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Extender puzzle

Discussion in 'Firewalls and Networks' started by theoldandgrey, Jun 14, 2020.

  1. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    For several years I have used a cheap and cheerful wi-fi extender with great success. i have now changed my router and even when about 3 feet away from it the extender gets no more than two bars and when I position it any further away it is useless. Is there any reason for this? Can I do anything to improve the situation other than purchase another extender?
  2. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    And are you sure the router is working properly? If did nothing to the extender and only changed the router, it points to the router. Do you even need the extender with the new router?
  3. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    Well I can only hope the router is working properly as I can receive the internet and I am getting poor reception downstairs - router upstairs - without extender.
  4. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Receiving the Internet is a different function. That involves the "modem" not the router.

    What are the model numbers of your network devices?

    And just to ensure we are all the same page, let's back up just a bit.

    It is important to understand that technically the cable/DSL modem, router, WAP (wireless access point or AP) and 4-port Ethernet switch are all totally separate, "discrete" network devices - even if located in the same box.

    1. A modem (modulator/demodulator) is used as a "gateway device" to provide access to the ISP's network and the Internet.

    2. A router has just one “wired” input and one “wired” output and is used to connect (or isolate) two networks. In a home network a router connects "your network" (the router and everything on your side of the router) to the ISP's network (and the Internet) through the gateway device/modem.

    3. A Ethernet switch (also called a switching hub) is used to connect via an Ethernet cable, multiple networked devices on your network to the one input port on your side of the router.

    4. A WAP is used to provide wireless (Wifi) access to your network. The WAP actually connects internally to a 5th Ethernet port of the switch.​

    Technically speaking, there is no such thing as a "wireless router". That is simply a "marketing" term for a "3-way" "integrated" device consisting of a router, a Ethernet switch (typically 4-port), and a WAP. These are three discrete network devices that just happen to share the same box, same PCB (printed circuit board) and same power supply.

    In recent years, manufacturers have also been integrating a modem with "wireless routers" for a 4-way integrated device. Four discrete devices in one box. These are "marketed" under different terms like "residential gateway" devices, "wireless modems" or " wireless modem/routers".

    In some cases, they even have 5-way devices that integrate Internet phone (voice over IP or VoIP) too. Five discrete devices, in one box.

    So the fact you get the Internet is good, but that only means your modem and your Internet connection is good. It has nothing to do with your wifi connection.

    Do you have or can you move your wireless device closer to your WAP to see how reception is there? Note that wifi performance is greatly affected by distance, but also by the number of barriers (walls, floors, and ceilings) and the thickness and composition of those barriers (concrete, wallboard, etc.), and the contents of those barriers (wires, metal pipes, metal studs). Other factors affecting wifi performance is large metal surfaces like file cabinets, refrigerators. ovens as well as other electronics like TVs, cell phone and microwave towers.

    If you live in a crowded network environment (in or near a large apartment complex, for example), interference from nearby networks can greatly affect performance. Often, changing the wifi channel to an unused channel in your wireless router's admin menu can help here. The channel setting only needs to be changed in the wireless router's menu. Your wireless devices will automatically start using the new channel.

    If your new router has external antennas, you can try changing their orientation. If the antennas are internal, you can try rotating the whole device 90°. Or you may just need to move the router to a more central location - assuming everything on the new router is working properly.

    That said, if your old extender uses old wifi protocols, (802.11g, for example), and your new router supports newer protocols like 11ac, getting an extender that supports 11ac may work.

    One last thing. There are two primary frequency "bands" used in wifi networks, 2.4GHz and 5Ghz. 5GHz provides the best performance but is greatly limited by distance and should only be used for those wireless devices that physically close to the router and preferably within line-of-sight (no barriers). 2.4GHz offers much better range, but lower performance. And 2.4GHz tends to get crowded by other devices in your home and surrounding area (see channel comment).
  5. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    I will have to study all that info in due course as there is a lot to understand for one who is not very technically minded. I will check about the wireless device and see how it reacts closer to my WAP. I live in the country and both internet and mobile phone connections are far from reliable unfortunately with the inernet dropping every few minutes. This has been brought home to me as a volunteer on a help service during the COVID 19 outbreak when I am trying to complete forms on line for vulnerable people and I keep having to apologise as the connection has gone down. I will get back with my findings tomorrow Thank you
  6. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    I have put a wireless device near my WAP and the reception is much improved. I of course wish to use it elsewhere in the house. I have moved the WAP but positioning is constrained by the lengths of cables. I realise now that the extender is not in the best place relative to the router but if I move it, it then has to go into the kitchen next to the microwave and oven or the Utility Room next to breadmaker, washing machine etc We live in a solid well built house and I think the walls etc are the problem. It just seems stange to me that the extender worked well previously and not now.
  7. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    I agree and this makes me wonder if there is something wrong with the new router.

    Did you buy the new router or are you renting it? If renting, you should be able to call your ISP's tech support, explain it worked fine before, and have them send a tech out.
  8. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    Yes it came from my ISP
  9. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Then I would call them up and explain the issue.

    You could also use a packet "sniffer" to check out your wireless network.

    I use XIRRUS WiFi Inspector to see what wireless channels are in use and available. But I use it also to check signal strength of those wireless signals. NirSoft's WifiInfoView is another good one. As are Acrylic WiFi Home and Homedale. The best is arguably inSSIDer but sadly, it is no longer free :(.

    For Android phones there is WiFi Analyzer. And for iPhones, check out Fing Network Scanner.

    The best solution is to find an unused channel where neither of its adjacent channels are in use either. If all channels are in use, look for the least crowded channel with the wifi network that has the weakest signal strength. When you have determined the best channel to use, go into your WAP's admin menu and manually select that channel. You do not have to make any changes to your wireless devices. They will pick up and use the new channel automatically.

    If you do this, and still know luck, your ISP tech (who will use a similar tool) will have little to say but agree with you. And maybe [hopefully] replace your new router, perhaps with a better one.
  10. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    That has given me a lot to think about and I will follow your suggestions over the next few days. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the design of our house is somewhat to blame. Putting the extender within 2 or 3 feet of the router gives full coverage but if I move it to another socket about 7 feet away I am down to 1 or 2 bars. I have realised this is probably not helped by a vertical support stanchion which no doubt is steel and this is in the middle of the study! When I move the extender downstairs I still have only 1 or 2 bars. Why it should change with the new router is still a mystery and one I will probably have to live with. I will however follow your links and also talk to my ISP. Thank you for your help.
  11. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    What kind of socket? Ethernet or wall outlet for power?

    If you mean power, every home and every computer user should have access to a AC Outlet Tester to ensure the wall outlet is properly wired and grounded to Earth ground. I recommend one with a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) indicator as it can be used to test bathroom and kitchen outlets (outlets near water) too. These testers can be found for your type and voltage outlet, foreign or domestic, (like this one for the UK) at most home improvement stores, or even the electrical department at Wal-Mart. Use it to test all the outlets in the home and if a fault is shown, have it fixed by a qualified electrician.

    A lot of interference problems are eliminated when equipment is properly grounded to Earth ground.
  12. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    All outlet for power - my husband is an electrician and has tested the socket already
  13. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Okay. I was just hoping for something fixable - because I am out of ideas.

    To be sure, there is NO reason a new router should degrade the performance of your extender compared to the extender and the old router. It should offer equal or better performance.
  14. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    Thank you for your help I have still got one or two things you suggested to try and if nothing improves I will get on to my ISP.
  15. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Sounds like a plan. Keep us posted.
  16. theoldandgrey

    theoldandgrey Established Techie7 Member

    You'll never believe this but since last Thursday the wretched thing has worked faultlessly! perhaps it needed time to bed in with the new router who knows? However all is well and I can now use my machines well downstairs with the router upstairs. A Happy Bunny. Many thanks as always for your listening ear.
  17. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator


    And just for the record, as seen through the link in my signature, I'm an old radio technician. As such I am well aware of the fact there are indeed "gremlins" and other mystical things that happen in electronics. When such things happen in "radio" electronics like what happened with your wireless system, we used to call that "FM". That was not in reference to AM/FM radio, but to a certain type of magic! ;) :D

    Anyway, I am glad it seems to have sorted itself out and thanks for posting your followup. :)