132: Better WiFi into the dead spots in your home or office

Hey there do-it-yourself technicians. Do you have Wi-Fi dead spots in your home or office? In this video, I’ll show you some free and some inexpensive ways to get wi-fi into those dead spots.

Okay, we’ve talked a lot about routers and Wi-Fi in the last couple of episodes, and one of the questions I get quite a lot is how to extend the range of Wi-Fi in your home or workplace. Maybe it’s a corner of the house that has a flaky signal, or maybe you want to use a downstairs room as a work from home office, but the internet just isn’t good enough down there. Or maybe your small business has expanded to the office next door, and you want better coverage for your mobile devices.

You can, of course, run a blue ethernet cable from one room to the next or even round the doorway down the stairs. I’ve done that, and it works, but there’s often other people around who frown on that sort of thing and complain that it looks ugly or it’s a tripping hazard.

There must be a better way, you think, and you’re right, there is. There are a couple of different ways to get a better signal, but first, we need to learn a bit more about Wi-Fi and how it’s transmitted.

Direction, the wi-fi in many routers, is quite directional. This router creates a great signal for about 20 to 30 meters in front of it, but if you go even three or four meters behind it, the signal drops off to just about nothing.
The pattern is quite flat, and looking at the antennas, it’s fairly obvious that it’s designed to point in just one direction. With many routers, it’s a bit more difficult to tell the orientation, and they may even have multiple antennas internally to give a better signal. this new router I have is basically a box and gives quite a good signal in just about every direction. This older one is quite flat, and I suspect it gives a much better signal facing the large sides than it does the front or the back. Moving around facing it in different directions might be enough to get the better signal you need. Lifting it up higher might also be good, too and avoid the next obstacle interference.

Interference is becoming less of an issue as we move into the 5 and 6 gigahertz band, but it’s still worth being aware of. The 2.4 gigahertz spectrum tends to be full of competing devices like portable phones, wireless video doorbells and just about any other wireless device around the home or office. Microwaves are an interference source as well, but the interesting thing about that is where it leads. If you extrapolate. Microwaves work by beaming lots of 2.4 gigahertz waves into your food but not just into your food, into the water in your food. 2.4 gigahertz radiation is absorbed by water molecules, which get excited, rub together, create friction and create heat which is what cooks your food. Yes, 2.4 gigahertz is absorbed by water so putting your Wi-Fi router next to your fish tank is a bad idea. Not to mention the problem if the tank leaks.

The other interesting thing is that humans are roughly 60 to 70% water. Now to be sure, the wi-fi is not powerful enough to cook you, so don’t panic about that, but the waves are absorbed by your body and quite a bit by a group of people. So it’s not a great idea to put your wi-fi router where large groups of people will congregate. It also means that if you’re sitting with your back to the router and your laptop in front of you, it’s quite likely that your body is screening the wi-fi out and changing the location of the wi-fi or the orientation of your desk and how you sit might be enough to turn a poor signal into an ok signal.

If that’s not enough, there is some extra hardware that might be a good solution for you. A Wi-Fi repeater is a device that’s plugged into a powerpoint, usually just where your Wi-Fi is starting to fade out. It receives the Wi-Fi and then broadcasts it back out, boosting the signal. These do tend to be quite directional, and so it can be a bit difficult if your powerpoint isn’t pointing in the right direction though you may be able to fix that with the short extension lead.

Some of them can be had on eBay really cheap. I bought this one for about 7 dollars, 10 years ago. So it’s old and only supports 802.11n or wi-fi 4, but for the price at the time, it was perfect. It plugs into the powerpoint, and off you go. There are better ones available with great antennas and mounting options and support for 802.11 ac or wi-fi 5. for under about 70 Australian dollars. They also often have a (wired) network point so that you can cable them directly back to the router if that works better.

Another option is an old router. If you have one lying around or buy one on eBay or the local Facebook marketplace for probably less than ten dollars, you should then be able to configure it the way you need and point it into the dark recesses of the wi-fi dead spot and cable it back to the router to complete your setup.

Our old cable modem had less than ideal wi-fi and really couldn’t be relocated easily due to the heavy cable, so I hooked up this other old router, mounted it high up on the wall in clear air and was able to broadcast wi-fi right to the far side of the house. It’s only wi-fi 4, so it can’t compete with the wi-fi 5 in the new router, but it’s still there for the time being.

So there you have some free and inexpensive options for lighting up the dead wi-fi spots in your home or office.

Question of the day, do you have wi-fi dead spots? Which of these options do you think might be best to fix your problem? Let me know in the comments down below and if you think the video was useful, give me a thumbs up.

The Tech Doctor exists to help you become your own technician, learn about the technology, protect yourself from the bad guys and fix it when it breaks. T

Thank you so much for watching. have a great day, and I’ll see you on the next episode.


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