How do I get a weak wifi signal to the rest of my house?
January 11, 2011 6:02 AM   Subscribe

I recently moved into a house that's supposed to receive the local university's wifi but only one room gets the signal (mine) and it's an iffy one at best. How can we bring the wifi to the rest of the house?

There are four of use here, on one floor. All of use have laptops that we use for work and school so there's no standing tower to set up as a dedicated router. The university told the lady who rents the house that we are "just on the edge" of the wifi signal and that they would fix the problem eventually - that was over a month ago. In the meantime, we need to do our work and schoolwork.

I know jack about wireless networking, but I know more than everyone else in the house so I've been looking online for some kind of solution. What I thought to do was set something up in my room -- because it's the only one that can even find the signal -- and somehow broadcast it to the rest of the house. Now my head is swimming with information about routers, repeaters and antennae... Which do I need? How can I set it up? I need something that doesn't require a base computer...

Can someone please explain to me, in simple terms and with as few acronyms as possible, how I can get wireless to my roommates for under $80? Thanks!
posted by patheral to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I believe the only realistic way of accomplishing what you want would be if someone from the university's IT department came out to your house to install equipment. Not likely.

If you've got cable TV in the house and if your cable provider also offers high speed internet, your best bet would be to just sign up for the internet and split the monthly cost with your roomies. Once you're set up with the cable guys, you can just hook up a wireless router from there and you'll be all set.
posted by rhartong at 6:12 AM on January 11, 2011


You should be able to get cable or DSL access on your own for well under $80 a month.
posted by COD at 6:18 AM on January 11, 2011


With help from the school's IT department, you could install a WiFi repeater, but that wouldn't solve the issue of an iffy signal.

You guys should really just pony up for your own cable. It'll save you all sorts of problems.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:20 AM on January 11, 2011


You could try a refurbished WiFi repeater, for about $25. It either will work, or not, depending on the signal strength you're getting, but there is nothing to configure, and its not much money, so probably worth the effort to try one. If it doesn't work in your situation, you should be able to easily craiglist it, to recover your cost...
posted by paulsc at 6:21 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


When you say the house is "supposed" to receive the school's wifi, do you mean that the school itself purposely intended to provide wifi to the house? Or do you mean that the house should get wifi merely due to its proximity to campus? That's a huge difference and the answer would definitely affect whether you can legitimately call the school's IT department about the lack of wifi.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:26 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


rhartong: "I believe the only realistic way of accomplishing what you want would be if someone from the university's IT department came out to your house to install equipment. Not likely."

Not really - this is very simple. I'm amazed that none of the answers have recommended DD-WRT on a WRT54GL from ebay (should run you about $20). If you set it up as a repeater (there's a simple step-by-step guide online) and put it where the signal is strongest in your room, that should solve your problem instantly. If the signal is still too weak and too slow, drop some more bucks on a couple of high-gain omni antennae and you'll be golden.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:48 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want the absolute easiest option under $80 then an eBayed Airport Express in repeater mode is ideal — and extremely easy to set up. If you want the very cheapest option then a WRT54GL is fine.
posted by caek at 7:09 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The optimal solution is to get two pieces of equipment. You don't want to use one thing acting as a repeater, because this will wreck speed. The radio will constantly be switching between talking to your computers and talking to the university. It will basically be operating in quarter-duplex. (Unless you get one that has two radios, which most consumer equipment doesn't.)

So you get two of them. One acts as the "cable modem", talking to the university's wireless. It is like repeater mode, but instead of repeating back onto wireless, it "repeats" onto the wired LAN. DD-WRT can do this, many others can as well. You locate this in the best spot for talking to the university- also, getting (a) directional antenna(s) for it will work wonders. As long as you make sure it is pointed in the right direction.

Then you plug in a regular wireless router and use it just like it is plugged into any other internet service.
posted by gjc at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2011


When you say the house is "supposed" to receive the school's wifi, do you mean that the school itself purposely intended to provide wifi to the house? Or do you mean that the house should get wifi merely due to its proximity to campus?

I'm sorry I wasn't more clear... The house is located on campus. It was a house, then it was offices, and is now considered staff housing. The college told the lady who rents the house she would be provided with internet service before she rented the place (she moved here from Germany and rented sight unseen)... There are Ethernet plugs all over the place but we can't get any of them to work either. The lady who rents the house *has* spoken to the university's IT department, and they (as I said) told her that they're "working on it" -- whatever that means.

Getting our own cable/internet is my solution, but I don't rent the house, I'm only renting a room inside the house - the lady that rents the house doesn't want to put down money for cable/internet if the college will provide it to us in the future (because they are working on it, you see).

gjc - are you saying I need two repeaters? or a repeater and a router? I really am stupid when it comes to these things.
posted by patheral at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2011


patheral: "gjc - are you saying I need two repeaters? or a repeater and a router? I really am stupid when it comes to these things."

Just get two WRT54GLs as they can easily be configured with DD-WRT. gjc rightly points out that by using two devices instead of one, you can have a directional antenna on the receiver/repeater which will really help with the signal issue.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:24 PM on January 11, 2011


So, I tried to explain to the lady I rent the room from how we could go about doing this, and she threw up her hands and said something along the lines of, "fine! we'll find out how much it is for cable/internet!"

Some people are just not cut out for technical babble...
posted by patheral at 6:34 PM on January 13, 2011


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