Today’s piece is a bit of a warning for folks: be careful how you mount your WiFi APs. Earlier this week I had a Netgear WAX630 WiFi 6 AP fall from a ceiling with three of the unit’s supplied anchors freeing themselves of the drywall. Luckily, no one was injured, but it could have turned out differently. While home over the holiday’s this month, please keep this in mind.
Netgear WAX630 WiFi 6 AP Mounting Warning
Building out the network in my new (to me) house we found something that was very scary. Last weekend I was editing a video and I heard a clank in the garage, several walls away from my office. I figured it was just a broom that fell over. It was not.
In the new Austin house, I am using Netgear WAX630 APs. We covered these in Netgear WAX630 WiFi 6 Access Point Launched. These are Netgear’s high-end tri-band WiFi 6 business APs. Currently, I have five installed, with one that fell. These APs have worked very well in around 1200sq ft/ AP density.
One of the APs I have located in the garage and was installed a few months ago. While many think that it is wasteful to have WiFi coverage in the garage, I think it is mandatory. My new garage door openers will be WiFi-enabled, my sprinkler system is WiFi-enabled (controller is in the garage), my Tesla updates over WiFi, and I have a Google Chromecast powered TV in the garage. Further, I often will bring my phone/ laptop into the garage so I can work at my workbench with WiFi. The AP there seemed to have made sense until it decided to relieve itself of its duties.
Luckily Netgear Insight sent a Device Offline alert.
At first, I figured that this particular AP was just offline for a firmware update. After it did not come up for 40 minutes, I thought it was a bit strange so I went to investigate. It was not on the ceiling, and instead, a wire was dangling.
Netgear WAX630 Damage and Anchor Warning
Looking at the unit, there was clearly some damage. The top of the case had a nice crunch in it:
Likewise, the bottom frame was cracked.
The shell was slightly separated but snapped back into place.
On the bottom, two anchors and screws were still attached to the baseplate. One had come completely off and was found on the floor with the screw still in the anchor.
It seems as though all three anchors departed drywall without provocation leading to the fall. Although there was perhaps too much slack for the Ethernet cable so it was not able to stop the fall. For a heavy AP, this is probably a bad way to do a safety net anyway.
The Aftermath, It Works?
Now for one of the craziest parts of this entire story, I plugged the AP in, and it turned back on and came online again.
It has been running now for several days without issue.
Fixing the Netgear Drywall Anchors
One of the big challenges with the supplied drywall anchors is that they can be installed with the supplied screws, tightened, and the anchor can fail to expand enough to secure the units.
Instead, we are now using heavy-duty Zinc drywall anchors. Here is a link to them on Amazon (something will likely convert this to an affiliate link where we may earn a commission.)
As part of the process, I am having the installers replace all of the supplied Netgear WAX630 drywall anchors. There is an AP that is about 14 feet (~4.26m) overhead in my office. I certainly do not want that one falling on my head. As we have been testing the mounting with the supplied anchors, it seems like they are not deploying properly, making these brackets pull out with a few pounds of force.
Also, we are going to re-terminate the garage CAT6 cable because the force from the AP falling from the ceiling tugged on the connector.
I just noticed that Amazon also has the WAX630 on sale so I just ordered a replacement despite the existing one working.
The Netgear WAX630’s we have not reviewed on STH, but I am using them since my house has so many WiFi devices that it is more like a small business. Having multiple tri-band WiFi 6 AP’s has provided great coverage. At the same time, using business APs means that they are heavier than many consumer units like the old Ubiquiti units I used previously. The AP of choice will likely change with WiFi 6E or WiFi 7 when these are retired, but other than the Netgear Insight that was actually useful in this event, these APs have been working well in non-mesh wired AP mode.
For our readers, hopefully, this serves as a bit of a warning, especially since I know many deploy higher-end wall/ ceiling-mounted APs. The other four APs were holding in the walls/ ceilings, but it is hard to have confidence given one has fallen and the others have given way with gentle tugs. We have now found the other APs did not have properly deployed drywall anchors.
Be careful about anchors supplied with these units. While many anchors work well, many others one cannot see if they deploy properly like these Netgear supplied units. When the anchor is in the wall securing a bracket, it is hard to see if it has deployed properly. It may be worth buying aftermarket anchors for safety. For AP vendors, perhaps drywall anchors are a place to spend another few cents on better units.
Update 2021-12-22: Netgear got back to us with some test results showing the included anchors in drywall and that they should be able to support the APs. That is different than what we observed, but it clears up that the anchors should work in drywall. Still, it sounds like Netgear is weighing adding a note to use more robust drywall anchors for the WAX630.