Instructables

Upgrade a home router.

Picture of Upgrade a home router.
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Router is sort of a gateway to the internet. Most routers are really both a bridge and a router all in one. A bridge being a device that takes communication medium to another. For example, cable usually transmits signals over a coaxial cable. Most computer networks use ethernet. So the router does this for us in addition to route signals to and from several computers or other devices hooked to it and acts as a traffic cop to the internet. Ironically at one time local area networks did use coaxial cable for networking (i.e arcnet, ethernet, token ring and etc.) , but that has been long since outmoded.

Anyway, the instructions (or firmware/software) that come with most routers is limiting and does not give you all the options a professional router might have as far as bandwidth monitoring, bandwidth control, and other stronger security options. Not all routers are upgradeable. In fact, recently home router makers are now building their routers as not to be upgraded. You almost have to get a premium router to have a chance a getting the extra features.  One of the most popular routers is the wrt54-g(l) from Cisco Linksys. When I see one at a resale store, I think about getting it.  Most firmware sites will have a listing of what can be upgraded with their firmware.

There are several ways to upgrade firmware. All of them entail uploading or sending a file to the router to replace the existing software in it. The most common way is to upload a file via the web interface on the router. That is what we will do. Some routers may require a tftp server to send the remotely to the router and is a bit more complicated. The most complicated install is a redboot which requires special communication with the router. These can be the most challenging. I have done one and prayed all the way through it.

NOTICE: Have a pencil and paper to write down any settings or options that might be needed later. This project could render your router useless. If you are unsure, please get a professional to help before starting on it. I will not be responsible for any issues, You do this at your own risk. 
 
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vicvelcro2 years ago
I have tried all of the firmwares you mentioned - with the exception of HyperWRT Thibor.

I can say that DD-WRT, being an amateur rip of OpenWRT, leaves much to be desired and has bricked many routers of unsuspecting victims.

Of the 4 WRT54G's (v4 and v3) I used it on, 3 appeared to flash fine but bricked on the reboot step. The remaining router smoked itself because of the excessive processor appetite the DD-WRT has. I did manage to JTAG original firmware back into the 3 bricks. I measure that as a 0% success rate for DD-WRT. Some people have claimed to have better luck than I.

Additionally, the micro version of DD-WRT for use on the WRT54G v5 and later models works very poorly in the 2 megs of RAM that those routers have. I was successful applying it to a v5 and a v8, but could not torrent and had to reboot several times a day under simple browser use due to routers locking up within hours (not bricked, though). Even with added heatsink and fan, DD-WRT causes the processors to run very very hot.

Anyone considering DD-WRT should also be aware of a significant pitfall - if you don't like it and choose to revert, you may not be able to (short of a JTAG session). It's a one-way street for some routers - goes in but doesn't come out (by design). Read about this on their own site. I wish I had read first. My v5 and v8 might have been spared. As it is, they make fine DD-WRT paper-weights because it can't come out and my JTAG doesn't support flashing the newer WRT54G units. They are effectively bricks every 2-3 hours of run time.

I have been using a firmware named Tomato on more than 4 dozen of the WRT54G's (v4 and prior) with 100% success and satisfaction. Very low processor usage, more intuitive layout of the administration pages within the router, and additional features above and beyond the other firmwares.

It can not be used on v5 and newer routers because of the reduced RAM installed in the devices themselves as the firmware just doesn't fit. That's a deliberate move by Cisco/Linksys because they want people to pay big bux for their enhanced routers, instead of people buying the consumer version and then performing their own upgrade. They downsized the hardware.

Funny thing, prior to using VxWorks (v5 and newer), Cisco/Linksys were using an open-source firmware themselves and lost a lawsuit they had filed against other firmware makers who used the same source as a base. They also violated the GPL on that source by not making their revisions available to the public, as required under the GPL applicable to the source.

Tomato does work with some other routers that are not Linksys, but the compatibility is not as vast as the other firmwares claim to be. It is easy to revert back from Tomato, if desired. Find it at http://www.polarcloud.com/firmware and enjoy the excellent tutorials, help, faq, and sample scripts provided.

Possibly JFGI the multi-WAN mod of Tomato, if you have 2 modems you wish to combine for higher transfer speeds or QoS enhancement.
Computothought (author)  vicvelcro2 years ago
I used tomato for a long time on a Buffalo router. To each his or her own,
I agree, I tried Tomato and DD-WRT on Buffalo routers and both seemed buggy.
Computothought (author)  mitsubob84041 year ago
Have not tried openwrt yet on one. That is what most people are going to.
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