Let us start this guide by saying that while it’s technically doable, using an old router to extend your home’s Wi-Fi coverage is not the way to go. best to perform. It’s the only option if you don’t want to spend money (although you may still need to buy a long Ethernet cable), but it’s not suitable and impractical in many cases.
That’s because a lot of routers don’t support wireless connectivity and, even if they do, you may need two routers from the same manufacturer (or even two identical ones). to make them talk to each other without connecting them with a network cable. If you’re lucky, both of your routers will support WDS, but in many cases your current router and backup router won’t work well together.
Unless your home is already wired with an Ethernet port, having a long cable from your primary router to a backup device in another room is unsightly and unpopular with others living with you. You can use a pair
powerline network adapter, but this will cost you quite a bit if you don’t already have one.
When we originally wrote this guide, mesh Wi-Fi systems were just starting to appear a few years back. With prices starting at around £70/$80, investing in one of these kits makes a lot more sense than saving that money and messing around with capable old routers. slower and does not support the latest Wi-Fi standards.
For example, Tenda’s MW3 set includes three routers for under £60 at Currys. If that deal has ended by the time you read this, check out the price of the MW3 on Amazon, as it’s often competitive.
Readers in the US can buy the Tenda MW3 from Amazon for $99.99.
If that’s not an option for you and you want to use your backup router to increase Wi-Fi coverage beyond the reach of your current router, we explain doing.
It’s usually best if your backup router supports bridged mode. This effectively turns it into a simple Wi-Fi hotspot allowing your other router to do all the work (such as routing and distributing IP addresses). If it doesn’t support bridged mode, you can try following the steps below, but still there is no guarantee that it will work as you want.
If that doesn’t work and you still don’t buy a mesh system, a lower-cost alternative is to buy a range extender like Netgear’s EX3700, which costs around £30/$30.
1. Find your router’s IP address
First, you need to find out some details about the router you’re using, including the Wi-Fi channel it’s broadcasting on and the type of security it’s using.
On any Windows PC connected to that router, open a command prompt (type cmd in the search box) and type ipconfig.
This will show your port and your computer’s IP address. Make a note of your gateway as this is the address of your main router usually in the format; 192.168.1.1 or similar. Ignore longer addresses with letters (if you see them): these are IPv6 addresses and you only need the IPv4 address.
For more detailed instructions, here’s how to connect to your router.
2. Connect to the router
Next, open a web browser and in the address bar enter the gateway IP address you noted and press Enter. You will see the setup screen for your main router. It may ask for a username and password. If you know these details, enter them. Otherwise, the information may be on a label underneath the router, or it may be available by searching the internet for the default username and password for your router model.
Once you’ve accessed your router’s configuration screen, you’ll see something similar to this.
3. Check your Wi-Fi settings
As you will see there are a lot of settings you can access and change, but you don’t want to reconfigure the main router, just check its settings. View the wireless settings and find detailed information about the Wi-Fi network name, channel, and security type.
The SSID of this router is BT-Hub6-ZG2C, is working on channel 11 (for 2.4GHz) and channel 36 for 5GHz and uses WPA2 for security. The SSID is the name you find when searching for a wireless network from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Note: Some routers include this BT router, which automatically changes Wi-Fi channels for best performance. That’s denoted by ‘smart’ here, and you may want to disable that so both routers will always use a different channel (to avoid interference).
Make a note of the security type as you will need to set the second router to the same setting. When you’re done, there’s usually a ‘sign out’ option. You only view the settings and make no changes, so there is nothing to save, if required.
4. Reset the router to factory settings
Plug in your old router and reset it to factory settings. Find a small hole in the back of the router, usually marked ‘reset’.
Once the router is powered on, insert a paper clip or similar and hold for a few seconds. When you release the paperclip, you should see all the lights on the router turn off and back on. You have reset the router to its factory settings.
If this doesn’t work for your particular router, look up the reset procedure online.
5. Configure your second router
Connect this second router now, with a network cable, to a PC or laptop not connected to the first router. The best way to do this is to turn off your primary router for a few minutes while you set up this secondary router, to prevent the PC from connecting via Wi-Fi.
Once attached to the second router, repeat step 1 with this router until you reach the configuration page. Here, we are using a D-Link router.
6. Copy settings
Skip any setup wizards and go to the Wi-Fi settings page. Turn on wireless, change the wireless network name to the same as the main router, and select a channel away from channel 6, which is the channel the main router is using.
Match the exact security type and enter the same password you use for Wi-Fi on your main router.
7. Give it a fixed IP address
Finally, you need to make the slave router work with the master router and not against it. Basically you need to enable NAT functionality to not end up with dual NAT and you need to give the second router an IP address in the same range as the first router.
This is best done by putting the second router in bridged mode, but if that’s not available, you can try the following:
Go to the LAN setup page (or similar page) and give the router an IP address in the same range as the IP addresses provided by my main router, but outside the range indicated by DHCP automatic determination.
Dynamic Host Communication Protocol is the process by which a device assigns an IP address to a device on a network. You need to stop the secondary router from providing IP addresses to devices, leaving that task to the main router.
Disable DHCP by unchecking it on the relevant configuration page. To assign a fixed IP address, suppose the main router has an address of 192.168.1.1 and it is set up to issue an address – by DHCP – between 192.168.1.2 and 192.168.1.49. Give the secondary router an IP address of 192.168.1.50. Remember this address as you may need it to access this router later.
On each configuration page, confirm your choice by clicking ‘save settings’ at the bottom of each page as you visit. Also, keep in mind that after changing your router’s IP address, you’ll have to wait for it to reboot and then access it by typing the new IP address in your browser’s address bar.
8. Connect it all together
Now you are ready to put it all together. If your two routers support WDS or wireless connectivity, make sure to enable that on both (see next section).
The alternative is to connect the two routers together with a long network cable or a pair of powerline network adapters.
These devices work by using the main power cables in your walls and floors to act as network cables and pass power through them. They only operate on loop power all connected back to a single consumer unit (fuse box). If you have two separate buildings or an extension with separate power supplies and meters, power line adapters won’t work.
We have separately explained how to set up the powerline network adapter to connect your adapter.
With both routers now turned on, it’s time to test your network. Grab a smartphone, tablet or laptop and check the signal strength near each router. You should see that you have successfully extended the reach of your wireless network and now have a second wireless access point.
9. Or connect wirelessly
If you’re lucky or you made a good choice when you bought a second-hand router, it may already have the features you need to reuse to improve Wi-Fi coverage. That is without network cables, or power line adapters.
We can’t list all routers with some kind of bridge or repeater mode, but all the usual suspect devices (including Apple, Belkin, Linksys, Netgear, and TRENDNet) have functionality. feature in most of their recent products. One feature to look out for is the WDS (Wireless Distribution System).
Usage by nomenclature providers varies, but the basic steps to set it up are pretty much the same. In a nutshell, the important steps are to find the bridge or repeater mode in the configuration tool, select it, and then enter any network information the tool requires. It can be MAC address, network name (SSID), band and security mode for example.
It is important to note that this functionality is not standard, so there is no guarantee that routers from different vendors will work together.
10. Use custom firmware
For routers that don’t have WDS built in (or similar), you can install a custom firmware like DD-WRT, OpenWRT, or Tomato. To use them requires some technical knowledge and the ability to follow instructions very closely.
For example, installing DD-WRT on a router is in most cases almost as simple as installing a program on your computer. However, doing it incorrectly can cause you to throw away the router. So follow the instructions carefully!
Your router should be DD-WRT, OpenWRT, or Tomato compatible, and you’ll have to search online for your particular router model to find out if custom firmware can be installed. Once compatibility has been established, there is a wealth of information, including precautions, for each manufacturer and router on how to install firmware.
Once done, enabling the repeater function is pretty straightforward. You will find more information on the DD-WRT website.
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