Use an Old Wireless Router to Connect Multiple Media Devices

Cat sleeping on Gigabit Switch

A couple of months ago, we moved across the country and encountered a new and exciting networking challenge: our old Nintendo Wii had trouble connecting to the wireless signal provided by our new modem/router combination device. Also, our Steam Link buffered a bit, while streaming games over wireless to the TV. I looked up how to best deal with this: I could create an Access Point with our spare wireless router, or I could turn my old router into what is called a Media Bridge. Learning how to set-up a Media Bridge, given I had no idea how it worked at the start, seemed worth investigating. Also, there was no guarantee creating an Access Point would sort out my Wii issue.

The differences between these two networking modes are as follows:

1) Access Point Mode: Your second networking device, such as an old router, connects to your primary router via a network cable, and re-transmits the wireless signal, boosting it in another area of your house. This can be useful if you have a larger house, or a house where the wireless signal isn’t great. This of course means, you need some way of connecting a network cable between the devices, which can prove problematic if you’re living in a rental and can’t drill holes to run network cables everywhere.

2) Media Bridge Mode: Your second networking device, such as an old router, connects to your primary router over wireless. The wireless signal is not re-transmitted or boosted. Your media bridge router, effectively works as a wired switch, where you can plug things in via network cable, such as my old Wii or a Steam Link which may be sitting next to your TV. This removes the heavy lifting of dealing with network traffic from your media devices. Further, if your devices are old enough to not support wireless connection, this gets around that problem entirely. This has the added benefit of providing a more stable wired connection, which can reduce buffering and increase performance.

In order to set this up, I had to connect to my secondary router, and switch the mode from Router to Media Bridge, telling it which wireless network it was to bridge. Not all routers will support this out of the box – they specifically have to support Media Bridge mode. Some router firmware, such as DD-WRT will add this capability, if your router is supported by it. On my Asus AC RT-66U, this was as involved as logging into the router, going to the administration page, changing the device mode to Wireless Bridge and telling it which wireless network to bridge.

This was a fairly straightforward, cost effective solution, given I had an old router sitting around. If that weren’t the case, other options, such as power line adaptors, which create a network using your home power lines can also similarly solve this issue. Though of course, there is a cost for going that route.

Happy networking!

Header image by Michael Himbeault – Gigabit Switches Make Excellent Pillows // CC BY 2.0

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Author: sylint

I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

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