wifi router can't make it through walls: what's the most effective way to extend the range of our wifi cloud?
January 5, 2009 11:44 AM   Subscribe

our new belkin router doesn't have the power to make it all the way through the house. are range extenders good? which one should I choose? (more inside)

I gave my parents (in germany) a wireless router for their mac/pc mix household. it's this belkin G (802.11g), their basic model. unfortunately the router has to sit in a room in the far corner of their house and thick german cement walls (no plywood here) are ensuring the signal doesn't make it all the way across the house into the attic or kitchen. the signal currently covers half the house, so getting through the walls is not completely impossible, they just do to the router what a pair of massive mittens would do to your dexterity.

I'd like to extend that range so that certain rooms they use as offices are covered by the signal. belkin seems to offer a universal range extender but the german amazon page for that product has a user opinion stating that said extender doesn't really work if it's more than a couple feet from the router itself. I wonder if the hivemind has an opinion on this...

I'm not married to using belkins to extend the range of the router but I am married to the router since exchanging it would be rather difficult for me right now.

what's the most effective way to extend the range of our wifi cloud?
posted by krautland to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
External antenna.
posted by kindall at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2009

Response by poster: could you explain that to someone not in the know?
posted by krautland at 11:56 AM on January 5, 2009

You have a couple of options. The easiest and best option is to move it to a higher and more central location. Usually this involves buying a longer ethernet and power cord. Can in be put above the ceiling or anywhere away from the cement walls?

The next easiest option is to buy a higher gain antenna for the access point. You'll need to figure out what kind of connectors your access point has and what kind of adapter you might need to connect an antenna. You can get a 7db gain antenna pretty cheaply. I dont think this is a good solution when dealing with thick walls but YMMW.

The third easiest way is to buy another access point and put in gateway mode (so its not doing dhcp, nat, etc) and connecting it via ethernet cable to the other one. Run this cable to the upstairs and plug in the wireless. You can give it the same SSID if you like, but you must put it on a different channel. If you absolutely cannot run a wire, you may need to buy an ethernet over power adapter like this one for the upstairs. Lastly, some models support WDS, which would elimanate the wire from this setup, but I dont think yours does.

That hardest thing to do is get one of those extenders/repeaters to work properly. Ive had very little luck with them. Id recommend buying a dd-wrt compatible router and using the repeater function.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:11 PM on January 5, 2009

Response by poster: That hardest thing to do is get one of those extenders/repeaters to work properly.
yeah, and I'm a rather dull knife in that drawer.

the antenna seems to be a very easy way to go but I have one question about it: can the router be in one room and the antenna be in another or does it have to be connected to the router by cable?

Id recommend buying a dd-wrt compatible router and using the repeater function.
sounds good but I'm still slightly scared by the setup process they describe. ouff.
posted by krautland at 12:19 PM on January 5, 2009

You could also try the "Windsurfer Antenna Mod"...
Basically it's a cardboard/aluminum foil parabolic antenna that slides over your existing antenna, redirecting and amplifying the signal in one direction (towards the house) and cutting/blocking the signal on the other side (toward the wall)...


It might give you enough power to make it the rest of the way through your house...and possibly prevent their neighbors from hijacking their wifi :)
posted by AltReality at 12:34 PM on January 5, 2009

Krautland, the antenna has to be connected to the router via a cable. A nice antenna really helps a lot, it solved my problems in a similiar situation to yours.

If you want to test if an antenna helps in any way you can build one on your own, easily. The article is in German and you just need some styrofoam and some copper wire.
This antenna might also come in handy if the blekin has no socket for the external antenna. Can you unscrew th little antenna that sticks out of it?

To test if it does help, you can use wlaninfo.exe. It has a very nice "power meter" to judge signal strength and if you click on the little speaker in the lower right corner you can even hear how strong the signal is.
posted by mmkhd at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2009

2nd damn dirty ape--you need a router running DD-WRT in repeater mode. They really aren't difficult to set up, but if you must you can can snag a router on eBay with DD-WRT already installed, although you will pay a premium for the convenience. I think that dda was suggesting that the out-of-the box repeaters can be a hassle, which is correct. Setting up a DD-WRT router in repeater mode is fairly easily accomplished.

I found the Windsurfer Antenna Mod to actually make my reception worse, but YMMV.
posted by jtfowl0 at 12:43 PM on January 5, 2009

One more thought, if its just one or two computers upstairs, it may be easier for you to buy two of these, attach them to these computers, and point the dish towards the floor.

Considering these things are 40-50 bucks each, you might want to try the dd-wrt repeater trick. Like jtfowl0 suggests, theyre a lot nicer than the ones you buy at the store. The real trick is getting it placed correctly. It cant be too far from the router or you'll be repeating a weak and degraded signal. I think a lot of people buy these things, place them where there is no signal or marginal signal and expect miracles. I would place it somewhere where you have at least 25% to 30% of the original signal and see if it helps.

The only method that I can guarantee will work is to get a second wireless access point upstairs. Everything else is kinda a crapshoot, especially with thick building materials.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:06 PM on January 5, 2009

You could also try these powerline adapters for €88,89. So even if you cannot get an access point to work in range extender mode you can connect it to the original wlan router.
posted by mmkhd at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2009

Keep in mind the the attenuation produced by the walls depends on the actual path length through said walls. IOW, try to have the line connecting the router/computers perpendicular to the walls.
posted by signal at 5:37 PM on January 5, 2009

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