27 Things You Should Know About WiFi Boosters Before Buying
What is a WiFi booster?
A WiFi booster is a range extender to your local wireless network. WiFi boosters are often used to improve range and strength within homes and offices. WiFi boosters are also commonly known as WiFi repeaters.
A WiFi booster is often connected to a normal 120v/220v outlet and then connected to your WiFi. This enables the booster/repeater to function as another router or hotspot for your WiFi and thereby extend and strengthen the range.
The signal is directly rebroadcasted from your main access point, so almost no configuration is needed for the setup. Most WiFi boosters are plug & play with little setup time.
What do you use WiFi boosters for?
I use a WiFi booster for covering “dead zones” or rooms in my house. WiFi boosters are also great if you have high interference, long-distance, or many devices connected.
Dead zones/rooms with no WiFi in the house
A common thing to see is rooms where little to no WiFi is available while most other rooms in the house have a good connection. This could be the cause of some architectural features in the walls, floors, and ceilings or that the room is in the far-distant corner of the house.
Here a WiFi booster has a good use case, in that both cases would easily be solved by placing a booster in the middle of the house.
Note that I say it should be placed in the middle. In my experience, this is will give it the best effect. The booster itself also needs a good WiFi connection, unless it’s a wired extender of course. If you are using a wireless WiFi booster and placing it in the room where the issues are, you won’t see any good results. But by placing it between the dead zone and main access point you’ll have the optimal effect.
If some architectural features still limit the WiFi signal’s range or strength, you’ll either have to place the WiFi booster another way so the signal can reach around whatever is blocking the signal. Here it most often gets hard to get it right, so I would recommend getting a wired booster instead.
Before I installed my WiFi booster, I had huge issues with wires and bars inside the walls. These things will limit the signal strength quite much. I ended up placing a booster in the middle between my router and the room without WiFi and then another further away on the outer wall. This has given me great results, there was little to no WiFi in the room at all before, now I see almost full bars and only losing about 30% of the WiFi speed.
High interference from other signal sources
Another really common theme when talking about the disturbance in the WiFi signal range or strength is interference. Interference can come from many different sources, also some you might not have thought about.
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Devices connected to your WiFi
The first thing that comes to mind is the number of devices connected to the WiFi. WiFi works in frequency ranges (MHz and GHz), you might have heard of both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 5GHz is the newest kid on the block.
Both bandwidths as we call them have several different channels, each with different frequency ranges. 2.4Ghz has 14 channels, but in America and Europe, you’ll most likely only see your router having 11.
5Ghz is a bit more complicated, but that is because most channels in this 5GHz spectrum are still available. 5Ghz has channels ranging from 36 to 177 at this time. There are still more channels available up to 196, but they still need approval. In the future, we might even see a 6GHz with even more channels available.
So why am I talking about channels, let me get to the point.
A device connects to a bandwidth (2GHz or 5GHz) on a specific channel, most often the router will tell the device which channel to be on, for optimal service. This is because channels have a fixed amount of traffic/load they can handle.
If you are located in a high populated area, you might experience issues with using WiFi in the evening when most people are using it. If you are experiencing an issue like this, it’s because no more channels are available. So the more channels, the wider the frequency range is available, and the more devices can use it.
To fix this issue you’ll need a WiFi extender. The WiFi extender will create a new access point so you can spread out the traffic more evenly. If your router both has 2.4GHz and 5GHz, I also recommend separating your devices into different bandwidths.
2.4GHz will provide a slower connection but with a much wider range whereas the 5GHz will provide a faster connection with a more limited range.
I recommend that you connect your smart devices like phones, watches, assistants, robot vacuums, etc. to the 2.4GHz because you won’t typically need a fast connection for these devices. Connect your laptops, PCs, and TVs to the 5GHz so you’ll have a faster connection for streaming television, movies, and games.
Other types of interference
Many people have issues with WiFi when using a microwave. Sounds weird, but a microwave also works in the same type of signal as WiFi does, but on another wavelength.
Microwaves work by taking electricity from the power outlet and converting it into high-powered 4.7inch (12cm) radio waves. It then shoots these radio waves through whatever food or drinks you have inside the oven.
Inside the microwave you’ll see a metal grid, this protects everything around the oven from the strong radio waves. But radio waves on the WiFi spectrum (2.4 GHz to 5Ghz) will easily spill out. Filling the WiFi spectrum with this interference will cause your WiFi to be unstable.
The solution to this is fairly simple, you can either buy a WiFi booster or extender to work around the problem or move the microwave to another place if it causes your devices to disconnect while turned on.
A microwave will not create any interference while not turned on.
The difference between WiFi extenders and WiFi boosters
The difference is that a WiFi booster repeats the same WiFi signal it gets from the router, whereas an extender will create a new WiFi network with the same credentials. Another visible difference typically found, is that WiFi extenders are connected via a LAN cable, so a wired connection between your router and extender, whereas the booster/repeater will only use the WiFi.
A WiFi extender acts like a bridge between a WiFi router and a WiFi device that is outside the range of a WiFi router’s signal. It’ll create a wireless access point for your devices to connect to, the name or SSID of the access point will most often just be the same, but with an added extension in the end, such as “HomeExt” where “Ext” is added to the end.
A WiFi booster will take the same signal and repeat the signal 1 to 1. So the WiFi booster will not function as an access point and the SSID/name will stay the same.
Do wifi boosters work?
WiFi boosters work exemplary when it comes to increasing signal strength and further increasing your WiFi range. A good WiFi booster can easily increase the range by +50%. There is however a diminishing return in the WiFi signal. So it’ll not be viable to place additional WiFi boosters to reach even further.
I wouldn’t suggest going beyond 2 boosters within one local network/house. You should here consider using a wired extender instead. A wired extender can go beyond +100 meters without any significant loss in signal.
I tried using 3 boosters, but in my case, the third WiFi booster didn’t do anything really, two were plenty.
Do wifi boosters increase internet speed?
If you have low signal strength, you will experience an increase in internet speed when using a WiFi booster. So if you are far away from the WiFi router or if there are thick walls between you and the router a WiFi booster can significantly increase your internet speed.
However, if you already have good signal strength a WiFi booster will not do anything to your internet speed. Before you buy a WiFi booster, you should check if its actual signal strength that is the issue.
It’s quite easy to check the signal strength. The WiFi icon on your device, whether that be an iPhone, PC, Mac, etc., it’ll show you how strong the signal is.
Does a WiFi booster or extender slow down internet speed?
No, a WiFi extender does not slow down your internet speed in any way. If anything it’ll increase your speed if your signal strength is low. In my case, it boosted my speed by 60-70% in a room where there was no WiFi before.
Do WiFi boosters work for streaming?
WiFi boosters work very well for streaming as you’ll need the best possible signal strength you can get. The better signal you have the better quality you’ll be able to stream. Also having a poor signal can cause stutters or buffering while you are streaming. Nothing ruins a good movie like a loading icon.
Luckily streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, HBO, etc. have a really good auto adjust on the quality, so if you have poor signal strength it’ll not likely stutter much. But I’d still recommend getting a WiFi booster, they are not overly expensive and you’ll greatly improve your streaming experience.
Are WiFi boosters good for gaming?
WiFi boosters are essential for gaming if your only option is WiFi and your signal strength is poor. You’ll want the lowest possible latency you can get and lose the upper edge in multiplayer games.
The issue with having a poor signal strength when gaming on WiFi, is that you’ll experience lag, stuttering, freezing, and in general just a very poor gaming experience.
Having the lowest possible latency is also essential if you are somewhat serious about your games and want to play against other players.
When you are in your game, you can find settings that’ll show you the latency or what is often shown as “some number” followed by “ms”. This indicates how long it takes for your key press/click to reach the servers of the game and then show the result to you. For example, if you are in Counter-Strike and press the left mouse button you’ll shoot. The latency/ms is calculated from when you click to when you see something or someone is hit.
Let’s make another scenario.
You are playing a First Person Shooter game like Counter-Strike, and your game and your opponent’s game are both showing 50ms latency. You are camping and aiming at a hallway with a small gap through a door. Your opponent presses W and runs straight into where you are aiming. Now the information from the pressed W has 50ms latency from your opponent and another 50ms latency from you because the information that your opponent has moved also needs to be shown in your game. So now you are 100ms behind already, how long do you link it’ll take to walk across a small gap through a door? Well, not much more than those 100ms. And you’ll also have to take your shot into account, that is another 50ms.
This example was extremely simplified, but the idea/concept is correct.
The conclusion here is, that if you have any issues with your WiFi signal and wanna use WiFi to game on, I’d strongly recommend a WiFi booster or extender. But to get the lowest latency and highest advantage, you should connect through a LAN cable instead.
I will admit in my case, I use a LAN cable for my desktop PC. I game a lot of League of Legends and having an optimal latency/ping is crucial. A WiFi booster will do the trick if you don’t have any other option but go with a cable if you can.
Do WiFi boosters work in hotels?
Yes, most WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders work in hotels. As long as you get the SSID and a Password you’ll be able to set up your WiFi booster as you would in your home.
Though very few, I have experienced some hotels having extreme security measures where you would need a special login after entering the SSID and Password. Here you won’t be able to use a WiFi booster. But in general, I would say it’s a good idea to bring a WiFi booster if you know you need a good stable WiFi signal.
Do WiFi boosters work outside?
You can get specific WiFi boosters that work outside which are water and dustproof and can even work in both very cold and warm temperatures. Just make sure to look for the IP rating, I would go for a WiFi booster with at least IP 55 for a long-lasting outside WiFi booster.
If you just need WiFi on the porch or in the garage, you could also install the WiFi booster inside the house but on the outer wall. This way you’ll increase the WiFi range enough to work well outside of your house.
Are WiFi boosters and extenders the same thing?
WiFi boosters and extenders both serve the same purpose and are often just spoken of as the same thing. The primary difference is the method of boosting your signal strength. Typically, you’ll find extenders requiring a wired connection to create a WiFi hotspot, where a WiFi booster will just repeat the WiFi signal it gets from the router.
Are WiFi boosters wireless?
No, WiFi boosters are typically not wireless because they are battery-powered and don’t need to be plugged into an outlet. WiFi boosters typically need to be connected to a 120/220-volt outlet at all times for them to work.
WiFi boosters do work wireless to wireless, so if you need a better WiFi signal, you won’t need a cable to boost your signal.
Are WiFi boosters worth it?
WiFi boosters are worth it, you can get a good booster for under 50 bucks. They are easy to install and extremely effective if you have signal issues, so a WiFi booster provides a good value for money.
I wouldn’t recommend buying an overly expensive WiFi booster. If you can get a booster with 2.4GHz and maybe 5GHz and up to 100mpbs speed, you should be all set. When you are looking for WiFi boosters also look for those with large visible antennas. Larger antennas typically also result in a stronger and more stable connection.
Can WiFi boosters go bad?
Yes, WiFi boosters can go bad as with any electronic device. Typically a WiFi booster will last many years, especially if it’s sitting indoors and there isn’t a lot of change in the environment such as heat, cold, and humidity.
When a WiFi booster goes bad, you’ll typically see devices getting disconnected and your signal strength might diminish.
If you experience the mentioned above within the warranty period, you should contact the manufacturer as soon as possible. A good idea would be to test the internet speed before you install the extender and again after to record the improvements. Then once a year or so, test the speed again to make sure the WiFi booster gives you the proper result.
I recommend using speedtest.net to test your internet.
It can be a bit hard to troubleshoot. They are made so simple that they aren’t giving out any sign of error if something is wrong. Luckily WiFi boosters are usually very sturdy and will last for a very long time.
Are WiFi boosters universal?
All WiFi boosters are universal and work with all types of WiFi, so you won’t need a WiFi booster that is compatible with your router or anything like that. Any WiFi booster can go with any router, very simple, and often plug & play.
Can multiple WiFi boosters work with each other?
Multiple WiFi boosters can easily work with each other. You can install as many as you want to without it making any difficulties with your WiFi.
A good use case for using multiple WiFi boosters could be that you might have range issues at the farthest rooms if you have a larger house and place the router in the middle. Here you could easily put a WiFi booster on each side of the house to provide an optimal WiFi signal.
Can you mix WiFi boosters?
Yes, you can mix WiFi boosters without any issues, this is because all WiFi boosters are universal and don’t need to work with each other, but just repeat the WiFi itself.
Can WiFi boosters be hacked?
WiFi boosters are just as secure as your router. It uses the same security protocols as WPA2. With that said, all networks can be hacked with the right approach and tools. But this isn’t anything you should be concerned about.
Do WiFi boosters work with hotspots?
WiFi boosters work very well with hotspots. You can connect a WiFi booster to any WiFi, so any hotspots created with your Smartphone, Laptop, MiFi router, etc. will work fine with a WiFi booster.
Are WiFi boosters dangerous?
WiFi boosters are not dangerous or in any way harmful to humans or animals. The signal is well within the tested GHz ranges. A normal WiFi or Hotspot works in either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz spectrum which is well within current tested limits, which is above 300 GHz.
You’ll typically hear the term “radiation” when speaking about WiFi and Mobile signals. This is because WiFi signals are radiation, but don’t let the term fool you. It’s perfectly safe.
Types of radiation you typically can see causing health issues are above 1 million GHz, so at least 500.000 times higher than the radiation from a WiFi signal.
Did you also know that light is a type of radiation as well? Visible light is EM radiation that has a frequency ranging from 300 GHz to several TeraHertz. The human eye is adapted to see at a maximum of 540 THz.
If the light doesn’t hurt you, your WiFi won’t either.
Will a WiFi booster stop buffering?
A WiFi booster can help in stopping buffering in videos and songs. But your WiFi booster needs to be solving the correct issue. If your issue isn’t signal strength but maybe the internet speed, it’s not sure if a WiFi booster will do anything well.
You need to identify the issues you’re having before trying out a WiFi booster. Are you a long way from the router? Are there big obstacles between you and the router? Is there anything interfering with the WiFi signal? Are there any other WiFis in the area? If none of the above is an issue, a WiFi booster will probably not stop the buffering.
Does the WiFi extender slow down the internet?
WiFi extenders do not slow down your internet. Your WiFi extender will not take up space or allocate any resources to your router. What might seem like an extender slowing down your internet might be because you allow more devices to connect the longer range you have. The more device you connect to your WiFi the slower it’ll get.
Does having 2 routers increase Internet speed?
Having 2 routers will most likely not increase your internet speed. But it can make a more stable signal strength and even the load a bit, which in terms can give you a better connection and faster speeds. But if you order, let’s say a 10/10 Mbps connection, you’ll not get 20/20 by adding a router. You’ll never be able to go beyond what your internet provider is letting you have.
Is there an app to boost the WiFi signal?
There is no app that can boost your WiFi signal in any direct way. Some apps may be claiming so, but most of these apps are just package managers. When you send something across the internet it’s sent as packages and is routed through many locations. Package managers prioritize certain packages on your system and deliver those packages faster and more clean to their destination.
A good example is package managers made for gaming, they optimize traffic that online games require and deliver a better experience to the player.
However, there is a good reason why all people just don’t use these package manager apps because there is almost nothing to gain from them. In my experience, I wouldn’t try downloading any app to boost my WiFi or internet speed.
How do I make my hotspot stronger?
You can make your hotspot stronger in several ways. Add more boosters or extenders, get better antennas, upgrade your router, and make sure nothing is interfering with the signal like microwaves or wires in the wall.
Can you buy portable WiFi?
The most simple solution to portable WiFi is your phone. With your phone, you can create a WiFi hotspot to share your mobile data. There is also a solution you can buy, like something called a MiFi router. A MiFi router is a mobile WiFi that can take a sim card and create a WiFi hotspot for several devices to connect to. Typically a MiFi router also comes with a battery. A good MiFi router can hold up to 20 hours before needing a recharge.
Are our signal boosters Illegal?
WiFi signal boosters are not illegal to use. You can set up as many as you want. No laws prohibit the use of signal boosters.
Morten has been working with technology, IoT, and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected in this blog to give you relevant and correct information.Read more...