Tech Tip: Firmware Alternative Picks For Your Wireless Router

By on June 29, 2011, 6:00 AM

For most users a good wireless router is the one that you set up in a few easy steps and forget about it as long as it gets you online. Any decent consumer-grade wireless router will do the job well enough most of the time, while more inquisitive folks can still tweak around a few configuration options to make sure things are running smoothly.

But beyond the stock features that came with your router, there are many things that the hardware you bought might be capable of; it just happens that the manufacturer decided not to include them for a variety of reasons that go from keeping things simple, to the fact that they sell more expensive models to people who need those features.

Luckily for you, people have been working on ways to get the fancy stuff running on your average $60-$100 device. After a relatively simple upgrade to a free third-party firmware, you'll be able boost your wireless signal, prioritize what programs get your precious bandwidth, and do lots of other stuff usually reserved for pro-grade wireless routers.

Continue reading this week's tech tip.




User Comments: 12

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customcarvin customcarvin said:

I've been using Tomato and DD-WRT for years now in my Buffalo and Linksys routers, have yet to encounter any issues with either of them. Both are highly recommended, and offer not only complete customization of the router, and include enterprise class features, but also offer optimized network traffic and packet handling, and better multiple connection management, which increases response and speed... very noticeable in P2P ;-)

example1013 said:

Is there any decent firmware for my POS WRT120N? I just want to know if the thing is even salvageable, because currently it's actually more useful as a paperweight than as a router.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I love my trusty Linkysys WRT54g v3 router, even with the few bugs it had with the stock firmware. After I got tired to dealing with those bugs tho I switched to HyperWRT for several years and was very happy with it until I wanted some of the more advanced features it didn't have. Switched over to DD-WRT (Which was kinda a pain coming from HyperWRT, thought I had bricked my router for a while). But once I finally got DD-WRT working I have been VERY happy with it.

I love the bandwidth monitoring and the recored of how much bandwidth I use, along with the dynamic DNS for use with DynDNS.com.

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

Always wanted to try out Tomato. Now that I'm aware of others and how great DD-WRT sounds, and customcarvin's recommendations I just might go home today and load this up in my Linksys (Cisco) wireless router.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

I'm a long time Sveasoft customer, their firmware costs money though...

I've used them on a quite large Hotspot WIFI network with WRT54GS routers, it works very well...

Recently (well, one or two years ago) I began to switch over to DD-WRT though.

They simply offer allot more nice features now, and free of charge too of course...

Though when I began with this, maybe 6 to 7 years ago Sveasoft was the only good alternative...

howzz1854 said:

i am still out looking for an after market firmware for my D-Link Dir-655. i was disappointed to find out that DD-RWT doesn't support it.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Thanks a lot for this article. I recently bought an Edimax BR-6524n, and it's been a pain compared to my previous router (also an Edimax). I didn't know third party firmware existed, and it may be a good option to check out. I saw that DD-WRT is compatible with it, although not officially. While I'm not the type to normally go for custom firmware, I'll investigate further, and might go for this when the new router finally gets too much on my nerves.

Guest said:

Custom firmwares on your router means the sky is the limit as you have COMPLETE network routing and access controls available. Figuring out how to route them is another problem though.

Firmwares like DD-WRT will run scripts, do VPN, wifi-repeating, selected forwarding, QoS, WiFi hotspots/multi wifi points, nearly EVERYTHING you could ever want to setup.

I was unaware about the alternative flavors, but they all seem to be based around the same chipsets. which in itself has something to say about that design.

mystic420 said:

I would just like to let everyone know I have a Netgear WNDR3700 TA#01-R21, until now... I just installed the latest DD-WRT Firmware... Now I have a SUPER Router!!! For starters, it has more customizable options, far superior interface, not to mention the separate bandwidth monitoring, increased local speed across the board (router boot, wifi connection time, local file transfers) it's all faster! Oh, and the USB drive it wouldn't recognize before, it now finds... I would HIGHLY recommend DD-WRT to anyone that owns hardware it supports!!!

Guest said:

I had a Linksys WRT54G that I was going to trash because it simply would not handle IPSec correctly, even with the latest update from the vendor.

I installed the "micro" version of the DD-WRT firmware image, and now IPSec Passthrough works perfectly.

The firmware makes the AP, so I recommend only purchasing new APs whose firmware can be flashed, and make sure to get 8MB or more of NVRAM. If you're going to use DD-WRT, check their hardware compatibility list before purchasing anything.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

I would think instead of flashing firmware, using a wireless adapter in ad-hoc mode with software would be easier to manage than a web-interface gui. But i have never set up anything like this, so...

Guest said:

what about the power (use less energy, energy efficient) or ERP? I sit very close to a router (with no other option) and am concerned about buying higher powered, higher speed routers. Which specs should I consider in my case, for example, ability to reduce power and ability by router to completely off when no device is requesting any data? Are these options even available?

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