Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Properly Connect Two Routers Together

I have seen some weird solutions for connecting multiple routers together in order to make them work. If you have ever tried to connect two routers together, you have probably found out that just connecting them together does not make them work! The correct way is going to depend on what you want to accomplish, but for the most part, the best solution going to be to change the IP address on the second router and turn off the DHCP server.

Why can you not connect two routers together? The main reason is the fact that most home routers are configured as gateways rather than as an actual router. A gateway router is simply a router that connects you to the Internet, and provides all the devices on your network with IP addresses and the necessary information to get to the Internet. So, when you hook up a second router they are both going to try to do the same job, and the second router that is not directly connected to the Internet will not be able to do the job because it does not have the necessary information from your ISP to get online. To add to the troubles the routers may both have the same IP address and may be both handing out IP addresses in the same range, which will cause conflicts between devices and possibly bring your entire network down. Now, there are some exceptions to this, I have seen some routers that can be directly connected together without needing to have any changes made; however, do not count on this, especially if you have routers of the same brand.

Why would you want to connect two routers together? There may be many reasons, but I will discuss 2 of my reasons for using two routers.

  • Before I changed ISP's, the reason I used two routers was the fact that my main router that was connected to the Internet was in the basement. My main router was a wireless Linksys WRT350, which unfortunately did not have enough signal strength to reach upstairs. So, rather than purchasing a Wi-Fi extender or something along those lines, I ran Category 6 cable upstairs and setup a second router, just for Wi-Fi, as an added benefit it allowed me to connect my Blu-ray player and my Xbox since the second router had available ports. My second router was a Linksys WRT610.
  • Now that I have changed ISPs, I still use two routers; my main router is a DSL modem/router combo that is provided by my ISP. This router has wireless capabilities, but my ISP charges an additional monthly fee if you turn the wireless on. Rather than paying the monthly fee, I simply use my second router, which since it was already configured previously I did not have to make any changes. Nor do I have to worry about how my router provided by my ISP is configured.
  • In addition you can use the second router as a range extender for your current wireless network. Or you can set it up as a completely separate wireless network, such as for guests.
  • You can use the second router to provide additional ports; most home routers have 3-4 ports in addition to the WAN port for Internet.

To set this up, first you will need two routers - obviously right? I personally recommend sticking with the same brand; I also recommend Linksys products, because I know they work, I have seen one Netgear router that does not allow you to change the necessary settings. One of the routers will be your main router that will connect to the Internet. You should not have to configure anything on your main router, other than to note what its IP address is and what the range of IP addresses it hands out is. If you are using a Linksys router the default IP address for the router will be 192.168.1.1 and the range of IP addresses that Linksys hands out starts at 192.168.1.100; just note, newer Linksys routers start off at 192.168.1.2, if that is the case you will need to change the starting IP address to 192.168.1.3.

To setup the second router, do not connect it to your network instead connect it directly to a computer that is not on the network. Connecting the router to the network or any computer that is connected to network will cause problems when you try to access the router to configure it. When I configure a router I usually use my laptop to connect directly to the router, and I also turn the wireless on my laptop off so the only thing I am connected to is the second router.

The first thing to change on your second router will be its IP address, I recommend setting it one higher than your main routers IP address. So, for Linksys this would be 192.168.1.2. Just to note here, to be aware of, what is the IP address range the main Router hands out? You do not want to set your second routers IP address to an IP address that your main router hands out.

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Once you have the IP addresses set, the next step is to turn off the DHCP server on your secondary router. For Linksys routers this option is right next to the IP address setting. This will allow any device that connects through your second router to get its IP address and Internet information from your main router.  Once you are done changing settings, make sure you save the settings!

For physically connecting the routers, just use any of the normal LAN ports on the back of your router, do not use the WAN/Internet port – except on the main router of course to connect to the internet!

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