Sometimes the router that we know and love doesn’t do everything we need it to. If you need additional functionality not currently supported with your default firmware, it might be time to look for an alternative. DD-WRT is a well rounded, exceptionally detailed, and superbly documented 3rd party firmware that will add a lot of additional features to your base router. If you’re interested in expanding the functionality of your router, check the DD-WRT website for a list of supported routers.
Warning: If it is not on the list on their site, do not try the following as it will likely brick your router into a paperweight.
How to get the right version of DD-WRT
One of the main things you need to do is figure out if your router is supported by the DD-WRT firmware and then to figure out what version your onboard chip can handle. Go to the DD-WRT firmwares home site. Once there, click on the “Router Database” in the middle of the webpage.
Then enter the model number of your router to see what firmware is available for it, if any. We are using a WRT54GL by Linksys for our tests, so we typed in that name and it narrowed our search down to just our router model.
After clicking on it, a bunch of different firmware pops up for us download. One of the top ones you will see is “Mini-Build required for initial flashing via WEB“. Click this one and download it. This version is for the initial flashing of the router with a smaller, stripped down version of the DD-WRT firmware which is recommended to do as the initial flash. While here, download the full version by downloading one of the “Standard” versions. I chose “dd-wrt.v24_usb_generic.bin“.
If you are downloading from a separate computer, put those files on a flash drive or CD and transfer them to the PC that is directly connected to the router.
Initial router setup
On the PC that is connect to the Linksys WRT54GL, open Internet Exxplorer and enter 192.168.1.1 in the address bar.
Originally I tried using the latest version of Firefox but experienced troubles when trying to make changes to fields in the Linksys and DD-WRT firmwares. After you are initially logged into the router, do a reset to factory defaults just to make sure that everything is the way it should be right out of the box.
To do so, click on the “Administration” Tab then “Factory Defaults” and select Yes.
Next, go to the “Firmware Upgrade” Tab which is also under “Administration.” Browse for your Mini Build firmware and select it to be loaded. Click the “Upgrade button on the bottom.
This process cannot be interrupted–doing so can permanently damage the router. While not required, it’s a good idea to do this on a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) if you live in an area prone to bad power or power loss.
Once this is finished, and only after you see it say “Upgrade Successful” or some close variation, can we initiate a hard reset of the router. On the back of this particular router, there is an easily accessible button marked Reset. Get a pen and hold that button down for 30 Seconds. Then wait until the power button stops flashing and you will know that the reset and reboot are complete.
Installing the full version
Now that the router’s power button has stopped blinking, log back into it by opening up IE again and entering the same IP address (192.168.1.1) as before. If your PC isn’t set to automatically accept an IP from a router, you will have to change this in the Network Settings. Each OS is a little different but Google has millions of tutorials for each.
You should be prompted to change you user name and password. These can be whatever you want, as long as you will remember them. I chose “root” as the user and password. Now we will go to the “Administration” Tab again and do another factory reset, very similarly to how we did it with the Linksys firmware.
Then we will go to the “Firmware Upgrade” Tab and browse for the “dd-wrt.v24_usb_generic.bin” file and upload it. After you see it give you the Upload Successful page, let it reboot.
Once it has fully rebooted, you see the power button stop flashing, try to log in again. You may have to reenter a new user and password. Find the hard reset button on the back of the router for the final time and hold down for another 30 Seconds. After the power button stops blinking, the reboot is complete and now we can log into our new “Standard” version of the DD-WRT firmware.
You’ve now learned how to properly update your old router firmware with the latest DD-WRT firmware. If these steps are deviated from or interrupted, your router could be seriously damaged. Check your router warranty if it is still covered. Make sure you wait the proper amount of time before initializing a reset and allowing it to reboot fully.