How To Setup a TP-Link Extender
If you have a large home or office, or are trying to extend your Internet connection to an outbuilding such as a shed, garage, or patio area, then a wireless network extender may be the product that you need. Weak WiFi can be extremely frustrating, and can have a number of different causes. You may have a router that simply doesn’t broadcast with enough power to reach all the nooks and crannies of your home, or there may be obstacles in the way of the signal. Obstacles are generally things like especially thick walls or floors, but other household items can and do cause signal problems. I once spent about four hours trying to figure out why a wireless router wasn’t able to reach quite nearby rooms in my home before realizing that I was asking the signal to go directly through a home gym setup – about 500 pounds of cast iron directly in the signal path.
TP-Link is a networking company that makes a wide variety of networking products, from whole-home wireless routers to range extenders to modems and switches. For this article, we will concentrate on their line of range extenders. Range extenders are generally inexpensive and they work very well, but home networking can be something of a black art. In this article, I’ll go over how range extenders work, why you might need one (or more), and how to setup your TP-Link extender model.
How Range Extenders Work
Wireless network extenders work by receiving and rebroadcasting WiFi signals from your wireless router so that new areas of coverage are opened up. There are two basic types of extenders: antenna-based extenders basically just add another broadcasting node to your network, while powerline-based extenders use your home’s electrical system as a wired network to transmit Internet signals across (or through) obstacles to a wireless signal.
For example, let’s look at this typical house plan. The router is located in the living room, and areas of strong signal, good signal, weak signal, and no signal are indicated on the plan. (Note that this is a simplified example; in real life a house this size would be adequately served by one router, but I don’t want to fill your screen with a giant house floorplan.)
In this example, there is good signal in most of the house, but in the bedrooms on the left side of the plan, there is only weak signal or no signal at all. This problem could be resolved by moving the router to a more central location, but that might not be convenient or possible. However, you could place a wireless extender in the hallway leading from the living room to the bedrooms. That would change the signal map to look something like this:
Features and Options
TP-Link extenders come in a variety of configurations and speeds. Note that no matter how fast or powerful your extender may be, it can’t outperform your base Internet connectivity. That is, if you have an extender that can handle speeds of 800 MBps but your Internet service itself is only delivering 100 MBps, then your home WiFi network is going to be running at 100 MBps, no more than that. So there is no need to purchase an extender that provides more bandwidth than you currently have, or plan to acquire.
One nice feature to have in an extender is a built-in wired Ethernet port. This means that at the physical location of the extender, you can connect wired Internet to any nearby devices. This can be very handy if you have desktop computers or game consoles that need a physical rather than a WiFi connection. Another useful feature found in many TP-Link devices is a beamformer, which is a physically configurable antenna that you can point in the direction of the device(s) that will be using the extender to connect. This can increase range somewhat and can dramatically enhance Internet performance at that device, albeit at the cost of somewhat reduced effectiveness of the extender in the areas not being beamformed. Beamform-equipped extenders often have multiple beamformers, however, allowing an optimized Internet connection for multiple devices at once.
Another good feature is the ability to use the range extender as an access point instead. Many TP-Link extenders have this feature. Basically this means that rather than extending the range of your existing wireless network, you can plug the range extender into an existing wired network and it will become a WiFi hotspot for nearby devices. This is very handy for businesses especially, which often have extensive wired networks already put in place (usually at great expense) years ago – now that wired network can become the spine of a wireless system without having to put extenders everywhere in the building – only in the spots that need WiFi coverage.
Regardless of the features and options you choose, you will need to connect and configure your TP-Link extender to get it working. In the next section I’ll talk about how to do that.
(Still need to purchase a TP-Link WiFi extender? Here’s the link to their product catalog on Amazon.)
First things first
Before doing anything with the extender, you need to collect some information about your existing router. You need to identify the router IP address, the WiFi SSID (broadcast name), the type of encryption it uses and the password to access the network.
- Log into your router. This is usually achieved by typing its IP address into a browser. Most often it’s 192.168.1.1, but it can be something else. See your router documentation.
- Access the wireless part of your router GUI and write down the details above: the router IP address, SSID, encryption method, and password to access the network.
- Stay logged into the router for now.
If your router doesn’t respond to 192.168.1.1, it may have a different IP address. My Linksys uses the 10.XXX range. If yours is the same, try this:
- Right click the Windows Taskbar and select Task Manager.
- Select File, New Task and check the Run as Admin checkbox.
- Type CMD into the box to open a command line box.
- Type ‘ipconfig /all’ into that CMD box and hit Enter.
- Look for Default Gateway. This is your router IP address.
Setting up your TP-Link extender
To begin with, we need to connect the TP-Link extender to your computer with an Ethernet cable. This is so we can program the wireless settings into it so it can connect.
- Plug your TP-Link extender into a wall outlet.
- Connect it to your computer with an Ethernet cable.
- Open a browser on your computer and navigate to http://tplinkrepeater.net. If that doesn’t work, try http://192.168.0.254. You should see a TP-Link web page appear.
- Select Quick Setup and Next.
- Select your region and Next.
- Let the TP-Link extender scan for wireless networks. It might take a minute or two depending on how many networks there are around you.
- Select your wireless network from the list, and select Next.
- Enter the wireless password when prompted.
- Select ‘Copy from main router’ if you want a single larger wireless network or ‘Customize’ if you want to create a different network.
- Select Next.
- Review the network settings in the final window and select Finish if all is correct.
The TP-Link extender will reboot and will hopefully allow access to the internet. Test it first with the Ethernet cable, and then without it using wireless. Depending on your model of TP-Link extender, there may be a light on the front which signifies whether it’s connected to the network or not. Monitor this to ensure it’s able to maintain a connection.
Configure TP-Link extender with WPS button
If your router has a WPS button, you can use that to set everything up too. WPS is WiFi Protected Setup which allows you to configure networks automatically and safely. The button is a physical button, usually found on the back of a router, hopefully labelled WPS.
Some TP-Link extenders also have WPS buttons so you can use this to set it up.
- Plug the TP-Link extender into a power outlet close to your wireless router.
- Press the WPS button on the back of the router. You should see a WPS LED blink. If not, press it again.
- Press the WPS button on the TP-Link extender. The WPS light should blink here too. Press it again if it doesn’t.
Using WPS means you don’t have to manually configure the settings on your TP-Link extender. By physically pressing the WPS button, you tell the router that you’re authorizing it to connect with a device that has also had WiFi Protected Setup enabled. There is a finite, two-minute window, within which the router will accept connections to add a little security.
WPS can be a little hit and miss, which is why I didn’t suggest using this method first. If it doesn’t pick up the wireless network, reset both devices and try again. If that doesn’t work, configure it manually as above.
Once you follow the basic procedure for setting up your TP-Link extender, you should enjoy a fast connection from every corner of the house. If you’re not getting the desired results, experiment with placing the extender in different locations until you find the one that delivers the best results.
Need help with other WiFi-related issues? TechJunkie has tutorials on how to connect to WiFi without the password, how to tell if someone is stealing your WiFi service, how to block someone from using your WiFi, how to connect to WiFi using a Kindle Fire, finding the best outdoor WiFi antennas, and how to diagnose and fix problems where your WiFi works but your Internet doesn’t.