If you’re trying to fix spotty Wi-Fi coverage, you may have considered using not just one, but multiple Wi-Fi extenders to fix things. This is what you need to know.
You can use multiple extenders (but you shouldn’t)
Wi-Fi extenders offer some relief when you find Wi-Fi is lacking in your home, but they are not without their shortcomings.
While a single extender deployed so you can watch YouTube videos on your back porch without consuming all your mobile data is a good and reasonable use for a Wi-Fi extender, increasing the number of extenders only creates headaches.
All of the disadvantages of a Wi-Fi extender, such as the latency, congestion, and complexity of multiple simultaneous networks in the same airspace, are effectively multiplied by using more than one extender at a time.
With that in mind, we cannot recommend the use of multiple extenders, as it is like applying multiple bandages to the same problem. If your Wi-Fi coverage is so poor that you’re considering using multiple extenders, you should upgrade your router.
In fact, for most people, we recommend using a mesh system rather than trying to build an inferior alternative with a patchwork of extenders.
While premium mesh systems can cost you hundreds, the price of mesh systems has been falling for years. You can easily pick up a 3-node mesh system, albeit not with the latest Wi-Fi technology, for the same price you’d pay for a premium extender.
Since three mesh nodes, all working in harmony, will give you a better experience than a Wi-Fi extender sitting on top of your old router, it makes a lot more sense to just grab a mesh kit.
If you use multiple extenders, follow these tips
Although we strongly discourage the use of multiple extenders in the same location, we are also strong advocates of helping our readers minimize the negative impact of poor configurations.
Maybe you’re in a bind and working on a small budget or making do with the hardware you have. Whatever the reason, use these tips to get the most out of a less-than-ideal network setup.
Move your Wi-Fi router
If possible, consider moving your Wi-Fi router to a better location in your home. Misplaced Wi-Fi routers are one of the main reasons people look for Wi-Fi extenders in the first place.
For example, if you have a country house and your ISP’s utility drop is at the other end of the house, you will have a hard time getting good coverage at the other end of the house.
Simply moving the router can improve your Wi-Fi coverage enough that you don’t even need a Wi-Fi extender or can get by with a single extender to reach an isolated dead spot in your home or garden.
Check if your router has add-on extenders
This is pretty rare, but worth looking into if you’re considering Wi-Fi extenders (especially if you’re considering using multiple extenders).
Some manufacturers have specific router models that support special integration with extenders made by the same manufacturer. For example, TP-Link has a system called OneMesh that allows you to link compatible routers and extenders in a mesh-like system that is superior to simply adding a third-party extender.
If you have a TP-Link AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 router, for example, you can purchase a TP-Link RE600X Wi-Fi extender and enjoy unified control and roaming with a single Wi-Fi network name and login.
However, if you don’t already have a router that supports such systems, it’s not worth the expense of buying a new router and compatible Wi-Fi extender; You’d be better off buying a new mesh system for a similar price.
Place the extenders opposite each other
Wi-Fi extender placement follows the same best practices for general Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi mesh network deployment. Don’t crowd your access points. Position the Wi-Fi extender halfway between the router and the dead spot so that the extender is still within the strong signal space of the router.
When multiple extenders are used, the same concept applies but with an additional consideration. Not only do you want to avoid placing Wi-Fi extenders too close or too far from the router, but you also want to avoid placing them too close to each other.
Ideally, they should be placed at opposite ends of the house, relative to the router, to prevent the two extenders from overlapping each other’s coverage areas.
Don’t piggyback Wi-Fi extenders
In addition to not cluttering the extenders, each extender should have only one “hop” and only one hop, back to the main Wi-Fi router.
You want to avoid a situation where communication from your device, say your iPhone in the backyard or the smart TV in the mother-in-law’s suite above the garage, has to jump multiple times to get back to the router.
Wi-Fi extenders inherently degrade the user experience due to latency, overhead, etc. If you’re hopping from extender to extender to the main router, you’ll likely find the experience excruciatingly slow.
Use different network names
While you can set your extender’s Wi-Fi network name, or SSID, to be the same as your primary Wi-Fi network when using a single extender, you can’t when using multiple extenders.
Not only is this bad practice when you only have one extender, because roaming between a primary router and an extender is often very unstable, with multiple extenders there is a potential additional complication: looping extenders.
When you set up an extender, you must provide it with your primary network credentials. Let’s say your primary network SSID is:
MyWiFi with the password:
MyPassword . If you reuse that in the extender and then add another extender to your network, you may run into a situation where extender 2 connects to extender 1, or vice versa, instead of connecting to your actual Wi-Fi router.
With that in mind, you should name your extenders with logical and complementary names so that people can connect to the correct one based on where they are in the house. If your main Wi-Fi SSID is MyWiFi, then name the extenders like
Manually configure channels
With mesh systems, things behind the scenes, like backhaul balancing and channel interference mitigation, happen automatically.
When using extenders, especially multiple extenders, on the 2.4Ghz band, you need to pay special attention to your channels. The 2.4 ghz band has only three non-overlapping channels, 1, 6, and 11.
So if you’re using a main router and two extenders, you’ll need to configure each one to use a different, non-overlapping channel for optimal performance. However, if your home is an apartment or house in a densely populated neighborhood, that might be enough since your neighbors are likely to interfere.
For extenders using the 5Ghz band, this is much less of a concern, but you’ll still want to check for interference with your neighbors’ routers.
If you read through all of the suggestions above, it’s hard not to come to a pretty obvious conclusion: You should probably get a mesh system. Even an entry-level mesh Wi-Fi system under $200, like eero or TP-Link models like the TP-Link Deco S4 and Deco M5, offers all the benefits of using an extender (and then some) without any. of headaches or workarounds required.
Other mesh systems are extensible. If you buy a three-pack and find you still have a dead spot, you don’t have to turn to a third-party extender to fix your Wi-Fi problem. You can simply purchase an additional node for your existing system and enjoy seamless integration and coverage.