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Turn Your Router in to a 360 WiFi Adapter with DD-WRT

DDWRT_Header.jpg

Connectivity is paramount. The first thing I did after purchasing my new Xbox 360 was snake a cable from the nerve center of my network to jack in to LIVE. While a simple process the proximity of television to router is not one that resulted in a subtle cable connection no matter how creative I got with the staple gun. I knew both official and 3rd party wireless solutions existed but at $70-$100 there had to be another way given that 6 years in the IT business have left me with a treasure trove of miscellaneous electronica.

The initial exposure to DD-WRT, a surprisingly powerful open source router firmware, came from Lifehacker a while back and has appeared a few times over the years, most recently as a way to transform your compatible router in to (among other things) a functional WiFi adapter for one's gaming console.

DDWRT_Panel.png

Coming from a pretty substantial technical background I found the process an easy one but was a bit overwhelmed in the early research stages as to which version I should be dealing with. Given that I would be flashing the firmware and potentially bricking my device made me all the more wary as I went along. While linked in a few places the version specific details of the process could only be found in the wiki.

I took notes as I went along as my experience varied slightly from the installation tutorial but at project's end was left with a vastly improved piece of hardware that not only filled the gap of Xbox 360 WiFi adapter but left room for future expansion.

After I had the files I needed the whole process took about 10 minutes tops.

Hit the jump for a stripped down version of the process as well as a few notes regarding having to deal with my new ISP's device restrictions.

The following instructions are for a Linksys WRT54G, a $50 router I purchased a few years back that has a substantial market footprint.

Which Version of DD-WRT should you download?

  • Determine your router's version

I'm using a Linksys WRT45G, since the label didn't show me the version I went here to identify version by the serial number on the bottom of the device.
CDF7 = WRT54G v2.2

Check the full list of supported devices to see if you router is compatible and which version of DD-WRT you should download.

Download DD-WRT

  • Download the mini version of the appropriate DD-WRT firmware.

This was easily the most confusing step as there are a LOT of versions out there. After reading through the v2.0 notes I decided on the v24_mini_wrt54g install. Obviously your device's version will dictate what file you need to download.

Install the Firmware

If at any time things get out of control and your device bricks, take a few deep breaths and proceed here.

  • Reset your device to factory defaults via the web interface

This step will vary based on how your router is configured. Worst case scenario is a hard reset by pressing and holding the "Reset" button button on the back of the device with a paper clip (Never use a pencil for this, what if it breaks?) for 30 seconds. This will effectively give you access with the following method:

If you are connected to a Wireless Network, disconnect. Connect your computer via LAN to one of the Ethernet ports on the device and wait for your computer to get an IP address
  • Type "192.168.1.1" in your web browser
  • The default login is "admin"
  • The default password is "admin" if this password isn't working consult the list here for common default Linksys login/PWs
  • Click the "Administration" tab
  • Click the "Factory Defaults" sub-tab
  • Click "Yes" and "Accept"
  • Do not turn anything (router, computer, or even web browser) off during this process

Upgrade to the DD-WRT firmware

  • Access your device's web interface via the method above (192.168.1.1)
  • Click the "Administration" tab
  • Click the "Firmware Upgrade" sub-tab
  • Browse to the version downloaded earlier dd-wrt.v24_mini_wrt54g.bin
  • Click "Upgrade"
  • Do NOT turn anything (router, computer, or even web browser) off during this process

This is another series of steps that will vary depending on your device. Most routers will offer this Web Interface, which is arguably the easiest, but others will require TFTP or otherwise.

DDWRT_Upgrade.pngIt's was only after another look at this screen grab I noticed the firmware version was in fact not 2.2. Didn't make a difference.

Connect to Your Existing Wireless Network

This is where I digressed from most of the tutorials I found, which suggested going from the mini version of the firmware to the full. This simply involves another download and firmware upload which I will not outline here because I didn't do it to get to the same end result.

  • You should now be able to access your router interface by typing "192.168.1.1" in to your web browser.
  • Login: root Password: admin

If you're familiar with basic wireless security this should be a breeze, all you will need is the SSID of your network (case specific), type of security you are running and the corresponding passkey. Though not specific to this process you should ALWAYS change your login/password information from the default.

  • Click on the "Wireless" tab
  • Click on the "Wireless Security" sub-tab
  • Enter the appropriate info for your host router's settings (SSID, Type of encryption, passkey)
  • Click "Save"

Configure as a Wireless Adapter

  • Click on the "Wireless" tab
  • Click on the "Basic Settings" sub-tab
  • Select your mode
  • Client Mode - This will put each router on its own subnet, which means that any port forwarding will have to be done on both the host and client devices. You can NOT access the client via wireless.
  • Client Bridge - This will put both routers on the same subnet. You can NOT access the client via wireless.
  • Repeater Bridge - This will put both routers on the same subnet. You CAN access the client via wireless, this effectively broadens your network's coverage.

DDWRT_Mode.pngHere's another digression. Client Mode didn't work for whatever reason so I switched to Client Bridge and later the more useful Repeater Bridge.

  • Click "Apply Settings" and "Save"

Your device will reboot

As your computer will still be connected via network cable, directly following this reboot is a good time to test if the device is working properly. You should have access to your Wireless Network at this point.

Congratulations! You just saved some cash which you can now turn around and use to buy something else. Simply hook up your 360 with a standard network cable and you are good to go. The same is true of any other devices in your setup needing Ethernet connectivity, such as your Slingbox or TiVo.

A Note for AT&T U-Verse Subscribers
I recently changed ISPs and as part of the AT&T U-Verse deal received a gateway device that also acts as a wireless router. Odds are having a "router behind a router" situation is against my TOS so it was completely unsurprising when I saw the this:

DDWRT_UVerse.png

My cable signal went down and all browser attempts were forwarded to this page. I simply clicked "Disable" and everything clicked back in to place (resolve will not work). I've now been running this device on my network for about a week with no errors to report.

Conclusion

At the moment DD-WRT is completely free, completely open source. Aside from acting as a wireless bridge there are loads of additional features that this firmware provides effectively turning a cheap router in to a considerably more powerful networking device. Projects like this or CHDK exist for the sole purpose of enabling users to take full control of hardware they already own. If you found this useful, and saved $60 in the process, I urge you to contribute to the project.

While there are other tutorials out there, very good ones in fact, I found it difficult to separate the massive influx of information from that which was valid to my own install. Asking around it sounded like a few others felt the same way.

Let me know if you tried this out and came across something device or ISP specific that affected your install or if you've come across a different method to achieve the same ends via simpler means.

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