One of the common challenges of Wi-Fi is getting good coverage throughout your home or small business.
There are numerous devices for extending a Wi-Fi network, but picking the best device can be confusing.
Most of the confusion stems from terminology — different devices have different applications, but their names are often used interchangeably. For example, an access point is often thought of as an open wireless modem or router, accessed by the public. But the term is also applied to devices that supply wireless connectivity to a modem that doesn’t natively support it. “Access point” can also be used to describe a device that simply extends the range of a wireless network.
To help sort through this labeling morass, I’ll take you through the common wireless devices and software options, and I’ll describe how each can help get you a better Wi-Fi signal.
Bridges, boosters, access points, and more
The typical home or small-business net is made up of various devices performing one or more tasks. To make things more confusing, a single device can play different roles in a network, depending on how it’s configured. Here are some key elements in a small network:
- Wireless bridge: This device provides a link between wired and wireless network segments. In a small network, the bridge is built into the router, which typically has both a wireless transmitter and Ethernet ports. In corporate/enterprise applications, wireless bridges can be standalone devices used to divide a large network into segments for better management.
Windows has a built-in bridging option that lets you link different connections through your PC. You could, for example, use the bridge to connect two PCs via an Ethernet cable, giving Internet access to both through one system’s Wi-Fi transceiver.
Setting up bridging within Windows is relatively easy. In the Control Panel, select Network and Sharing Center. Click the Change adapter settings link in the left sidebar (see Figure 1). Next, you’ll see a list of available wired and wireless connections. Select the two segments you want to bridge; right-click. Select Bridge Connections; a new listing — Network Bridge — should appear, as shown in Figure 2.