loading
Picture of Unleash the Power of Your Router!

In this Instructable, we will be adding fans, a heatsink, and 9dB antenna to the LINKSYS WRT54G series router for use with DD-WRT firmware upgrade!
These routers are…well…awesome.
Before we begin I wanted to provide a rundown on the router to spark your interest, especially if you’ve never caught wind of its awesomeness! J
They have been implemented in more scenarios than almost any other router on the market due to cost, ease of use, and potential abilities. With the GL being Newegg.com ‘s number one selling wireless router as well as on the sites Top Ten sold of ALL products (as of today 5/10/2010) and the GS reported in New York Times Online Top 10 Most Popular Routers worldwide(as of today 5/10/2010) , you cannot go wrong with this little wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The $50 WRT54G with DD-WRT firmware in a parabolic dish setup helped to set the 2nd place world record for unamplified Wi-Fi distance in Venezuela @ 173miles!!!! Second only to the $100 XR5 on a $190 PCEngine WRAP board at 189miles in Italy. Recap here Long Range Wi-Fi Wiki
Most versions of this router have the ability to upgrade its firmware to an open-source Linux build called DD-WRT downloadable from DD-WRT (free). If you decide to upgrade to a firmware on this site, PLEASE read ALL the directions, FAQ, Wiki and Forum EXTREMELY THUROUGHLY, as improper firmware flashing can leave you with a very expensive paperweight. I cannot stress this enough! You have been warned!
With a (somewhat) simple upgrade to the appropriate firmware, this $40 - $60 router can save you hundreds of dollars and open up a seemingly endless amount of capabilities (and void the warranty). Chances are though, if you’re confident in performing these upgrades, you couldn’t give a darn about warranties. You’ve already voided more of them than you care to keep track of. AmIright?
The purpose of upgrading this router is so that we can safely use the "DD-WRT" firmware "Overclocking" and "Increased Transmit" functions to their max without having to worry about overheating issues!
Note: I’ve heard several people arguing that adding heatsinks is not necessary; that they have maxed theirs out without any problems. I have personally burned out 2 of these units, and had serious stability issues in others due to overheating by maxing out without extra heatsinks at the very least. Please refrain from filling the comments section with “You don’t need heatsinks or fans” comments or the likes. If you don’t want to install them, keep it to yourself. Thank you! J
This type of upgrade is most useful in very large households, businesses, neighborhood-Wi-Fi, trailer parks, RV parks, campsites, etc.
With this one I’ll be using it for an ad-supported neighborhood Wi-Fi which provides both an internet source for people who cannot afford it, but also a way to reduce costs for the person who pays for the source connection- usually high speed cable service that a single household will never fully utilize; unless you have a pirate in the midst. (YaaarRrRR, I cannot condone piracy, mateys!)
In this Instructable I will not be covering flashing the router with DD-WRT, nor will I covering its configuration. That is one thing that is far too router specific for me to want to post. You can however find out all the information you need at the DD-WRT website.

!!WARNING!!
Do NOT buy antenna on ebay!
I have personally purchased a pair of "9dB Antenna" from a VERY reputable seller. They did not reach anywhere near 9dB. If you follow this instructable and use antenna you got from ebay, don't complain when it
doesnt work.
Having said everything I wanted to get out of the way: I hope you and all the wonderful Instructable enthusiasts enjoy this Instructable!
Comments, suggestions and questions are highly encouraged!
Without further ado, lets mod!
 

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: LEGAL

Picture of LEGAL
 A community member has brought it to my attention that certain modifications to these and other routers can potentially cause the units to transmit at levels that may be above legal limits.
 
Please read FCC Wireless Rules and Regulations before attempting any mods and adjust your power and transmit levels accordingly!!!!
Thanks Calis!
 
By continuing, the EU agrees that they have read the document, and comply with the rules listed within.
 
Personal Disclaimer:
By following any steps in this Instructable, the EU understand that I am not to be held responsible for anything you break, injuries inflicted, pets stolen, food spoiling or any other damages done caused by following this guide, or while following this guide. Any digits, eyes, brain cells or the likes lost or damaged will have to be replaced at your own expense and you will not be reimbursed for any of it. You have been warned. Again.

Step 2: Do Not Run With Scissors

Picture of Do Not Run With Scissors
And always look both ways before crossing the street.

First and foremost, like all projects where small bits of plastic, glass, metal, wood or any fine particles could potentially leave you blind, or otherwise injured or uncomfortable - WEAR YOUR FREAKING SAFETY GLASSES!

In this project we will be working with solder and flux fumes, both of which can cause cancer, so let’s not take any chances and wear a respirator that filters those fumes, or make yourself a good fume extractor with carbon filter.

Lastly, put your favorite beanie on. If you get frustrated, your brains are likely to leak out your ear, and let’s face it, you’re just going to leave it for someone else to clean up.
It’s not shown in any of the pictures, but I am properly grounded when working with the unit powered off. If working with power, un-ground yourself or your likely to jump start your heart, and that’s no good when it’s already doing its job.

Step 3: Gather the Supplies

Picture of Gather the Supplies
CIMG2030.JPG
CIMG2031.JPG
To get started, you’re going to need some supplies. One thing that makes the Instructables community so great is the members’ ability to improvise. In all reality were like a bunch of real-life MacGyvers. Minus the explosions. Except for This guy. Not too many of those on here I’ve noticed. So if you don’t have some of the materials, and you figure it out your own way, Make an Instructable and post the link in my comments! I’ll come check it out!
I don’t have one, been meaning to make one, but this is VERY handy. This one in particular is particularly impressive: Third Hand/ Helping Hands
Anywho, here’s what I used for the project:
 
1.     WRT54G Series Router
·         Click Here For DD-WRT compatible WRT54G routers
2.     Vice Grip
3.     Soldering Iron
4.     Solder Wire
5.     Soldering Flux
6.     De-Soldering Braid
7.     Thick stranded wire
·         Approx 8 inch w/ ends exposed
8.     Thin stranded wire
·         Approx 4 inched w/ ends exposed
9.     Electrical Tape & Packing Tape
10.   Paint Brush
11.   Isopropyl Alcohol
12.   Cotton swabs
·         1 or 2
13.   Old toothbrush
14.   Wire Stripper/ Clipper
15.   Sharpie
·         Duh
16.   Small Screwdriver
·         Most likely Phillips
17.   Very Short Screws
·         4
18.   Needle-nose Pliers
19.   Safety Pin
20.   Dremel
·         Bits and Cutting Tool: Varies on which ones you like most. lol
21.   Fan for mounting on case: Whatever size you wish J

Extras that I recommend:

1.     Dual 9dB Antenna
2.     Small Fan-on-Heatsink
3.     Small power switch for external fan (not shown in picture)
4.     Hot-Glue-Gun
·         For securing the power switch
5.     Pringles Lid
·         For mixing glues
6.     Toothpicks
·         For mixing glue
7.     Arctic Alumina Ceramic Thermal Adhesive
·         Newegg - $14
·         You will use this on so many projects, it’s well worth the small investment

Go!

Step 4: Dissect the Specimen

After acquiring all the materials needed for this mod/upgrade, were going to have to take it apart. This is rather simple, but requires a decent amount of force.
Start by flipping it over, and placing your thumbs against the back of the two front legs. Press pretty hard on either side, and it will pop right off.
Grip the small lip on the back of the underside with one hand, and the base/ board with the other, and pull apart. They should come apart rather easily.
Take your small Phillips, and remove the 2 little screws holding the in place.
With your left hand, hold the plastic casing, and grip the board with your right. Slide the board away from you and it will slip right off the little placement pegs.
Flip the mainboard over.

Step 5: Add Power Cable

Locate the solders thru-hole pins on the underside of the power jack. You’ll be applying a SMALL about of flux on them later, but the longer it sets there, better chance it has to corrode your parts and can lead to dendrite growth. You’d be amazed at how fast stranded copper wire can corrode away with a tiny bit of flux left on it…
We’ll take our stranded wire, straighten it out, and strip both ends of it leaving about 1 - 1.5 cm exposed.
Now we’re going to take our paintbrushes, and dip JUST THE VERY TIP into the flux.
Twist the ends of the wire so the copper strands form a sort of spiral. I forgot to do this in this picture, but I corrected it later, and forgot to take a picture. Generations of selective OCD is funny like that sometimes.
Gently apply the flux to JUST THE VERY TIP of the wire tips ON ONE END. If flux makes its way down past the wire shielding, you aren’t gonna be getting it out, and you might as well get a new wire.
Press the side of the soldering iron tip to the speaker wire, and feed the solder wire through the other side. By doing this it heats more than just the point of solder contact which helps the solder flow freely through the center of the wire strands.
Should look something like this when you’re done, except twisty. ( Because you aren’t going to forget that part :P )
Apply a minimal amount of flux to the two pins on the power jack.
Press your wire to the Jack, and press the side of the soldering iron tip to the top of the speaker wire until the bond, then remove the iron.
Do this to both wires.
Before we do anything else, we want to thoroughly clean the remaining flux from the board. For that we need to wash it several times with some isopropyl alcohol and a small (preferably lintless) swab. I haven’t had any in a while, so I’m extra careful not to leave any particles on the board. Ive tried several methods for applying alcohol like eyedroppers, needle tipped squirt tips and spray bottles. For this purpose, the spray bottle is the way to go. If I were removing tiny components, obviously I’d be using a needle tipped bottle, and a decent iron for that matter.
Make sure the mainboard is THUROUGHLY cleaned!
Apply some electrical tape under the wires to protect it from the thru-hole solder tips that can slowly dig into the wire over time due to the vibration of the added fan(s).
Flip the mainboard over, and crease the wire along the side of the antenna plug. Since these edges are pretty sharp too, I also put electrical tape on them, buts it’s more than likely not necessary.

Step 6: Aquire Heatsink


In this step, we will be adding the optional but recommended heatsink/ fan on the CPU. The best fan for this project in my opinion is a small but powerful heatsink mounted fan that you can get off a bunch of old NVIDIA cards. I was lucky that a local computer shop had a box of the NVIDIA RIVA TNT 2 cards going for $2 a pop! I bought 15 in total and the guy gave me a discount @ $20 total for the lot. I plan on modding many more of these routers in the future if anyone would like to buy a finished one, just let me know J
Flip the card over, and pinch the pins to release them.
Pull the heatsink off the chip; unplug it, and CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN!
That abomination of a goop needs to be thoroughly cleaned off so the tiny particle silvers in the superior Arctic Silver Ceramic Adhesive can fit into the microscopic grooves on the underside of the heatsink.

Clean with a lint-free cloth and rubbing alcohol over and over until no more residue rubs off and discolors the cloth.

Then clean it again.
Maybe once more.

That’s good.

Ok, stop.

Now we’re going to remove the pins and the fan. Save the screws cus were just gonna use em again.
This is a perfect opportunity to clean the topside of the heatsink. Take your old toothbrush, spray it with a bunch of alcohol and clean clean clean!
Now let’s break off the unnecessary metal brackets extending from the sides.
Grab your vice grips, clamp them on to the bracket nice and tight, and bend it back and forth till it snaps off.
Now take your wire clippers and trim the edges as much as you can.
If this is satisfactory for you, then you can skip the next part. I however love watching the sparks fly off metal objects I’m working on, so I rarely pass up the opportunity to grind out sharp edges whenever I can :P
Grab your Dremel, attach your favorite spark-inducing grinding bit and enjoy the fireworks!
Once the edges are baby bottom smooth, it’s time to go ahead and work on that fan.
Now by default, the fan blows air AT the heatsink.
For this mod, we want the fan to blow heat up and out of the unit and away from the CPU.
It should be mentioned that it is a good idea to remove the sticker from this side, because heat, spin, and gravity will all be working against it when you flip the fan over.
I have only had it happen once, but the sticker came off and got jammed between the fan and heatsink, blocking the rotation. The router was not damaged, but the fan had to be replaced.
For added coolness, just flip the fan over and press it to the topside.
A dab of superglue might work if the adhesive doesn’t.
For this fan in particular, you’re going to need to drill larger openings on the other side of this fan for the screws to fit in.
I recommend using a cone shaped routing bit, but others can be used so long as you’re very cautious.
The cone shape helps keep you from drilling the holes TOO BIG all the way through, thus preventing you from accidentally making holes that the screws just falls through.
Also another perfect opportunity to clean something. Grab that old toothbrush and clean clean clean those fan blades if they need it, chances are they probably do!
Once you have drilled your holes large enough for the screws to drop in, but not all the way through, go ahead and mount it back to the heatsink.
To remove the white plug on the cord without cutting it, just slide your paperclip under the lip, grab the corresponding wire and give it a little pull.

Step 7: Install Heatsink

In this step we will be mixing and applying theThermal Adhesive to the CPU, and mounting the heatsink/fan.
The ratio is equal 1A:1B. Mix them in the Pringles lid with the provided black mixing scraper wand thingy.  This will become pretty thick and start setting in about 5 minutes, so keep it movin quickly! J
Apply a THIN layer of the mixed thermal paste over the entire surface of the CPU.
Do not overdue it here, this is some extremely strong thermal glue that dries rock hard and will be holding onto that chip for years, even with minimal application. Chances are; once it dries, you’re never going to get it that heatsink off unless you take the CPU with it.
Position your heatsink over the CPU at whatever orientation allows the entire chip to be covered, and WITHOUT letting the heatsink touch any other parts! (The arrangements of parts varies with the different versions of this router), Press down firmly for about 30 seconds, and then find something heavy to set on top of it.
Let it dry for 2 hours.

Step 8: Mount the External Fan

Take your fan, set it in the position you want it on top of your router,  and tape it down.
Hook up your Dremel drilling tool; make your pilot holes for the screws.
Remove the tape and fan, attach your cutting tool to the Dremel and start cutting the pre-punched area on the top of the router.
Here I attached a switch on the large fan so it can be turned off if it gets too loud. I made a hole behind the fan for easy/ concealed access. Super glue on the bottom and a little Elmer’s glue with ink from a Crayola marker mixed in on the top, and were good to go J

Step 9: Wire It up

The final step is to wire everything up.

The pictures for this section can sum it up much better than I can, so I’m going to leave it at that.

If you aren’t sure which large speaker wire to attach your little ones to, just plug it in, touch the wires together, and if it works, mark those wires. If it doesn’t, Mark the other wire.

I solder all the wire connections together, just follow the same steps as step 4 for wire soldering.
To put it back together, you follow the same directions as taking it apart, except backwards J
Now we can add the 9dB antenna, and this little puppy is primed and ready for some serious overclocking!
Again, this was my first Instructable so please be nice!
I really enjoyed working on this, and I’m glad I can finally give something back to the community.
You guys are awesome J

Step 10: Additional Firmware Options!

Picture of Additional Firmware Options!
 
Several Instructable members have requested that I add another slide that lists some additional alternative free firmware releases. I have also been accused of working for DD-WRT. I assure you that I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the firmware release teams.
For your additional free firmware requests,
Ask and you shall receive!
 
**WARNING**
Changing the firmware on your router is a risky procedure which if done incorrectly, can result in permanent damage to your hardware! Do not attempt to flash your router to another version of firmware if you are already satisfied with its performance, and do not need addition capabilities that you will never use! ALWAYS thoroughly and extensively research the firmware in question before attempting ANY upgrades/ downgrades sideways or the likes!! Failure to understand the risks involved will almost definitely result in damaged hardware!
 
Router Firmware Releases
 
 
For those of you who have accidentally lost portions of their memory with failed/ incorrect flashing with DD-WRT in the past, Tomato firmware has a setting to do a complete erase of NVRAM!
 
 
 
(HyperWRT +Tofu is a Linksys WRT54G/GL and Linksys WRTSL54GS firmware based on stock Linksys firmware + HyperWRT + added extras.)

If you have another firmware version that you would like to add, please let me know in the comments section, or send me a PM!
1-40 of 135Next »
beej20015 years ago
I modded my router quite similar to yours. Heatsinks on all the chips, and a small fan inside the case. I drilled all the holes top and bottom bigger, and called it good.

It sat outside on my balcony for an entire Las Vegas summer with temps over 110 with no problems.

oh, and I painted my case yellow
DSC_1657.JPG
NostalgicStone (author)  beej20015 years ago
 Very cool man!
I like the color, reminds me of  Bumblebee!
One thing I haven't done is drill the holes larger on the bottom
(seeing as I how I no longer have holes on the top lol)
I love it
bumblebee.jpg
SamuelA110 months ago

guys does it upgrade the wr641g

Are you British? I absolutely love your wits all throughout this instructable...it makes it quite the enjoyable read.
Here is a picture of the router mounted on the fan.
100_2101.JPG
Lol :D
Hahaha I love this
LOL!!!!! epic win :D
will this work?
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2216879&clickid=prod_cs
imboox23 years ago
I see this has been out a long time. For anybody reading this now, there is non-corrosive solder flux available, there has been for many years. I have been in the electronics field nearly 40 years and have used it a long time. I use solder paste to keep the tip of my soldering iron clean besides keeping it tinned.
DustySeven73 years ago
You got some of your information wrong. The current unamplified record is 237
http://www.engadget.com/2007/06/19/venezuelans-set-new-wifi-distance-record-237-miles/
NostalgicStone (author)  DustySeven73 years ago
That's awesome! But I was referring to unamplified distance, hence the bold and underlined "unamplified" in the ible.
Read closly, it is unamplified. They used a dish reflector to shape the signal
hwally3 years ago
Great tutorial. I have a 12 volt 0.82 amp fan, would that work as far as not drawing to much power. I have a wrt54g router. Thanks
bowmaster3 years ago
what's the range on this? Could it be expanded to a mile?
NostalgicStone (author)  bowmaster3 years ago
Sure, if you use the right dish.
From 'Ible:

"The $50 WRT54G with DD-WRT firmware in a parabolic dish setup helped to set the 2nd place world record for unamplified Wi-Fi distance in Venezuela @ 173miles!!!! Second only to the $100 XR5 on a $190 PCEngine WRAP board at 189miles in Italy. Recap here Long Range Wi-Fi Wiki"
Cool. That means I won't need to know the wifi password at school, I can just use my home network.
NostalgicStone (author)  bowmaster3 years ago
While this is possible and would be pretty cool, there are many caveats you have to keep in mind. First is that when you are surfing on a wifi connection, you are both sending and receiving data. This means that your wifi card would not only have to pick up data, but be able to transmit it back to the source. Using a dish on BOTH ends would work, but you would be using directional, not omni-directional, and your "available network area" would be determined by the direction, and dimensions of said dish(s). You would have to point both dishes directly at its counterpoint receive/ transmit respectively. This would be quite a task and would mean that you could not move at all once the connection has been established, or you would have to re-calibrate your dish(s). If you decide to undertake the project in spite of the obstacles, make in Instructable!
Hmmm, good point. Surely if if can break 100miles with a dish, it could get over 1 mile with an omidirectional.
NostalgicStone (author)  bowmaster3 years ago
Possibly, if using a very powerful antenna and perhaps a signal booster but you must remember that the WIFI CARD that you are attempting to use (in the laptop) must ALSO be able to SEND the data back to the router. If you can get a wifi card to broadcast 1 mile, make an instructable! That would be quite a feat!
Hmmm, it might be possible to hack a USB wifi card to do it.
Barron1113 years ago
Great work here. Does that upgrade work on the WRT300N ?
Ale Cylon3 years ago
Hi, great guide dude. Can i ask how far OCed can it goes or how much TX power can it gets after the mod, I have my WRT54GS only with Linksys 7dbi antennas and for confrtability I use the stand on for the antenas with the 6 feet cable to place them in a better location.

I ahve only made the TX power go to 70 and clock still is on 216Mhz. How much can I go after such mod?. I was planing into only add a fan but if I can get much enough after the mod then i can try.

Thanks man.
Nice write up! One question, I have a whole tube of this stuff:

http://www.chemtronics.com/products/product.asp?r=1&m=2&id=37

any reason why I can't use this?
pgentry3 years ago
Wow I live in Montana and I see your router on my list of network connections I think you just set the new record. I think I am going to set one of these up for every one who lives in my neighborhood I hope none of the kids grow extra didgets hay its says 2.4 right here on the side of the unit officer.
leeroper4 years ago
Nice one dude, people will have want they want, even if they can't buy it off the shelf haha!
kill-a-watt5 years ago
is this router still the best choice for the DD-WRT firmware?

Hasn't Linksys secretly reduced the amount of flash  and RAM without changing the part numbers, gone to non-removable antennas and still has the chutzpa to charge $50 each, near the same price as 5 years ago?

I'd expect them to at least put a SD card slot in the router by now.

I could really use something like this but I'd hate to encourage Linksys
I have an old PC running linux that meets all my household network needs, except if I could replace it with something that burns 30 watts less, 24/7, the break-even point for a $60 router is about a year and a half.
NostalgicStone (author)  kill-a-watt4 years ago
Excellent! Thanks for the stat.
When I mentioned that it could save you hundreds, I did not mean in electricity lol!
I should have added "in comparison to routers that come factory with these settings"
Goes to show how perception greatly varies depending on your previous experience/ interest/ needs etc.
Hahah
Thanks for the post bud!
OK, I picked up a thrift store Actiontec MI424WR revC for $3.99. I probably paid too much as it didn't come with the power supply, but I have one. It's supported by dd-wrt. It boots up at a hefty 14 watts, but I'm still going to save 35 watts every hour , or 307 KWH per year (about $50)
NostalgicStone (author)  kill-a-watt4 years ago
Again, thanks for the post, but again, I am not referring to savings in electricity, and I've purchased a "bricked" WRT54G for as little as $1 that can be fixed for free, and generally speaking wardrivers power these via public power jacks, thus eliminating the need to worry about electrical costs period.
Thanks again!
NostalgicStone (author)  kill-a-watt5 years ago
I hear what yer preachin man.
If you don't want to support a company, but still like a certain product it makes/ used to make, EBAY!
I never buy new ones, theres no point.
You are correct, they have been nerfing their new routers like none other!
Sucks!
This router is still my personal favorite tho, and there are plenty of the old versions out on the market for close to the same price they originally sold for.
Hurray for modding!
papaduck5 years ago
Flux corrosive??????? Flux for metalwork and plumbing is but we're doing electronics not plumbing. Go to Radio Shack or even a good hardware store and get some rosin core solder made for electronics work; it's ugly if you don't clean the excess off but it won't rot your board.
it will attack the Wire and/or the solder join , ( i dont remember ).
NostalgicStone (author)  hitachi84 years ago
I do believe it's both :)
Thanks for posting!
NostalgicStone (author)  papaduck5 years ago
If you leave that "ugly" on for too long, or there is too much "ugly" the board will slowly deteriorate. I have personally had to re-issue board to companies because people in the company I worked for (I.E.C. Electronics, Newark, Ny) did not wash the flux off properly, and the boards cease to function do to deterioration. It is not terribly common but it does happen.
Thanks, I'm a retired bench tech but never had that happen. Good to know!
I have recently purchased a WRT54G-TM with the 9dB high gain antennas and I have already flashed it with DD-WRT and its running great. Sometime sooner or later I would like to do hardware mods like the glorious fans, but I'm at college and have no supplies to do it at the moment. For the time being I have a small heat sink on the CPU and I have mounted the router to my box fan in the window. The box fan makes the long antennas vibrate slightly, is this alright for the router and antennas or should I move it?
Ive been reading through the comments and i couldnt really pull out what the approximate range of wifi is on this thing or if the wifi can be recieved directly by like an ipod touch or laptop. Thanks
Hey, great Instructable, but I have a little question. Since wifi is a two way conversation, wouldent the person on the recieving end of this monster need a huge router as a network bridge? Because an average wifi card can't broadcast 198 miles or whatever this beast can do?
1-40 of 135Next »