Whether you’re trying to stream the newest shows on Netflix and Hulu, play online games with your friends, or go live on Instagram, you may find yourself frustrated from time to time because of slow internet speeds. If this has become an ongoing problem, you don’t necessarily have to resort straight to upgrading or switching your internet plan in order to get faster internet speeds. Buying a WiFi extender or WiFi range extender is a quick way to boost your internet speeds without breaking the bank. Most WiFi extenders cost between $20 and $50, although there are certainly more expensive options, especially when it comes to mesh WiFi extenders.

In this guide:

What is a WiFi extender?

A WiFi extender or WiFi range extender is a device that essentially repeats the signal from your router and rebroadcasts it to places where your connection is weak throughout your apartment or house, thus increasing your speed and performance. A WiFi extender can be helpful, especially if your internet-connected device (e.g. smart TV, computer, smart home device) is relatively far from your router, as a greater distance can slow speeds. If you have a larger home, you may even want to buy several WiFi network extenders to spread throughout your house, ensuring you’ll get a strong connection no matter what room you’re in. Conversely, you could also look into getting a mesh WiFi extender, which can boost the signal in even the biggest of homes.

Let’s Talk Tip: Generally speaking, WiFi signals are weaker the further your device is from the router, and it can even have trouble traveling through thicker walls.

How do WiFi extenders work?

We won’t get into the nitty-gritty here but WiFi extenders work by receiving your current WiFi signal, boosting it significantly, and then transmitting that stronger signal to the hard-to-reach places of your house. Essentially, it’s using an improved version of your current WiFi to enhance internet performance and speeds. There are a few different kinds of WiFi extenders, but the most popular types plug into electric outlets. A WiFi range extender can be a great one-time-purchase to help improve your home internet experience.

How to set up a WiFi extender

It’s super quick and easy to set up a new WiFi extender or range extender. The installation process may differ depending on the manufacturer, but no matter what, you’ll need to figure out the best location for your WiFi extender. This may require some trial and error on your part. If you know where your dead zones are, try plugging in your extender about halfway between your router and the dead spot, then follow the instructions specific to your extender. Many WiFi extenders come with an app that will help walk you through the installation process.

Once you’re all set up, you’ll want to use our free internet speed test to see if the extender has increased your speeds in your desired location. If not, you may need to move it around until you find the perfect place for it. Also, as with your router, avoid putting your WiFi extender near obstacles or signal-disrupters, such as water, mirrors, or microwaves.

After you’ve successfully installed your new WiFi extender, you’ll want to connect the devices that will be using it, aka the devices in the dead spots. Just like traditional WiFi, the WiFi extender will show up on the list of available networks so you just need to select it.

Best WiFi Range Extenders

When looking for the best WiFi range extender for you and your home, you’ll want to first look for one that is compatible with your router equipment. If your router is old, you won’t want to buy a WiFi extender that uses the newest technology, as they likely won’t be compatible. Likewise, if your router is new and capable of handling high frequencies, make sure to get an extender capable of these frequencies.

The three most common types of WiFi range extenders include:

  • Desktop range extenders: These resemble small routers and oftentimes are capable of higher speeds than the plug-ins. They typically have numerous ethernet ports so you can connect your computer or other devices directly to it using a cable. The one disadvantage to the desktop range extender is that it may take up a lot of desk space.
  • Plug-in range extenders: Plug-in range extenders connect to the electrical socket of your wall like a night light. Some may have an ethernet port while others may not.
  • Mesh WiFi range extenders: Mesh is king when it comes to WiFi extenders. They are what are used in offices and schools to cover such large spaces with a single network. Mesh WiFi extenders are entire systems comprising several units, which work together in a synchronized fashion to enhance WiFi. Accordingly, mesh WiFi systems tend to be more expensive than desktop and plug-in options.

If you have a modest apartment or home and are simply looking for an extra boost, a desktop or plug-in extender should work just fine. You may want to check out popular brands, such as:

  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • TP-Link
  • D-Link

If you’ve got a lot of space to cover in your home and are interested in checking out mesh WiFi extenders, you may want to look into the following mesh systems:

  • Amazon Eero
  • Google Nest
  • Netgear Orbi
  • Synology

How can WiFi extenders improve gaming?

A WiFi range extender could very well be an online gamer’s best friend, especially if you are experiencing a long latency period or ping—the amount of time it takes information to travel from your device to your internet service provider’s server and back. Ping can seriously disrupt online gaming, especially if you play a lot of first-person shooter games in which quick reaction time is vital to your success. Fortunately, a WiFi range extender can enhance your internet’s speed and reliability for gaming, which will not only lower your latency but also improve download and upload speeds.

Best cheap high-speed internet plans

Once you’ve exhausted all efforts to improve your internet connection and to no avail, you may want to consider switching to an internet plan with faster speeds. It may not be ideal, but there are plenty of cheap internet plans out there with speeds of 100Mbps or higher. And switching is likely to get you a great deal—most internet providers offer introductory rates at much lower than their typical rates, and the occasional internet service provider (ISP), like CenturyLink, locks you into that low rate for as long as you have service through them! Check out the best cheap high-speed internet plans below: