10 Useful Ways to Reuse an Old Router: Don’t Throw It Away!
If your ISP has sent you a new router, or you simply fancy an upgrade, you’ll run into a problem.
What should you do with the old router?
In the case of switching your ISP, you’ll often be asked to return the older device. But if you have an old router kicking around the place, here are several ways you can reuse it.
What You Can Do With an Old Router
It might be in a box; it could be cluttering up a drawer or lost at the back of a wardrobe. Whatever the case, old routers and modem/router combi units can be reused.
We’ve identified nine ways you can reuse an old Wi-Fi router:
- Guest Wi-Fi connection
- Wireless repeater
- Cheap internet radio
- Use the old router as a network switch
- Adapt it as a wireless bridge
- Build a smart home hub
- Convert your router into a NAS
- Use an old router as a web server
- A DIY VPN router
- Sell the router on eBay
Let’s take a look at each of these uses for old routers in more detail.
1. Build a Wireless Repeater
What if your Wi-Fi network doesn’t extend across the full range of your home? Although you might opt for powerline Ethernet adapters, adding a second router into the mix is a good alternative.
This means connecting the old router to your new wireless network, using the Wi-Fi signal. It can then share access to the Wi-Fi network, giving greater coverage. Although there may be some latency issues, overall this is a quick and easy way to extend your wireless network.
It has various uses, from giving better Wi-Fi access to a remote part of the house, to letting you stream video to your tablet while you’re in the garden.
2. Guest Wi-Fi Connection
If you have people regularly dropping in and using your wireless internet, why not give them their own network?
This is like the wireless repeater project, but with a twist. The router connects to your existing, password-protected network, but gives password-free access to new devices. This will use the guest network feature of your old router. By default, this prevents guests accessing other devices on your network.
If this level of security isn’t enough, check the firewall settings on the main router to adjust.
3. Cheap Internet Radio Streamer
Want to enjoy your favorite radio stations on the internet? Some routers can be configured to play internet radio, if you’re prepared to install OpenWrt or DD-WRT custom router firmware.
You’ll need some other software, as well as a USB soundcard to output audio.
While not an easy build, and plenty of other internet radio options are available, this is still a great project. It gives you an insight into installing custom firmware, as well as an appreciation of how to stream music.
4. Use the Router as a Cheap Network Switch
Most routers don’t have more than six Ethernet ports. With the increase in wireless technology around the home, this figure might even be as low as four. But with a clear need for devices to be connected over Ethernet, you might run out of ports.
For example, home appliance monitoring devices, smart TVs and decoders, games consoles, and more might have no wireless networking. They need a physical connection to your network, and that means Ethernet.
If you run out of Ethernet ports, you can add more with a network switch. It’s basically the networking version of a mains power bar, with additional ports plugged into one port on the router.
Your old router typically has four or more ports, so connecting will instantly increase the number of ports available. You should disable wireless networking on the old router, to avoid conflicts.
5. Turn Your Old Router Into a Wireless Bridge
What if your new router is wireless only? Perhaps the ISP doesn’t offer a router with Ethernet ports, or maybe you use a 4G internet provider. Either way, if you need to connect Ethernet devices to your home network, a wireless bridge is the answer.
While inexpensive, an old router can be repurposed as a wireless bridge.
This works a little like a wireless repeater, but rather than share the Wi-Fi connection, the wireless bridge offers Ethernet. The old router connects to an existing Wi-Fi network—simply connect devices to the Ethernet ports.
Our guide to extending the range of your home network demonstrates more ways to do this.
6. Build a Smart Home Hub
Some routers ship with some useful additional ports. In some cases, this might be a USB port, which makes flashing OpenWRT or DD-WRT router firmware easy.
Other devices might come with a serial port; these routers can be repurposed as a home automation server.
Basically, the router runs a server that you connect to with your browser. This might be on a PC, or for convenience, through your smartphone. This Instructables explains how to create a basic smart home setup with an Arduino, the router, and some RF-controlled switches.
While easier options are available, you might use this to get a better understanding of home automation.
7. Convert Your Router Into a NAS Drive
Looking for a way to store your data on a single device and access it from anywhere in your home? You need Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is basically a hard disk drive attached to your network.
While NAS devices are affordable enough, with an old router hanging around, you can save money. Note that this is limited to routers that can run custom firmware (like DD-WRT) and have a USB port. You should also be able to browse the contents of any connected USB devices via the router.
(Without USB, there’s no way to attach the hard disk drive or USB flash storage.)
Once set up, your custom-built NAS should give you instant access to your files from anywhere in the house.
8. Use an Old Router as a Web Server
If your old router will run OpenWRT or DD-WRT and it can host a NAS or a smart home hub, it can also host a basic web page.
This might be a home-only website, intended to share vital information to your family. Alternatively, it might even be a blog, as custom router firmware will support the LAMP stack. This means that you could potentially install WordPress.
Run a website and need an affordable staging area for testing themes, plugins, and new code? Your old router might be the low spec server you need.
9. Make Your Own VPN Router
Old routers supported by custom firmware can be set up with VPN software. This means that if you have a VPN account with, say, ExpressVPN (MakeUseOf readers can save 49% on our top ranked VPN choice), it can be set up on your router.
Consequently, every device on your network is protected by the VPN. Individual client apps are no longer needed when connecting through your home network.
Note that some old routers have VPN provision, but this only works when they’re set to modem-only mode.
Check our guide to configuring a VPN account on your router for more details.
10. Make Money From Your Old Router
If you don’t fancy wasting time trying to set up your old router with modern hardware, why not sell it?
Various outlets will let you make a few dollars from old tech, most notably eBay. Simply list the device with the make and model number. Networking enthusiasts, people who collect old gear, or simply someone looking for an old modem or router might buy it.
Generating cash for old equipment is a great way to raise funds for new gadgets.
Your Old Router Isn’t So Old After All!
These are all great ways to repurpose an old router, no matter how old it might be. Even if it misses some key wireless features, you can still use it as a switch, or a guest network.
If none of this works, however, it might be time to consider selling or recycling the device. See our tips for reusing old hardware for more.
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