DD-WRT is and alternative router firmware. It is free and open source, and is, arguably, the most popular custom router firmware out there. The main reason for its popularity is that DD-WRT combines the wide range of functions and customization options with the relative ease of use.
Why use DD-WRT?
The project has been developed to enhance the operation and characteristics of wireless internet routers. Specific router models are the main aim for the open-source firmware application that is associated as a substitution of the stock firmware. Default firmware is restricted in its features and presents a limited list of opportunities where DD-WRT enhances its possibilities that can make your home network more controllable and accomplished.
The thing is that developers of the stock routers are aimed at non-technical customers when creating their outputs, which makes them easy to operate and apply but limited in effectiveness as an internet-access gateway. Any personal-class router with restricted characteristics can be modified into a useful cross functional router. New possibilities can be unlocked for your router with DD-WRT. The range of the benefits you can achieve having applied this firmware varies from stable enhanced network performance to encrypting your traffic through a VPN connection.
DD-WRT firmware download and installation can change your whole network experience as DD-WRT advantages are to change your attitude toward your router. Having applied a VPN for your router enhanced by DD-WRT, your network will be protected as it removes bugs and potentially dangerous backdoors to your system.
Why would you want to install a custom router firmware anyway? Here are some of the things you’ll be able to do with the help of custom firmware:
- Expand router functionality. You cannot do much with the manufacturer firmware, other than connect your devices to the internet. The purpose of vendor firmware is to provide a user with basic access, allowing for general configuration and maintenance tasks. Manufacturers want you to shell out some serious money for high-end routers that include advanced features. With free alternative firmware, most of those features become available, such as setting up remote access to your home network. Port forwarding allows you to do that. Just specify the IP address of the device and the port number you want to use (e.g., port 80 for web server), and you will be able to browse to this address from anywhere outside your home network. Additionally, there is a ton of extensions, such as Optware for DD-WRT, which basically allow the more advanced user to turn their routers in full-blown Linux systems.
- Boost your internet speeds. These days most of us have multiple devices connected to the internet through the router: desktops/laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles, TVs, and even smart appliances. Basic broadband routers cannot always handle multiple connections well, causing performance and stability issues. Alternative router firmware helps in solving connectivity issues in several ways, including:
- Quality of Service (QoS). This is a very powerful feature, that allows you to configure how your bandwidth should be distributed. For example, if you a re into torrenting, you want to make sure that you are still able to stream videos or Skype with your friends while your files are downloading. With QoS you can allocate a set percentage of traffic to BitTorrent, so it would not hog all available bandwidth. You can configure QoS by application, by IP address, or by device.
- Increasing wireless antenna power. You can kick up the transmitting power of your wireless antenna with the TX Power setting in DD-WRT (increasing it to 100 is reported to be safe for most people, anything higher may cause some routers to heat up).
- Using another router as a repeater. If you have an older router sitting around (and most of us do), you can install custom firmware on it and turn it into a wireless repeater, so it will pick up the signal from your main router and forward it to devices that are farther away.
- Setting up VPN. DD-WRT (as well as other alternative firmware, such as Tomato and OpenWRT) works well with VPN, ensuring that all your devices are connected to the internel via encrypted tunnel. This way, your ISP is not able to monitor your activity and throttle your bandwidth based on it.
- Increase security. Alternative hardware provides numerous security benefits, including:
- Powerful firewall. DD-WRT has the Linux iptables firewall built in, which you can configure to filter traffic coming in and going out of your network.
- Access to secure hotspot services, such as Wifidog.
- Regular firmware updates. This cannot be stressed enough. A successful attack on your router in the worst case scenario would lead to total takeover of all devices on your network, or, at the very least, can take down your connection. Serious bugs and vulnerabilities are being discovered in the manufacturer firmware on a scarily regular basis. What’s worse, in some cases vendors are not patching the security holes even after being informed about vulnerabilities. With DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT, as with most popular open-source products, you get much more frequent security updates.
- VPN again. While VPN is certainly useful for avoiding ISP throttling, its main benefit is protecting the security and privacy of your communications. While some VPN providers allow multiple simultaneous connections, many limit this number to two, which may not be enough for your multi-device network. If your router is connected through VPN, it doesn’t matter how many devices you have, all your communications are secured.
OpenWRT. The “grandfather” of custom router firmware, OpenWRT remains the most powerful as far as features and supported devices. It is basically a full-blown Linux distribution that you can install on your router. It’s probably easier to name devices that it doesn’t support: it works with most home routers and can even support enterprise-grade devices. OpenWRT features, plus tons of utilities and add-ons you can install on your own, give you a truly full control over your network. You get real-time network monitoring, QoS, built-in VPN and dynamic DNS, and much more. The caveat? With great power comes great deal of pain with installation and configuration. OpenWRT is not veru user-friendly, and it is not designed to be. It is aimed at advanced users, such as network administrators. If /etc/config doesn’t look like ancient hieroglyphics to you, check OpenWRT out, if you prefer something easier to use, keep reading.
Tomato. This lightweight but powerful firmware is also very suitable for novice users. Tomato includes some of the features of OpenWRT, such as QoS and iptables firewall, combined with some really neat network monitoring tools, such as real-time graphical bandwidth view, so you can visualize what is happening on your network. The biggest downside of Tomato is its very short list of supported devices.
DD-WRT. This open-source, Linux-based firmware combines rich functionality with relative ease of use and a wide range of supported router hardware, which is not a common combination. DD-WRT includes many of the features of OpenWRT (on which it is based): QoS, access control, VPN support, real-time monitoring, etc., but makes them all easier to configure via graphical interface. There are also additional features, such as Wake-On-LAN, which allows you to wake up your sleeping, hibernating, or even powered-off computer remotely. DD-WRT may not be as easy to use as Tomato (partially because of the number of features, which makes the control panel harder to navigate), but it is definitely more user-friendly than OpenWRT and has an extensive support documentation.
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Ultimately, the choice is yours, but all things considered, DD-WRT comes out a winner in most cases. If you decided to give your router a boost, you can download DD-WRT firmware for free and flash (upgrade) your current firmware itself. Be warned that while it is a very straightforward process, it does require some research and a very careful approach, so make sure to follow the official tutorials very closely. Alternatively, you have an option of buying a router with DD-WRT already installed.
Numerous advanced internet users are interested in getting information whether a specific router is supported by DD-WRT and what files are needed to be downloaded to apply the firmware for the router. The solution for the issue has been found with the help of router database that is to allow the customers an instant search for appropriate information. All the supported devices are enumerated in a specific list where the information is being constantly renewed as it gets old very fast.
Any customer can administer the page and correct any errors. It comes to be work-in progress for all the tech-headed users who operate DD-WRT firmware for their routers. But don’t forget that the firmware is Linux-based and needs outstanding abilities in the sphere of these technologies, so if you are not sure about the firmware application for your router enhancement, don’t rush to conclusions as your network can get out of your control or you will have to buy a new stock router for internet connection.
Free or commercial hotspot locations authentication and management features are given to you through DD-WRT running provided that an external RADIUS server is in your availability. Hence, you are able to run some hosted servers owned by Worldspot.net, HotSpotSystem.com and etc.
Quick and simply captive portal is offered without user login or management features. The solution is applicable and great for single hotspot locations where its users should agree on terms of usage before getting access to it.
Advanced captive portal is given to you by the feature as well as content management for free hotspot locations. Nevertheless, a proprietary external server should be configured by you.
Commercial and free hosted services are provided by it, which gives you a user authentication and management abilities to run the system for free or a paid access solution.
Your own VPN server can be set up by you at home or office by using your stock router and DD-WRT open-source firmware. To get access to your network shares and computers over a distance, you are able to use self-made VPN server. If not to mention about Wi-Fi hotspot connections, which undergo eavesdropping and traffic sniffing, by setting up a VPN all of your traffic will be encrypted and become unavailable and unreadable for any prying eyes.
Having loaded DD-WRT for your router, provided that it is compatible with your device, a new control panel with multiple features including a VPN appears for your operation. PPTP is commonly set up for a router. Although the protocol has some vulnerability, the risks are minimal and what is more PPTP is supported in Windows.
Nevertheless, a more complicated protection can be set up for your router, provided it’s necessary for your online work, for instance dealing with customers data. OpenVPN can be also established for a router with DD-WRT. Hence it’s a bit more challenging to install the protocol for your router, the positive effect will waste little time. But you should be sure you’re able to manage the work on your own, otherwise you risk to brick your router.
So, enabling a VPN for your router is a great chance to make your system more protected from uninspected interference and spying. With a growing number of Wi-Fi hotspots teemed with hackers and adversaries you put your system under a risk of being cracked and looked through in search of appropriate information.
As things stand now, you see that practically any stock router can be enhanced with DD-WRT firmware, which is the best variant for those people that are tech-headed and advanced in the sphere of high technologies. If you are lack of experience in the sphere, you’d better leave the idea apart and continue reading and practicing until you are ready to take a crack at setting up DD-WRT for your router.
The benefits you achieve having installed a firmware are visible. The functionality of your router will be definitely expanded, the speed of internet connection performance will be a good deal better, a security level of your online work can be also improved by DD-WRT.
For today the firmware is the best from those presented on the market, but you should be a qualified user enough to try applying the technology for your router without a fear of making worse or disabling your network.
What you can you do with your new advanced router?
Having installed DD-WRT on your router, you are provided with tons of awesome features. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular.
- Wireless signal boosting
DD-WRT afford some ways to improve wireless signal. First of all, you should select a proper wireless channel with the least interference. Fortunately, DD-WRT provides various tools to locate the best channel for you.
If the channel is chosen, you should inform DD-WRT by following the steps:
- Pick the Wireless tab on the admin page.
- Select the Basic Settings sub-tab by default.
- Find and select a suitable channel in the Wireless Channel drop-down menu.
- Save and click Apply Settings.
The router should be rebooted, reconnected to your network and display new wireless channel.
In addition, your wireless signal can be improved by powering router transmission. Usually, a router motherboard can be fried and become faulty by exceeding transmission possibilities. But setting transmit power to 71 mW, you protect your router against burnout while slightly enhancing its possibilities.
- Click the Wireless tab.
- Choose the Advanced Wireless Settings subtab.
- In the Tx Power settings change index to 71 mW.
- Save the changes and enjoy improved wireless signal.
- Port forwarding configuration
Generally, a local network is cut off from the rest of the global net and identified with a unique IP address appointed by ISP. Port forwarding allows to transmit your WAN IP address, which is available to the web community, and appoint it to a port on one of your local machines. In such a manner, other internet users receive your LAN IP address and can access a specific service on your local net.
- QoS utilization
Quality of Service (QoS) is a set of rules that prevent bandwidth hogging and network overloads. You are provided with a lot of power and control while setting it up.
To get started, enable QoS by clicking the QoS subtab in the NAT/QoS tab and fill the following settings:
- WAN and LAN addresses;
- Packet Scheduler;
- Uplink and Downlink.
Having configured the global settings, you are able to specify rules that are divided by DD-WRT into three categories.
- Services priority allows to set bandwidth preferences for different applications that includes everything from BitTorrent to Xbox Live. You can also add a particular service if it does not appear on the panel.
- Netmask priority appoints bandwidth preferences to a range of IP addresses. It’s useful if you need to ensure that your device will always take priority over guest machines connecting to your network.
- MAC priority helps to specify a device, which should receive priority over others. All you need, is to enter your device’s MAC address and set a relevant priority.
Finally, you have to actually define the priority. You are able to promote it to a higher level (Express or Premium) in order to be provided with an improved bandwidth. It’s extremely useful for apps that require additional bandwidth, such as video chat.
If you finish adding all necessaries devices and setting their priorities, save settings and reboot your router.
In case you are looking for a DD-WRT router to protect your entire network with a VPN, you need to look through the latest selection of the outmost firmware. Providing that you haven’t taken a decision on a VPN service, you can find an ultimate rating here. Despite the market of the services is overloaded with numerous variants, you need to make a right choice in keeping with your needs.
#1 Asus RT-AC5300
The price varies from $400 up to $600.
The firmware is a great-grandparent of all wireless routers. Although some of the technical characteristics may come short of if comparing it with the competitors, the wireless connectivity is the outmost. The router is supplied with 8 antennas, which are adjusted in compliance with 4T4R configuration. The feature makes your network connection resistant to breaking and makes its transfer performance enhanced. The router presents exceptional opportunities for gaming called MU-MIMO, which makes wireless connection even more boosted. Thus, in case you need a ‘humming’ router for gaming or office operation, the firmware is what you need.
#2 Asus RT-AC88U
The price varies from $300 up to $500.
If you need a router that permits more wired connections and working efficiency, the firmware is what you should rely on. The wireless network is a little powerless due to such options as doubled Ram, Flash and gigabit ports. In the light of the above the router is appropriate for small offices where all the connected devices can be attached through an ethernet cable. Besides, it’s suitable for streaming heavy media and supplied with 4 USB ports. So, while looking for connection stability the router is what you need.
#3 Netgear R7000
The price varies from $250 up to $350.
If you need a router to stream heavy traffic like high-quality videos or gaming, the option is what you need. A boosted level of functionality can be achieved, although it’s pretty weak in power and transfer rates. The open source of the router’s community is to provide you with professional assistance while enabling it with DD-WRT. The firmware is fit with three antennas, which provide firm wireless connection to the internet. Therefore, having decided to run DD-WRT on the router for your office, the firmware is all you need. Besides, it has been previously considered as one of the best solutions for making your network boosted with the upgrade.
So, all the three main representatives of the market that have already made their best to acquire a high grade on the part of computer professionals and average customers. Therefore, all you need is to choose a router that meets all your expectations and apply a top-notch VPN solution for it.