How to Build a DIY WiFi Extender and Boost Your Signal

Connecting more devices to your home WiFi network can often lead to a weak signal in parts of your house. Rather than purchasing an expensive new router or range extender, you can build your own DIY WiFi booster using common household items. With just a little bit of technical know-how, you can amplify your wireless signal and enjoy faster internet speeds.

Why Your WiFi Signal Gets Weak

There are a few key reasons why your WiFi signal may become weak in certain areas:

Distance from the Router

WiFi signals get weaker the farther you move away from the router. Walls, floors, and other objects can also block or absorb the signals. So if your router is on the first floor but you need WiFi in the basement, the signal has to pass through the floor which attenuates it.

Interference from Other Devices

Nearby electronics like baby monitors, cordless phones, microwaves, and Bluetooth devices can all potentially interfere with WiFi signals if they operate on a similar radio frequency. Having too many WiFi networks in close proximity can also cause interference.

Obstacles and Building Materials

Thick walls, metal objects, mirrors, and brick fireplaces can all degrade WiFi signals. Newer homes often have better wireless coverage because they tend to use building materials that absorb less RF energy.

Overloaded Network

If you have lots of users and devices connecting to one router, the demands on the router can overwhelm it and result in slower speeds and spotty coverage. Upgrading to a newer dual or tri-band router can help mitigate this issue.

How a WiFi Extender Works

A WiFi range extender (also called repeater) works by receiving your existing WiFi signal, amplifying it, and then rebroadcasting the boosted signal. It works in tandem with your router to expand the overall coverage in your home.

There are two main types of extenders:

When extending WiFi, you want to make sure you place the extender in a location where it can pick up a reasonably good signal from your router to start with. It can't work magic - if the source WiFi signal reaching the extender is already very weak, then the rebroadcast signal will also be weak.

Choosing the Right Hardware

To build a DIY WiFi extender, you need two things:

Wireless Router

Ideally, you should use a router that supports wireless bridging, repeating, or client modes. This allows you to change the spare router's function from a network creator to a network expander.

Many cheap, old, or secondary routers have these modes. If your main router is dual-band, get a matching dual-band spare if possible.

You can also use a wireless access point instead of a router, if you have one. The concept is the same.

Bridge/Repeater Cable

This Ethernet cable connects your primary router to the secondary repeater router. The length depends on how far apart the two routers will be placed.

Step-by-Step Setup Guide

Follow these steps to configure your spare router as a DIY range extending repeater:

Step 1: Update Router Firmware

Before getting started, update your main and secondary router firmware to the latest versions. This ensures compatibility and that repeater/bridge mode is supported.

Step 2: Place the Extender Router

Determine where you need better WiFi coverage and place your secondary router in that location. Ideally choose a central spot where the router can pick up a medium/strong signal from the main router.

Step 3: Connect Routers

Connect your main router to the extender router using the wired bridge cable.

Step 4: Configure Extender as Repeater

Access the admin interface of the secondary router. Look for settings like:

Enable one of these modes. The router will stop acting as a separate WiFi network and instead become an extender.

Step 5: Align WiFi Settings

In your main router, make sure:

Step 6: Position Antennas

Angle the antennas on both units to point toward each other. This helps maximize signal strength between them.

Step 7: Test Expanded Coverage

Now your extender router should be active! Walk around the house and do speed tests to check for improved WiFi coverage.

Troubleshooting Tips

If your DIY repeater isn't working properly, a few things to check:

Benefits of a DIY WiFi Range Extender

Building your own WiFi booster using a spare router provides the following helpful benefits:

So don't put up with dead zones in your home's WiFi coverage! With this guide, you can leverage an unused router and enjoy stronger wireless in hard-to-reach areas. Get better speed for streaming, gaming, and anything else online.