Saturday, April 26, 2014

Using a Second Router to Extend a Wifi Network Signal to Two Structures

Most of us have a wifi router in our home now, which broadcasts a wifi signal to nearby desktop computer, laptops, phones, and tablets.  These wifi routers are great and most people have figured out how to use them.

My situation is a little difficult because we have two houses on our property.  The guest house, which we now use as an office, is where our Netgear router is located.  The main house is a good 150 feet away.  I can barely get a wifi signal in the living room and dining room area.  Trying to get a wifi signal in the other rooms in the house is impossible.

I largely solved this problem by installing Powerline Ethernet adapters in several rooms in our main house.  These adapters work really well now (they had problems in the past).   A kit will contain two adapters, which use existing electrical wiring in your home to create a network connection.  One of the adapters plugs into an AC outlet in our guest house; and an Ethernet cable from our router goes to this adapter.  The signal is then carried to the second adapter over our home electrical wiring.  I can use three, four, or even more adapters in the main house to get an Internet signal.

It's dirt simple to install these -- just plug the adapters into AC plugs where you want them, and plug Ethernet cables from the adapters to your PCs, laptops, etc.  I've been using these adapters for many years, and they work great.  The only problem I had was in the beginning; these Powerline adapters worked on some AC outlets in my house worked; and they did not work on others, some in the same room.  This is because some of my wiring is not directly connected and goes through a breaker.  Also, these adapters need to be DIRECTLY plugged into an AC outlet; they won't work if you have them plugged into a surge protector.

I started out using these Powerline adapters:



NETGEAR XAVB101 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit:
I used these for about three years, then upgraded to faster adapters a couple of years ago:













ZyXEL PLA407 HomePlug AV 200 Mbps Powerline Wall-Plug Adapter (Starter Kit - 2 Units)

I've been using three of these adapters -- one for the router, and two in rooms in the main house -- since then, and they work splendidly. 


In the past couple of years, however, I've started needing wifi access in my main house more and more.  I started using an iPad to read newspapers and my email.  I'd carry it from the guest house to the main house.  This caused a problem: I could start reading a newspaper in the guest house, but then I'd lose my wifi signal in the main house.  I needed to get a wifi signal in my main house, which the Powerline Ethernet adapters were not equipped to do. 

The first solution I tried was a wifi repeater.  I tried a couple of different wifi repeaters, but I was not real happy with them.  One article I read was that wifi repeaters can never be as fast as your main router, because their speed will always be less than half of the speed coming from your wifi router in the first place.  This is because they have to first GET the wifi signal from your router, then TRANSMIT the same signal and data out as a wifi signal.  So any speed of your wifi connection from your router will be much slower when you use a wifi repeater.  (Sorry, I know this explanation is not great). 

 I tried a couple of wifi repeaters anyway.  One was an Edimax.  EW-7438RPn repeater.  This was a small device that plugged into an AC outlet and would indeed pick up the signal from my router and re-transmit it.  At least it seemed to.  I never had much luck with this repeater; it would work initially but later it would seem to have dropped the signal.

One huge problem with the two or three repeaters that I tried was that as I moved from the guest house to the main house, the repeaters were set up with a different name for the wifi network in each home.  For instance, let's assume that the wifi network in my guest house, where my router was located, was named "wifi network 1."  When I moved to the other house, I had set the wifi repeater to retransmit a wifi network named as "wifi network 2."  Therefore, when moving from one house to another, I would have to re-set my iPad so that it connected to the nearest, strongest network.  This was a hassle.

I tried to set the wifi network on the repeaters to the same name,  but this never really worked for me.  The manufacturers don't really address this problem.  When I did this -- so the wifi repeater transmits the same wifi network name as your main router -- sometimes it worked for me and sometimes it did not.  This could have been due to the quality of the repeaters that I used.  I also saw on some forums that I needed to set my router's wifi channel to a set channel, like channel six, rather than allowing the auto selection.  After a while, I give up on stuff like this.  I lately tried the solution below and could not be happier.

I knew from a long while ago that I could set up a second router as a wireless gateway or access point.  Essentially, I set up a second router to accept the internet signal from the first router through Powerline adapters.  The second router, in the second house, then transmits the internet/network signal wirelessly -- it becomes a wifi base station itself. 

My main router is a Netgear 3700 router, which has two bands -- it transmits at 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz.  I never used both bands and never realized that they could be useful.  However, having dual bands was useful in this case, for testing at least.   I bought a second Netgear router, an NDR3400 model, for dirt-cheap at newegg.com.  This also offered dual-band wifi transmission. 


Here's what I did to set up the second router as a wifi access point:

1.  I googled "How do I set up a wireless router as an access point" and found a Netgear page that described the process at:
http://kb.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/19852/~/how-do-i-set-up-a-wireless-router-as-an-access-point-on-a-network-that-has

This gives the basic instructions.   Connect the second router and a LAN port directly to the Ethernet port on a computer.  Then log into the router using: www.routerlogin.com or .net.

2.  However, I must always reset the target (second) Netgear router first.  Then enter the router.  Then change the wifi network settings.  I changed the lower band to "access point lower" (different from my first router's first band) and the upper band to "wifi network 2" (the same name as my first router's second band).  The second band has the same name but the first does not.  This was useful to test the bands and see if I was indeed getting a good signal from the access point.

3.  AFTER setting the wifi stations, THEN go to the router's LAN settings.  Turn off "use router as DHCP server."  Change the LAN to 192.168.1.100 (same IP segment of the main router, 192.168.1.1).

An important note -- once making the settings above to the second router, it was impossible to get back into the router.  But I was able to see that this second router's networks were up and transmitting.  I could see the wifi network from the second router's lower band (access point lower) and the wifi network from the second router's higher band, which had the same name as the primary router's higher band network (wifi network 2).  I could also barely see the lower band network from the original router (wifi network 1).

So, in summary, when I set up a second router as a wifi access point, I ended up with the following wifi networks:

Router One  in the guest house/office (original router, getting the internet signal from a Comcast cable modem):
"wifi network 1" transmitting on the 2.4Ghz band
"wifi network 2" on 5.8Ghz band

Router Two in the main house, (second router, getting the internet signal from a Powerline adapter connected to Router One, re-broadcasting that signal as a wifi access point):
"access point lower" transmitting on the 2.4Ghz band
"wifi network 2" on 5.8Ghz band


Now I am a happy camper.  I can walk with my iPad  from the guest house to the main house, all while connected to the "wifi network 2" which gives me a strong, continuous signal all the time, between both houses.  I no longer have to change the wifi network settings on my iPad when I move from house to house. 

2 comments:

Rheno Molina said...

Nice info. Visit my website for more information for more of boosting wifi signal. http://rhenop86.hubpages.com/

Leslie Lim said...

First time I commented in a blog! I really enjoy it. You have an awesome post. Please do more articles like this. I'm gonna come back surely. God bless.

Rica
www.imarksweb.org