Table of Contents
- 1 All Router’s Firmware
- 1.1 1. A little about router firmware. What makes it so important?
- 1.2 2. Supercharge your wi-fi router by choosing the Best Firmware
- 1.3 3.Top Firmwares
- 1.4 4. Go ahead for more Dev-friendly firmwares
- 1.5 5. What your Hardware Supports?
- 1.6 6. Why use Alternative Firmware?
- 1.7 7. Which routers will work with alternative firmware?
- 1.8 8. Creating a home made Enterprise Class Device
- 1.9 9. Installing a Third Party Router Firmware
- 1.10 10. How to boost your wireless signal through firmware
All Router’s Firmware
1. A little about router firmware. What makes it so important?
Router is a kind of a little computer. Talking about the router firmware, it is nothing but a software that is embedded inside it. It provides network protocols, administrative controls and security. Though custom firmware can have additional features and benefits but most people prefer to avoid its use. One thing to note is that routers are still not exactly like PC’s and you can’t install firmwares on any old router. The only firmware specifically designed, which can support it’s hardware devices and can fit in the limited storage space, can be used.
Open source router firmware like ‘OpenWRT’ is a Linux distribution for your router with a complete packet manager. You can install lightweight web, VPN and SSH servers on it. Some user-friendly options such as DD-WRT can add Quality of Service(QoS) feature which supports prioritizing network traffic, a feature often found only on higher-end routers. Being more stable than the manufacture provided firmware, custom firmware is a great option for those who require reboot their routers regularly.
2. Supercharge your wi-fi router by choosing the Best Firmware
First of all, if you are not comfortable in voiding warranties or upgrading router firmware manually, I’d advise you to stop right here; otherwise please continue. Ever thought of going ‘God Mode’ by upgrading your router firmware and installing custom firmware on your router. Watch everything going on, boost the wi-fi signal and security. One thing to keep in mind is that installing custom firmware isn’t just like downloading and installing a software to do alpha male cool stuff. If picked the right one, you can even enjoy perks like being able to run your own VPN at home. Latest firmware updates fix the security related problems more frequently than the usual manufacturer updates. Though it will take your little work and efforts, but if you are up to your task, you will have the benefits of more secured home network that too with full control all the time. You will know the exact reason of speed drops and there will be no more dead signal zones in your house.
Must be wondering what dd stands for in dd-wrt? it’s a German car number plate code for Dresden. Known to be the most well known alternative firmwares, dd-wrt firmware has been in development for years and is now very stable. Easy to install and you are good to go. It is free and is available probably for the widest number of routers. Maintained by BrainSlayer, the firmware is hosted at ‘dd-wrt.com’. The latest dd-wrt firmware features are advanced and can not be found on any other OEM firmwares, include Kai Daemon for Kai Console Gaming Network ,repeating protocol, Radius authentication for well secured wireless communication. It is also equipped with advanced QoS controls for bandwidth allocation. To get dd-wrt working all you require is a computer with any operating system, a broadband connection, a supported router (Check the website mentioned earlier to know if you have the required router) and dd-wrt firmware image file. You can also find the detailed instructions to use the router as dd-wrt repeater Bridge mode for extended connectivity options.
OpenWRT, also known as the mother for many other firmwares, is a completely customizable, open source, Linux kernel based, package supporting along with tons of extra add ons and utilities. Basically it is an open platform for others where they can build packages and expand the functionality of the router in any way possible. Maybe it’s not the easiest to use and install, but has the support of broadest range of hardware, right from high end and powerful home routers to pocket fitting travel routers. Known for providing most of the features among many open firmwares, it is quite uptight to configure at times. To get Open-WRT to work, you need a Linux device with rich interface, built-in dynamic DNS and real time network monitoring. Built in Quality of Service(QoS) allows to prioritize streaming, VoIP calls over torrents and other downloads (it’s just an example, many other things can be done too).
Just like dd-wrt, it is easy to install and to work on. Currently Tomato firmware is under development. That is the reason for not being as much feature rich as dd-wrt. Being very user – friendly makes it up for Tomato. It’s other strong features are, it is super light weight, intuitive user interface, real-time bandwidth and connection monitoring ensuring no more creeping into your network. Adding to it, it’s lean and is designed in a way such that there is no need to reboot the router after every change. Increasing the wi-fi strength is a lot more easier while using Tomato. One doesn’t have to be advanced in technology to use its firewall configuration and access controls pretty easy to approach. For now it is not available for a wide range of routers, still their homepage can be checked for yours being listed as compatible.
Being a fork of OpenWRT, FreeWRT is focused on an open platform on which experienced developers can work upon and build. Not really suited for consumers because of having command line as the only medium of doing anything. Thinking of a really cheap remote access point, this may come handy for you.
Want to have a Hot spot? Chilifire firmware should definitely be your center of attraction then. It offers free or paid hotspot access from your router. The only downside is that in their free version states limited methods for access of maximum ten users every month. They charge extra for paid version Hot spot or allowing more user access. Still, this professional firmware will take care of managing an enterprise. It is compatible to many different routers. Browse their website regarding the compatibility issues.
4. Go ahead for more Dev-friendly firmwares
It is OpenWRT based firmware, designed for Broadcom and Atheros-based routers. It is lightweight, tiny, simple to install with eye-candy web management page. Supporting a variety of travel and portable routers, it is well known for its ability to allow only certain IP addresses thus limiting the bandwidth. It gives a detailed insight about the way bandwidth is being used. People who travel a lot and internet is the necessity, Gargoyle is a great choice. You can use it if your main focus is to watch how everyone at home using the bandwidth rather than being concerned about security or wi-fi signal strength.
Also based on OpenWRT and though supports only some devices, it follows Free Software Foundation’s Free System Distribution Guidelines, in short it is a completely free and open firmware. This is like the best thing for the open source software lovers out there. Aspiring developers can always look up for this light weight designed firmware to get involved with and contribute. They can most certainly build it themselves too but it is not a project for beginners. Curious if your device is compatible for this pretty firmware? go to their home page and know more about it.
Another firmware with multiple number of derivatives. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and similar Debian based Linux system users will appreciate it for sure. This OpenWRT based firmware is specifically designed for running home routers but word of caution, though it is not the most rich featured yet manages to fulfill the basic needs. The required packages and additional tools are needed to be installed separately if you want to make the best out of it. The command line interface is not much of a beginner friendly but Debian lovers will feel it like a home. It offers everything from standard Debian install features to package manager and other compatible utilities.
5. What your Hardware Supports?
Getting tempted to use any of the above mentioned firmwares yet? Before you begin, the first thing you need to take care of is that knowing the router which you have and whereabouts of its current firmware. Once you know this, if you have previous experience of installing your own firmware, you are ready to proceed. The decision is already made for you in case there is only one option that supports your router. If the options are more than one, make your choice keeping your requirements in mind. You can find many websites on internet which shows the comparison between different firmwares based on number of criteria. Once you decide which one to install, visit the respective website for a proper installation process.
6. Why use Alternative Firmware?
Maybe, you are still wondering why to use an alternative. If you have already spent a good amount in buying a brand new router, I’ll advise to keep the manufacturer’s firmware and don’t try to mess with it. It might happen that while installing new firmware something goes wrong and you don’t want to complicate the terms and conditions of router’s warranty, because once any other firmware is installed it will get canceled. You can try installing alternative firmware on some old router rather than using a new one to enjoy extended features as mentioned above. Trying and doing something different from the usual is good for a change.
7. Which routers will work with alternative firmware?
It will be depending upon the model of the router which you have. Till now, the largest manufacturer of consumer purpose wireless routers and many other networking hardware devices and software is Cisco. In most of the cases, since these models are more wide spread than any other brands, the alternative firmwares will meet the requirement of the routers. Moreover the chipsets used in the router are so common that they will match the requirement most of the times. Being all that said, the word of advice will be that you should always check with each firmware and know about which model does it support.
8. Creating a home made Enterprise Class Device
Most of the manufacturing companies want to keep it easy and simple for people to configure their routers. In case you need more features, they will definitely charge extra money. Well luckily, there are people who been working for a long time to make it possible in getting fancy software on such a plain hardware. Some of the many features provided by the alternative firmwares are:
- Quality of Service (QoS)- in case you want to give priority to some specific type of traffic.
- Wireless Bridging- connecting two different network over the airwaves instead of buying and installing a new network card.
- Ability to turn into a Hostspot.
- Adding monitoring protocol(SNMP) Look into where and how the bandwidth is actually being used.
- Detailed Diagnostic Tools.
9. Installing a Third Party Router Firmware
Once you have taken a decision on which firmware to use, make it sure that your router supports it. Visit their home page, in case you haven’t checked it yet. If you are looking for buying a new one, do some research and look for a solid modern router that supports third party routers too. Company like ASUS do advertise for the enthusiasts of third party router firmware and convince that their hardware is the ideal platform for running your own router operating system.
It is really simple to download and install appropriate firmware file. Visit the upgrade firmware page using router’s web interface and upload third party firmware through it. Follow the firmware’s installation instructions carefully and go through the process. After this the router will replace the desired firmware with the original one.
10. How to boost your wireless signal through firmware
The short comings of the consumer-grade routers starts to appear as the number of connected devices continue to increase. If we think of a little back in time, most of the house holds had 1-2 systems connected to the router for internet usage. But today, people have smartphones, tablets, wi-fi enabled printers, HDTV’s, game consoles and what not. The basic broadband router has to shuffle among multiple number of connected devices, and things doesn’t works fine with everyone, every time. You won’t believe that you can make your cheap router into a really powerful device with easy steps and above of all, it’s totally free. After doing a relative simple firmware upgrade, wi-fi signal can be boosted for more range and strength. Prioritize programs which require more bandwidth and a lot more stuff you can do. Specifically to boost the signal, open Advanced Setting from Wireless tab. There you will find an entry with a label ‘Xmit power’, by default it is 28mW. Now you can adjust it up to 251mW but don’t just go straight to it, do a little experiment by increasing it by small amounts. 70mW can suit most of the users and going more than that will result in overheating the router.