Scott Hanselman

Adding a Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR3700 to an existing FIOS Wireless AP for improved wireless coverage

January 4, '11 Comments [28] Posted in Hardware | Tools
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A few months ago I added a second wireless access point (AP) to my existing network in order to get better wireless coverage. We have a house that's kind of spread out and we were getting really spotty 802.11g around the house. Laptops we getting one or two bars, or worse yet, they were constantly negotiating network speeds and never getting a decent one. The iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc) would barely get any signal in certain rooms. It was certainly irritating.

So, I added a second identical AP with the same SSID upstairs so we could move between floors without trouble. However, this AP (some crappy standard one that came with the FIOS service) was/is really inconsistent. While the network architecture is solid, as is the idea behind my "add a second AP" post, the implementation using these 5 year old crappy routers was flaky at best.

Techie Background: I have FIOS optical internet service, and have for the last 3 years. It's upgraded from 15Mbs to 35Mbs recently. The house is Gigabit Ethernet (all CAT6, see the related links below). All the wired devices are running through a Netgear GS724T-300 24-port Gigabit Smart Switch and all of the wireless devices are at least 2.4Ghz 802.11g, and some are 802.11n, with one being 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz.

Since I have a home office, meaning I literally work at home 90% of the time for my living, having flaky wireless is a problem. I decided to start researching a better solution.  I decided to add a new wireless router. I figured that it was insane for one house to have to APs and that surely if a cell phone could work over miles that a freaking wireless network router could cover a single house. I found the solution in the Netgear N600 Gigabit.

Here's the idea:

Network Diagram with additional Wireless Router

However, there are some important notes when adding a new wireless router to an existing system that is already performing these functions

  • Passing out IP addresses via HDCP
  • Acting as a wireless access point with lots of existing clients
  • Has existing static IP leases setup, existing quality of service (QoS) settings

Stated differently, my existing router is nicely and intricately configured for my house. It works fine and I like it fine, except it has crappy wireless. I want to add a new wireless router without disturbing what already works. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I picked up a Netgear N600 Wireless Gigabit Router. Note that there are two versions of this, one with a large bright LED on the outside and one without. The one without has 4 Gigabit LAN ports, and that's the better router.

Let me tell you that this router is awesome. I figured I'd be moving from a 3-5 year old crappy router to some better router, sure, but not a totally awesome Swiss Army Knife. Networking has come a long way since 2005 or whenever my stock router was made.

This Netgear is awesome because of these features:

  • Two separate bands for wireless, each with 300Mbs of independent bandwidth. There's 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz frequencies. Nice for copying VMs over wireless. I made a "HANSELMAN" and "HANSELMAN-N" network.
  • Four Gigabit Ethernet points. Not needed for me, but it's nice to have four more Gigabit ports.
  • Eight internal antennas - Seriously, this thing has insane range. I had already added an external antenna to my FIOS router and still had bad range. This little Netgear covers 3500+ square feet and more. I'm thrilled with the range. I don't need two routers anymore. Adding this router totally achieved my goal.

There were a few gotchas. I still need my ISP's router because it's the bridge to the ISP and the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) they installed on the house. It's also totally configured as I like.

Here's the steps I took:

  • Logged into the FIOS ActionTec at http://192.168.1.1 and disabled the wireless interface. I confirmed that the "HANSELMAN" network was no longer showing up.
  • Plugged the Netgear directly into my laptop and visited it's default IP of http://10.0.0.1. I disabled the new router's DHCP (this is crucial).
    • Important Trick: I temporarily plugged the new Netgear's yellow "external network" directly into the FIOs ActionTec so the Netgear could update its firmware the first time and get the initial setup wizard would stop nagging me. The router expects to be hooked up in this way at least initially, so you need to satisfy its setup.
  • After the Netgear is configured, now unplug the yellow external LAN wire and instead plug into one of the standard four ethernet ports into either your switch (that's what I did, gigabit to gigabit) or directly into your ISP's router. We want the new router to get an IP address from our existing router and route traffic and DHCP requests to the ISP's router. To be clear: Setting up your new router in this way will leave the yellow upstream external network port empty, despite what the documentation says.
  • On the new router, setup the 2.4GHz wireless network with your SSID, and the 5GHz wireless network with something like YOURSSID-N. Here's what I did:
  • View Available Networks Dialog

Now I've got 192.x.x.x addresses being handed out on two wireless networks. My Wireless-N network is getting 300Mbs throughput on my Lenovo, as its Intel Wireless LAN does 5Ghz 802.11n. Also, my iOS devices are using 2.4Ghz 802.11n and are suddenly a LOT snappier on large downloads and email.

Wireless Network Connection Status

I'm absolutely thrilled with the a Netgear N600 Wireless Gigabit Router. It's the top of the line for the house, definitely a "prosumer" router and a really nice upgrade to any existing system if you know a little about setting up your network. Totally recommended.

Related Links

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011 9:48:02 AM UTC
I was about to buy this router but apparently there seems to be a hardware issue if you look at netgear forums. Netgear came out with AV version (optimized/QOS for streaming HD videos) but the hardware issue is still not fixed
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 10:47:44 AM UTC
I also bought the router for it's incredible WiFi-throughput. Unfortunately it is not 100% stable if you use the WAN Port for a dialup ADSL connection - even if there's no traffic new connections will time out after some days.

In addition it's smaller "brother" the WNDR3500L comes with hardware that is compatible to third party linux based firmwares. I heavily recommend the "tomato" based firmware which is rock solid even under high load. Unfortunately it's not Dual-Band though. That's why you get it for less than half the price of the WNDR3700.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 2:10:27 PM UTC
I have been running with a very similar setup at my house for the past couple of years, but just re-enabled the wireless on my FIOS router so that I can use the FIOS iPad application to control my set top boxes. It will be interesting to see if you end up re-enabling wireless on your FIOS router just for your iPad for this purpose (or perhaps you will find a way to get it to work without re-enabling the wireless on your FIOS router).
NetPilot
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 2:18:52 PM UTC
Nice timing. I've noticed my WiFi performance getting worse as we've been adding devices, particularly our baby video monitors which run on WiFi and broadcast fullscreen video constantly.

I had no idea this trick worked. So, just to be clear: by *not* plugging in to the N600's WAN port, you're effectively using it as a Wireless Access Point instead of a Wireless Router, correct? Meaning, everything -- the N600, the ActionTec, and the wireless clients -- are all on the same network?

Also a question -- where did you position it in your house? Is it more-or-less centered, or is it on one side? 3500+ sq ft of coverage from one device is impressive.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 2:49:37 PM UTC
Hmm... this is funny. Because I recall back when you first bloged about your new FiOS network and all your wiring I commented asking you how good the wireless from the actiontec hidden in the closet was... and you said it was great and covered the whole house. Now it is the "crappy" wireless. ;)

I guess PC equipment I thought was awesome and great in 2005 isn't so awesome now. I recently upgraded to a Linksys Dual Band Gigabit router. It has been working very well. I was lucky enough to get FiOS back when the ran a CAT5e drop from the ONT to the router so I am not forced to bridge through an actiontec.

BOb

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 5:30:14 PM UTC
So what type of security did you set up on your router. I have the same router(except with the big blue button) and I notice that occasionally it drops the wifi connection and was wondering if it was due to the security type as I set it up to use WPA2.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 5:59:48 PM UTC
@PilotBob - We've moved from a 1700sq ft house to a 3400sq ft house, so that's why the wireless sucks. It was fine in a small house.

@BretFerrier - WPA2. Haven't had any drops yet, but it's only been a week. You have the latest firmware?

@Portman - Yep, that's it. It's centrally located, attached to a high part of a wall under the stairs' closet. So it's central horizontally and vertically.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 6:45:15 PM UTC
Confused.. So when you're connected to HANSELMAN-N and make an http request, the request goes to the Netgear N600 router (since that's where you configured the HANSELMAN-N SSID), right? But, how does that request route to the ActionTec if the Netgear "external network" port is empty?
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 8:41:14 PM UTC
Why the heck didn't you get a standalone wireless access point instead of creating this messy dual router setup? D-Link DAP-1522 or 2553 would have done the trick - although, sadly, Netgear and the other big manufacturers don't seem to have any consumer dual band access points available from what I can tell.
Matthew Flook
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 9:15:00 PM UTC
Matthew - You answered your own question. It's dual band and its wireless range is *unparalleled.* it's not messy, as it's not acting as a router. It's an AP only.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 10:03:29 PM UTC
I wanted a dual band router I went with the d-link DIR-825 which I have been very happy with. I assign my laptop to the 5ghz band and everyone else to the 2.4Ghz so I don't affect anyone no matter what I do. I found the 5Ghz range slightly less than the 2.4Ghz.

What's nice about the upgrade to N though is that even older g devices get some range increase because the router can still use it's multiple antennas and more advanced signal processing to receive a better signal.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011 10:07:11 PM UTC
I was wondering how you access your network from outside... Do you have a VPN server? Is there any "prosumer" grade dual-band wireless router with built-in VPN in the original firmware? Is dd-wrt worth considering?
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 2:45:15 AM UTC
Scott,

From the setup above what kind of security are you running. Meaning can Verzion Tech's see your internal Network the way you have it setup? I was thinking maybe you had a firewall in between the Verzion box & your switch.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 6:17:58 PM UTC
Thanks for the recommendation Scott! I've been wanting to upgrade to N and actually ended up buying the Buffalo that Jeff Atwood recommended. That thing was an unstable pig, went right back to Amazon.

So far so good with the WNDR3700 which, by-the-way, is the same exact hardware as the WNDR37AV (if anyone is wondering); the router with the light on the side is the WNDR3400 and doesn't have gigabit ports.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 10:21:16 PM UTC
I actually have TWO of those Actiontec routers and I bought them on purpose. I don't even live in a Verizon market. The beauty of these is that they support the MoCA standard, which essentially uses your standard cable tv wiring as a super stable, 150+ MB/s link. So what you could have done would have been to get a second one on ebay for $30, attach it to any other cable outlet in your house (other end, upstairs, etc.) and configured it with the same SSID. This would have effectively doubled your coverage with the benefit of providing a stable, wired connection to some other room in your house.

Now if you already have Cat 6+ everywhere, then never mind. But for me, this is a GREAT solution for connecting my office and my living room (50+ feet, many walls, and one floor apart) at 150+ MB/s without having to rewire my home. And I get full-bar WiFi everywhere.

Of course, it's still G, but it is rock solid, full 54 MB/s G. And yes, I tried many other solutions to do this wirelessly (including WDS'ing two WNDR3400's) with VERY poor results before spending $60 for this truly great solution. At least until I absolutely need to upgrade my wireless speeds (I mean, I can already stream compressed HD wirelessly anywhere in the house with this), I'm very happy. By then, I'm hope there'll be much better solutions. :)
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 10:53:44 PM UTC
Paul - Did you see my post where I also took TWO ActionTec routers (over Cat6, not 75Ohm) and did what exactly what you said?
I found it unreliable....not sure why, but some devices would get confused and stop connecting. That led me to these new one-router solution.

Good to know about the MoCA standard. Thanks!
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 11:36:43 PM UTC
Ha ha, no I missed that prior post. Great minds... :)

Mine's been really solid, but I do know that I had to replace the wireless NIC in my wife's old laptop in order to get that stability. So doubtless there are differences in wireless NICs that make big difference in stability. Probably between revisions of these routers, too (I have two revision D's). And honestly, if I had Cat6 running everywhere, I'd be using a single router solution, as well. Especially if I could put the router in a central location. This setup does have the disadvantage of holding on to a weak signal longer than it should with some devices (i.e., when "roaming" from office to living room). But, on the whole it works great for me. Still might do the whole Cat6 thing one of these days, though. EVERY TV and game console and video streamer I own now is "connected." I imagine it'd be a decent investment over time.
Thursday, January 06, 2011 9:34:01 PM UTC
I just got the WNDR3700 for Christmas. I have it connected to my DSL modem. I have had issues with it randomly dropping the connection to the internet. I have to power off the modem and the router to get the internet connection back up and running. I have updated to the latest firmware. Not sure what is the issue.

Also, are you making use of some of the other features on the router? Guest Wireless Networks or the Streaming Video checkbox for increased performance. If so, what has been your opinion on these features?
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 4:19:42 PM UTC
Hey Scott, I used your post to set up the N600 at my office. Worked great! Question though, I now want to go back in to the admin panel and set up the Guest Access. Since I disabled DHCP, I can't figure out how to access the setup again. Do I need to disconnect it from the network, reset it to factory specs, log in at 192.168.1.1, do my changes, then re-disable the DHCP? That seems like the Brute Strength and Awkwardness method, but it's the only one I can think of...
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 5:15:41 PM UTC
Funny I found this thread. I did the same thing just this last week.

Patrick, you can set the IP address of the N600 whatever you want when you initially set it up. I set mine at 192.168.1.5 (My DHCP from the Actiontek starts at 192.168.1.20 and up) so .2 - .19 are are manually configured by me (Printers, NAS drive's, other routers being used as AP's).

The N600 is great but I found out that you can't utilize the "Guest" wireless accounts if you don't use it as the primary NAT.

If you have CAT6 running to the ONT and you don't really care about using the FIOS media manager, you can forgo the ActionTec altogether and get rid of it. I don't know if this would mess up the Muti-room DVR but you could try having two local Lans, one hosted on the actiontec for all the cable boxes to access DVR and the other for your computers hosted on the N600 plugged into the ONT.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:46:53 PM UTC
Thanks for the answer, Bob. I wasn't sure if the N600 would actually get its own address or not, but it makes sense. I went into the server and reserved an address for it and it worked like a charm. I'll look into the guest wireless issue later - probably just hiding the SSID will be good enough.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 10:49:21 PM UTC
"Passing out IP addresses via HDCP"
Really? HDCP can do that??
Thursday, January 13, 2011 2:37:24 AM UTC
Scott - this is great!! I set this up using the WNDR3400 with your above configuration and it's perfect! I am noticing that not many of our devices are picking up the 5GHz network, however, only the devices in the same room (two Macs and a Sony BlueRay player). Everywhere else in the house, we're using the 2.4GHz network and so far so good. One question for you - now that everything is configured, how do I log back into the WNDR3400? It seems like when i go to 10.0.0.1, it's not finding the router any more... 192.168.1.1 is my Fios ActionTec. Ideas?
Brian K
Thursday, January 13, 2011 8:57:07 AM UTC
FerritallicA: Oops. ;)

Brian K: What Static IP did you assign the WNDR3400 to? That'll be what you'll log into. Alternatively, you can log into the ActionTec and look at your list of network objects on the first page...your other Router is one of those IPs.

Bob: Sadly I have COAX running from the ONT. I'm not even sure where it's coming from.

Patrick: Try disconnecting it completely, plugging a cable into it from a disconnected laptop and hitting 10.0.0.1.
Saturday, January 15, 2011 6:36:48 PM UTC
Scott, I followed your instructions above and went to 10.0.0.1 when I first installed it. I never changed the address after that point. Also, I looked at the list of "My Network" on the FIOS router and tried typing the IP address for each of them, but, couldn't find the WNDR3400. Any ideas? Thx in advance!
Brian K
Monday, February 21, 2011 8:11:43 PM UTC
I was just about to buy the Netgear WNDR3700 when I started reading that Netgear has replaced it with a version 2 which seems slightly worse.

Your readers might also want to be aware that Cisco/Linksys have recently released a new router which might be the new king when it comes to Wireless range and speed, at least according to this SmallNetBuilder article.

Scott, thanks for making me aware that there are alternatives to my old WRT-54GL with much better range.
Friday, February 25, 2011 1:47:25 AM UTC
hi netgear just released another firmware update 2/20 ish for the 3700v2 runs better
Ed
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 1:23:11 AM UTC
I know your following blog entry is now a little dated, but just wanted to thank you for such a great article!, and you may have saved my marriage! - jk

I was in much the same situation, have just moved from a small house into a large house, 4000 sq ft, but all on one level, approx 100 x 40ft.

House contained a few double-brick internal support walls, which made wireless a challenge.
Already had a netgear n600 adsl2+/gigabit modem/router, great little unit that it is, but just couldn't provide full coverage at the new house.
Wife was quite upset with poor wireless coverage, and is not IT savvy, so I had to come up with an auto-solution that would allow her to connect from anywhere in the house without needing to manually switch networks or anything, googled and found your article, light-bulb went off in my head as I thought "Hey, this Scott dude has been through exactly the same problem".

So, next morning, I got a 2nd netgear n600 (had to get another modem/router as they didn't have any router-only in stock).
Found that it pretty much all worked to your design (after a bit of head-scratching), had to set the 2nd modem/router to "AP mode", and also had to upgrade the 2nd modem to same firmware level as 1st for them to play nice togther, and finally had to disable MAC-address access restriction on both, that took a fair bit of serendipitous experimentation that kept me up until 2am last night to find the final roadblock to the wireless laptops being able to access the internet via the 2nd modem/router. (both using WPA2 anyhow, so secure enough without MAC address restriction).

I ended up running the first modem/router on 2Ghz only (to support a 2Ghz-only device in the home office where it's located), and the 2nd on 5Ghz only, to minimise interference as I like to run each in full 300Mbps dual-channel mode, (and with all the neighbours having wireless routers it's hard for me to find 2 sets of relatively clear dual 2Ghz channels)
Now all wireless devices happily switch seamlessly between the 2 routers without any interruption or notification depending on where you are in the house.

Thanks again!

Regards,
Maurice.
Maurice Reardon
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.