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Turn your Linksys E1500 into a Wireless Repeater

Unfortunately the wireless router that came with my new FIOS connection only covers half of my house. To get wifi coverage in the yard and the whole house, I decided to re-purpose my Linksys E1500. Here’s what I did: First I installed the DD-WRT firmware and with it turned my router into a Wireless Repeater Bridge. A wireless repeater bridge essentially does two things: 1. It connects to your existing wifi network (xxx) as a client. 2. It broadcasts its own wifi network (yyy) which allows  clients to “bridge” to the exiting xxx wifi network. Here are the detailed instructions on what I have and how I set everything up:

[equipment]

  • An Actiontec Verizon FIOS wireless router.
  • A Linksys E1500 wireless router.
  • A notebook or computer with an Ethernet jack.
  • A notebook, tablet or wifi capable device for testing.

[procedure]

IMPORTANT NOTICE: These instructions worked for my Linksys E1500 but may not work for you – see my disclaimer. There is a chance you may “brick” your wireless router by following these instructions. Modifying the firmware on a Linksys router WILL VOID THE WARRANTY! If you don’t want to take that chance, go out and purchase yourself a perfectly good wifi repeater like the Apple Airport Express.

[step 1] Visit the Wiki for the Linksys E1500 and download the proper firmware for the E1500: dd-wrt v24-19342 K2.6 mini e1500.bin

Save the file to your desktop or a location readily accessible. NOTE: The firmware above is the only firmware known to work on the Linksys E1500! Do not download any DDWRT firmware or the latest version from the main site. Using any other BIN file so will probably “brick” your router.

[step 2] Disable your computers wifi adapter and manually set the IP address on its Ethernet adapter to 192.168.1.9.

[step 3] Perform a 30/30/30 reset on the Linksys router to erase any configuration and set the device back to factory defaults. NOTE: A 30/30/30 reset on a Linksys device involves the following:

  • Plug the router in and wait a few seconds until all lights are no longer flashing.
  • With a pin or paper-clip, press and HOLD the reset button on the device for 30 seconds.
  • While still HOLDING the reset button down, unplug the power cord from the device and continue holding for another 30 seconds.
  • While still HOLDING the reset button down, plug the power back in and continue holding the reset button for 30 seconds.

[step 4] Power on the Linksys E1500 and plug an Ethernet cable into one of the switch ports (1-4). Plug the other end into your computer’s Ethernet jack.

[step 5] Open a web browser and navigate to http://192.168.1.1/. If the 30/30/30 was done properly, it should ask you for the default username and password:

The default username will be: admin
The default password will be: admin

[step 6] Once logged into your router, click the Administration tab and then click Firmware Upgrade. Hit Browse and navigate to the BIN file downloaded in [step 1]. Then click Upgrade and wait 5 minutes. IMPORTANT: The screen may say that the upgrade completed before 5 minutes are up, but please continue waiting until 5 minutes are up.

[step 6] Once 5 minutes are up, power cycle the router by unplugging the power cable, waiting 10 seconds, then plugging it back in and waiting 2 minutes to let the router fully boot.

[step 7] Perform another 30/30/30 reset on the Linksys E1500 and then wait 3 minutes after releasing the reset button.

[step 8] Access the router at http://192.168.1.1/. You should see the DD-WRT splash page now if everything has worked successfully. If you don’t see this page, unplug the power and wait 10 seconds, plug power back in and wait for 2 minutes then try accessing the router again.

Now that you’ve successfully flashed your Linksys router with the DD-WRT firmware, let’s get started with how to get it configured as a Repeater Bridge:

[step 1] Note down the settings of your current wifi network. My wifi settings (for the purposes of this tutorial) are:

  • Wireless Network SSID: FatCat
  • Wireless Security Mode: WPA2 Personal
  • WPA Algorithms: AES
  • WPA Shared Key: is_Aw3some
  • DHCP IP range: 192.168.1.2-192.168.1.100
  • DHCPsubnet: 255.255.255.0
  • Router IP: 192.168.1.1

[step 2] On your new DD-WRT enabled Linksys device, click Setup->Basic Setup and change the IP address information to be a valid static IP outside the current wifi network’s DHCP block. I use the following on my repeater bridge:

  • NOTE: Don’t worry about the connection type, it’ll change to disabled once we change the wireless mode to repeater bridge.
  • IP address: 192.168.1.254
  • Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
  • Gateway: 192.168.1.1 (verizon router)
  • Local DNS: 192.168.1.1 (verizon router)

Now click Save and then Apply Settings. Your router will reboot, so wait 30 seconds.

[step 3] Access your DD-WRT device at the new IP address by navigating to http://192.168.1.254/.

[step 4] Now click Wireless->Basic Settings and fill in the following data:

Wireless Physical Interface wlo:

  • Wireless Mode: Repeater Bridge

Then click Save. Notice how the options on the screen change based on the mode your router is in. Now set the rest of the options on this page:

  • Your current wifi network’s SSID (recorded in [step 1]): FatCat is my network’s SSID.
  • Your current wifi network’s mode: Mixed is probably your best bet.
  • Sensitivity range: 2000
  • Network Configuration: Bridge

Virtual Interfaces – Add 1 virtual interface and give it a slightly different SSID (I selected FatterCat). NOTE: You’ll be connecting to this slightly different wifi network when your primary wifi network is out of range.

  • Wireless SSID Broadcast: Broadcast
  • AP Isolation: Disable
  • Network Configuration: Bridged

Click Save.

[step 5] Click Wireless->Wireless Security. Enter the wireless security settings that match your existing wifi network (recorded in [step 1]).

Physical Interface wl0

  • Security Mode: WPA2 Personal
  • WPA Algorithms: AES
  • WPA Shared Key: is_Aw3some

Virtual Interfaces wl0.1

  • Security Mode: WPA2 Personal
  • WPA Algorithms: AES
  • WPA Shared Key: is_Aw3some
  • Key Renewal Interval (in seconds): 3600

Click Save.

[step 6] Click Setup->Advanced Routing and set the Operating Mode to Router.

Click Save.

[step 7] Click Services->Services and set DNSmasq to Disabled.

ClickSave.

[step 8] Click Security->Firewall and uncheck all boxes first then click Save. Then set the SPI Firewall to Disabled and click Save again.

[step 9] Phew, now click Apply Settings and cross your fingers. Your router will reboot, so give it a couple of minutes and then try connecting a test device to your slightly modified wifi network (the one you created in [step 4]) and see if you can access the internet.

If you’re having trouble or it’s not working, try doing a 30/30/30 reset and try the instructions from the top or visit the DD-WRT tutorial here.

If everything is configured properly, your new DD-WRT should always have a solid connection on the wl0 device to your primary wifi router and any devices connected to it should be listed on the wl0.1 virtual device as shown in the wireless status window below:

[step 10] If everything is working, you can now unplug your DD-WRT router from power and plug it back into a spot that’ll get you better overall wifi coverage.

That’s it.

October 1, 2012

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