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How to Configure a Wireless Repeater

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 12/8/2009

Bought a wireless repeater and want to know what sort of configuration you need to run it adequately? We've got that and much more in this guide on how to set up a wireless repeater.

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    Extending and Repeating

    First, let’s start out by talking about what a wireless repeater actually is, and then we’ll move on to configuring it to expand your network.

    A wireless repeater is a cool little piece of hardware that can expand your network drastically without the need to use any kind of wiring or additional hardware. The way a repeater works is that it takes the signal being transmitted by the router and re-broadcasts it in the location the repeater is. In this way, you have the same signal traveling throughout the place you’re trying to hook up. Of course, the repeater has to rebroadcast at a higher power level in order to maintain the signal as it travels a greater distance.

    Personally, I don’t trust wireless repeaters as much as I do wired ones. The reason is simple – a wireless repeater takes a wireless, over-the-air signal (which is already degrading) and rebroadcasts it. As this is done, you’re losing signal integrity in two different places, rather than the single source that you were before. With a wired repeater, the network extends by cable into the repeater, decreasing the amount of signal lost by the time the repeater rebroadcasts. Therefore, a wired repeater just acts as a secondary router to broadcast the signal into different parts of your house or place of business.

    Talking about the Physics behind it is fun and all, but you’re here to know how to configure that new wireless repeater you just bought – so let’s start.

    Set the SSIDs to be the Same

    Since I don’t know which access point or repeater you have exactly, it’s difficult for me to tell you exactly where to go in the menu.

    However, some things are standard across platforms. First things first, you’ll want to grab a cat5e cable and connect to the repeater directly from the PC you’re currently using.

    Once inside the system menu of the device (as given to you by the manual), you’ll want to look through the menus to configure the device properly.

    Make sure to set the SSID to be the same as the one on your primary network. The SSID is the name of your network, and along with the name of your network, also establish the password on the repeater to be the same one as the one you use in your regular network.

    Set the MAC Addresses

    A MAC address is almost like a static IP address for the hardware, but that’s a simplistic explanation. Either way, you need to set the wireless access point’s MAC address to be the same one as the router’s address, or else you’re going to face some serious issues. This is just to ensure that you’re utilizing the right hardware that’s compatible with your router.

    Hook it Up and Cross Your Fingers

    Assuming you have the MAC addresses set and the SSIDs broadcasting identically, and all the other advanced features of the wireless repeater set up appropriately, the next step is to unhook it from your PC and take it for a test drive. Take out the Cat5e cable from the back of the repeater and place it in it’s desired location. Remember, for location purposes, the repeater needs to be close enough to the router in order to repeat the signal appropriately.

    Once in place, plug it in and step back. Check the front lights on the repeater – if you’re getting a WLAN signal, you’re in business! Otherwise, you’ll have to go back to the manual and maybe even call up tech support if the problem persists. Wireless repeaters can be tricky little things, but assuming everything is configured correctly, it should work perfectly.