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Turn Your Home Router Into a Super-Powered Router with DD-WRT

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Wireless is everywhere and routers are the force that makes it happen, so why not supercharge yours to take proper advantage of it? DD-WRT will let you boost your router’s range, add features, and more.

DD-WRT has a ton of features—more than we can cover in this guide, which is focused on helping you get your router upgraded. Stay tuned, as we’ll go into more depth in a couple more days on all the great things you can do with it, but even if you don’t use the additional features, DD-WRT is worth installing to make your router work better.

What Is DD-WRT?

netgear wnr2000v2

Here’s our router. Behold: the Netgear WNR2000, revision 2. It’s a mighty fine one, too, but it’s still not the best. Why, exactly? Your router is only as good as its firmware, the software that makes it tick. When you buy a router from Linksys/Cisco, Netgear, D-Link, or others, you’re bound to their software. It’s a nice arrangement; you respect their limitations, and they promise to help with your problems. But what if your warranty’s expired, or you want to shuck their limitations? Maybe you want to take your hardware and push it to its most extreme limits. That’s where DD-WRT steps in.

DD-WRT is an open-source alternative firmware for routers. Its software unlocks features that aren’t present on all routers: static routing, VPN, repeating functions, the list goes on. It also unlocks settings that aren’t accessible normally, like antenna power and overclocking.

Router Support

dd-wrt website 1

Turning your home router into an almost professional-level tool is a great project that has one major caveat: support. Not all routers are built or designed the same way. Even two of the same model can have different revision numbers with very different internal components. Because of this, the first step is doing plenty of research. It’s best to have a router that’s fully supported, so if you end up buying one, be sure to check the DD-WRT Supported Routers page first. Also make use of their Router Database, which will help you find particular instructions for your model and revision. Most devices have model and revision numbers on the back panel, and if there’s no revision number, it’s safe to assume that it’s 1.0.

For our purposes, the important spec to consider is NVROM, or ROM. This is where the firmware is kept, so even if your router has 16MB of RAM, it won’t work with a 4MB image of DD-WRT without at least that much ROM. Because of this, there are a few different versions of DD-WRT available at varying file sizes. Some are trimmed down to fit in smaller ROM configurations. Others are built with specific features in mind, like VPN, SD card support, or a Samba client. For more information, check out the File Versions table.

Preparation

The most important thing in any project is research. Do all of your homework for this one, because (here it comes):

DISCLAIMER: Changing your router’s firmware can result in unintentional consequences, such as “bricking.” It’s unlikely, and we’ve never had a device that couldn’t be fixed in some way, but it’s important to understand that it’s a very real possibility. Just to be clear: you assume all responsibility for anything you do; we’re not liable for anything that should go wrong.

As mentioned above, start with the Supported Devices page to see if you’ve got a DD-WRT-friendly router. If you don’t see anything specific, or even if you do, check into the Router Database. Here, you’ll find links to forum pages of those who’ve completed the process for specific models/revisions, as well as the setbacks and workarounds they’ve found. Most importantly, you’ll find links to compatible versions of firmware.

forum post

The friendly forum gave us some useful info for our particular model. Our router, the Netgear WNR2000 is revision 2, which means it’s compatible (revision 1 is not). It’s only got 4MB of ROM, so we had to stick to the mini version. We followed the download links and read up on what to do to complete the procedure in full detail.

dd-wrt website 2

Almost all sources unanimously recommend three specific things:

  1. Do a hard reset on your router before you update. This usually requires a 30/30/30 procedure.
  2. Hard wire your router when you update the firmware. NEVER over wireless.
  3. Use Internet Explorer (or Safari) unless specifically stated that other browsers are okay.

There’s a ton of reasons which the documentation will reveal to you, but the first two are written in stone, and the last has held true for almost any router, and it won’t hurt either.

Most routers have a pinhole on their back with you need to push and hold to perform a hard reset. The 30/30/30 procedure is primarily directed for devices with DD-WRT already on them, but it’s also required for some other models and won’t hurt to do anyway. It deletes the Non-Volatile RAM. From the DD-WRT website, the procedure is as follows:

  • With the unit powered on, press and hold the reset button on back of unit for 30 seconds
  • Without releasing the reset button, unplug the unit and hold reset for another 30 seconds
  • Plug the unit back in STILL holding the reset button a final 30 seconds (please note that this step can put Asus devices into recovery mode…see note below!) [Note]

This procedure should be done BEFORE and AFTER every firmware upgrade/downgrade.

Do not use configuration restore if you change firmware builds (different svn build numbers).

The Process

Hard reset, as outlined above, or per the instructions for your specific router.

hard reset router

So after our hard reset, we waited for the lights to return to normal, and we hard-wired the router to our laptop. During this phase, we turned off the wireless connection so that just the wired connection to our WRN2000 was active. This prevents any mishaps and makes it simple to connect to the web-interface through the defaults.

wired router

Next, fire up Internet Explorer and go to your router’s default page, and log in.

sshot-04

Use the default username and password, usually printed on your device’s back panel or easily found on the internet.

router upgrade

Click on the Router Upgrade link.

choose image

Browse to the correct image and click Upload, and wait patiently. Very patiently. You’ll see the loading screen tell you to wait while the router reboots, and you’ll see the lights flash on and off for a while. Wait about five minutes, and err on the longer side. When you’re ready, log in to your router. DD-WRT’s IP address is 192.168.1.1, the username is ‘root’, and the password is ‘admin’.

You’ll be greeted with your brand new interface.

dd-wrt starter

UPDATE: Fellow How-To Geek writer, Aviad, pointed out that at this point, we need to do another hard reset/restore to factory default settings. This will solidify your DD-WRT installation and will prevent any issues that would come up otherwise. It’s mentioned in the block quote above, but to reiterate: perform another hard reset NOW.

If things didn’t work out, you may have had a “bad” flash. Your router may be bricked, but odds are you can recover from it in some fashion. The first place to check out is How to Recover From a Bad Flash, and the second is the DD-WRT Forum. As long as your do your homework and be precise with the instructions, you’ll be fine.

Now that you have DD-WRT on your router, here are a few other things you might find interesting:

How To Remove Advertisements with Pixelserv on DD-WRT

How To Setup a VPN Server Using a DD-WRT Router

And there’s more to come!

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 03/22/11

Comments (43)

  1. Anonymous

    DD-WRT is a great piece of software.
    I use it for VPN and WoL at home. I’m excited to read further articles.

  2. Hatryst

    I don’t have a Wireless router, but it sounds interesting ;)
    Here’s a relevant video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFdEO2VYENs

  3. Rasta

    DD-WRT is the best thing for routers. Provides much more stability with respect to Peer to Peer sharing.

  4. BK

    flashed mine a long time ago and love seeing this article….now how about another on some of the advanced features?

  5. Mike Hanna

    Been using this for years… the features you get with it are great. Very useful for filtering my children’s internet traffic… Open DNS + custom firewall settings in the router make is impossible for them to bypass the DNS settings I specify on the router. Some routers also allow virtual wireless networks that can be isolated from your primary network… very handy for parties or guests who would like internet access at your place.

  6. pitman

    Too bad my router isn’t supported -_-

    “Next, fire up Internet Explorer and go to your router’s default page, and log in.”

    Really ?
    Is HtG getting money promoting IE ?

  7. alanpro

    hi im just wundering if anyone has tried billion 7404 vgp wireless modem router with the DD-wrt and if it was compatible i didnt see any billion routers in the list for compatible or uncompatible regards alanpro

  8. Blueeyce

    Your image showing the laptop connected via network cable is a little misleading. It appears that you have the cable connected to the WAN port of your router. This should be connected to a LAN port if you want to be able to access the router’s interface with an internal address 192.168.0.1 as you suggested.

  9. dave

    Sadly, neither of my two old routers are supported, so while functional, might as well be bricks. I was hoping I could practise with them before trying it on with my functioning router.

  10. dave

    I have been using dd-wrt for a couple of years and its true it offers alot. I have paid for a couple of versions as well, like my routerstatio pro. But I have found it becoming more unreliable over the past year or so.

    Currently running Asus RT-N16 feeding 5 F7D3301 as client bridges running a version of TomatoUSB. Toastman, Victek, and others have created some really nice builds, and they work, maintain decent connect speeds (=>270). It was getting harder for me to archive that with ddwrt.

    YMMV, it might be my environment just can’t handle ddwrt.

  11. oleman

    Thanks !!! HTG . How does a DSL work into this? I have an AT&T 2wire956,

  12. Mr Milakre

    I have a Linksys router flashed with dd-wrt since a lot time ago and I love it. Then I change my ISP and they gave me an other router that works great. Now I change my ISP again and have to use my Linksys router again andI found a problem with my network. I use a lot a WOL to turn on my server but with the linksys router assigns dynamic ip to my computers so I can’t wake up my server and also my wireless printer wont print. I have tried to assign static IPs but do not work, but I guess is because is a Linksys router.

  13. Cirric

    Great article! I bought a Blu-Ray player that was capable of internet access but needed an access point. Took my LinkSys wireless router and modified it to connect to the BD player using DD-WRT. Works fine! No need for a cable to run to the player.

  14. Sirwriter

    I have a WNDR3700 router and a Zoom bridge modem. Is the modem not hooked up to the computer when doing all of this?

  15. AJ

    I prefer the Tomato firmware more, DD-WRT has to many features that 90% of the population wont use anyway. Tomato is less bloated and has a much nicer with ajax. Also Tomato seems to be updated more often while dd-wrt has been on the same unstable release for around 18 months

  16. raphoenix

    GREAT HowTo Article and Timely !!

    I’ve been using my old Linksys with DD-WRT for many years now.

    We were just discussing DD-WRT on the Forum the other day.

  17. Xander

    I anxiously wait for them to add support for D-Links DIR-655 still. =(

  18. Edward Allen Weissbard

    DD-WRT is an excellent choice. Still hoping for Linksys e4200 support.

  19. Lyn

    I am with verizon Fios, does anyone have their system with them set up on this firmware? I have an Actiontec router that they supplied,so don’t know if they allow????? Do you
    Thx
    Lyn

  20. Groff

    @Blueeyce

    That was my bad – I took the pictures before he started messing with the router so we could get that stuff out of the way

  21. Merlin

    Apparently my router isn’t supported either.
    Maybe it’s time to buy a new one ;)

  22. Jay

    Just recently installed Tomato with USB on my older Asus 520GU. Easier to use to than DD-WRT (DD-WRT does offer more options for tweaking) in my opinion for general and business user. With the USB support I have a hub connected to the router that provides faster printing than stock firmware (and DD-WRT firmware I used didn’t have USB functionality for this router) and a USB hard drive for storage. Tomato also does not need to reboot with every change as it uses AJAX and appears to be super stable. It may be limited in the models that can use it though.

    Not sure if the previous firmware was throttling my bandwidth but I am also getting faster downloads rates now.

    Super happy with this upgrade!

    Jay

  23. lethel

    The Billion 7404VGPX is nothing but trouble, it seems its issues are quite widespread.
    I too was wondering if anyone had tried any mods too it.
    We bought one for a customer and one for ourselves, the customers works faultlessly.
    Our drops its internet but maintains the DSL connection!
    We tried the latest firmware upgrade with little or no effect, the VOIP volume adjustments need the mic level reduced so low to fix ‘echo’ that its barely useable, yes we tried QOS and all other settings our provider and Billion suggested. we also tried a corded handset.
    Dont contact Billion though with a ‘ticket’ through the website, they simply dont respond and when you do ring up they require that ticket number to assist.
    ‘Assist’ does not mean they will acknowledge the product is faulty.
    Our Billion is only 3 months old.
    Lucky our brilliant supplier “CORMAIN”,will! (great people there)
    If no one has any suggestions I think I might move to Draytek! we do a lot of P2P but we utilize the VOIP.
    Not sure I want to go down the road of DD-WRT as it seems that we wouldnt use half the features. I do welcome any suggestions.

  24. MetaNova

    Tried this on my Linksys WRT54GS (v7.2, broadcom chip) router, and it gave some trouble.

    Followed the instructions, tftp’ed the new firmware, and when it would start up, it wouldn’t show any lights except for the currently connected port. It would respond to pings to.

    I was reading through the comments on a article on how to un-brick a Linksys router, and found that all I had to do to get it working perfectly is load a different version of the same firmware. Turned the old Linksys into a DD-WRT powerhouse!

  25. Dirtbag69

    I’ve been running Tomato/MLPPP for about a year know on a Linksys WRT54GL. It’s unclear after searching Google and DD-WRT’s web site as to whether or not DD-WRT supports MLPPP? I’d like to upgrade to a newer “WiFi – N Type” router but still need the ability to use MLPPP. Does anyone know if MLPPP is supported on DD-WRT?

    Thanks

  26. Sparkyjoe

    This article motivated me to take a chance on my extra Linksys WRT54G Ver. 6 and setup DD-WRT. I was a little worried at first because of the things I was reading about this router being considered “Neutered” but I am happy to report that my venture with DD-WRT was a SUCCESS! Just finished it about an hour ago. We will see if I run into any “Out of memory” errors. If so no big deal, at least I still have my primary router available.

    @Blueeyce….I noticed the same thing when I was looking at the images above about showing the laptop connected via network cable through the WAN port. I used one of the LAN ports for my install.

  27. Tom

    I took a shot and successfully got DD-WRT on my Trendnet TEW-652BRP. The configuration is a bit complex for me but I was able to set the basics and can access the router wirelessly. Would love to see a tutorial as to how to configure all the other settings.

  28. Jeff

    I was wondering if this can be done tagging on to a Verizon FIOS router. Verizon brings in their own routers for their service. The house is big so I wind up having two of their routers which then don’t talk to each other so computers on one side of the house are on a separate network from the other side. Can you take a Linksys or some other router and plug it into the port of the FIOS modem to extend the network signal throughout the house?

  29. Tim

    Hi Everyone:

    I really, really want to try this out. But afraid of bricking router. I have downloaded these two files, dd-wrt.v24-14144_NEWD-2_K2.6_mini_wrt610nv2.bin & dd-wrt.v24-14144_NEWD-2_K2.6_big. Has anyone used these on a Linksys WRT610N? How did it go?

    Thanks!
    -Tim

  30. Roy

    I have a spare router, but unfortunatley it is on the blacklist. Shame.

    I do want to try this, i need wireless coverage for the BBQ season, i simply must have it! Is it worth buing a cheap wireless router to try DD-WRT? Is it that effective?

    I actually have 2 spares, a Belkin F5D7632-4 and a Linksys WAG160N, but none are on the good list.

  31. tcm13

    I have been using “tomato” firmware for years. It can be had at polarcloud.com .
    Its a good system similar to DD-WRT

  32. Sirwriter

    Is this site only for “comments” and not questions?

  33. Seria

    Has anyone tried this on the Belkin Surf N300 router?

  34. dasb

    Yes.. I just flashed my new wrt610n with dd-wrt.v24-16754_NEWD-2_K2.6_big.bin which is newer than your version. Worked like a charm.No issues.

  35. vedette

    Too bad that my router isnt supported. I hope that they will realase a Linksys e4200 support.

  36. Buddha

    I see someone plays super metroid. Excellent. Cool article too, will be trying this with my old router if i can manage to find it.

  37. Hotel Marketing

    Tomato firmware is 10X better, and supports more routers than DDWRT can shake a stick at.

  38. Facebook Marketing

    Thinking about this… Musicians need to live just like us…at the same time I can understand unantunoob re Itunes

  39. Vince

    Here’s the real question. Does it really increase the wireless range of your router significantly? I think that is the main thing that most people are trying to achieve here. From what I’ve read it can either be a miraculous increase or a negligible one. I know it depends on your setup, where the router is located, building construction etc., but can anyone chime in here and tell the average what to expect as far as an increase in range is concerned?

  40. Lee

    I have a Netgear WNDR3700, which has several nifty features such as two different wireless bands, guest wireless accounts, and a few other tricks. Will I lose these features by installing DD-WRT? Is it possible to go back to the manufacturer’s firmware, if you get buyer’s remorse after installing DD-WRT?

  41. Thengit

    I also have a Netgear WNDR3700, which totally refused to work after a firmware update….no wireless, no wired. If I plugged directly into my modem, no problem, but as soon as the router was connected, game over. I tried everything….rollback, factory reset, reflashing the original firmware….no success. In all the forums the problem was known,but no real solution other than taking the router back to the dealer if still in guarantee. One poster suggested DD-WRT, which I thought I would try before returning the router. I flashed it…..it works like a dream! There are more features, and the DD-WRT forum explains how to rollback to factory settings if necessary.

  42. Turing

    I used DD-WRT as alternative for my router (RT-N16). It became slow and unstable and I wished I hadn’t touched it. Then after reading the above posts I also tried a Tomato build from Toastman. What a breath of fresh air. Finally a firmware that works and plenty of support.

  43. lightingbird

    My router works fine, is there some outstanding benefit to using this? Does it have the ability to make splash pages? For example, making a default page for people who get on my wireless to use a credit card for daily access.

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