Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Expanding a home wireless network with a range extender

Wirehead lives in a split bedroom home and the cable modem was installed in the master bedroom many years ago.

Wireless access in the second and third bedrooms is marginal
Wireless network with range extender

The solution: purchase a wireless extender that extends the range of the primary wireless router.

Rightardia founds a Netgear  WN2000RPT for $29.00 on EBay that was a refurb.

We had two criteria for the purchase.: support of the latest wireless protocol, 802.11N and WPA-2 security.

The low cost is good news and the extender is now working perfectly.

The bad news is that the extender was a configuration nightmare because it arrived with old firmware.

Rightardia recommends  you connect the extender to the Internet via Ethernet cable and have a second cable connection between the Ethernet port on you laptop or PC to another Ethernet port on the wireless extender.

You can actually configure the unit with just the Internet connection thought the wireless adapter on you PC or laptop. However, the cableless connection is slower.

It is desirable for the range extender to have a wired connection to the primary wireless router. It this case, Wirehead used a Netgear Powerline adapter that uses home wiring for Ethernet connectivity.

Then simply open the browser and enter "netgear_ext." This will open a basic configuration setup wizard that allows a user to identify the Serviced Set identifier (SSID) of the main router that the extender will piggy back off of. However, there is no option for static IP configuration in this simple configuration.

It is likely when the a user is finished, he will be able to connected to the wireless extender, but not necessarily the Internet. This is likely if the main router is not serving gateway or DNS IP addresses via the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).

Once the initial configuration is compete, the user is directed to the primary configuration interface:

The unit arrived with old firmware installed. Once we got into the primary configuration, we tried a firmware update that failed. However, we found an Internet  downloadable version of 1.20 firmware that we were able to upgrade.

Once we got that version installed, the unit settled own and we were able to bring it up to the current f/w version: V1.0.1.24NA.

Make sure you set the security set options correctly:
WPA2-PSK with AES is the only secure way to configure this home wireless extender.

Use a password or pass phrase that is alt least 12-digits long. A 16-digit password is nearly impossible to break. Use upper and lower case letter, numbers and special characters that area above the number keys on you keyboard

Wirehead configured the device with a static IP address, subnet mask, gateway and primary Domain Name Service (DNS) address.  The latter two usually reflect the IP address of the wireless router. We also recommend disabling DHCP on the extender to avoid dueling DHCP servers.

The WN2000RPT now works great and provides an 802.111N 2.4 GHZ connection to the main wireless router that is setup for 802.11G/N. if you have an older 80.11G router, this may be an effective way of upgrading you wireless network to 802.11N.

In summary, you might try to initailly configure the router with he interface that include the setup wizard.

We found to setup wizard to have little value. The setup wizard is too basic for a secure installation.

Firmware upgrades to V1.0.1.24NA. should be completed after the unit can connect to the Internet.

The unit should work better if configured with a static IP address. this will help if the wireless router is not serving up a gateway or DNS address using DHCP.

However, it is advisable to turn off the DHCP server on the wireless extender to prevent problems that occur when two DHCP servers are in a network.

One of the unexpected benefits was the extender provides single channel 802..1N service. We had set one of the channels on the main router to 802.11g to be compatible with an older IPad.

The home network now has a 5ghz 802.11N channel, a 2.4ghz 802.1N channel and an a 2.4ghz 802.1G channel.

Best of all, a son with a birthday Blackberry tablet can run full screen you 1080 HD tube videos without any lag.

For $29, the WN2000RPT was a great purchase. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours configuring and upgrading it.

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