Reckon it’s time for a new router? Maybe your new Internet Service Provider (ISP) has sent one out, or you simply fancy an upgrade. Either way, you’re faced with 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 an old router kicking around the place, here are several ways you can reuse it.
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, this is a quick and easy way to extend your wireless network.
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. By default, this prevents guests accessing other devices on your network.
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 OpenWrt or DD-WRT custom router firmware.
While not an easy build, and plenty of other internet radio options are available, this is still a great project. It gives you an insight into installing custom firmware, as well as an appreciation of how to stream music.
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.
Your old router typically has four or more ports, so connecting will instantly increase the number of ports available. You should disable wireless networking on the old router, to avoid conflicts.
5. Turn Your Old 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 or 5G 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.
Looking for a way to store your data on a single device and access it from anywhere in your home? You need Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is basically a hard disk drive 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 have a USB port. You should also be able to browse the contents of any connected USB devices via the router.
7. Use an Old Router as a Web Server
Think about it: your old router will run OpenWRT or DD-WRT. It can host a NAS or a smart home hub. It stands to reason that it can also host a basic web page.
Run a website and need an affordable staging area for testing themes, plugins, and new code? Your old router might be the low spec server you need.
8. Make Your Own VPN Router
Old routers supported by custom firmware can be set up with VPN software. This means that if you have a VPN account with, say, ExpressVPN (MakeUseOf readers can save 49% on our top ranked VPN choice), it can be set up on your router.
Note that some old routers have VPN provision, but this only works when they’re set to modem-only mode.
If you don’t fancy wasting time trying to set up your old router with modern hardware, why not sell it?
Various outlets will let you make a few dollars from old tech, most notably eBay. Simply list the device with the make and model number. Your customer will typically be anyone looking for an affordable router, but networking enthusiasts, and retro tech collectors might also be interested.
10. Set Up a Separate Network for IoT and Smart Home Devices
As mentioned earlier, most current routers will let you set up a secondary network. But this isn’t only for guests to your home. It has several uses, not least setting up a secondary network for Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices.
11. Learn More About Home Networking
Routers are pretty much plug and play. They configure new connections automatically, allowing you to get online quickly and easily.
Using a network hosted on an old router, you don’t have to rely on a factory reset if things go wrong.
12. Donate Your Old Router
Finally, why not simply donate your old router to a good cause? Schools, kindergartens, charities, and more could use it.
Any organization that relies on goodwill can use your old router to extend their network, stream internet radio, set up a guest Wi-Fi network, or any of the other uses listed here.
Your Old Router Isn’t So Old After All!
These are all great ways to repurpose an old router, no matter how old it might be. Even if it misses some key wireless features, you can still use it as a switch, or a guest network.
If none of this works, however, it might be time to consider selling or recycling the device.