Turning a Router into an Access Point

Let’s start by defining the difference between a wireless router and a wireless access point.  Basically a router acts as the DHCP server and core brain of your network.  It assigns DHCP addresses, runs a firewall, and sends out your wireless signal throughout your home or office.  It is in essence the core of your network.  A wireless access point is merely a device that broadcasts wireless, but does none of the other things a router does.  It does not provide DHCP addresses to your computers, it does not do any kind of firewall.  It basically just allows people to access your network using wireless.

So you already have a network with your own router or DHCP server at home that maybe doesn’t have wireless.  You go to Best Buy or any of your local retailers and look, and mostly all you see are routers, you do not see any wireless access points.  Well there is a way to configure a wireless router to act as just a wireless access point.  Saving you lots of time and money from finding the specialized wireless access point device.

Basically once you get the router and get it home, hook up a laptop or computer to it using a local ethernet cable plugged into the switch part of the router, do not use the internet or WAN port of the router.  You are going to want to do an ipconfig /all to find the Gateway of your computer.  Once you have that IP address you can plug that into your browser and it will bring up the web configuration page of your router.  Each router’s web interface is different, so I am afraid I am going to have to be a little vague here, but basically you will want to do the following:

  • Configure the wireless for the router.  As you will want the router to act as a wireless access point, you still need to configure the wireless.  Make sure to set the SSID to a name of your choosing, and setup some security such as WPA.
  • Next you will want to find the network settings of your router and turn off the DHCP settings.  Basically you are telling the router not to act as the DHCP server.  This will allow your real router or DHCP server to answer requests and keep everything on the same network.
  • You will also want to give your new access point a static IP address on your network, so you can access the web interface at a later time.  These settings are usually found in the LAN settings of the router configuration.  Give it an IP address that matches your existing network, and make sure you record what that IP address is for future use.
  • Now that you have all the configuration setup on your new router, plug the router into your existing network.  However make sure to plug it into the switch part of the router, and not the Internet or WAN port.  Basically the router is configured to act as a wireless switch at this point.

That’s it, your router should be configured to act as an access point and not a router.  It is important to note that when setting up the router you may lose contact with the web interface after changing the router to a static IP address.  You can setup a different static IP address on your computer so that you can still access the router.  Or if you already configured the static IP to match your existing network, go ahead and plug the router into your network.

So the next time you are at your local store and need an access point and can only find routers, with a little configuration routers can be just access points as well.