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Boost Networking Performance by Installing Tomato on Your Router


Your newly purchased router has a ton of potential, but unfortunately the manufacturer usually downplays the capabilities by only enabling limited features. Here’s how to unleash some of those features with an open source firmware.

The firmware we’ll be using today is called Tomato, and it’s an alternative to the DD-WRT firmware we’ve already covered in a previous article.

What is Tomato?

It’s a delicious fruit you eat that can help prevent cancer due to its high levels of Lycopene. Some people enjoy tomatoes on hamburgers and in salads. Oh! You wanted to know about Tomato as in the powerful, user friendly, full-of-features, alternative router firmware? Well, why didn’t you say so?

The original firmware that comes installed on your router does the basics, but Tomato offers a wider range of features including our favorite, bandwidth monitoring. You don’t have to take advantage of all of Tomato’s features to enjoy it; we would even recommend it to novice users because it’s so easy to use.

Prerequisites

1. This guide assumes you have a basic understanding of networking and using a Windows-based computer.

2. We will be using a Linksys WRT54GL router, so if you’re using a different model be sure to check below to see if it’s compatible with Tomato. Another detail, although minor, is we’ll be using Windows 7 throughout the guide. If you’re running Linux or Mac OS X, you might notice slight differences but not enough to interfere with the end result.

3. Tomato only works with certain routers. Make sure you’re installing Tomato on one of the models listed below otherwise you may end up with a new chew toy for your dog (please note: we do not advise giving your dog a router as a chew toy). Other routers may work with Tomato also, but the following have been tested and are known to work:

· ASUS WL-500G Premium· ASUS WL520GU

· ASUS WL500GE

· Buffalo WHR-HP-G54

· Buffalo WHR-G54S

· Buffalo WZR-G54

· Buffalo WBR2-G54

· Buffalo WHR-G125

· Buffalo WZR-HP-G54

· Buffalo WVR-G54-NF

· Buffalo WHR3-AG54

· Buffalo WZR-RS-G54· Buffalo WZR-RS-G54HP

· Buffalo WHR2-A54-G54

· Linksys WRT54G v1-4

· Linksys WRT54GL v1.x

· Linksys WRT54GS v1-v4

· Linksys WRTSL54GS

· Microsoft MN-700

· Motorola WR850G/GP

· Sparklan WX6615GT

· Fuji RT390W

Installing Tomato

First thing you’ll want to do is set up your router on your network. By default, most routers will have an internal IP address of 192.168.1.1. Open up your browser and enter in your router’s IP address. You’ll be prompted for a username and password. The defaults for a Linksys WRT54GL are “admin” and “admin”. Keep this window up because we’ll be coming back to it shortly.

Head over to Polarcloud’s homepage to download the latest version of Tomato. You’ll want to look for the file called Tomato_1_28.zip. Despite being released almost a year ago, Version 1.28 is the latest version and offers a few software fixes including an updated version of Dnsmasq, a lightweight DNS forwarder and DHCP server. Now extract the files in your Tomato_1_28.zip file, and you’ll notice 9 files that are named after certain router models.

Open up your browser session from earlier and click the Administration tab at the top. Next, click Firmware Upgrade as seen below.

Click the Browse button and navigate to the extracted Tomato files. You’ll want to select your router’s appropriate Tomato firmware file. Since we’re installing Tomato on a Linksys WRT54GL, we’ll choose the WRT54G_WRT54GL.bin file. After you’ve selected the appropriate .bin file, click the Upgrade button in the web interface. Your router will start installing Tomato, and should take less than a minute to complete.

Your router will restart by itself, and your computer will attempt to capture an IP address from Tomato’s DHCP server once it’s back up. Fire up your browser again and behold! It’s your first sighting of Tomato.

Okay! We’re almost done! Now the first thing you’ll want to do is secure your wireless connection. You don’t want any potential thieves noticing your vulnerable wireless network, so let’s quickly put an end to that fear. Click Basic in the left column. Scroll down to the Wireless segment and change the Security drop down menu to WPA2 Personal. Feel free to choose a different encryption method that you prefer. WPA2 Personal is what we use because it’s the most secure. Don’t forget to change your SSID to something creative like “Pretty Fly For A WiFi” or “FBI Surveillance Van”.

You might also want to configure the DHCP server IP address lease range and the WiFi channel. To determine the best WiFi channel to use, click the Scan button next to the Channel drop down menu. You’ll see a list of your neighbors’ WiFi networks and which channels they’re using. Choose a channel that is not being used by your neighbors to avoid channel frequency interference.

That pretty much wraps it up. It wasn’t that bad, huh? You’ll begin to love Tomato for its clean user interface and robust features.

Download Tomato from polarcloud.com
Update: You can download an updated version of Tomato from http://tomatousb.org/.
Image by The Ewan

On the south side of Chicago born and raised. On the computer is where I spent most of my days. Nerding out, haxing, maxing my CPU. And all writing some How-To's is now what I do.

  • Published 04/18/11

Comments (57)

  1. paltry

    Hi…
    i was looking for a feature that limits the bandwidth given to a user on the basis of his MAC address…
    is this possible to restrict bandwidth for a particular MAC address?
    Thansk.

  2. _Ron

    I have been using Tomato for years. Even though the orignal Tomato writer seems to have take some time off there has been a branch group called Tomato USB that have kept adding features and keeping the core services up to date. http://tomatousb.org/

    For the question by paltry can you restrict bandwidth by MAC address, you can control outbound bandwidth usage with QOS in this firmware. I do it by IP address and protocol or port and it works great. Here is the link to the FAQ: http://www.polarcloud.com/tomatofaq#what_should_i_enter_for_qos

    Just for the record my uptime on my root router is now over 400 days without a reboot. Tomato is one of the most stable firmware’s out there.

  3. Peter

    That’s great but you never mention what features Tomato is going to allow me to “unleash.” Why should I risk bricking my router without even knowing the potential benefit? The headline says “Boost Networking Performance” but you never show or otherwise suggest it will do that.

  4. John

    DD-WRT FTW! Good ole DD-WRT is the best, and most Buffalo routers come with a pretty good version of it already installed. I just replaced a wireless bridge at the company I work for with two WHR-HP-G300Ns. We had two Linksys 54GLs before with DD-WRT. We had the signal boosted to 100 MW and they lasted two years before finally burning out the transmitter on one side.

  5. dave

    http://tomatousb.org/ will take you a bit further than stock tomato

    Toastman builds have worked great for me ,Asus RTN16.

    I was a long time advocate/user of DDWRT and have changed to Tomato, it works.

  6. Edward Allen Weissbard

    DD-WRT is the way to go no doubt. Much more flexible and a wider choice of router version firmware available.

  7. BallyIrish

    Geek, I live in a place called South Africa. Yes, honestly, it’s on the map, the Southern portion of the continent of Africa. Here we use the Government-owned Telkom and the Router “Mega 105WR,” which works very well. Will it be able to co-habit with Tomato?

  8. alex

    having used both tomato firmware and dd-wrt, i would have to say if you want more bells and whistles go with dd-wrt. tomato is a great firmware and more for “beginners” i would say for custom firmware, it doesnt have near as many features as dd-wrt does. it is a good firmware, but it had performance issues on my router even though it supports it, (online games constantly disconnecting and game consoles not keeping connections). so i went back to dd-wrt, which i have had no problems with whatsoever.

  9. Kurt

    I agree with other posters who recommend DD-WRT over Tomato. I have a WRT54GL, tried installing Tomato, and found that performance was nowhere near as smooth, efficient, or uninterrupted as when using DD-WRT.

    IMHO, it doesn’t get any better than a WRT54GL and DD-WRT.

  10. Martik

    What about on Asus WL-AM60G?

  11. Martik

    WL-AM604G is correct!

  12. shinto

    can i work it with aztech router

  13. tiotaco

    Didn’t learn much.

  14. Phil

    I learned absolutely nothing from this article/ advertisement. DD-WRT is way better then this Tomato !! I have had friends tell me do not use it. Not worth the time it takes to download it!!!

  15. Bill

    anything on ATT 2wire modem/router will it work or not w/inst on how to install.

  16. Ed

    I have always lived by the motto, if it works don’t muck with it!

  17. The Geek

    Guys

    We’re just illustrating how there are other firmwares out there that you can use on your router. Obviously DD-WRT is very popular, and many or most people might want to use it.

    Relax.

  18. Patrick Bisch

    @Bill, there is custom firmware for modems, but I would suggest not installing them. It’s against your contract with your ISP since you’re most likely leasing the modem. I suggest picking up a cheap WRT54GL (like the one we used above) to install Tomato on.

  19. Patrick Bisch

    @Kurt, I think the great debate between DD-WRT and Tomato will always live on. I know DD-WRT is much more popular and has a lot more features, but I love Tomato for it’s simple user interface. I will be installing DD-WRT on my router in the next few days for some research though ;)

  20. lee

    does anyone know if either DD-WRT or Tomato have any impact on the use of a Linksys WRE54G range expander with a WRT54G

  21. Patrick Bisch

    @Lee, I’ve read that installing Tomato shouldn’t have an impact on your range expander. You might even be able to get rid of it all together by increasing the wireless signal strength in Tomato. Be careful though because if you set it too high you could potentially fry your router.

  22. Craig S

    You haven’t explained how it boosts performance, or what the extra features are… unless I missed it. This is just an installation tutorial.

  23. Gen

    BallyIrish, you’d be surprised how many of us on here are from South Africa.

  24. Steven Shaffer

    I have tried both DD-WRT and Tomato on my Linksys G54-TM and I choose Tomato. I have been running it 24/7 for over 3 years w/o restarting my router. I like the Tomato just because it’s simpler and that in itself makes it more stable. True DD-WRT is nicer, and has more options, but most people will never use 75% of the stuff in it.

  25. Steven Shaffer

    I did forget to mention though with IPv6 soon pushing it’s way through that DD-WRT is IPv6 ready whereas Tomato seems to not be.

  26. Danny0507

    Yes, indeed another South African… I’m in a northern part of Johannesburg, and the wifi through my service provider simply, simply put, sucks.
    I can sit next to my router and still get disconnected while just sending email.

    Will custom firmware help?
    I have the standard “Telkom Choice” Router.

  27. DrummingMan

    I am a screen reader user and need to know if the gui is in html just like the original firmware? Don’t want to flash my router just to find out if the firmware isn’t accessible!

  28. Seria

    Dang it, can we get something that works on my Belkin Surf N300 router!

  29. PinkyDot

    I am with the other two that have asked with out answer…. HOW does this boosts performance? Does it make the connection any faster? Does it expand the range of a wireless router? Or does it just make it more “stable”? Give us some more information to be able to decipher if this will help or just waste our time if we are not experiencing any issues that it may help with.

  30. Beftus

    Great piece of router firmware for my WRT54GL. Very stable with the proper setup. I had 300+ days of uptime on mine. Currently running an adblock script on it.

    How does it boost performance you ask. Well, you can boost the output power to increase coverage. You can increase its clock frequency a bit which will speed it up a bit. It can run ad block scripts on it to get rid of those pesky web ads. It’s also dependable. No frequent reboots are needed to get it to work again.

  31. Alan

    Is it possible to uninstall the upgrade if desired…would holding in the reset button do it?

  32. Steven Shaffer

    It is possible yes, but holding the reset button will only reboot your router. You will need to find a copy of the original firmware for you brand and model router. Basically yes it can be done, is it easy, no. Trust me you’ll never look back. If you didn’t like it you could always flash your router later to DD-WRT. One very simple option that I love it simply having the built in bandwidth monitor. Being on Comcast I tend to run right up to the limit and then take it easy or jump on a neighbors wifi for the last week of the month.

  33. Patrick Bisch

    @Alan, it is possible to uninstall Tomato and revert back to your original firmware. For example, I had Tomato installed prior to writing this post. Therefore I had to reinstall the original firmware for my WRT54GL router. I went to Linksys’ website and downloaded it.

    If you have a Linksys router, go to http://homesupport.cisco.com/en-us/wireless/linksys to find your model number and download the original firmware. Then, in Tomato, go to Administration > Upgrade > Click Browse to find your original firmware on your computer > Click Upgrade.

  34. Glenn

    Great article! I changed the default gateway address on my router and no i can’t connect to the web interface or the internet. Can anyone help me? I need help as soon as possible!!!

  35. Patrick Bisch

    @Glen, first unplug the power on your router. Leave it unplugged. Open up a command prompt on your computer (assuming your running Windows) and type “ipconfig -release” (without quotes). Now plug your router back in. Give it about 30 seconds and then type “ipconfig -renew” in the command prompt. Head to the forums if you still need help.

  36. abdallah

    what about TP-Link router?

  37. bigjohn

    Does it work with DLink

  38. Glenn

    @Patrick, Thanks I’ll try that.

  39. wschloss

    As usual a lot of nothing here; shallow, incomplete, not very useful. Lots of talk, graphics, blah blah; almost no real or useful information. What is your purpose?

  40. Kanzel

    Does anyone know if this will work on an EchoLife HG520s?

  41. AJsoFresh

    I have tried both DD-WRT and Tomato firmware, unfortunately I could never setup my ASUS RT-N12 as my main router with a 2Wire 3800HGV-B (modem/router combo). Heck, I’ve even tried the stock ASUS firmware and still had no luck. Some benefits you can get with either DD-WRT/Tomato is an option to increase your wireless signal, set your router as a repeater, access point, or bridge. Also, these firmwares allow you to have more QoS (Quality of Service) controls that you don’t normally get with stock firmwares. On the downside, Tomato is constantly updating and it could be difficult to find the latest version for your specific router. Sometimes the latest beta versions aren’t stable, so do your research before upgrading your firmware.

  42. Andy

    Why noone mentioned OpenWrt yet?

  43. Deepak

    To my bad luck, I have screwed my Linksys WRT54G Router’s Frimware after installing this software :(

    When contacted linksys support they tried to help me to re-instate the original linksys firmware but the 192.168.0.1 page is showing few text boxes without heading/menus. Basically my Router is dead now.

    Time to buy a new one!

    Thanks.

  44. Patrick Bisch

    @Deepak 1) Try clearing your browsers cache. 2) Close your browser 3) Unplug your router for 30 seconds 4) Open up a command prompt on your computer (assuming your running Windows) and type “ipconfig -release” (without quotes). 5) Plug your router back in 6) Wait a few seconds 7) Go to 192.168.0.1 in your browser

  45. Deepak

    Dear Patrick – First thanks for your reply.

    Yes running windows..Browser chase has been taken care and the ipconfig release as well but still i get the blank page with few ip addresses displayed in text boxes and no text on the page at all.

    Also pls not that linksys support engineer asked me to reset the router by pressing the reset button at the back of router. i.e. now address is 192.168.1.1

    Problem on top of this : as I can’t see any menu on the page so no option to re-instate the frimware.
    Linksys advised me to use another another utility to use “Tftp.exe” downloaded from link : http://www.linksysbycisco.com/APAC/en/support/BEFSR41/download.

    But when try to install firmware gets the error : “Unable to get response from the server.”

    Thanks.

  46. phantomenacer

    Hi, I have linksys wrt54g ver 8
    1. does this void warranty?
    2. can one revert to factory firmware

  47. Patrick Bisch

    @phatomenacer Unfortunately, you cannot install Tomato (or TomatoUSB) on the WRT54G ver 8. I suggest using DD-WRT. You can find an official guide here: http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/How_To_Flash_the_WRT54Gv8. Or you can follow the general guide on How To Geek: http://www.howtogeek.com/56612/turn-your-home-router-into-a-super-powered-router-with-dd-wrt/.

  48. Alex Campos

    Hello guys…
    I was wondering… Can I use Tomato on a LINKSYS WRT54G2 v1?

    I want to try it but want to make sure first that the firmware and the router are compatible

  49. Patrick Bisch

    @Alex Campos Unfortunately Tomato is not compatible with the WRT54G2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linksys_WRT54G_series#WRT54G2 However, you can install DD-WRT on it. I’m hoping to write a new post on that soon.

  50. Jatin

    I am using Belkin router, I ve tried dd-wrt but its not compatible with model,
    any suggestions ??

  51. Qasim

    Can i use it on a EchoLife HG520b model?

  52. Lazza

    Will Tomato work on my SMC7904WBRA2 router?

  53. Patrick Bisch

    @Lazza, It looks like that is a modem/router combo. Therefore, Tomato won’t install on it.

  54. RamNemesis

    How easy is it to reinstall the original firmware. I have a Linksys E3000 and would like to try. Anybody installed Tomato on an E3000

  55. Rob

    Dear Patrick,
    I have installed tomato onto my router – Linksys wrt54gs. I now get the screen asking for the password and the old password doesnt not work, neither does the default password the router was delivered with. What do I do next?
    Thankyou,
    Rob

  56. 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 user what to expect as far as an increase in range is concerned?

  57. Lee

    Is Tomato incompatible with Netgear? I have a WNDR3700, but I haven’t seen it mentioned as working with Tomato.

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