A router and an extender: When your laptop doesn't know which to use.

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Lisa Marie Lalonde’s router isn’t powerful enough to cover her entire home, so she installed a range extender. But when she moves from one part of the house to another, her laptop fails to connect to the nearest signal and loses the network.

If you carry a laptop, tablet, or smartphone through a home with multiple access points (such as routers and range extenders), the device should latch onto the access point with the strongest signal—presumably the closest one. Therefore, it should appear to be continually connected as you move from room to room.

But technology doesn’t always behave the way it should.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

(If you’re unsure about what range extenders are, you should read about extending your Wi-Fi network.)

When you extend a Wi-Fi network’s range, you’re actually creating a second Wi-Fi network. You can, for most intents and purposes, make the whole system behave like one big network by giving each access point the same name (otherwise called an SSID) and password. That way, you only have to set up each of your devices to access one Wi-Fi network.

But sometimes, as you move from one room to another, a device will continue trying to contact the last access point, ignoring the one nearby.

Here are two possible solutions:

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First, when this happens, turn off the device’s Wi-Fi, then turn it on again. Your Windows PC probably has a hardware switch for turning off Wi-Fi. If not, click the Wi-Fi icon in the notification area, right-click your network and select Disconnect. Then do it again, but this time, select Connect.

When you reconnect, your laptop or device will look for the most powerful access point using your SSID.

If that doesn’t work, or doesn’t work consistently, change the SSID on the extender. Check the extender’s documentation to see how.

That lets your laptops and devices see that there are two separate networks. You must then configure all of your laptops, smartphones, and tablets to use both of them. That way, if you move across the house and find that your device is reading from the wrong access point, you can switch.

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