Setting up a home WiFi system can be as simple as plugging in a router and an extender or two, but it is certainly not that easy for everything. There are a ton of things that can cause interference and connectivity issues in your home, from microwaves to the walls. But what about the WiFi extender’s settings? Are the channel settings causing problems as well?
Should a WiFi extender be on the same channel? A WiFi extender may need to be on the same channel as the router, but this is not always the case. Using the same channel would never cause your WiFi extender to stop working, but it may decrease your connection speed.
Interference is unavoidable in any wireless network, but altering the settings of your WiFi extender has helped many people solve their network issues. In this article, I’ll dive into the details of what to expect when you change your channel settings and how to do it, as well as some other settings you may want to adjust.
What You Need to Know About WiFi Extenders
In the world of home WiFi systems, there is a lot of terminology scattered about and used interchangeably when it shouldn’t be. So, before we get started, there is some essential terminology that you need to understand.
- WiFi extender: Any device that extends the range of a wireless network by retransmitting the signal from your modem. These can be wired or wireless, although some refer to wireless extenders as “wireless repeaters.”
- Frequency: Routers have a frequency that they use for their signal. This is either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, and some routers use both bands. The 2.4 GHz is the standard frequency and allows for decent internet speed and greater range. The 5 GHz band offers more speed, but less range.
- Channels: Channels are smaller bands within these frequencies. In the US, they are numbered 1 through 11. The most commonly used are 1, 6, and 11 because these are the only channels that do not overlap.
- SSID: The Service Set Identifier is just the name that you assign your wireless network. When you check your connection on a device, it is the name that you see.
Now that we’re on the same page let’s discuss what could happen if you change the channel settings on your WiFi extender, and how to do it.
Changing the Channel Settings on a WiFi Extender
So, will changing the channel settings on your WiFi extender make a difference? Probably not. Most WiFi extenders are designed to set themselves up in the most optimal way. This means that they are already selecting the most appropriate channel. If you have an older WiFi extender that might not be able to do this, it is probably time for an upgrade.
That being said, it doesn’t hurt to try out different settings if you’re experiencing issues with your wireless network.
Changing the channel setting on a WiFi extender could do any of the following:
- Improve your WiFi connection: This happens if operating on the same channel creates redundancies in the information that is being transmitted through your home network system.
- Do nothing: You might find that changing the channel makes absolutely no difference to your WiFi connection.
- Break your WiFi network: Okay, so break might be a little strong, but some WiFi extenders, like those in many mesh wireless systems, require that all components of the system operate on the same channel. If they aren’t on the same channel, your network won’t work correctly.
Because the outcomes vary so drastically and most WiFi extenders automatically select the appropriate channel, I don’t recommend that you mess with channel settings unless you’re experiencing WiFi issues.
How to Change Channel Settings
If you are experiencing WiFi issues, then you might want to test out different channel settings. Every manufacturer will have a different method of changing the settings in WiFi extenders, so make sure you check your owner’s manual for details beyond these steps.
Here is the basic process for changing the channel settings:
- Plug in the WiFi extender.
- Login to the extender by typing http:// followed by the extender’s IP address. The IP address is an 8 digit number separated by periods. You can find your extender’s IP address by logging into your router and finding the extender under connected devices.
- Type in your login information and the next page that appears should give you access to the extender’s settings.
Remember to only use channels 1, 6, and 11. Using other channels won’t make your extender implode or anything, but it can cause connectivity issues for you or other nearby networks.
This is because 1, 6, and 11 are the only channels that don’t overlap. If you’re using channel 5, for example, you’re going to get interference from all the overlapping channels, and someone on channel 6 is going to get interference from you.
Should a WiFi Extender be on the Same SSID?
Most of the time, manufacturers of WiFi extenders require that the extender have its own SSID. This turns the extender into its own network, with its own password and security settings.
Using a different SSID is ideal for a couple of reasons:
- You always know what you’re connected to. Most devices aren’t all that smart about switching to the fastest connection. Even smartphones will stick with a deteriorating connection until it becomes unusable before searching for a better option. If your extender has its own name, you can manually switch to it when you need to without getting confused.
- Your device will connect to the network you prefer it to use. Some devices will connect to the network with the strongest signal, but others will connect randomly. Clearly, you want your device to connect to your preferred network. It can only know the preferred network if the name and password are unique.
- Networks can be used for different purposes. You can create a guest network or a kids-only network with additional parental controls by assigning the extender a different name.
If you’re using a mesh home wireless system, then all the nodes and router should share the same SSID. This allows you to transition to different connections in your home without interruption.
You can change the SSID of your WiFi extender by accessing the settings using the same method described above for changing the channel settings.
Should a WiFi Extender be on the Same Frequency?
This is another question that can’t be answered without knowing the exact circumstances of your home WiFi set up. In most cases, a WiFi extender will need to be on the same frequency as the router, especially if it operates wirelessly.
Wired WiFi extenders that have dual-band may be able to access an alternate frequency. Just like with channel settings, I recommend letting your extender and router automatically select the frequency unless you’re having trouble with your wireless connectivity.
You can access frequency settings using the same method that you used for changing your channel settings.
Will Changing the Settings Break My Network?
A lot of people get nervous about adjusting the complicated settings in their home network systems, but there is no reason to feel that way. Any of the settings that you set incorrectly can be changed back to their previous settings.
If you don’t know what setting you used, you can always reset to the default settings, or factory reset the device and reconnect it.
When making changes, I highly recommend taking screenshots or writing down the original settings before any changes so that you can return them to normal with minimal effort.