TP-Link routers are a popular choice for home users as they balance features with price and include decent security in the mix. Known more for their WiFi performance than anything else, they make a great addition to a home network. If you have one and want to configure your TP-Link router as a wireless access point, this tutorial is for you.
This is a popular question that we see in the TechJunkie mailbox and it is widely discussed online. I'll walk you through the process from start to finish and the result will be a fully functional hotspot in your home.
What is the difference between a router and an access point?
Before moving on to configuration, let me clarify the difference between a router and an access point. I think it's important to know this so you can make an informed decision about whether an access point is the right tool for the job.
A router connects devices to other devices, to the internet, or to another network device like a hardware firewall. It's a smart device that uses its own firmware to provide firewall, port forwarding, NAT (network address translation), DHCP, DNS, and other features. It may also have WiFi capability.
It uses routing tables (IP tables) to help decide where to send traffic. A router will detect which devices are on your home network and identify them using MAC addresses. It will also know if you are using a modem or connecting it directly to your broadband connection and can route internet traffic accordingly.
A wireless access point (WAP) is slightly different. A router can include a WAP, but there are also standalone WAP devices. These act as a wireless gateway on your network which can be used to extend the wireless network or provide wireless access if your router does not have WiFi.
Where a router can intelligently route traffic using IP tables and perform smart switching, DHCP, DNS and other features, a WAP cannot. It simply acts as an access point for wireless devices to access the network. It can't forward traffic, it just sends everything to the router.
Think of a router as an exchanger and the wireless access point as a ramp. The on-ramp sends all traffic in one direction toward the interchange. It is the interchange's job to send all traffic to the destinations they want to go.
TP-Link router as a wireless access point
Most wireless routers can be configured as a full router or just a wireless access point. In this tutorial, we do the latter. We will configure a TP-Link router as a wireless access point to act as a range extender as well as a WAP.
You will first need to connect your TP-Link router to your main router via Ethernet. You can use WiFi if you prefer, but the setup is slightly more difficult. Also, if your primary router has WiFi, using another router solely as a range extender is like hitting a peanut with a hammer. A little above.
- Connect your TP-Link router to your main router via Ethernet.
- Turn on your TP-Link router and let it communicate with your main router.
- Once the link light turns green, you have a connection and are ready to configure.
- Connect a computer directly to the TP-Link router via Ethernet.
- Open a browser and enter the IP address on the router label. This is usually 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1. You should see the TP-Link screen appear.
- Log in using the credentials also on the router. Usually admin and admin.
- Select Network and LAN.
- Configure your TP-Link router manually to an address within your home network.
- Save your change. You will be kicked out of the administration screen. It's normal.
IP addressing is important. If your main router uses a DHCP range of 192.168.1.10 to 192.168.1.100, you will want to configure the TP-Link router outside of this range but in the same subnet. For example, assign it 192.168.1.210. This ensures that the two routers can communicate, but there will be no IP address conflicts.
- Reconnect to your TP-Link router using the new IP address.
- Select Wireless and Wireless Settings from the menu.
- Set your SSID to something different from any WiFi network you may have already configured and select Save.
- Select Wireless Security and make sure WPA2 Personal is enabled.
- Set a wireless password and make it a good one. Save the password.
- Select DHCP and DHCP Settings and select Disable. You only need one DHCP server per network and your main router should do this job.
- Select Save.
- Select System Tools, then Restart.
- Let the TP-Link router reboot and give it a minute to reload its configuration.
- Disconnect your computer from Ethernet and try to connect to the Internet using WiFi.
Use the SSID and password you just set up on the TP-Link router and you should have internet access!