It may come as a shock to our readers, but one of our bloggers is “of a certain age” and can remember back into pre-historic times when homes had NO computers at all. These days multiple computers, tablets, smartphones, television connections, and high-speed Internet, usually operating wirelessly, are not uncommon. Even folks who have only one computer might enjoy the convenience of being able to access the Internet in various parts of the house without dragging wires behind them. The advantage of portability first became apparent back in the early 2000s when laptops began to outsell desktops, and the computer became liberated from the office desk. Now almost all devices, including desktops, have wireless capability. Alas, sometimes there are dead spots in the wifi coverage in our houses, and it is uncanny how often that dead spot is precisely the place where we would like to be connected. This could be a job for a range extender.
WHAT IS IT?
First let’s take a step back and look at the basic hardware of an Internet connection. The Internet signal enters the house via telephone or cable wires, and connects first to a modem. For the simplest one-computer connection that’s all you need; you run a wire from the modem to your computer, and you’re done. If you want two or more devices online you need a traffic cop called a router, which manages the Internet signals the devices are using. A router usually has ports for cables from computers that need them, and it sends and receives wifi signals too. Recently it is quite common to see a single little box that does the job of both modem and router combined.
Even a modestly priced router is usually sufficient for most homes, but there is a pretty long list of culprits that can interfere with the router’s wireless signal, from microwaves to cement walls, to your neighbour’s wifi. Apparently, for example, the chicken wire that was once used to help secure plaster to walls is precisely the right size and shape to jam a wifi signal. A comprehensive directory of the enemies of wifi can be found at https://tinyurl.com/njdymah
A range extender is an additional wireless device which you place where it can receive the wifi signal from the router and then it transfers the signal on, past or around the router’s limits. This enables you to overcome many (but not all) wifi obstacles. If you are lucky, your router and your range extender can join forces simply with the press of a button on the back of each. Otherwise, a set of instructions enclosed will make it pretty simple to make them work together.
WHAT CAN IT DO?
A range extender fills a common need quickly, easily, cheaply and reliably. You get what you pay for, in that the more expensive ones are more powerful but most simple home requirements would be satisfied with a lower end model at $75.00 or less. If you suspect that your walls are hard for the signal to penetrate, or if you have competing electronic equipment, or even if you simply have an unusual distance from the basement to the top floor, the range extender may be the answer.
WHAT CAN’T IT DO?
A range extender can’t help you if you don’t have a reliable Internet connection to start with. If your wiring or your router is faulty, or if the wireless adapter in your computer has failed, `those problems will have to be addressed first.