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If your ISP has sent you a new router, or you simply fancy upgrading your current router, 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 a spare router kicking around the place, here are several ways you can reuse it.
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.
Our guide to extending the range of your home network explains how a wireless repeater works, and its benefits.
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, which will by default prevent 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 the OpenWrt or DD-WRT custom router firmware.
Some other software is also required, and you’ll need a USB soundcard to output audio.
While this isn’t an easy build, and plenty of other internet radio options are available, this is still a great project. It gives you an insight into the power of custom firmware, as well as an appreciation of how music is streamed across the internet.
However, if you want to do this without the fuss, our Raspberry Pi smart streaming speaker project is a good option.
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, TV decoders with smart TV functionality, 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. This is basically the Ethernet version of a mains power bar, with the 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. Remember to power up the old router. You should also disable wireless networking on the old router, to avoid conflicts.
5. Turn Your 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 is connected to an existing Wi-Fi network, and its Ethernet ports used to connect devices to.
See our guide to using a router as a wireless bridge for a full explanation.
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, and these routers can be repurposed as a home automation server.
Basically, the router runs a web 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 use this with an Arduino hooked up to the router, and some RF-controlled power switches, to create a basic smart home setup.
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 storage device and access it from anywhere in your home? You need Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is basically a hard disk drive that is 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 a spare USB port, and routers that let you browse the contents of any connected USB devices.
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 important data from anywhere in the house, using any device.
Your Old Router Isn’t So Old After All!
Don’t let that old router clutter up your drawer any longer. We’ve identified seven ways you can reuse it:
- Guest Wi-Fi connection
- Wireless repeater
- Cheap internet radio
- Use the router as a network switch
- Adapt it as a wireless bridge
- Build a smart home hub
- Convert your router into a NAS
These are all great ways to repurpose an old router, and even if your router is really old and misses some key modern wireless networking features, you can still use it as a switch, or even 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.