How can I boost the signal in my room cheaply?
February 23, 2014 4:17 PM   Subscribe

I need to boost the WiFi in my room (I think). What device can I buy for cheap that will do this, even when the router is next door and inaccessible?

I am currently renting a room in a terraced house. The rent includes the broadband. The wifi router is next door, in the landlord's other house. The landlord is...difficult. Difficult to get hold of, difficult to communicate with, difficult to get to actually do anything. So if I can, I need to do this w/o any help from him or actually physically getting at the router.

My desktop PC gets 5 bars of WiFi signal with a £20 wifi dongle. My 2012 Nexus 7 and Galaxy Nexus frequently have no bars and slow or no connection. Both devices had no problem with a cheap router one floor up and at the other end of the house where I lived a few weeks ago. So I assume they're not the problem.

I have an old Tomson 585 v2 router.

It looks like I can't just set up the old router as a repeater. Or if I could, I'd need to physically access the current Virgin router next door.

If I'm wrong, and I can, could somebody explain it to me like I'm 5?

If I'm right, is there something I can plug into the wall here and set up as a repeater/booster? Keeping in mind I have the WiFi password and the MAC address for the router next door, but not admin or physical access? Something cheap, ideally.
posted by K.P. to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It'd be finicky, but you could buy a wireless bridge like this (sorry, US amazon) and then configure it to connect to your landlord's wifi, then plug the ethernet port into the WAN port on your Tomson 585. This would effectively turn your router into a repeater. It's hacky, it's liable to be glitchy, but it would likely work.
posted by Alterscape at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use a "Diamond" brand repeater which isn't perfect - I don't stream movies or anything like that - but it works.
posted by vapidave at 6:00 PM on February 23, 2014

There are a number of dedicated WiFi repeaters available, but I recommend just buying a router that can run as a repeater, rather than a dedicated repeater. There is no need to set up two routers, as there are all-in-one options now.

The Asus RT-N12 D1 does just that and costs less than $50. I installed one as a repeater a while back and it has been just fine. You can buy more expensive routers, but you really don't need the extra speed and it sounds like you don't need exceptional wireless reception.
posted by ssg at 7:03 PM on February 23, 2014

Honestly i'd buy something like this that was available locally.

You can hax around with using an old router reconfigured as a repeater with a software mod or whatever, but for under $30 unless you already have a suitable router then screw it. Not worth the time and hassle to track one down and likely spend even more.
posted by emptythought at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2014

I have this currently working in my house. All you need equipment-wise is a router that will support DD-WRT (in my case, an old linksys wrt-54g I picked up at a thrift store. You flash DD-WRT onto the router then follow the instructions in that wiki above.
posted by zug at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2014

Another option would be to build yourself a directional antenna and point it at the router. As long as the router doesn't move around, and you have a WiFi card that will accept an external antenna, this would allow you to receive and transmit a concentrated signal. The time-honoured DIY method for this is with a cantenna, which is made out of a couple of old tin cans and works very nicely. The most expensive part is the connector; the whole rig costs about $5, and is a fun little project if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by Scientist at 7:47 PM on February 23, 2014

Get a wireless repeater, something like this. The user guide shows it's pretty easy to set up and you don't need physical access to the router, you only need to know the router's IP address.

I have something similar for my home office to boost my Sky broadband signal and it does a great job of giving me a strong signal in what was otherwise a bit of a dead zone.
posted by essexjan at 1:10 AM on February 24, 2014

You could probably also use your PC (which you say gets good reception) as a repeater. You just need to add a second wireless card (a cheap USB one would be like $5) and do the appropriate OS-specific configuration incantations.
posted by Poldo at 5:37 AM on February 24, 2014

I ended up buying this since it was available at a shop (Argos) that I could walk to. Was up and working in about 15 minutes (most of that waiting for it to set itself up). Oddly, it works better further from the next-door-router (contrary to the manual and conventional wisdom). I probably could have figured this one out myself if I hadn't overworked my brain trying to save £25 futzing about with a router that's not made to be a repeater.

Thanks everyone.
posted by K.P. at 9:36 AM on February 25, 2014

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