How can I improve the range of an Airport Extreme Router (2011)?
I live in an apartment building, and I am trying to share the cost of internet with a neighbor just a few doors down. She recently got an Airport Extreme (b/g/n) router with the expectation that it would provide a bit more range than other models and allow me to connect my Macbook Pro (N enabled) in my apartment, but so far the results are not great. I live in an older stone building, but there aren't too many walls between my apartment and hers, and we are connected by a main corridor.
At this point, I have experimented with switching the 2.4ghz channel as there are many other wireless networks in my building. However, that hasn't resolved the problem. Connectivity, signal, and link strength are all underwhelming, and frankly are inadequate for most of my needs.
What's the best way to improve the range? Is there software that can help identify/quantify a better channel/signal strength? What are other alternatives? I know that it is possible to run ethernet through power lines, but since we don't share an apartment, just an apartment building, would that work?0
You can improve your Macbook's WiFi reception with BearExtender. You connect it t oyour USB port, it has an external antenna and it picks up WiFi signals much better than the MacBook's internal antenna.
Try BearExtender. It has an external antenna and, I guess, a signal amplifier and you connect it to your USB port. Without it my MacBook finds some 5 WiFis in my proximity, and the BearExtender finds about 16.
Get the router near an external window.
Place the WiFi router higher up and in a more central location relative to where you'll be using your computers/smartphones. WiFi routers tend to have better coverage in the horizontal direction than in the vertical, so if you have one on one floor in a multi-storey building, coverage won't be as good on other floors.
You could buy an Apple Airport Express, which would plug into an outlet in your apartment where the WiFi signal is the strongest. If you configure it in "extend an existing wireless network" mode, it will act as a repeater and should give you a stronger signal in your apartment generally.
As a side benefit, you can also plug speakers into the Express and then stream music from iTunes on your MBP.
You can also attach a USB printer to the Express so you can print from anywhere in your apartment.
Apple dramatically improved the performance of the Airport Extreme in June. See http://www.macrumors.com/2011/08/08/latest-airport-extremes-bring-improved-range-and-performance/
They are preparing to release an Airport Express update that has the same range-improvement enhancements. See http://www.macrumors.com/2011/09/13/apple-preparing-to-release-updated-airport-express-base-station/
Your first step is to verify that your neighbor's Extreme is one of the brand-new ones. If it isn't, I recommend finding someone who will give you a loaner or the newest Extreme. Substitute it for your neighbor's existing WiFi to see if that itself boosts the performance sufficiently. If the newest design doesn't help, the next step would be to do what @Josh recommends: get a second Airport to act as a logical relay to your neighbor's station. I believe you'd get a bit better boost with a second Airport Extreme, but I'm not basing that on any real experience. The newest (unreleased?) Airport Express may be good enough to boost the signal.
Apple may be willing to give you a loaner for an overnight test if they put a hold on a credit card. That would be better than testing with new product and returning if it didn't work.
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