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.
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.
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.
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:
This allows for easy sharing of files, printers, media and others between devices within a network.
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.
This feature allows users to control bandwidth allocation by splitting traffic between networks and allocating a dedicated bandwidth for specific devices and software.
Printers that can be accessed by anyone within the network can be attached.
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 improves connectivity speeds to a website by speeding up hostname lookup.
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.
With this feature, users can extend the wireless range of their routers.
DD-WRT’s advanced network tracking and user interface makes troubleshooting easier.
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.
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.
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:
After successfully installing the DD-WRT firmware, you will need to change the wireless access point configuration and other settings. Here are the steps:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
If you have a router that has USB ports, you can connect external devices to it such as game consoles and Smart TVs.
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:
Core USB Support
USB Storage Support
Automatic Drive Mount
USB Printer Support (if you want to connect a printer for wireless printing)
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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