Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network Network
I had an old Linksys WRT54GS router that I wasn't using, and because of the way my house is set up, I needed to put my AirPort Extreme Base Station somewhat far from my home office. This was a problem for two reasons: first, I had a relatively weak signal in my office, and second, because I have a network attached storage system and an Ethernet-based printer in my office that I'd wanted to keep there. I knew that the AirPort Express would accommodate this setup, but since I already had the Linksys -- which doesn't have an audio out or a USB port, like the Express, but which does have four ethernet ports -- I thought it was worth trying.

There are tons of tutorials online for using the Linksys as a Base Station, with the AirPort Express as the repeater/secondary access point. (The protocol for this is called WDS. Apple's routers support it; the Linksys does as well. Others may, as well -- but Netgear doesn't, and apparently can't.) I couldn't find any decent tutorials for reversing the process, with the Linksys as slave to an AirPort.

This is a little complicated, and might require some trial and error, but here are the basic steps.

[robg adds: Somewhat obviously, I haven't tested this one. The following instructions are detailed, and may be overly so for experienced users. However, those who are trying to figure it out for the first time may appreciate the detail. Hopefully I didn't introduce any errors while formatting the article.]

You'll need:
  • An AirPort Express or AirPort Extreme to use as your Base Station -- that's the one that connects to your cable modem or DSL line.
  • A Linksys router. Mine is a WRT54GS, which has open-source firmware, with an active community building alternatives to the stock Linksys firmware. Note: I understand that not all Linksys routers in this series allow you to reflash the firmware. You'll need to check on this, because that step is essential -- that's how you enable the WDS feature. I also understand that some news Linksys routers support WDS out-of-the-box. I haven't checked this.
  • Firmware. The firmware I used is called Satori. It is made by Sveasoft and it is free. (Editor's note: The story behind Satori and Sveasoft is quite complex. This Slashdot journal is a good way to understand the situation and find firmware releases.) There are other firmwares out there that also support WDS. I don't know anything about them.
  • Some Info from your AirPort Base Station: its MAC address, IP address, and the range of IP addresses it uses when assigning them on your network via DHCP. I use the more standard addressing scheme (ie 192.168.x.x) because I have no clue what the other ones mean. You can find these by running the AirPort Setup Utility. Once you've found them, cancel out of the utility -- don't set up WDS on the Base Station yet.
  • An ethernet cable.
  • Download and install the Air Traffic Control widget. This will come in handy later.
  • Patience.
BTW, before we get really started: I am not an expert on this. There may be mistakes below. In fact, I'm sure there are, though the general guidelines are OK. You will be flashing the firmware of your router, so if you brick it, don't blame me.

Step One: Flash the firmware
  1. Using your Mac's current connection, with the Linksys turned off, download the firmware above.
  2. Attach the Linksys router to your Mac with a cable.
  3. Turn off your AirPort on your Mac so it won't get confused.
  4. Navigate with your browser to the Linksys setup page, which is usually at 192.168.0.1, or 192.168.1.1, unless you've changed it. Username is usually Admin, and the default password is usually blank.
  5. Navigate to the Administration tab.
  6. Choose the Firmware Upgrade subtab.
  7. Upgrade the firmware by navigating to wherever you downloaded it. The router will restart, if it is successful.
Step Two: Linksys setup

Note - the Linksys should still be connected to your Mac by cable. You will be changing settings on the Linksys by selecting tabs and making appropriate tweaks. Remember to click on Save Settings (at the bottom of the screen) every time you complete a tab's entries. I know, this is a pain, because it often results in a router restart, and you have to log in again. Just remember where you are and continue. I think it is best to set the Linksys up first, then worry about the AirPort Base Station. Tab-by-tab on the Linksys, here are the settings I used:

If I don't specify a particular setting, that means I never played with it and left it as the default.

TAB: SETUP
SUBTAB: Basic Setup.


Section: Internet Setup
  1. Choose Static IP
  2. Enter an IP address. It should be within the range specified by your AirPort setup (above).
  3. Enter the AirPort Base Station's IP address under Gateway.
  4. Enter the same IP address under "Static DNS 1"
Section: Network Setup
  1. Give the Router a new IP address. I suggest one digit up from your AirPort Base Station (the number you entered under gateway.) This is the router's new address, so when you log in to it again, use it!
  2. Enter the AirPort IP under Gateway.
  3. Disable DHCP.
Save settings, let router restart. Remember to log-in with the new IP address.

TAB: WIRELESS Subtab: Basic Settings

Section: Wireless Network
  1. Wireless mode is AP
  2. Wireless network name is the same name as your AirPort Express network (in other words, whatever name you choose when you connect your computer to your network.)
  3. Wireless channel: Set to "1"
Save settings, let router restart.

NOTE: The next subtab is Security. I keep mine disabled, because I live pretty far out of range, and because I use MAC address filtering. I am certain that you need security, and I have no clue how to configure it.

TAB: Wireless Subtab: MAC Filter

You might want to restrict network access to particular MAC IDs of your computers and other (wireless) network devices. Do this last!

TAB: Wireless
SUBTAB: WDS
  1. You'll see a series of fill-in boxes for MAC addresses. In the first one, choose LAN from the dropdown menu and enter the MAC address of your AirPort Base Station.
  2. Below, disable lazy WDS if it isn't already disabled.
Save settings, let router restart.

TAB: Security

FIREWALL: I keep mine disabled, since the Mac is pretty resistent. I know this is poor practice. These instructions may explode if you enable the firewall. I have no idea.

TAB: Administration
Subtab: Management
  1. Router password. Enter a router password so your neighbors can't prank you by making changes.
  2. AP Watchdog should be disabled.
  3. On my router, bandwidth management is enabled. This is a default setting. I don't know what it does and haven't tried to change anything.
  4. The only other things to check are whether Loopback and UPnP are enabled. They should be. The items are listed in alphabetical order, BTW.
Save settings, let the router restart. You are finished with the Linksys, for the moment, but you should leave it turned on. Unplug it from your Mac. Restart your AirPort on your Mac and connect to your network. If you have problems reconnecting, turn the Linksys off. It will retain the settings.

Once you've connected to your network, run the AirPort Administration Utility. If the utility doesn't find your AirPort Base Station and the Linksys is turned on, turn it off and the Base Station should appear. If anyone knows how to fix this annoyance (or any other annoyance I've introduced) please tell me!

Select your AirPort in the utility and choose Configure. We'll go tab by tab, and thankfully Apple doesn't require a save with each change.

TAB: AIRPORT

Change channel to "1" or whatever you chose on the Linksys. Make sure the security settings are whatever you chose on the Linksys.

TAB: Network

Make sure "Distribute IP addresses" is checked, and that "Share a Single IP address (using DHCP and NAT)" is checked. In the drop-down, pick "Use 192.168.1.1 addressing."

TAB: Access Control.

If you want to use MAC address restrictions, you'll need to know the MAC addresses of every wireless device on your network -- and maybe any non-wireless device that will be connected to the Linksys (I'm not sure about this, but I entered them to be safe), and the MAC address of the Linksys itself. Most of the time, these addresses will be written in teensy-weensy little print somewhere on the device. Use the Plus symbol and enter each one with a descriptive name. Don't forget to add the machine you're using (this is made easier, just hit the plus symbol and choose "this computer.")

When all the Macs are done, click on the little gear drop down and choose Export Access Control Entries. This will give you a text document containing all of those MAC addresses -- handy, since you will need to enter them all in the Linksys as well (because -- and this is important -- if you have open access without MAC restrictions on one machine, people can get onto your network through that door.)

TAB: WDS.

If you were using an AirPort Express as your secondary router, you'd have done none of this, by the way, which is a good reason to consider the AirPort Express. You should have thought about that earlier! Check Enable this Base Station as a WDS, with Main Base Station selected in the drop-down. Check Allow Wireless Clients on this Base Station.

Click the plus sign. The utility will scan for other Base Stations to add to the network. It will find your Linksys, which will then show up in the list. But it will tell you that it can't auto-configure (as it could the AirPort), so you'll have to do it manually. Fine.

FINALLY: Click on update, let the thing save, waiting until the main screen of the utility once again shows your AirPort Base Station's ID. Make sure that you can connect to the internet at this point.

OK, you're almost done. Go back to the Linksys. Turn it on. Make sure you are connected to your wireless network. Make sure you are connected to the Internet. Run the Air Traffic Control widget to see if both your routers are out there. Theoretically, whichever one you are closer to should show a stronger signal.

To enable the MAC filters on the Linksys, log back in to the router via your browser, pick the wireless tab, the MAC filter subtab, and the Edit Mac Filter list button. A MAC address filter list will pop up. Click on the Wireless Client MAC list button and whatever devices are currently connected will populate the list. In addition, add any of the MAC addresses you saved in the text file, so the AirPort and the Linksys will have duplicate lists. Pick Save Settings.

Log back on to the Linksys. Get to the MAC filter subtab. Choose Enable for Wireless MAC Filter, and make sure the Permit Only button is clicked. Save again.

Check everything and see if it works. If it does, you can go ahead and add your wired Ethernet devices to your Linksys. Use static IP addresses for each of them (using whatever utility -- usually browser-based -- allows you to control that stuff. Make sure to assign them uniquely, and within your naming scheme 192.168.1.x). Make sure the gateway is the same one you entered into the Linksys, above.

Check everything and see if it works.

THE NUMBER ONE PROBLEM AND FIX: When I make a change to either the Linksys or the AirPort, the AirPort Setup Utility stops showing my connected routers. Everything works, but I have to unplug and reconnect the power to the Linksys in order to get the AirPorts to reappear.

In fact, any problems you have once you've got this configured and working are likely related to the Linksys. Simply pull the power supply cord from the back of the Linksys, wait a second, and reconnect it. You usually don't have to do anything else.
    •    
  • Currently 2.38 / 5
  You rated: 2 / 5 (8 votes cast)
 
[75,818 views]  

Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network | 6 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network
Authored by: Coumerelli on Jun 07, '06 10:01:31PM

Good stuff. As a network admin working on my CCNA (I'm halfway through - yea!) I would, with all due respect of course, correct you on this one point: that only ONE device on the network should be handling DHCP (a.k.a. distributing IP addresses). You say:

TAB: Network

Make sure "Distribute IP addresses" is checked, and that "Share a Single IP address (using DHCP and NAT)" is checked. In the drop-down, pick "Use 192.168.1.1 addressing."

But the device which should be doing this should be the device NEAREST your connection to the internet - whether it's your modem, which may have an embedded router, or your Airport Base station, which you say is closer to the connection than the Linksys.

This stuff is OVERLY confusing to the general user, and doesn't have to be. That's why we have Apple ;)

By doing what you say, you essentially are creating a network (192.168.1.x) within another network (192.168.0.x), assuming a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 - which you have. That means that BOTH your Airport and Linksys are performing NAT and that they are handing out IP addresses. NAT is something like this: Your friend is hosting a super big party for New Years Eve and when you get there, someone at the door is handing out numbered tickets for a door prize. Then, you take 5 or 6 steps into the door to the coat room (he's got a big house) and THAT person is TOO handing out tickets, but with a different number scheme. Wow! now we're all confused. To sum up (shesh) it's just good practice to only have one person hosting the party.

---
"The best way to accelerate a PC is 9.8 m/s2"



[ Reply to This | # ]
Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network
Authored by: Coumerelli on Jun 07, '06 10:05:12PM

WOW! I'm sorry - although what I said is true, I missed a line in the original post - the part about "Return to the Airport Utility"

Sorry....:)

It's obviously configured correctly. Incidentally, I'm dealing with a person trying to VPN to work from across the US and he HAS two routers BOTH configured with DHCP enabled. Bah.

---
"The best way to accelerate a PC is 9.8 m/s2"



[ Reply to This | # ]
Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network
Authored by: neffs on Jun 09, '06 05:05:01AM

I would like to add a few things:

I think almost all firmwares available for the WRT54 series should support WDS, as all firmwares use a proprietary tool from broadcom (the chipset manufacturer) for setup of the wlan module.
I would recommend DD-WRT (for beginners, uses an extended version of the original web interface) and OpenWRT (for linux users).

I don't know if it works with the AirPort Base Station, but i wouldn't ever use a WLAN without encryption.

Spoofing the MAC-Adress is quite easy with some adapters, so it doesn't help much and even if you don't change your MAC-adress you can still record all the traffic on the net. Which means your neighbour will know your passwords if you send them unencrypted and can read your Mails.



[ Reply to This | # ]
I used HyperWRT Thibor
Authored by: mzs on Jun 09, '06 07:11:46AM
The whole mess with Sveasoft is not pretty. I use HyperWRT Thibor though I do not use WDS, it is supposed to work. This firmware is based on the linksys version and the web controls look very similar to the originals. It has been more reliable than the original linksys firmware too.

[ Reply to This | # ]
Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network
Authored by: ital on Jun 12, '06 01:07:06PM

Does anyone know if this will still work with WPA enabled on both devices?



[ Reply to This | # ]
Use a Linksys router to extend an AirPort network
Authored by: sjk on Jun 12, '06 03:26:59PM

Should work fine with third party Linksys firmware that supports WPA over WDS. Not sure about support for WPA2 over WDS, though.



[ Reply to This | # ]