Saturday, 12 January 2019

Thoughts on the TP-Link RE200 Wireless Booster

A little while ago I went over to a friend's house to install at TP-Link RE200 wireless booster as his wireless signal gets pretty weak upstairs.

It all turned  into a bit of a saga.....

In theory it should have been a doddle.  All I needed to do was to go through a simple WPS process to get the RE200 talking to his existing router and all should have been well.

Initially things looked like they were going well,  once the WPS buttons had been pressed on both router and the RE200 lights started turning on and my hopes were high.  However,  only 2 of the lights on the range extender came on and when I tried to connect to the new wireless network I could not get an internet connection.

So I gave up on WPS and looked at the "manual method" as suggested in the paperwork that came with the product.  This involves disconnecting from any current wireless network and connecting a laptop (or other device) to the RE-200.  When you turn it on it will create a wireless network of its own,  called something like TP-Link_Extender.  At this stage you are supposed to open a web browser and to go to http://tplinkrepeater.net or http://192.168.0.254.  At that stage you should be able to use the router's credentials to log in: then you can further configure your RE-200.  I was just not getting any reply from either page.

After much googling (and even  more muttering and chuntering from myself) I finally sorted out what had happened.

My friend's router was giving out addresses in the 192.168.1.x range but the extender wanted to use an address on the 192.168.0.x range......so they were not talking to each other.

So if you come across something similar: there is a way round the issue.  Turn on your extender and let it settle down for a minute or so.  They you will need a laptop and an ethernet cable.  Disconnect any automatically connecting wireless connection that may have started with the machine.  Run the ethernet between the laptop and the RE-200.  Now you will need to check to see what IP address is being given to that connection to the ethernet port of your laptop.  Chances are, if you are having the same issue as I had, the address will be in the 192.168.0.x range.  Assuming your router is working on the 192.168.1.x range then you will need to set a static address on this port so that you can get things going.  I was using a windows laptop so I could just right click on the connection and change its properties.  You can do the same in linux with network manager.  I gave the connection the address of 192.168.1.253 as a static IP and then disconnected the cable and rebooted the RE-200.  You can then connect it up again and with the ethernet between your laptop and the RE-200 you should now be able to get onto the webpage via its ip address,  ie http://192.168.1.253 : now finally you will get the prompt for the router's authentication and once you enter this you will be able to see and alter its settings via the web interface.  I went straight into its network settings and changed them all round to reflect the new IP range and at last,  the range extender was talking properly over the network and its 2 new wireless networks had proper access to the internet.

So,  all in all,  a bit of a pain in the backside,  to be honest.  To be fair to TP-Link there have been no issues with the unit subsequently.  I checked out their support site and there does seem to be a quite new firmware package for the RE-200.  Once of the fixes listed for this new firmware is: "Fixed the issue that extender can't obtain IP address in a few special situations" so perhaps newer units will not suffer from this annoying defect.  There is no real reason why the device could not adjust to different IP ranges used by different routers (as its competitors seem to do without bother) so this is consumer unfriendly to say the least.  I've had good experiences in the past with TP-Link products so I don't wish to be overly critical: but this is something that should be fixed for the sake of the less technical users out there.

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