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

As you are reading this article on ProPrivacy, 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 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 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 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!

WARNING: setting up your router as a repeater in this way means that you will no longer be able to access its web interface.  It is, therefore, a one-way operation, and if something goes wrong may result in a bricked router. It may be possible to mitigate against this by choosing "Repeater Bridge" in Step 8, as this should allow you to access the interface by connecting to the router over an Ethernet cable. But I haven't tested this. 

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

75 Comments

  1. Roy

    on November 10, 2019
    Reply

    I read your guide and it’s easy to configure however my question is if I want to have a VPN configured on my dd-wrt repeater after setting it up, I won’t be able to do so as once I apply settings on step 10 then you mentioned the router won’t be accessible anymore. So is there a way to set it up with the VPN Configuration?

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Roy

      on November 11, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Roy. When configured as a repeater, the slave router simply acts as an extension of the main router. So you can't configure a VPN client, although you can configure one on the main router which will also work for any device connected to the slave router. If you want one router to run a VPN and another one not, then you will need to run them as separate routers with their SSIDs.

  2. Flimm

    on August 20, 2019
    Reply

    I tried this, and it seemed to work, but the bandwidth experienced on Wi-Fi was much slower. I'm now trying the instructions found here, which includes a couple of things that this guide doesn't: https://wiki.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Repeater_Bridge

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Flimm

      on August 21, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Flimm. This is intended to be an easy-to-follow guide. But sure, if you encounter problems then the official DD-WRT Wiki is the best place to start looking for additional information. Indeed, I used it myself when writing this guide.

  3. Juan

    on August 8, 2019
    Reply

    Hi Douglas. I followed the instructions to set up my old linksys and it worked very well. Now i need to increase the signal´strength. To do that i know i have to change a parameter. But i can´t initiate sesion on the repeater. And i don´t want to reset my old linksys. Could you tell me if there is a way to initiate sesion on the repeater and just change the parameter. The ip address of my linksys is 192.168.1.78. Thanks.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Juan

      on August 8, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Juan. I don't have this setup running any more, so have not been able to test this for myself. But I _think_ this is possible if you change the local router IP address of your base router. You will then (hopefully) be able to login to your repeater's GUI management page on 192.168.1.78. If not, then you will probably need to reset the repeater and start again.

    2. d.w. replied to Juan

      on August 29, 2019
      Reply

      This article completely glosses over the fact that if you set your DD-WRT router up and a repeater bridge, you will lose the ability to login to the web interface after you set it up. This is a limitation of the 802.11 protocol. Instead the writer replies to comments with "I don't have this setup anymore so I can't test it." You don't need to test it to know the limitations of a repeater bridge inside of a home network. .

  4. Tai Chan

    on February 8, 2019
    Reply

    I believe that you can access the GUI of your Repeating DD-WRT Router, if you enable "Assign WAN PORT to switch" on the first configuration page. This will enable you to login to the router only by connecting an ethernet cable to the router.

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