Turn a WRT54G into a Wireless Extender
WiFi at the common 2.4GHz frequency is challenged moving around your house. Metal, water, wood, etc. all weaken the signal. Older style homes with long hallways, many rooms, and multiple floors are particularly challenging for the signal.
WiFi is broadcast in a torus (doughnut) shape from your antenna. This means that the signal is strongest with the furthest reach along a perpendicular axis from the antenna. So, ideally, you have your WiFi router in the centre of the house about computer high and that should get most of it. Of course, not every house is configured that way. And that’s why we sometimes need a WiFi repeater or extender.
I’ve written about these in the past and included some recommendations in my column then. However, I recently had a need myself for some WiFi extension and didn’t have one. What I did have was an old Linksys WRT54G WiFi router kicking around. These used to be as common as Crocs back in the 2000s. A lot of people have them in old boxes. Some people are still using them.
What does this have to do with WiFi extension, you’re wondering. Well, sometimes a router doesn’t have to be a router. Why this matters is this, on small home networks you generally only want one router. Occasionally you want more, such as when you need a separate subnet. Say for example, if you are providing WiFi for a separate suite. But, generally, just one is present. If you have two routers handing out IP addresses on the same network, it may cause conflicts.
Now, the WRT54G, like most routers, can have its DHCP Server capability turned off. Once you do that and a couple of other configurations, it’s no longer a router but is now extending your existing router’s DHCP capability to its location.
This means you can plug in your WRT54G to ethernet, and suddenly all the WiFi equipment is connecting via it back to the main router. Everyone’s on the same network. Yay, Among Us party!
Here are the steps to do this. Note, making the same configuration changes on other similar routers may work, but check your router manual first.
Before you start you’ll need the IP address of your main router and a computer you can temporarily plug into the WRT54G via ethernet.
Your computer may recognize the change, or it may need to be rebooted to get a new IP address. Once it does you should be able to bring up the WRT54G settings screen again using the Static IP address you used.
If anything went wrong, remember you can always reset back to factory settings with a 30-second reset.
At this point, you have a Wireless Access Point using an old piece of equipment that was doing nothing. Good job!