Can You Connect an Ethernet Cable to a Wi-Fi Extender?

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Getting reliable internet can be a hassle especially if your Wi-Fi connection is weak. There are a lot of tricks for trying to improve one’s home connection, but there are also drawbacks to these very same tricks, including when it comes to Wi-Fi extenders. If you are looking to improve your speed, you may be thinking you can connect an ethernet cable to a Wi-Fi extender. While this may seem like a simple fix, there are some other things to consider.

You can typically connect an ethernet cable to a Wi-Fi extender, but the internet that flows through that ethernet cable to the device is only as fast or reliable as the incoming Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi Extenders designed to connect to the router/modem with an ethernet cable will provide a much stronger wireless connection.

Wi-Fi extenders are great, but they aren’t the best tool if you are looking for a more reliable connection, moreover, most Wi-Fi extenders won’t even have an ethernet port. If they do, it may just be input and not necessarily for an output. So what does a Wi-Fi extender actually do and how is it different from some of the other wi-fi devices that purport to do the same thing like repeaters and boosters?

What Does a Wi-Fi Extender Do?

Man insert ethernet cable into WiFi extender device

As we’ve explained before in our article on what can be done with Wi-Fi extenders, when it comes to what a Wi-Fi extender does, it can be confusing to pin down. This is because there is a whole list of devices that aim to accomplish the same task—extending your wireless network. But not all devices achieve this in the same way. The main types of devices you’ll see are wireless repeaters, Wi-Fi extenders, and Wi-Fi boosters.

A Wi-Fi extender connects to your router to extend your signal. They are standalone devices that sit between your router and the area you want to extend coverage to. They are relatively similar to wireless repeaters. All an extender does is rebroadcast the wireless signal. It does so without much thought, passing on the same packets as your router. The idea behind an extender is that you might have devices out of range for your router.

In these cases, you would want just to extend the range of your router. Devices like this TP-Link AC750 Wireless Extender (on Amazon) are great if you have dead zones in your home. The technology is based on your router’s Wi-Fi network and is therefore limited when it comes to speed. Stability is another issue due to the way the signal gets transferred. In most cases, the signal from an extender is a bit less reliable than your original network.

Do Wi-Fi Extenders Have Ethernet Ports?

If you own a Wi-Fi extender or are shopping for one while using our article as a frame of reference, you may have noticed an ethernet port on it. While this may seem like the answer to your problem, it’s not that simple. It is true that you can connect a wired device to this port, however, you won’t be getting the same benefits as connecting straight to your router. This is because that’s not the main purpose of a Wi-Fi extender. They are used to extend your wireless network, not provide a stable wired connection to your router.

Some devices, like this TP-Link Deco System (on Amazon), have ports. But, If you use the ethernet port on a Wi-Fi extender, you are just using it as a bridge to connect to your Wi-Fi network. In this case, it acts almost like a wireless adapter. If this is the case, it may be cheaper and more reliable to get an adapter like this TP-Link AC600 (on Amazon)

Wi-Fi Extenders vs. Mesh Networks

TP-Link Deco Mesh WiFi System(Deco M5) –Up to 5,500 sq. ft. Whole Home Coverage and 100+ Devices,WiFi Router/Extender Replacement, Anitivirus, 3-pack

If you are looking to get a more reliable extended network, you may want to consider a mesh network. These kinds of networks can provide better speeds and reliability than just a Wi-Fi extender. Additionally, products like the TP-Link Deco featured above can be used both as an extender and for a mesh network. The idea behind a mesh network is intelligent package and protocol management. If you have a smart home system in your house, you are already using a mesh network. They work by creating nodes out of connected devices.

Instead of just rebroadcasting a signal, these nodes find the quickest and most efficient connection to your router. This is called dynamic routing. With mesh networks, the more nodes you have, the more expansive your coverage area. Devices like the Eero Wi-Fi extender (on Amazon) make it easy to set up nodes all across your home. Because they are using dynamic routing, signal strength and reliability aren’t as much of an issue. With mesh networks, you can connect an ethernet port to a node and expect a quality connection. This is because they are a true extension of your wireless network, not just a rebroadcast of the same signal. 

MoCA

If you are still looking for a reliable hard-wired connection, you may consider MoCA. This technology is fairly old-school but can still provide some amazing results. What is it? Well, MoCA is a router technology that utilizes coaxial cables. Yes, the same ones you used to use to connect your TV to cable. Essentially, if you are using cable internet and already have a coaxial cable network in your home, you can utilize it with some help.

Adapters like these Actiontec ones (on Amazon) can provide you a direct connection to your router using the wires already in your wall. This is perfect if you are out of range from your Wi-Fi but still want a hard-wired connection. Since coaxial cables can handle a large data transfer load, speed is not an issue.

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