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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 anonymous - 2015-04-09 04:57
It's (originally) an almost 8 years old post, but still brilliant. After struggling several days with other solutions, this helped me right at first run. THX!
by PROV - 2015-09-06 19:25
Hi Philip,
Thanks for all the great information.
I have a question that I'm not sure if it was answered in this thread.
Can I have a truly wireless access point? In other words, do I have to physically connect my old Netgear WNDR3800 to my new Netgear 7000 via a Cat5 to make my Netgear WNDR3800 an access point or can I set up my Netgear WNDR3800, so it can connect to my Netgear 7000 wirelessly?

Thanks so much!
by Philip - 2015-09-06 21:06
An access point is connected via Cat5 Ethernet cable to your main router, and serves clients wirelessly.

Your old router can act as an access point, as described above. It can also be set as a wireless client (wireless WAN connectivity to the main router, wired connectivity to clients). However, it can't do both at the same time (wireless to both the main router and clients). Only wireless repeaters/extenders do that, and they generally cut the wireless speed in half (for most residential wireless repeaters with a single radio).
by PROV - 2015-09-06 21:13
Great! That's for confirming.
I really appreciate it.
by Prov - 2015-09-28 22:03
Hi Philip,

I hope you can help me again.
My old Netgear WNDR3800 router is set up as an AP on my second floor of my house. My new Netgear 7000 router is set up as my new gateway on the first floor of my house. It appears that all my 2.4G devices connect to my old Netgear WNDR3800 router even if the devices are just several feet away from my new Netgear 7000 router. All my 5G devices connect to the new Netgear 7000 router. I can't imagine this being correct or the most beneficial way of using both netgear routers. Can you help me understand why this is? Is my 2.4g radio on my netgear 7000 not working correctly? Any help you can provide would be so much appreciated again.

Thank you,
by Philip - 2015-09-29 10:03
Once your devices are associated with an access point/router, they will only reconnect to another if the signal is very low and they are outside its range. Sounds like your clients are not outside the range of your AP, and they connected to it first..

If you'd like to manually configure which device wifi clients connect to, you can always rename one of the networks (change its SSID), so that you know where you are connecting to. The only downside to this approach is clients would get disconnected from the internet before associating with the other access point.
by vahid - 2015-10-20 09:11
Thanks. very good.
by twistfaria - 2015-11-13 20:53
This was really helpful for me as well thanks for writing it and still updating it. I do have something you might need to add in for some peoples routers and also an issue that I haven't been able to figure out.

When I did the changing internal IP to a fixed IP step it wouldn't let me apply the change. It was because the DNS server fields were blank and it wouldn't except blanks as correct. They go blank and uncheck "get from ISP auto" when you change the IP address to fixed. I figured out by myself that I could just use the ipconfig tool to find out what my main router uses as DNS server and I entered those numbers in the field. After that I was able to change the internal IP address to within the same subnet but outside the range. Also was able to turn of the DHCP.

My main router is set at 192.168.0.1 (new netgear modem/router default)
AP Router changed it to 192.168.0.2 (an older netgear but ironically it's default was 192.168.1.1)
I had originally started this with another sites explanation so I went ahead and setup the wireless settings before changing the internal IP.

So now the SSIDs show up fine and devices can connect to them using the passphrase. The speed and signal is great. The problem is now I can not connect to the AP routers admin interface. When I type in 192.168.0.2 it just times out or says unreachable.

I have already tried it: wired, wirelessly connected, and have gone through the ipconfig/release, ipconfig/renew steps. The only thing that shows when I do the ipconfig/all is the gateway routers 192.168.0.1

Did I do something wrong? It seems odd to me that everything else would work perfectly even though I can't get into the routers interface.

Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated.

Thanks
by Philip - 2015-11-17 11:23
There are several options to find the correct IP address on the AP:

1) You can try connecting to it with a cat5 cable, setting up your local network card to:
- IP 192.168.1.(something)
- gateway: 192.168.1.1 (old AP IP address, it may have not changed)
- DNS: same as the IP of the gateway, not crucial

2) you can try resetting the AP

3) you can try looking at the client list in the admin interface on the main router, to try and find the correct IP of the AP...

4) you can try turning off the WiFi on the main router, so that you can connect to the WiFi of the AP and look at the ipconfig results/try the known AP IPs.

Note that your client has to be in the same IP block as the AP's IP address to be able to connect to it.. What this means is, if the AP is still in the 192.168.1.nn range, and your IP is in the 192.168.0.nn range (255.255.255.0 netmask), you won't be able to connect to it.
by anonymous - 2016-01-13 03:07
Very good tutorial, thanks a lot.
by richardcw - 2016-02-07 16:13
Aha. That explains it, thank you. I had the same problem. I couldn't access the admin account of my AP and now understand it's because I set its address as 192.168.0.5, whereas the IP is 192.168.1.1 and the DCHP is set to only allocate IP addresses for connected devices to 192.168.1.2 up to 1.200.
So my laptop trying to connect from, say, 192.168.1.10, can't see the AP!
Now to work out how to disentangle it without breaking it forever!
by anonymous - 2016-02-17 03:32
I have a wifi router with no cable connected except the power cable. Can i use it for LAN to connect two devices in same network as client/server using local ip address
by GT_in_SD - 2016-03-14 01:27
Instructions are good, but I had wireless access point confused with wireless bridge. Unfortunately the article doesn't mention the difference between them. After i got the access point setup using this article, I realized that my access point needs to be connected via ethernet cable to the network.

I think in most household situations there is one one wireless router connected to a cable modem. If you have the typical american problem of having a house that is too big, you want to extend your wireless coverage. If your house is wired for ethernet, you could use an access point to extend your wireless coverage. If your house is not wired for ethernet, access points need another component to extend your coverage. I believe a powerline ethernet adapter is a good option (i.e. pluglink 9650). If you have two wall outlets on the same powergrid, you can use a pair of them with your access point to extend your wireless range. Seems you can get a pair for $20. I will be trying this option out since most (even cheap) routers support access point mode.

Another option to extend your household wireless range is with a wireless bridge or wireless repeater. From my research, it seems most cheap routers (N150, N300) do not support repeater mode. You basically need two expensive routers since they both need to support it. One advantage here is the ability to extend coverage across homes that are not on the same powergrid.

It seems those pl9650s work across different power breakers in your home...I'm not sure what defines this powergrid.

I'm curious if repeaters can be connected in series, for example using five repeaters in a row to extend your wireless network a long distance. I'm sure google would know :)
by Nu_Ahmed - 2016-05-02 15:26
Thank you SG.net
I followed your instruction and it worked like magic and I am very happy with the Wi-Fi coverage now, but I have observed two things in my Access Point new setup.
1. My Belkin N300 blinking amber light which means that it's not online/no data yet it's online/data is transferred from the main router.
2. My wi-fi network on the laptop shows yellow triangle and a message says NO Internet and yet there is internet and I am online using the new setup. Can anyone tell me what's going on? The good thing that I have no problem getting online and actually the speed and coverage is much better, it's only the above two observations.
Thank you all.
by Philip - 2016-05-02 21:54
Your router may be indicating it is not online since there is nothing connected to the WAN port, not sure. The network adapters on your client computers shouldn't have that issue though.
by shiju - 2016-06-06 06:00
in my network, the gateway ip is 10.9.144.9 and devices are connected with ip range of 10.9.145.x, in the main router there are no dhcp, all devices are manually configured, there are 35 computers. now how can i make a router in to access point by disabling DHCP on the router( which is to be converted in to AP ) ?
by richardp - 2016-07-29 03:52
Hi
just a quickie, can I take it this set-up will require a permanent wired connection between the two routers via a cat5 cable ? or should they connect wirelessly ?
Richard.
by anonymous - 2016-07-29 21:10
In case of future updates, I suggest that a SUMMARY of the steps required is placed at the beginning. We can follow the details better that way. For instance:

1) set the wireless router/AP to a static address on the upstream routers network that is different than than the 'gateway' address (critical for future router admin access)
2) login and disable DHCP service on the wireless router/AP (usually)
3) configure the desired SSID(s) and WPA2 keys on the wireless router/AP
4) connect Ethernet cable from the upstream router to a LAN port of the wireless router/AP
5) test login access to the wireless router/AP
6) test wireless access including DHCP from a wireless equipped device

Job done!

NOTE - if the default router networks are different (say 192.168.0.0 vs 10.0.0.0) steps 1 to 3 will have to be done with a direct Ethernet connection to the wireless router/AP.
by karrot Harvey - 2016-10-25 17:00
I think the instructions here are the best I have seen so far. I am saying this even though I am still unable to get my system up and running. As good as the instructions are, I also have seen something which seems to be very contradictory. I am now wondering if his is where my problem is. At one point of the instruction it says the ip address should be within the range of the DHCP, and there is another section that says it should be out of the range of the DHCP. What should it reall be ? I am also using an Altai C1 access point to link with an access point/router/modem provided by my inernet provider. I am not certain if these instructions are applicable to this Altai C1 unit. Your help will be most appreciated.
by karrot Harvey - 2016-10-26 13:24
My DHCP range ends at 254, and when I try to set an IP Address beyond 254 I am told its not a valid entry/ Could someone please explain what is going on here for me
by Philip - 2017-01-14 08:15
karrot Harvey, the usable IP range is between 1-254.
IP adresses ending in .0 or .255 are not usable in most cases, (.0) is the network address, and (.255) is the broadcast address.

Please use our forums with more specific questions you may have.
by anonymous - 2017-01-16 05:49
Hi
I've set up a slave Netgeor router with a separate SSID connected to my primary router via CAT5 cable, my problem is I get 100mbps out of my primary router but only 20 from my secondary router. Is this down to my secondary router or what I can expect from any router I use as a slave?

Thank you
by Philip - 2017-01-17 08:20
It depends on your definition of a "slave" router, i.e. how it is setup. If you connect is with a cat5 cable (configured as an access point) you shouldn't see such a speed drop. What you are describing is usually associated/typical with wireless repeaters.

Please use our forums for more specific questions and discussing your particular issue.
by Hal - 2017-03-23 17:03
.1.0 for the end is called a loopback address, .1.1 is the address usually used for your main DHCP router, .1.255 is invalid as 254 in binary is the last value that fits the bit mask, 255 is too high. Set your range this way:
Set a range for how many addresses you'll need. Lets say you have 200 computers to link, and then you have devices that go with it. I would set a range of 3-254, then add a subnet mask that allows for use of two full network masks (ie I can use 192.168.1.x and 192.168.0.x) I would set my main DHCP to use the .1.x ending, and then set all my devices static, using an excel file to keep a list of them, giving them the .0.x ending. That way, you have to know the address of the device to find it.
Subnets:
255.255.254.0 means I can use 192.168.n.x where n is typically 1 and x can be from 0 to 254 (255 values). Change the .254.0 to .252.0 and I now have 3 network strings. I'd set backbone networking to the .0.x subnet, the dhcp to .1.x with a 2 or 3 to 254 net, and then set printers, scanners, etc to the .2.x network. It makes it easy to manage and lock down the network. However, I would also change the metric to a type c if possible... ...10.0.0.x instead of 192.168.1.x makes it easy to prevent people from setting their computer static and taking your network down.
by torch1ight - 2017-04-26 15:21
excellent clear guide. set up an old EE router to hook up the TV to Fibre. good work WiFi guiding fella!
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