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I want to make a setup like this:

cable modem <-cable-> wireless router 1 <-wireless-> wireless router 2 in another room <-cables-> PCs in another room

Basically, I want to extend my network access across the house and then have a bunch of network jacks available for my office PCs.

Right now, I have a cable modem going to a wireless router in one room and a PC with a wireless PCI card in it in the office on the other side of the house. I use internet connection sharing with the other PCs in the office. The problem is that ICS is flaky, especially when I switch to VPN on the Windows box to access files at work. I picked up a wireless USB adapter that I thought I could share among the PCs I work on but I'm not very happy with it so I'm going to return it (NDISwrapper support for it is poor).

Is this possible? My wireless experience so far has been pretty straightforward so I have no idea what kind of hardware is available. I've looked at network extenders but those just look like repeaters for signal strength. I want wired network jacks in my office.

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Wanting to do the exact same - but haven't figured it out yet - looking forward to some solutions. –  Martin Aug 6 '09 at 18:44
    
Re: recent DD-WRT routers, they should have Linksys WRT54G2's around somewhere. –  hyperslug Aug 6 '09 at 21:00
    
I looked at those routers but they are listed twice with two different chipsets, one of which is listed as a work in progress. –  Dana Robinson Aug 7 '09 at 1:05
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10 Answers

The search term you're looking for is "wireless bridge". There's an article about it and how to set it up in the DD-WRT Wiki. It's also goes without saying that if you're using two routers that can run DD-WRT, it's fully supported and fairly easy to setup.

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Thanks! I think this would work if I had access to compatible router hardware. –  Dana Robinson Aug 7 '09 at 1:03
    
Many many thanks Ryan - the advice there helped me getting my two Drayteks working! –  Martin Aug 7 '09 at 15:34
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up vote 15 down vote accepted

There are a lot of good ideas in the answers here. I'm going to compile them into a meta-answer and indicate what I did.

What I was looking for was a wireless bridge. In this configuration, two wireless routers communicate via their wireless connection and the remote router can make its wired ports available to nearby computers.

You can set this up in one of two ways.

1) Buy two routers which support bridging. You will probably have a much easier time getting them to talk to each other if they are from the same manufacturer.

2) Install replacement firmware in your router which supports bridging. Obviously, you do this at your own risk. The procedures do not appear that difficult but you can brick your router if you mess up. The firmware that got the most mentions here is DD-WRT. Be SURE to check that your router is on the list of supported hardware before making a purchase and be especially sure to pay attention to version numbers.

I went with the first option, mainly because I did not want to invest $150-200 on good wireless routers and then risk bricking them. If I had access to some cheap, supported wireless routers I DEFINITELY would have screwed around with the second option.

Here is what I did:

I bought two NETGEAR WPN824 wireless routers for $60 each (Best Buy had them on sale). Only WPN824v3 supports bridging which is sad because my current router is a WPN824v2. Once you get them past the initial setup (the install CD is a big waste of time, by the way), setting up a bridge is easy. You just check a box on the web configuration page and enter the mac address of the other end. The only thing I wasn't happy with is that the router can only support WEP in bridging mode which kind of sucks. So it turns out that I'll be keeping my old router around since WPA is more secure and I really don't want to go around to the myriad network-aware devices in my home and reconfigure them. Note that you CAN run a wireless bridge AND access the wireless normally with the WPN824, I just chose not to do so. So now I'm all set - I have wireless throughout my home and I have four available wired ports in my office, all for the low cost of $120. The WPN824 supports a couple of repeater points so you can buy another one if you need some wired connections elsewhere in your home or business.

The final chain is:

[cable modem] <-cable-> [original non-bridged router] <-cable-> [new router, bridge base] <-wireless-> [new router, bridge repeater] <-cables-> [PCs in office]

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The wireless bridge instructions on the dd-wrt wiki work very well with v24 SP2: dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Wireless_Bridge –  Jason Sundram Sep 22 '09 at 3:43
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I'm pretty sure this can work with special router firmware

for example, DD-WRT (custom firmware for some linksys routers) can be set up to run as a repeater. The linked tutorial does not mention any cabled connections. But I'd imagine you could plug an Ethernet cable into the port and it would work as expected.

Ah, looks like there's an entire section in their documentation for linking routers

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There are a couple ways to do this, I would suggest buying some compatible used versions of the Linksys WRT54G and flashing the firmware to something like Tomato or DD-WRT so you can make a mesh network and do all sorts of advanced stuff. If you brick them they can be unbricked for free or cheaply. A used WRT54G can be found pretty cheaply and in my experience they're very reliable even when they're old.

The other option (which does not require you to buy/make anything other than a long cable) is to run an ethernet cable from one router (as you would to a computer) to the other router, effectively making the second router a network within your network.

I know you opted to go buy new stuff but I figure I'd add this information in case anyone else was interested. Just google Tomato Linksys or DD-WRT for more info.

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I definitely didn't want to run a cable through the house (girlfriend vetoed that idea). If I were to do that I'd just use a wired hub at the other end and be done with that. –  Dana Robinson Aug 6 '09 at 23:21
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This is from a PowerPoint presentation I gave to a computer class in college. It looks difficult, but if you follow it, you can make it work. I was using two Linksys WRT54G routers, one with DD-WRT firmware loaded.

Adding on to your home network

SOLUTION: You can add a wireless access point in your house.

Setup: Log on to your original router. Make a note of the IP address and subnet mask.
This should be 192.168.1.1 and 255.255.255.0 for most of us.

Hard reset your new router. 30/30/30. With the unit powered on, press and hold the reset button on back of unit for 30 seconds Without releasing the reset button, unplug the unit and hold reset for another 30 seconds Plug the unit back in STILL holding the reset button a final 30 seconds.

Unplug your router and plug in the wireless access point. Log in to this router with the same IP address as your first router.

Configuration:Basic Setup Tab. WAN connection type: Disabled. Local IP address: 192.168.1.2. You want this to be different than your primary router and out of the DHCP pool. Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0. Same as the primary router.

Basic Setup Tab. IMPORTANT: DISABLE DHCP. Also, uncheck DNSmasq options. OPTIONAL: Setup the Gateway and DNS addresses to match the primary router’s IP address.

SAVE: Be sure to save or your settings will be lost when you change screens.

Configuration (continued): Wireless -> Basic Settings. Wireless Mode: Client Bridge. Wireless Network Name (SSID). YourNetworkName Here.

Network Configuration: Bridged. SAVE

Configuration: (con’t)Wireless -> Wireless Security. When choosing your security type, keep in mind that your clients must also support that type of security!!

Security Mode: WPA2. WPA Algorithm: AES. WPA Shared Key: >8 characters.

Write down your shared key. You will need it to set up your client devices. SAVE

Configuration: (con’t)Services -> Services These settings are optional however I had to make these changes to make my system work. DNSMasq: Disable ttraff Daemon: Disable SAVE

Configuration: (con’t)Administration -> Management (Recommended) Info Site Password Protection: Enabled SAVE

Installation Unhook your wireless access point. Plug your primary router back in. Set up your WAP where you are going to be using it.
I have mine behind my TV.
Connect any LAN wires you need to connect.

Installation (continued): Now it is time to setup your clients to your WAP.

I chose to set mine up with static addresses so I would know what is what.

My settings are:

Xbox: 192.168.1.20

Wii: 192.168.1.21

DirecTV: 192.168.1.35

If I add anymore games, I would put them in the 192.168.1.2X range.

Installation (continued) Next, you will need to set your Default Gateway to the IP address of your primary router. 192.168.1.1

You will also need to setup the DNS address. If you have COX, it will be something like 68.105.29.11.

Finishing Up Now it is time to test.
Hopefully everything works on the first try. However, that usually isn’t the case with these kinds of home projects. This is how I made mine work. Yours may take a little finesse to make it happen. Also, make sure to pick up your mess.
I know at this point I had things moved and wires everywhere.

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If the routers you had were compatible, some models support "bridge" mode which you can bridge each node together. However, you would not have any wireless device connectivity because the wireless communications would be dedicated to the "bridge".

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What you need is a wireless bridge/access point like this dlink 1522 although updating the firmware on a router seems fun if you have one that would work.

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You are not going to have much luck trying to get one access point to associate wirelessly with another. Some higher end wireless routers have support for dual radio setups where the users talk to the network in the G or N band and it talks to the back end network using the wireless A band.

With the higher end wireless routers it allows you to network all of the access points together into a single network. Getting the routing to work will be a bit challenging as well.

Lower end wireless routers generally would require a direct Ethernet cable between devices for it to work properly.

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I wirelessly bridged a Linksys (stock firmware) to an ASUS (DD-WRT) w/out issue. I do remember that some devices don't bridge outside of their brand, but I wonder if that was just a "firmware issue" (read: anti-competitive business practice) –  hyperslug Aug 6 '09 at 20:05
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Not as a direct answer to the question, but more of an alternative approach.

If you decide not to bridge 2 wireless routers and are looking for another solution try using:

Ethernet over Power line in your home/office.

There are several products, their price is still a tad high, but one benefit is that you're running the equivalent of a hard line across the house/office and avoid any configuration headaches.

Here's an example of a D-Link model.

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Apple's airport products, (Express and Extreme) support this out of the box via WDS (Wireless Distribution System). They're more pricey but I've had good experience and the connection is not nearly as flaky as some of the D-Link products I've used.

The setup is simple and straightforward. They use a non web-based utility that's very responsive.

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