Bridging two wireless access points

I have two Linksys wireless access points and I would like to link them together to pass the Internet from one to another. Can I do that? — Abdulabbas

The answer to your question is maybe. Depending on the exact model of the Linksys access point that you have (it might be just an access point or it could be an actual router), you might have the functionality you are looking for. The term that more appropriately describes what you are trying to do is “bridging” – in your case, you are looking to establish a point-to-point link between two access points. To keep performance at its best, you would probably not want the bridge link to also service wireless clients such as laptops so that it doesn’t have to handle the two types of traffic at the same time. However, if this is a low-usage or home situation, you can probably get away with doing it.

If you don’t see this type of bridging function in the version of firmware that is currently running in your access points/routers, try either newer or older versions of the firmware for your unit. It isn’t unusual for some features to be added or removed as the firmware is revised.

If the firmware you have or have tried doesn’t have the bridging function you are looking for, another option to look at is the open-source distribution known as DD-WRT. I talk about this in the Feb. 11 edition of my podcast Ron Nutter’s Help Desk Tool Chest. I discuss using the Wireless Distribution System (WDS) function. As you look at the different features/functions available in DD-WRT, you will also see a client bridging function. While the two are close in what they offer, I think you will see that WDS has just enough extra features to make it worth installing.

As with any wireless connection, I can’t stress enough the need to use the highest level of encryption that you can run along with a strong encryption key. My favorite here is to go to Steve Gibson’s GRC.COM/PASSWORDS to help generate that for you. Even though the WDS setup has you put in the mac address of each side of the connection, you won’t want the traffic passing in the clear for everyone to see. As part of your look at the DD-WRT firmware, check to see if the access point/router you have is supported. You may have to go to an older release of the firmware to get things to fit within the memory constraints of the model you have.

I like using the WRT-54GL because of the ample memory that is built in – a trait not present in the other routers in the Linksys line. You might need to look at going to the 54GL model if the router/access point you have isn’t supported.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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