Product Warning – Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander is a product catastrophe

I apologize for not responding to your emails and comments during the past few days. I have been offline trying to debug a botched Linksys product offering.

Wre54g_1The product team at Linksys has managed to take a brilliant product concept and turn it into a frustrating customer experience and a support nightmare. This is not a simple mistake. This is the work of inspired dunderheads! The Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander – WRE54G should have been a slam-dunk success, but a group of designers and marketing execs managed to make this product one of the worst new product releases since the Jugo.

My take on it is that the product team pushed this abortion out the door in a hurry so they could meet a deadline and get their bonuses. This was not the work of one person. This catastrophe required a lot of people to turn a blind eye to the effect this would create on a typical customer. In my opinion, Linksys owes their customers an apology.

UPDATE 03/04/06: 229 Linksys customers reviewed this product on Amazon.com and the vast majority of them could not install it because of the botched product release. Does anyone at Linksys keep track of what customers are saying?

The concept of a range expander for your wireless network is right
on the money because the first problem you run into with your new
wireless network is that it doesn’t reach all of the locations where
you need connectivity. You have your wireless router in the basement,
for example, but you want to use your laptop out on your deck where
reception is spotty, at best.

The Linksys expander would seem to be the answer to this because you
only have to plug it in and you will have a relay point which send
signals to the furthermost parts of your network. As I said, the
product concept was brilliant!

Let’s see how this works out in practice.

I purchased the expander from the same store where I purchased a
Linksys wireless router a few days before. This expander and wireless
router can be found in thousands of stores across the country. The
router had gone in without a hitch and worked perfectly except where I
was using a laptop in a room 75 feet away from the router. I expected
the expander to give me the same predictable results. WRONG!!

The expander would not recognize the router although they had been
sold next to each other on the shelf at the store. I read the
directions again and went through the installation procedure several
times. The upper indicator remained obstinately red, indicating the the
expander could not recognize the wireless router.

I returned the expander for credit, and since there were no more in
stock, I went to Office Max and bought another WRE54G  there. I took it
home, set it up and had the same dismal result. The expander would not
recognize the wireless router.

Upon investigating, I found a note tucked in the box that said the
expander would work with the wireless router only if the router
firmware was level 2.02.2 or higher. The brand new router firmware was
level 1.06. I thought that was pretty poor product coordination, but I
would fix that by going to the Linksys website and downloading the
required firmware.

WRONG AGAIN!! The download page on the Linksys website had no such firmware.

So I called Linksys customer support to find where they were hiding
the required firmware. I spent ten minutes talking to a charming lady
in India who kept trying to get the name of my ISP and my operating
system. It took a while to get her to understand that I wanted a
particular piece of firmware, because I could only understand one word
in four. She was unfailingly polite, but her rapid fire delivery made
it very hard to understand her. Finally she said she would connect me
with a technician. She did this very professionally because she made
sure that the technician actually picked up the line.

I asked the technician where I could get the required firmware. She
said it would be on the Linksys download page. I pointed out that fact
that the page contained no such firmware. After a little research, she
came back and told me that the problem had been solved with a firmware
upgrade for the expander.

I thought this was a great solution until I downloaded the firmware
upgrade and found that I couldn’t transmit the expander upgrade to the
expander because it wasn’t recognizing the router in the first place!
How clueless could I be? How can I transmit an upgrade to a device that
isn’t receiving signals!

So, I decided I would go back to plan A where I would find the
secret cache where Linksys technicians hid all the good bits they use
to make bad products work. I called customer service again and spoke to
a friendly technician in some far off land. I was able to understand
most of what he said and he directed me to an ftp site which had all
sorts of useful downloads. I downloaded the firmware I needed for the
wireless router in several different formats, because by now I was
expecting the worst.

One of the downloads was an executable file which supposedly would
handle the upgrade automatically. It started off swimmingly by finding
the wireless router, but hung up shortly thereafter with a cryptic
message about scrambled code. I crossed that solution off the list and
continued by proceeding to reinstall the wireless router all over again
from the beginning.

By this time I had spent two days working on the problem and still
had no joy after about three hours working in a cold workshop. When the
wireless router decided that it could no longer connect with the
Internet, I decided to call it a day. My network was down and I needed
time to think of a new approach.

My conclusion is that this is almost a completely botched product
release. The product team spent all the time necessary to ensure that
the distribution channels were properly provisioned, but never took the
time to ensure that the product would work with the products in the
field. The expander product requires changes in the products it
supports, but the changes are not available, even to their customer
service people.

I have bought many Linksys routers, switches, etc. but this
experience has wiped out my trust in Linksys products. If I buy Linksys
equipment again, it will be only after someone else tests it.

Linksys needs to recall this product and replace it with a product
version that works. This release has no place in the lineup of
well-designed Linksys products. The entire product team needs to be
retrained.

If someone from Linksy  cares to enlighten me as to how this is
actually a good thing for customers, I will be happy to provide room
for a rebuttal. If I have found the only two bad units out of millions
in the field, I will be happy to acknowledge that I have drawn
unwarranted conclusions from a very small sample.

I think that many more customers have had the same experience and
wondered why the top indicator on the expander stayed red. Incidently,
the product instructions cleverly omit any information on what the
indicator colors mean. Both indicators must be blue in order for
correct operation. Many people may have installed these devices and
never noticed that they didn’t do the job they were supposed to do.

I have decided to return this second range expander and will find a
common-sense solution that does not require buying any more Linksys
products at this time. I will probably do better by moving my wireless
router where the signal carries to all spots where I need wireless
reception.

What do you think?

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0 Responses to Product Warning – Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander is a product catastrophe

  1. mbg says:

    I’ve had a terrible time with all kinds of Linksys products. Most recently, I bought their NSLU2 product which supposedly lets you attach USB hard drives to your network. A big label on the box claims FAT32/NTFS drive support, which is true, but if you do so, you can’t change any administration settings — not even the default admin password. Further, you achieve speeds of less than 10Mb/s on a 480Mb/s USB interface connected to a 100Mb/s network interface.

    Before that, I had a Linksys router many years ago which would freeze periodically and required a hard reset. A wireless PC card which couldn’t even detect the wireless network. A network switch which, when uplinked to a router, caused an incredible drop in upstream speed (down to 20KB/s)… I should have learned my lesson before buying the NSLU2.

  2. Another option might be to try the Apple AirPort Express. It is a wifi repeater that expands the range of Apple’s AirPort base stations. I have also read that it can repeat some non-Apple wireless networks as well, but you’ll want to do some research on that. As a bonus, you can connect it to your stereo and play your mp3 connection using iTunes on your computer.

  3. Tom Fakes says:

    I have one of these too. It just doesn’t work – it’s that simple.

    I purchased a set of 7db antennas from Best Buy that worked for me. These are replacement antennas for the wireless router that, at a claimed 7db, will more than quarduple the effective signal strength.

    My signal is now just good enough to reach the farthest point that I need it. I also cranked down the speed that my farthest machine was asking for to reduce speed changes as people moved around the room.

  4. Sean Pecor says:

    I’ve had various wireless networks in my home office since about the day after 802.11b was made public. I started out using Linksys products but almost immediately switched to D-Link after having so many problems with Linksys reliability off the bat. I’m not surprised to see that it is still business as usual at Linksys.

    I can’t recommend D-Link enough. The name isn’t as cool, the cases aren’t as stylish as the Linksys products but you know what…. in my experience they just work.

    Also, insofar as range extending is concerned, I’ve found a good solution to be an access point – in my case a DWL-2000AP – with a third party outdoor antenna attached via a 6′ long low emission cable to be the best solution. My antenna is the 14dbi omni-directional 12″ pole variety and at the moment I actually have it mounted indoors. The most expensive part is the cable. With standard built-in notebook wireless adapters I’m able to work on one side of the house while my AP is on the other. In my case, that’s 16′ from the office wall to the hall, and 85′ down a hall, foyer, and another hall. Then a 90 degree left turn, and 75′ down a hall that angles in the middle and into our family room. Even though the notebooks don’t have a special antenna I believe that the strong AP antenna can pick up weak signals better and of course throw a very strong signal. Would you believe that far away Windows reports a “Good” signal strength!

    Originally I had two APs that acted as bridges between two buildings 300′ from eachother. Each had their own 14dbi outdoor antennas and bridged two wired networks. In addition each wired network had an AP so wireless could be used in each house. This solution worked great! With 14dbi omnis you can probably network two buildings several thousand feet from eachother.

    If I was in your shoes what I might do would be to mount the antenna on an outside wall. A 6′ cable would give you some flexibility on AP placement on the interior wall but ideally it would be out of sight, perhaps inside a cabinet. If the wall was facing your shop and deck then you’d have great signal strength everywhere it mattered – even inside the house. At our last house, I mounted the antenna and AP underneath the basement stairs and I was able to get signal on all three floors.

    Sean

  5. Rick Barnich says:

    If I had to choose a place where I would get the poorest radiation for a wireless router, I would choose the basement. I’d figure out a way to get the router ‘above ground’ and you probably wouldn’t need an extender.

  6. Thanks for your suggestions and comments.

    I moved my wireless router to a high shelf in my workshop and I now have good to excellent signal strength in the house. I have ordered the high gain antenna kit and expect to do even better when that is installed.

    I currently have a 2.4 Ghz cordless phone system which will be replaced with a 5.8 Ghz system next week. We have been able to confirm that a conversation on the wireless phones will interfere with internet connectivity.

  7. Guy Bjerke says:

    I had the same experience with the Linksys range expander. At first it wouldn’t find the Linksys wireless router. The directions said to remove the router’s WEP encryption. After doing that the expander found the router – but I never experienced any added range. I ditched the expander, tried the bigger antennas and then ended up hardwiring to my kids rooms.

    Good luck.

  8. mbg says:

    I second Sean’s recommendation for D-Link. Each time I had a problem with a Linksys product, I replaced it with a D-Link one and it worked fine, except for the NSLU2…

  9. Sean Pecor says:

    Actually the basement can be a good location if you’re just looking to get coverage throughout a multi-level home, and not also out of doors. The reason is that you can orient the antennas such that they transmit radio waves through the floors and inside the walls of the home. Interior walls are usually just uninsulated partitions and it’s easy for the radio wave to pass up through voids and through thin layers of drywall material. In this setup I had an AP w/ 14dbi antenna in my basement, underneath the stairway, and was able to receive video from an 802.11b wireless web camera located two floors up and on the other side of the house. An added benefit was that the signal didn’t reach outside of our home making the connection less exposed to intruders. As an aside, the camera was pointed down at our walk and entrance and motion detection software would alert me visually when someone approached. Quite handy when your office was in the basement and music was, um, playing rather loudly 🙂

    Sean

  10. David Robarts says:

    Personally I’d go with a 900 Mz phone if you can find one with the features you need. Lower frequencies travel farther. The higher frequency phones are better where dense population makes interference a problem (in addition to being shorter range there is more bandwidth available). 802.11b/g and 2.4 GHz phones do operate in the same part of the radio spectrum so I don’t plan to ever own a 2.4 GHz phone.

  11. Matt Young says:

    I’ve been selling and networking PC’s since the early 1980’s.. Simply put… The Range expander from Linksys should be sold with a roll of toilet paper. It’s the biggest piece of CRAP this company has ever put out.

    I too have fussed and fooled around upgrading the firmware on several of these things. The only true way of getting it to work is to turn off all encryption whatsoever on both your router and run your wireless system in an OPEN state. I had it open for a while until a new neighbor moved in next door and decided he wanted to ride across my connection. Jeesh… what a waste of money.

    -Matt-

  12. keith says:

    if you want the link system range expander to work with your laptop do not install the program in your laptop, your laptop will pick it up automaticly if you have a built in system. your desk top needs to be programed on the manual settings then put in the ip address,submask,default gatway with the install wizard. the laptop and the desktop security settings need to match or it won’t
    work, put some kunfu in to it, one other thing turn off microsoft pop up blocker if the security settings, when I first got the range expander your right it did not work, but now it works great, and at 100 yards out and through an wall I’m getting full bars, press and hold the button untill the light flashes red, then both lights will turn blue, after 5 to 6 sec. you people just need to understand that a computer only dose what you tell it to do, and I’m buy fare no computer expert, I just played with the settings, and norton will mess it up, the problem is to many anti virus crap,
    on the home systems creating head butting computer programs. thank you keith,

  13. GG says:

    I am so tired of the Linksys product problems. No more for me.

  14. red says:

    so i i finnly got my blue light to come on for
    10 min and it worked great then it went back to red still cant get this thing to work

  15. Joan says:

    After having all the problems discussed above with both Belkin and Linksys routers and their range expanders, I purchased a ParkerVision router at the suggestion of a CompUSA salesman. The ParkerVision router is the best investment ever if you are having wireless network issues. I kept the Linksys Wireless-G range expander, and for the most part everything works fine.

  16. Aileen says:

    I had the same agony as you putting up the expander to work. Been there done that got the T shirt. It took me a week to install it but I disabled the WEP security. Though my linksys router works fine, the expander is a mess.

  17. brian says:

    does anybody know if the useless range expander we’re talking about might serve as an unintended wireless bridge to a Vonage unit?

  18. Jarrod Lewis says:

    I have read these posts with increasing despair. I wish I had read this before I purchased this totally useless expander. I have had more signal boost using tinfoil and a drinking straw than with the Linksys expander.

  19. Tim says:

    I would suggest looking in a new direction. The wrt54gl router is based on Linux and has been updated to do some amazing things. For the price of two cheap routers you can run a very respectable mesh network with very little effort. The link above is for the wikipedia article. I am using hyperWRT which enable you to control the power of the radios and other great features. Beware that linksys in it’s infinite wisdom has switched chipsets and other components so it may take some looking to find the right wrt54g router.

  20. Sukhoi says:

    I was just browsing thro the webscape when I stumbled upon the above posts. I agree for a fact that the instructions and actual product implementation of WRE is bad but does not mean its a bad product.

    The first thing to remember is wireless technology implemetation is still in infancy. take any other product of the same category — they ll all do the same.

    The second thing is do research properly. If anyone needs help, I ll be happy to do so. Post u r router model no. along with version no. and Range expander model no. with ver.

    Cheers 🙂

  21. pak says:

    I have a notebook with a Linksys WPC 54G adaptor installed. my WAP is
    a Linksys WRT54G is in the other end of the house and I’m getting a
    weak signal on the notebook. SO I installed a Linksys WRE54G range
    expander. The notebook’s adapter sees them both, and shows the
    extender as a much stronger signal. I use the adapter utilty to select
    the extender but it goes right back to the weaker signal of the WAP.
    How can I get notebook adapter to stay with the stronger signal range
    expander??

  22. Lynda says:

    Would somebody please explain to me why I cannot even speak with a real person in the USA for HP? Now seriously, all I wanted was the most recent catalog since they haven’t sent one since January…that’s weird enough, many months we receive two…yes I know we can shop on the net, but we really wanted to see the catalog and buy something…Naturally, I get India! As extremely polite as they are, and I know they are just trying to make a living in the middle of the night so I’m not rude to them, but why, oh why, can’t one single person in the United States put my name on a catalog and put it in the mail? No, this is going to take three weeks to get to me because all customer service calls and sales calls go to India! They can only pass the info on…so HP and all you others who obviously can’t even pay for a phone in the US…hello? hello? Irritated out of my mind in Philly (and no they can’t spell that or even know it’s in PA!)

  23. Sam Bigger says:

    My experience with the expander was totally negative. A waste of time and resources with absolutely no help from Linksys. In fact, the Linksys Reps.,several of them, contributed to the confusion by not having the knowledge and resources they needed to resolve the issue.

    I am searching for a brand that offers a quality product and Customer Service.

    WHEW !!

  24. David says:

    We are western expats who live a in a large house in Doha, Qatar. Because our kids need the internet for school, I decided a wireless network was the best and cheapest solution. So bought a Wag300N which despite the blurb (4 times the strength of a “G” network) did not reach the kids rooms upstairs. The block construction of these homes may have something to do with this. So I purchsed a Linksys WRE54G range extender which I installed in trhe upstairs corridor on the wall – high up so the signal would be maximised as Linksys suggest. I have now spent many fruitless days trying to get the upstairs laptop and PC to connect to the wireless network. The upstairs PC and laptop will connect to the wirelss Lan if a manual IP address is set up – but will not connect to the internet. If DHCP auto is used, they get allocated a private 169.xx address and of course no internet. start the PC near the router and no probs – an IP adress in the set range is allocated and internet access is OK.
    Trouble is – I have absolutely no idea why this is happening. (Oh – the Linksys WRE54G has both blue lights on so it apparently does connect to the Router).
    When I read the Linksys doco it says to reset the Linksys WRE54G and it will automatically set itself up – who are they kidding?????

  25. Tom says:

    Thanks folks. I bought a WRE54G last week, and my stress level has seldom been higher. The mystical 169.xx IP has shut me down more times than I can count, despite numerous attempts at re-install and a lengthy, frustrating call to India. At times, it seems my laptop has been possessed, even though I killed the expander hours ago…the phantom IP reset keeps taking me back to 169.xx or a series of zeros. Winsockfix seems to have helped kick some of the problems…but I’m just waiting, and taking the “expander” back to the store.

  26. Ghanim Al-Thani says:

    I have one, and it works with my D-Link wireless router. And it does work, the laptop says the signal strength is very good when its on, and low-very low when its off (the laptop is upstairs, the router is downstairs connected to our PC). But I suppose the firmware on my router was at a high enough level.

  27. Steve says:

    Hi, I bought one of these wireless range expanders, and it seemed to be working fine. Then one day it wasnt working so i unplugged it and plugged it back in. Now, no lights come on.. not red or blue… nothing, as if it died. Any suggestions?

  28. I have no clue!

    You got a lot further with your expander than I ever did.

    Consider yourself lucky.

  29. Margaret Wojtkowiak says:

    I would like to agree with the top story.Unortunately this product was recommneded by my tech support person and bought at their store,I then waisted 2hours connecting the expander,my router and expander.Thanks for describing the lights.
    I should have checked the net.At the very least,the above story confirms the problem with the expander and alleviates my concern one might have had about my competency .So much for the praises of Linksys.

  30. Gary says:

    I futz’d around with this for two days.
    The installer sw would not work properly on my IBM t42. So I had to manually configure it while hardwired to my router. No big deal. I unplugged the cat5 and everything seemed to work …. until I unplugged the power, left the room containing the router and plugged it back in ~75′ away. Back to square one (and the store).

  31. christopher Brooks says:

    funny how the rep at linksys can know more about my situation than me. as he insists it has to be a wall that seperates the router from my laptop i try to remind him how i used to connect to the router anywhere in or out side of the house. of course he trys to sale me another horrible linksys proudut so i just hang up in utter frustartion. in my opnion.. run.. run fast and as far as you can from linksys when you see their products! i have had nothing but headaches when dealing with them or their products. it would be eaiser to wire your whole house than deal with them!

  32. Estero says:

    I setup and manage a wireless network in an older mobile home park of 180 home. This is perhaps the most inhospitable environment imaginable with all the metal roofs, metal siding, metal awnings, some metal screens, etc.

    The network has:
    2-15dBi omni-directional antennas
    2-Linksys access points
    2-Linksys routers
    Multiple WRE54G Range Expanders

    The key to setting up the WRE54G Range Expanders is do NOT, I repeat, do NOT follow the setup procedure. Here is what I do:

    1) Logon onto the network via the “access point” before even plugging in the WRE54G.

    2) Plug in the WRE54G after connecting to the network but do NOT connect it to your computer.

    3) Run the setup procedure from the CD.

    4) During setup, make sure the Ranger Expander IP Address is UNIQUE. See page 14 of the User Manual.

    5) Optionally — set the Expander Name.

    6) Unplug the Range Expander and relocate it to the desired location.

    That’s it! The internet connection should be complete.

    3)

  33. Chris Spence says:

    The range expanding works fine for me… unfortunately only one computer can use the internet at a time. There’s some sort of IP conflict being created by this thing, and it’s a real pain in the a**; It stumped the Comcast technician who actually took this on as an unpaid personal challenge and ended up leaving as frustrated as I am. Might give those antennas a whirl. I also tried the Hawking Wireless 300N Hi Gain USB Dish adapter… absolutely useless… the airport card in my mac picked up a stronger signal.

  34. I agree with your statement that “Both indicators must be blue in order for correct operation. Many people may have installed these devices and never noticed that they didn’t do the job they were supposed to do.”
    I think this is the major problem.
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Non Peforming Products – Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander
    URL: http://theheadlemur.typepad.com/ravinglunacy/2006/01/non_peforming_p.html
    IP: 204.9.178.8
    BLOG NAME: raving lunacy
    DATE: 01/17/2006 10:03:02 AM
    Companies need to make a choice. Sell stuff that Works Simply or Sell Stuff that Simply Works. It’s a binary thing. Shouldn’t be a real hard concept to understand. This post is one of the penalties. David St Lawrence brings us this tale of woe about t…

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