WAP, bridge, or repeater?
August 11, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

WAPs, bridges, and repeaters, oh my! Please explain these networking terms and help me setup my network.

I'm moving to a larger place with in-wall ethernet, and would like to expand my network. Currently, I have a simple wireless setup with a router receiving a dynamic IP from my ISP, and assigning static internal IPs to my clients based on MAC address. I would like to attach to this a second wireless router at a different location in a wired fashion. I would like the second router to allow for roaming wireless on the same network, internal IP assignment via the primary router in the same fashion and within the same subnet, and also allow for additional wired connections at the secondary site. All clients should be able to communicate with one another and access the internet as though they are on one expanded network.

What is this mode for the second router called? For bonus points, direct me to a wiki or splain to me like a 6 year old noob how to setup the router(s) with dd-wrt to do this.
posted by drpynchon to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Those three all pretty much mean the same thing.

What you want is a WDS setup. I just did this recently to light up the downstairs of our house a little better (since the internet connection comes in upstairs). There's a lengthy writeup on the dd-wrt website here and here, with another walkthrough here.

You don't necessarily have to wire the 2nd access point back to the first. My second AP is on top of the kitchen cabinet, up and out of sight. It communicates back to the main AP over it's own little wifi setup. All it does is repeat/relay back to the first AP and cable modem. It issues no DHCP leases or acts as anything other than a 'layer 2' device, except wirelessly. On my (non-dd-wrt) wifi APs, there was a on-box wizard sort of thing for setting this up.
posted by jquinby at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2011

Best answer: The two routers are connected via a wired connection right? If so I have done this before on DD-WRT routers. Basically you keep the first router the same, and on the second router you disable the DHCP server and let the first one handle everything. At that point anything that connects to the second router will act just like they are connected to the first. I believe I used the same setup from this post:

disable WAN and DHCP on secondary Router
give both Routers IP from same subnet
on secondary use IP of primary for gateway and DNS
connect both using LAN ports

posted by burnmp3s at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2011

You are talking about a Distribution System.

There are two methods of setting this up. The traditional DS using a wired backbone seems to be closest to what you describe, but as jquinby notes, WDS may be more appropriate depending on your circumstances.

In my experience, setting up a WDS with kit from more than one manufacturer is possible, but a pain in the butt. I cannot comment on setting up a wired DS.
posted by fearnothing at 12:22 PM on August 11, 2011

IMO, if you've already got ethernet cable run, it's better (and easier) to use that than do a wireless bridge back to the firs tmodem. Just buy a WAP from anywhere, and it should be basically no config. Just make sure you don't get a router, because you don't need one, even DD-WRT is probably overkill if you just want a wap set up.

If you want, you can even get an airport express and plug your speakers into it for itunes.
posted by empath at 12:44 PM on August 11, 2011

Best answer: I have your setup at home. WDS will work but you slow down your wireless speed - everything between the two routers needs to be sent wirelessly, so each packet gets broadcast twice. Wired is simple and it works well.

I set up Router 1 as the main router, handling DHCP. Router 2 is set to run as an access point - it has DHCP turned off and is connected to 1 using ethernet, via in-wall cables and an 8-port hub in a closet to handle the splitting.

Router 1 and 2 have the exact same wireless settings - SSID, password, security type, everything - except that 1 and 2 have different names, and broadcast on different channels.

Both my routers are old WRT54G models running Tomato. I have very few issues. Walking from the ground floor (where Router 2 is) to the basement (near Router 1) results in a seamless hand-off for any device running on the network. Heck if I had another WRT54G I'd probably put it in the attic.

(Sure, a newer model wireless with better range would be better. But my entire home network setup - two wireless routers, one wired router acting as a hub for the entertainment system, one 8-port hub in the closet and a spare 4-port just in case I need it - cost me a grand total of $1. I spent WAY more than that on cable and jacks.)
posted by caution live frogs at 2:15 PM on August 11, 2011

The easy way to do this is to buy a WAP (non-routing access point) like the old Linksys WAP54G. Plug into the back of your existing router. Set the SSID to be the same and the password to be the same. Set it to a different channel (there are 3 overlapping channels in wifi, 1, 7, and 11. So make sure you don't use the same one or those inbetween.) Wireless clients will be able to roam seamlessly now between the two points.

If you don't want to buy a WAP54G and must use a router, you'll need to turn that router into a access point. Generally, disabling DHCP and plugging into the non-WAN port does it. There may be a "gateway" mode on it too that does this for you.

On a more complex front you can do WDS (if your router supports it). I don't recommend doing any sort of repeating as it generally sucks and when it does work its slow.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:26 PM on August 11, 2011

Response by poster: Correct me if I'm wrong but a WAP only provides wireless access right? If I want wireless AND wired access at the second node on the network, then I need more than a WAP, I believe. Also, I definitely don't need WDS. No reason the two nodes on the network should communicate wirelessly when I have CAT5 access through the walls. Unless I'm wrong, I think I will try the approach described caution live frogs and burnmp3.
posted by drpynchon at 2:53 PM on August 11, 2011

What you need is a Repeater Bridge. This is possible with DD-WRT. You can keep your primary router as-is and get a secondary, dd-wrt compatible router to be your repeater bridge. No need to do WDS -- it seems overkill.
posted by thewildgreen at 3:23 PM on August 11, 2011

Best answer: err... I jumped in too quickly. The "repeater bridge" connects the two routers via WIRELESS connection, but you wanted WIRED.

In your case, I think a Wireless Access Point is the right one to use. Just make sure you keep the SSIDs and security settings exactly the same between the two routers (but different channels) as mentioned in the Roaming section of the page linked above. This setup will let your wireless devices roam between the two routers (with same SSID) and also have wired connections at the secondary router. All your devices will be on the same subnet and all of them will get IPs from your primary router's DHCP.
posted by thewildgreen at 3:41 PM on August 11, 2011

drpynchon - a Wireless Access Point is simply a name for a device capable of allowing wireless devices to connect through it to a wired network. Therefore a wireless router with multiple ethernet ports is a form of WAP, and one with no ethernet ports is another form. Simply get a wireless router, it's the configuration of the router that makes the difference, not its hardware capabilities.
posted by fearnothing at 10:42 PM on August 11, 2011

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