Reuse a spare BT Home Hub as a Wireless Access Point

This article was rewritten and updated on 9th April 2017.

BT is a popular Internet service provider in the UK.  BT subscribers receive a free router called the “BT Home Hub“.  A new model of Home Hub is launched every few years, and as BT never takes the old ones back, many people have an old Hub tucked away somewhere, gathering dust.

This post explains how to convert an old BT Home Hub 5.0 or Home Hub 4.0 into a second wireless access point (“AP”) on your network, strengthening and extending the wireless signal around your home or office.  Although the details are for those routers, the basic procedure works for other BT and perhaps non-BT routers.  In particular, notes have been included for the BT Home Hub 3.0 and the now ancient Home Hub 1.0 – these are indented and written in italics.  Many users have also had success in reusing Home Hub models 2.0 and 6.0 (BT’s latest router, also known as the Smart Hub).

Summary

In summary, this procedure comprises resetting the old Home Hub to factory defaults, then logging into the Hub using the default IP address and password, disabling DHCP, and giving the Hub a suitable new IP address.  And finally, running an ethernet cable between the old Home Hub and your managing router.

Note: During test, my local network was managed by a Netgear router. But the managing router is not part of this procedure. You are not required to access or modify it in any way, except when running a cable at the end of the process. Only the Hub being re-purposed is changed.

Procedure

Start with the Home Hub not connected to anything except its power supply.

Hit the Reset Button

Power on the Home Hub 5.0 (or 4.0). Locate the recessed “Reset” button on the rear, towards the right hand side.  Using a paper clip or similar, hold down the Reset button 20 seconds or so.

The light on the front of the hub will go green. After about 20 seconds it will begin to blink, then turn solid blue for 15 seconds, then flashing amber for 15 seconds, before settling to solid amber. A few seconds later, the “b” will start to blink red. The Hub will remain in this condition. Proceed as follows.

Home Hub 3.0 users:
The Hub will reset (the power light will glow dimly amber, then flash, then the “Wireless” LED will light up blue, then both LEDS will settle to blue).

Home Hub 1.0 users: Press the “Wireless” button on the back of the Home Hub 1 and hold it down for 15 seconds. You will then hear a click and the Hub’s green LEDs will all illuminate. Wait a couple of minutes for the Hub to reset and reboot.

Resetting the Home Hub to factory defaults will clear out old settings that might otherwise prevent this procedure from working. For example, it will deactivate the “BT Fon” feature, also known as “BT Wi-Fi”.  If left active, BT Fon would prevent DHCP from being disabled. Also, if you have forgotten the admin password for the old Home Hub, the reset will get around that.

Instructions for resetting other BT routers can be found here.

Connect your PC Directly to the Hub

De-activate wireless on your PC. If it is connected to your home/office network with a physical network cable, disconnect it now. The PC needs to be completely isolated from your network.

Connect a spare Ethernet cable from your PC directly to the Home Hub. Use any of the Hub’s Ethernet ports (they are coloured yellow).

Your PC should then receive an IP address from the Home Hub, via DHCP.  (If you are curious to know, this address will probably be 192.168.1.64).

Reset the Admin Password

Start a browser on your PC and surf to the Hub default IP http://192.168.1.254.

You should see the Hub’s main home page. Click on “Advanced Settings”. The Settings page appears, with a message beginning “To prevent unauthorised access to your Hub’s settings, BT Hub Manager is password protected…“. Enter the default Admin password as directed. It can be found on the Hub’s white (detachable) panel, labelled “Admin Password for Hub Manager”. Note that the it is case sensitive. Click the OK button.

Home Hub 3.0 users:
You should see the Hub’s “Please Reset your Password” page. Enter the admin password located on the pull-out tab of the Home Hub 3.0, as directed. It is not case sensitive.  Also enter a new admin password where indicated, and enter it again to confirm.  You can also enter a hint, but it is not required. Finally, click the “Change Password and open Hub Manager” button. You will be presented with the Hub’s home page.

Home Hub 1 users: Instead of the admin password, you must enter the serial number found on the back of the Hub, as directed by the web page.  Also enter a new password, and again to confirm. Then click the “Change Password and open Hub Manager” button.  The home page opens.  Now proceed to the next Home Hub 1 section below.

Note: Some Firefox users have reported seeing JavaScript errors at this point – switching to the Chrome browser fixed it for Ed Iglehart, see his coment below.

Note: A couple of people have complained of not being able to surf to the hub at all. If this happens to you, try what Josh suggested in his comment below. That is, “go to File Explorer, then on the left it will say network, open that. If the hub is connected by Ethernet then it will show up with something like “BT Hub”. Click on that.”

Reconfigure Wireless Settings

Now Click “A-Z” at the very top right. Then click W -> Wireless Security – 2.4 Ghz.

Under “2.4 GHz Wireless Configuration”, make sure that Security is set to “WPA2 Only (Recommended)”. By default, it should be already. Under “Wireless key (WPA2)”, delete the default key and enter one of your own, and remember it. This is the password that clients will use to connect to the wireless network. Leave all other options as the default.

Click the Apply button at the bottom of the page. The page will reload and you should see a “Changes applied” message at the very bottom, confirming the new settings.

Note that by default, the key you have just set also applies for the Hub’s 5 Ghz wireless network.

Home Hub 3.0 users:
Under Wireless Configuration, make sure “WPA & WPA2 (Recommended)” is selected. By default, it should be already. Enter a Wireless key. This is the password that will be required for clients to connect. Click the Apply button at the bottom of the page. The page will reload and you should see a “Changes applied” message at the very bottom, confirming the new settings

HH1 users: On the Hub home page, select from the menu on the left: Advanced -> Continue to Advanced -> (enter “admin” and the password just created) -> Wireless -> Security.  Select the “Use WPA PSK Encryption” radio button.  Enter a wireless password (called a “key”) just below that.  And change the “WPA-PSK Version” drop-down to “WPA+WPA2“. Then click “Apply”.  Then jump straight to the next Home Hub 1 section below, where DHCP is deactivated and a new IP address allocated.

Allocate New Hub IP Address

The Hub IP address needs to be changed now. By default it is set to 192.168.1.254, and this would almost certainly clash with your managing router. What’s needed is a new IP address compatible with your home network, and which is not already in use by something else.

Click “A-Z” at the very top right. Then click D -> DHCP Settings. Under “Hub IP Gateway Address”, enter a new IP address for the hub. It should be in the same network, but outside the DHCP ranges of the router managing your network. For example, if your network is controlled by another BT Home Hub (eg. model 1,2,3,4 or 5), those routers by default allocate DHCP addresses in the range 192.168.1.64 to 192.168.1.253. You would therefore choose a new IP address outside of that range. I would recommend 192.168.1.63, but you could also use 192.168.1.62, (or 61, or 60, …).

After you have entered the new IP address for the Hub, click the “Apply” button and answer “Yes” to the “Are you sure?” question.  You will then see an error message about the page failing to load, or it will not load properly.  Don’t worry, this is expected because you just changed the Hub’s IP address.

In your PC’s browser, surf to the new IP address of the Hub, ie. the address you have just chosen.  For example, http://192.168.1.63. The Hub’s home page should load again, proving that the new IP address works.

Deactivate DHCP

Now click “A-Z” at the very top right. Then select D -> DHCP Settings. again.  Enter the admin password if asked.  Under “DHCP Server“, set the “Enable:” radio button to “No“.

Click “Apply” and then answer “Yes” on the “Are you sure?” page.  After a few moments, the page reloads. You should see a message at the very bottom: “Changes applied”. Proceed to the next section for connecting your Hub to the wired network.

Home Hub 1 users: From the left hand menu, select “IP Addresses“.  On the page that appears, uncheck the “Use DHCP Server” tick box.  Below that, under “IP addresses“, you should see these addresses:

10.0.0.138/24
172.16.1.254/24
192.168.1.254/24

Click “Edit” next to the address that matches the rest of your network. For example if your other network devices are addressed like 192.168.1.something, choose 192.168.1.254.  Enter a new IP address for the Hub.  Following the same background notes as for the Hume Hub 3 above, your new address should most likely be 192.168.1.63.  Therefore, change “192.168.1.254” to “192.168.1.63” and then click the “Apply” buttonThe page will then fail to load properly.  Don’t worry, this is expected because you just changed the Hub’s IP address.  In your PC’s browser, surf to the new IP address of the Hub, ie. the address you have just chosen.  For example, http://192.168.1.63. The Hub’s home page should load again, proving that the new IP address works.

Connect the Hub to your Wired Network

Now remove the spare Ethernet cable from your PC and the Hub.

Connect the Home Hub to your local network You can do this by using a long Ethernet cable. Plug one end into any of the Hub’s yellow Ethernet ports. Plug the other end into a vacant port on your managing router. Now the Hub 5.0 is part of your home network. And client devices connecting wirelessly to it will be able to access the rest of your network and to the Internet, using your general Internet connection.

Alternatively, if your Hub 3 is a long way from your managing router, and you don’t want to trail a cable, you could use a pair of power line connectors – one connected to the Home Hub, the other to your managing router. Once the connectors are paired up, the effect will be the same as if you had used an Ethernet cable.

Test your New Wireless Access Point

Activate wireless on your PC and check the list of available Wi-Fi access points. You should see the new Home Hub AP, which will be recognizable from its SSID.

Connect to the new AP. You will be prompted for the wireless key chosen above. Enter the key and your PC will connect wirelessly to the Home Hub. Try to connect from other devices too, perhaps a smartphone or tablet. In each case, you will need to enter the wireless password.

Flashing Lights on the Hub

At the end of this procedure, users of Hub models 4.0 and 5.0 will notice that the Hub light is now permanently amber and the broadband LED, shaped like a “b”, blinks red. Unfortunately there is no way to stop this, except to acquire some black insulation tape and use it to block the lights.

NB There is an option to dim the hub lights, which helps somewhat. Log in to your re-purposed Hub and go to A-ZH – “Hub Lights, change brighness“. Enter the admin password if asked. Then select “Brightness: Low” and click Apply. The message “Changes applied” appears and the hub lights immediately dim.

Conclusion

If all has gone to plan, you now have your second AP up and running. Wireless users in your home/office can connect to whichever AP has the strongest signal in their location.

Set a Different 5GHz SSID (Optional)

The BT home Hub (models 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0) is dual band, meaning it comes with an extra wireless channel on 5 Ghz. Modern wireless clients (circa 2015 onwards) can connect at the higher frequency and obtain a clearer, faster, less congested signal. Meanwhile, older devices will continue to connect using the slower channel

By default, the 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz channels use the same SSID (same name). I like to give them different names, so that they stand out in the list of APs when your client device (phone, tablet) does a wireless scan. If you want to give your 5GHz channel a special name, proceed as follows.

Surf to the IP address of your re-purposed Hub and login. At the top right, click A-Z and then W and Wireless Security – 5 Ghz.

The Wireless SSID will be set to something like “BTHub5-XYZ3”. Edit the field and add “-5Ghz”, for example “BTHub5-XYZ3-5Ghz”. Click the Apply button. The page will reload and you should see the familiar “Changes applied” message at the very bottom.

Your 5GHz network is now renamed and you should see “BTHub5-XYZ3-5Ghz” among the list of devices found when your phone/tablet/laptop does a wireless scan (but only on devices which are 5 Ghz enabled, likely to be those purchased from 2016 onwards).

A Note on SSIDs

Some readers have asked if it is worth setting the SSID of the new wireless access point to be the same as another existing SSID, for example the one on your main wireless AP, provided by your main wireless router. It is allowable to have both the same, but I would not personally recommend it. If the names are the same, it is difficult to know which AP your device is connecting to.

On the other hand, with different SSID names, you can see both in the list of APs on your client device (eg tablet), making it easy to choose whichever you prefer. Also, most devices will connect to the strongest signal by default. If you roam out of range of one, your smartphone, say, should pick up on the other automatically, if it is stronger/closer.
Or you can force it by disconnecting, then letting your phone/tablet reconnect to whichever is the nearer and stronger AP.

Some Background on DHCP

If you have followed the above procedure, wireless clients will be able to connect to your new AP. They are allocated an IP address by the DHCP server running on your main/managing router. There is no DHCP server on the re-purporsed Hub. It was deactivated as part of the procedure).

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Neil Pellinacci for the basic process. I just added the factory reset bits after encountering an inability to disable DHCP due to BT Fon settings.

239 thoughts on “Reuse a spare BT Home Hub as a Wireless Access Point

  1. Followed your guide and worked a treat using pfsense etc. However, the hh4 that I am using restarts every so often. I believe this is because it isn’t recognising a connection. I cannot find anything on the internet that fixes this. Is there any way to turn this off?

    • Hi Sophie. It is strange that the HH4 does occasional restarts. Perhaps your HH4 has some kind of issue. Unfortunately I can’t suggest anything, unless you have another HH4 to try in its place.

  2. All works fine however…Slave hub keeps resetting constantly?? So I lose the wireless for a minute or so then back on for about 15mins then repeats? Any ideas?

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