How Do I Set Up My Wifi Extender With A New Router?

Photo: D-Link

In this week’s technology-advice column from Lifehacker, we’re going back to our favourite topic: wireless networking. This time around, a reader is having some issues getting an important piece of older gear to work with an important piece of newer gear. If you’ve ever upgraded your router, or are planning to, this situation should be all too familiar.

Lifehacker reader Ashley writes:

“I came across one of your articles on safari and could use some advice. So my aunt and I live on the same property, within 60.96m of each other. She’s had WiFi for the past year and my extender has always picked up the signal no problem. Up until a week ago when she got a new router. So my question is, how do I reconnect my extender? I’d like to do it myself, with some instruction, if possible. Thanks in advance!”

I’m going to start with the good news: This problem should be easy to fix, barring any unforeseen circumstances. To start, I’m going to assume that your new wifi router is pretty decent and you’re not having any issues getting a signal from wherever you’ve set up your wireless extender.

The quickest way for your extender to hop back on to your wifi router’s connection is to ask your aunt to use the exact same SSID and password on her new router that she used on her old router. The extender doesn’t know any better; it should connect to the wireless network without any issues whatsoever.

However, there is one small caveat that might muck up this process. If you previously set up your extender to connect to your router’s 2.4GHz network, and your aunt—for whatever reason—is only using 5GHz on her router, this pairing won’t work. (The more likely scenario is for your aunt to only be using 2.4GHz on her router, and you’ve previously set your extender to connect to the router’s now-nonexistent 5GHz network.)

How to access a typical Netgear extender’s settings. (Screenshot: David Murphy)

You can always pull up your wireless extender’s settings to make any changes you need to get the connection working again—connecting to a new SSID, if your aunt renamed the wifi network, or adjusting which wireless band your extender uses to connect to your router. I recommend running a web search for your extender’s model number and pulling up its manufacturer’s instructions, as whatever you type into your web browser to access its settings can differ.

(As a little aside, I recommend not using your extender’s “dual connection” option, if it has one—or anything similarly named. For best performance, only connect the extender to your router’s 2.4GHz or 5GHz network. When you’re creating the second wifi network that shoots out from your extender, isolate it to the opposite band, if applicable. So, if you’re connecting to the router on 5GHz, your devices should only connect to the extender on 2.4GHz, for example.)

If you’re a little confused by your extender’s primary settings screen, or you just don’t want to fuss with it, try the nuclear approach: Factory-reset your extender. You can typically do this by holding down its reset button, assuming it has one, for 5-10 seconds until lights on the extender start blinking differently. To be sure you’re doing this process correctly, though, check your device’s manual.

Once you’ve done that, you can follow your manufacturer’s initial setup instructions for your extender, which should make it easy to connect it to your aunt’s new router—you got your extender working correctly the first time, after all.

If you’re still experiencing connection issues, try moving the extender slightly closer to your aunt’s router (or have her move the router slightly closer to the extender) and see if that helps. And makes sure you’ve updated your extender and your router to their latest firmware versions. You should be able to check what firmware your router and extender are using within each device’s web-based settings screen. You can then check the device manufacturer’s support site to see if the latest firmware it offers is what your device is using. If not, update it!

And if that still doesn’t fix the issue, there are plenty of other reasons why you might be experiencing connection difficulties, and we’ve covered them in detail:

Let me know if this advice helps. If not, I’m happy to keep troubleshooting!


Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? Tired of troubleshooting your Windows or Mac? Looking for advice on apps, browser extensions, or utilities to accomplish a particular task? Let us know! Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected].


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