Lost in a tangle of unwires

Haven’t been on the blog much in the last 36 hours for a number of reasons. One of them was that my son and I have wasted good chunks of the last three days trying to extend my home wireless network. If you have help, I’d be grateful.

I have a new Linksys SRX200 wireless router that works fine. But it doesn’t reach the other corner of the house: the rooms over the garage. What I want to do is use another router just like it to extend my network; I’ll connect them with a wire or without, you tell me. We tried to hook the two routers together; didn’t work because the first router grabbed the address off the cable modem and the other router couldn’t get it; it delivered junk addresses to our PCs. So we bought a wired switch thinking both would work off that; same thing happened. I would love to get both working to give strong coverage throughout the house.

Right now, after all the work, we got a Linksys wireless range extender working, I hope. But because I had such trouble getting it working, I’m nervous about that.

We’ve tried many, many things before. I had a Netgear powerline extender (one box plugs into the router and the power on one end; the other box plugs into the power and transmits the signal from there). I’d love it of that worked but it was extremely unreliable: It would not deliver a proper address until I turned off the box and my laptop wireless again and again and again. We used a Netgear wireless router with it but that was no better. I had an Apple Airport Express but never ever got it to deliver anything but junk addresses.

So, help: How can I get two wireless routers working with one cable modem (the two of them connected without or with ethernet cable)?

And why does networking have to be so hard?

  • Bret

    Hi Jeff,

    I spent 3 months installing wireless access points in several large warehouses a year or so ago. While Linksys products are fine for most applications, I have found nothing beats the real McCoy Cisco hardware.

    A good tool to use when preparing to set up and “extender”/Access Point is a Wireless laptop. Find a spot where your signal strenght and quality are both about 30-40%. This is where you should install the extender. As for set-up and configuration, it isn’t that difficult. I think the Linksys should go find your router all by itself. Its pretty fool proof. Real Access Points are a bit more complicated, but the range can’t be beat. Depending on the size of your house, one real Access point would suffice. I dont know about the range on the Linksys extender, but if it is like their actual Wireless Router it isn’t that far.

    You may also want to try their high gain antennas.
    http://www.linksys.com/servlet/Satellite?childpagename=US%2FLayout&packedargs=c%3DL_Promotion_C2%26cid%3D1121121185927%26site%3DUS&pagename=Linksys%2FCommon%2FVisitorWrapper

    Happy New Year!!!

  • http://engelke.com Charles Engelke

    Since you are able to use a wire to extend your network, this shouldn’t be too hard.

    Connect your wireless router to your cable modem as always, and make sure that your PCs can connect through it both wirelessly and wired.

    Then, buy a wireless access point (not a router). Connect an ethernet cable from one of the router’s LAN ports to the wireless access point.

    Configure the wireless access point to use the same SSID and encryption key as your wireless router, but put it on a different channel (channels 1, 6, and 11 don’t overlap at all).

    Now, when your PC is closer to the wireless access point than the wireless router, it will connect wirelessly to that access point. That will pass the connections through to the router, which will give the PC its network address.

    It’s important that only one device be connected to the cable modem directly, because that’s all the devices most cable modems will support. And it’s important that only one device on the LAN side offers network addresses to PCs on the LAN.

  • http://everybuddy.org Matt Terenzio

    You certainly don’t need expensive products to accomplish this.
    I achieved it pretty simply with a D-Link DWL-900AP.
    This is just an access poiint that supports wireless bridging, either point-to-point or point-to-multipoint.
    In actuality though, I’m using it in client mode, which justs receives the signal from another access point, and passes it on. I have a Macand a FreeBSD box plugged in to a Hub which plugs into the receiving Wireless client.
    It looks like this:
    Cable->router->accesspoint – - – - – - ->access point(client mode)->hub->boxes

    Meanwhile, I have a laptop and.or other boxes with wireless cards that can receive from either access point.
    One definitely needs to read the manual, but it wasn’t a difficult setup. In fact, I think it was a web-based interface, which always makes me feel comfortable, for some strange reason.

  • rick gregory

    Personally, I’d just try this range expander.

  • http://www.blackrimglasses.com Ethan

    I hate to parade the Apple around, but I did this at UCSB when I needed to do projects in the gallery (no Internet access to speak of) using a handful of Airport Expresses. You can set them up to automatically relay/extend existing Airport networks.

    Basically I’d put one up stairs in one of the classrooms, in the window, then another downstairs in an office (line of site) then another in the gallery. Speed was fine. The one in the middle was set as a relay base station and the one in the gallery as a remote base station.

    Right now, even though we have a small place I still have our living room repeating our main rooms signal. Because I’m a geek. The airport express in the living room is optical out to our stereo as well.

  • http://www.drcookie.blogspot.com JennyD

    Why don’t ypu move the router to a more centrally-located spot in your house?

  • fred graver

    I agrew with Ethan — at the risk of sounding like the typical Apple geek, I’ve used airport and airport express successfully in many situations — including when setting up impromptu networks on television shoots. Sets up in a matter of an hour or so, and works even with pcs…

  • John

    Either get the Linksys range extender mentioned above or get a Belkin preN router and preN cards. It will extend your range enough that you don’t have to worry about bridging.

    http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatSectionView.process?IWAction=Load&Merchant_Id=&Section_Id=202570

  • Tim

    All you need to do is slap an Apple logo on top of this, and you have a new ad campaign!

    But if you’re staying in Linksysland, the range extenders will work, just with a bit more tinkering and cursing.

  • Harold

    This is not a hard problem (really, it’s not) and you already have everything you need to do what you want.

    1. Configure your routers so that they have unique IP addresses on the LAN side. Linksys likes the default: 192.168.1.1 If you have both your routers set to the same local IP address, everything will get FUBAR.

    What I would suggest is that you configure your router that you connect to the modem as 192.168.1.1 and the other to 192.168.1.2. (make sure that the value assigned to the “remote” router is not within the DHCP range assigned by the main router or you can get conflicts). Probably, you shouldn’t have to mess with the router that you have connected to the modem. It’s working already, so don’t change anything on it.

    Note: this is the LAN side IP address, not the WAN (modem side) IP address which is supplied by your ISP either permanently assigned, by PPPOE, or by DHCP. If you can connect with just one router, you’ve already got that router set up correctly. You are going to connect only one of your routers to the modem and will only use the WAN port on one of them (the one connected to the modem).

    2. You can have EXACTLY one DHCP server on your entire network. The linksys routers probably have DHCP enabled by default, so you need to turn it off on one of them. Again, as the router that is connected to the modem is setup and working fine, disable the DHCP on the “remote” router (that’s the one above the garage, I assume). The DHCP server on the main router will handle all client computers, even those which access your local network through the remote WIFI. This works, I’ve done it.

    Make sure that the range of addresses that your DHCP server will assign does not include the IP address that you give to the remote router. The range is a parameter that you can set up in your main router.

    3. I would suggest that you run two independent wireless network legs. That is, configure the access point parameters of the two routers to have different SSIDs, use different WIFI channels, etc. This means that when you’re in range of the remote, but not the main, you’ll use the remote only and visa versa. You can configure them both the same, but I believe it would be simpler to do them different. Other people may disagree and perhaps you can experiment to see which approach you like better.

    4. Now, you have to consider how you’re going to connect your two routers together. If you have the ability to do this hardwire, I think that’s the way to go. Makes everything simpler, in my opinion. Otherwise, you need to connect using a wireless “bridge”. I’ve never setup such a thing, and can’t say for sure I know how, but it’s more complicated than what you need.

    So, what you do is connect your two routers together using a LAN port on each. This means you are not using the router feature on the remote router. (With the router that you have, I don’t believe that you will need to have a crossover connection between the two routers as these Linksys routers probably automatically adapt. I forget what this feature is called, but almost all the home user routers are this way.)

    So, what you now have is one local area network with two independent wireless access points hanging off of it. Also, if there these were four-port switch routers, you now effectively have a six port switch (using one port on each to connect them together. One router connects you to the internet and serves up the local DHCP IP addresses, the other router serves as a dumb switch extension (the remaining LAN ports on the remote router are topologically identical to the remaining LAN ports on the main router) and WAP.

    5. Make sure that everything is set up compatible. Use 255.255.255.0 as your mask and make sure that every assigned IP address on you LAN is of the form: 192.168.1.nnn If you have any clients/computers/devices that you want to set up with a permanent (rather than DHCP) local IP address, your gateway will be 192.168.1.1 (or the other IP address that you assigned to the LAN side of your main router).

    So, what you end up with is one master router connected to your modem. The two routers get connected by a LAN port on each (DO NOT connect anything to the WAN port of the remote router). Wireless computers talking to independent WAPs (each router has it’s own Wireless Access Point). IF you have a computer connected through the remote router’s WAP and it needs DHCP, it will get it automatically from the main router.

    I haven’t done this with the exact router model that you are using, but I have configured and installed just such networks using similar (DLINK, NetGear, and older Linksys stuff) consumer quality gear. It’s not hard. The most important thing is that you make sure there are no conflicts in your system (multiple DHCP servers, more than one client with a particular IP address, etc.).

    Again, this is NOT a hard problem — it’s well within the technical grasp of just about everybody. I’m a moron (so I have been told) and I can do it, so you can too.

    Contact me if there’s anything that’s fuzzy.

    Harold

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Personally I’d relocate the primary router to the center of the house to eliminate the need for two routers.

  • http://halfass.com scott partee

    The problem is that you aren’t building 2 networks, you’re simply trying to extend ONE. Therefore, an extra router is superfluous. You only want 1 router per network, ideally. What you really need is either a bridge or another simple wireless access point and (possible) a switch/hub. Do it like this:

    Leave your first router alone. It’s working.

    Plug the LAN port from your working router into the switch

    Plug another cable into the switch and run it to your other room

    Either place another switch at that end or skip that step and plug in a simple Wireless Access Point (not router). Give it the same SSID as your router’s wireless network and copy the WPA or WEP passwords over.

    Done deal.

    There exist ways to extend the network via wireless “bridge” and whatnot, but I find a good cable b/w my router and wireless access point is just what the doctor would order — it’s fast, cheap and simple.

  • http://halfass.com scott partee

    oh, you may not have to trash that router you bought — it may have a mode in which it acts not as a router, but as a WAP. anyway, good luck.

  • Harold

    Scott says:

    “The problem is that you aren’t building 2 networks, you’re simply trying to extend ONE. Therefore, an extra router is superfluous. You only want 1 router per network, ideally. What you really need is either a bridge or another simple wireless access point and (possible) a switch/hub.”

    The “routers” are actually three devices in one package: NAT router to connect your LAN to the internet via the modem, 4 port LAN switch, wireless access point (WAP). If he builds the system as I suggest, he is abandoning the NAT router function of the “remote” router and using only the switch and the WAP features. In other words, you suggest that he put a remote switch and WAP above his garage and so do I.

    There is no need for an additional switch at the main router unless more than three LAN ports (one is used to connect the two 4 port switches together) are needed at that location.

    It turnes out that these consumer grade NAT routers with built in 4 port LAN switches and wireless access points are an incredible bargain. It’s much more economical to buy one of these than any two of the three components seperately. In other words, if you need a WAP and a switch, it’s cheaper to buy the whole router and just abandon the router feature.

    Harold

  • Felix

    Jeff,

    Buy two Buffalo WLA2-G54L Bridge Access Points. I use them to extend my cursed Qwest DSL connection to another building.

    http://buffalotech.com/products/product-detail.php?productid=90&categoryid=6

    Good luck, and Happy New Year

  • I.F. Stoner

    Join the Darkside, Luke.
    The Microsoft router is plug-and-play.
    bwahh-hah-hah!

  • Ian

    I’ve been thinking about setting this up myself which is how I stumbled upon this thread. I agree with Harold in that a router is cheaper than a WAP and should work fine as long as it will properly pass the DHCP requests along, which might depend on the make and model. Since I already have two wireless routers I’ll be giving this a try first : )

    The one thing I’m not sure about is whether or not to use the same SSID and key on both devices (I’ll use different channels to avoid interference). It makes sense in that only one client connection will need to be set up in Windows, but I wonder if there will be any weird conflicts, especially since my area of coverage will probably overlap. In effect I could be “roaming” between the two devices and since keys are re-exchanged after some preset time and will be determined by the device I’m currently connected to I’m curious if this will cause any issues. Once I have it tested I’ll post what happened.

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  • http://www.antwerp.globalhotels-24-7.com antwerp

    How big is the area you are trying to cover (out of intrest)

  • Sukii

    I am trying to do the same exact setup however I am wondering if anybody knows how to connect the two wireless modems together without a hardwire. Would anyone know the steps to briding the two wireless routers together?

    Thanks

  • Steve

    I am trying to extend the range of a Belkin pre-N router — yes, they have great range, but I have a very long house.

    I have two options — an Airport Express (Apple says it won’t work with non-Apple base stations, but others say it will) and/or a D-Link Air PLus Extreme G (DWL-2100AP).

    Can anyone tell me how to configure either of these devices to serve as a relay for the Belkin???

    Thanks!

  • fchow8888 (Ottawa)

    I have a setup exactly as Harold describes (two home routers connected by their lan ports with differend ssid’s and channels). I made sure the DHCP pools did not overlap, but they are both turned on. I even ran a cable between the wan port of the slave router to a free lan port on the master router (the one connected to the internet via it’s wan). It works. Furthermore on my laptop, which has a built in wifi card, I can put in another usb wifi adapter and connect each to a different ssid. Bonded together that gives me a two 802.11g channels in parallel. I can bond with ifenslave in ubuntu; in WinXP the bonding may be automatic. Seems very fast.

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