Open source firmware could bring your router back to life
Most people are quite happy with their home broadband routers, but sometimes you can be left wishing for features that simply aren’t available with your current hardware. Say your router comes with a USB port for connecting a printer, wouldn’t it be nice to also use that port for storage space, and share your data amongst all devices on your network? Maybe you want to be able to access your network remotely using a Virtual Private Network so that you can securely access your data or use services like BBC iPlayer while overseas.
I recently upgraded to a new router which offered oodles more features than my old one. Strangely though, port forwarding didn’t seem to work properly. I tried Googling for an answer but it seems that many owners were having the same problem, and although TP-Link were aware of the issue, they hadn’t yet pushed out an update that fixed it.
It was then that I stumbled across the DD-WRT project, which is an open source, Linux based firmware for many popular routers, which opens up new features and provides much more information than stock firmwares typically do.
Now, at this point I’d like to point out that “upgrading” your routers firmware to a 3rd party version will almost certainly invalidate your warranty. What’s more, there is a risk that you may irreparably damage your router if you don’t follow the instructions on the DD-WRT website to the letter. What’s more, even if you do follow the instructions, there is still a risk that you will encounter problems. If you choose to upgrade your firmware then you are doing so at your own risk, and no one else will be held responsible if your router stops working.
Now that that’s out of the way; OMG DD-WRT is awesome! Seriously, it may look a little clunky, but the amount of options and pure information available once you’ve installed it puts any stock router firmware to shame. Within five minutes I was able to set up port forwarding for all of my services and it worked without a hitch, something that seemingly wasn’t possible with the current TP-Link firmware.
I’ve never seen a domestic router firmware that offered so much information about the network. You can view intimate details about connected devices, and check out information about the router itself, including how hard the processor is working, and what the routers RAM is being used on.
What’s more, you can easily turn your router into a network storage device by attaching a USB hard disk to a USB port (if you have one) and sharing the drive to any connected device on your network. Personally, I’ll stick with my Synology NAS, but it’s nice to have the option, and it could be useful if I ever want to scrape some information off of a friends USB drive without firing up my PC.
There are tons of other features that are available with DD-WRT, I’ve even seen guides online that show how you can connect up a pair of USB speakers and use your ROUTER as a fully fledged Internet radio. If you’ve got an older router lying around which is on the supported devices list, then you should definitely give it a try and see if it works for you. If you don’t have a spare router, then you should proceed with caution, although I can say that the current version of DD-WRT works flawlessly with the TP-Link TL-WDR3600.