Cheap Router as Wireless Bridge

I recently had a desperate need for a wireless bridge device. The need has passed, but I finally figured out a way to do it without spending $60+ for a dedicated (one port) bridge. The main goal here is to provide a physical Ethernet jack somewhere out on your wireless network for a device or devices that can’t connect to wireless directly. I was able to get this working just now using a $25 refurbished Netgear WGT624v3 from Fry’s. I followed (and interpreted, because it’s not as step-by-step as it could be) these instructions. Supplemented with information from this thread.

What’s really amazing about this is that you end up using a shell session on the router, without having to hack the firmware (though you are exploiting a disabled interface and a NetGear diagnostic tool that turns it back on). It’s pretty strange.

In any case, I can now put four physical Ethernet ports anywhere within range of my wireless network. The bridge is effectively dumb and invisible–DHCP, DNS, etc. all come from the access point.

Not directly needed, but here’s some interesting background on hacking NetGear equipment.

The best part about this? I found the original thread, and the fact that this was all possible, using my Sprint phone while standing in Fry’s staring at the blank brown box of the refurbished WGT624 wondering “WTF is this?” (iPhone? We don’t need no stinking iPhone.)

Potential limitations that may reduce the usefulness of this. I don’t know if these are actual limitations, but I haven’t tested beyond my own setup.

  • Tested only bridging to NetGear access point (potential issues with other brands?)
  • Tested only 64-bit WEP encryption (some of the comments mentioned problems with WPA)
  • Tested only with published SSID at the AP
  • Possible wireless saturation/interference–when I tried this with the bridge a few inches from my Thinkpad, the internal Centrino wireless could no longer connect, and I’ve read that some BIOS versions of this router produce illegally-strong radio signals

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