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How to set a Wireless Router as an Access Point

2007-11-22 11:24 by
Tags: , , , , ,

I've often found it useful to get just the wireless functionality out of a WiFi router and reuse it as an access point. Wireless routers seem more common, and are often priced even lower than wireless access points. Adding an access point to a wired network already in place, or to one where the main NAT router is provided by the ISP is usually the easiest solution. However, introducing a second NAT router on the network is not a good idea, especially without some tweaking to set it up correctly.

Instead of using your wireless router as intended (NAT routing, DHCP client/server, PPPoE client, etc.), converting it into a wireless access point will save you a lot of headackes and make the configuration much simpler.

In essence, the new wireless router/access point needs to be configured to use a LAN IP address in your network range (the same subnet as your other devices), and you need to connect one of its LAN ports to the existing gateway/router. Do not use the Internet/WAN port on the wireless router to be used as an acces point.

More detailed step by step instructions on how exactly to convert and use your wireless router as an access point are below:

  

Step 1: Find the IP addresses of your existing gateway/router and clients

You need to find the internal IP address of your existing modem/gateway/router that connects your LAN to the internet. Under Windows, the easiest way to do this is drop to command prompt (Start > Run > type: cmd) and type: ipconfig

Click to expand


In this example, my ISP-provided gateway/router (the "Default Gateway") is set to 192.168.1.1. My client computer is at 192.168.1.10


The "IP address" line in the above figure shows your computer's IP, while the "Default Gateway" is your main existing router that provides your internet connection. It is usually in the 192.168.x.x range.

Alternaticely, you can try connecting to your router's default IP address by looking it up in our routers database.

 

Step 2: Connect to your router administration interface to find the DHCP range

By default, LAN clients are usually set to obtain their IPs automatically. What that means is, the router acts as a DHCP server, and serves IP addresses dynamically, as needed to the client computers. You need to find the range of IPs used for DHCP so you can later set your access point to use an IP address outside that range (but on the same subnet).

Login to your gateway's admin interface, usually by typing its IP address in your web browser, and find the DHCP range:

Click to expand
In this example, the DHCP range is from 192.168.1.10 to 192.168.1.100

Note: If you don't know the password to your router's admin interface, you may want to lookup the defaults in its manual, or in our hardware database.

 

Step 3: Connect a computer to the wireless router/AP

You need to  connect a computer (via a LAN port) to the new wireless router to be used as an access point. I'll refer to it as the "Acces point" from now on. To do this:

- set your client computer to obtain its IP automatically (default behavior in Windows)
- connect it to a LAN port on the access point using a Cat5 network cable
- reboot, or use the "ipconfig /renew" command in Command prompt to force it to get an IP address from the access point

Log into the admin page of the access point (you can find it's IP address as you did in step 1 for your main router). It is usually done by simply typing the IP address of the router in your browser's address bar.

 

Step 4: Configure the wireless router / AP

Once logged into the admin interface of the wireless router, you need to do two things. First, you need to change its internal/LAN IP address to an unused address in the same range/subnet as all your other LAN devices. Second, you need to disable the DHCP server on your new AP, so there is only one DHCP server on the network. In my case, my main gateway/LAN router is set to 192.168.1.1, and it is serving dynamic IPs via DHCP in the range 192.168.1.10 - 192.168.1.100. I have to use any other address in the 192.168.1.x range for the access point:

Click to expand
In this figure, my new wireless router/access point is set to use 192.168.1.2 as its IP address, and I've disabled DHCP, so it will not interfere with the DHCP server from my gateway. It is important to have only one device acting as a DHCP server, and that the IP address of the access point is in the same range as the main router.

  

Step 5: Connect the AP to the LAN

It is time to connect the reconfigured wireless access point to the network. Use a LAN port on the new wireless router, and connect it with a Cat5 network cable to one of the LAN ports of the existing gateway. Make sure not to use the "Internet/WAN" port on the wireless access point!

Connect your client computer to another LAN port of the gateway/router (if you do not reboot, you will have to use "ipconfig /renew" in command prompt to obtain an IP address from your router).

Note: Some older devices that do not support Auto-crossover (MDI/MDI-X) may require a crossover network cable (where the send and receive pairs are switched) between the two routers. This is not common with modern hardware.

 

Step 6: Test admin page is reachable and secure the AP

Now that the new wireless access point is connected to our network, with a correct IP address in the same range (and outside the DHCP range), we can test whether it's reachable, and secure the wireless connection.

In the above example, I configured the wireless AP to use 192.168.1.2. Its administration interface should be reachable by typing this IP address in the browser.

Once connected, it is time to set the wireless security:

Click to expand
Use WPA2 if both your access point and clients support it. Set a strong key, and remember it - clients will need this to be able to connect to the wireless network.  Try not to use WEP encryption - it can be cracked easily as illustrated here.

 

Step 7: Test the AP wireless connection

Start a wireless client and make sure it properly connects to the network. It should pull an IP address automatically from your existing router/gateway (the DHCP server).

Done, you now have a wireless access point.

 

Notes:
If both your main gateway and access point have wireless capability, you can use the same SSID, same security, and different non-overlapping wireless channels to extend the range of your wireless network and allow clients to connect to either one automatically.
If you can't figure out the default IP address by connecting to a router with a Cat5 cable, you can also look it up in our Broadband Hardware Database, containing IP/login information on more than 2600+ routers.

 

  User Reviews/Comments:
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by Philip - 2011-07-28 19:14
It is possible that the MacBook can only obtain an IP from the router but not from the AP, and self-assigns a non-routable IP when it is far from the router...
by anonymous - 2011-08-01 14:06
Hi. These are great instructions. I'm planning on doing this. I have a Linksys WRT54GL router that provides the wireless signal for my house. It is located upstairs. Downstairs, the signal is not as strong as it could be. I plan on using a spare WRT54GL as an AP downstairs. Should the new AP use the same SSID as the main router or should I use a different name? If I use the same name, how does the wireless card in my laptop know how to switch from the router to the AP and vice versa, if I were to walk around my house? Thanks for your help!
by Philip - 2011-08-05 14:56
This is a separate issue, however, in general:

When introducing multiple APs to the WLAN, you usually keep the SSID, security type and key the same, and you put both APs on different channels (at least 3 channels apart for less interference). That way, your clients should automatically connect to the AP with the stronger signal.
by user - 2011-08-16 00:40
Let me conclude this situation.. we hve to disable DHCP at the wireless router administration page....and connect via ethernet cble from the modem(ADSL or wtever) to the LAN port of wireless router(not WAN port)....btw, this article really helping me!!
by anonymous - 2011-08-30 19:57
This is great but does the access point have to be wired to the gateway/modem? I was kind of hoping that I could just plug it in and put it anywhere I want :/
by Philip - 2011-08-30 21:10
Wireless routers can be set to act as either an access point (wired WAN side, wireless clients), or in client mode (wired clients, wireless WAN side), but not both at the same time. What you suggest would require two separate radios operating in different modes and communicating with different devices; one on the WAN side to communicate with your router, and one on the client side to communicate with your wireless clients.
by Diane - 2011-09-10 17:09
Ok... please just confirm (please)... in layman's terms... does the AP HAVE to stay connected wired to the router? Thank you so very much.
by GOODIE66 - 2011-09-11 11:35
I am about to embark on installing an access point utilizing NETGEAR products. I have N600 WNDR3400 and N300 WNDR3300. Want to use N600 as router and N300 as access point.
Will the N300 work as a wireless?

Does the N300 have to be connected to a computer to use as access point?
by Philip - 2011-09-16 18:29
Access points need to be connected to the router (wired LAN) and then serve client computers wirelessly.
by Martin - 2011-10-24 00:49
Dear Phillip, this is an excellent article and thanks for writing it up.

However, I have a problem. My main wired router, a linksys, has a dhcp range of 192.168.1.1 to 253. Its own IP is 192.168.1.254. There is no option to change them. They are fixed.

Now I am trying to connect a Dlink wireless router DIR-300 as AP and taking your advice I want to set an IP outside the above range, but it won't accept an ip address outside this range. I tried, for eg, 192.168.1.255 or 256 or above, it does not allow, says inavalid ip address. i tried 192.168.1.0 does not work either. When I do select an address within the range of 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.1.253, it does accept but very soon I won't be able to access the AP by typing the newly set ip address into my browser. I cannot continue to access the AP to set up the wirless part.

I hope you understand what I am saying, it is really frustrating. Please help. Thanks.
by anonymous - 2011-10-28 19:30
I'm very new to these big things in networking. I was actually looking for something like this. I just want to know one thing, that is it possible to access the internet with this
by Philip - 2011-10-29 08:18
Martin, you shuld be able to either change the DHCP range on the linksys router, or just use a static IP within the range for the AP and reserve it for that client on the linksys.
by kevin - 2011-11-22 04:18
Clearest instructions I have found so far and lord have I read a few over the last 36 hours!! The mistake I had been making was to change the IP to an adress within the range. However, I still have not quite managed the connection with either of my 2 spare routers, I logged in to the netgear router changed the IP to one outside the range (keeping the first three sets of digits the same). I disabled DHCP, disbaled UpNp, disabled firewall, renamed the router and checked the channel was different to my main router. I connected the AP to my main BTHUB using a lan cable and tried to connect with my wireless laptop. Great connection, wathced a you tube video clip with no problem. Pinged the router from my destop 100% ok. All of this was done at my desk (where my main BT hub is) then I switched off the AP, and took it to where I wanted it to be in my house. I connected it and plugged the lan cable into a a powerline ethernet network adapter. When I tried to ping the router from my desktop I get 75% lost and when I try to log in to the router I can't get in. The wirless signal is strong but there is no internet connection. I wondered if it kep changing the IP when I unplugged it so I went back in and changed the static IP address, but that didn't work. Any ideas from anyone? I am going insane with this.
by Philip - 2011-11-22 21:19
This may be related to your powerline networking, especially since you say that the wireless signal is strong, and works well when connected via a network cable. I'd try to get to an outlet that is on the same breaker as your main router.
by kevin - 2011-11-23 11:00
Thanks Philip I tried it and I got a connection and started to test it by watching a youtube clip. However after a few seconds the signal seemd to drop and the network message said aquiring network address. In choose a wirless network the network connection was listed but it stated limited or no connectivity.
by kevin - 2011-11-24 04:42
Thank you Phillip. I moved location again and used my Belkin router and this time it worked. I think I also needed to delete the connections from my portable devices as these were remembering the old settings and thus were unable to connect. Once I did this the devices found a new wifi connection I was in business.

Thanks again - very glad I found your advice as I was at the point of taking a large hammer to it all!
by anonymous - 2011-12-10 16:17
After setting up my Belkin Surf N300 for which i paid 20 dollars, i discovered it has a setting on the menu for access point only. much nicer and cleaner
by ttowler - 2011-12-11 22:05
These are great instructions. I set up a second Belkin router as an access point and I can can connect perfectly with wireless cliens. However, the main router does not seem to assign IP addressess to clients connected to the LAN ports of the access point. I thought that the router would work as a hup when it is used as an access point and be capable of using the LAN connections as well. Do I need to configure something differently?
by MSA - 2011-12-25 13:23
Thanks for posting such a helpful instruction.

What if one doesn't have access to the main LAN router? How can we figure out its DHCP range if we don't have administration level access?
by Umesh - 2012-01-05 15:40
Thanks you very much. Managed to setup a Dlink DIR-825 dual band wireless router using these instructions. Called Dlink but the girl over the phone could not understand why I am using a Wireliss router to do the job of a Wireless access point. I explained her that it was cheaper option and its possible to do so. She advised me to buy a access point and call microsoft to alter my DHCP settings.
Anyway, your instructions have hepled a lot. If the Dlink consultant could tell me how important it is to connect the ethernet cable into the Lan port and not the Wan port I would have solved my mystery long time ago. It took me 3 days to acheive a good result.
Cheers
Umesh
by Steve - 2012-01-11 13:14
Great help on this topic - thanks!
by Athena - 2012-01-12 19:04
Easy set up - no problems.
Used old Belkin N1 wireless router which was gathering dust.
Now have a brilliant signal for my laptop and mobile.
by anonymous - 2012-01-18 12:00
Great instructions- Linksys-Cisco technical support was not help on this. I have additional Routers I will setup for better signal to make them Access points.
by anonymous - 2012-01-19 16:54
Thank you very much but I have question why I shouldn't use the wireless port of the router ? Could you explain to my. Best regards
by Philip - 2012-01-20 18:05
You shouldn't use the "WAN" or "Internet" port on the router, because then you involve its routing capabilities and they get in the way, double NAT is not fun to play with.

If you really meant a "wireless port", by definition, an access point serves clients wirelessly, but is connected via ethernet cable to the router/lan. You can't use the same radio to connect to both another router and clients.