Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a Repeater

By Gregory Hamel

Wireless networking is a common alternative to wired networking that allows multiple computers to communicate to one another and share an Internet connection without physical connections. Wireless networking does, however, introduce several notable issues such as signal strength degradation. A wireless repeater or range extender is a device that helps computers maintain stronger wireless signals by taking in signals from routers and remitting them.

Increasing Signal Strength

The primary advantage of using a wireless repeater is that it can improve wireless signal strength without having to move a computer or router. The further a computer is from the wireless router it connects to, the weaker its wireless signal will tend to be. Weak signals can result in slow or intermittent connectivity. Placing a wireless repeater at some point between a computer and the router it connects to can enable the computer to receive a stronger signal, leading to better performance on the Internet. Microsoft recommends installing wireless repeaters as a solution for improving wireless networks.

Overcoming Obstructions

Another benefit of using a wireless repeater is that it can help you reduce the impact of obstructions that may impact your wireless connection. Physical objects can weaken wireless signals, and solid metal objects like heavy doors, filing cabinets and appliances can have an especially detrimental impact on wireless connectivity. Placing a repeater in a location where few objects rest between it, the router and the computer can allow signals to travel to the computer without passing through many objects.

Cost

A wireless repeater is not the cheapest solution for improving weak wireless signals, since you must purchase the repeater itself and it will use electricity. Simply moving the computer close to the router or moving the router closer to the computer can have a similar beneficial impact at no cost.

Repeater Performance

Another potential drawback of using a wireless repeater is that it may not boost signal strength as much as desired. If a repeater is not compatible with your current wireless networking hardware, signal strength could suffer or the repeater might not work at all. Microsoft recommends that users purchase wireless networking equipment from the same company to ensure compatibility and maximize performance.