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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 Philip - 2012-10-26 15:19
yamenh, your router needs to support repeater or client mode for it to receive its signal wirelessly.

Q, yes, wired LAN ports on the AP can be used for other network clients, and you correctly assume DHCP addresses will be served by the other router. Some third-party firmwares (DD-WRT) even allow for the WAN port to be reconfigured as an additional LAN port.
by MAK - 2012-10-29 14:28
You are awesome.....
by anon from california - 2012-11-16 20:49
AWESOME!!!! I'm lazy so I didn't join but I wanted to comment anyways!

This was a GREAT TUTORIAL! I've been tinkering with my network for the past few hours, trying to figure this all out since UVerse 2wire gateway only is "hyper" G wireless. psh!

thanks for helping me set up my N router for an AP! YOU ROCK!
by Nicholas - 2012-12-06 10:44
Great guide. I got my wifi router working as access point, however, it works really slow. Any idea why is this or what can I do?
by luxrower - 2012-12-09 03:41
Great post. I could convert my router to an AP in 15' and finish the subnets in my LAN. Thanks a lot.
by Innes - 2013-01-03 09:56
I just wanted to add a comment of thanks. Even though the information provided is five years-old at the time of my writing, I have still found it to be very useful. It took fewer than 20 minutes after reading, to have my spare wireless modem / router working as a wireless access point, providing wifi connectivity to wireless devices in the far-flung corners of our property.

Perhaps it might be helpful for others to note that a physical ethernet cable is not necessarily required - I used Powerline adaptors (networking over mains electrical cabling) to get the network connection to the access point.
by David - 2013-01-04 02:20
Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!
by babis - 2013-01-05 08:20
Thank you!!!!!!!!!!
by jasedebase - 2013-01-11 00:16
First time I've commented on instructions on the internet, as these are the best I've ever come across... You are a true legend!

THANK YOU!!!!!
by Tekken - 2013-01-11 11:07
The simle answer to your question is 192.168.0.2. ICS uses the 192.168.0.x scheme by default and changing the DHCP range is difficult.
by anonymous - 2013-01-27 13:27
thanks
by mrbig83 - 2013-02-16 10:06
Hi, I'm really struggling! Please help!

I have logged into my gateway routers set up page, but it doesn't tell me the DHCP range - only that DHCP is 'enabled'. Is there another way to find this out?

Also, I've connected my wireless router to be used as an access point to the computer via ethernet cable (using LAN socket, not WAN). However I can't seem to get its IP. I've tried ipconfig /renew, but that doesn't seem to do anything, and have also rebooted but still no joy. I've tried it with the wifi switch on and off. Any suggestions?
by wesayukdotcom - 2013-02-16 19:13
Hi there

Great article really appreciated, it saved me from almost giving up thinking I had wasted the money on buying a router thinking I could make it work as a WAP.

I thought I had to use the WAN port on the wireless router in order for routing to work from one device to another - but it actually proved easier than that.

Now enjoying 108Mbps Wi-Fi networking with my DLINK DI-784 DualBand 108Mbps Router Wireless acting as a WAP connecting to the feature rich DLINK DIR 855 XTREME N DUO MEDIA ROUTER for doing all the fancy firewall, bandwith shaping stuff etc etc. A great combination all from ebay for a very small outlay.

PS you need DLINK DWL-G650M Air Plus compatible PCMCIA WLAN cards to get the full 108Mbps bandwidth. Makes a big difference when watching 720p online streaming !!!

Thanks once again mate

o:)
by Bo3b - 2013-03-21 10:13
Long time Frontier DSL customer running Cisco 677 modem in "RFC 1483 Bridging Enabled" mode connected to Netgear WNDR3700 wireless router. I'd like to replace the obsolete Cisco with something a little more current and manageable. Settled on dLink 2540B ADSL2+ 4 port router. However, it appears I can't install the dLink in full "bridged" mode and still have access to the LAN ports so I'm looking for alternative topologies.

What are the performance and security pros/cons of the "Access Point" approach as described in this article?

Thanks,
Bob
by Philip - 2013-03-21 10:34
Seems that with your old setup, the NAT router functionality that protects your LAN was performed by the Netgear Wireless router, while, with your new setup the same would be performed by the D-Link modem/router instead, and the Netgear wireless router will be hidden from the internet.

In both situations, you should keep all your devices behind one NAT router. If anything, the new setup should be a bit more secure by bringing that NAT device to the perimeter of your network, instead of behind a bridged modem, that is one less device exposed to potential attacks.
by Bo3b - 2013-03-21 11:38
Unfortunately the Cisco does not provide an easy means to determine configuration settings. I do know that the Netgear wireless router is providing DHCP and under the WAN setup section reports "NAT filtering -> Secured". I'm not committed to any specific approach. I just want to create a reliable, secure network with highest possible wired and wireless throughput.

The people at dLink tech support seem to think that a "bridged" modem to DSL connection is best. Can you comment?

And you didn't answer my original question - Performance and security pros/cons of the "Access Point" approach as described in this article?

Thanks for the quick reply,
Bob
by Philip - 2013-03-21 12:16
Neither a bridge, nor an access point provide any security to your network. Performance-wise, newer devices with more processing power and memory should perform better, unless you're comparing business/enterprise vs. SOHO models.

For specific questions, you may obtain better responses in our forum.
by RonWest - 2013-04-05 20:31
I know this has been addressed but I am not quite clear on the answer.
I have a Linksys wrt54g router that I would like to use as an access point. Will the wired Ethernet ports on the Linksys still function after the setup conversion. I have 3 devices that need the hard wire and 3 wireless units. I'd appreciate any and all ideas and comments.
by Philip - 2013-04-06 22:38
You can set your router as an access point as per this guide. You should use one of the LAN ports to connect to your existing network, and you can use all the additional LAN ports for clients as well, they will function. With dd-wrt, you can even set up the WAN port to be used as a LAN port, but this is beyond the scope of this article.
by Injae - 2013-05-03 06:13
I have followed these instructions and I have reconfigured a Sagecom F@st 2704 to be my access point and I have a Cisco EA6500 for a router. The access appeared to be working great, until I got out of range and returned. My wireless device (Android Smartphone) could not reconnect to the access point. It got stuck Obtaining the IP Address. I can correct this by either restarting the wireless device or restarting the Access Point. Any suggestions?
by wblue - 2013-05-31 08:06
i have a question, in relations to step 2 and 4.

"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). In this example, the DHCP range is from 192.168.1.10 to 192.168.1.100

My new wireless router/access point is set to use 192.168.1.2 as its IP address.

isn't 192.168.1.2, in the DHCP's Range of 192.168.1.10 to 192.168.1.100?
It said that the new WAP address, must be OUTSIDE the range of the DHCP..Am i missing something here? Can someone pls elaborate?

Thanks..

Oh, never mind, i see..i was thinking 192.168.1.2, was 192.168.1.20..my bad, don't know what i was thinking..
by Anon Ymus - 2013-06-12 12:09
Thank you so much! I spent an hour on the phone with DLink technical support and the lady was so unhelpful! With your instructions I was up and running within 10 minutes.
by ErikOutlaw - 2013-07-01 14:31
Great guide, helped me a lot & my WLAN now works flawless in the entire house. Got to buy some new CAT - 6 cable tough, so it looks nice too.
by Gabriel - 2013-07-10 15:49
Thank you, man! You saved my life! I love you! Lulz!
by dino 1923 - 2013-07-12 03:00
Thank you for this article.

I have a TL -WR841N wireless router and a spare Netgear WPN 824 v3 wireless router that I am trying to set up as an access point to extend the effective range of wireless signal.

I think, I have followed your instructions, but hit a snag when I try to set the IP address at 192.168.1.2 (the main router has 192.168.1.1 and the range is 192.168.1.100-199).

The message is "Invalid Gateway IP Address, please enter again!"

I have tried others outside the range but get the same message.

Can you suggest what I might try, please?
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