Wireless Router as an Access Point

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How to install a wireless router as an access point in an existing Windows network…

I took my first big step in many years as the administrator of my home network this weekend. Until now, I had been able to survive without a need for wireless networking in my house. But at the pleading of my friend Verne, who often brings his laptop over, and my roommate Kyle, who just yesterday purchased a new laptop, I realized that it was time that I install a wireless access point. After looking over the deals at every online and local store we could find, Kyle and I found an offer for a free wireless router (along with a printer and some other goodies) with the purchase of his laptop.

This posed an interesting problem. All of the computers in our house were already newtorked, and I already had a very nice router running a custom configuration that suits my network quite nicely. So instead of replacing the existing wired router with the new wireless router, I was able to run the wireless router as a subordinate to the wired router so that it would act as a wireless access point. This article is for those of you who have been waiting until your existing wired router dies to upgrade to wireless technology.

Before the upgrade, I was running a network with a standard, four-port wired Linksys router which serviced the computers on one end of the house while an eight-port Linksys switch was placed at the other end of the house to network the remainder of the computers. I have managed to maintain this configuration and safely add the wireless router to the network so that it acts as an access point.

You might be wondering, “Why would I buy a wireless router when all I want is a wireless access point within my existing network?” After doing some research, I found that even if the router hadn’t been free, I would have most likely bought a router anyway, instead of a wireless access point. Check out the prices from Newegg.com for a comparable D-Link wireless access point and a D-Link wireless router.

As you can see, for close to the same specifications, and a very similar end result (considering the fact that this will only be accessed by laptop computers), you could save some money by purchasing a router and approaching the situation like I did. This will also be very convenient if your wired router ever decides to go kaput – you’ve already got a replacement.

To install a wireless router as a subordinate of an existing wired router in a Windows network for use as an access point, follow these steps:

    Plug in wireless router and connect to whichever machine from which you’ll be doing the configuration.

    After connecting the router to your computer and watching to see that all blinking status indicators come to a rest after intialization, open up your Network Connections (in 2000 and XP you’ll find this by clicking Start->Settings->Network Connections) Properties to see that you’ve been assigned a valid ip address. You can also find this by clicking Start->Run, typing “cmd” and pressing enter, then typing “ipconfig” and pressing enter. Your ip address should begin with either 192.168.1 or 192.168.0. Remember whether the third number is a one or a zero. If your ip address begins with any other string of numbers, it is not being assigned by the router and you will need to inspect your physical connections to make sure you’re connected to the router. If you are, hold in the router’s reset button and after 15 seconds unplug the router. Wait 30 seconds (all the while still holding the reset button) and reconnect the router’s power connection. You can now let go of the reset button and the router should be reset to its factory settings. Check again to see what ip address you’ve been assigned.

    Open up Internet Explorer (better stick to IE for compatibility reasons) and type in the address bar and hit “Go.” If the third number of your ip address was a 0, you’ll type in instead. This will connect to the router’s internal settings manager

    Consult your router’s manual to determine the default administrative login information. If you can’t find it, try these common combinations:

      - N: admin PW: (leave blank)

      – N: (leave blank) PW: admin

      – N: admin PW: admin

      – N: admin PW: password

    Log in to using your administrative login.

    Once logged in, the first thing you’re going to want to do is change your administrative password. Choose something that intermixes letters and numbers. Depending on the router, you’ll usually find this in the “general,” “options,” or “tools” areas. Be sure to hit “apply” before moving on to the next step.

    Find the options for wireless radio. This is usually called “wireless,” but may differ slightly depending upon your router.

    Change the SSID from “default” to something that identifies your network without giving away important information (for example, using your address is not a good idea).

    Turn on encryption by selecting “WEP” from the list of presented options. From here you can choose what level of encryption you would like and then create a passkey. If you select 128-bit encryption, the passkey must be 26 characters long and be in Hexadecimal format (you can only use 0-9, A-F, or a-f). Your passkey can be any combination of those characters, as long as it is exactly 26 characters in length. Be sure to write this down and save it for future use. This will be used by any computer attempting to gain access to this wireless network. Be absolutely sure to hit “apply” before moving on to the next step.

    Find the options for the router’s DHCP server. This is most commonly a link titled “DHCP,” but also may be found in the main options area. The last thing you are going to want to do is disable the router’s DHCP server so that it will instead acquire an address from the main (existing wired) router. After selecting “disable” and hitting “apply,” you will notice the status indicators on the front of the router blinking as the router reboots itself. Your connection to the administrative options will most likely have been reset, and it is now safe to close Internet Explorer.

    Reconnect the computer to your existing wired router and verify that your internet connection still works.

    Connect one end of a network cable to any outgoing port on the wired router, and the other end to any outgoing port on the wireless router (which you have now effectively turned into an access point). Be absolutely sure that the wireless router’s WAN port is left empty.

    Go to any desktop with a wireless NIC or any laptop you have handy and access the wireless connections dialogue. In 2000 and XP you’ll find this by clicking Start->Settings->Network Connections and then clicking on the “wireless” icon. This will open up a list of all of the available wireless connections within range. Find your SSID and note that your connection is listed as secure. Double-click on your SSID and, when prompted, enter the 26-character passkey you created earlier.

You should now be able to browse the internet via your own wireless connection! You can also check whether this connection works without needing a desktop or a laptop with a wireless NIC, by simply connecting any computer on your network through an open port on the back of the wireless router. Your original wired router is still acting as your network’s router, while the new wireless router is merely an access point within the network.

A few things to remember:

    When you want to replace your wired router with your new wireless router for use as the primary router, you will first need to reset it (using the method I described earlier). This will re-enable the router’s internal DHCP server, but it will also undo all of the other options. You will need to create a new administrative password, rename your SSID, and create another passkey before being able to configure this router as your primary router.

    Write your administrative login information, your SSID, and your passkey down and keep them in a safe place in case you forget them or need to refer to them later.

    Train anyone using any desktop or laptop, wired or wireless, on your network so that they will be able to enjoy full functionality safely and without detriment to your network.

Follow these instructions carefully, and you’ll be cruising along a wireless internet connection in no time.

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Jim is a designer and a staff writer for iEntry. He is also the editor of the FlashNewz newsletter.

Wireless Router as an Access Point
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  • Roo

    Great walk through! I bought a Linksys WRT54GS last night because my old access point (connected to my wired router) went bad. I didn’t want to give up my wired router because it has been stable and I just don’t wont to lose George (yes I named it.) Anyway, thanks for the article now I know how to keep George and get an access point running again. I cross my fingers it works with my Macbook Pro. My old access point did, but when shutting down George and hooking up the Link WRT54gs it didn’t recongize my book. *crossfingers*

    • leon

      I have the same setup. My question is how can I open ports?

      • GS-Double_AGENT

        Great instructions. A few things that you might want to add is make sure your wireless router IP is different from your wired router. If your wireless is and your wired is 1.1 then you have IP confects. As far as opening ports. You do that on your wired router. AP is just broadcasting your wired traffic. Your wired router controls everything. So you have to open ports on your wired router. The wireless is an AP with a 3port switch(one ports being used by uplink to wired) As far as hooking a mac up to it. As is should work. its the same 802.11G protocol as an Airport card. You just might have to configure it using the web browser or a PC.

  • Tom

    My network at home is wired (Linksys). I have a Laptop that I use at work that I occasionally bring home. I kept looking at Fry’s waiting for an Access Point to go on sale. No luck.  Today they were selling Airlink Wireless Routers for $19.00. Made the changes you recommended as well as changing the IP number of the Airlink. Works great. I hope all of those expensive Access Points stay and gather dust. What are those people thinking?

  • david

    i just go an ASUS wl-500gP router and it has the option to “use as access point” in the web manager but everytime i select this option the roueter restarts and i cant access the web manager any longer.can you help with this please?

  • Guest

    With that config can more than one wireless device connect to the AP ?

  • Guest

    Can I use an old B wireless router as an access point? I have a wireless G as my main router now.

  • http://www.advertentiespel.nl Michiel

    I had a wireless router and a got a new router from my new internet provider, a wanadoo livebox, that is had to use. To keep a WLAN in the house i purchased a wireless accespoint. (stupid, i should have come here earlier).

    This week the accespoint gave up, and here i was stuck again. I then remembered the wireless router and thought this must somehow be possible and started googeling.

    This is exactly what i needed, when following your instuction it all made sense, but i simply didn’t have enougn knowledge or experience to figure it out myself.

  • Guest

    Okay my problem is that i have a wireless router in place already and it works fine. i have a second wireless router which i want to use as an access point to reach further corners of my house. i want to know would i configure it the same way or would i have to do some other way if another way can some one tell me how!!!

  • buzz

    I really appreciated the walkthough of making a wireless router an access point, but I found that with my new router (D-Link WBR-2310) there was an option in the setup to click – ‘Use this router as an access point’ that when clicked disabled all of the NAT services for me. All I had to do was change the admin password and activate security.

  • Ravinder Singh

    I was looking for a solution where in thin clients on my network can boot from a wireless card

    Right now Ubuntu is being used as LTSP server and for experiments I used IBM Think Pad Laptop as thin client . Laptop is booting properly via PXE option. Now I want to use a Laptop as a Thin client with a wireless option.

    Is there an option with which the Ethernet and Wireless on the Laptop can be bridged and PXE boot request that goes from Enternet , goes from wireless.

    I have a DSL wireless router connected to my LTSP Server.

    I see some solution in this article but don’t know to go about,.


  • Guest

    Very easy to follow and understand. Very helpful. Thanks

  • Guest101

    I need to do the exact opposite of what you did. I have a wireless router already installed (D-link) on a business LAN running Windows Server 2003. I need to add a Linksys router so that I can set up a couple of VPN tunnels. My problem has been that when I plug the Linksys in, its not recognized by the server. I really don’t want to take out the wireless router but if I have to I can. The VPN is top priority. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

  • Doug

    Oh boy thanks so much!

    I’ve followed the steps and everything was fine!

    Thanks for sharing the tutorial.

    A Hug

  • melf

    I know next to nothing about networks and was successful. Thank you for great instructions!

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