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Just because your old Wi-Fi router has been regained by a newer model doesn’t mean it needs to come dust in the closet. How to take an old and underpowered Wi-Fi router and trend it into a decent network switch (saving your $20 in the process).

Why Do I Want To Do This?

Wi-Fi technology has changed decidedly in the last ten years, but Ethernet-based networking has returned very little. As such, a Wi-Fi router with 2006-era guts is lagging much behind current Wi-Fi router technology, but the Ethernet networking basic of the device is just as useful as ever; aside from likely being only 100Mbs instead of 1000Mbs capable (which for 99% of home applications is irrelevant), Ethernet is Ethernet.

What does this matter to you, the consumer? It means that even though your old router doesn’t hack it for your Wi-Fi needs any longer, the tools is still a perfectly serviceable (and high quality) network switch. When do you want a network switch? Anytime you want to share an Ethernet cable among multiple devices, you need a switch.

For example, let’s say you have a single Ethernet wall jack behind your entertainment center. Unfortunately, you have four accessory that you want to link to your local network via hard line including your smart HDTV, DVR, Xbox, and a little Raspberry Pi running XBMC.

What Do I Need?

You’ll need a few things, all of which you fair have readily on hand or are free for download. To follow the basic division of the post , you’ll need the following:

  • 1 Wi-Fi router with Ethernet ports
  • 1 Computer with Ethernet jack
  • 1 Ethernet cable

For the advanced tutorial, you’ll need all of those things, plus:

  • 1 copy of DD-WRT firmware for your Wi-Fi router

We attend the experiment with a Linksys WRT54GL Wi-Fi router. The WRT54 series is one of the best-selling Wi-Fi router set of all time and there’s a good chance an important  number of readers have one (or more) of them loaded in an office closet.

Even if you don’t have one of the WRT54 series routers, however, the principles we’re banding here apply to all Wi-Fi routers; as long as your router control panel allows the basic changes, you can follow right along with us.

Router
Router

A rapid note on the difference between the basic and progressive versions of this tutorial before we proceed. Your typical Wi-Fi router has 5 Ethernet ports on the back: 1 labeled “Internet”, “WAN”, or a deviation thereof and calculated to be connected to your DSL/Cable modem, and 4 labeled 1-4 designed to connect Ethernet devices like computers, printers, and game relieve directly to the Wi-Fi router.

When you followed a Wi-Fi router to a switch, in most position, you’ll lose two port as the “Internet” port cannot be used as a natural switch port and one of the switch ports becomes the information port for the Ethernet cable linking the switch to the main network.

This means, referencing the diagram above, you’d lose the WAN port and LAN port 1, but retain LAN ports 2, 3, and 4 for use. If you only required switching for 2-3 devices, this may be sufficient.

However, for those of you that would adopt a more traditional switch setup where there is a devoted WAN port and the rest of the ports are usable, you’ll need to flash a third-party router firmware like the powerful DD-WRT onto your device. Doing so opens up the router to a cooler degree of conversion and allows you to assign the previously composed WAN port to the switch, thus opening up LAN ports 1-4.

Preparing Your Router for Life as a Switch

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Before we jump right in to lock down the Wi-Fi functionality and reposing your device as a network switch, there are a few relevant prep steps to attend to.

First, you want to reset the router (if you just flashed a new firmware to your router, skip this step). coming the reset action for your precise router or go with what is known as the “Peacock Method” wherein you hold down the reset button for thirty seconds, unplug the router and wait (while still holding the reset button) for thirty seconds, and then plug it in while, again, ongoing to hold down the rest button. Over the life of a router there are an array of changes made, big and small, so it’s best to wipe them all back to the cooperative default before repurposing the router as a switch.

Second, after rebooting, we need to modify  the IP address of the device on the local network to an address which does not directly clash with the new router.

The typical default IP address for a home router is 192.168.1.1; if you ever need to get back into the administration panel of the router-turned-switch to check on things or form changes it will be an actual hassle if the IP address of the tool conflicts with the new home router.

The simplest way to contract with this is to appoint an address close to the certain router address but outside the range of addresses that your router will allow via the DHCP client; a good pick then is 192.168.1.2.

Once the router is reset (or re-flashed) and has been allowing a new IP address, it’s time to configure it as a switch.

Basic Router to Switch Configuration

config
config

If you don’t need to flash new firmware onto your device to open up that addition port, this is the section of the post for you: we’ll cover how to take aSTOCK
router, our previously mentioned WRT54 series Linksys, and novice it to a switch.

Hook the Wi-Fi router up to the network via one of the LAN ports (consider the WAN port as great as dead from this point forward; unless you begin using the router in its conventional function again or later flash a more advanced firmware to the device, the port is correctly retired at this point). Open the administration control panel via

Open the administration control panel via a web browser on a connected PC or laptop. Before we take started, two things:

  • Anything we don’t explicitly instruct you to change should be left in the default factory reset setting as you find it,
  • Change the settings in the order we list them as some settings can’t be changed after certain features are disabled.

To start, let’s navigate to Setup ->Basic Setup. Here you need to change the following things:

Save with the “Save Settings” button and then navigate to Setup -> Advanced Routing:

This particular setting is very faulty. The “Operating Mode” toggle tells the device whether or not it should enable the Network Address Translation (NAT)  feature. Because we pass a smart hunk of networking hardware into a rather dumb one, we don’t need this feature so we switch from Gateway mode (NAT on) to Router mode (NAT off).

Our next stop is Wireless -> Basic Wireless Settings:

After disabling the wireless, we’re going to, again, do something counterintuitive. Navigate toWireless -> Wireless Security and set the following parameters:

By the Power outage when your router-turned-switch cycles on and off a bunch of times and the Wi-Fi functionality is started, we don’t want to be access the Wi-Fi node wide open and granting free access to your network.

While the break of this is next-to-nonexistent, it takes only a few seconds to apply the security measure, so there’s little reason not to.

Save your changes and navigate to Security ->Firewall.

Advanced Router to Switch Configuration

Advanced Router
Advanced Router

For the advanced configuration, you’ll required  a copy of DD-WRT installed on your router. Even if doing so is an extra few steps, it brings you a lot more regulation over the process and free an extra port on the device.

Hook the Wi-Fi router up to the web via one of the LAN ports (later you can switch the cable to the WAN port). Open the administration control panel via a web browser on the secured your connection  of  computer. Navigate to the Setup -> Basic Setup tab to get started. In the Basic Setup tab, ensure the following settings become. The setting changes are not optional and are vital to turn the Wi-Fi router into a switch.

In addition to disabling the DHCP server, also, uncheck all the DNSMasq boxes at the bottom of the DHCP sub-menu. If you want to enable the extra port (and why wouldn’t you), in the WAN port section:

At this point, the router has turned into a switch and you have access to the WAN port so the LAN ports are all free. Since we’re already in the control panel, however, we might as well spin a few optional toggles that more lock down the switch and avoid something odd from happening. The optional settings form via the menu you find them in. Remember to save your locale with the save button before moving onto a new tab.

While still in the Setup -> Basic Setup menu, change the following:

The next step is to keep off the radio completely (which not only destroy the Wi-Fi but real powers the physical radio chip off). Navigate to Wireless -> Advanced Settings -> Radio Time Restrictions:

Radio Time
Radio Time

Under Services -> Services:

Service
Service

Under the Security -> Firewall tab, uncheck every box except “Filter Multicast”, as in the image above, and then disable SPI Firewall. Once you’re done here, save and move on to the Administration tab. Under Administration -> Management: 

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