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鈥檚 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鈥檛 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鈥檛 have to take advantage of all of Tomato鈥檚 features to enjoy it; we would even recommend it to novice users because it鈥檚 so easy to use.

Prerequisites

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

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2. We will be using a Linksys WRT54GL router, so if you鈥檙e using a different model be sure to check below to see if it鈥檚 compatible with Tomato. Another detail, although minor, is we鈥檒l be using Windows 7 throughout the guide. If you鈥檙e 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鈥檙e 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:

路 ASUS WL-500G Premium路 ASUS WL520GU

路 ASUS WL500GE

路 Buffalo WHR-HP-G54

路 Buffalo WHR-G54S

路 Buffalo WZR-G54

路 Buffalo WBR2-G54

路 Buffalo WHR-G125

路 Buffalo WZR-HP-G54

路 Buffalo WVR-G54-NF

路 Buffalo WHR3-AG54

路 Buffalo WZR-RS-G54路 Buffalo WZR-RS-G54HP

路 Buffalo WHR2-A54-G54

路 Linksys WRT54G v1-4

路 Linksys WRT54GL v1.x

路 Linksys WRT54GS v1-v4

路 Linksys WRTSL54GS

路 Microsoft MN-700

路 Motorola WR850G/GP

路 Sparklan WX6615GT

路 Fuji RT390W

Installing Tomato

First thing you鈥檒l 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鈥檚 IP address. You鈥檒l be prompted for a username and password. The defaults for a Linksys WRT54GL are 鈥渁dmin鈥 and 鈥渁dmin鈥. Keep this window up because we鈥檒l be coming back to it shortly.

Head over to Polarcloud鈥檚 homepage to download the latest version of Tomato. You鈥檒l 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鈥檒l 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鈥檒l want to select your router鈥檚 appropriate Tomato firmware file. Since we鈥檙e installing Tomato on a Linksys WRT54GL, we鈥檒l choose the WRT54G_WRT54GL.bin file. After you鈥檝e 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.

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

Okay! We鈥檙e almost done! Now the first thing you鈥檒l want to do is secure your wireless connection. You don鈥檛 want any potential thieves noticing your vulnerable wireless network, so let鈥檚 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鈥檚 the most secure. Don鈥檛 forget to change your SSID to something creative like 鈥淧retty Fly For A WiFi鈥 or 鈥淔BI Surveillance Van鈥.

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鈥檒l see a list of your neighbors鈥 WiFi networks and which channels they鈥檙e 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鈥檛 that bad, huh? You鈥檒l 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


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