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I have a bunch of old desktop computers (maybe 3) that I'd like to set up in my basement. However there is limited wireless reception down there. Running cables is not an option because I rent my place and am prohibited from drilling. The old machines don't have wireless ports.

When I have tested running the computers down there using a USB wireless adapter, they mostly stay on the network, but sometimes the connection will drop and never come back up. I was thinking I could buy some device that can relay traffic wirelessly to the main router, and then the computers can connect to it via wired Ethernet.

Then at least if the links go down, I can just reset the bridge device in one place rather than having to work directly on the headless computers.

I see that it is possible to use commodity routers to achieve this (the basic question is the same as this one). However, I'd like to know two things:

  • Am I likely to achieve any significantly increased level of link reliability by doing this? I have a suspicion that USB wifi adapters are not as reliable as the adapters in routers, but I don't really have any reason for this suspicion. Also the software might be a factor: I've seen cases where an OS has dropped wireless links on brief outages and not reconnected them, but I've never seen this happen on a wireless router.
  • Is it possible to do this out of the box with any device? Most articles mention using DD-WRT or another alternative firmware. (I don't have a problem with doing this, I use OpenWRT on the main router, but maybe if there's a device designed for this it would have better quality hardware.)

I'm aware of the hardware devices sold as 'wireless bridges', but confusingly half of these seem to require cabling into an existing router (ie they are basically access points), and the other half are simply repeaters (they have no ethernet ports). Any hardware recommendations welcome!

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

I found the discussion here useful: I'm using the repeater bridge setup, with a cheap Rosewill (rebranded TP-link) as the repeater AP (with DD-WRT on it) and a moderate-priced Netgear (with Tomato on it) as the main AP. Occasionally when on the repeater traffic will stall for a moment, but mostly it works well.

Reports indicate that best results, and widest options, come from using identical hardware on both devices. This just happened to be what was most easily and affordably available when I recently needed to replace a dying AP.

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A few months later and it's working nicely with 2x TP-Link WR1043ND running OpenWRT backfire in client mode. Once I had the hardware, this was almost entirely painless to set up using the OpenWRT client mode guide. Quite reliable so far too. Thanks! – amoe Mar 24 '13 at 21:56

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