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.

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

  1. Hi
    Thanks for writing this very understandable step by step process for using a surplus BTHub4.
    I was going to purchase a new router to act as an secondary access point in my conservatory, (which has a very poor wifi signal). Your guide worked first time. Thanks again. John

  2. Help here for Virgin Media user struggling to change HH5 IP address to anything in the 192.168.0.* range.
    Virgin Media Hub 3 has a fixed IP of 192.168.0.1 and assigns IP address (DHCP) in range 192.168.0.* (you can choose range and number in Hub 3 settings.
    However, you CAN’T change the Hub 3’s own IP address.
    I have been unable to change the HomeHub5’s IP address to anything in the 192.168.0.* range successfully (when I do try, e.g. 192.168.0.8, I cannot connect to it using an ethernet cable and typing its new address into a browser) and so I assume if I change it to something in the 192.168.1.* range then it won’t be able to communicate with the Virgin Media network.
    Is there a way to change the Home Hub IP to something in the the same subnet (is this right?) as the Virgin router (i.e. in the 192.168.0.8 range)
    Thanks in advance.
    Conor

    • Hi Conor. Your network is managed by a Virgin Media hub, and you are trying to re-purpose a BT Home Hub as a second wireless access point. Is that correct ? I am a bit confused – you mention a BT Home Hub 5 first, then you are talking about a Home Hub 3, then a Home Hub 5 again. Can you clarify?

      It should be straightforward to change the IP address of a HH3 or HH5, following the instructions under the section entitled “Allocate a New Hub IP Address”.

      Cheers, Jim.

      • Hello, I have just successfully followed these great instructions to use a HH5. When I assigned a new IP address I too couldn’t then access it. I tried several times from the start.

        I’m using a Mac and could see via the Network part of System Preferences that the HH5 was indeed re-addressed to the new IP. So in ‘desperation’ I cycled power to the HH5 and let it restart and lo and behold I could then access it and complete the setup.

        So this might help and thanks again Jim.

        • Hi TimP and thanks a lot for the Mac/HH5 information. I am not sure why an extra power cycle was needed in this case, hopefully it will be of help to Mac users.

          Cheers, Jim.

  3. Thank you for the original article which is an example of unambiguous clarity. Also for your patient non-condescending replies to never ending questions.

    I have two BT home hub 5s and a Plusnet router, which appears to have only superficial differences from the BT device. I have after considerable perseverance, succeeded in getting one BT and one Plusnet device working with my VirginMedia Hub3.
    The VM Hub3 can be used in modem mode, which turns off DHCP and Firewall and would allow connection of a BT hub via the red WAN socket. This would require only SSID and password changes to the BT Hub. If I chose to use the VM Hub3 in this way, I would also lose the use of the Ethernet sockets which I want to continue with. I still have a spare BT Hub5 if I change my mind.

    I note several people have asked about using a BT hub with the Virgin Media Hub 3. In particular using I/p addresses in the range 192.168.0.xx which is how the VirginMedia hub is configured.
    The VM Hub3 gateway address is 192.168.0.1 and DCHP allocates addresses upwards from 192.168.10. So I can use any thing between 192.168.0.2 and 192.168.0.9 for my two hubs (I used 8 and 9).

    I did not find the setup easy. I tried various changes and resets, I switched DHCP to manual and set new start and end addresses 192.168.0.10 to 254, before turning DHCP off and changing the gateway address to 192.168.0.9
    At this point I lost access to the BT hub. When I tried the new address I found I could connect using WiFi with the new SSID and password, but my browser (Chrome) just stated that “The address 192.168.0.9 is not accessible.”

    After many attempts and resets over several days I had a breakthrough. I tried so many different things though it is difficult to be certain what process and order actually worked.
    I had progressed to the point where the browser reported unable to access 192.168.0.9.
    Switched the BT router off and on again and waited until the steady orange light and flashing red b.
    Connected my laptop Ethernet cable to the BT hub and opened the browser with 192.168.0.9 the browser timed out and said the address was not accessible.
    I tried to connect using WiFi with the same result.
    I unintentionally left the browser tab open.
    I connected a BT hub Ethernet port to a VirginMedia Ethernet port and my laptop to another BT hub port, and succeeded in accessing the VirginMedia GUI on a different browser tab.
    I then opened a windows command prompt window and pinged the various devices addresses. ( Press the Windows and R key at the same time on your keyboard and type cmd.exe and then click on OK, type ping 192.168.xx.xx and return) I spent some time fiddling with this, I reached the VirginMedia hub but failed to contact the BT hub.

    Quite some time later I noticed the original browser tab was showing the BT hub GUI. Success, and deep joy!

    So I am not certain whether it was changing the connections around or pinging things or accessing via WiFi that fixed it. After going through a similar rigmarole with the Plusnet router I strongly suspect it was simply the restart followed by considerable delay.
    So follow the excellent article change the BT gateway and restart. Wait for the red flashing b, open a browser tab with the new address, if you get an address unreachable or similar, leave the tab open, make a cup of tea, help the wife watch neighbours, be patient. You may have to WiFi connect to the main router with the two hubs Ethernet connected, or maybe not. I suspect after a long wait (10-20 minutes) that BT hub5 access page will come up.

    I now have both old hubs repurposed and successfully connected. After two days I can still connect to all three SSIDs and surf the internet. One of the hubs is a bit low in speed(Maxes out at around 70 Mbps the other gets up to the 200Mbps that my VirginMedia allows) This is probably due to using an old bit of Cat5 cable. The postman has just delivered a new reel of shiny Cat6 Ethernet cable, so my next job is to relocate the two repurposed hubs in suitable places to spread the 5Ghz signals around our house and avoid the internal brick walls.

    So once again thanks everyone. I think already had the knowledge, but you gave me confidence to persevere and overcome the difficulties. I might have given up and spent a fortune on mesh equipment otherwise. Reading some of the reviews it might have been just as time consuming!

    • Hi David, sorry for the lateness in replying, which has been due to personal illness. Your comment is the longest and most detailed on on this whole blog! Thanks for coming back with all of this detailed information, and presenting it in such careful and well written detail. It will helpful to anyone trying to integrate Virgin/Plusnet/BT stuff. Good news that your multi-point network is working so well.

      About the 70 Megabits/sec limitation of one WAP, the cabling is perhaps unlikely to be a limiting factor. Even Cat5 is good for 1000 Mbps. Still, let us know if you manage to get an improvement there.

      Cheers, Jim.

    • Hi Richard, did you try the procedure? Unfortunately, I don’t have a HH6, so I can’t test it out. Some of the commenters here have reported success in getting HH6 to work as a second access point (just search these comments, all pages of them, for “hh6”), but some questions appear to remain about turning DHCP off. I am half tempted to get a HH6 off ebay just to verify the procedure.

      The above article does not require DHCP requests to be forwarded (which would indeed require a DHCP relay). It explains how to turn the DHCP server off in the hub being re-purposed. Client devices (eg mobile phones) then broadcast their DHCP requests on the local network, of which hub being re-purposed and the router controlling the network are both part, by virtue of the IP address that was configured on the secondary hub. The IP address for the mobile phone, together with default gateway and other information (eg. netmask), are dispatched and managed by the central router.

      Cheers,
      Jim

  4. Pingback: Réutiliser un BT Home Hub de rechange en tant que point d'accès sans fil | Répéteur et accélérateur WIFI

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