What to do with an old router: 8 great ideas

If you’ve upgraded to a newer router and the old one isn’t broken, is there anything useful you can do with the old device? As it turns out, the answer is that you can do several things with an old router.

A Note About Custom Router Firmware

Many of the cool things you can do with an old router depend on custom firmware. “Firmware” is the wired software on the system that can only be changed by “reflashing” the memory. Each router manufacturer determines which features to enable in the firmware, so even if your router’s hardware can do something, the factory firmware can disable it.

By installing custom firmware, you can unlock all the features of your router without having to buy a more expensive model.

Unfortunately, not every model of router can use custom firmware. Check the router database for: DD-WRT and OpenWRT to see if your old router is compatible.

1. Use it for LAN gaming!

Everyone loves online multiplayer over the internet, but there’s still nothing like sitting in a room full of friends and having a good old LAN party. Most routers have between four and six Ethernet ports, so it’s just a matter of plugging any system into the router with an Ethernet cable, and you should be good to go.

Some modern games won’t let you LAN without an internet connection, but this is the ultimate way to play over a network for the many current and classic games you can play with. No delay, no apologies.

2. Use it for additional Ethernet ports

You can use your second router to expand the number of available Ethernet ports. It takes some prep work to turn your old router into a simple network switch. Some routers make it easy by having a mode switch in the firmware. You can also access the necessary features using custom firmware.

If you want to manually adjust your router to act as a switch, you must give it a specific IP address that does not conflict with the primary router. Then turn off Wi-Fi and disable DHCP so that only the main router can assign IP addresses. You’ll have to spend a few minutes on Google to find out, but it’s worth the expense and waste you avoid by buying a switch with the old router working too.

3. Use an old router as an access point

An access point is a way to extend your primary router’s Internet connection to another device that acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot with its SSID. An important advantage of an access point configuration is that devices connected to the second router cannot talk to devices connected to the primary router.

Ideal for sharing an internet connection with, for example, a room or flat that is rented out. It’s also an easy way to give Internet access to distant devices that only need an Internet connection, such as a smart TV.

In general, it is not difficult to set up an access point. Simply place the two routers in place, connect them with a length of Ethernet cable and configure the second router in the access point mode settings.

4. Guest Wifi Access

Using your second router as an access point is a great idea, but you still need to password protect the Wi-Fi so passersby can’t rummage through all the other devices connected to it. If you want to offer Wi-Fi to people without a password, you can enable Guest Mode in the router’s settings. In guest mode, each person connected to the router can only access the internet and everything else is locked.

5. Turn it into a wireless repeater

So far, we’ve talked about connecting two routers with an Ethernet cable, but what about connecting them via Wi-Fi? Depending on whether your router supports it, you can set the second router to use Wireless Bridge mode or Wireless Repeater mode, depending on the specific language being used.

It allows you to expand your WiFi footprint in much the same way as a dedicated off-the-shelf WiFi repeater. Of course, you also have the same limitations, such as only getting half the bandwidth through the repeater and being limited to the frequency bands that the old router supports.

For more information, see Using a spare router as a Wi-Fi extender.

6. Turn it into a NAS

Network-Attached Storage devices can be quite expensive, but if your old router has a USB port and can accept custom firmware, you can turn it into a NAS. This involves loading custom firmware and then connecting an external hard drive to the router via the USB port. Then go to the NAS section of the custom firmware. For example, DD-WRT has a NAS tab where you set everything up. Fill in the data there, save it and apply. Then you should have a NAS visible on your network!

The exact process depends on your router. Some routers already have NAS functionality in their factory firmware, so you can skip that part of the process.

7. Use it as a dedicated VPN

A Virtual private network is a great way to protect your privacy and unblock geo-restricted content. Most of the time, though, you don’t want all your web traffic going through the VPN all the time. For example, your bank will find it quite strange that you are logging in from another country.

There are a few ways around this problem, but one of them is to set up your old router as an access point with a VPN configured. This way, all the devices that connect to the second router use the VPN and those that connect to the primary router don’t.

The bad news is that older and cheaper routers can’t use VPN software, and even if they support custom firmware, the VPN function may not work due to the weak hardware in the old router. However, it’s worth checking out whether your old router can handle the job or not.

8. Turn it into a basic web server

Another cool thing you can do with an old router (assuming it has firmware support) is to use it as a basic web server. That just means it hosts web content that you have created or copied elsewhere. Your own little website can be something that you only run on the local network, or you can put it on the Internet for everyone to use.

For example, if you’ve dreamed of starting your blog, you can host your own WordPress site. It might not be the most practical use since your poor little router can’t handle real traffic, but it’s a cool way to learn the ins and outs of creating and running a web server without any actual cost.

Taking the right route

There are, of course, many other possible uses for an old router, and we invite you to share your creativity in the comments below. What did you do with your old router?

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