices connecting slow my WiFi if I add a booster?
A: Adding a WiFi signal booster expands network capacity for more devices to connect simultaneously across enlarged coverage areas which helps avoid overload issues. But lots of active high-bandwidth video streams could still impact speeds.
Q: Do boosters have security risks leaving my network open to hacking?
A: Modern WiFi boosters automatically receive and extend existing router encryption like WPA2-PSK to cover extended signal zones securely without leaving networks open. Just ensure firmware on both your router and booster is always kept reliably updated.
Q: Should I get a single booster vs a two-unit wireless extender system?
A: For most home coverage gaps from router dead spots, a strategically placed single WiFi booster does the job fine. Two-piece wireless extender kits provide more flexibility filling larger or awkward floorplans but also cost more and require additional setup.
Q: How can I optimize router placement itself before considering boosters?
A: Centrally position your router for widest initial dispersion of signal throughout the home, with antennas angled vertically to avoid interference issues. Elevate routers if possible such as on upper floors instead of being stuck in basements to start.