Beware Range Extender Max Number of Users

By | January 21, 2017

Netgear EX6200I have been fighting an issue in my office where my printers periodically disappear from the network after being moved to wireless connections. I have my main router in the house and a Netgear EX6200 range extender over in my office building. I also have but probably do not need anymore, a great big 16 DBI external antenna. When wireless B was all we had I certainly needed it. As I’ve upgraded equipment I just kept using it. Weirdly enough if I apply the Microsoft Solution For Everything (reboot) to the range extender, the printer I’m trying to use will generally come back. The problem got even worse after I connected a Western Digital MyCloud device. Today while trying to get printers working with KaOS I decided to track it down.

At first I thought the wireless portion of my range extender was just going bad. Didn’t really explain how it was able to maintain connection with the router though. At any rate I spent a bit of time shopping on-line for a better range extender. Man have speeds increased over the past year!

When I visited Office Depot and looked at my current range extender and expanded the “tech specs” that’s when the light bulb went off. They had a little thing for “number of users” and the value filled in was “large family.” Well, that sounds rather nefarious now doesn’t it? Kind of reminds me of that zinger some female comedian tossed out in a standup routine.

I come from a very large Jewish family . . . One child.

The point being, large is in the eye of the beholder. Color me curious. How large is large? I click on the entry for a Linksys range extender, expand the “tech specs” and scroll down to “number of users per network.” Lo and behold, a single digit, 4. Slowly the answer is becoming obvious. I conduct an experiment by plugging a network cable into the HP Officejet Pro 8100, thus taking it off the wireless network. Ba-da-bing ba-da-boom! The 8100 appears on the network again and my Lexmark which appeared but couldn’t be reached, suddenly starts communicating again.

Looking at the picture it is now obvious what the firmware developers did. Rather than treat the 4 ports in the back as a separate network, they get lumped into the b/g/n count. This meant only one wireless device with b/g/n connectivity could successfully connect. This explains why neither my laptop nor my netbook wanted to connect in the office lately but worked fine in the house. It also explains why my USB AC1200 dongle let my laptop connect instantly in the office. It was the first and only user on that “network.”

Two of those three connections are machines running BOINC and I stuck them in there out of convenience. Those ports were simply closer than the 16-port hub at the other end of the bench. It appears I can have any number of devices plugged into my 16-port hub and they don’t increase the count. The range extender is only counting the active wire.

Time to move some cables!