Turn an old router into a wireless bridge or repeater and boost your home network

Got an extra router lying around? Use it to expand your network

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If you own devices with wired-only (Ethernet) connections and your router or modem is too far away or your wireless network doesn't cover enough area in your home, an old router can solve your problems. By installing the free DD-WRT firmware on the old router, you can turn it into a wireless bridge or repeater. This means that even devices that can't reach your main router can get connected through the old router anywhere you put it.

There are a few different scenarios here, but for all of them, you'll need to install the Linux-based DD-WRT to replace the old router's default firmware--and give it not only more options but also enhance its performance. Head to DD-WRT to find out if your router model is supported and download the latest release. If your router can't install DD-WRT, you can always buy a used one, such as the popular Linksys WRT54G for pretty cheap.

[Review Linksys EA6500: a user-friendly 802.11ac router with decent performance and Security in 2013: The rise of mobile malware and fall of hacktivism]

Install DD-WRT: Do a hard reset on your router (check the manual or search for "[router name] hardware reset," then connect your computer to the router's LAN port with an Ethernet cable.

Open a web browser and go to 192.168.1.1 to get to the DD-WRT control panel (If your computer doen't use DHCP to get its IP address automatically, you'll have to set the IP address to the same subnet--e.g., 192.168.1.5).

Change the wireless mode: Go to Wireless > Basic Settings. Here's where the instructions differ, depending on what you want to do:

  • If you want to connect wired devices (e.g., your TV or game console) on the old router and have it connected wirelessly to your modem or other router, then choose "Client Bridge" in the Wireless Mode drop-down. For Network Mode, SSID, and Wireless Channel, set the same options as your primary router.
  • If you want to use your old router to increase the range of your wireless network, choose "Repeater" for the Wireless Mode. In the physical interface section, enter the SSID of your primary router and choose "Bridged" for network connections; this means that your repeater router will get the signal from and be connected to your current network. Under the virtual interfaces section, you can choose a different SSID so that you can connect to that router specifically if you're closest to it.

Hit Save and then Apply.

Set up the wireless security: For both the bridge and repeater options, next go to Wireless > Wireless Security and enter the security settings of your main router.

Change IP address: Finally, you may have to go into Setup > Basic Setup and change the router's IP address--to be on the same subnet of the primary router if you're creating a bridge, or on a unique subnet if you're in repeater mode. Take a look at the DD-WRT client bridge instructions and repeater bridge instructions for additional details and tips/gotchas/problems.

You can check if your new setup is working by going to Status > Wireless.

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