Can I fix this with better Wi-Fi?

Or is running a cable really the only solution. That won’t be easy to do…not impossible but definitely in the hard category.

I’ve got a TP Link Archer AC4000 Triband router running wifi 802.11ac at 5 GHz…obviously 2.4 is also available but the symptoms remain the same even if I switch the problematic system to the lower frequency.

Our daily driver laptops are both running 802.11ac as well although my wife’s M1 MBA and my on order M1 Pro MBP have wifi 6 802.11ax as do our iPad Air 4s. iPhones are Xs and Xs Max so only ac there but we’ll be upgrading them next September. I’m currently on a 2015 rMBP running 802.11ac as well until the new toy gets here.

House wifi is gigabit Xfinity.

All of the above are within about 15 feet of the router with no walls in between and have maxed out wifi signal strength according to the wifi icon…I can get the actual numbers if they actually help.

Back in the office…about 40 feet and mostly down the hall but there are a couple of drywall interior walls that kinda are in the way…I’ve got a 2019 iMac running as the file/print server as well as my main Lightroom workstation. It’s connected to the same 5 GHz 802.11ac wifi…but it’s only got 1 to 2 of the wifi bars signal strength. The house is cinder block but there are only the interior walls in between and they’re all drywall and studs. I suppose I could shift the iMac to the 2.4 GHz band since it’s got better penetration and there aren’t a lot of 2.4 GHz signals in the neighborhood.

File transfers (everything is running up to date software Big Sur and iOS/ipadOS 11) seem slower than they should be. I get about R/W 35 and 10 MB/s between both the 2015 rMBP and the current M1 MBA as well as between the 2015 rMBP and the iMac back in the office.

Looking at various options…there’s upgrading to a wifi 6 802.11ax router but that won’t help the throughput to the iMac since it doesn’t do ax. Then there’s upgrading to a set of ax Eero devices and connecting the iMac to an Eero located in the office which presumably would be faster if the Eero’s talk faster among themselves at ax speeds and since the iMac would then be closer to it’s wifi access point and get a better signal. Then there’s running a cable back to the iMac but that doesn’t seem like it would help much as the speed between the two laptops is about the same as the speed to the iMac and the laptops would still be limited by the ac wifi. Then there’s the combo of a cable and an ax access point so everything with ax would have faster wifi and the iMac would have a cable. Then…in increasing order of cost…there’s upgrading both to an ax access point, replacing the iMac with an M1 iMac or whenever the M1 Pro larger screen iMac appears, and/or possibly running a cable back to the office.

Internet performance is fine although it might be better with an ax router I suppose. For most things that go to/from the iMac file server the files are smallish and not a big deal…but backups of the laptops to it take a long time. I gave up on trying to do Time Machine to a network drive but have Time Machine like CarbonCopyCloner jobs on the laptops that go to the iMac’s TB3 RAID…they work fine but take awhile since a lot of stuff in /Users gets modified and I only run the jobs twice a day.

I’m not sure whether I’m doing about as well as I can expect…or which of the above options might be the most cost and labor efficient. My initial guess is that either the ax router or the ax Eero set is the easiest option…but if I’m doing about as well as expected then it’s probably not worth it…and I’m not up to speed enough on the pros and cons of ax vs ac to really know. Obviously I’m willing to spend money if it will help but I’m trying to figure out the right answer the first time rather than do a bunch of reconfiguring scenarios…so hopefully somebody already has a pretty good answer based on experience. Reviews on ax vs ac generally credit about a 40-50% increase in throughput…but we know how comparison reviews go with ideal conditions and all that.

It does seem like your interior layout is blocking a lot of the signal. Keep in mind that there’s probably more than just drywall between the router and the remote computers. Walls often contain plumbing (which will be metal for older homes), ductwork, electric lines and possibly foil-backed insulation. All of which can impede a signal.

That having been said, there are options beyond ripping open your walls and running Ethernet cables.

If you want Wi-Fi everywhere, you will need to get additional access points and connect them, but there are different ways to do it.

  • A mesh system will give you the best Wi-Fi performance. The nodes will coordinate with each other to create a (hopefully) seamless Wi-Fi experience as you roam about the house.
  • Alternatively, you can get one or more additional routers, configure them for bridge mode, and connect them to your LAN (keep reading). This will cost less than mesh nodes, but it won’t work as well. Instead of having one Wi-Fi network with multiple access points, you will end up with multiple Wi-Fi networks that share a common back-end wired network. Even if you configure all the routers for the same SSID and password, there will be some handoff issues as devices move throughout the house

With either approach, all of the access points need to communicate with each other. There are several options here:

  • If you buy a mesh system, the nodes can connect to each other wirelessly. You need to make sure the nodes are close enough to each other that they can make a solid connection (so you may need more nodes than you otherwise would).

    If you do this, I suggest making sure you get so-called “tri-band” nodes. This will let them reserve one band for node-to-node communication, leaving the other two for your devices to use. If you use 2-band nodes, then the node-to-node communication will consume some of the bandwidth that would otherwise be used by your devices.

  • If you’re willing to fish cables through walls (I know - nobody wants to do this), you can connect the nodes with Ethernet. This will work best, but it’s a lot of messy work.

  • Many homes (including mine) use Cat-5 or Cat-5e wiring for the phone lines. If you don’t have landline service then you can disconnect that wiring from the phone company’s incoming cable, attach RJ-45 connectors and wall jacks to the remaining cables, and connect them all together with an Ethernet switch (wherever they all come together in your home).

    Depending on what your in-home wiring looks like, where you have wall jacks and whether you have/want land line voice service, this might be a viable option.

    I actually considered doing this in my home. The problem for me is that the builder only put phone jacks in the kitchen and the bedrooms. There are no jacks in the locations where I would want to put my Wi-Fi access points, so it became a non-starter for me.

  • You can use power-line network interfaces to connect the nodes. Look for something built to the HomePlug AV2 standard.

    Theoretical maximum speeds can go up to 2 Gbit/s (for HomePlug AV-2000 devices). You can mix-and-match speeds (assuming they’re all AV2 compliant), but I recommend you don’t, because that impacts overall throughput. You won’t ever reach the theoretical maximum speeds, but if you get good quality transceivers, you should be able to keep up with your Internet speeds. (Since you have gigabit Internet service, I would suggest getting AV-2000 devices, which hopefully will be able to keep up).

    Buy one device for each location where you want to put a Wi-Fi access point (router or mesh node). You pair the transceivers with each other using an on-device button (not necessary, but good for security in case any data leaks to a neighbor’s house/apartment through the public power lines). Then plug each one into a wall outlet (important - don’t use a surge suppressor, since that will block the data) and run an Ethernet wire from it to each AP.

    This is what I’ve been doing in my home for the past 7 years. I’m currently running it with a pair of TP-Link HomePlug AV-500 transceivers (theoretical maximum of 500 Mbit/s). I will soon be upgrading them to Netgear AV-1200, increasing the theoretical bandwidth max to 1.2 Gbit/s. (My Internet service is 100Mbit).

  • If you have coaxial cable in each room where you plan to put an access point, you can use MoCA transceivers instead of powerline transceivers. These will probably work better, but do a bit of research to make sure you get ones that are compatible with the Comcast data already being carried over your coax cable.

  • I’ve also recently learned about, which another standard for high speed communication over in-home wiring (power lines, phone lines, coax and optical). It is not compatible with competing standards (like HomePlug and MoCA). I don’t know much about it beyond what the Wikipedia page says and that transceivers are available.


As someone with a similar need who went with a mesh network (Orbi)… Expensive, yes it was, but results were excellent, WiFi speeds matching wired.

Our house has thick stone walls at one end and timber frame at the other with partitions between, so we ended up needing five units including the hub, ouch. Mainly the stone walls presenting issues.

How did you link the nodes? Are they linked wirelessly or did you use a wired technology to connect them?

Wirelessly with one wired from hub off to a studio in the garden. It also can pick up the WiFi signal but I wanted to wire up my iMac directly to it.

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I have three Airport routers making a proto-mesh network. The router in my office downstairs isn’t powerful enough to cover my entire house, so I have a Airport in the back room. Same with upstairs.

I would highly recommend this, but alas Apple doesn’t make the Airport routers. However, mesh router systems are readily available. In theory, a mesh system will allow you to add even more than three routers, but most houses should be fine with three.

There are utilities that will show you the WiFi strength of your network. You can use these to strategically place your mesh routers.

OP here, replying to comments so far.

David suggested the there might be ducting and such in the interior walls…but here in SW Florida that’s not the way houses are built. Everything built in the past 25 years is on a slab…basements are extinct down here…with mostly concrete block outer walls and an attic. Water is almost always PEX plastic piping in the attic and all wiring is up there as well with runs only to the wall switches. There might be some foil backed insulation but that’s not typical. Mostly it’s just the 40 or foot distance and a couple layers of drywall.

Almost none of the houses down here have phone lines installed…there’s cable to the bedrooms but that’s about it. I don’t even know anybody with a land line phone anymore.

I played with power line adapters in years past (2001 or so) and the drawbacks were considerable so that’s not really an option.

The optimum solution for the iMac back in the office would be to run ethernet through the attic…but that’s hard and because of exterior wall configuration would need an office rearrangement so I could bring the cable down through the ceiling in the closet…so I’m looking for an easier solution. Plus…since the transfer speeds between the two laptops in the living area is about the same as to the distant iMac…it seemed like a wifi upgrade was the optimum solution but I didn’t want to bias any recommendations.

I’m going to look into the various mesh network solutions…I’m not really interested in the cheapest alternative so tri band and MIMO and all the other new technology should be in whatever I end up with…I will take a look at Eero and Orbi as well as I think Netgear has one although I’ve never really been impressed with any Netgear gear before. The one out in the living area will be ethernet connected to the cable modem and be the main router…I’ll put another one back near the office with the iMac and since they come in a 3 pack usually I will have to figure out the best place for the third one I guess.

It won’t be too long…hopefully…until Apple releases a higher end iMac or Mini and I’ll upgrade the 2019 iMac anyway for faster Lightroom performance as that’s mostly what it does besides being the file/print/SpamSieve drone server.

Thanks for the thoughts…I had pretty much pegged that upgrading wifi was the best solution but wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed any obvious option. I might end up running ethernet cable back to the office eventually anyway…but it hasn’t been a big enough issue so far to get my retired butt off the recliner to actually crawl up there in the heat and fiberglass insulation to run the cable. The optimum location in the office for the drop just happens to be an out side wall…and there’s just about 1/4 inch between the concrete block wall and the drywall so getting a cable down through that would be difficult. If I do run a cable I’ll rearrange the office to put the computer desk near the closet and I can bring the cable down through the closet ceiling and under the door to a switch for the printer and iMac.


There probably been some significant advancements in power line adapters since you last checked, so it is probably worth the effort to look into that option again. They still need to be on the same phase of a 220V household and are hampered if they need to be on GFCI protected outlet, but speeds have been greatly increased where they do work.

HomePlug AV/AV2 transceivers don’t need to be located on the same phase. The data carries between the two phases just fine. The product manufacturers all say so and my personal experience agrees with them.

As I understand it, the main wires carrying the two phases from the meter to your service panel are pressed up against each other in a cable, forming an effective capacitor (with the cable insulation as its dielectric). The HomePlug data signals are high enough frequency (10s of MHz) that they easily cross this capacitor.

This is different from low-frequency powerline systems (like the old X10 system), which require you to attach a special device (typically a dongle attached to a 220V dryer outlet) to bridge data between the two phases.

I went this way with a pair of ASUS mesh routers earlier this year. The bedroom cable outlet would work fine for this provided the MoCA adapters are using a different frequency band than Comcast. (By the way, coax seems like a miracle technology in terms of the bandwidth it can handle.)

Also, make sure the MoCA transceivers you choose can handle more bandwidth than the output of your router. I was forced to upgrade to gigabit internet service during the height of the pandemic, and of course now I’m hooked. For your mesh routers to take advantage of that, the MoCA devices need to be able to operate at least that fast. And, if you decide to locate a streaming device in a location like another bedroom, you can use a third MoCA adapter and optionally a small Ethernet switch to provide a hardwired connection to that room. That’s when 2.5 Mbps MoCA adapters come into play.

Thanks all…I think we can put this discussion to bed. I briefly considered doing more research into HomePlug and power line adapter advancements…but decided to stick with standard networking that I’m already familiar and comfortable with.

After reviewing the “best mesh routers” articles on Tom’s Guide, CNET, and PC Mag…either the Nest or the Orbi consistently gets top marks. I’m pretty much privacy oriented and have no interest in Alexa or Google Assistant or any of that jazz so I’m going to go with the Orbi 2 pack. I’ll put the satellite back in then office unless the setup app doesn’t like it that far away…shouldn’t be an issue as it’s only about 40 feet and a single interior wall to go through. If that works…I’ll just plug the iMac into the satellite rather than using wifi, it’s got gigabit ethernet and that will essentially put the iMac on the ax connection from satellite to base station rather than it’s own built in ac wifi.

I do need a separate 2.4 GHz wifi for my weather station…that requirement eliminated one of the mesh contenders off the bat and another was eliminated as it was only ac and not ax capable…and the only things that can’t use ax now are our iPhones and the weather station…although I’m really considering replacing the latter with a more up to date unit since it’s almost 5 years since I got it and it wasn’t the most up to date model when I did get it. Too bad that LaCrosse hasn’t decided to include 5 GHz by this point.


Consumer reports gives top marks “Excellent” to the Netgear Orbi AX4200 (2-pack) and Netgear Nighthawk AX1800 (3-Pack) (a Best Buy). They didn’t test any Nest models. Six others from NetGear, TP-Link & eero made their Recommended list, but with only “Good” scores.

Thanks shoulda checked them as well.

That ASUS mesh router I mentioned above replaced a pair of Orbi routers that I really wanted to like, and that I gave 3 years of my life to maintaining. In the end their performance was disappointing to me, and I got tired of Netgear constantly trying to push paid services into my face.

Those are provided with the ASUS router, it has a comprehensive Web interface and the iOS app for it gives me access to most of its features.


I wanted to pick that Asus mesh since it was cheaper…but kept coming back to you get what you pay for. The price differential and lack of a reputation in the mesh wifi arena makes it to some degree…look like too good to be true.

Given me wife’s hatred of upheaval…I couldn’t convince myself to go that way…even though sped wise it seemed like a viable choice.

I use Netgear Orbi, which I like. Apparently Ubiquiti Unifi is good as well.

But not the Amplifi.

Oh? I was thinking of the Amplifi Alien Router as an option. Hmm.

What have you heard/read?

Most Amplifi models use the much older 802.11ac protocol, so have none of the advantages of WiFi-6, but does allow Mesh to help prevent speed losses due to multiple router access points. I see the Alien is WiFi-6, so probably OK.

Consumer Reports ranked the Ubiquiti Networks Amplifi (AC1750) (3-pack) Wireless Router in last place of Mesh Routers evaluated with a 56 out of 100 (Average) score.

I edited my response to say that most Amplifi models use 802.11ac, but see the Alien is WiFi-6 so probably OK.