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How to setup WDS between a wireless router and an AirPort Express

WDS LoveThinking about expanding your wireless network but aren't exactly sure how to go about it? Using my trusty Linksys WRT54G, a copy of DD-WRT and an AirPort Express, I was able to increase the range of my network, and also bridge my wife's office upstairs with the network in the basement. Here's how you can do it too.

  • 1 Linksys WRT54G running DD-WRT
  • 1 Apple AirPort Express
  • MAC addresses of both
  • 15-20 minutes of your time

For those who don't know, WDS stands for Wireless Distribution System. It's a simple system that allows you to interconnect multiple access points wirelessly. Wikipedia, as always, has more information on the subject.

Before we get started, as noted above, you need to have DD-WRT installed on your Linksys WRT54G, or on any AP/Router that supports it. Have a look at DD-WRT's hardware compatibility list to see if your hardware is supported. If you don't have DD-WRT installed, and are using a WRT54G, see these instructions on my personal blog on how to install DD-WRT. You'll also need to have already configured your AirPort Express.


One important note: If you want to use WDS, you can't use WPA or WPA2 encryption. This is because with WPA and WPA2 the MAC addresses of nodes are encrypted. WEP is your only option for any encryption, so go 128-bit. You may also want to consider other security precautions, such as MAC address filtering, since WEP is trivial for even a caffeinated monkey to crack.

1. Write down the MAC address of both your WRT54G and your AirPort Express. This will likely be on the underside of the WRT54G and on the side of the AirPort Express. MAC addresses are commonly printed as 01:23:45:67:89:ab, but can sometimes be printed with dashes or without any separators.

2. Go to the DD-WRT administration panel of your Linksys WRT54G and click on the Wireless tab. From there, click the WDS sub-tab. You'll see a list of empty MAC addresses and some extra options.

DD-WRT Control Panel

3. For the first entry in the list, select "LAN" from the drop-down menu, and then type in the MAC address of your AirPort Express. Leave "Lazy WDS" and "WDS Subnet" disabled, and then click Save Settings.

4. Now, launch the AirPort Admin Utility (located in /Applications/Utilities), select your AirPort Express in the list, and click the Configure button. At the configuration window, click the WDS tab.

Airport Admin Utility

5. Select the "Enable this base station as a WDS" option, and from the drop-down menu select "remote base station", and also select the "Allow wireless clients on this base station" option. For the Main AirPort ID, either type in the MAC address of your Linksys WRT54G (separated with colons) or click the select button, and in the sheet that appears, select your wireless network and click OK.

Select your AP

6. Once you're back at the main AirPort Admin Utility window, click the Update button, and then wait as your AirPort Express restarts.

Restarting...

7. Almost done. Once your AirPort Express has finished restarting, it will reappear in the list in the AirPort Admin Utility. Click Configure again and verify a few settings:

  • on the Internet tab, make sure that "Connect Using" is set to AirPort (WDS)
  • on the Network tab, make sure that "Distribute IP addresses" is shut off if you are running another DHCP server, for example on the WRT54G
  • if you have a stereo connected to your AirPort Express, enable AirTunes on the Music tab!

And that's it! Everything should be working. Your wireless network's range will be increased, and if you plug in a laptop, computer, or other network device (hub or switch) to the Ethernet jack on the AirPort Express, it will be bridged automatically across the wireless network. Sweet!

Tags: airport, dd-wrt, ddwrt, hardware, howtos, linksys, networking, opensource, wds, wireless, wrt54g

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