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DD-WRT on your router


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Note: for experienced users only!
Acting wrongly may render your router completely useless ("brick it"). Furthermore, the installation of DD-WRT on your router, may void the manufacturer's warranty.


DD-WRT is second choice

Many routers are suitable for alternative firmware. The best choice is Tomato, TomatoUSB or Tomato RAF. With that, you have a tremendous lot of tweaking possibilities, much more so than with the standard firmware of your router.

Isn't there a Tomato / TomatoUSB / Tomato RAF build available for your router? Then you could consider DD-WRT. DD-WRT is not as good as Tomato and its offspring (often less stable, more bugs, less reliable, less easy to install), so it's definitely second choice.

You can get DD-WRT here.

Note: the information on the website of DD-WRT is very unclear and confusing. There is some additional information on the DD-WRT forum, but in my opinion that's not clear enough as well. That's why I've written this page.

Bandwidth limiting by QoS: rather Tomato than DD-WRT

When you want to limit your bandwidth per user, by means of QoS, then Tomato, TomatoUSB or Tomato RAF is always the far better choice. Better than DD-WRT, and even better than the commercial version of DD-WRT.

Especially on the matter of QoS, Tomato is both technically better and much easier to set up. And all versions are free.

Router database yields wrong information

You can use the router database in order to check if your router is fit for DD-WRT. But not in order to choose the best build of DD-WRT, because the router database yields the wrong information about that!

So the database is only useful for checking whether your router can run on DD-WRT at all.

For the time being (september 2011) this database problem hasn't been solved, although there appears to be some work in progress. For now, this is the recommendation by many experienced DD-WRT users:

Recommended version

The most reliable "latest" version for all routers, is at this time (december 2013) Build 14929. This is more or less the non-official Service Pack 2 of version 24 of DD-WRT.

The common router Linksys WRT54GL isn't present in the ftp list, by the way: the files for that  router are in the folder "broadcom". For build 14929 for the Linksys WRT54GL you need to download the following two files:

If, for some reason, this build isn't good for you, then Build 15962 is the best alternative: less good than 14929, but better than the rest.

Only exception: router models that are too new for 14929 or 15962.

This recommendation applies to both Broadcom and Atheros based routers, although the advice of the moderators of the DD-WRT forum, is placed in the Broadcom section.

All newer versions (and some older versions) contain much more errors. Furthermore, they are less stable or even downright unstable. In short: better avoid them!

Note:
on a Linksys WRT54GL router I've experienced that build 15962 causes short, but irksome occasional outages of the wireless signal (lasting up to 30 seconds). This is probably hardware specific for this router only. Build 14929 works fine.

Installation takes an hour

The installation of DD-WRT is time consuming and takes many steps, but isn't hard to do. The only thing you need is precision. Do exactly what the how-to says, and don't skip anything! The whole job may last an hour.

Two versions needed

For a first-time installation you need two versions of DD-WRT, namely the mini and the full version. This is because in most cases you can't directly install the full version, because of lack of storage space in the router.

Therefore, when first switching to DD-WRT, you need to install new firmware on the router twice. First the mini, and then from the mini the full version.

The 30-30-30 reset

Another important aspect is the so-called 30-30-30 reset.

The 30-30-30 reset means that you keep the reset button on your router, pressed for at least 90 seconds. During those 90 seconds you perform several actions. More about that later.

Perform the 30-30-30 reset before and after each firmware change.
This is absolutely necessary for a faultless installation. Don't skip it!

It may be easier to do with assistance from someone else, because you need to keep the reset button pressed all the time.

Note: the following router models may suffer damage when performing a 30/30/30 reset:
- Linksys WRT54GS v1.1
- Linksys WRT54GS v2
- Linksys WRT54GS v2.1

(continued in the column on the right)


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The installation of DD-WRT goes as follows:

The 18 installation steps

A. General cleanup and return to defaults

1. Turn on the router with the old firmware still in place. Use a (temporary?) ethernet cable to connect the computer that you wish to use for this operation, to the router. Wireless connections aren't suitable for this!

Also make sure that your wireless connection with the router is disabled. It's very important that you perform the operation by means of a wired connection, and also that there is no simultaneous wireless connection between your computer and the router.

2. Now press the reset button on the router and keep it pressed. Wait until at least 30 seconds have gone by. Don't release the reset button after that, but continue to keep it pressed!

3. Pull the power cord from the router. You still keep the reset button pressed, and you wait again for at least 30 seconds. Don't release the reset button after that, but continue to keep it pressed!

4. Connect the power cord again to the router, so that it powers up again. You still keep the reset button pressed, and you wait again for at least 30 seconds.

5. Release the reset button. Now you need to wait for at least five minutes, until the NVRAM has rebuilt itself. Simply wait! Continuing too early may brick your router.

6. Now perform a "hard reboot": pull the power cord from the router, wait a full minute and reconnect the power cord. Then wait at least three minutes.

7. In the configuration panel of your router, apply a "reset to factory defaults" (usually called that way).

At this point the firmware of your router has become completely clean and default: the NVRAM is entirely clean.


B. Install the mini version of DD-WRT

8. Check whether the operating system on your computer still has connection with the router. If not, re-establish the connection (Linux: click the icon of Network Manager in the system tray - click Auto eth0).

9. Now flash the router with the mini version of DD-WRT. That can be done from the configuration panel of your router; usually in the section Administration or Advanced, where it's usually called something like "Firmware Upgrade".

10. Repeat the 30-30-30 reset (step 2 to 4)

11. Release the reset button. Now you need to wait for at least five minutes, until the NVRAM has rebuilt itself. Simply wait! Continuing too early may brick your router.

12. Now perform a "hard reboot": pull the power cord from the router, wait a full minute and reconnect the power cord. Then wait at least three minutes.


C. Install the full version of DD-WRT

13. Check whether the operating system on your computer still has connection with the router. If not, re-establish the connection (Linux: click the icon of Network Manager in the system tray - click Auto eth0).

14. Now flash the router with the full version of DD-WRT, from the mini. The configuration panel of your router is at 192.168.1.1 (type this in the navigation panel of your web browser and press Enter); then go to the section Administration - Firmware Upgrade.

15. Repeat the 30-30-30 reset (step 2 to 4)

16. Release the reset button. Now you need to wait for at least five minutes, until the NVRAM has rebuilt itself. Simply wait! Continuing too early may brick your router.

17. Now perform a "hard reboot": pull the power cord from the router, wait a full minute and reconnect the power cord. Then wait at least three minutes.

18. There is no next step. You're done!

Upgrading an existing DD-WRT

When you already have DD-WRT on your router, you can skip the mini (part B of the instruction) and only apply part A and then C.

Configuration

The configuration panel of DD-WRT is at 192.168.1.1 (type this in the navigation panel of your web browser and press Enter). The default user name is root and the default password is admin. You should change these rightaway (don't use spaces in names and passwords).

Tips

1. Save settings changes correctly: after each and every settings change, first click Save and then Apply Settings. Only then will the new setting be stored and applied correctly.

Note: for certain settings changes a further measure is needed as well: Click tab Administration - click the button "Reboot Router" (at the bottom of the page).

Note: it may occur that after clicking "Apply Settings", your configuration panel seems to quit. When that happens, simply reload the page, or type 192.168.1.1 in the navigation panel of your web browser and press Enter.

2. Make sure that your wireless security is OK.

3. Don't overdo it: the optimal Tx Power is not that high. In fact, the ideal Tx Power is the lowest value that still provides an adequate signal for you. Both because of security and of your health. For example: in my case a value as low as 5, proved to be quite adequate.

4. Keep your router lively and fast: schedule an automatic reboot. As follows:
Administration - Keep Alive - Schedule Reboot.

Weekly is generally sufficient; I myself have scheduled my routers to reboot daily (at 03:00 AM).

Want more tips for improving your wireless internet?

Do you want more tips and tweaks for your wireless internet? You might find these useful:

a. Amplify the wireless signal of your router

b. Apply a second router in your home

c. Reduce electromagnetic radiation of computing devices

d. Replace Windows XP by an easy free Linux



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