Privacy and Security

DD-WRT 101 – The Most In-Depth DD-WRT Guide

Routers play a major role in your internet connectivity. We can even go as far as saying that without routers, you won’t be connected at all. Getting the most of your router is then vital to ensure utmost speed and performance. However, doing so can be very difficult.

With the use of a custom firmware such as the DD-WRT, however, you can make the most of your stock routers. With the details provided in this guide, you can turn your $100 router into a super router that can be used at home or even in the office.

In this article, you will learn how to do the following.

  1. How to install DD-WRT
  2. How to increase the wireless range of your router
  3. How to increase router power
  4. How to connect external devices
  5. How to access DD-WRT Router?
  6. How to setup VPN client?

This is a pretty long post, but you can go directly to the topics listed above by clicking on them. But first, let us learn more about DD-WRT router.

What is a DD-WRT Router?

Owners sometimes change the operating system of their computers in order to improve their functionality. Routers are the same. You can change the firmware of a router in order to improve its capabilities. In a nutshell, DD-WRT is a firmware that can be installed on your router with the aim of enhancing its performance.

WRT was first used by the iconic Linksys WRT54G, and it is an acronym that stands for Wireless Router. DD, on the other hand, is the town code for Dresden, a town in Germany where the development team (called BrainSlayers) of Linksys WRT54G lived.

Why Do You Need a DD-WRT Router?

Some of you may question the need for installing a DD-WRT firmware on your routers. What’s the use of the default router firmware? Isn’t it enough? Sadly, the answer is a resounding NO.

The firmware that is currently being provided by manufacturers of routers lack some important features that can make a simple router into a super router. In the early days, this does not pose a problem to most users, and this makes financial sense to router companies since most users do not need these extra features anyway.

However, more and more computer users are becoming technologically inclined and well informed. These users have realized that their routers can be improved, and the first option is through the use of a DD-WRT. These days, router companies have started selling DD-WRT flashed routers because they have seen the demand, and don’t want to get left behind.

DD-WRT sizes range from DD-WRT micro to DD-WRT mega, but any of the sizes have the potential to improve your regular router and turn it into a super router because of the following features:

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) Protocol

This allows for easy sharing of files, printers, media and others between devices within a network.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Enables users to connect hard drives and USB disks to your router, turning it into a network drive that anyone within the network can access.

Advanced Quality of Service (DD-WRT QoS)

This feature allows users to control bandwidth allocation by splitting traffic between networks  and allocating a dedicated bandwidth for specific devices and software.

Network printers

Printers that can be accessed by anyone within the network can be attached.

Wireless bridging

This feature makes it possible for you to extend the range of your wireless signal as it turns your router into a wireless repeater.

DNS caching/DNSmasq

DNS caching improves connectivity speeds to a website by speeding up hostname lookup.

VPN

The DD-WRT flashed router can be used as a VPN client, thereby protecting and securing all devices within the network. Even devices that don’t support VPN clients, such as Apple and Roku, can unblock geo-restrictions with the use of DD-WRT.

Adjust antenna power

With this feature, users can extend the wireless range of their routers.

Advanced performance graphs

DD-WRT’s advanced network tracking and user interface makes troubleshooting easier.

First Things First: Choosing a DD-WRT Compatible Router

The first step is choosing a router that is compatible with DD-WRT firmware. You can check out this list if you plan on getting a brand new router. However, if you already have an old one, you can check here to find out if you can install DD-WRT on it.  

DD-WRT vs Other Open Source Router Firmware

There are many open source router firmware out there, and DD-WRT is not really the best in every facet. But it undoubtedly has the largest community, thereby having the most support, most updates, and is the most user-friendly.

The other open source firmware for routers are Tomato and OpenWRT. Both of these router firmware requires users to have a lot of technical knowledge and skills, and there is not enough support on the internet. If you have questions while setting up either of these two, you will have a hard time finding some of the answers.

This is why DD-WRT takes home the grand prize, and the rest of the article will explain how to maximize your router’s performance and functionality with the use of the DD-WRT firmware.

How to Install DD-WRT?

First of all, you should know that installing DD-WRT will void your router’s warranty. Not only that, but it can possibly render your router useless if the installation and setup go wrong.

We started with the bad news, but the good news is that there are routers that have DD-WRT preinstalled already. These are available on Amazon or you can go to companies like Flashrouters and Sabai who can install it for you and at the same time give you support and warranty.

Here are the steps in installing and setting up DD-WRT:

  1. Download the DD-WRT firmware. You can go to the DD-WRT database to find the firmware for your router. If in case you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can search the DD-WRT Wiki and forums.
  2. Erase the router’s memory by performing 30-30-30 reset. Press the reset button for 30 seconds, unplug the power cord for 30 seconds while still pressing the reset button, plug the power cord again, and press the reset button for another 30 seconds.
  3. With an Ethernet cable, connect the router to your computer.
  4. Open a browser and type 192.168.1.1 (the default DD-WRT IP address) in the address bar. You may be asked for the login details of your router, in which case you can input the default details such as admin for the username and admin for the password. If in case the IP address does not work, please check your router manual.
  5. Go to Administration and click on the Firmware Upgrade tab.
  6. In the New Firmware File, select the file you have downloaded in the first step.
  7. Click on Upload. The router will reboot itself after that.
  8. Perform 30-30-30 reset once again, once the reboot is finished.
  9. Go to the DD-WRT default IP address again, and change your DD-WRT login details. Make sure to remember your username and password. You can also change them by going to Administration > Management tab.
  10. If in case you encounter a problem from steps 1 to 9, just do a 30-30-30 reset to erase the router’s memory and do a clean install once again.

Updating the Basic Settings

After successfully installing the DD-WRT firmware, you will need to change the wireless access point configuration and other settings. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the Wireless tab and locate the Wireless Network Name (SSID) field under the Basic Settings menu. Change the Wireless Network Name and click on Apply Settings. If you have more than one wireless network, give each network different names to easily identify them.
  2.  Still, under the Wireless tab, go to the Wireless Security tab and assign a password to all networks.
  3. Go to the Setup tab and assign a Router Name and Hostname. This step is optional.

Backing Up and Restoring

After updating the basic settings in the previous section, you should now have a router that is functional. You can explore the firmware’s user interface, and play around with it. However, before doing this, you must create a backup first so that you have something to revert to in case you make a mistake. This way, you don’t have to go the trouble of installing the firmware from scratch again.

Here are the steps in creating a backup and restoring it:

  1. Go to Administration > Backup and click Backup.
  2. Download the file and make sure you remember where in your computer the file is downloaded.
  3. To restore the backup file, go to Administration > Restore Settings. Look for the downloaded file and click on Restore.

How to Increase Wireless Range of Your Router?

After backing up your DD-WRT, you can now go to the fun part and make changes that will enhance the functionality and performance of your router. The first functionality we will explore is increasing the wireless range of your router.

Here are some ways on how to increase the wireless range of your router.

Choosing the Correct Router Location

The location of your router matters. Ideally, routers should be placed in the center of your house or office as the signal travels in a circular way. Be wary of concrete walls as they negatively affect your signal.

It would be more effective to have the modem in the same location as your router, but most ISPs may not have placed the modem in a strategic place. In this case, a coaxial cable extender can work or you can ask your ISP to do it for you.

If you prefer to have the modem and router in different places, then you can use a long Ethernet cable. You can also employ the next methods to increase the wireless range of your router.

Making Use of an Empty Channel

The wireless frequencies vary from the common 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz because each main frequency has channels within it. Think of it as the lanes in a highway. When there are a lot of cars in one lane, the tendency is that traffic is slower.

For your wireless range, you need to find an empty channel or a channel that has a few cars in it in order to increase your range.  Follow the steps below in finding an empty channel:

  1. Download a WiFi Analyzer application on your mobile device.
  2. Using the app, scan your surroundings. You will see which frequency has more traffic, and which ones have lesser traffic.
  3. Once you see which frequency is not that used by others, you can easily switch to it by going to Wireless > Basic Settings.

Updating the Advanced Wireless Settings

You can also experiment with some advanced settings that will go a long way in terms of wireless range. However, these are not without consequences such as reducing the lifetime of your router, as in the case of increasing TX Power.

If you are using the internet for its basic purpose only, such as browsing news websites, logging in to your social media accounts, and doing some research, then you really don’t need to alter the advanced settings of your wireless device.

However, if you are using the internet for printing, storage, video streaming, and other heavy stuff, then you may see the need to change the advanced settings.

Understanding Bandwidth and Throughput

Bandwidth is the speed that your ISP has allocated for you, and it is what you are paying for. Throughput, on the other hand, is the amount of data that your router can handle. For example, your bandwidth may be 20Mbps, while your throughput is at 756Mbps.

You can check your bandwidth by going to TestMy.net, while you need to download TamoSoft Throughput Test in order to test your throughput. If you see the need to increase your throughput, you can check DD-WRT forums and present your question there.

Using Wireless Extenders and Antennas

Extending your signal with the use of WiFi range extenders is easy to do. A lot of people also prefer this method as it is easy to do and does not take up so much space. There are WiFi range extenders that you only need to plug and set up for just a few minutes.

Using wireless antennas is another easy way to increase your wireless range and get better internet connection. You can easily find one on Amazon, but make sure to remember the following while choosing a wireless antenna:

  1. Check the technical specification of the wireless antenna. Make sure that the new one you are getting is better than your existing antenna.
  2. Make sure that the antenna you choose can easily be moved around. There are antennas that connect by wire, making it easier to move, while some provide a magnetic base.
  3. Choose an antenna that directs its signal in more than one direction. Some antennas focus only in one direction.

Using a DD-WRT Repeater

If you have a new DD-WRT flashed router, but your old router supports DD-WRT, you can use the old one as a DD-WRT repeater. You can place it in a different place, away from your new router, and it can already relay the signal.

Here are the steps in making the old router a DD-WRT repeater:

  1. Follow the instructions in the previous section in installing DD-WRT on the router.
  2. Go to Setup > Basic Setup. Since you will not be connecting the router to your main router or modem, disable the Connection Type.
  3. Change the Router and Hostname, just like in the previous instructions. Make sure that you use a variation of the hostname.
  4. Change the last digit of the Local Router IP Address. Tip: Use a high number such as 50. This way, the chance of your two devices having the same IP address is lessened.
  5. Update the DHCP Type to DHCP Forwarder.
  6. In the DHCP Server, type in the IP address of your main router. This is usually 192.168.1.1, but consult the manual of your device to make sure. Click on Save to save the changes.
  7. In the Security tab, unmark all security settings since the main router will take care of all security details. Click on Save.
  8. In the Wireless tab, change the Wireless Mode to Repeater Bridge (this will enable the use of Ethernet ports, allowing you to plug in your SmartTV, game console, and other devices) or Repeater (this will only relay the wireless signal).
  9. Update the Wireless Network Name (SSID) to match the settings of your main router. Click on Save.
  10. Go to the Wireless > Wireless Security tab and update the settings and match it with the networks of the main router. Click on Save and Apply Settings.   

How to Increase Router Power?

Power can be increased by overclocking the router, just like in computers where the operation per second can be improved. This can potentially overheat the router though because unlike computers, cooling methods are very difficult to implement.

Remember that a temperature of 70C and above can damage and shorten the life of your router. But in case you want to overclock it, you must not use the overclocking tool that’s built-in your device (the tool found in Administration > Management). Follow these steps to overclock your device:

  1. Go to Administration > Commands. You will see the current settings which are 800MHz CPU / 600MHz memory by default.     
  2. In the box, type in nvram get clkfreq.
  3. Enter the command nvram set clkfreq = 1200,800. You can also try 1000/666 if you prefer
  4. Click on the Save Startup button.
  5. Go to Administration > Management and click Reboot Router located at the bottom of the page.
  6. After rebooting, repeat steps 1 and 2. You should be seeing 1200/800 already.

How to Connect External Devices?

If you have a router that has USB ports, you can connect external devices to it such as game consoles and Smart TVs.

DD-WRT for NAS

When you plug in a USB stick or an external hard drive to your DD-WRT router, you turn it into NAS or Network Attached Storage. This way, you can access the files as long as your device is connected to the network. If you further setup FTP, you can access all the files from anywhere in the world.

Here are the steps in using your DD-WRT as NAS:

  1. Attach the USB storage to the router. Make sure that it is turned on.
  2. Enter 192.168.1.1 into the address bar of your browser to go to the WebGUI of your router.
  3. Go to Services > USB.
  4. Enable the following and click on Save:

Core USB Support

USB Storage Support

Automatic Drive Mount

USB Printer Support (if you want to connect a printer for wireless printing)

  1. Check the Disk Info page to see if the USB storage details appear. If it’s not there, restart the router and check the page again.
  2. Go to the NAS tab and enable SAMBA. Choose a Server String name and add the Workgroup.
  3. Go to the File Sharing section and click on Add Share.
  4. In the Path dropdown menu, choose a storage device or partition. Also, choose a name for the storage. You can also set the sharing to Public in order to give access to everyone in the network, and set the permission to Read/Write or Read Only.
  5. You may also restrict the access to specific users by clicking on Add User. Make sure that Samba is marked. Repeat the process for every user you wish to give access.
  6. Click on Save and then Apply Settings.
  7. Access your NAS drive over the network by going to Start > Network > [Router Name] > [drive or partition name] for Windows, and File Manager > Shared pane > [Router Name] > [drive/partition name] for OSX.

After going through steps 1 to 9, you may encounter an “Unsupported File System” warning. You will need to reformat your external storage device and make sure that they are in ext2, ext3, NTFS, or VFAT file system.

How to Access DD-WRT Router?

The simplest and easiest way to access your DD-WRT router is through its WebGUI. However, there are limitations to this interface and there are features and specifications that cannot be accessed through the WebGUI. When you need to go deeper into your DD-WRT router, you can use SSH and Telnet, while SCP and FTP are ideal when you want to access your router remotely.

SSH and Telnet

You use Telnet to access the DD-WRT router locally. On the other hand, you use SSH or Secure Shell if you want to access the router remotely. Both methods of accessing your router are enabled similarly, described below:

  1. Go to the bottom of the Services > Services page.
  2. Enable Telnet or SSH or both by marking the corresponding Enable radio button.
  3. For SSH< you can further define the Port and Authorization Keys.
  4. Click on Save and Apply Settings.
  5. Go to Administration > Management to enable the SSH and Telnet Management.
  6. Set up port forwarding on your modem if you plan to access your router from the outside.

FTP

After plugging in a USB storage device and going through steps 1 to 6, you can already enable FTP on your DD-WRT router. The steps in doing so are below:

  1. Go to Services > NAS
  2. Enable ProFTPD and Enable WAN Access. Make sure to put in place Authentication and do not allow Anonymous Login for utmost security.
  3. Enter a username and password, and select the drive you want to share
  4. Click on Save and Apply Settings.
  5. Go to Administration > Commands and enter the following command:

wanf=`nvram get wan_iface` iptables -I INPUT 2 -i $wanf -p tcp –dport 21 -j logdrop iptables -I INPUT 2 -i $wanf -p tcp -m state –state NEW –dport 21 -m limit –limit X/minute –limit-burst Y -j logaccept       

where X is the number of guesses allowed in a minute and Y is the number of failed tries.

  1. Click on Save as Startup, Apply Settings, and then reboot the router.

How to Setup VPN Client?

You can setup both OpenVPN and PPTP client on your DD-WRT router. But since OpenVPN is safer and mostly used, the steps described in this section will be for installing OpenVPN client. Here are the steps:

  1. Choosing a VPN service provider is the first step.  You need to sign up for a VPN service that supports DD-WRT such as LimeVPN.
  2. Download the .ovpn setup file for the specific server you prefer.
  3. Open the setup file in Notepad or Notepad++.
  4. In the DD-WRT WebGUI, go to Services > VPN.
  5. Enable OpenVPN client.
  6. Copy the setting from the .ovpn file to the DD-WRT, in accordance to the VPN provider’s recommended settings.
  7. Click on Apply Settings.
  8. Go to Setup > Basic Setup and look for the Network Address Server Settings (DHCP) section.
  9. Enter the Google DNS settings 8.8.8.8 for Static DNS 1 and 8.8.4.4 for Static DNS 2. However, if the VPN provider has provided their own server details, use them instead.
  10. Go to Status > OpenVPN.

A screen that says that the connection is successful will be displayed. Data log and statistics about your connection will also be available.

It is advisable to get a very powerful router if you plan on running a VPN client on your router as a VPN will need a lot of processing power.

How to Use DD-WRT Router as Dual Gateway?

Dual Gateway makes use of policy-based routing so that you some of your devices will use the VPN connection, while others will be using the normal internet connection. Why would you want to do this?

This setup is particularly helpful because there are some websites and applications that have blocked VPN connections. Examples of these websites are Netflix and BBC. With your router as a dual gateway, you can still enjoy websites that have blocked VPNs while protecting the rest of your internet browsing and usage. Below are the steps:

  1. Setup the VPN client as discussed in the previous section, and test the connection.
  2. Go to Status > LAN and get the local IP address of the devices you plan to connect through the VPN.
  3. Go to Services > VPN.
  4. In the Policy based Routing field, enter the local IP addresses of the devices, entering each on a new line.
  5. Click on Apply Settings.
  6. Go to Administration > Commands.
  7. Enter “ptables -I FORWARD -s [device IP address] -o $(nvram get wan_iface) -j DROP” for every IP address that you want to connect to the VPN.
  8. Click on Save Firewall.

In Conclusion

Your regular IP address can indeed become a super router with the use of DD-WRT firmware. You can do so many things with a DD-WRT router, including extending your signal range, increasing its power, connecting external devices, and setting up a VPN, to name a few.

    

    

 

A Complete gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and Love in Writing Techie blogs.

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