What wifi-extending method is best for a garage-turned-studio?
April 1, 2013 2:32 PM   Subscribe

My rented studio is located right next to the main house, but the wifi signal coming from my landlord is very weak. What can I do that won't inconvenience my landlord?

The landlord has U-verse wifi (a password-protected 2Wire router). The router is located fairly close to my house; it can't be moved. There are no ethernet jacks in my studio, although the previous tenant had cable TV so there's a coax cable coming out of the wall (I've checked, and it supplies the free channels). So I figure my options are:

1. Wifi extender, located on the wall closest to the main house, or outside (weather?) I installed an extender at my parents' house, and it works ok, but I would like tips on finding the best one.
2. Ethernet over powerline. I think my landlord would be willing to plug the router into one of these, but I don't even know if it will work because my space was originally a detached garage.
3. Separate internet service. The wifi cuts out for a minute or two at a time several times a night, and it's pretty annoying, since I do a lot of streaming. I'd be willing to pay for separate internet service (Time Warner), if that's even allowed (we share a mailing address) and would solve the problem (or will the connection drop affect both services).
4. Something else? Access point, antenna, etc?
posted by acidic to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have had a better experience using EoP (ethernet over powerline) than MoCa (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), but I think the electrical situation makes me thing bridging your internet connection over COAX will be your best wired bet. Or a very long ethernet cable plugged into a separate router.
posted by 6ATR at 2:52 PM on April 1, 2013

Response by poster: per landlord: "Same fuse box, separate wiring".
posted by acidic at 4:55 PM on April 1, 2013

I had a lot of success using a Netgear Access Point. We used it inside a house, but the wifi originated at the far end, we had many walls, tons of plumbing, etc., between us and it and it worked perfectly. The one we used plugged into our router, but I know Netgear makes wireless versions as well. They're pretty affordable just to give a whack.
posted by headspace at 5:46 PM on April 1, 2013

I've tried a bunch of "solutions," and the only thing that worked was this.

I know it's expensive. But this sucker pumps out a lot of juice. It's got a setting where you can "up the voltage," but I leave it at default. I don't know what magic is happening in the box, but I get solid, uninterrupted connections in places where other routers' signals were never able to penetrate.

I've also tried wireless extenders-- I was willing to accept the cut in overall bandwidth-- but the damn things never worked right. Still have a (brb, gonna check what the pizacrap thing is called) Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender WN2000RPT. It's super pizacrap.

So yeah, my advice: go for the RT-N66U, try it out. Doesn't work? Return it.
posted by herrdoktor at 6:06 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The problem with range extenders is that you make the wifi radio broadcast stronger, sure, but it is unlikely your laptop wifi radio has equivalent strength to talk back. Something to keep in mind when you get better signal but "it doesn't work".
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 4:08 AM on April 2, 2013

If your previous tenant had cable then you should be ok to get your own time warner account.

The Ethernet over powerline will only work if your apartment is connected to the same breaker panel as your landlords.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:13 AM on April 2, 2013

I've had good success with a $50 WRT-54GL and DD-WRT in repeater mode.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2013

Lived in a similar situation previously. The WiFi repeater route worked just fine for me. I'd suggest you get a decent wireless router/repeater/access point that has connections for external antennas. There are plenty of after market antennas with low loss cables that will let you move the antenna around for best coverage. Since the repeater will be handling communication between your PC and the main router you don't need to worry about power mismatch issues.
posted by white_devil at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2013

Looks like you're in Cali. Just go to your nearest Fry's and ask them what they recommend for what you're trying to do. Don't let them up sell you too much. If you can get a decent WiFi signal from your landlord's router with your laptop close to the door of your place then you don't need to spend a ton a $$ to get something that works well.
posted by white_devil at 12:20 PM on April 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I decided to just try a wifi repeater, and I went with the Netgear WN3000RP. It boosted my download speeds (at speedtest.net) from 1 MB/s to 10 MB/s. It's sitting in my kitchen, which is the closest point to the landlord's house.

Then I read this article on Wirecutter, which was coincidentally posted yesterday, so I'm going to purchase the WN2500RP tonight to see if, for $10 more, there's much of a difference in performance.
posted by acidic at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2013

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