The Best Way to Blanket a Home in Wi-Fi

wireless_iconA recent Facebook post started me thinking that this was a subject worth covering.  Here’s the original question:

JR: Computer people, what is the absolute, most amazing and powerful wi-fi extender I can get? My current extender is slow and totally unreliable, needing to be reset frequently. I’ve read reviews online, but can’t seem to come up with an obvious choice.

It’s a great question with a few possible answers.  First, let’s make some assumptions about the environment.  Like most folks in this situation, I’m betting that this is a larger house with the router located at one end and that the wi-fi reception on the opposite end is the real problem.  Upstairs and downstairs variations are likely not the issue.  There could be obstructions in the middle of the house the interfere with the signal.  These are typically kitchen related.  The refrigerator and stove can really tank a wi-fi signal.

So what’s the best way to extend the range of the wi-fi router?  There are extenders, but as the question suggests, your mileage may vary.  What are the alternatives?

Option 1: Replace the Router
Replacing the main wireless router with an 802.11n or an 802.11ac version could be the ticket.  If the original router was 802.11a, 802.11b, or 802.11g, then these newer versions offer greater ranger in most situations.  But there’s a catch.  To take full advantage of that greater range, the wireless adapter that’s part of your computer should also be 802.11n or 802.11ac.  If it’s not, you’re not going to get the full range extension.  And upgrading the hardware at the computer could be impractical (adding a card of some kind) or impossible (some laptops, and all tablets).  At some point, the price becomes an issue and option 1 might not be the best route if you’re dealing with legacy hardware.

Also keep in mind that 802.11n and 802.11ac routers drop in performance to match the requirements of the oldest connecting device.  This means that, if you have an old device (only 802.11b 22Mb), your super fast 100+Mb wi-fi will down-step the performance of the entire network to accommodate that old device.  Some of the latest hardware circumvents this issue by putting the older hardware on a different frequency, but in far too many cases, having an old device on a modern network will cause the entire network to slow down.  Worse yet, depending on the router, it might also limit the range of your wi-fi network as it works to accommodate those older specifications.  Few people see that coming.  It’s difficult to anticipate and even more difficult to diagnose, so be aware.

Option 2: Network Power Line Adapters
Network power line adapters (PLA’s from now on) have come a long way in recent years.  Prices have dropped, reliability has improved, and speeds have increased.  The idea is to turn the electrical wiring inside your house into a data network.  A PLA has a network cable port on it.  You plug that into your existing wired network, then simply plug it into one of your homes electrical wall sockets.  After that, just trot on down to the other end of your home and plug in a matching power line adapter and plug it into the wall.  The 2nd adapter also has a network port that provides a computer friendly interface to your home’s electrical/data grid.

Ideally, someone will want to attach a wireless access point to the far side power line adapter, rather than a single computer.  This would light up the far end of the house with its own wi-fi, independent of the main wi-fi provided by the main router.  Keep in mind, in this situation, you would be looking for a wireless access point (WAP), not another wireless router.  Two routers on the same network is a recipe for endless heartache.  Just attach a WAP to the distant power line adapter and be sure to give this WAP its own network name and use a channel that is different from the one used on the main router.  That will cut down on interference and ensure performance.  The down side to this configuration is that, when you take a computer to the far side of the house, you’ll need to select the different wi-fi network manually.  But the benefit is that the signal will be reliable and you won’t have any doubts about what your computer is doing or how it’s connecting.  You’ll know you’re getting the best signal possible at every point.

While we’re at it, a word about power line adapters (PLA from here on): By attaching this device to your home’s electrical grid, you’re essentially turning that power grid into a data network.  And since your home’s power grid reaches beyond the confines of your house, so too might your data.  Most PLA’s now utilize encryption to secure your data as it crosses your power lines.  That way, if your data does wander out onto the power grid and down the block, only you have access to the information.  The packets are encrypted just before they hit the power line and decrypted right after they leave it.

It’s a lot like the encryption on a wi-fi network.  If you don’t use wi-fi encryption, the next door neighbor might be able to join your network and use your internet access as well as see what is happening on your network.  The same could potentially apply to a PLA that did not utilize encryption.  So, the moral of the story is to select a PLA that supports encryption.  Most modern devices do because someone would be foolish not to utilize it.

The encryption that’s built into a PLA brings up another point about the adapters.  Unless the adapter you purchase is specifically designed to allow more that 2 adapters in your home, odds are that you can’t add additional adapters in the future.  The encryption between the two devices would prevent the new adapters.  It’s another reason why adding that wireless access point to the distant PLA might be a good idea.

A few caveats.  Not all homes are ideally suited for this type of system.  Some power lines seem to be “noisy,” or otherwise polluted and not well suited for data transmission.  You might see this represented in less than ideal transfer speeds.  Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you can’t tell until you try it out.  Reports of issues are almost impossible to anticipate, and likewise troubleshoot.  Someone might have problem with a home that is wired across more than one circuit while dozens of others have no trouble using the same hardware under the same conditions.  One home might work perfectly while the neighbors house is entirely unreliable using the same configuration.  It’s still hit and miss.  That said, the technology and the hardware has improved greatly over the last several years.  I would even go so far is to suggest that, if you tried a failed with PLA’s five years ago, try again with the latest hardware.  Based on recent reports, you might be surprised by the results.

PLA adapters on Amazon.

Option 3: Hard Wire
Without question, nothing is better than a hardwired network line.  If you have the means, run a physical line to the other end of that house rather than using a PLA.  There’s nothing better for reliability, speed, and security.  If you can run a line, go for it.  It’s time well spent and the cost is negligible.  And once the network line is on the other end of the house, you can set up a wireless access point as described in option 1.

Option 4: Apple’s Airport Network
You don’t have to use Apple computers in order to take advantage of what Apple’s done with the Airport line of network hardware.  Some of the features can be duplicated with hardware from other vendors, but not as easily.  If you replace your main network router with an Airport Extreme router, the latest hardware uses the current 802.11ac specification.  To extend the network, you need one more of the Airport Express base stations.  They use the same specification and work with the router in tandem.  The Express devices can be used to extend the main wi-fi network, but here’s the beauty of it.  First, Apple has made the process much more user friendly and easier to configure (I still wouldn’t call it “simple”).  802.11ac is backward compatible with all of the older network specs (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n) so all of your old hardware will work.  But the main router and the Express’s (extenders) talk to each other over 802.11n (Airport Express are not yet 802.11ac capable) which means that while legacy devices talk over older and often slower and more limited specs, the main network hardware talks to its self over the faster specification that is capable of the longest range.  This means that you get the legacy support for the older devices while you have extenders that are not limited in range by their backward compatibility.

It’s fair to say that you pay a price premium for the Apple version of the wireless networking gear.  It’s always more expensive than alternatives from the likes Linksys and Netgrear.  That said, I can’t tell you how many Linksys and Netgrear routers I’ve buried over the years.  My Apple hardware has outlasted everything I’ve ever used.  I use it on client networks whenever possible as a result.  It’s simply worth the extra money.  Not only is it more user friendly, but it’s reliable and it works.  It doesn’t matter if your network will ever have a Macintosh or Apple product on it, the Apple networking hardware is a solid investment.

Another point that’s worthy of note: In option #2 I suggested setting up a second wireless access point on the far end of the house when using a power line adapter.  That suggestion included giving that 2nd access point a different network name and switching between then networks as needed.  If you go with the extended network on the Apple devices as I’ve described, you will blanket your home in a single wi-fi network that is seamless as far as your devices are concerned.  You can take your tablet and walk through the house and the device will move from one transmitter to the next, as needed, without you having to switch to a different network manually.  It’s seamless, and brilliant!

Airport Extreme router on Amazon.
Airport Express extender on Amazon.

Hopefully one of these configurations will fit the bill for your home or office.  Personally, I’m running option #4.  I’ve blanketed my home in 802.11ac using an Airport Extreme router and two Airport Expresses.  And, for the record, I didn’t even need that 2nd Express.  But the Express devices have the added ability to act as USB print servers plus they let you plug a home stereo into them and stream music to that device from iTunes on your Mac or PC.  So I use the hell out of the extenders and my wi-fi network!

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42 Responses to The Best Way to Blanket a Home in Wi-Fi
  1. John K. Reply

    Out of curiosity, how exactly are you “blanketing” your home with 802.11ac when only the Airport Extreme unit is capable of 802.11ac?

    “I’ve blanketed my home in 802.11ac using an Airport Extreme router and two Airport Expresses.”

    • Steve Manke Reply

      This is correct, an oversight on my part and a confusing miss on the part of Apple if you ask me. The Airport Express devices still do not support 802.11ac. The best they can do is 802.11n (the next step down in regard to speeds). It’s been over a year… well over a year… and the Express has never been update with the AC chipset. So using the Express to extend the network will work, but it will not offer the fastest possible wireless speeds to the farthest reaches of your network.

      I suppose you could add additional Extreme units to extend the main Extreme network. I haven’t tried this. I would be an expensive means of expanding the network, but it should work. Now I’m tempted to try.

      I’m sorry for the oversight, John. Thank you for pointing this out, Joe C!

      • Joe c. Reply

        Best Buy does have refurbed extremes for $99 right now and express for $59 if you did want to do that.

        • Steve Manke Reply

          Sweet! I just ordered one. Thanks!

          • Joe c.

            Let me know how it works. I ordered a express to fill my 5GHz network. 5 GHz N is fast enough for me.

  2. Steve Manke Reply

    Good question. I thought I was being clear on that. The Expresses extend the range of the Extreme router. If I put the Express near the edge of the Extreme’s range and link it to the Extreme’s AC network via WDS (what is referred to as Extend in the Airport admin), the range of the AC network is extended to the range of the Express.

    • joe c. Reply

      read john’s comment again. what he is saying is the airport express does not have AC compatibility so you can’t be blanketing your house in AC. You may be with 5 GHz N but not AC.

  3. Phil Reply

    I think you are confused… On Apple Airport wireless networks, “WDS” operates on “g” wireless only. The first repeater will cut the bandwidth in 1/2, and the second repeater will cut it to 1/4 of the original g speed.

    “Extend” is what Apple calls it on n-capable devices, which includes the current gen Express. If you extend a Extreme AC with a current gen Express, anything connecting to the Express will be connecting with n. In order to have the bridge running in AC, you would need two Extreme ACs, as it is the only AC capable router/access point that Apple sells.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      You’re right, Phil. In my comment above, I did confuse WDS and Extended range. I purposefully stayed away from WDS in the post because of the performance issues. That was a real disappointment back in the day. I still remember being excited by the range of the 802.11g WDS network, but then being crushed by the horrible performance that entirely undermined it.

      To the best of my knowledge, the latest hardware doesn’t suffer from similar performance degradation. But, to be honest, I never tested for it personally and the new gear is so much faster that, if there is a drop in performance, it’s not obvious.

  4. Linuxcooldude Reply

    “Also keep in mind that 802.11n and 802.11ac routers drop in performance to match the requirements of the oldest connecting device.”

    That might be a misconception. I use to think that too. Revisiting that theory, It may be that its not nessicarily dropping to the lowest speed of the connecting device. But rather the reduced bandwidth of all the connecting devices together slowing the speed down.

  5. Chris Reply

    My router/modem is a CenturyLink contraction. The current one is new just installed within the last two months. I don’t see anything on it that tells me what it is. My house is small but I have a wall going through it that used to be an outside wall and it is hard to get wi-fi very strongly in the far side of the house. Do you know if the Airport Express Extender would work with this type router/modem? My son gets very frustrated with the intermittent wi-fi to his computer and we also have trouble streaming to our tv. I would love to hard wire, but don’t think I could afford that at this time. Currently we are using a powerline adapter as you mentioned above. It started out okay, but has become more frustrating. Seems to still have a lot of intermittent issues.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      The Airport Express is designed to extend an Airport based network. I’ve never tried using it to extend a non-Airport network, so I’m not entirely sure. It’s a good question. I wish I had a better answer.

      You can get another non-Airport access point and put it near the wall. If you Google WDS WiFi, you should get instructions for configuring your existing network using the new access point as an extender. It works… I just haven’t done it that was in a bunch of years.

      • Chris Reply

        Thanks for looking into it. I guess I will follow up on your Google search of WDS Wi-Fi.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      I just did a couple of searches to see if you could use an Express to extend a non-Airport based network. It looks like Apple dropped their formal support for WDS. If that’s the case, I don’t think you can do it. An all Airport based network would be simple enough. So you could replace your existing router, or you could add a non-Apple access point to extend your current routers reach using WDS.

      I hope that helps!

      • Daniel Reply

        Steve, Quick question. I have an older airport extreme, not sure the generation. Thinking about buying the new Extreme 6th gen. Can I use the new Extreme and then use the older to extend the coverage? Would this be the best way? WiFi in the front of the house is terrible.

        • Steve Manke Reply

          Sorry for the late reply. I missed the email alerting me to your comment.

          I’m thinking you’ll be in good shape. It might depend on how old your current Extreme is. If it can do 802.11g or better, I think you’re set.

  6. Hannan Ahmad Reply

    Wireless router which you are using should have a god range, and you should purchase a router based on range. Extending the range also decreases the security of the network, but also provides a great utility.

  7. Cao Reply

    Thanks for the article, it’s helps me a lot. I currently own an airport extreme, and I am having issues getting consistent WIFI signal throughout my house. I am thinking about getting another airport station but was wondering, would you suggest getting a power line adapter, too? Is it worth it?

    • Steve Manke Reply

      I’ve had mixed experiences with power line adapters. If your wiring is clean, it makes for a good solution. If your internal grid is a bit of a mess, network speed will be a slower and perhaps more problematic. That said, I think the newer hardware has improved things over what was on the market in the early days. I have a client that has a powerline adapter in use in a BIG woodshop. They have a lot of saws and grinder on a complicated and convoluted power grid and its working well for them. It helped them get the network to the far end of a long building with a lot of cinderblock walls that would’ve made running network line painful and expensive.

      My suggestion would be to read the reviews of whatever powerline solution you’re considering and try to find something that has a good peer-review rating. After that, all you can do is try. Based on my experience, you’re not going to see gigabit network speeds but you are likely to see speeds comparable to wifi.

      Feel free to post you feedback. I would love to hear what you think of the solution.

  8. Nick Reply

    Hi Steve, I have a BT hub 5 could I replace that with Airport Extreme? and if so would that give me a better wifi signal than I already have. I have a four bed and the furthest point the wifi is weak. I have seen that its not a good idea when using BT infinity to change the router for a different make

    • Steve Manke Reply

      I had to do a little reading since I’m not familiar with the BT Hub 5, but I think you can replace it with the current Airport Extreme without issue. Both offer 802.11ac support so, in theory, they should have similar performance. I can’t tell if the BT Hub had beamforming abilities. If it does not, then the Airport should help with your range issue. The beamforming should help you get a signal at a distance because the router will use intelligence to focus the signal on the locations attempting to use it. At least that’s the theory. I’ve never found a practical way to test it… I’ve always wanted to “see” that in action.

      By switching to the Airport Extreme, you would then have the ability to add Airport Expresses to the network and have them act as extenders. That’s what I’ve done in my house. It works great. In theory something similar can be done with non-Apple routers if you make use of the latest WDS implementations but Apple just makes it easier. That said, I will remind you that even the latest Airport Expresses don’t yet utilize 802.11ac. Apple never updated them so they use the slower 802.11n. You get max speed when connected to the main router but slightly slower N-speed when utilizing the repeater. Not a deal breaker but worth keeping in mind.

      If you try the Airport Extreme, please post if there is a difference in range. I would love to know if it gets a signal to the other end of the building for you. It sounds like you have a great test case here.

      Good luck!

  9. Chelle Reply

    I found your article after doing a search on fixing the WiFi “issue” at home. I do have to give you a warning that I am not the most tech savvy when it comes to Internet/WiFi issues but I’m really hoping you can help me out or at least point me to the right direction?

    I’ve got a Motorola Arris SB6183 modem hooked up to an AirPort Extreme. I have said devices hooked up near a window, a printer, an A/C unit (directly in front), and an AT&T MicroCell (to boost network connection for our cellphones). When everyone is home, we have approximately 11 devices connected to the network.

    I’m with Time Warner Cable and paying for 200/20 plan but find that download speeds on the 2.4ghz frequency is a crappy <40mbps, on average, even at 3am! When I called TWC, the tech rep said she could "see" that we are getting the speeds we pay for. I've also tried changing the Extreme's channels, currently using channel 11, but nothing has improved.

    I thought of getting an AirPort Express as a WiFi extender to try to harness the speeds off the 5ghz frequency, but am not sure if that's the route to go, or if it’ll even work for that matter. Any idea how I can fix this slow internet connection?

  10. Steve Manke Reply

    I would suggest eliminating wireless from the equation and see what kind of speeds you get when you run a network line directly from your router to a computer with a gigabit network port. Run some tests and see what speeds you’re getting there. If the speeds pick up, then you know wifi needs a closer look. If the speed issue remains the same, you can be confident that the issue has nothing to do with wireless or wireless interference.

    That’s the best place to start because, given what you described, you have a solid potential for wireless interference. But you have tried other channels, that’s the 2nd thing I would look at (assuming your wired and wireless internet speeds are comparable).

    If it is an interference issue, you testing with the potentially interfering devices turned off could help. It’s worth trying. And, if interference is killing your speeds, switching from the 2.4GHz band to 5GHz is likely to do the trick. But that’s a lot money to spend on a gamble.

    I’d start by running a network line and see if your speeds change. Make sure you shutdown your wifi in the computer when you test the wired connection just to ensure you’re really testing the wired connection. For all you know, the wired and wireless speeds could be comparable and it could be an up-stream ISP issue. I had some rusted cable connections on my Comcast cable line a few years back and they caused all kinds of issues for me until we really dug into the problem and tracked that down.

    I hope that helps. Good luck!

  11. Greg Reply

    Hi Steve, I wonder could you offer some advice? I have high speed broadband and a one-year-old Time Capsule as my wireless router. I am using Devolo power line adapters to extend the network into two other rooms (to hard wire my apple TVs). It all works extremely well, except for two rooms at opposite ends of the house where the wireless signal is extremely ropey. In one of these rooms I have recently installed a devolo power line wireless AP. When this works it’s very fast, but it is on a different SSID (which is a pain), and my wife’s Cisco VPN software client drops fairly frequently .. followed by difficulty picking up the connection again. I’m inclined to get an Airport express or two, to extend the network more successfully and gracefully. I have some questions, please:
    (a) Is it possible to use an Extreme as a faster WiFi extender than an Express? The Apple web site seems vague on this point.
    (b) Is it possible to set up an Express or Extreme as an Extender by using an ethernet cable (more likely a power line ethernet connection instead of relying on Wifi to reach the extending Access Point) ?
    (c) If so, would you expect that to be faster than Wifi to Wifi extension?
    (d) If so, would it still present itself as a single homogenous SSID throughout the house?
    Thanks Steve!

    • joe c. Reply

      I will take this question

      your first problem with the two SSIDs. You can name them the same and go from one AP to the other, just make sure they are on different channels.

      I wouldn’t worry about the speed difference between the N (express) and the AC (extreme) for what you are doing. I don’t think you have a internet connection faster then 300mbps.

      I don’t like repeaters but I hear the express does a good job and if thats your only option or the inline power things, just play with both setups and see what gives you the most reliable network.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      Thanks Joe!

      To add to Joe’s comment:
      A) I’m not sure you will see a speed different between an Express and an Extreme for extending the network. I just picked up a refurb version of the latest Extreme so I’m about to try using the previous generation Extreme as an extender but I don’t think it’s going to offer a speed boost.

      B) Every time I’ve attempted to extend a network using a network line, chaos ensues. I’m not sure of the technical reason but the wired connection is always the source of the problem. Routing seems to go haywire when there is a wired and wireless path for the upstream data. Every time I remove the hardwired uplink to the extender, the issue goes away.

      Based on that, I’m with Joe. Just put the two routers on the same SSID and give that a shot. Or, if you want to use the wired connection to reach the far end of the house, give the AP at the far end an entirely unique name and manually switch to and from that AP to manage which wifi network you’re on. At least that way you have ultimate control over your signal on the far side of the house. And the wired line leading to the far side will ensure you have the most reliable connection possible.

      C) Not sure there will be much of a speed difference. It’s likely to differ based on your hardware and how much noise you see on the home electrical network.

      D) Joe covered this one 100% though I will admit I can never remember if I am supposed to put both access points on the same channel or different ones when they share the same SSID. I’m glad he clarified that.

    • joe c. Reply


      I was putting more thought into this. Is it just your 5GHz that is poor in those two rooms or the 2.4 also? Instead of working with reporters or power line things I might look at getting better coverage from a strong 2.4GHz network. If you are just using it for internet a solid 2.4GHz N network should be all you need.

      • Greg Reply

        Thanks both … some really useful pointers!

        I agree that the power line adapters can complicate matters considerably … at least, it did when I used the powerline Wifi extender. With the Devolo Wifi extender in its default configuration it seemed to be acting as a DHCP server until I used my MacOS Devolo dashboard to turn that function off. Doing that allowed the TimeCapsule to assign the IP address, and to assign one that I’d asked it to reserve for my wife’s laptop based on its MAC address. That made the whole thing more stable, but not 100% reliable.

        Thanks for your views on the Extreme vs Express. I appreciate that in best case scenarios I ought not to notice a difference given that my internet bw is typically 70mbps. However, the thing that caught my eye about the latest extreme was that it employs additional aerials and beam shaping to improve real-world performance. That’s what made me think it might be better in cases like mine where I am getting marginal signal strength. Do you have experience of that? (in which case I’m back to wondering whether the extreme could extend a time capsule).

        Good question about whether its’ 2.4 or 5 Gig that’s causing the problem. Short answer is that I hadn’t thought to check, so I don’t know. I’ll have a look when I get home. The thought begs a couple of questions, though:

        – If one frequency was received stronger than the other, would the wireless clients not just pick the stronger signal up? And if not, how do you go about ensuring they do? Is there a Timecapsule setting that makes them distinguish themselves?

        – To your suggestion about considering an approach of ensure a strong 2.4 signal around the house .. what would be your thoughts about how to approach that please?

        Thanks again

        • Steve Manke Reply

          Two DHCP servers on the same network = chaos. Never a good thing. And it’s too easy to let that happen on accident.

          It’s funny you should ask about 2.4 vs 5GHz and beam forming. Since I picked up that refurb Airport Extreme (thanks for that, Joe!), I tried an experiment last weekend. It’s still in the early stages but I’m impressed. I shut down my Express extenders. Since the latest AC compatible version of the Extreme is supposed to have greater range thanks to 5GHz beam forming, I wanted to see if the extenders were needed inside the house. So far, they are not. The latest Extreme does indeed seems to offer greater range.

          Now the caveats. I’ve only tested with a current generation MacBook Pro. I need to test with older Macs that have less that current wireless chipsets and see what happens when they don’t support 802.11ac, or don’t support 5GHz at all. And I haven’t paid much attention to wireless signal strength on tablets of phones yet. As I said, it’s a work in progress. But the results so far have been encouraging.

          As to your questions:
          5GHz, as I recall, is supposed to have less interference because the more common house hold devices such as cordless phones and microwave ovens don’t interfere as easily. That said, this is also why many of the more modern cordless phones have started going to 5GHz… so there you go.

          I thought 5GHz was supposed to have more issues with walls but I could be wrong there. Maybe Joe can set us straight. I don’t have time to research and refresh my memory at the moment.

          • joe c.

            you will have to look at your configuration in the router to see if you have two different SSIDs for 2.4 and 5. you can put the 5 higher in the SSID list on your device and should go to it when available. If you name the 2.4 and 5 the same more then likely it will stay on the 2.4 because it should be stronger. 5 is better when available but like steve said it does have trouble going through walls and structures but more usable channels and less congestion. if you are using 2.4 stick to channels 1, 6 or 11. you can download a free network scanner and see what channels are being used around you. Some of the things that you can look at to make your 2.4 better is placement of AP. Can you put it in an attic so it goes through less wall (as long as you don’t live somewhere like AZ) or a newer router that has better range. this link below explains the difference between 2.4 and 5 better then I can.


          • Greg

            Thanks again, both. That’s lots for me to think about!

            I’ve got myself a WiFi signal strength app so I’ll see what’s happening with the signal strength first, and then try putting the laptops on 5Ghz and moving my router before moving on to any more drastic measures.

            Thanks again.

  12. Chip Bayko Reply

    I am doing more work from home and and have been having drop outs in the downstairs of a 2 story home. I have a time capsule with AC wifi upstairs more to one side of the house. I have spent hours and Day’s trying to get things to work better. I worked with Charter and then started to troubleshoot locations, and realized the downstairs dread spots. Despite having the Apple WIFI, I read up on all the methods to extend the wifi network, and decided to try the TP LINK AC 1750 re 450. I spent 4 hours yesterday, and could not get it to work properly. I have spent easily 8 hours on line trying to understand the variables that affect connectivity and performance. Today I found your article and read it thoroughly. I thoroughly understand the networking configurations, you described, because of you! Please, please refer your article to CNET, ZDNET and Tom’s hardware. This is great. after reading it, i actually have an Airport express coming in the mail. BUT after reading, ran to best buy and bought an Extreme, and price matched with Amazon. I came home, and in 10 minutes, max, the network was set-up, configured, running, and performance has doubled minimally downstairs, lightening fast. it took about 5 minutes for the Extreme, to set up, about 3 minutes to set up with Airport utility, and the instructions were crystal clear, and it’s up! THANK you so much. I had no clue what the WIFI AC was and that I already had it in the house, and the value of matching and extending it, with the same type of Apple networking product!

  13. William Reply

    If I connect a RANGE EXTENDER to my ROUTER then will there occur any security issue ? Can someone hack into my NETWORK ?

    • Steve Manke Reply

      If properly configured, the range extender will have the same security as the base network. As such, it should not offer addition security concerns. Obviously, if the network was configured to utilize poor encryption such as WEP (or no encryption at all), extending the range would technically increase your attack surface by making the network larger and more accessible to a would-be attacker. But that’s where the tinfoil hats come out most of the time. As long as you have good security on your network to begin with, extending the range of the network won’t offer an additional concern.


    Where is the best place to place the router at my? I have a 300 sq yards home.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      If you have the ability to place it near the center of your home, you will get the best signal throughout. Otherwise put it where the appliances in your kitchen are least likely to come between you and the source of the wifi signal. The stove and the fridge can really tweak the signal.

  15. Duc Reply

    Hey Steve,
    I have a main modem(NetComm) at home, it supports 802.11g and I have a Linksys router supports 802.11ac with dual band. Now, I want to combine these using WDS with Netcomm as main and Linksys as secondary. Is it compatible to do that? Will my Linksys provide AC wireless that doesn’t have on my Netcomm? Sorry for my bad English and thanks for your help

    • Steve Manke Reply

      Great question. I believe you can add the Linksys to the NetComm via WDS. But it won’t bring AC speeds to your overall network. The Linksys will slow down to the speed of the G router. In a WDS configuration, the lowest common denominator wins out so the entire network should operate at the G speed even though one of the devices can do mush faster.

      • Duc Reply

        Hi, still these 2 devices. If I combine that as normal ( Lan to Lan), I can get full speed from AC router right?

        • Steve Manke Reply

          If you connect the AC access point to the existing network and are sure to configure it as an access point and not a router (so it doesn’t route or try to provide DHCP services), you will get full AC speed. But you can’t do that if you configure the network to use WDS. In order to get the full speed, you will need to give the AC access point a unique SSID.

          It’s not ideal because you would need to connect to the AC access point when it’s closest by selecting that network name. But that would give you the speed and range that comes from the AC. But it would keep the AC device from having its speed downgraded as it negotiated with the G router as part of the WDS configuration.

          It gets a little complicated. I hope that helps.

  16. Kenneth Reply

    Hi Steve,

    I have an Airport Extreme at one end of my long and narrow townhouse, and a second one connected via wireless about halfway back. There is no way to run ethernet to the second AE without drilling holes, and I’d like to avoid that. Still, the signal isn’t very good at the far end of the house.

    So I was wondering if this would work: connect AE1 via wireless to AE2 directly beneath it in the basement, and AE2 connected via ethernet to AE3 near the back of the house.

    My thinking is that the AE1 to AE2 signal would be very strong, and then there would be no degradation between AE2 and AE3 since they’re wired directly. Do you think this could work?


    • Steve Manke Reply

      That’s a creative approach! I’m just not sure AE2 and AE3 will route the traffic over the wired connection between them the way you expect. Every time I’ve attempted to plug one of the repeaters into the wired network, things get wonky. I’m betting you’ll see the same think when you try to hardwire AE2 & AE3. Apple’s WDS implementation doesn’t seem to like that.

      If you remove avoid using WDS (the Apple implementation where the extender devices become repeaters by essentially logging into your wireless network with the wifi username and password), you might try an interesting experiment. This might sound odd, but this could work:
      • put AE2 downstairs and configure it on the same channel, SSID, username, and password as AE1 but don’t use Apple’s WDS.
      • configure AE3 the same way at the other end of the house and connect it via ethernet to AE2.

      By not using WDS and keeping the same network info on all devices, you might be able to pull the signal all the way to the other side of the house. But it will take some testing. These are uncharted waters, as far as I can tell.

      Make sure that only AE1 is handing out DHCP addresses. If more than one access point tries to do it, you won’t stand a chance. In this configuration, AE1 needs to be the router. The rest are just access points. They provide signal but should not offer up IP addresses or attempt to do routing.

      Alternate idea:
      A powerline network adapter:

      Use that to connect the front of the house to the back. AP2 at the back of the house the same network name, login and put it on the same channel. I’m pretty sure your devices will move smoothly from one access point to the next as you cross the house. In this configuration, AP2 should not offer up routing or DHCP either.

      Best of luck!

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