Want to boost your home wi-fi signal? One of the best techniques for receiving a more reliable internet connection is turning an old router into a repeater, or to buy a new router to use as a repeater. This should extend your wireless signal to the darkest corners of your home, but you’ll likely spend 30 minutes to an hour setting it all up.
In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps you need to follow to set up an additional router as a wireless repeater. However, it's worth pausing to consider a couple of alternative options for boosting your wi-fi, first:
Option 1 - Powerline adapters
If your home electricity runs off just one ring/circuit, you should consider buying a powerline adapter. TP-Link and Homeplug are popular brands. These can be far simpler to set up than a second router. You plug in one unit to a power plug point near your router, and connect to the router via an ethernet cable. Plug in second powerline adaptor to a power point in your wi-fi deadzone - the powerline adapters piggyback your electricity circuit to carry the internet through your home.
- Pros: Plug and play, simple setup, you can have multiple ones
- Cons: Won't work across multiple electricity rings if your home circuitry is set up this way
Read our guide to setting up a Homeplug powerline extender
Option 2 - Wireless boosters
This is one of the simplest options for boosting your wi-fi. You buy a wireless booster box and set it up halfway between your router and the 'wi-fi dead zone' in your home. Press the WPS button on the wireless booster (pictured below), then the corresponding WPS button on your router (most modern routers will have one, but check before buying a booster unit).
The two devices will 'talk' to each other, and your network should be extended within minutes. There's no need to set up an additional password or network name - your original network is simply extended.
Sometimes, you'll get by just fine with a third-party router. But, some broadband providers prefer you to use their own equipment - Sky Q broadband, for example, requires a Sky Q Wireless Booster, pictured below.
- Pros: One-button setup, you can have multiple units, costs from under £20
- Cons: Won't work so easily if your router doesn't have a WPS button
Option 3 - set up a second router
The third option is trickier to do, but can create a reliable extended wireless network in your home. You effectively change the settings in a spare router (such as an older one you're no longer using) so that it repeats the network signal of your main router. The process is nowhere near as simple as the two options above, however.
- Pros: makes use of an old router, can create a reliable extended network
- Cons: trickier to set up, requires you to delve into router settings, won't work with all equipment (eg new Sky Q routers)
If you're keen to set up a second router, we’ve laid out the key tips you need to make for a hassle-free experience. Read on for our step-by-step guide below.
Check your router’s manual
Some routers have repeater functionality built in, while others need customer firmware. Find out from your router’s manual to see if it’s possible to use a second wireless router to repeat the wi-fi signal or use it as a bridge.
Enable the router's repeater mode
Before starting, make a note of the MAC address of both the current (‘primary’) and ‘repeater’ routers. It’s often labelled on the bottom of the router and looks something like ’00:00:00:00:00:00′.
Configure your current (primary) router
- Power on your current ‘primary’ router and connect your computer to it via an Ethernet cable. Open a web browser on your computer and enter the Admin page URL (most are similar to http://192.168.1.1), then the username and password. The manual will contain this information and guidance to the admin page settings.
- Locate the wireless repeater settings on its Admin page and enable/change as appropriate – you’ll either have a drop-down menu to select your router’s mode or a checkbox to tick. This is often found in the ‘advanced’ wireless settings and named differently between brands, such as ‘Wireless Repeater’, ‘signal repeating’, ‘Wireless Bridging and Repeating > Repeater with Wireless Client Association’, or as with Apple ‘Wireless Bridge Mode’.
- In the wireless repeater settings, leave it set to access point mode. Fill in MAC address of the ‘old’ router and click Apply, Save, or as appropriate to save the new settings.
- Look for a setting relating to the router being set as the ‘DHCP Server’ and make sure it is enabled. It might not be present, but check in any sections that mention ‘LAN IP’ or ‘DHCP’. The IP address should be set to 192.168.0.1, then ‘starting’ IP address at 192.168.0.4, and ‘ending’ IP address 192.168.0.255. Save the settings.
Configure your repeater router
- Connect the Ethernet cable to your ‘repeater’ router and power it on. Enter the Admin page and locate the wireless repeater settings (similar to steps 1 and 2 above).
- In the wireless repeater settings, change it from ‘Access Point (AP)’ to the ‘repeater’ option (for some routers you may have to create a wireless bridge).
Note: If you don’t find these settings, then this isn’t possible or you’ll need custom firmware.
- Enter the MAC address of your main (‘primary’) router, but other settings are different here.
- Look for LAN/IP address settings. Turn off any setting relating to using it as a ‘DHCP Server’ – you don’t want it to act as the chief router.
- Next, change its IP address to 192.168.0.2 and write this down as this will be the address used to enter its admin screen in the future. Save the settings.
- Make sure that the wireless settings are the same as those used by the main router (such as SSID (network name), security mode, Channel, and MAC Authentication).
- Next, make sure all routers are powered off. Wait a minute, then power on the ‘primary’ router.
- Pick a spot to locate your ‘repeater’ router in an area close to where you’ve struggled to get signal (this could be a different floor). Then, power it on and check if you now have an improved wireless signal.
Homeplugs as an alternative
It's not fun to set up a second router, as the many steps above will attest. You may find it far simpler (and get the same result of more wi-fi throughout your home) by setting up a Homeplug.
These are 'router-like' units that you connect to your home's electrical circuit via the mains. One unit also connects to your router; the other, you position elsewhere in your home. Provided your home uses one main electrical ring, this can be piggybacked to extend your wi-fi network.
Read our guide to setting up a Homeplug powerline extender.