Sunday, July 4, 2010

7 alternative firmware for wireless routers

There are several open source and actively developed, wireless router firmware projects created by people not affiliated with the manufacturers. Many of these are based on source code that some vendors have been forced to release to the public as part of it was based on software licensed under the GNU General Public License. Specifically the Linksys WRT54G series, which was the starting point for many of these projects.

linksys_wireless_router

These third-party firmware solution are designed to replace the firmware that ships pre-installed on many commercial routers like those manufactured by Linksys, Broadcom, Netgear, Asus, Cisco, D-Link, Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, Verizon and more. The primary reason is to get features which are not included in a manufacturer's router firmware.

So if you want to get a little adventurous, go flash the firmware. Here are some of the popular alternative firmware for your router. Take your time to read through the manuals.

1. DD-WRT is a Linux-based firmware for several wireless routers, most notably the Linksys WRT54G. But it’s not limited to Linksys: DD-WRT supports an astounding number of firmware from manufacturers whose names you have never heard before. In fact, DD-WRT is so well developed and documented, that it comes pre-installed with routers manufactured by Buffalo Technology and a few others.

dd-wrt

Among features not found in the original Linksys firmware, DD-WRT adds the Kai Daemon for the Kai Console Gaming network, WDS wireless bridging/repeating protocol, Radius Authentication for more secure wireless communication, advanced Quality of Service controls for bandwidth allocation, software support for the SD-Card hardware modification, and a lot more.

2. OpenWrt is a Linux-based firmware originally limited to the Linksys WRT54G series, but over time expanded to include other chipsets, manufacturers and device types, including Netgear, D-Link, Asus routers and many others. OpenWrt primarily uses a command-line interface, but also features an optional web-based GUI interface. Technical support is provided through the forums and IRC channel.

OpenWRT

OpenWrt offers many of the features provided in the stock firmware for residential gateways, such as DHCP services and wireless encryption via WEP, Wi-Fi Protected Access, or WPA2. It also offers numerous features that may be absent or poorly-implemented in stock firmware for these devices:

  • port forwarding of external traffic to computers behind NAT inside the LAN
  • UPnP for dynamically configured port forwarding
  • static DHCP leases
  • extensive firewall and router configuration
  • QoS for applications such as VoIP, online gaming, and streaming media
    configuration of the device as a wireless repeater, wireless access point, wireless bridge, or even a combination of the above
  • mesh networking
  • use of Dynamic DNS services to maintain a fixed domain name with an ISP that does not provide a static IP address
  • command line access via SSH or telnet
  • on devices with USB ports, it supports printer sharing, Windows-compatible file sharing (via SAMBA), USB audio, and practically any other device that can be connected
  • realtime network monitoring
  • an extensive AJAX-enabled web interface

One useful feature of OpenWrt is its fully writable file system, which allows for installation of updates without rebuilding and flashing a complete firmware image.

The OpenWrt project also provides regular bug fixes and updates, even for devices no longer supported by their manufacturers.

3. X-Wrt is a set of packages and patches to enhance the OpenWrt firmware for the end-user. OpenWrt, prior to release 8.09, had a minimal web-management console, whereas X-Wrt is supplied with an enhanced web-management console having more than 40 control and status pages for a router.

x-wrt

X-Wrt has pages that include graphical traffic and system status monitoring, and pages for the control and status of the network, wireless, and security. Controls are provided for Data logging, Booting, cron, NVRAM, file editing, Linux package management, SNMP, backup and restore, Firmware upgrade, WAN, VLAN, Wi-Fi, WEP, WPA, WDS, MAC filtering, Firewall, Port forwarding, DHCP, Dnsmasq, Hostnames, IP control, Routing, UPNP, QoS, DynDNS, WoL, OpenVPN, PPTP, and Hotspots.

4. Gargoyle is a replacement firmware for many widely available routers such as the Linksys WRT54G series and the Fonera. It provides functionality above and beyond what the default software provides including sophisticated dynamic DNS, quality of service, access restrictions, bandwidth quota management and bandwidth monitoring tools.

Gargoyle

The primary goal is to provide a polished user interface for these advanced tools that is at least as easy to configure as any existing firmware. Gargoyle is based on the OpenWrt firmware, but unlike other Web interfaces for OpenWrt it places a strong focus a usability and is meant for average users, not just power users.

5. Sveasoft develops and supplies modified Wi-Fi router firmware for supported Linux-based routers from ASUS, Belkin, Buffalo Technology, Linksys, and Netgear.

Sveasoft firmware is typically advertised as being able to increase the router's radio transmission power from 28 mW to 251 mW, as well as being able to use 14 channels for 802.11b transmissions instead of the 11 normally permitted in the U.S. or 13 permitted elsewhere.

talisman_screen

Other features include QoS support, Wireless Distribution System support, wireless bridging, client mode support (CPE), a PPTP VPN server and client, downloadable packages and IPv6 support. The latest version, called Talisman, supports up to 16 Ethernet VLANs, up to 15 virtual wireless VLANs each with their own WEP, WPA, or WPA2 encryption and SSID, and bandwidth management and firewall features.

Sveasoft is a paid product offered at yearly subscription fees during which a customer is allowed unlimited downloads and upgrades.

6. Tomato Firmware is a free Linux-based firmware distribution for mostly Broadcom chipset based wireless routers, notably the older-model Linksys WRT54G (including the WRT54GL and WRT54GS), Buffalo AirStation, Asus Routers and Netgear's WNR3500L. Among other notable features lies the user interface, which makes heavy use of AJAX as well as an SVG-based graphical bandwidth monitor.

tomato-firmware

Tomato features an easy to use GUI, a bandwidth usage monitor, advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, Wireless LAN Radio power of adjustment, antenna selection, and 14 wireless channels, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in, and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, add wireless site survey to see your Wi-Fi neighbors, and more.

7. RouterTech is another Linux-based firmware for ADSL modem/routers based on the Texas Instruments AR7 (mips32) chipset. The firmware supports both wireless routers (AR7WRD and variants) using the TNETW1130 (ACX100) and TNETW1350A wifi chips, and non-wireless (AR7RD and variants) routers.

routertech

Apart from those mentioned above, RouterTech firmware supports a large number of AR7 routers of various manufacturers including but not limited to Linksys, D-link, ASUS, Netcomm and more. AMD, Intel, and ATMEL flash chips are also supported.

RouterTech firmware offers features such as SNTP, DDNS, UPnP, detailed system diagnostics, memory optimization, setting up cron jobs, bandwidth monitoring, traffic shaping, wireless encryption and more.

17 comments:

  1. If you had to choose, which one would you say is the best?

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  2. Comparing firmware is like comparing Linux distributions (they are in fact, different Linux distributions). It depends on the user and their comfort level with the router tools/UI.

    But for a first time user, I would suggest DD-WRT or Tomato because they are easy to install and has better GUI.

    Openwrt is targeted towards power users. It's more customizable because of its "package management" feature but requires fair knowledge to get it running.

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  3. I've been using DD-WRT and it fits my needs so far. Thanks. Awesome review.

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  4. Whoa! where did my reply go? Are you seeing my first reply or is it just me?

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  5. mmm...for network monitoring usually I use Protemac NetMine (protemac.com)

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  6. I use ProteMac NetMine (firewall). It monitors and controls all the Internet and network activity of your computer.
    http://www.protemac.com/netmine/

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  7. Ola, este netmine tem para windows xp, se não, qual seria a solução correspondente

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  8. How about TP-LINK TD-W8101G?

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  9. Hi,

    What are benefits of installing new firmware and how to know that a particular firmware can be installed over adsl wifi router, for eg i have bsnl broadband and i have ar800V v3.0 which firmware should i install.

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  10. @Tanmay. An alternative firmware, such as those described in this article, offer lot of features and benefits over the default firmware of your router. For eg, you can boost your wi-fi signal, track bandwidth usage, limit bandwidth usage by application, block applications from using the network by time of day, setup bandwidth priority, etc.

    To know whether your router is supported please go to the respective sites and look for the supported devices list. If you aren't sure, ask in their support forums.

    I suggest you to get either DD-WRT or Tomato. These are well documented and have plenty of tutorials on the Internet.

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  11. @Kaushik Thanks for your reply but do i have any option where i can backup my previous version of firmware if at all the tomato does not go good with my adsl+router ar800V v3.0 Thanks In Advance

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  12. Go to your router manufacturer's website and download the firmware from there. That will be your backup. Some routers offer backup options (look under Management or something similar), but this only backups your router settings not the firmware.

    Please be careful when you update firmware. I strongly suggest you to go to Tomato's support forum and search for threads pertaining to your router model to know in advance any issues that you may face. Ask in their forums for guidance. If anything goes wrong, I may not be able to help you.

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  13. I had previously mailed them about the upgraded firmware but there was no reply from there end also i checked their official website but no luck on that too i am totally on my own if i have to upgrade my router firmware. Can you plz explain me in brief how do i upgrade when i open router config section in firmware it have option for browse i think there would be some kind of file i need to upload it. Thanks

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  14. I've been using Tomato for several years, and it is rock solid as 1.28. My question is which of these alternate routers has good IPv6 support. I'm looking to upgrade both my cable modem and router to IPv6 core-capable, and Tomato seems to have fallen out of maintenance.

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  15. You could also add DGTeam firmware (for Netgear routers) :

    http://dgteam.netsons.org/

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  16. Where can I find someone who can write firmware/app code for a router?

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  17. Dear Kaushik and Tanmay
    i think this would help: it is a conexant chipset based router with hardware :solos 4615 RD/ 461x CSP v1.0.
    i have searched net but could not find the upgraded or unstripped version of firmware so that i can use the USB port on the router.
    Abhishek

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