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How To: Manually Setting Up the Linksys WRE54G Wireless-G Range Expander

How To: Manually Setting Up the Linksys WRE54G Wireless-G Range Expander
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Linksys’ WRE54G Wireless-G Range Expander [reviewed here] is a WDS-based 802.11b / g repeater that Linksys says works only with its WAP54G access point and WRT54G and WRT54GS wireless routers. But with a little effort, you can get it to function with any 802.11b or g product that supports WDS-based bridging and/or repeating.

Note : You’ll need to make sure the product you’re going to use the WRE54G with really does support WDS, and even then it might not work. Generally, your best chance of success will be with 802.11g products that support bridging or repeating vs. older 802.11b products. See our Setting up WDS Bridging / Repeating How To for more info.

Step 1 : Reset the WRE54G to factory defaults

Use the reset button in the hole on the side of the Expander. Push and hold the button until you see the Link light turn steady red. If the Link light starts flashing and/or turns blue, repeat the reset until you get a steady red Link light.

Step 2 : Set your wireless client to a static IP address

The WRE54G comes set to a default IP address of 192.168.1.240. Since you’ll need to make a direct wireless connection to the WRE54G and it doesn’t have a DHCP server, you’ll need to nail down your client’s IP address info. Use an address in the 192.168.1.X range such as 192.168.1.239 with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0. The Gateway and DNS settings won’t matter for now and you can leave them blank.

Step 3 : Configure WDS bridging on the target AP

Devices joined in a WDS bridge usually require that you enter the MAC address of the device at the other end of the bridge into each device. Some devices also include an "allow any client to connect" or "allow anonymous" mode that doesn’t require entering MAC addresses, but I’ve found it more reliable to enter the MAC addresses, especially when trying to bridge products from different vendors.

You can find the WRE54G’s MAC address on its bottom-side label above the bar code labeled MAC. Enable the Bridging feature on your target AP and consult the target AP’s documentation for where (and in what format) to enter the WRE54G’s MAC address. I suggest starting by using the Point-to-Point bridging feature or its equivalent, since it’s the simplest and most likely to work.

Step 4 : Find and connect to the WRE54G

The Expander’s factory defaults set it to operate on Channel 6 with an SSID that consists of "linksys" plus the last 6 characters of its MAC address. Use your wireless client’s utility or WinXP’s Wireless Zero Configuration utility and run a site survey. Figure 1 shows the results of a survey using WinXP’s Zero Config.

Figure 1 : WinXP ’Available Wireless Networks’ with WRT54G and WRE54G

Select and connect to the ’linksys’ network / AP that has the additional 6 characters. Wait until your client utility tells you that you have a connection before proceeding.

Step 5 : Connect to the WRE54G

Open your web browser and point it at 192.168.1.240. You should be rewarded with a login popup and be able to log in and access the Setup screen shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 : WRE54G Setup screen
(click on the image for a full-sized view)

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