Monday, 5 December 2011

Extending Wi-fi network range to wireless and wired devices

I recently wanted to extend the (woeful) range of the Sky router to get better Wi-fi signal for devices upstairs. I didn’t want to have to run a cable from the router to a new access point, but I thought it would be a bonus to be able to connect wired devices on the new ‘satellite’ network.

It turns out that this is possible with a cheap box from Edimax, the EW-7228APN. It can act as a wireless access point with better coverage (with the same security settings as the main router, but a different SSID) and also connect wired devices and send the traffic wirelessly to the main router.

Setup isn’t obvious though because the documentation isn’t great, so here’s the steps:

  1. From a command prompt, type “ipconfig” and note the ip address and gateway (for a default Sky Broadband setup the ip address will be 192.168.0.something, gateway 192.168.0.1)
  2. Visit the sky router config page in your browser (at 192.168.0.1) and note the wireless security settings.
  3. Connect the access point to the network port of a PC with the supplied cable.
  4. Change the TCP/IPv4 settings of the PC to use the static address 192.168.2.2 subnet mask 255.255.255.0 and leave the gateway blank
  5. Use your web browser to visit 192.168.2.1 to configure the access point, the user name is “admin” and the default password is “1234”.
  6. In the System Utility section, set the IP address to be on your subnet, e.g. 192.168.0.50 (you might want to change the sky router settings to not give out the .50 IP address in its DHCP), and the gateway address to be the address from your ipconfig. Apply but don’t reboot yet.
  7. In the Basic Settings section, choose Repeater, and click Site Survey. Choose your sky router. You may need to choose Repeater again when it returns to the Basic Settings page. Make up a new SSID for the access point. Apply but don’t reboot again.
  8. Go to the Security page and set the security settings to be the same as your Sky router. My router is set to WEP for the benefit of some old-school Nintendo DS Lites, so I set WEP and set the key length and hex codes.
  9. At this point I could apply and reboot. I then needed to change the PC’s TCP/IPv4 settings to be 192.168.0.1 (not the original address) to log back in to the access point at 192.168.0.50 and check everything was still set OK.
  10. Finally, I disconnected the cable and connected wirelessly using the new access point’s SSID and the sky router’s password/key. To do this with Windows 7 I had to create a new connection manually, otherwise I was asked for credentials (no idea what that’s about).
  11. I then set the PC back to dynamically acquire a TCP/IPv4 address, and connected via the wire to check that the PC got a DHCP address on the home network.

Result – the wireless devices have their Wi-fi signal bounced from the access point to the Sky router, but with better coverage, and any wired devices connected to the access point have their traffic sent wirelessly to the router too.

Phew.