What is the Difference Between Client Bridge & Wireless Repeater Modes in DD-WRT? (DD-WRT FAQ)

UPDATED 7/24/2018

While the DD-WRT router firmware distinguishes itself from default firmware in many ways, one of the most useful is the simple setup of Wireless Modes within its interface. Many consumers and network administrators turn to DD-WRT when seeking for the optimal choice in setting up a Client Bridge. Once they go DD-WRT, they never seem to go back due to the simplicity, customization possibilities, and the ease of the setup process.

Key Terms And Definitions

Before we dive into the details, here are some key terms and definitions to better understand this post.

AP (Access Point) – The standard wireless mode for most routers in DD-WRT.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) – Automates network-parameter assignment to network devices. Simply, it is a process that allows a router to automatically assign connected devices local IP address

NAT (Network Address Translation) – The process of modifying IP address information  while in transit across a router.

WDS (Wireless Distribution System) – A system enabling the wireless interconnection of AP allows a wireless network to be expanded using multiple access points without the traditional requirement without having to be wired themselves.

A breakdown of the available bridging modes available in DD-WRT- How to Set Client Bridge/Wireless Bridge/Repeater Mode in DD-WRT

How Does the Client Wireless Bridge Differ from Repeater Mode?

To put it simply, a Client Bridge links computers while a Wireless Repeater connects routers.

These mode changing options can be found in later builds of DD-WRT under the Wireless > Basic Settings Tab (as seen in the image above). The default mode in DD-WRT is AP, which sets your router up as a standard access point for users.

A Client Bridge can connect disparate pieces of a company of home network that were previously unable to connect through a router. The intended use for a Repeater is  to take a wireless signal from a network and giving it a new-found, extended range.

Placing a Repeater in an opportune location can significantly strengthen a computer’s connection and network signal from a primary gateway. A Repeater is useful in a home or office when you are trying to boost wireless connection strengths, wireless range, and overall network sensitivity.

Client Bridges are increasingly popular for creating secured wired connections without the involvement of wireless signals. With Client Bridges, the WLAN and the LAN are on the same subnet. Consequently, NAT is no longer used and services that are running on the original network (like DHCP) work seamlessly on the created bridged network.

Inside a client bridged network, computers can see one another inside a Windows Network. However, the router will no longer accept wireless clients or broadcast beacons as it would in Repeater mode, minimizing the outside accessibility to the network.

If you are looking to extend wireless access to more remote parts of a home or office then the Repeater is the way to go. Here’s how to set up a Repeater on your DD-WRT router.

If you are looking to create a more seamless integrated network of computers without concern for extended wireless signal, then a Client Bridge could be the solution.

What Is The Difference Between The Alternate DD-WRT Repeater Modes?

  • Repeater
    • DHCP & NAT enabled
    • Clients on different subnet from primary router.
    • Computers connected to one router cannot see computers connected to other routers in Windows Network.
  • Repeater Bridge
    • Wireless Repeater capabilities with DHCP & NAT disabled.
    • Clients on the same subnet as primary router.
    • All computers can see one another in Windows Network.
  • Universal Wireless Repeater
    • Uses a program/script called AutoAP to keep wireless connection with the nearest/optimal host Access Point.

Explanation of Alternative Wireless Modes in DD-WRT

Client Mode (AP Client)
Used to link two wired networks using two wireless routers without creating a bridge. Computers on one wired network can not see computers on other wired network in Windows Network. Client mode allows the router to connect to other access points as a client.

Client Mode in DD-WRT turns the WLAN portion of your router into the WAN. In this mode, the router will no longer function as an access point (doesn’t allow clients), therefore, you will need wires to use the router and to configure it. The router won’t even be visible to your own wireless configuration software or Wi-Fi packet sniffer software like Wireshark, Kismet or Netstumbler.

In Client Mode, the WLAN and the LAN will not be bridged, creating different subnets on the same router. To create FTP servers, port forwarding from WLAN to LAN will be necessary. Most users select to use client bridge mode instead of client mode.

Ad-hoc Mode
Ad-hoc mode allows the router to connect to other wireless devices that are also available for ad-hoc connections. Ad-hoc networks lack the typical central management of an infrastructure type network. Ad-hoc mode uses STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) not WDS. Think of this mode as a Client Mode that doesn’t connect to infrastructure networks but rather to similarly ad-hoc configured devices.

Top Recommended DD-WRT Routers For Creating Repeaters:

Netgear Nighthawk R7000

Netgear Nighthawk R7000

  1. Netgear R7000 Nighthawk DD-WRT Router – Our most popular DD-WRT router.
  2. Linksys WRT3200ACM DD-WRT – A powerful long range router offering a 1.8 Ghz (Dual core) processor and 4 external antennas.
  3. Asus AC56U DD-WRT Router – A great mid range model with an 800 Mhz processor comparable to routers more than double it’s price

Editor’s Note: Much of this info is derived from various Wikipedia-related entries and the DD-WRT Wiki but has been melded together here as a streamlined reference guide.

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9 thoughts on “What is the Difference Between Client Bridge & Wireless Repeater Modes in DD-WRT? (DD-WRT FAQ)

  1. 808X

    Thanks for pointing out the differances between repeater and client bridge’s
    The only inaccuracy I saw was you keep calling it a “windows network”
    First off DD-WRT is Linux based. So why would you call it windows?
    Simply put, You should just call it a “network” because thats all it is. it has nothing to do with windows.

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  3. NerdTool

    Dear 808X, there was nothing wrong with the mention of Windows in the article. The routers run Linux but they permit / or block the passing of Windows networking protocols. The article is correct in that Windows networking will not span two different bridged subnets.

  4. David Kent

    Its good to know the difference. As a business owner, Where you place your Wi-Fi hardware can make a big difference to the quality and coverage of your Wi-Fi network in your cafe as wifi now is so important to customers. Thanks

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