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How to set a Wireless Router as an Access Point

2007-11-22 (updated: 2014-06-08) 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 andres - 2010-11-15 17:19
I'm actually not sure why you guys insist on DHCP in home networking. Why not static? Not very "advanced" solution, I agree, but it's simplier if you are not into this stuff (no need to configure address range anywhere).

You could try using static IP addresses, and if that works you can always enable DHCP on one of the devices and turn on automatic obtain on end devices.

Personally, I would disable DHCP on the wired modem/router, use one wired port to connect to wireless router/AP (not using "internet" port there), and enable DHCP on this AP (not using whole 1-254 range, of course, but i.e. 200-250), in case you also need casual wireless devices to work when inside your AP signal range.

Also (please correct this if I'm wrong)...
It should be possible to run the whole thing on windows OS devices on AUTO config WITHOUT the dhcp enabled (windows APIPA should be able to take care of everything on small networks).
It should also be possible to run 2 DHCPs there, using 2 networks. One on wired router/modem, providing address config to wired devices (except the AP, which should be on static). Then connecting this wireless AP/router through it's "internet" port to the wired router/modem, which should then use it's own DHCP to provide addresses to the wired devices. Subnet masks might (should :) need to be configured properly, and dinamic address range as well, according to subnet mask properties.
by qvend - 2010-11-20 11:23
hi all
i just have only one BUT important question:
Are the routers have to be connect via cable in order to work like that?
I didnt read something like "unplugged the a/p from the main router..".
I have a philips as the main router that is connect into the internet line. Around the house i have 3 ip cameras but one of them doesnt work cause the wifi signal is not reachable. So, i want to use a 3com wirelles router as an access point, but to be set up outside of the house. With few words,i want the 3com being out without cable and take the signal from inside and expant it outside where the wifi signal is not reachable.
is it possible?
thanks
by Joel - 2010-11-21 08:25
Philip, this is the clearest and best explanation of configuring a router to function as an access point that I have ever seen! My router-turned-access point that I had configured about two years ago lost its mind, and I could not remember what I had done back then to turn it into an access point. Your step-by-step explanation with screen shots had me back up and running in 10 minutes! All the other "Quick Lists" of instructions are trash compared to your description. Tech writers worldwide should take a lesson. Thanks for taking the time to post it online, excellent work!
by jtimleck - 2010-12-08 22:55
Thanks again for this article, was much help and got me on the way in an awkward set up (I had to set my new DSL router in another room as my earlier router and this permitted me to a) have the DSL in a room where there was a phone jack, plug one hard wired computer into that router, then create the previous wireless router as an access point which could **also** have two boxes plugged into it - and I can still "see" EVERYTHING from the other room's computer, the primary managing one. Awesome, thanks.
by mar - 2010-12-12 11:19
I have a question...
After you set up the router as a wireless access point, is it possible to youse it wirelessly?
Meaning, not connecting it to the first router with the cable (Use its wireless capability to receive and send signal)
Thanks
by Denis - 2010-12-28 16:40
Muy Bueno, Gracias.
by David B. - 2010-12-30 23:41
Been trying to figure this out day and night for weeks!!!.....Thanks man!!!!! That was genious!!
by mike - 2010-12-31 03:03
very good article however i have an issue

when i disabled the dhcp on the wireless router, connecting to it wirelessly yields no internet connection and i couldnt even configure the router anymore because ipconfig gave me a weird address starting with fe80.....(something to do with ipv6? idk lol?)

to get around this i reset the router then enabled dhcp on BOTH routers however i made sure that their ranges didn't conflict with each other, along with assigning the wireless router an ip in between:

main wired router range: 192.168.0.1-192.168.0.148
wireless router static ip: 192.168.0.149
wireless router range: 192.168.0.150-192.168.199

it now works and i can connect wirelessly to the internet through the access point. is this a good idea?
also if i HAVE to disable dhcp do you have an idea of why disabling dhcp messes up the wireless router?

thanks for the article
by Roberto - 2011-02-16 10:12
I have this situation. I have the first router with wireless enabled and a SSID name, let's say "Home Wireless" (Located in my house's first floor) so, I would like to setup the second wireless router (At the second floor) so that when I get to the second floor (where I usually loss wireless signal) it continues connected with the same IP I got downstairs automatically without the need to reconnect to the second router. By the way, Should the SSID of the second router be the same as the first one?
by Philip - 2011-02-19 17:23
It seems that you're trying to accomplish something different than this article. What you actually need is to set up a router as repeater, or to setup a WDS (Wireless Distribution System).
by Steve - 2011-05-03 16:24
Thank you. I followed all your steps and it worked first time. I am not a computer expert.
My connection to the internet is with a Smartcom Wireless HSPA Internet connection with WiFi built in so I had some challenges.

In STEP 4 I had to go back and figure out how to correctly set the IP router/access point based on your example. Basically , just make the AP ip address the next ip in sequence.

In STEP 5, I couldn't connect my client computer to another LAN port of the gateway/router because I only have one LAN port on the Smartcom device. I may have done an ipconfig /renew on one laptop.
So I just tried it and it worked.

Thanks a Ton!!
by paulfcdx - 2011-05-05 20:53
great article, I note that you set you default gateway on the access point as 0.0.0.0, is there any reason not to set it to the same value as the default gateway for the router connected to the internet?
by Philip - 2011-05-05 21:35
Entering the gateway IP may only be needed when you are using the unit to route traffic to the WAN side... Since we're setting the unit in AP mode, and the WAN side is disabled, there is no need to specify the default gateway (clients get their default gateway directly from the DHCP server, not from the AP)
by anonymous - 2011-05-13 03:17
fantastic was easy to follow and worked a treat, thanks
by anonymous - 2011-05-31 09:08
Hi, wondering if anyone can help? I have a netgear wireless router working in my house but have an office to the rear of the house at the bottom of the garden, i can use my laptop in there wireless but the signal isnt great as its quite a distance away from the router and i cant use any handheld devices on Wifi as obviously the range is too far. I have an ethernet cable running from the wireless router in the house to my office..I have a spare old Netgear wireless router, was wondering if i conected the ethernet cable into the router would i be able to use the internet and have wifi as its feeding of the first one? I'm not the best with computers but if anyone can help me hook it up would greatly appreciate it. If its easier you can call me 07985422781. Many thanks people...
by anonymous - 2011-06-01 11:18
The kudos you have received over the years for your clear explanation are well deserved, Philip. I have a slightly different problem that I wonder if you might have some suggestions for. I am trying to set up a home network to test some server software I have written. I have a wireless AP/router that I am trying to configure so that a laptop that listens to it can connect to a local Linux computer via its DNS/Bind server. Thus, there are only three components: the Linux computer, the AP/router and the laptop, and absolutely no need to get onto the internet. I cannot seem to find a configuration where the laptop can automatically find the server by typing in its local domain "example.test", unless I force it to use the local linux DNS server by giving the laptop the server's IP address (i.e., it can't automatically find it). Any thoughts would be appreciated.
by Philip - 2011-06-03 11:07
For the laptop to find the linux machine by its domain, either the AP or the laptop has to be configured to look at the correct DNS server. Another alternative is to modify the hosts file on the laptop to statically resolve the domain name to the IP of the linux box.

I'd try to enter the linux IP as the DNS server in the access point, however it may not make any DNS requests if they're both on the LAN side, in the same subnet.
by anonymous - 2011-06-03 14:29
Thanks for your input. I found a solution using a modified system configuration. I installed a DHCP Server within the Linux computer working alongside its BIND DNS server and set the IP address of the DNS Server and the default gateway to the Linux computer's static IP address. I disabled the DHCP server functionality on the Access Point and maintained its static IP. So, the Linux server not only services the website data but also supplies DHCP functionality to the intranet. Any computer accessing this intranet can now automatically find the Linux server by entering its domain name without any need for host file changes.
by mask - 2011-06-14 17:06
Excellent article. I have been using this setup successfully for 3 years.

A tricky (to me of course) question:

Can I add a third router exactly the same way in order to get a second access point? I presume it will need to be configured the same way as the second one. And most importantly: Is it OK if main router is Annex B and access point is Annex A?

Thanks Philip.
by Sid - 2011-06-15 00:13
Excellent walk-through. I have been pulling my hair since yesterday to set up my wireless router as an AP. Not using WAN port was the catch !!!

Thank You Sir, This was very helpful. 5 stars to you *****
by Philip - 2011-06-16 23:02
Annex A and B refer to the ADSL side of your modems/routers, so they will not make any difference as far as the wireless access points are concerned.

As to your other question, it is possible to use more than one access point, however, both should be wired to the router, and you should make sure to use the same SSID and security on both access points. You also need to pick two different channels, at least 6 channels apart from each other so the access points do not interfere with each other. If both access points are on channels close to each other you will run into a lot of interference and degraded signals.

If you follow the above, clients should just connect to the access point with the stronger signal automatically.
by anonymous - 2011-06-27 06:06
I have configured but not able to browse MS and hotmail and Gmail is also slow... but when I connect my ADSL modem directly to PC its fine but when I connecto to router it takes long time to open hotmail and gmail rest sites is opening...

PLS ADVISE ME ,, OR MAIL ME IN THIS ID -- HARIN076@YAHOO.COM
by anonymous - 2011-06-28 11:33
thanks heaps really helpful!
by youtim - 2011-07-01 21:58
Great instructions.

But I have a question related to this.

I set the access point up and every device I have easily switches between the two wireless access points except my MacBookPro. Even my iPhone and iPad work fine.

But when my MacBookPro goes to sleep or I restart and the access point (not the main wireless router) is the strongest it tries to connect and then it self assigns an IP address and can't connect to the internet.

Why is it that it will connect to the main wireless router but has trouble with the other access point???

Tim
by Josh - 2011-07-21 02:50
Please I need help here. I have a tp-link router. I need to have its dhcp server disabled as all computers connected to it gets to have the MAC address of the router. I need to resolve this as my hotspot software sees everyone connected to it as a single user. So I decided to disable DHCP and downloaded antamedia DHCP server thinking Antamedia would act as a gateway. I can't seem to get computers connected to the router to access the internet anymore. From what I have learnt, would it be right for me to say that I need another access point or maybe an ethernet switch to act as the gateway for DHCP to get back on? Please I need help on this as this is making things pretty hard for me....Is it possible to get the network to work if I configure Antamedia's DHCP server right? Thanks in advance.
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