Having trouble getting a solid, reliable WiFi signal in some parts of your home? A WiFi repeater could be the solution for you.
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The job of a Wi-Fi range extender is to boost your internet connection to the outside. It lets you use your internet-connected computers and gadgets in sheds, barns, and garages, etc. The best extenders allow you to connect multiple devices simultaneously over a long-range. If you want to get WiFi in your metal shed, then the best solution for most people is to buy a wireless USB WiFi adapter and a USB extension cable and place the adapter outside of the metal shed. Then, connect the extension cable to your computer or other receiving equipment that is inside the metal shed. In fact, most of the time, it’s more powerful than the Access Point or WiFi device you’re trying to connect to, so, for example, standing ½ mile away from one of RadioLabs WiFi Omni Antenna kits, with a Cell Phone or Laptop, you may see 3 or 4 bars, but have a hard time extending back to it. TP-Link AC750 WiFi Extender (RE230), Covers Up to 1200 Sq.ft and 20 Devices, Dual Band WiFi Range Extender, WiFi Booster to Extend Range of WiFi Internet Connection, OneMesh Compatible 4.2 out of.
A WiFi repeater or extender is used to extend the coverage area of your WiFi network. It works by receiving your existing WiFi signal, amplifying it and then transmitting the boosted signal. With a WiFi repeater you can effectively double the coverage area of your WiFi network - reaching far corners of your home or office, different floors, or even extend coverage to your yard.
What’s the difference between a WiFi booster, repeater, or extender?
WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders are mostly the same thing - devices to improve WiFi coverage. There isn’t a clearly defined difference between devices that manufacturers describe as “repeaters” and devices described as “extenders”. However, not all WiFi extenders work in the exact same way. There are several different kinds of devices available and below we aim to explain what those differences are and how they work, so that you can choose the best WiFi repeater for your circumstances.
I have trouble getting WiFi signal in some corners of my house. What should I try first?
There are a couple of solutions to try before opting for a WiFi extender. The simplest is to try moving the location of your WiFi router. It should be in the most central location possible. If that doesn’t help (or if changing location just isn’t practical) check if your router needs to be upgraded. If you’ve had an older model for many years, it could be time for an upgrade to a more powerful model.
One of the best options for a new router is the Archer C9 AC1900 Router from TP-LINK which offers 802.11ac, the next generation of WiFi. It's a dual band router with ultrafast dual core processors and four gigabit ethernet ports for use with Smart TVs or game consoles. It comes with unique Beamforming technology. This technology allows the routers to concentrate the WiFi signal towards your WiFi devices. By targeting the WiFi signal to where it’s being used, the speed and performance of your network is greatly increased.
My WiFi is in the best location possible! My router is up-to-date! But my coverage is still unreliable!
Okay, a WiFi extender could be the solution for you! There are a couple of different options. One of the most straightforward is a powerline ethernet kit like this starter kit from Zyxel. The kit allows you to send your internet signal over the electrical circuit in your home or office. It comes with 2 adapters; one plugs into a power socket near your current router, and the other in the location where you need signal. Connect the first one to your router using an ethernet cable, and connect the second to an ethernet device (e.g. a Smart TV or games console). The second adapter could also be connected to a WiFi router for a second WiFi network.
The great advantage to this solution is that it is fast. Firstly, it’s fast to set up. You plug and go. You could try to recreate the kit with dozens of feet of ethernet cables, but that involves drilling holes in the walls and running cabling throughout the house - and you won’t be able to unplug and move your setup around easily. Secondly, it’s fast in bandwidth terms. An extender that uses WiFi will usually see some speed loss. Because they’re communicating with the router over Wi-Fi, there’s a big speed drop if the extender talks to your devices on the same band it’s using to talk to the router. There are ways to get around this (see below!) but the powerline ethernet kit bypasses the whole problem. By using the existing electrical circuit in your house, you create a link from your WiFi router to your device that is faster than WiFi and can be set up in just a few minutes.
This is a particularly great solution if, for example, you had a games console in the basement that wasn’t getting sufficiently fast or reliable signal. The kit can plug right into the console’s ethernet connection and connect it to the router in another part of the house.
But powerline ethernet adapters aren’t for everybody. The distance between power outlets can have an impact on performance, and so can the kind of wiring you have in your house. If a powerline ethernet adapter isn’t right for you, we recommend considering a WiFi repeater.
How Does A WiFi Repeater Work?
A WiFi Repeater effectively contains two wireless routers, similar to the wireless router you already have in your home or office. One of these wireless routers picks up the existing WiFi network. It then transfers the signal to the other wireless router, which transmits the boosted signal.
How Do I Install A WiFi Repeater?
WiFi Repeaters are very easy to install. All you have to do is place the repeater in a location that can receive your existing WiFi network, and then attach the power supply. You can then log into the WiFi repeater via your computer, and input the login details and password of your existing WiFi network, to allow the WiFi repeater to connect and extend.
Got a tricky situation like a pool house in your garden? No problem! There are weatherproof WiFi repeaters like the Hawking Outdoor Smart WiFi Repeater that can be placed outside, boosting signal throughout your property. This kit is very flexible and can be moved easily. For example, if you are RVing and the campsite has weak WiFi signal, this repeater can be fixed to the roof of your RV to boost the signal inside.
Will my laptop/mobile device switch between networks automatically?
Only if you go entirely out of range of the first network. A WiFi repeater creates a second network. If your first network is not available, your device will connect to the second. But in some parts of your house, your device will be able to detect both networks at the same time. This means that if you wish to change from the original network to the boosted network you will have to disconnect and then reconnect.
Will the repeated network be secure?
Yes. WiFi repeaters offer the same levels of security as traditional WiFi routers (WEP, WPA, WPA2 etc).
What about that speed loss we talked about earlier?
All WiFi repeaters have some speed loss, but some are much worse than others. WiFi repeaters work by receiving wireless signal and rebroadcasting it, but single band repeaters have to receive, then retransmit each packet of data using the same radio on the same channel. This can cost single band repeaters 50% of their bandwidth.
Dual band repeaters get around this by connecting to the router on one band and outputting a WiFi signal on the other. The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band WiFi extender uses FastLane technology to improve performance using both WiFi bands. A fast processor also really helps (the Nighthawk has a Dual core 1GHz processor) by enabling maximum WiFi throughput.
One final feature that helps reduce speed loss is dual radios. If the device has dual radios, it can speak to the main router on lower channels, and then rebroadcast on higher channels. The Hawking Dual Radio Smart Repeater (HW2R1) uses two Wi-Fi radios. One Wi-Fi radio receives the signal and the other radio rebroadcasts the boosted signal. This clever design allows the boosted signal to utilize a different WiFi channel, which greatly increases performance compared to single radio repeaters. The Smart Repeater Pro also has a very powerful high gain antenna that can pick up even very weak WiFi signals, and it rebroadcasts that signal on two powerful 3dBi omni-directional antennas.
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Many people may want to be able to connect to WiFi in their shed for work purposes. Or, maybe you want to be able to play video games in peace because your family will not stop bothering you. Unfortunately, WiFi signals do not make it through metal sheds with ease because WiFi signals tend to bounce off metal. Of course, you could build shed close to your house, and if your WiFi signal is powerful enough, you could be able to connect to a wireless network in your shed. However, that strategy may not work well for most people.
If you want to get WiFi in your metal shed, then the best solution for most people is to buy a wireless USB WiFi adapter and a USB extension cable and place the adapter outside of the metal shed. Then, connect the extension cable to your computer or other receiving equipment that is inside the metal shed.
In this article I will explain some popular solution for getting WiFi inside a metal building.
- Most Reliable Option – Use a Network Cable
Cheapest Solution – Use a Wireless USB WiFi Adapter
You will need a USB WiFi adapter, for example EDUP Wifi Adapter and a USB extension cable.
You need to drill a hole in the awning, wall, or soffit of your shed. Make sure it is large enough for the cable end to fit through, and that you don’t damage anything as you drill your hole.
Consider using a USB wall plate to cover the hole. This is not necessary but will look a lot nicer than a simple hole. Use glue or electrical tape to hold the wall plate in place.
Connect one end of the USB cable to the WiFi adapter and the other end to your PC.
Test the speed of your connection out at speedtest.net. Scroll down below to learn about dBm and WiFi signal strength. dBm is the most consistent and easy way to express signal strength.
If a wireless USB WiFi adapter does not cut it for you, then take the time to think through these three solutions: network cable solution, powerline networking solution, and point-to-point networking solution. I recommend the network cable solution as the second best solution because it is simple, reliable, and cheap.
Most Reliable Option – Use a Network Cable
Buy an extra long network cable and connect it to a wireless access point in the shed.
You can run a cable through your yard from the router in your home to a wireless access point in a metal shed.
After 250 – 300 feet, you may need extra equipment to extend a network cable.
The problems with this solution are: weather and animals may negatively impact a network cable, and the network cable may look “ugly” or “strange” to others when they enter your yard.
However, as long as the cable is not placed in a spot where the weather and animals will interfere, you should not have any issues. This solution is the most reliable solution.
This solution is also the cheapest. A fifty-foot network cable costs around $15 and a 300-foot cable will cost about $30.
If you want to try a slightly simpler solution and do not mind paying an extra $60-$100, then take a look at the next option.
Network Cable Tips
- Squirrels, chipmunks, and mice may chew on your cable, try protecting it with a PVC pipe
- Dig a small trench and burn the cable underground to keep it secure. I recommend digging a trench that is at least 18 inches deep. Surround the cable with a PVC pipe.
Powerline networking is a common wireless approach to expanding the range of a WiFi signal through adapters.
A basic powerline adapter kit will include two Ethernet cables. One is for your router, and the other is for the nearest power socket.
Setting up adapters is easy, but make sure you pick an adapter that is compatible with your router. Maybe buy adapters that are the same brand as your router.
The major disadvantage of this solution is that you will need a power socket and a power source in your metal shed.
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You can use multiple adapters for your metal shed, and an entire house to increase your overall network coverage. Usually, you can buy two powerline adapters for about $90.
If you are not satisfied with the range of your adapters, or you are in a place that includes many trees or walls that will interfere with your signal, then consider the next solution.
Point-to-point wireless bridges will allow you to have long-range wireless connectivity.
Ideally, two, big signal receivers should be placed on top of your house and shed.
Most point-to-point wireless bridges can make it through terrible weather and have a decent warranty.
This solution is the most expensive and least reliable because the antennae must be placed outside of your house and shed. You will need to make sure that nothing interferes with the signal.
The range is the best part of this solution.
A wireless point-to-point system will cost about $200.
- Mobile Hotspot: You could buy a mobile hotspot, which is not cheap, and place it in a spot where it can receive signals from satellites. Maybe put it right outside a door or place it near a window. Many phones nowadays such as the iPhone 7 can create a hotspot. This option is not very cheap, and the WiFi signals emitted by hotspots tend to be sub-par. However, this may be a quick fix for you.
- Hire a Professional: Get a professional to figure out the best solution for you. Keep in mind that it will be a lot cheaper to solve this problem on your own.
Second Best Solution
The second best solution, in my opinion, is to utilize a network cable to get Wi-Fi into a shed. It’s a cheap and reliable option. Also, I recommend using a PVC pipe to protect the cable and digging a trench to hide the ugly PVC pipe.
Buy a cheap router for the inside of the shed unless you do not need a wireless access point.
Remember, you can use an Ethernet cable to connect multiple home routers.
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Choosing a Wireless Router
Once again, metal roofing and other metal parts and pieces that make up a metal shed will certainly decrease the strength of WiFi signals.
This is why you should buy hardware with an extra strong signal. Not having a connection to WiFi can get frustrating, so do not be afraid to get a more expensive router.
An extra strong signal can be defined as a signal that is between -30 to -67 dBm.
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What is dBm?
dBm is the most consistent and easy way to express signal strength.
It stands for: decibels relative to a milliwatt.
–30 dBm – Amazing strength. To achieve this, the client can only be a couple of feet away from the AP.
–67 dBm – Very Good. Reliable and fast.
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–70 dBm – Okay. This is average. Most people are connected to WiFi at this signal strength.
–80 dBm – Not Great. Minimal signal strength for very basic connectivity.
-90 dBm – Terrible. Any kind of functionality is not likely.
Why Do WiFi Signals Bounce Off of Metal Shed?
Metal, a conductor of electricity and magnetism, absorbs radio waves, which are an electromagnetic frequency.
Conductors such as metal allow electrons to move freely, so when a radio wave such as WiFi comes in contact with metal, the signal is weakened because metal absorbs electrons from radio waves.
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Once again, there are three options that I recommend for people who want a strong WiFi signal in their metal shed. A network cable solution, powerline networking solution, and point-to-point networking solution are great options.
However, I believe the network cable solution is the best because of the cheapness and reliability of this option.
Metal sheds can be great places to isolate yourself from the rest of society and get work done or enjoy videos, so get out there and solve your WiFi problems!
Eugene has been a DIY enthusiast for most of his life and loves being creative while inspiring creativity in others. He is passionately interested in home improvement, renovation and woodworking.