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How to Boost Your Wi-Fi Network Signal and Increase Range with DD-WRT

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Wireless is really convenient until you drop your connection or get really low speeds. Thanks to DD-WRT, it’s easier than ever to extend your home networks range with a few simple tweaks and a spare router.

DD-WRT is a fully feature-packed alternative firmware for your router. If you don’t know what it is or how to get it on your device, you should start off with Turn Your Home Router into a Super-Powered Router with DD-WRT.

Boosting Your Signal

Fire up your web browser and direct it to your router’s configuration page. Go to Wireless > Advanced Settings.

tx power

There are three settings of interest, the first being TX Power. This is the broadcasting power of your transmitting antenna. The default is a safe value of 70, but we can kick it up a bit. Most people report that jumping up to a 100 is safe. Pushing it higher can cause excessive heat which can damage your router. I don’t have to worry about that since my “server area” is cold and I’m also a bit reckless, so I kicked mine up to 150. It’s been that way for a few weeks and I haven’t had a problem yet, but your mileage may vary. Use your common sense and discretion.

Next up is the Afterburner setting. If your wireless router and adapters support Afterburner – also known as SpeedBooster, SuperSpeed, Turbo G, and G Plus (but not Super-G) – you can enable this to get a boost. Things may slow down if they don’t support it, though, so be sure to do your homework. B-only devices won’t see any problems and N-based devices shouldn’t be negatively affected, either.

Finally, we get to Bluetooth Coexistence Mode. If you use bluetooth a lot, then you may have noticed a drop in reliability or speed with both wireless and bluetooth devices. Turning this setting on should keep the two from interfering too badly with one another.

Use a Spare Device as a Repeater

Most of us have upgraded our networks with new routers over the years. If you have your old one lying around, why not throw DD-WRT on it? I had a spare Linksys wireless access point, but after putting alternate firmware on it, I had a full-blown router on my hands. We can put our spare device to work as a repeater, which can act as a range-extender for a new section of your house or yard.

Under Wireless > Basic Settings, change the mode to Repeater.

repeater

You’ll see two sections, Wireless Physical Interface (wl0), and Virtual Interfaces (wl0.1). The physical interface is going to be receiving the signal from your main router. Plug in the SSID, configure the network mode, and decide if you wanted it to be bridged (connected with the old network) or unbridged (isolated from it). Next, come up with a new SSID for your repeater. This way, you can choose which access point to use, depending on where you are.

Click on save, then go over to the Wireless Security page.

wireless security

Enter the wireless security settings for your main router, then enter the details for your new repeater’s signal. Lastly, we need to make sure that your repeater is connected to your main router. To do that, go to Status > Wireless.

status

At the bottom of the page, you’ll see a button that says Site Survey. Click on it.

site survey

Find you main router’s wireless SSID and click Join. That’s it! Place your repeater on the other side of your house, but not so far that it doesn’t get a good signal. Then, you can connect to your new repeater and test it out.

Use Your Repeater as a Wireless Receiver

An added benefit of DD-WRT is that you can configure your repeater to act as a wireless receiver for a computer that doesn’t have one. Return to where you configured the repeating function, under Wireless > Basic Settings.

repeater bridge

Change the mode to Repeater Bridge. Now, you can plug in a device into the router’s ethernet ports and it’ll act just like it’s wired into your main router. If you’re not using it then you should turn if off, as it can cut your bandwidth otherwise.

If you’re looking to speed up browsing, Removing Advertisements with Pixelserv and Find a Faster DNS Server with Namebench can both help your cause – with or without extended ranges – thanks to DD-WRT.

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 03/24/11

Comments (39)

  1. uttaradhaka

    Great article. I have a netgear WNR 1000 router and am looking forward to putting DD-wrt in it.

    I had one question. What kind of range increase can I expect from increasing the TX power setting to 100?

    Keep up the great work.. :)

  2. charles

    will this work on any router? what about a modem/ router in 1 like what verizon fios provides? or an apple airport express or time capsule?

  3. Dee

    Anyone know a way to completely clear a router of info–like a format— so new info can be put in??? Netgear…

  4. Bejaysus!

    Were would one find the common sense and discretion setting ;) I love those caveats, they have to be included it is the internet after all :) Great articles by the way I still have to find the time to implement the “How to Remove Advertisements with Pixelserv on DD-WRT” article which looks really good. Keep them coming!

  5. Matt

    My setup has none of these screens. Is it because it may be an older model? Can i still bump up the TX power on an older wireless G model?

  6. dave

    You have to go to DD-WRT’s site to see if you’re router is on the lists, they have two, ones they tested as compatible and ones that absolutely won’t take the software (lucky me my old one is one of those).

    I don’t think it’s wise to completely clear your router, the DD-WRT software overwrites the firmware which gives you a new interface.

    Those screens are what DD-WRT will look like if you can get it installed. There’s a link to a how to from earlier in the week.

    http://www.howtogeek.com/56612/turn-your-home-router-into-a-super-powered-router-with-dd-wrt/

  7. dave
  8. FasstDak

    I’ve been using the DD-WRT firmware on my old WRT54G and on my WRT160N – it’s an awesome upgrade with a lot of more usable options (thank you HTG for the articles).

    Charles: You can go to the DD-WRT.com website and check the router compatibility list.

    Dee: Use the 30/30/30 reset procedure (DD-WRT has this on their site as well)

    Matt: It depends on the router, but most are modifiable. I run my WRT54G at 85mw and my WRT160N at 100mw without any issues. I am using 12dbi external antennas on both (the WRT160N is easy to add external antennas to and the WRT54G has a plethora of options on external antenna’s).

  9. FasstDak

    Matt: I almost forgot – the screens will look different depending on Router Model, Firmware Revision from DD-WRT, and the theme selected. The examples shown look like my WRT54G but my WRT160N has a different layout (also changed the theme within the router setup screens.)

  10. PatriotMB

    These are great tips.

    I just have a question regarding the SSID though. Why would you not name it the same as your original wireless and extend the range? I have done this with an older D-link router without any issues. Is there a benefit to selecting a different SSID on the repeater?

  11. David

    Patriot,
    You can leave the ssid the same on both and then you can seamlessly move between them, but the idea here is you can select the router that has the best signal for where you are or where you’re going. If you can receive both you may start using the poorer signal.

  12. Ark

    Exactly what I’m needing right now, Thanks a lot HTG! Great site!

  13. carlb

    I have a Linksys range extender. Any way to tweek it?

  14. Mathew

    will this work on a Belkin Router?

  15. Tony

    My router is a wrt54gl , can I use a second router with repeater bridge to connect to my Samsung internet tv directly connected to the set instead of the wireless usb drive that I have (no connection problems) and would that make a difference. Thanks

  16. John

    I’d love to get one of my old routers working with this software but, alas, none are on the list. :-(
    My neighbor has a really powerful wireless router and it has blocked my kids old wireless B cards from connecting to our router. I have had to move the router to an inconvenient location so that they can connect. The really annoying part is that he doesn’t even need the wireless part of his router enabled as he has only one desktop computer. I know that he’ll be reluctant to turn off the wireless if I were to ask.

    PatriotMB has a good question. I believe it’s so that you will know which router is which just from the SSID. I don’t think that your computer will switch between the two automatically if they have the same name. It will always try to connect to the router at the top of the list unless that one is not available. It won’t look at the signal strength and decide to change to another access point just because the signal is stronger. I believe that’s the reason for having two separately named SSID’s. I don’t think you can trick your computer into believing they are one and the same by giving them the same name. The MAC code would be different for a start. It is a really good question though and perhaps someone with more RF and router knowledge who has used this software could fill us in. I haven’t used the software because, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a suitable unit yet. If and when I do, perhaps I can blast the neighbors off the air instead of them blocking us?

  17. Ray_O

    Do I need the username/pw to get into the router??? I have a DLink wireless router that is attached to my DSL router/modem. The DLink is used for my Netflix connection (which drops too often). How can I reset the DLink back to “out of the box” settings so I can start over??

    (I also have a Cisco Valet that I received free for a special purchase….Windows 7 direct from MS.)

  18. LouieGeetoo

    @John: Have you tried changing the wireless channel on your router? I believe it can be anything from 1 to 11. If it’s different enough from your neighbor’s (I think 6 is usually the default), maybe it won’t get the interference anymore.

    You can use free software like inSSIDer to check what wireless channels are being used nearby and choose your channel based on that. Check it out: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/21132/change-your-wi-fi-router-channel-to-optimize-your-wireless-signal/

  19. TG2

    First @ Tony … Yes you can connect a second router with DD-WRT to the first router. The second router can then be wired to your remote devices.

    There *can* be performance differences .. think of it this way … in a regular wireless network, if you have 10 devices looking for wireless connectivity, any one of those devices could start causing network congestion if they started trying to assert themselves … however.. if you have 8 of those 10 devices into a switch, and from there to a wireless access point (the remote side of the client bridge) then you’d not be filling up the wireless network with 10 devices vying for the right to transmit …. just the wireless routers, and the other 2 ….

    One step further … I have two networks, 3 routers … the first is my primary gateway/firewall router, the laptop PC’s connect wirelessly, the wired PC’s and the 2nd router plug into the gateway. The 2nd router gives access to Network #2, and the 3rd router which is running in client bridged mode, connects back through.

    On the 3rd router I have my Dish Network sat receiver, my AV receiver (if you haven’t tried internet radio at 128k and above on a 110 Watt per channel 7.1 surround system, you really should) also to my Blueray player, and an older wired PC at the other end of the house.

    The 2nd network is N only, the 1st network is ‘bgn’ The 1st & 2nd router are seperated by 6 feet in the hopes of keeping each happy.

    I’ve pushed 20 megabit file transfers across the N network while watching Dish Remote Access with a SlingAdapter running at 8 megabit (28 to 30 megs total) and been very satisfied..

    The two additional routers are Buffalo G300N V2 (**not the HP – High Power- ones!!) and cost only 40 bucks each. The dongle for Dish is 25 bucks, the dongle for my Bluray was 65 originally, and the dongle for my AV amp was in the 50 dollar range.. not to mention a 25 dollar dongle for my remote pc…. 80 bucks for two wireless routers, or 165 for 4 dongles..

    Now.. about the power increase DD-WRT allows.. keep in mind.. while you can *transmit* at a higher power level from the router out to the devices… you can’t make the wireless cards in your laptops transmit any higher power.. So the power boost you’re getting through DD-WRT is really only one way. It will make things better.. but beyond a point it won’t help as your wireless devices can’t respond with enough power to make up the distance.. in those cases, its also just as good if you get a cheap but more directional, antenna for on the router.

    And lastly … not all router chipsets are created equal. Note I said I was using the G300N V2′s … and *not* the high power model .. because the HP model had less ram! Also along the “not created equal”, Broadcom chips do repeater mode … Atheros chips do not .. but you can do multiple wireless SSID’s to overcome some of the issue.

  20. Paul DeLeeuw

    Dumb question from newbie:
    How does the second (repeater) router get its signal? Are you guys assuming an unmentioned Ethernet cable, or wirelessly. If wirelessly, how do you set up the second router to receive the correct signal?
    Thanks,

    Paul D.

  21. Jean

    Another great tip. Thanks.

  22. Aashish Vaghela

    Ok guys ! DSL/Wi-fi daddy is here with some solutions !!

    @DEE … You are talking about flashing the BIOS of your Netgear. Chk wid
    your internet service provider or the router vendor to help you
    with that very serious process. If the router is out of warranty,
    the router vendor won’t entertain you. Good Luck !!

    @Paul DeLeeuw …. Paul bro, there’s something called SSID broadcast.
    We are putting the 2nd router into BRIDGED mode. Hence
    it becomes a mere DUMB repeater. Take from the master
    source & just FWD it with more power. That’s it.

    @PatriotMB …. Sir, We are telling the 2nd router that it is a REPEATER.
    Plus it is in BRIDGED mode. Hence it need not locate a
    WAN link for DSL/Cable internet connectivity & just FWD
    the signal that it is getting from the originator. SSID
    in this case doesn’t matter. It is for our understanding
    only. Even if you named it MAZELTOV or SEMPERFI,its still
    OK.

    @Ray_O (or Rey MysteriO, LoL!) … The 2nd router is not connecting to
    your NetFlix DSL. Hence needs no further authentication.
    As far as dropping DSL conn. is concerned. Connect 1 PC
    on Ethernet directly to that DSL modem on trial basis for
    a day or two & see if there is any difference. If NO,
    then get a phone-line technician to evaluate your house
    wiring plus your phone-line connection to the box o/s. ur
    house. If that’s fine, blast NetFlix guys to check DSL
    signal strength to your home from their nearest DSLAM.
    Additionally, you might need to replace all the DSL
    filters on all the “in-use” phone jacks in your house.

    Hope this answers some of your queries. If it did, do let me know.

    Regards,
    Aashish “DSL TechGuru” Vaghela

    “I’m good with the Wi-Fi stuff, just can’t understand the WIFE stuff”
    ROFL / LMAO / LoL !!!

  23. Aashish Vaghela

    @TONY … Yeah bro, your speed would be screwed ! Won’t recommend such stuff with IPTV.

  24. Aashish Vaghela

    @Charles … Yes, you can implement the same with almost any 802.3 B/G 54GHz router, PROVIDED YOU ARE ABLE TO LOCATE THE SAME SETTINGS ON THAT ROUTER …. !!!

    @Matthew …… DITTO, AS ABOVE ..! Belkins are good ones ! Should work.

    @DEE & @Matthew …. you folks are lazy enough to mention the Router Models & its firmware revision numbers … So bad of you ..!

  25. Aashish Vaghela

    @Aashish … You jerk … you’ve answered 7 folks above, aren’t you taking a week-end break ? Get out of Wi-Fi stuff & get into WIFE stuff.
    That doesn’t mean you start wearing her L!nger!e.

  26. bassmanwa

    Hi I use a d-link g604t modem router can this be done onthis or is it stricktly for a router

  27. Jim

    This reply is for John, who’s neighbor’s wireless is overpowering. In Windows, you can usually tell the Windows Wireless to ignore (or remove) a particular SSID from the list is connects to, so your kids computer will no longer try to connect to your neighbor’s wireless.

  28. steven

    Creamed myself, love this site.

  29. Jamie

    I have been using DD-WRT for 4+ years on several different routers. It has been my experience that just because their website says your router is compatible with DD-WRT, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an upgrade to your router. You may be adding features but the cost is speed. DD-WRT can be very slow.

    In some cases, my router would simply freeze up every couple of days and have to be rebooted. In several instances I had to remove DD-WRT and go back to the OEM firmware which is not a simple process. Uninstalling DD-WRT is not always possible depending on your router.

    That being said, I have had the best experience with Linksys WRT54GL routers. In order for DD-WRT to be installed on your router it has to be linux based. Hence the “L” in WRT54GL. Linksys linux based routers have worked the best for me. Buffalo routers hands down are the worst in my experience.

    I hope that helps you out.

  30. myztic

    dd-wrt doesnt work for wireless belkin n router

  31. juan

    im getting confused on how to bridge it exactly so far i got it to connect to the main router but the wrt router wont send out wireless signals, the wrt router is connected to the main one and will only get internet when it has a Ethernet cable attached to it. i also got confused on what to put in the physical and virtual interfaces. thanks im new to this to sorry

  32. juan

    im confused on what to do all i managed to do was connect the wrt router to my main router but the wrt router wont broadcast any wireless signals. thank, im new to this sorry. im also confused on the virtual and physical interface part

  33. Rick76

    Newb needing some advice here. Currently running a wireless network in my home but want to increase my coverage. My existing system is a “stock” Linksys WRT54GS router connected to a cable modem with twin 7dBi high gain antenna mounted up about 6′ high in the bedroom of a 3,500 sq. ft. home. The signal in my home office which is located in the basement varies between 2 and 3 bars out of 5 (Windows 7). I have purchased a D-Link DIR-825 router but have not deployed it yet. Until finding this site, I was just planning on replacing my G router with the N router but after reading about being able to “connect” the 2 together wirelessly, I would like to give this a try.

    My typical usage would be the following. Most important is my home office in the basement and connecting 3 laptops and a wireless printer there. Also connecting a PS3 in the next room (basement again) for Netflix and streaming media from my laptops to my home theater. Next, upstairs on the main level, my daughter and wife typically do most of their laptop computing in the family room and I am also considering getting another wireless device (Apple TV) to allow them to stream media to the family room TV. And third, in my sons bedroom upstairs where the cable modem and current G router are located, he is direct (cable) connected to his xBox Live and also uses his laptop. And of course lastly, to be able to wander pretty much anywhere in the house with laptop or tablet in hand.

    So it appears that both of my routers are capable of DD-WRT but my first question is…..is there any way to achieve my goal without using the DD-WRT software upgrade? If so, how? If not, should I upgrade just one router or both? And last, what would be the best final set up, a or b below?

    a) Cable modem to D-Link DIR-825 upstairs with Linksys WRT54GS on main floor or,
    b) Cable modem to Linksys WRT54GS upstairs to D-Link DIR-825 on main floor.

    Thanks for any assistance and/or any recommendations I have not considered.

  34. Tim

    This won’t work on my new Belkin Wireless G router. Its not listed as compatible for DD-WRT or Tomato
    :-(
    Can anyone tell me if I can hack my router, even if it means going into the command line and adding ‘repeater’ funtionality.

    Here’s the kicker, the manual indicated there was a feature, but there was a printing error apparently and Belkin have told me it won’t work! I don’t understand though, it can broadcast a wireless network which suggests duplex communications with other computers but won’t connect to an existing wireless network???? I am perplexed.

    If anyone can help, big cheers, hurrah, and if you spot me in a pub, identify yourself and I’ll buy you a beer.

  35. The Truth

    Pitiful article… if you look at the article on the DD-WRT wiki, it’s world’s different from yours. Congrats on creating a POS.

  36. T2Tanker

    How do you do this for a Mac?

  37. Vince

    Here’s the real question. Does it really increase the wireless range of your router significantly? I think that is the main thing that most people are trying to achieve here. From what I’ve read it can either be a miraculous increase or a negligible one. I know it depends on your setup, where the router is located, building construction etc., but can anyone chime in here and tell the average what to expect as far as an increase in range is concerned?

  38. anthony

    First time poster been using ddwrt on my linksys 54g for a few years now, tx power 180 as high as I can go,@vince, I share internet with my neighbor, he has the main I have a bridge, extended gange of his network by almost 30 yards, @everyone who can’t get wireless to work, setup a virtual private net (vpn)….. and connect wirelessly to that… hope this helps happy hacking

  39. Ty

    I have a question, can I up the TX Power without having a repeater router?

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