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How to use an old DD-WRT router as a repeater

As you are reading this article on BestVPN, then it is likely you originally bought a DD-DRT router so you could connect all your internet enabled household or office devices through a single VPN connection. DD-WRT routers are great for this, but as we discovered when reviewing the budget Linksys N300, the modest processors found in low-cost routers can struggle with the demands of handling VPN, resulting in slow connection speeds.

Upcycle a router

This is much less of an issue with higher-end routers such as the excellent Asus RT-AC66U, but you if have decided to upgrade (or are thinking about it), then it seems a shame to chuck out your perfectly good older router.

Well, one of the many strengths of DD-WRT is that it is a versatile platform which can be used to repurpose your router, and one of the most useful things you can do with an old router is turn it into a wireless repeater! We've covered this, and much more in our  Definitive DD-WRT Guide.

A repeater basically captures the WiFi signals from your main router and re-broadcasts them, greatly extending the range of your WiFi - perfect for picking up the internet in your cellar den, garden, or on the office coffee-break bench.

Setting up a DD-WRT router as a repeater

Before you begin, you will need to make a note of your primary network’s security settings (see the setup page of your main router). WARNING! During setup you should not click ‘Apply Changes’ until setup is complete (after hitting 'Save' in step 10). If you do, this may result in your repeater router becoming inaccessible (bricked).

1. On the Setup-> Basic setup screen ‘Disable’ your Connection Type, as the router will not be plugged into a modem

2. (Optional) Change the Router Name and Host Name to something meaningful

3. Change the ‘Local Router IP address’ to something that no other router on the network has (changing the last number to 8 or 9 is usually a safe bet). This is important because if two routers have the same IP address then no-one will be able to use the network. Hit ‘Save’, as the next change might reverse the changes you just made.

settings 1

4. Change DHCP Type to ‘DHCP Forwarder’.

5. Input the IP address of your router (usually also your modem) under DHCP Server below. Hit ‘Save’ again. If the page won’t reload, make sure you input the repeater’s changed IP address (Step 3).

7. Go to the Security page and turn off all the security settings (uncheck everything), as all security will be handled by your router. Hit ‘Save’.

settings 2

8. Go to the Wireless tab, and change Wireless Mode to either ‘Repeater’ or ‘Repeater Bridge’. If you choose ‘Repeater’ you will only be able to use the repeater wirelessly, while selecting ‘Repeater Bridge’ allows you to use its Ethernet ports, excellent if you want to plug in Smart TV, games console, or other cable-only internet enabled device (which will also be able to see other devices on the network, great for sharing video files and the like). We however only want to want expend the range of our WiFi, so will choose ‘Repeater’. Click ‘Save’.

9. In Wireless Network Name (SSD) you need to enter the name of your main network i.e. that of your primary router. This needs to be entered exactly, including capitals and spaces. Hit ‘Save’.

settings 3

10. Go to the Wireless -> Wireless Security Tab and change the setting to match those of your network (primary router). Hit ‘Save’ and, finally, ‘Apply settings’.

settings 4

The router will restart in order to apply all the settings, and you will find your WiFi signal greatly improved as you move around your house or office!

Written by: Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

66 Comments

  1. Bruce
    on August 23, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Douglas, Followed your instructions on a Linksys E4200 v1 router (DD-WRT v24-SP2 mini). "Save" at every step. Apply at the end. Router does not reboot as expected and becomes unavailable. Can't ping on the new address - 192.168.0.2. Have 30-30-30 reset 5 times now and started over. Any clues? Thanks

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Bruce
      on August 24, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Bruce, Hmm. I know this can happen if you Apply Changes before hitting Save in step 10 (hence the warning, which you have clearly heeded). I'm afraid I don't know. Sorry.

  2. Doug
    on July 20, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Douglas, I have a NetGear WNR3500L router with DD-WRT Firmware v3.0-36168 mini inatalled and two Android Phones (Essential PH1, Android 8.1.0 and Moto Droid Mini XT1030, Android 4.4.4). Both phones have PdaNet+ installed and working. The WiFi Hotspot broadcast is DIRECT-xx-xxxx-PDANET. Only my Windows Laptop, Samsung Tablet, which also have PdaNet installed are able to connect through PdaNet My wife’s iPad is able to connect through it’s WiFi connection setting using the "Automatic Proxy Configuration", URL: http://192.168.49.1:8000 as directed by PdaNet. The same proxy configuration is sused for Chrome book. All other devices (including Wincows Laptop) and that can see and connect to the PdaNet WiFi hotspot “DIRECT-xx-xxxx-PDANET” that’s broadcast can be connected to that WiFi but do not recognize that hotspot as having an internet connection. We are traveling in our RV and would like to have other devices (smart TVs, Chrome, & Dish Wally) not only see the Broadcast WiFi, but recognize it as having an internet connection, I have been trying to set up the old router as a repeater to use the DIRECT-xx-xxxx-PDANET broadcast WiFi by either phone as it's modem, with no success. I have followed the instructions contained in this web post https://www.bestvpn.com/guides/how-use-an-old-dd-wrt-router-as-a-repeater/#https://www.bestvpn.com/guides/how-use-an-old-dd-wrt-router-as-a-repeater/# and this tutorial https://wiki.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Linking_Routers. After a couple of weeks I have no success in getting the router to recognize a PdaNet as a hotspot. Everyting combination that I’ve tried from the above instructions sends the router off into cyber space (bricked). I have to do a couple of hard resets and then disconnect power from the router for a lengthy time before I can start all over. I’m not really sure how to set up dd-wrt to do port forwarding? I don’t know what port(s) to start forwarding, nor the correct type of forwarding to set up. Can you provide any suggestions/help?

  3. Marco
    on June 15, 2018
    Reply

    I followed all the steps until I got the last one, and accidentally clicked apply settings instead of save. How do I now log back into dd-wrt on the old router (now repeater) to fix this as it is now set to the same SSID as my main network? Using 192.168.1.1 doesn't load the ddwrt router page...

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Marco
      on June 18, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Marco, To be honest, I'm not sure and I'm a bit worried that it can't be done. It really is important to click on Save before clicking on Apply. Hmm. I'll think on this a bit more, but in the meantime I will strengthen the warning about this in the article.

  4. BCHeadley
    on January 22, 2018
    Reply

    Hey Douglas, I originally configured my LinkSys WRT54GS v7 @ DD-WRT v24-sp2 with a complicated version for a wireless repeater, which seems to work very well, but suffers dropouts at random intervals. So I tried a factory reset and set up the wireless repeater with the configuration you describe here, but it does not work as expected. The repeater SSID was either hidden or being duplicated and a site survey couldn't tell the difference. I added a virtual interface to allow broadcasting of the SSID and the repeater appeared, however the throughput was incredibly slow. Unfortunately, I reverted the configuration back to the more complicated one and dealing with intermittent dropouts.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to BCHeadley
      on January 23, 2018
      Reply

      Hi BCHeadley, Thanks for the feedback, although I'm afraid that I don't have any help to offer. My guess is that how well anything DD-WRT related works depends somewhat on how well optimized the version of DD-WRT that you are running is for your particular model of router.

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