Use wired ports when adding second wifi router?
July 5, 2017 7:33 PM   Subscribe

I want to use a second wifi router in my house to improve coverage (because the first wifi router -- also our Internet gateway -- is at one end of the house). Can I have the wired ports on the second device live, getting DHCP addresses from the first router?

We have Verizon FiOS, and so we got a new Motorola router when the service was installed. Wireless coverage --both 2.6 and 5 GHz -- drops off at the far end of the house, so users in the family room get cranky. (What can I say? There's like a stove and granite countertop in the way!)

A long time ago I ran a Cat5 cable down there for the Roku. If I steal that cable and run it from one of the LAN ports on our old router (an Asus RT-N65U, I think), to one of the LAN ports of the new router (and disable DHCP and stuff), could the Roku still use one of the LAN ports on the second router?
posted by wenestvedt to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (For what it's worth, I work in IT and can crimp cables and follow directions and stuff. I'm a Unix sysadmin, though, and not a networking guy.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:34 PM on July 5, 2017

The typical design of a wifi router is there's essentially a hub with the LAN ports and the wifi on one segment, and then there's also the uplink/WAN port which usually is firewalled off. You'll have to tell your second router not to serve DHCP and not to do NAT, and you'll probably want to just give it a static IP address, and not use the WAN port at all.

The exact terminology on the configuration page will vary from router to router. I imagine there are some routers (especially ISP-provided ones) that don't even let you do this, though I think most will allow it just fine.
posted by aubilenon at 7:41 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Probably) Yes. (Probably) Easy. As above: ignore the WAN port (if you can be arsed with OpenWRT you can often set the WAN port up as a normal LAN one, iirc), only have one DHCP server.

You will end up with 2 SSIDs though, so it won't be seamless.

If that's a bummer, this answer may help.
posted by pompomtom at 8:31 PM on July 5, 2017

Yes. This can work. It's exactly what I'm doing right now. As aubilenon says, the configuration details vary, but with my DD-WRT router, it mostly just involved turning off DHCP on the second router and setting it up as an access point. This is common enough that there should be instructions online for your specific router model. This video purports to show you how to do it on an Asus router.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:38 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

It depends on the router but probably yes. Or you could dump the wifi feature on your Motorola gateway and go with a mesh wifi solution like Eero or Google Wifi. The major difference is in hand-off between APs. If you extend the existing Motorola unit with a random wifi AP it'll work but if you walk from one end of the house to the other you may find your device hangs onto the original AP longer than you'd like.
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am doing this right now with fios and an infiniti router with DHCP turned off in the router and 2 SSIDs.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:42 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes. You want to put the subrouter device in access point mode. Not router mode; that'll disable DHCP and other services your primary router is providing. Connect the cable from your main router to the WAN port. Then configure the wifi to use the same SSID and password as your main router. The LAN ports on the sub-router will now act as an ethernet switch and the wifi will extend your wireless network.

Your other choice is to not configure the second router at all, just use the LAN ports as a switch and ignore the wifi. This should require no configuration at all.
posted by Nelson at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can do this, but basically most of the above suggestions are hacky jank-net solutions. Many of the "home NAT gateway" class devices people incorrectly refer to as "routers" aren't really made to work in anything except their primary designed mode, so turning off things like DHCP or NAT, renumbering the device, or hoping that it properly bridges wifi and ethernet can be a dicey thing.

Some other options, actually designed for your use case:

1) Several of the "mesh" devices have an option to do wired, which is really the only way this kind of thing should ever be deployed unless there's absolutely no other option. If you use wireless to backhaul your remote wifi access points, you increase the overall RF complexity and things become "complicated". It's great for flexibility, but wired is better. Most of the current mesh devices are close to "magic" in their ease of setup and configuration.

2) A somewhat more expensive solution would be to acquire some Ubiquiti Unifi access points and a Unifi Cloud Key, possibly along with a switch, depending on how many ports you have. This is much closer to an enterprise grade wifi solution, and the overall quality of the gear is much better. The ability to site your access points strategically to avoid coverage gaps is pretty awesome.

The downside to these two suggestions is that the overall cost is likely to be significantly greater than just repurposing a general purpose wifi gateway. You can get good wifi coverage either way, but it depends how much effort you want to put into it.
posted by jgreco at 6:51 AM on July 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Worth a shot trying; as others have mentioned, putting the router into access point mode should accomplish what you want. That said, I just wanted to add that if you can't get the wired ports on the ASUS router to act as a switch, you can buy a network switch on the cheap to use to plug both the Roku and the router into.
posted by Aleyn at 2:50 PM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use powerline networking, plug the router into one unit and plug my computer into the other. You could do that and (I think) use the other wifi router as an access point? So it would go cable> router powerline 2 > access point.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:02 PM on July 6, 2017

Also, I feel like the suggestions for mesh networking and powerline stuff and so forth miss the fact that you already have Cat5 cable going to where you want your wireless access extended. If for whatever reason you can't cajole the router into behaving like an access point and switch, you could definitely buy the cheap switch and an inexpensive wireless access point to do the same job without plunking down the not-inconsiderable amount of cash needed for a mesh networking setup. Willing to bet that your existing router can be set up the way you want though, especially if you're willing to put a third-party firmware on it.
posted by Aleyn at 6:11 PM on July 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you've bought the second wireless router, turn it into a repeater. Otherwise, turn off DHCP on it to turn it into a wireless switch.
posted by GiveUpNed at 12:22 PM on July 8, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:52 PM on July 26, 2017

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