SEARCH

How-To Geek

How To Extend Your Wi-Fi Network With Simple Access Points

2012-01-31_135537

Last week we showed you how to extend your network without wires, this week we’re looking at how you can use use an existing hardwire network to easily and quickly extend your wireless network using simple access points.

After we published our guide How To Extend Your Wireless network with Tomato-Powered Routers, we received a variety of reader questions regarding other tips and tricks one could use to extend a wireless network. Bill wrote in with the following question which echoes quite a few similar emails:

I read and followed your guide last Tuesday. Everything worked as promised, but I’ve noticed the secondary router seems a little flaky. Is there a more bare-bones way to go about this technique than setting up the Tomato routers via WDS as you have us do in the tutorial? My house is wired with Ethernet but, alas, very few of my devices actually use hard wire anymore. What can I do? All my routers are running current releases of TomatoUSB.

If Bill didn’t have the existing LAN in place, we’d have to tell him to try a different firmware (like DD-WRT) that allows for true Wi-Fi repeating. Since he has an existing hardwired Ethernet LAN, however, he’s in luck.

In a situation with no Ethernet network, you have to rely completely on wireless technology to link the access points together (as we did when we used WDS to link the two Tomato routers together last week). When you have a hardwired network, however, things get radically easier as you can use the Ethernet as a backbone for the network and convert the secondary routers to simple access points that require little effort to configure and deploy.

What specifically do you gain by using this technique over the previous technique? In our prior tutorial we showed you how to make a mesh of Wi-Fi routers. While that’s a great solution if you don’t have any hard wire to connect them, it does have its short comings as it requires a lot of configuration and a Wi-Fi mesh protocol that can introduce latency and reduced bandwidth. The technique we’re about to outline simply adds Wi-Fi access points to any open Ethernet connection on your hard-wired LAN—no fancy configuration or Wi-Fi Voodoo required.

What You’ll Need

2012-01-31_145901

For this tutorial you need the following things:

  • One primary router
  • One or more secondary routers
  • One physical port on the primary router and one direct Ethernet cable link for each secondary router

That’s all you need! You don’t even, technically, need any fancy after market firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT. That merits repeating. Although we’re going to be using Tomato-powered routers, you can use just about any stock Wi-Fi router around without flashing the firmware. Unlike other Wi-Fi tutorials we’ve shared that involve deep mucking around in the guts of a customized router, this tutorial simply requires that you are able to change the basic Wi-Fi access point settings on your secondary routers.

Getting Started: Resetting The Secondary Router

For the purposes of clarity, we’re going to refer to the primary router as the “Primary Router” and the secondary router as the “Secondary Router”. Simple, yes, but it ensures we’re all on the same page and not applying the settings to the wrong device.

Again, although we’re using TomatoUSB these instructions can be applied to nearly every router on the market. Read over the whole guide and then apply the steps, slightly adapted for different menu structures, to your router.

The first thing you want to do is reset your Secondary Router (not your Primary Router) so you can work with a clean slate. Plug your Secondary Router directly into a desktop or laptop machine via the Ethernet port. Navigate to Administration –> Configuration –> Restore Default Configuration and select “Erase all data in NVRAM memory (thorough)”. Click OK.

The default login/password after a clean wipe in Tomato is admin/admin. You should change the password immediately by navigating to Administration -> Admin Access. While we’re in the Admin Access menu we can change two things. First, change the color scheme of Tomato to easily distinguish between default Tomato installation and secondary access points. 

2012-01-29-15-15-24

The color setting is found near the top of the Admin Access page under Web Admin -> Color Scheme. We selected blue. To change the password scroll down to the bottom and plug in a new password in the Password section. Makes sure to click Save at the bottom or your changes will not be applied. Tomato will, immediately after you click Save, prompt you to login again. Use login: admin and password: whatever new password you just created.

Configuring The Secondary Router

Once you’ve reset the Secondary Router and assigned a new password it’s time to configure it. We only need to make a handful of changes to the Secondary Router, and (in TomatoUSB at least) they can all be made on a single page.

 wi-fi-hardlan1

Navigate to Basic –> Network within the GUI of the Secondary Router. We need to make a few minor changes here. First you need to toggle WAN / Internet to Static. There’s no need to change anything else in this sub-section.

wi-fi-hardlan2

Next you need to change the Router IP Address. This can be any number that isn’t 1) the same as your Primary Router or 2) in the slate of assignable addresses used by your Primary Router’s DHCP server, such as 198.168.1.100-149. We simply switched ours to 192.168.1.2 to indicate it was the first of the secondary routers attached to our network.

Plug in the address of your Primary Router for the first Static DNS slot. Toggle off DHCP Server. The Secondary Router (and another other routers you may add in as future access points) need to refer to the Primary Router for their DNS settings and DHCP assignments in order to keep the setup simple and allow all network changes to be made easily from the Primary Router.

2012-01-31_142507

Next, you have the Wireless section. Within the Wireless section you need to make a few changes. First, ensure “Enable Wireless” is checked. Second, set Wireless Mode to “Access Point”. You can leave the Wireless Network Mode on Auto or enforce a specific mode (like G Only).

The SSID should be the same as your other Wi-Fi access points (like the Primary Router). The security type, encryption type, and shared key should also be the same. Note: If you’re having trouble with the setup, it’s often useful to change the Secondary Router’s SSID to something like “wireless2” to distinguish it from “wireless” (the name of the Primary Router) and make signal testing and troubleshooting easier.

That said, the only place where the Wireless setup should differ from the Primary Router is the Channel selection. You want to select a channel for your access points that does not conflict with channels used by the Primary Router. Refer to this chart to select an appropriate channel:

2012-01-31_143854

Let’s say that your Primary Router is using Channel 1. For your Secondary Router you can select Channel 6 or Channel 11 as a clear channel to minimize interference. For quick reference here are are some combinations you can use to keep the communication channels clear and leave space for a future access point:

  • 1, 6, 11
  • 2, 7, 12
  • 3, 8, 13

Once you’ve finished selecting an open channel, click Save to commit all your changes to the Secondary Router. Once the changes are saved, unplug the Secondary Router from the computer you’ve been using to configure it and take it to the Ethernet jack you intend to plug it into. Run an Ethernet cable from the wall jack to one of the LAN ports on the Secondary Router (not the WAN port).  Plug in the power cord to boot it up. Your secondary access point should now be online and accessible to the Wi-Fi devices nearby. As an added bonus you can also use the Secondary Router as a basic network switch—any nearby Ethernet dependent devices, such as a game console or desktop computer, can be plugged right into the remaining LAN ports on the Secondary Router.

You can repeat this entire process with additional routers—just pay attention to the channel you select for each router to try and keep the interference to a minimum.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/31/12

Comments (18)

  1. Braunson Mazoka

    I have a Question, can you make a how-to about how to switch or change routers? I would like to change routers from my old one and I have NO idea how :) any help would be GREAT!

  2. Saman

    i’m looking for custom firmware for modem router wag120n. :-(

  3. bobro

    what are the usual pit falls ppl fall into when doing this?

    is using two different makes or routers ok?

  4. gary

    Is it possible to connect 2 routers wireless and be able to plug an Ethernet cable in to the 2nd one or use the 2nd one as a repeater? I can not run a cable between them.

  5. Robert

    Also when doing this I would reserve the extended routers ip address on your main router’s ip reservation list. That way if you have to reboot your main router it doesn’t try to give the new router a new ip.

  6. Brian

    I would also like to know if you could connect two routers wirelessly. If that’s possible, one could theoretically use a spare router in place of a wireless adapter on another machine.

  7. Daniel

    Dumb question time, (I know I should know this) but can I hook a router running “G” and another running “N” to the same modem and have separate networks?

  8. michaelsulisz

    Why not just buy a repeater? I just saw an ad for Encore product that is a router or repeater uses all router configurations WPS setup and was only $22.00. You could probably be up and running in 5 min.

  9. Phil

    Hi. I would love to extend my wireless network as I have ‘blind spots’ in my house but have absolutley no idea how to do it. I have read both articles but they are far too technical for me. Is there a plug in solution that does not require all the configuration changes? My router was supplied by sky.com if that helps.
    Regards
    Phil

  10. Gabriel M A

    @michaelsulisz Fact is: WPS consumes bandwith from the wireless spectrum, so instead of running at, lets say, 54 MBPS, your computers would really connect at 27 MBPS or so… but there’s an article about that already. Also, I think the idea is to re-utilize old equipment. I’m planning to use 2 old DSL modems that came with Wifi APs included as just Access Points with this method, as I’m moving to a bigger house with many difficult areas and now have cable modem with a separate stand-alone router, and cabling between them shouldn’t be a big of a deal…

  11. WhyMeLord

    Previous post was garbled and should be removed,.

    Anyone considering toying with the AP power setting should understand the RF behind the technology.

    First it’s a two way street — all the power in the world at the AP will not increase range if the power from the remote computer is not adjusted accordingly.

    Second there is an element of system noise, the higher the AP output the higher the noise factor at the AP receiver. If this cannot be overcome by the power level of the remote computer the range and performance will be REDUCED.

    It’s not at all unlike sitting on the porch at night listening to the frogs and crickets. Works find until the folks next door crank up the boom box for a party.

  12. michaelsulisz

    @Gabriel M A thanks didn’t know about the bandwidth drop. In my case that would still work for me. My desktop is uses cable and only some smaller devices and a lap top use wifi.

  13. Scott

    If you are going to plug your Ethernet cable from router 1 into a LAN port then you don’t have to put a static address into the 2nd router. Just turn off DHCP for the LAN side and adjust your radio to 1,6,or 11. Go ahead and name the SSID, set your encryption and hit save. The static address would only have to be set if you were to connect into the wan port with your Ethernet cable coming from from router 1.

  14. snuggles

    Thanks for an excellent article. I’m having some issues trying to get this to work. I’m using an POWERLINK PL-CPE-22N High Power Outdoor Wireless Router. 1 problem is I do not have static DNS.
    I put the default gateway’s IP address the same as Primary Routers IP address. Is this correct? I can connect to this AP without issues but I’m experiencing wireless disconnects and lost internet connections. my Primary Router Netgear wndr3700. second problem seems to be while the AP is active my Primary Router will not show me my connected devices. When I turn the AP off the conne3cted devices show up, is this a clue to my problem? Thanks for a great site and newsletter.

  15. Holger Asche

    I have a Thomson TG782T Router and wish to connect a Ritmo Lan storage NAS witha 250GByte Sata Segate HDD. My desktop is running XP Professional SP3, When I access the Main page of the Thomson router I can see the NAS attached to the second Ethernet port. But XP does not recognise that this NAS is attached to the Router also I know that it has a IP address of 10.0.0.1. From my readings I know that the drive needs to be mounted etc. How does one go about this. I have a simmilar problem with a Netgear PS121 USB Print Server which is shown in the Thomson Router main page but not recognised by the OS.

  16. Cy

    Very interesting and a easy to follow guide but I go lost at the end when “Run an Ethernet cable from the wall jack to one of the LAN ports on the Secondary Router (not the WAN port).

    Where did the “wall jack” come from and how was that constructed?

  17. Mazhar

    Very confusing

  18. catherine

    I found the info on adding the second router interesting and would like to give it a try. I have a second router here which is from my provider that I never returned,am I able to use this router as a second, and would my provider know?
    The router from my provider is the pits. I have two laptops and 1 wireless router. 1 was plugged directly to the router in the bedroom, the second laptop I use in the living room,wireless,which is in the next room. I am constantly losing connecting to the internet. My provider tells me it could be something in the house,blocking. Imagine!,I have a new home, now I have to dragg the wireless router,and long phone cords to the living room to be able to use internet. plugged direct,not wireless. I just bought the second laptop a month ago because I thought the other was getting old, now to find out I didn.t need it. If I can use the second router I have here,connected to the other router wirelessly than maybe that could save me the aggravation. I am concerned that leagally I can’t use the second router from my provider if they find out.
    I like this web page, it has lots of info for me where I am not a comp. whizzzz lol I forwarded the page to others that can use the information as well. Hope you can advise me!!

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!