How to Use a Wireless Router as a Wireless Access Point
September 5, 2004

This article will show you how to use a wireless router as a wireless access point.  Wait, you might say, isn't a wireless router more advanced than a wireless access point and wouldn't that be taking a step backwards?  That's true in some sense, a wireless router has more functionality than a wireless access point, but sometimes you only need an access point.

So why not just buy a wireless access point instead of using a wireless router?

  • Cost.  Wireless routers are currently much less expensive than wireless access points.  This is rather counter intuitive.  You would think that since a router is more complicated than an access point, it would be more expensive.  But wireless routers are cheaper because manufacturers are producing many different models of routers and very few access points.  This drives the price of routers down and access points up.  For example, today when I went to the local Fry's Electronics, I saw a Netgear wireless router for $19.99 after rebates.  A wireless access point by Linksys cost $149!  If you are patient, you can get a wireless router for very cheap, although you may have to deal with rebates.  Rebates suck but they're better than paying $149 for a wireless access point.
  • By having a separate router and access point, you make your network more modular.  For example, I currently have a wired router with a 802.11b wireless router attached as an access point.  If I want to upgrade to 802.11g, I can just replace the B unit with a G unit.
Okay, fine, so why not replace your existing wired router with a wireless router?
  • If you have an existing home network with a router installed, you might not want to change the router since the advanced functions of port forwarding and loopback already work on your existing router and might be different on the wireless router.  Also, the router feature sets may be different.
  • The wireless router might not have enough LAN network ports for your network.  Most wireless routers have 4 ports or less while wired routers can have 8 ports or more.
I know that this scenario is not for everyone.  If you are starting from scratch and don't have any router at all yet, it would make sense to just use a wireless router as a wireless router.  This article is more for people who have an existing network to which they would like to add wireless functionality.

Here's how to do it:

  1. First thing, plug in the power to the wireless router, but do not connect it to your network yet.
  2. Attach one computer using a category 5 network cable to one of the wireless router's LAN ports.  Make sure this computer is set to automatically receive a IP address from the wireless router's DHCP server.
  3. Login to the wireless router using the computer that is connected to it.  Now that we're in the router configuration, we can make the changes we need to turn this wireless router into a wireless access point.
  4. You can leave the WAN configuration in the wireless router completely empty.  The WAN part of the wireless router won't be used when it is being used as a wireless access point.
  5. Set the LAN IP address of the wireless router so it is compatible with your existing network.  For example, if your current network uses the 192.168.1.x network, then make sure the wireless router is on the same network.  Different companies use different LAN numbers such as 192.168.0.x or 192.168.2.x.  We need the wireless router to function on the existing network.  Give it an IP address that is easy to remember.  For example, if your current wired router is 192.168.0.1, then you can give the wireless router 192.168.0.2 which is only one number away from the wired router number (which you probably already know by heart).
  6. Turn off the DHCP server on the wireless router.  There can only be one DHCP server on your network, and it should be the DHCP server on your wired router, not the wireless router.
  7. Implement the same wireless security settings as detailed in this article: How to Secure Your Wireless Network.  You want to keep your wireless network as safe as possible.
  8. Now that your wireless router uses the same IP numbering scheme and has the DHCP server turned off, it is basically a wireless access point.  We have to hook it up to our existing network.  You do this by connecting a Category 5 cable between the LAN port of your existing router / network to the LAN port of your new wireless access point. Do not connect it to the WAN port of the wireless access point.  Depending on your router / access point manufacturer, you may need to use a crossover cable instead of a standard straight through cable.  On my Linksys 802.11b wireless router turned wireless access point, I use a straight through cable without any problems.  You may need to experiment with this.
There you have it.  You added wireless capabilities to your existing wired network by using a wireless router as a wireless access point.