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I have a home network consisting of a router plus a wireless range extender (repeater), and I cannot reliably identify to which of them my laptop is connecting (both are in range).

I tried using arp -n from the laptop, but it always returns the Ethernet address of the router, even when I'm connecting via the range extender (it is easy to notice the difference, since the connection goes from 0.2 MBps to 10 MBps).

I tried setting the BSSID in the (Mate) network manager of my laptop to the MAC address of the range extender, but the connection often slows down to a point in which it seems the laptop is connecting directly to the router, so I'd like to confirm if this is the case.

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Use iw dev link to see the Wi-Fi link information:

$ iw wlan0 link
Connected to 24:a4:3d:9e:a2:16 (on wlan0)
        SSID: Home
        freq: 2462
        RX: 912692438 bytes (1247502 packets)
        TX: 77739414 bytes (744392 packets)
        signal: -37 dBm
        tx bitrate: 65.0 MBit/s MCS 7

        bss flags:      short-preamble short-slot-time
        dtim period:    1
        beacon int:     100

Somewhat more verbose information can be shown using iw dev station dump:

$ iw wlan0 station dump
Station b8:d3:41:f1:5a:83 (on wlan0)
        inactive time:  186 ms
        rx bytes:       2697906
        rx packets:     12566
        tx bytes:       698344
        tx packets:     3350
        tx retries:     480
        tx failed:      0
        signal:         -51 [-51] dBm
        signal avg:     -49 [-49] dBm
        tx bitrate:     150.0 MBit/s MCS 7 40MHz short GI
        rx bitrate:     150.0 MBit/s MCS 7 40MHz short GI
        expected throughput:    47.350Mbps
        authorized:     yes
        authenticated:  yes
        preamble:       long
        WMM/WME:        yes
        MFP:            no
        TDLS peer:      no

For certain older drivers that only support WEXT but not nl80211, use the iwconfig dev command:

$ iwconfig wlan0
wlan0     IEEE 802.11bgn  ESSID:"Home"
          Mode:Managed  Frequency:2.437 GHz  Access Point: D8:A3:83:F1:58:80
          Bit Rate=150 Mb/s   Tx-Power=15 dBm   
          Retry short limit:7   RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
          Power Management:off
          Link Quality=45/70  Signal level=-65 dBm
          Rx invalid nwid:0  Rx invalid crypt:0  Rx invalid frag:0
          Tx excessive retries:0  Invalid misc:149   Missed beacon:0
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  • Perfect, this allows me to see I'm still connected to the repeater so it is actually defective. – anol Nov 17 '14 at 14:35
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I think your question is incomplete. The answer to your question is that you are connecting to the router, that is why the mac address of the router shows on your station. The range extender likely acts as a transparent bridge and does not have a mac address.

Try to include more specific info in your questions, when you say "I tried using arp -n", it is important to know if you are running the command on the workstation or the router. Very different results may be returned. Also, the type of OS and often brand of router can be very helpful. In some circumstances, adding and "a" to the arp command can help:

arp -na <-- On linux and some routers.

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  • I added some details considering your remark, and @grawity's answer enabled to me check that I'm still connected to the range extender, but that it is likely defective. – anol Nov 17 '14 at 15:16
  • While Ethernet switches often don't have a MAC address, Wi-Fi access points usually do. But no matter how you use arp, it's not going to return useful information here, because the ARP cache is filled by the IP layer, therefore it will only contain MAC addresses of hosts and gateways – never repeaters or switches. (The -a just makes it print information in BSD format, but in the end, it still lists the exact same ARP cache.) – user1686 Nov 17 '14 at 15:48
  • You are correct on the "-a". No excuses, I should have "man arp". After re-reading the OP, I still do not understand that he understands his dilemma. And the conclusion "to the repeater so it is actually defective" has me baffled. I have never used a repeater. I have always been able to run a cable, so I do not know how they configure. Do they act as a transparent bridge or do they have an arp address? If the former, then aside from signal strength, how does the iw/iwconfig commands provide insight? Just curious.... – Timbo Nov 18 '14 at 18:32

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