A repeater sits within range of your Wi-Fi network and “repeats” it, extending your Wi-Fi coverage farther than your router could alone. If your Wi-Fi only covers one half of your house, a repeater placed in the middle of your home can extend your Wi-Fi to the rest of the building.
There are three ways to do this: The best way, which is buying a repeater for under $50, a decent way, which is buying $50 repeater software for a PC, and the not-so-great way, which uses a built-in (but free) Windows feature. Even though this article is about the latter solution, we think buying a repeater is worth mentioning–it really is the best way to go.
NOTE: This is not to be confused with turning your PC into a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you’re looking to share your computer’s internet connection with other devices, you want this guide instead. If you want to extend your Wi-Fi network beyond its standard range, then read on.
You Probably Shouldn’t Do This; Get a $50 Wi-Fi Repeater Instead
Let’s be honest: if you really need a wireless repeater for your home or business, you probably shouldn’t be setting up wireless repeater software on your computer. That’s a convenient short term solution, and you can do it without going out and purchasing hardware or waiting for a package to arrive, but the better long-term solution is investing in a real wireless repeater.
You can buy repeaters for under $50 on Amazon, which isn’t that expensive. These are small, dedicated devices you plug into a power outlet. They’ll work as wireless repeaters, which means you won’t have to connect to a separate Wi-Fi network like an extender. They’ll always remain running, so you don’t have to worry about leaving a PC on all the time. And, it’ll use much less electricity than a PC, too.
A Good Software Solution: Connectify (Paid)
If you absolutely must turn a PC into a repeater, then Connectify’s Hotspot MAX software is the best option. It claims to be the only true wireless repeater software for Windows, and as far as we’re aware, that’s true. Connectify offers a special “bridging mode” that can make a computer function as a true repeater. Other wireless hotspot programs (like the free tip we discuss in the next section) just create a second hotspot that your devices must connect to. That hotspot functions as its own network, so there’s a network address translation (NAT) layer between the hotspot network and your real Wi-Fi network.
Connectify, on the other hand, just hands the packets directly to the router like a hardware wireless repeater would, making for an actual seamless network. Devices connected to the repeated network on the PC running Connectify will appear on the router’s web interface as if they were connected directly to the router. Devices can seamlessly move around and remain to the same network, whether they’re within range of the original network or the repeater.
The only downside is that it costs money. Connectify charges $50 for a lifetime license to its Hotspot MAX software…which is more than a dedicated repeater will cost you. However, it seems to go on sale for $15 pretty often, which is a decent price if you don’t want to shell out more than that for a dedicated repeater.
To set up your PC as a repeater, download and install Connectify Hotspot MAX, click the “Wi-Fi Repeater” option, select the Wi-Fi network you want to repeat, and click “Start Hotspot”. Obviously, you also want to be sure that your PC is in a spot where it has a solid Wi-Fi signal, and can extend a solid WI-Fi signal to an area of your house, office, or yard that doesn’t have a strong signal. That’s it–it’s super easy.
The Not-Really-a-Repeater Solution: Windows’ Built In Wi-Fi Hotspot (Free)
As we mentioned above, there is a free way to do this, but it’s not exactly elegant. Windows 10’s Anniversary Update contains a built in feature that lets you create a separate wireless hotspot. Just head to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile Hotspot. It’s possible to do this on Windows 7 and 8, too, though not quite as seamless.
This feature can create a new wireless hotspot even if you’re connected to Wi-Fi. In other words, your PC can be connected to your router’s Wi-Fi network, and simultaneously create another Wi-Fi network within range of your PC. That second Wi-Fi network will just have its own name and passphrase, so this won’t be a truly seamless experience–you’ll have to connect to one network on one side of the house, and the other when you move out of range. You could also experience some connectivity issues when using server software due to the network translation layer (NAT).
So, unlike the above two options–which only require you to connect to one network–this network requires a little fiddling each time you move your PC to the other side of the house. But, unlike the other two options, it’s completely free.
If you want to do this, check out our guide to creating a Wi-Fi hotspot and create a new Wi-Fi hotspot on your PC, sharing your current network’s Internet connection with it. Just remember to change networks when you move around the house.
Image Credit: Iwan Gabovitch
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