Helpdesk Challenge – Improve your home wi-fi signal with an extra router
Last week we explained how to boost your home wi-fi signal in five steps. Trouble is, our last tip of turning an old router into a repeater is more tricky than simply checking its position in your home. The process should extend the wireless signal to the darkest corners of your home, but you’ll likely spend 30 minutes setting it up.
Don’t worry, we’ve laid out the key tips you need to make for a hassle-free experience. Read on for our step-by-step guide below.
Wireless router buying guide – our expert tips
Check your router’s manual
Some routers have repeater functionality built in, while others need customer firmware. Find out from your router’s manual to see if it’s possible to use a second wireless router to repeat the wi-fi signal or use it as a bridge – official documentation is available for the following Apple, Belkin and Linksys.
2) Enable the built-in repeater mode
Before starting, make a note of the MAC address of both the current (‘primary’) and ‘old’ routers. It’s often labelled on the bottom of the router and looks like ’00:00:00:00:00:00′.
Configure your current (primary) router
- Power on your current ‘primary’ router and connect your computer to it via an Ethernet cable. Open a web browser on your computer and enter the Admin page URL (most are like http://192.168.1.1), then the username and password. The manual will contain this information and guidance to the admin page settings.
- Locate the wireless repeater settings on its Admin page and enable/change as appropriate – you’ll either have a drop-down menu to select your router’s mode or a checkbox to tick. This is often found in the ‘advanced’ wireless settings and named differently between brands, such as ‘Wireless Repeater’, ‘signal repeating’, ‘Wireless Bridging and Repeating > Repeater with Wireless Client Association’, or as with Apple ‘Wireless Bridge Mode’.
- In the wireless repeater settings, leave it set to access point mode. Fill in MAC address of the ‘old’ router and click Apply, Save, or as appropriate to save the new settings.
- Look for a setting relating to the router being set as the ‘DHCP Server’ and make sure it is enabled. It might not be present, but check in any sections that mention ‘LAN IP’ or ‘DHCP’. The IP address should be set to 192.168.0.1, then ‘starting’ IP address at 192.168.0.4, and ‘ending’ IP address 192.168.0.255. Save the settings.
Configure your old router
- Connect the Ethernet cable to your ‘old’ router and power it on. Enter the Admin page and locate the wireless repeater settings (similar to steps 1 and 2 above).
- In the wireless repeater settings, change it from ‘Access Point (AP)’ to the ‘repeater’ option (for some routers you may have to create a wireless bridge).
Note: If you don’t find these settings, then this isn’t possible or you’ll need custom firmware.
- Enter the MAC address of your main (‘primary’) router, but other settings are different here.
- Look for LAN/IP address settings. Turn off any setting relating to using it as a ‘DHCP Server’ – you don’t want it to act as the chief router.
- Next, change its IP address to 192.168.0.2 and write this down as this will be the address used to enter its admin screen in the future. Save the settings.
- Make sure that the wireless settings are the same as those used by the main router (such as SSID (network name), security mode, Channel, and MAC Authentication).
- Next, make sure all routers are powered off. Wait a minute, then power on the ‘primary’ router.
- Pick a spot to locate your ‘old’ router (the ‘repeater’) in an area close to where you’ve struggled to get signal (this could be a different floor). Then, power it on and check if you now have an improved wireless signal.
Installing custom firmware
Some routers don’t have repeater mode built-in, while others have the capacity but require you to install custom firmware to unlock this functionality. There is a risk that you could brick your router and, although most can be revived by sticking a pen into its reset button, it could invalidate the router’s warranty. Because of this and a more convoluted process, only advanced users should consider this – the DD-WRT website provides custom firmware and specific instructions for some routers.
If all else fails, you may need to buy a wireless booster or new router. Wireless networks aren’t always ideal – one solution to signal problems is to buy HomePlugs which use your home’s electrical mains circuit to share an internet connection.
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