I was having a conversation with one of our readers about a home network they were trying to wrap their mind around. They wanted devices on the opposite side of their house to connect via WiFi to the same network but their router’s range didn’t reach. Their walls are hard-wired to the router, and there are ports available in those rooms, but the devices are WiFi only. They were looking for a solution with the devices they had on hand so that they wouldn’t have to buy more gear (ie, Access Points). What they had, was their current router, and the old one it recently replaced.
The best solution, is to setup the second router to act as if it was an Access Point so that you don’t have to buy one. I am going to share how it is done with you.
We of course take no responsibility for what happens to your devices, so only do this if your are at least some-what experienced with playing with the settings. If something goes wrong, you may have to reset your second router to factory settings (good to keep this in mind).
What you will need is two routers, an ethernet cable running between the two routers (in-wall or along the floors, etc) and a laptop or PC for setup (that’s it). We used two Netgear WNDR3700 routers for a local test since we had them laying around. One takes the job of the “main router” (the main router your house/building relies on), and the second will become your “access point”.
First, log into the admin screen of your main router using a PC or laptop connected to one of it’s LAN ports by typing the router’s IP in your browser.
If you don’t know the IP and are using a Windows operating system: click on the start menu and type “cmd” and hit enter. In the window that pops up, type “ipconfig” and look for “default gateway”, and that is the IP you want to type into your web browser to access your router’s admin screen.
In the settings, you are going to look for the router’s DHCP settings (different routers/brands have different control panels so we won’t be able to get too specific in direction). Once you have found them, adjust the IP pool range to something smaller. For example, the default range on the WNDR3700 was “192.168.1.2 to 18.104.22.168”. We changed that to “192.168.1.2 to 192.168.1.200”. Once you have accomplished this, apply your settings (in most cases, the router will restart itself).
Second, disconnect your PC or laptop from the main router and plug it into one of the LAN (not WAN) ports of the second router. Log into the admin screen of the second router and access the LAN IP settings screen where you can change the IP address of the router. Change the last field to a number outside of the range you assigned to the main router (ie, “.201″+). In our test, we gave the second router the IP address “192.168.1.201”.
If the DHCP settings are on the same page, continue to the next paragraph, else apply the settings you have so far (your router may or may not restart to apply the changes).
Now find the DHCP settings screen (secondary router) and disable DHCP! This is important! Apply the changes (again, it may or may not restart the router when you do this).
If you still have access to the admin screen, it is also best that you find the settings page where you can adjust the channel in which your second router broadcasts on. Change it to a non-overlapping channel of either 1, 6 or 11. You will also want to name the SSID name to something different than your main router so you know which is which if your device sees both.
Finally, disconnect the second router from your PC or laptop and connect the second router to the main router using lan ports on both routers (do not connect to main router to the second router’s WAN port).
Now you should have something similar to the graphic at the top of the article. Your source of internet (ISP) will run into the WAN port of the main router, and from one of the LAN ports an ethernet cable will run into one of the LAN ports of the second router (which is now an access point).
You have two different network SSID’s broadcasting, but connecting to either one should allow you to see the main network as if you were simply connected to the main router. This way, you can still share devices and see the other computers on the network.
Both routers can be accessed on the same network. If you type the IP of the main router, it should pull up just fine. If you change the IP in your browser to point to (we will use the IP we assigned) 192.168.1.201, then you will access the admin screen of the second router (the now “access point”).
Done! Save your money and skip buying a new device if you have an old router laying around. The only risk you take is the speed differential of the two routers (if they are different routers). If the main is an Wireless-AC router and the old/second one is a Wireless-G router, connecting to the “access point” will of course limit your connection speed to G on those devices.