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Adding a wireless access point to my current network

I have a home network connected to the Internet via a cable modem. Right now, I am connecting a Linksys Etherfast Cable/DSL router to the cable modem. I have three PCs connected to this router with Ethernet cable. This is on the first floor of my house. I have two more PCs I'd like to connect but they are on the third floor. So, I'm thinking about adding a wireless router to the mix. Can I just plug a wireless router to the uplink port on my existing router and wireless cards to the PCs upstairs? If not, what do I need to do to add wireless to my network?

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Yes, you could drop a wireless access point (AP) off the uplink port of your existing router, creating a WLAN for your upstairs PCs. Start with the AP on the first floor, next to your existing router, and see how well it performs. You might need to locate the AP on the third or at least the second floor, because the farther your stations are from the AP, the weaker the signal and therefore slower the link.

For hardware, you have several options:

  • Use a simple AP (like a Linksys WAP11) to bridge those wireless PCs onto your existing subnet. The wireless PCs will get IP addresses from your existing cable/DSL router.

  • Use a router with an integrated AP (like a Linksys BEFW11S4) to relay traffic between wireless and wired subnets. The wireless PCs will get IPs from the new wireless router, and your existing router will need a static route to relay packets between the Internet and your WLAN.

  • REPLACE your existing cable/DSL router with a new wireless router, plugging your 3 Ethernet PCs into switch ports on the new router to create one unified LAN. All PCs (wired and wireless) will get IPs from the new router, which serves as a single point of control for your LAN.

    Whatever you do, be sure to use security features on the wireless AP/router to limit access to the WLAN, so that war drivers can't use your new WLAN to access your wired PCs or your Internet connection.

    This was first published in April 2003

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