Your in-home wireless network or “Wi-Fi” is your gateway to the internet and one that’s hard to live without. But even with the latest routers, top-of-the-line modems, and lightning-fast phones and computers, you might still find corners of your house where your internet just doesn’t quite reach.
Wi-Fi does have some limitations because of how it works. Wi-Fi networks transmit signals that are similar in nature to the signals you receive when listening to the radio in your car. Since your Wi-Fi network uses radio waves, the signal it puts out can be affected by many different variables including:
· Physical barriers such as thick walls can cause a reduction in signal strength
· Other devices nearby that are also transmitting radio waves can cause interference with your W-Fi signal
· Using outdated Wi-Fi equipment can result in weaker signals compared to newer equipment
· If the recipient device such as a laptop or tablet is having technical problems, it can make it seem like your Wi-Fi signal is weak when it isn’t
· If your router is too far away from the connecting devices the signal may be weaker
· When too many users or devices are sharing the same Wi-Fi network, the signal strength may be weaker for everyone
If you’re finding that your Wi-Fi signal has become consistently weaker over time, don’t worry! There are several solutions available that you can implement to strengthen your internet connection at your home.
What Can I Do to Improve My Wi-Fi Signal?
When it comes to improving your Wi-Fi signal, you have many options to choose from. The most common solutions are Wi-Fi repeaters (also called “extenders” or “boosters”) and mesh networks.
Wi-Fi repeaters transmit your existing Wi-Fi signal into an area of your home that has a bad signal. Repeaters connect wirelessly to a Wi-Fi router or via an Ethernet cable to establish a wired connection. If your repeater is connecting wirelessly, you should place the repeater half-way between the area with poor signal strength and the router. On the other hand, if your repeater is connected via an Ethernet cable, you can place the repeater anywhere since the signal is being transmitted through the cable rather than wirelessly.
Once your repeater is connected to your router, the repeater creates its own network for your devices to use. For example, if your home network is called “Smith Family Wi-Fi”, the repeater’s network might be called “Smith Family Wi-Fi_EXT”. As you live and function in different areas within your home, you will need to manually switch between networks. If you’re closer to the repeater, you would want to make sure you're connected to the EXT network, and vice versa.
Another option for improving your Wi-Fi signal is to use a mesh network. In contrast to repeaters, which are an add-on to your existing network, a mesh network replaces your existing Wi-Fi network, including your router.
Mesh networks employ a set of nodes (also called “satellites”) that work together to create a seamless wireless network throughout your home. Mesh network nodes are placed in areas of your home where you need a Wi-Fi connection. Furthermore, each node needs to be within range of another node in order to provide your whole home with a strong signal.
One node in your mesh network must be connected to your modem via an Ethernet cable. This node replaces your existing router and becomes your Wi-Fi network’s mesh router. Thus, this primary node will wirelessly share the internet connection with all the other nodes. Moreover, every node in your mesh network has the same name such as “Smith Family Wi-Fi”. Therefore, as you move around your home, your wireless devices will automatically connect to the closest node.
Mesh nodes are based on cutting-edge technology, which uses adaptive and dynamic routing to always take the most efficient route when transferring data through the internet connection. Mesh nodes are also self-configuring, which means that your Wi-Fi network won’t be negatively affected if one route is overloaded or if one node ceases to function. In these situations, your mesh network will actually recognize the overload or unresponsive node and re-route all data through a different path, which keeps your internet connectivity as strong as possible.
Alternatives to Wi-Fi Strengthening Using Powerline Adaptors and Hardline Switches
While Wi-Fi repeaters and mesh networks allow many people to enjoy better internet connectivity, for others these solutions still don’t provide a strong enough signal. Thankfully, there are alternatives to Wi-Fi strengthening that you can consider.
One of these alternatives is a powerline adaptor kit. This kit usually comes with two adaptors. One of the adaptors is plugged into an AC electrical outlet in your home and connected to your router using an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. The other powerline adaptor is plugged into a separate AC outlet and connects to your end-user devices using either an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. The two powerline adaptors communicate between each other using the electrical circuits in your home. Powerline adaptors are able to take advantage of the fact that copper wires can transfer not just electricity but also data. Depending on the AC wiring throughout your house, powerline adaptors can extend your internet connection to any part of your home where there is an electrical outlet.
Another alternative to Wi-Fi strengthening is to hardwire your internet connection using hardline switches (also called Ethernet switches). With a hardwired internet connection inside your home, Ethernet cables connect your end-user devices to your modem often with hardline switches in between. Hardline switches and Ethernet cable connections provide better signal strength, faster connection speeds, and more reliable connections compared to Wi-Fi.
If hardline switches are used, you plug one Ethernet cable from your modem into the first port of your hardline switch. This connection will supply internet connectivity to all the other ports on the hardline switch. This, in turn, allows you to run Ethernet cables to multiple rooms in your home. It’s important to remember that when you’re deciding which hardline switch to buy, you need to subtract one port because it will be taken up by the connection to the modem. For example, if you want to supply Ethernet cables to four separate rooms of your house, you will need a 5 Port Ethernet Switch—4 ports (one for each room) and 1 port for the connection to the modem.
The question is sometimes raised as to whether a powerline adaptor could provide a stronger signal than hardwiring with hardline switches. The reality is even if you have optimal AC electrical wiring in your home, a powerline adapter still won’t be as reliable as a hardwired Ethernet cable.
Even though a powerline adaptor network can use only cables and no Wi-Fi signal, it will not be as strong as hardwired Ethernet with hardline switches. The reason for this is that while powerline adaptors reduce the interference levels compared to Wi-Fi, there will still be some interference from the AC wiring of your home. Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that powerline adaptors can experience reduced signal strength if they overheat. In contrast, hardwired Ethernet connections don’t overheat.
Powerline adaptors can provide similar signal strength compared to hardwired Ethernet if conditions are ideal, however, you may still experience some decreases in signal strength from time to time depending on the current loads on your home’s electrical system. If it’s imperative that you have the strongest and most reliable internet connection with minimal disruptions, using hardwired Ethernet with hardline switches is your best bet.
Micro Center Has Your Home Network Hardware Needs Covered
If you’re ready to enjoy stronger and more reliable internet connections for your home, we’ve got you covered. Visit your local Micro Center today to talk to our associates about which type of network hardware would be the best fit for your home!
We need to talk about this.
Hardline adapters? Dude... its just an Ethernet switch, hardline adpaters are NOT a thing.
PLC adapters are VERY problematic. They tend to need to be on the same phase/side of the breaker box, and are very sensitive to AC noise from electrical motors.(fans, AC units etc) They also have a hard time working in newer houses with spark fault breakers.
I only use 802.11 (WiFi is a trademark BTW) for cellphones. Even the laptops when they're at home are in a wired docking station. Everything except for a few of the endpoint devices is 1GBE with cat6 wire. Eventually when 10GBE becomes even more affordable I'll upgrade everything to that. Obviously all of that only makes sense for ethernet device to device communication since the ISP usually limits you to sub 1GBE or 1GBE IF you're lucky. I wish we had more fiber infrastructure in this country but most of the problem is really in the "last mile."
Back to Wireless though, when it comes to internet communication most devices only need AC, but can probably get away with as little as N. BE looks exciting though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11#Generations
Also, whatever you get make sure it'll do WPA3. Also, just for fun https://routersecurity.org
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