The Wi-Fi in our house is pretty decent, but my room is very far off from the study room where the router is located. Which means that my streaming box loses the connection a couple of times throughout the hour, which is really not optimal when you’re streaming movies. After watching the spinning icon for the umpteenth time, I decided to extend the range of the signal with a Wi-Fi access point.
I had a spare Raspberry Pi, some time to kill, and an Ethernet cable to my room. Should be pretty easy, right? Most of the tutorials online, however, only taught how to make a Wi-Fi repeater with a Raspberry Pi. Now, for the unaware, a Wi-Fi repeater is terrible because you’re essentially cutting the bandwidth in half and causing more congestion for the network in your area. An AP (access point), on the other hand, is significantly better because the communication between your Raspberry Pi and your router happens through the Ethernet jack, leaving the radio on the Raspberry Pi free for all client devices to communicate.
So let’s get started! This guide assumes you have the latest Raspbian Stretch Lite flashed on a SD card with balenaEtcher inside the Raspberry Pi.
Steps 1-3 are optional. Skip ahead if you have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse attached to the Raspberry Pi. If you want to work remotely using your laptop, you must follow steps 1-3.
- Connect your SD card to your computer. If your operating system asks if you want to format your card, do NOT select format. If you’ve accidentally formatted the card, burn the Raspbian Stretch image again with balenaEtcher.
- Create an empty file called
/bootpartition of the USB. This asks the Pi to enable SSH on first boot.
- Eject the card and plug it into the Pi.
- Make sure the Pi is connected to an Ethernet network.
- Start up the Pi and connect to it using SSH. If you don’t know the Pi’s IP address, download Fing on your phone (Android/iOS) and do a scan on your network. If that doesn’t show anything, try running
arp -aon any terminal. If that doesn’t work, use
nmap. As a last resort (and potentially the first place you might check if your router is decent), connect to the router’s administration page and check the DHCP leases. My router is capable of this but it never showed any devices in the list except the one I was connecting from, so the feature was absolutely useless for me.
- The default username and password is
raspberry. Let’s first change the password!
- Change the password using
sudo apt updateto fetch latest update manifests.
sudo apt upgrade -yto update the packages.
sudo rpi-updateto update firmware.
sudo rebootto reboot and apply the new firmware.
sudo apt install hostapdto get Wi-Fi hosting tools.
sudo systemctl stop hostapdto stop hostapd. We don’t need it for now and we need it disabled to edit the configuration.
sudo apt install bridge-utilsto install bridging utilities.
sudo brctl addbr br0to create a bridge interface. This is what the Wi-Fi clients will use while connecting.
sudo nano /etc/hostapd/hostapd.confto create configuration for
You must comment out
driver or else it will fail. Once finished, type Ctrl-O, and then Enter to save. Type Ctrl-X to exit.
sudo nano /etc/default/hostapdto apply new configuration. Find the line that says
And uncomment it. Edit like so:
Save and exit.
We need to bridge the two connections. Run
sudo brctl addif br0 eth0.
Add these lines with
sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces:
- We need to prevent the Pi from assigning
wlan0to new network interfaces. Add the following lines with
sudo nano /etc/dhcpcd.conf:
- Enable hostapd
- Finally, run
sudo rebootto start your new AP! When rebooting, there might be an error:
Failed to start dhcpcd on all interfaces.This is normal and should be ignored.
Once that’s done, place your Pi where the Wi-Fi connection is weak and connect to the Pi to enjoy your new wireless access point!
I had a bit of a performance issue with the Raspberry Pi Wi-Fi access point, and wondered why it was considerably slower than the main Wi-Fi access point.
To test this, I set up an
iperf3 server and then ran tests between my laptop (a ThinkPad X250) and the server, going through the Pi-AP or directly. The results were disappointing. The direct connection gave me 100Mbps of throughput - very well, seeing as this is Cat.5 cable, but the Pi-AP gave about 20Mbps. What the hell?
I tried using a different, crappy Chinese AP, and it gave me a consistent throughput of 70Mbps. About what I was expecting, give or take. I have two theories as to what is going on. Theory number one is that the Pi is underpowered, and therefore suffers from Ethernet/Wi-Fi lag. Theory number two is that the packets first go to the router (or default gateway) for inspection, come back to the Pi and then go to the intended recipient. Then the cycle repeats as the packets make their way back to the client.
So this project will work in a cinch, but performance will definitely suffer and you’ll be better off with an actual access point in the long run.