Is your wireless network signal (wireless broadband internet connection) very strong in some rooms but very weak in others? even though you have placed your wireless broadband router in the center of your premises. If so, a wireless signal extender (otherwise known as a Wireless Access Point or Wireless Signal Range Extender) could be the solution.
NOTE: This article was created for Windows 7 and therefore its wordings and screenshots relate to the Windows 7 operating system. Where possible I have updated the wordings to relate to the Windows 10 operating system. Either way, the information is very relevant regardless of what Windows operating system you are using.
A Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that connects to the back of your broadband router via an ethernet cable in order to create another, extended, wireless network and therefore extended wireless signal for you. This means you could name your router's natural wireless network HOME and your new access point's wireless network OFFICE for example, or just keep them both the same. Either way, the access point has to be connected to the router via an ethernet cable. If you wanted the access point in another room or floor of your premises this could entail drilling holes through walls and/or using a 20 meter ethernet cable. You could avoid these scenarios by using a pair of HomePlugs, but these don't work if your electricity is not on one circuit.
In a normal scenario you would not use an access point because your computer would use its built-in wireless network adaptor, or a USB Wireless Network Adaptor, to connect to your router's natural wireless network (i.e. HOME). And even if you didn't have a wireless network adaptor you might use an 8 Port Network Hub for example in order to connect to the router's wired network - You would connect this to a 20 meter ethernet cable for example whereby the other end of that 20 meter cable is connected to your router. That way you could have up to seven computers connected to the hub using your router's wired network (internet connection basically). You could even eliminate the 20 meter ethernet cable by using a pair of homeplugs; if they are going to work of course.
At this point you have the following choices - A wireless network adaptor, which is no good if your wireless signal is poor. A network hub, which is no good because
it requires ethernet cables. Or an access point which has the advantage of creating a separate wireless network, with a separate wireless network name (ssid) if need
be, but also requires ethernet connection. So how do you connect wirelessly to your router, and therefore avoid using ethernet cables, whilst having a great wireless
internet connection to use?
The answer is to use a Wireless Signal Range Extender, which is a feature built-in to many access point devices these days. It's basically a wireless signal booster that is totally independent of the access point. In other words, you can use the device as an access point or a wireless signal booster, but not both. And it's the wireless signal booster of the TP Link N300 Plug-In Wi-Fi Range Extender (which also has an access point option) that I will be installing in this section. I will show you how to install the Access Point in the next section.
A wireless signal extender (booster) acts in a completely different way to an access point. Its only job is to wirelessly connect to your router's very strong wireless signal and boost it inside another room that is known to receive a poor/weak wireless signal. So to clarify. You could have your router downstairs beaming a very strong wireless signal downstairs, but when you go upstairs that very strong wireless signal becomes very weak. In this scenario a booster would help. It would be in the weak signal upstairs room boosting that weak/poor signal. In my case I have a room that normally receives a two bar signal strength from my router downstairs, but when I use the booster I get a four to five bar signal strength.
Hopefully the above hasn't confused you even more! It was really an explanation for those wanting to know rather than needing to know. Anyway, enough of the technicals! Here are the first steps to take before running the Installation CD:
Fig 1.0 - Click on the RUN AUTORUN.EXE link to continue
The first step of the Installation Wizard asks you to identify your particular model of the extender, so that it knows what Easy Setup Assistant to launch (Fig 1.2). Once you have identified your extender model hover the mouse pointer over its image, to bring up its menu-items, and then click on the EASY SETUP ASSISTANT menu-item to continue. In this example I am using the TL-WA830RE model.
Fig 1.1 - Click on the EASY SETUP ASSISTANT menu-item associated with your particular extender model
Clicking on the EASY SETUP ASSISTANT menu-item displays the first step (Welcome message) of the Easy Setup Assistant, launched by the Installation Wizard. At this point it is the Easy Setup Assistant that will guide you through the installation process. Just click on its STARTS button to continue.
Fig 1.2 - Click on the START button to continue
With the four next steps of the Easy Setup Assistant you can simply click on their NEXT buttons because they are only telling you how to plug in the cables and so on, just like I have mentioned above in my 8 pre-installation steps.
Fig 1.3 - Read the diagram, if need be, and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 1.4 - Read the diagram, if need be, and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 1.5 Read the diagram, if need be, and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 1.6 Read the diagram, if need be, and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
In Fig 1.5 above it is very important you double check that the lights on your extender are either flashing or steady as described in that diagram before you click on the NEXT button. Assuming they are, the next step (Fig 1.6 above) asks you to insert your extender's Default IP Address; which should be 192.168.0.254 - Check the label underneath, or on the side of, the extender for these details. In my case the Default IP Address was already inserted into the above window for me by the easy setup assistant; so I only needed to click on the NEXT button to continue.
Step 7 of the easy setup assistant (below) does a check-up of your network configuration with regards to installing/configuring the extender, to make sure everything is okay. In this example the Windows 7 firewall was blocking it from doing certain network/installation activities; hence why I had to click on the ALLOW ACCESS button of the Windows 7 security alert (firewall message requester) to continue. Before doing so I also allowed (ticked) the option called PRIVATE NETWORKS, SUCH AS MY HOME OR WORK NETWORK to make sure the extender would work with my home network for example. You do not need to tick this but I would recommend it.
Fig 1.7 The easy setup assistant is checking that all is well with your network setup
Fig 1.8 Allow easy setup assistant access to your network so it can install the extender properly
Fig 1.9 Network checks successful - Click on the NEXT button to continue
With the network checks successful (above) and the extender installed, but not fully configured yet, you will be presented with your router's wireless network name and settings; which in my case are from my Yoingco wireless network. Verify that these details are correct before clicking on the NEXT button. These router wireless network settings will be used to configure the extender's network settings.
Fig 1.10 Make sure these router wireless network settings are correct before clicking on the NEXT button
After a little more configuring the easy setup assistant will ask you to enter the router's wireless network password (below). Simply enter it and click on the NEXT button to continue. If you make a mistake (i.e. realise you have the wrong wireless network) you can click on the BACK button. In this example all was fine (Fig 1.12 below).
Fig 1.11 Enter the password of your router's wireless network before clicking on the NEXT button
Fig 1.12 Click on the NEXT button to submit these wireless network settings to the extender
At this point (Fig 1.12 above) you really need to make sure the wireless network settings you have entered above are for the wireless network you want the extender to use and connect to. If they are not, click on the BACK button to start over. Otherwise click on the NEXT button to complete the final stages of installation.
Fig 1.13 Click on the OK button to continue
Fig 1.14 Configuration complete - Click on the NEXT button to continue
Fig 1.15 Click on the FINISH button to exit the easy setup assistant
Fig 1.16 Click on the EXIT button and then on the YES button to exit the installation wizard
That's it! You can now unplug your extender, move it into a room with a naturally weak wireless signal, plug it in again and connect a computer to your wireless network as normal; only this time that weak wireless signal room should now have a strong wireless signal with the aid of the extender (signal booster).
If you want to change the extender's network settings, for whatever reason(s), you will need to log-in to its control panel by typing its IP Address (192.168.0.254) into a web browser; with an ethernet cable plugged in from the extender to the computer. The control panel has a default user name and password of admin. You will also need to temporarily change the computer ipv4 ip address to 192.168.0.10 because of the way DHCP is switched off by default. For more information about these technicals see the next section or this web page - Control Panel Login.
Fig 2.0 Change your computer's IP Address, temporarily, to 192.168.0.10 to use the extender's control panel
Fig 2.1 The extender's control panel - Options for Access Point here