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How can I create a really powerful WiFi home network starting with a cable modem? I live in NYC and have Time Warner Cable. I have Apple's Time Capsule base unit extended with 2 Airport Express modules. The signal strength is not very good in any room away from the base unit. Is there a better WiFi system available than Airport (I have all Mac computers)?

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asked Jun 23 '10 at 06:21

jhagedon's gravatar image

jhagedon
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edited Jun 23 '10 at 07:35


The apple airport express units are crap when it comes to wifi range.The problem is due to a very low transmit power (probably around 5-10mw while normal/cheaper AP's may have a factory default of 28mw and if compatible and you install tomato firmware, you can safely use 90-110 mw)

Another problem is the crappy antenna which is simply a small (few mm in size) design printed on the PCB. The signal is only really effect on one side of the unit because on the other side facing the camera, there is a huge metal shield that covers the PCB to separate it from the higher voltage built in power brick.

alt text

The best way to increase wireless performance and range is to get a router that is compatible with a open source firmware such as tomato. The problem is many routers today have crappy internal antennas which always perform poorly compared to external antennas.

If your wireless devices don't need a ton of bandwidth, you can go with a older router such as a linksys WRT54GL (I currently use one in conjunction with a netgear rangemax 802.11n router which was modded to add external antennas). The 802.11n is only used by 1 device for streaming 1080P content from my media server, for everything else, I use my wrt54gl and even though both routers are using 2dbi antennas, the wrt54gl has more than twice the range so in the edges of the house and other difficult areas, the I get better performance from the 802.11g router as compared to 802.11n.

(both routers are then connected to a gigabit switch (the netgear has a built in gigabit ethernet so there is no performance drop with it's 802.11n and the server)

If you just need the wifi for web surfing and a few LAN based things line small file transfers in order to perform backups, you should consider getting a WRT54gl (it is a old router but it is still popular and still being purchased by many because it is hard to find new 802.11n routers that can match it's range and receiver sensitivity which when pared with a boosted transmit power allows the client devices to receive a strong signal while being able to handle really weak signals from the clients with low transmit powers.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered Jun 23 '10 at 07:20

Razor512's gravatar image

Razor512
16.5k3683259

Can I use any of these ideas to extend the range of my existing Apple Time Capsule? (which serves as my router that is hard-wired directly to my Arris cable modem)? It seems that if I could replace the two Airport Express units, which serve only to extend the network, with something better, that would solve my problem. Otherwise, do you think I need to replace the Time Capsule also? It serves as a back-up system for two computers, as well as providing my only means of connecting to the internet. It also provides network connections for two Tivo/TV sets.

(Jun 23 '10 at 07:33) jhagedon jhagedon's gravatar image
1

if you have an extra ethernet port available, you can simply get a better router in terms of range. A good way to do this in a way that will prevent any networking or compatibility problems is to; on the new router, change it's local IP to one thats in the IP range provided by your main router (time capsule) (eg if your main router has a default gateway IP is 192.168.1.1 and the DHCP server does 192.168.1.2-192.168.1.100, then you will set the new router to something like 192.168.1.16 or any other unused ip)

After that, on the new router, disable it's built in DHCP server and also disable it's firewall

Then connect a ethernet cable from one of the ethernet (lan ports, not wan) to a lan port of the time capsule router. The new router will function as a switch and all and you will have full access to the routers features anywhere on the network and everything will work seamlessly, the main router will see any device connected to the new router as being locally connected directly to the time capsule. (this method has no additional wireless performance overhead) (ethernet cable is pretty cheap and a good length will allow you to place the new router in a good location that doesn't get in your way)

Another option is to use a firmware like tomato and set the new router as a repeater (has a 50% performance overhead)

you can also do a WDS + access point (still has a 50% wireless performance overhead but from my experience, is a bit more reliable)

(Jun 23 '10 at 08:08) Razor512 Razor512's gravatar image

You really know this stuff! Thanks! I'm going to have to carefully study your suggestions since I'm not that familiar with this. I believe I do have an extra ethernet port available on my Time Capsule. If I could buy any router out there, would you suggest Netgear Rangemax 802.11n or is there a better choice on the market today?

(Jun 23 '10 at 08:45) jhagedon jhagedon's gravatar image

If you live in NYC, I'm suprised you need any wireless at all, let alone good range. Aren't your walls like two feet apart?

</joke>

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answered Jun 23 '10 at 06:53

tsilb's gravatar image

tsilb
21.0k65199333

LOL. It's an older building with plaster walls over metal lathe, so the signal gets messed up from one room to the next. I really should hardwire everything, but I don't want those cables running up and down the walls!

(Jun 23 '10 at 07:15) jhagedon jhagedon's gravatar image

Ethernet........................................

Otherwise, you could try a tomato firmware upgrade for your router, You can use this to increase the power going to your aerials thus boosting your signal strength. I haven't tried is as i live in a relatively small flat and wifi signal is not an issue but I'd give it a go if i were you.

This answer is marked "community wiki".

answered Jun 23 '10 at 06:26

Headwards's gravatar image

Headwards
4.5k7288126

"tomato firmware upgrade" sounds interesting. Where to find such a thing?

(Jun 23 '10 at 06:32) jhagedon jhagedon's gravatar image
1

Like i said I've never done it myself perhaps someone in the community has? But i have read a lot about it, and some of the features look great, for instance if you have a crappy router with hardly any advanced features, you can install this firmware (tomato i believe is just one "flavour" of this special firmware, which is renowned for being the easiest to use) and suddenly play around with features you didn't have before like qos and increasing antenna power! I suspect increasing antenna power will get the router rather hot so watch out for that!

(Jun 23 '10 at 06:42) Headwards Headwards's gravatar image
1

I currently use tomato and it is one of the best firmwares ever made. I have not rebooted my wrt54gl the last time i ever had to reboot the router was a week after tomato 1.27 came out as I wanted to update to it.

The main benefit is being able to increase your transmit power, a very simple to use but in depth/ sophisticated QOS,

screenshot of my QOS: http://i.imgur.com/rox17.jpg

You are also able to handle many more connections than the router with the stock firmware will be able to handle.It uses less memory and thus devotes more memory to handling connections.

It also allows you to overclock your router. (I currently have my router overclocked by 50MHz) and have attached a heatsink Pic of it on my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/razor512/3248641940/

when I do the SD card mod, I will install a torrent client on the router it's self and have the router it's self handle torrent downloads when my computers are off.

(Jun 23 '10 at 07:29) Razor512 Razor512's gravatar image
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Asked: Jun 23 '10 at 06:21

Seen: 3,914 times

Last updated: Jun 23 '10 at 08:45