DIY – Build a Pro Grade Router Using a Spare Netbook

Router

Heavy use of Photoshop was required to make this look more interesting than it really is

A lot of my tech projects are born more out of curiosity than necessity but this one is as practical as it is inexpensive (assuming you have some spare parts). Netbooks are a perfect fit for this job as the rise of the tablet has made them obsolete and available for re-purposing.

But why? You ask, would anybody want to do this? Let me enumerate the ways:

  1. Better security through router based virus/spam/ad/phish/spyware blocking
  2. Better network performance – A dual core Atom is better than the CPU in your DLink
  3. Upgrading your wireless network requires only a new Access Point
  4. Business class router features (OpenVPN, IDS, QoS, Captive Portal)
  5. Content filtering (my daughter will be online before I know it)
  6. More blinky lights to corroborate your self proclaimed Geek status

Ingredients required:

  • Netbook with a LAN Port
  • USB 10/100 NIC
  • Your existing wireless router (to become the Access Point)
  • Some spare network cables, a USB memory stick, and the Untangle install file

The high level HOWTO steps, may vary slightly depending on your netbook/router:

  • Set your old Router to Access Point mode, disable DHCP
  • Reset your old Router’s IP address to 192.168.2.2
  • Plug your USB NIC into the Netbook
  • Plug your cable modem into the USB NIC, power cycle your cable modem
  • Connect your Netbook’s LAN port to one of your Access Point’s LAN Ports (NOT THE WAN PORT!)
  • Turn on your Netbook and go into the bios
  • Disable your Netbook’s wireless adapter to prevent interference (optional)
  • Write the Untangle .img file to a USB memory stick use (use Image Writer for Windows)
  • Plug the USB memory stick into your Netbook
  • Save your Netbook’s BIOS changes and restart
  • Go into your Nebook’s boot options screen (usually F11 or F12 on startup)
  • Select the USB drive option
  • Run through the Untangle setup process
  • Install the free apps that are available in Untangle (the Lite Package)
  • Test it out on another computer at http://192.168.2.1

Since you didn’t change your wireless password, you should still be able to connect to your network without any changes to your client devices. This could be a good gift for your non tech savvy friends/relatives who run into a lot of viruses/malware. And if you have kids, you can block content without worrying about them figuring out how to disable browser based filtering (because they will). I tried PFSense but it didn’t properly support my hardware so I next tried Untangle. I’ve used IPCOP before but it’s a much less beginner friendly setup.

Untangle has already

Untangle has blocked 38 pages due to spyware on my computer since I installed it a few days ago.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll update this post with answers and your suggestions.

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