Don't throw out that old router. You may not need it for its intended purpose, but with some minor modifications, the device can find new life as a wireless adapter. Repurposing your router as an adapter will allow you to connect multiple devices to a Wi-Fi network, without each one needing a wireless network card. If you have older computers that didn't come with Wi-Fi, the adapter can allow you to add these devices to your wireless network.

Preparation

Turning your wireless router into a Wi-Fi adapter will require some third-party firmware. Before attempting any modifications, check to see if the firmware will work on your router. To do this, visit the website of the firmware you've chosen and check for your router's brand and model number on their support page; remember that modifying your router in this fashion is likely to void your warranty. Once you've established that your router is supported, you can download the firmware.

Firmware Options

Turning your router into a Wi-Fi adapter is both easy and inexpensive. Most of the third-party firmware options available for this purpose are either free or low-cost. The most popular firmware in this category is DD-WRT, a free Linux-based product that supports over 200 different devices. This firmware provides your router with functionality not normally found in a consumer-grade route. Tomato, Gargoyle and OpenWRT are two alternative firmware options with unique features; however, they support a more limited set of routers.

Firmware Update

After installing the new firmware according to the instructions on the website, a hard reset of your router will be required to move forward with the process. This type of reset restores your router to its default factory settings, so it will erase any settings you might have configured in the past. Typically, hard resets are done by pressing a reset button for 30 seconds until the router's lights blink, but your router's user manual will provide the most accurate instructions for performing a reset.

Router Configuration

The final step in repurposing your router as a wireless adapter is to make some configuration changes on your router's web-based interface. When logging in to that interface, you'll have to use the default username and password, since a hard reset was just executed. Once logged in, you'll need to follow the instructions for your firmware to change the function of your router. For the popular DD-WRT firmware, part of the setup process includes changing the “Wireless Mode” setting to “Client Bridge.” This modification tells the device to act an an adapter instead of a typical router.