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Configuring two wireless routers with one SSID network name

Configuring two wireless routers with one SSID network name

When we moved into the new house and setup the new home office a few years back, I posted about wiring the house for wired Cat-6 ethernet. I’ve never liked or trusted wireless, so when we started building the place it was always in the plan to wire everything and focus on speed.

Fast forward to 2010 and the Wii is wireless, the iPad and iPhones are wireless, the Windows Phone 7 is wireless, my wife’s laptop is wireless, and it’s all slow. It’s slow because I’m using the standard Verizon (now Frontier) FIOS wireless router to cover all corners of a two story house. Over the last few weeks it’s been especially irritating as the wife has moved her laptop into another room and I’ve started watching streaming Netflix from the corner of a room I’d never had a wireless device in.

I tried using the standard admin interface to boost the power of the wireless router a bit, but that didn’t work. Then I bought an aftermarket external antenna for the router (it just screws on and replaces the standard antenna) and while that helped a little, I was still getting 1 or 2 out of 5 bars in the two rooms we used wireless devices the most. Streaming video or news (audio or video) or downloading podcasts was impossible.

I found an extra Verizon Router in my pile of tech junk while cleaning up and then got the idea to make a second wireless network upstairs. Sure, I could set it up easily with another SSID (service set identifier – a wireless network name) but that would be cheesy and my devices wouldn’t roam smoothly between networks.

 

The Starting Point

In my case, I had a standard Verizon (ActionTec) router with the IP of 192.168.1.1. That’s a static (non-changing) address. The router has DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) turned on, which means that this router hands out IP Addresses to my devices. It hands out those addresses in a certain range, specifically 192.168.1.2 through 192.168.1.254.

Your router will likely vary, but on this one you navigate to My Network, My Network Connections, then click on the Edit icon on the main network interface. You’ll end up here:

Picture of the Network Connections Screen on a standard Verizon ActionTec Router

Notice the Start IP Address and End IP Address. You’ll want to change this to 192.168.1.3 because we’re going to use 192.168.1.2 as a static address for the second router when we set it up.

As an aside, you really should make sure your wireless router is using WPA2 for wireless security. If you’re using WEP, it’s about as effective as tissue paper, so change it to WPA2 with a strong password or find a techie nephew to do it for you.

Next, turn off your first (primary) wireless router completely. Routers aren’t expecting folks to do what we’re doing, so when you turn on the second router it will also default to 192.168.1.1. You’re turning off the first so the second can be changed.

Turn on the second router and set its static IP address to 192.168.1.2. Under IP Address Distribution, set it to “disabled.” It’s important that you don’t have TWO devices on your network passing out IP Addresses. This second router will only be bridging the wireless and wired world at your house. It has no responsibilities around IP addresses.

Here’s an unnecessary diagram:

diagramnotneeded

Make sure the wireless settings of the second router is the same as the first router. Same SSID, same security type, same password. The only difference will be the channel. Moreover, we’ll want to make sure the channels are sufficiently far apart.

Of course, if you’re rich and famous and have a HUGE area to cover, you can add a third wireless access point and just make sure that third AP uses a channel that’s sufficiently far away from the other two. Try to make the second router be 5 away from the first router’s channel. The guidance is channels 1, 6 and 11 are a good guideline. I used 11 for the first and 6 for the second.

Here’s a great chart showing the channel spread from Wikipedia. I used channels 11 and 6 for my two routers.

wirelessfreqchart

Of course, you’ll need an ethernet run going from a LAN port on your first router to a LAN port on your second router. In my case, each room has ethernet in the wall goingn to a gigabit switch. I pluged the second router into the wall from its LAN port and it worked.

Reboot everything, plug them all in and there you go.

Just thirty minutes later and I’m happily streaming video to my wireless portable devices in parts of my house that were previously useless.

Technical Summary

  • First Router
    • 192.168.1.1
    • DHCP to use the range 192.168.1.3-192.168.1.254
    • A wireless channel like 11
  • Second Router
    • 192.168.1.2
    • DHCP is disabled
    • Identical wireless security setup as First Router
      • Except the wireless Channel. Try channel 6 if the first is 11.
    • Plug hard-wire into the LAN port, not the WAN port
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DD-WRT is basically an aftermarket linux firmware for your Linksys router

DD-WRT is basically an aftermarket linux firmware for your Linksys router

If you are like most folks who don’t know about DD-WRT and your Linksys router is dying on you, it’s time to switch your OS to DD-WRT .

DD-WRT also works on over 80 other routers, so be sure to check the supported devices list here .

DD-WRT is basically an aftermarket linux firmware for your Linksys router. It’s like putting an aftermarket turbo system on your hot import carHow-to-Import-Your-Own-Supercar , except this one is open-source and free to download.

There are many instructions floating on the internet but the most important thing is to identify what type of Linksys router you have.

You can refer to the instructions on the DD-WRT website wiki here . It might look a little hairy but usually it takes 3 simple steps of uploading a new firmware via the web GUI admin interface, TFTPing another file, then simple rebooting and wala you have a .

Check the back of your Linksys router to see what model it is. I have several different Linksys routers ranging from Linksys WRT-G V8, WRT-GS V5, and WRT-GS V7.

I’ve successfully installed the DD-WRT on my WRT-GS V5 and my WRT-G V8, but have bricked my WRT-GS V7.

If you have WRT-G V8 or WRT-GS V7, you can try this guide here . I’ve successfully installed the WRT-G V8 but bricked my WRT-GS V7, so be careful.

If you have one of the newer models or thinking about buying one, I highly suggest trying to get an old one off eBay or get the WRT-G models. Although WRT-GS V8 is supported, sometimes, it can brick your router just like it happened to me.

Bricked your router while trying to upgrade to DD-WRT?

Well, normally this doesn’t happen, but here’s resources just in case you do brick your router.

The only choice I have is to make a hairydairymaid JTAG cable which allows you to directly program and erase the flash and the Broadcomhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcom chip inside the router.

If you ever brick your router, you can always refer to the WRT54G revival guide before trying the hairy dairy method .

Click below for on the rest of the guide to tweak the settings and make the router go 10 times faster!

Modify the setting on the DD-WRT and make your internet go 10 times faster!

Okay, just by installing DD-WRT, you made your internet connection and your network about 5 times faster. With more little tweaking with the admin settings, you can squeeze out some more performance.

Now comes several steps that can REALLY make your internet and network faster.

Here’s how to do it:

After installing your new DD-WRT firmware and everything is working smoothly, go to Administration->Management and set the Maximum ports to 4096 from the default 1024. (This is basically the maximum number of ports available at any given moment. ) Now, I have cable internet and doing this made my internet much much faster, especially since I got about 7 computers hooked up to my network. My cable download speed went from 6 Mbps to 20 Mbps!

Another hack is you can also overclock your router, so set that to 250 Mhz and off you go! (I belive this overclock method is only supported with full versions of DD-WRT, not micro…so if you don’t see the menu, you can’t overclock it… :p )

QoS (Quality of Service) HACK

This is probably the most overlooked setting. I used to work with VOIPVoice over Internet Protocol phones so QoS was always important in setting that VOIP packets to be high priority.

Basically QoS allows you to prioritize the data depending on what you type of data transfer you want to make it super fast. Although you might not see whole lot of improvement if your network is hummin’, you will see a great performance increase under network congestion.

Simply go to Application & Gaming->QoS like shown above, and add the services you want to prioritize and set them to “Exempt”.

For me, I put http (Port 80), which is my web browser. Since I use the web mostly, I want my web pages to load fast!

I also put in some other ones like ftp, pop3 (my Outlook e-mailhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-mail ), and httpvideo.

Other than those services, I don’t really use other stuff much but if you use bittorrent or something, you can set them here too.

You need to know the port numbers in order to set this up. You can refer to common list of port numbers here.

MAC Address QoS HACK

I used to work as an IT admin long time ago and I usually have admin access to all the routers where I worked. (or wherever I worked that is)

Since I like to browse the web faster and do things faster than everybody, I would always go into the admin and put in the MAC address of my network adaptor.

Basically, by doing this, your computer will always get faster network speeds than other computers in the network. This worked great so I could download videos, music, and etc…etc… while my co-workers complained that their internet was slow.

In the same screen as QoS screen more towards the bottom, you can enter your MAC Address of your network adaptor and add it. Now, your computer will be the fastest at your work! Yes, don’t blame me if you get fired for it, but I don’t think it’s THAT evil, it’s only increasing your work productivity.

How to find your MAC address?

Simply check the Details of your network connection on your computer. (You could probably google this if you get stuck.)

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not just installing the DD-WRT firmware that makes your network and downloads faster, it’s also the little tweaking here and there that can make your router work like a race-horse.

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