Your router has built in software provided by the manufacturer. It resides on a piece of integrated hardware called firmware, which means it can be updated with newer versions of the router software when there are updates. It also means a third-party can write new software for it. So you could replace the stock program with a more robust platform that could offer more features, such as a print server. Open source router software is meant for those who either have really old routers and need to increase its functionality, or for those who like the freedom of having the ability to do almost anything they want.
Note: Installing a different firmware on your router will void the warranty, if it still has one.
Which Router Firmware Should I Use?
There are two main competitors in the Open Source router world: Tomato and DD-WRT. Depending on your setup and router needs, you should look into each and see what they have to offer.
Tomato is known for it’s simplicity. While it has a lot of the powerful features you’re use to in a router, the interface is clean and easy to navigate.
DD-WRT is the complex and feature-laden interface you’re used to seeing in a Linksys router.
Both routers will do most anything you need them to do. The allure of an Open Source router is the strong community behind them. Since the software is continuously under development, you know your old router will have new features for years to come.
Read more about Tomato.
Read More about DD-WRT.
What Routers Are Compatible
Since there are a couple different companies that provide Open Source router software, you should refer to their respective compatibility charts. It seems like the Linksys wrt54g is the most popular router for this firmware, but the Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 is also popular due to its better WiFi range. But there are dozens of other Linksys, Buffalo and Asus routers that are capable of running this software via firmware update.
Install New Router Firmware
The installation is basically like updating the router firmware through the original manufacturer. You will download the open-source firmware for your particular router, then login to the router and point to the downloaded file in the firmware update section of the router setup. Whether you decide to use Tomato or DD-WRT, you should refer to their specific install instructions.
If you router is supported, it should work. But keep in mind you run the risk of “bricking” your router. When looking at compatibility, be sure to take note of the version of your router. For instance, just because the Linksys wrt54g is compatible, doesn’t mean the wrt54g v7 is compatible.
If you performed this upgrade, tell us all about it.