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Wifi Boosters, Repeaters, and Range Extenders – What’s the difference?

If you are experiencing connection problems, or you have experienced them in the past, you are bound to be familiar with a device called a signal booster. And also, you’ve probably heard the terms wifi extender and wifi repeater. But what is a wifi repeater, and what is a wifi extender? It’s very easy to get lost between similar terms and miss the differences between them if there are any. In order to clarify everything and make sure you get the device you need, let’s go over all of these terms, discussing each one and answering the most burning questions on the topic. 

What is a Signal Booster?

In a wider sense, a signal booster is a device capable of receiving a weak signal, amplifying it, and transmitting the stronger signal over a certain area. It can be wired to catch call signals, 3G, or 4G networks, as well as wifi signal. It functions on a certain frequency range, or band, and can only ‘fetch’ signals within that band. A wifi booster works on a similar principle. If your signal is not strong enough for any sort of reason, or the intended area is way too big for one router, you can use a range extender wifi device to make it stronger. If right now, you have a question about wifi booster vs extender, keep reading to find out more.

What is a WiFi Extender?

When it comes to Wifi signal, an extender is the same device as a wifi booster – the only difference is in the terminology. So how does a wifi extender work? Let’s review once again, and see what situation calls for an extender. 

Imagine this: You have a two-storied house and just got wifi. You do have a router on the first floor, but the signal just can’t get to the upper bedrooms. This is when you would use a wifi extender. All you do there is set the extender (or extenders) to catch the signal coming from your router and transmit it to the upper levels. You can have a whole set of these devices if it’s necessary to create a unified network over a large area with a limited number of users. It literally expands an existing network, without you having to create new logins and passwords for each area separately. 

What is a WiFi Repeater?

Once again, it is the same wifi extender. But let’s dig a little deeper into how it functions.

Wifi Repeaters, aka wifi boosters, or wifi extenders come in different configurations, with different capabilities, but most commonly, this device can carry out 4 main work modes:

  • Wifi Router mode. You can basically use this device as a router by connecting it directly to the modem and changing some settings.
  • Wifi Repeater mode.  Use it as a repeater if your area is too big for a single router, and it will intercept the signal coming from the router and transmit it over a bigger space without using a cable. If you are unsure of which mode to use, wifi extender vs router mode, just remember that the purpose of the router is to give you access to a network, and the purpose of an extender is to literally extend the existing network in order to reach furthest corners of the house. 
  • Wifi Bridge mode. This mode will help you out if you need to create a subnetwork with a separate password. For example, if you have many guests coming in very often and you don’t want to give everyone access to your main network, the Bridge mode will allow you to create a subnetwork and use it to your advantage. 
  • Wifi AP mode. This is great if you have a large office using the same network. In this case, the central modem can have a router without wifi, and then a number of Access Points connecting to one router through LAN cables, thus preventing wifi quality decline. 

What’s the difference between a signal booster, repeater, or extender?

So, to sum up, a signal booster, a repeater, and an extender are the same device, carrying different names. This device can be used in several different configurations and can be used interchangeably with a wifi router, but with some limitations. So when it comes to choosing wifi repeater vs extender, or vice versa, extender vs repeater, it’s not much of a choice. Those are the same thing. So a network repeater is actually a pretty powerful tool that you can use to your advantage in many different situations. 

WiFi Repeater and Access Point

AP or Access Point mode is valuable when you have a potentially large number of users within the same network, and every one of them needs access to the same router. That’s a part of the difference between repeater and access point modes. If you use repeaters in a big office, you are going to have significant losses in quality due to the wireless connection between the repeater and the main router. A whole other story with AP mode on a repeater, or a separate AP device. In this case, you connect it to the router via LAN cable, and not losing any signal quality along the way. That’s another difference between extender and access point modes. Hopefully, the wireless repeater vs. access point fight can be put to rest! 

Can you use a router as a WiFi Extender?

This is a question that bothers many people. The answer to that is generally yes, but using a router as a repeater comes with some limitations and a bit of work. You have to make sure they are compatible by finding some solid information on that in the user’s manual. After you’ve made sure, you have to connect the new router to the old one, then reset the old device and change it’s configuration manually using the command prompt on your computer and plow through a dozen network settings. So if you are wondering how to use an old router as a range extender, consider that it will be much easier to set up a new extender instead. 

Which device should you choose, and when?

What have we learned so far? The difference between wifi repeater and extender, or a booster, is virtually nonexistent. If you are on the fence of choosing between a booster,  a router, or an Access Point device, you have to consider your situation first. 

 

  • If you already have a router and your wifi signal is low in certain rooms of the house, you need a booster (aka extender, aka repeater). 
  • If you want to manage a large number of users, such as in an office, you need an AP device or a repeater in an AP mode. 
  • If you need a device to give you access to a network, you need a router, or you can use a repeater as one if you put it in the router mode.  

 

Hopefully, you have more clarity in the face of confusing terminology and can easily choose the device you need. But if you have questions about your specific situation and need more help, don’t hesitate to contact the customer support service of the company and ask them for advice. Good luck, and stay connected!

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