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DD-WRT: Setting up a home Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

INTRODUCTION:

I’ve been a fan of the DD-WRT router firmware for some time. I’ve even done a couple of post about installing and upgrading a Linksys WRT54G with DD-WRT firmware. DD-WRT firmware runs on a number of wireless Linux based routers and provides capabilities far beyond factory firmware, such as VOIP, VPN and advanced traffic control.

Our home is single level with a fairly long floor plan from end-to-end. My office, where the main wireless router (Linksys WRT54G) resides, is in one end of the house and there is a brick chimney between it and the main living area and kitchen. As such the wireless signal strength at the other end of the house, is often weak.

OVERVIEW:

Here’s a rough draft of our home’s floor plan. It’s absolutely NOT to scale and doesn’t show all areas. You will see on this diagram the location of the primary AP (A) and of the second AP (B) that I added as a WDS node. More on that follows below.

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I’d picked up a Linksys WRT54GS wireless router on Ebay some time ago and had put it away as a spare if anything should happen with my main router.

This weekend I decided to use it to set up a Wireless Distribution System (WDS) in my home to fuller home wireless coverage. Plus, I love doing projects like this!

First things first, by definition a WDS is a system that enables the interconnection of access points wirelessly. It allows a wireless network to be expanded using multiple access points without the need for a wired backbone to link them, as is traditionally required. WDS may also be referred to as repeater mode because it appears to bridge and accept wireless clients at the same time (unlike traditional bridging). It should be noted, however, that throughput in this method is inversely proportional to the number of “hops”, as all traffic uses the same channel. For example, client traffic going through one relay station before it reaches the main access point will see at most half the maximum throughput that a directly connected client would experience.

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For the point of this discussion I’m going to refer to my main access point as “WRT54G (A)” and the new WDS node access point as “WRT54GS (B)”.DETAILS:

If you have two wireless routers with the DD-WRT firmware installed it’s simple setting up a WDS. I chose to set up a LAN-type WDS, although the options also allow you to set up a point-to-point WDS. A LAN type WDS is the easiest and most common as it requires no extra routing protocols or knowledge of networking, it is simply network bridging.

Below are the steps for setting up the WDS:

1. First you should make sure you’re using the same wireless settings on both routers and initially not any type of Wireless Security. If you have WEP or WPA security currently setup, disable it for the time being. You should also have the ability to access the web interface for each router. This access should not be via a wireless link but by an ethernet link.

2. On your main router, in my case the WRT54G (A), navigate to the Wireless/WDS section, select any row that says “Disable” and change it to “LAN” then enter the wireless MAC Address of the other router (B) on the row you changed to “LAN”.

Note: I’ve blurred out the MAC Addresses and some IP Addresses for security reasons.

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3. On your secondary router, in my case WRT54GS (B), navigate to the Wireless/WDS section, select any row that says “Disable” and change it to “LAN” then enter the wireless MAC Address of the main router (A) on the row you changed to “LAN”.

Steps 2 & 3 tie the two routers together into one LAN.

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Make sure you typed these MAC Address numbers correctly then save your settings.

4. Go to the Wireless Status Page of each router. You should see WDS Link and the Wireless MAC of the other router listed, with a signal reading. If the signal is “0dBm” then there may be something wrong. Check your antenna connections and configuration settings, and try again.

WRT54G (A) Wireless Status Page:

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WRT54GS (B) Wireless Status Page:
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5. Once you have a decent signal, you can change the Internet Connection Type on the Basic Setup page of the second router to Disabled and set the Gateway to the LAN IP Address of the first router. This will route all traffic to your main wireless router/AP (A).

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My secondary router/AP is IP Address 192.168.1.2 while my main router/AP is 192.168.1.1. Since I also use DHCP to assign IP Addresses on my home network I set the DHCP Type on my secondary router/AP (B) to “DHCP Forwarder” which will forward all request for IP Addresses to my main router. I entered the IP Address of my main router (A), 192.168.1.1, as the DHCP Server.

6. You can now run normal test to check if you are connected (ping).

7. Once you are sure you are connected and that everything is working, then you can set up Security. It is strongly recommended to use WPA Pre-shared Key with AES and TKIP as it is secure and easy.

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You should not use WEP security with WPS!

SUMMARY:

This project was a fun and successful. I now have great wireless coverage over my whole home. If you already have a Linksys or other supported wireless router this project is very inexpensive. You can get a second router for about $40-50 USD. Also the DD-WRT v23 SP2 firmware is free.

I’ve listed a number of related resources below.

RELATED RESOURCES:

DD-WRT Firmware: V23 SP2 Update – Blog Post – Dec. 2006

DD-WRT Firmware: v23 SP1 update – Blog Post – Jul. 2006

LinkSys WRT54G Firmware DD-WRT Upgrade – Blog Post – Mar. 2006

DD-WRT Home site – dd-wrt home web site

DD-WRT Download – dd-wrt download web page

List of Routers Supported by DD-WRT – Blog Post

82 Comments on DD-WRT: Setting up a home Wireless Distribution System (WDS)

  1. Steve. If you are able to connect to router 2 through router one connection AND the internet, all should be good. Go plug into router 2 see if you can connect back to router 1 and get on the internet there. If you can connect to the internet THROUGH ethernet ports from both routers then its a wireless setting. You might look at dns masq settings or security settings on both routers. Try turning off wep, wpa etc on both routers and check again. DNS masq hides the dns settings from connections. I dont remember if it is in wireless settings or if it is a system / dd-wrt primary setting.
    reguardless if you are connected to both routers by ethernet AND you can see router 1 from router 2 and vice verse, it has to be a setting in wireless.
    I will look at the wireless options when I get back to my office today and try to give you an update on what it could be.

  2. Great tutorial, I finally got this to work. However, it seems like every time I try to add security to both routers, I lose the connection to the internet on router 2. I’ve tried with WPA Personal and WPA2 Personal, each setup stops router two from connecting to router 1. Any advice? I’m running ddwrt v24.

    • try build 14929

      • I have the same problem too. Every time I try to add security setting to both router, it’s disconnected.

        I use build 12548M for WRT54GL (it is the latest that i downloaded)
        Any idea?

  3. This explanation rocks! thanks Steve. Ive never quite got my head around a dual router setup untill now.

  4. Hello,

    I used your blog entry to the letter and it is great.
    I made one mistake / assumption: I used the Routers MAC-address in both cases in stead of the WIRELESS MAC-Address.
    It took a while before I saw that, but than it worked like a charm.
    FYI: I use the v24 version of the nowadays firmware on both the WRT54GS (standard build) and my WRT54G V5 (Mind you: on the V5 of the WRT54G you can only use the MICRO build of DD-WRT but the principle is the same.

    Great posting, thanks!

  5. DHCP Forwarding has to be OFF. It is for other purposes! Read DD-WRT Wiki or ask on the Forum. Your WDS nodes serve the same subnet so DHCP has to be off on the WDS node (not the wds server)

  6. WDS is only available in AP mode. Also Wireless encryption WPA2 and Wireless network mode B-Only are not supported under WDS.

  7. Great tut, but i would like to know how can i add the 3rd or 4th AP incase of a v big location and to get full coverage

    • Hi awesome0,

      I’ve set up 5 routers in a WDS network by linking them in a chain, so to speak. Each router in the chain only connects to the adjacent routers. So if router 1 is my primary router connected to the Internet, it would connect to router 2 and 3. Router 2 would then connect to router 4, and router 3 would connect to router 5.

      Router 4 Router 2 Router 1(Primary) Router 3 Router 5

      On the Wireless/WDS tab select LAN on the left for each router you wish to add and then put in the MAC address of ONLY the router(s) that are immediately adjacent to this router in your WDS setup. Get the proper MAC address from the top of the WDS tab in the router(s) you want the primary router to connect with. Disable or remove any MAC addresses of routers not immediately adjacent to the router you are configuring.

      In my example above, router 1 should only have MAC addresses for router 2 and router 3 on its WDS tab. Router 2 should only have MAC addresses for router 1 and router 4 on its WDS tab. Router 3 should only have MAC addresses for router 1 and router 5 on its WDS tab.

      Also Router 4 should only have the single MAC address for router 2 on its WDS tab, and router 5 should only have the single MAC address for router 3 on its WDS tab.

      I have not tried any more than the 5, but imagine 7 or 9 would also work, with associated speed loss for each hop. If you only need 3, just leave out the instructions for routers 2 and 3, and connect router 1 to router 4 and router 5.

      Hope this helps!
      Brian

  8. I am trying to set this up with 2 wrt54g v5 routers I just flashed with dd-wrt firmware V24-sp2 micro.
    It appears that both routers have the same wireless MAC address (entering the MAC on the bottom of the router doesn’t appear to work). I am assuming that one needs to be changed, as I can not establish a connection between the two if I use the same MAC address in the WDS lan setup. Is this correct? If so, how do I go about changing the wireless MAC address on one or both routers?

  9. I’m so glad I came across your website… This is very well done.
    I will try this soon..

    This bottom project failed and read that WDS should link the two Xbox 360 together over a distance.
    _____________________
    What I want to do:
    I have been trying to connect two neighbors Xboxes together WITHOUT wires to play games using local Xbox SystemLink.

    Problem:
    They connect and when playing games, one starts server the other see it. When trying to join, there is a 30 seconds, and then a message pops up saying the game lobby has been closed. Tried different games. Plugging both cat5 direct in Primary router, it works.

    My hardware:
    1X Buffalo-wli-tx4-g54hp (Primary using DHCP)192.168.1.1 plugged into Xbox
    1X Us Robotics-USR5461 (Secondary Client Bridged) 192.168.1.2 Plugged into Xbox
    Both have DD-WRT V24-SP2
    They are right now next to each other for configuring. No internet or other equip in equation.

    I followed these instructions;
    http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Client_Bridged
    Firewall turned off- only “Filter Multicast” checked.
    This might be Xbox specific..

  10. I guess Xbox SystemLink doesn’t work with WDS either.. ;-(

    Anyone?

  11. Out of all the tutorials online, this one makes the most sense. But it’s not working for me. I have a Cisco gateway (don’t remember the model) that supports WDS. I click on WDS settings, and click “allow this signal to be repeated by a repeater”, and then I type in the MAC address of my D-Link DIR 615.

    Then I do everything else you said, and the D-Link with DDWRT connects to the Cisco (main router), but only as a CLIENT, and not a WDS repeater or anything sounding like that. I don’t want that, I want a WDS connection between the two. Of course this is because the Cisco isn’t using DDWRT firmware…but it shouldn’t matter. Since the Cisco supports WDS, it should send it’s signal wirelessly to the D-link. And it DOES, but it does so as a client. What am I doing wrong?

  12. Robert, it was always a pain to get wds working correctly. When finally ddwrt, tomato, sveasoft 3rd party firmware made it work right. Now … throw in 2 different routers WITH 2 different firmware programs. You are starting to push the envelope of experience. I personally have moved away from ddwrt and linksys now that we have other options available that do not require flashing, uploading, configuring and testing so much. I have moved to ubiquiti airmax routers. WDS is built into them, the gui is fairly straight forward and they seem to work effortlessly. ( Still working and testing on them )
    I can tell you from a tech standpoint it is so much easier to have identical versions, routers, firmware when you start playing with wds.
    That being said… the only possible things I can think of right at this moment ( as I dont know the cisco software or the dir 612 for that matter ) would be to make sure you are manually inputting the mac address from the WIRELESS mac ( not the wired mac ) into the opposite router for connectivity. Then with ALL security turned OFF. Try the connection. If you are able to connect but are not seeing websites take a look at any dns masq settings that may be enabled. turn them off.
    Above and beyond that…. unless I played with each router separately and in the context you are I cannot be much more help. There are just too many variables and possibilities to cover them all.
    I do not mean to be negative but… the guide is being used with specific hardware, software and settings. We cannot possibly know every router, access point, firmware, or gui interface out on the market.
    I would suggest ( if you cannot get this to work ) to try purchasing the equipment, using the firmware and following the guide. It works awesome. Or take a look at the new ubiquiti routers. I will have to admit one drawback to ubiquiti is the ability to UP the signal strength. I have not seen that option yet. But… I have just started playing with them.

    Sorry I could not have been more helpful…. hope what I did answer is somewhat of a starting point for your situation …

    Good luck and happy networking

  13. Is there a way to secure WDS nodes I dont want to give every body my connection fore free

  14. use wpa2 aes. Thats the only encryption supported for wds

  15. I have 2 wrt54GL v1.1 running DD-WRT v24-sp2 (08/12/10) std – build 14929 each. When I enable security “wpa2 aes” I can get stable link. When I reboot the client, the link will re-establish itself. when I reboot the host, the link will not re-establish istself untill I reboot the client.

    I have seen this issue posted and haven’t found a solution yet. Have any of you heard of this and have a solution for it?

    Thanks

  16. I have setup the WDS with two routers. Router A is the primary and router B is the secondary. Internet connection is connected to router A. I can access the internet in both routers. Ethernet connection at router B can ping ethernet connection at router A but ethernet connection at router A cannot ping ethernet connection at router B. What else should I set to make it work?
    THanks.

    • Double check your mac address’ be sure to use the wireless mac address’ used in both routers. If you did this and the macs are correct take a look at dnsmasq and disable dns masking. …
      also if you are using passwords for wep, wpa or other. … disable all encryption to test the connection. Assuming the connection works with no encryption you can then attempt to enable encryption.
      I cannot think of anything else at this point with the information you have given me.

      good luck

  17. I have a Plasma that has internet connectivity but no wifi. Unfortunately there is not ethernet jack near by and I would have to run a cord across my place. I was curious if it would work to take an old router and make it a WDS repeater, but plug the tv directly into the router.

    Thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    • It should work just fine. I have connected switches, printers and computers to the client end of the wds system ( external router so to speak ) and was able to transmit data from computer on router 1 to printer on router 2 and vice versa.
      Your plasma tv with a ethernet adapter should be the exact same thing as a printer with an ethernet adapter.

      hope this helps

      rick

  18. I realize this post is 5 yrs old. Hopefully, by now you’ve run a CAT5e cable to the other router. $20 for the cable and an hour at most in the attic would more than double the performance and for the wired devices, it would be like night and day. Just setup the secondary router in bridge/AP mode and pass all traffic upstream.

    If you make the main router a GigE one, then you’ll easily be able to support HiDef streaming to multiple locations in the home too.

  19. Hi there thanks for the tutorial, im quite new to using WDS and would like to give this a try using your tutorial, just one question though, what about MAC address filtering, i want to be able to only allow certain devices access to the wifi network by using MAC address, the thing is do i enter the MAC details on the main router or do i have to do it on both routers? please advise thanks.

  20. I actually seem to go along with all the things that was
    composed within “DD-WRT: Setting up a home Wireless Distribution System (WDS) – Meandering Passage”.
    Thanks for all the actual details.Thanks for your effort-Eulalia
    http://tinyurl.com/bpoidyer48578 recently posted… http://tinyurl.com/bpoidyer48578

  21. Just an FYI: I’ve noticed you have concealed the last 4 of your MAC address. I would like to inform you, this is still insecure. I work as an IT professional in land based and wireless based internet (To simplify my position / knowledge). Expressing the last 4 digits of your actual MAC address is a HUGE security risk! This is because you have given the make/model and last 4 of your MAC. Because there is only a small allotment of IPV4 addresses linked directly to your device, one could easily find and send harsh packets your way; moreover, what’s worse, If I had criminal intentions, I could also spoof you MAC address and utilitize your DNS information to clone my hardware to yours… In essence, making your connection as my own, per se. I would be able to easily emulate encapsulation that would seemingly form from your location without absolute location, purely based upon your make:model:last4 . I would HIGHLY suggest you change this information in it’s entirety .. Say .. representing the last 4 as the end octets in the hexadecmial system.. ff:ff… Just words from the wise is all. Namaste friend!

    • Paul, thanks for making/commenting on this excellent point. Luckily in my case this hardware is no longer being used but I will be more careful for future posts.

  22. It is worth quoting from the official dd-wrt wiki:

    “WDS between different chip vendors (atheros, broadcom, ralink) will not work most of the time since it’s INCOMPATIBLE and no we will NOT fix it.

  23. Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out some additional information.

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  24. If I add a virtual WAP to my routers or routers, with a different subnet address (to isolate it from the main subnet so visitors can use the internet but not access computers on the main subnet how do I use WDS to distribute this access point to both host router and client router?

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