Bridging networks with WDS

WDS stands for wireless distribution system. The system was intended to allow a wireless network to span accross multiple access points without needing a wired backbone between them. This can be useful when you cannot physically connect the access points with a cable, but note that a hardwired backbone is preferred as WDS will cut your available wireless throughput in half. For more information on WDS check out wikipedia.

Editor’s note: If you can connect your two Linksys routers via a cable, check out this post for some tips.

My setup is using two Linksys WRT54G v2 routers running the third party Tomato firmware. My initial home network was setup using version 1.19 of the firmware and I haven’t seen any reasons to upgrade it right now. The new router that I am adding using WDS was recently bought at a swap meet for $10 and is running version 1.21 of the firmware. The reccomended setup for using WDS is available in the FAQ on the tomato website and is what I based my setup on.

Main router setup:
WAN: Setup as required by your ISP.
LAN: Pick an IP address ending in .1 for your router (usually 192.168.0.1) and ensure the DHCP server is turned on.
Wireless Setup:

  • Wireless Setup: Access point + WDS (If you are only joining two wired networks you can set this to WDS only.)
  • SSID: [Pick one for your network.]
  • Channel: 3 (I tried using channel 10 first because that’s what my original wireless setup and was unable to get WDS to work. I also tried using channel 1 and couldn’t get that to work either.)
  • Wireless mode: Mixed. (I also tried using G only when I had the channel set to 1. This is supposed to work but I couldn’t get it to.)
  • Security: WPA Personal (WPA2 Personal will not work and neither will WPA / WPA2 Personal.)
  • Encryption: AES (I tried AES / TKIP and it would only work if it was only AES.)
  • Shared Key: [Pick one for your network]
  • WDS: Link with [MAC address of your 2nd router.] (There is also an option for Automatic / Lazy which I was not able to get to work.)

Second Router Setup:
WAN Setup: Disabled.
LAN Setup: Manually assign an IP to this router. Normally ending in .2 (Like 192.168.0.2. Make sure that this IP address is not available to be assigned by DHCP from the main router.)
DHCP: Ensure that this is OFF!

Wireless Setup:

  • Wireless Setup: Access Point + WDS (This could also be only WDS if you want only one access point or if you are joining two wired networks together.)
  • SSID: [The same as the main router’s SSID]
  • Channel: 3 (Again this has to be the same as your other router.)
  • Wireless mode: Mixed.
  • Security: WPA Personal
  • Encryption: AES
  • Shared Key: [The same as your main router.]
  • WDS: Link with [MAC address of your main router.]

I also found that I had to enable STP in the Advanced > Routing options page. All other options were left at their default settings with the exception that I also have QoS setup in a manner similar to this post on the main router. You can check to see the status of whether or not your routers are communicating via WDS by looking at the Status > Device List page to see if you have a listing for WDS on both routers.

You an add as many additional routers as you would like by adding their MAC addresses to the “Link with” field of your wireless setup. You should avoid creating routing loops when adding additional routers and setup them up in a star, line, or tree topography. If you absolutely have to setup a ring topography for redundancy I recomend finding a way to join the routers together using a wired configuration and doing some research on STP and RIP.

Author’s Note: WDS is not officially part of any 802.11 standard and is not recognized by the Wifi Alliance. Many different products implement the feature differently and may be incompatible with other devices that also support WDS. The only way to be sure that your setup will work is to follow guides like this one of people who have tested known configurations. Your milage will vary. Good luck!

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