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7 alternative firmware for wireless routers

There are several open source and actively developed, wireless router firmware projects created by people not affiliated with the manufacturers. Many of these are based on source code that some vendors have been forced to release to the public as part of it was based on software licensed under the GNU General Public License. Specifically the Linksys WRT54G series, which was the starting point for many of these projects.

Firmware for wireless routers Linksys_wireless_router%5B3%5D

These third-party firmware solution are designed to replace the firmware that ships pre-installed on many commercial routers like those manufactured by Linksys, Broadcom, Netgear, Asus, Cisco, D-Link, Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, Verizon and more. The primary reason is to get features which are not included in a manufacturer's router firmware.

So if you want to get a little adventurous, go flash the firmware. Here are some of the popular alternative firmware for your router. Take your time to read through the manuals.

1. DD-WRT  is a Linux-based firmware for several wireless routers, most notably the Linksys WRT54G. But it’s not limited to Linksys: DD-WRT supports an astounding number of firmware from manufacturers whose names you have never heard before. In fact, DD-WRT is so well developed and documented, that it comes pre-installed with routers manufactured by Buffalo Technology and a few others.

Firmware for wireless routers Dd-wrt%5B9%5D

Among features not found in the original Linksys firmware, DD-WRT adds the Kai Daemon for the Kai Console Gaming network, WDS wireless bridging/repeating protocol, Radius Authentication for more secure wireless communication, advanced Quality of Service controls for bandwidth allocation, software support for the SD-Card hardware modification, and a lot more.

2. OpenWrt  is a Linux-based firmware originally limited to the Linksys WRT54G series, but over time expanded to include other chipsets, manufacturers and device types, including Netgear, D-Link, Asus routers and many others. OpenWrt primarily uses a command-line interface, but also features an optional web-based GUI interface. Technical support is provided through the forums and IRC channel.

Firmware for wireless routers OpenWRT%5B2%5D

OpenWrt offers many of the features provided in the stock firmware for residential gateways, such as DHCP services and wireless encryption via WEP, Wi-Fi Protected Access, or WPA2. It also offers numerous features that may be absent or poorly-implemented in stock firmware for these devices:


  • port forwarding of external traffic to computers behind NAT inside the LAN
  • UPnP for dynamically configured port forwarding
  • static DHCP leases
  • extensive firewall and router configuration
  • QoS for applications such as VoIP, online gaming, and streaming media 
    configuration of the device as a wireless repeater, wireless access point, wireless bridge, or even a combination of the above
  • mesh networking
  • use of Dynamic DNS services to maintain a fixed domain name with an ISP that does not provide a static IP address
  • command line access via SSH or telnet
  • on devices with USB ports, it supports printer sharing, Windows-compatible file sharing (via SAMBA), USB audio, and practically any other device that can be connected
  • realtime network monitoring
  • an extensive AJAX-enabled web interface


One useful feature of OpenWrt is its fully writable file system, which allows for installation of updates without rebuilding and flashing a complete firmware image.

The OpenWrt project also provides regular bug fixes and updates, even for devices no longer supported by their manufacturers.

3. X-Wrt  is a set of packages and patches to enhance the OpenWrt firmware for the end-user. OpenWrt, prior to release 8.09, had a minimal web-management console, whereas X-Wrt is supplied with an enhanced web-management console having more than 40 control and status pages for a router.

Firmware for wireless routers X-wrt%5B13%5D

X-Wrt has pages that include graphical traffic and system status monitoring, and pages for the control and status of the network, wireless, and security. Controls are provided for Data logging, Booting, cron, NVRAM, file editing, Linux package management, SNMP, backup and restore, Firmware upgrade, WAN, VLAN, Wi-Fi, WEP, WPA, WDS, MAC filtering, Firewall, Port forwarding, DHCP, Dnsmasq, Hostnames, IP control, Routing, UPNP, QoS, DynDNS, WoL, OpenVPN, PPTP, and Hotspots.

4. Gargoyle  is a replacement firmware for many widely available routers such as the Linksys WRT54G series and the Fonera. It provides functionality above and beyond what the default software provides including sophisticated dynamic DNS, quality of service, access restrictions, bandwidth quota management and bandwidth monitoring tools.

Firmware for wireless routers Gargoyle%5B8%5D

The primary goal is to provide a polished user interface for these advanced tools that is at least as easy to configure as any existing firmware. Gargoyle is based on the OpenWrt firmware, but unlike other Web interfaces for OpenWrt it places a strong focus a usability and is meant for average users, not just power users.

5. Sveasoft  develops and supplies modified Wi-Fi router firmware for supported Linux-based routers from ASUS, Belkin, Buffalo Technology, Linksys, and Netgear.

Sveasoft firmware is typically advertised as being able to increase the router's radio transmission power from 28 mW to 251 mW, as well as being able to use 14 channels for 802.11b transmissions instead of the 11 normally permitted in the U.S. or 13 permitted elsewhere.

Firmware for wireless routers Talisman_screen%5B2%5D

Other features include QoS support, Wireless Distribution System support, wireless bridging, client mode support (CPE), a PPTP VPN server and client, downloadable packages and IPv6 support. The latest version, called Talisman, supports up to 16 Ethernet VLANs, up to 15 virtual wireless VLANs each with their own WEP, WPA, or WPA2 encryption and SSID, and bandwidth management and firewall features.

Sveasoft is a paid product offered at yearly subscription fees during which a customer is allowed unlimited downloads and upgrades.

6. Tomato  Firmware is a free Linux-based firmware distribution for mostly Broadcom chipset based wireless routers, notably the older-model Linksys WRT54G (including the WRT54GL and WRT54GS), Buffalo AirStation, Asus Routers and Netgear's WNR3500L. Among other notable features lies the user interface, which makes heavy use of AJAX as well as an SVG-based graphical bandwidth monitor.

Firmware for wireless routers Tomato-firmware%5B9%5D

Tomato features an easy to use GUI, a bandwidth usage monitor, advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, Wireless LAN Radio power of adjustment, antenna selection, and 14 wireless channels, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in, and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, add wireless site survey to see your Wi-Fi neighbors, and more.

7. RouterTech  is another Linux-based firmware for ADSL modem/routers based on the Texas Instruments AR7 (mips32) chipset. The firmware supports both wireless routers (AR7WRD and variants) using the TNETW1130 (ACX100) and TNETW1350A wifi chips, and non-wireless (AR7RD and variants) routers.

Firmware for wireless routers Routertech%5B8%5D

Apart from those mentioned above, RouterTech firmware supports a large number of AR7 routers of various manufacturers including but not limited to Linksys, D-link, ASUS, Netcomm and more. AMD, Intel, and ATMEL flash chips are also supported.
RouterTech firmware offers features such as SNTP, DDNS, UPnP, detailed system diagnostics, memory optimization, setting up cron jobs, bandwidth monitoring, traffic shaping, wireless encryption and more.

July 04, 2010 by Kaushik Patowary
      
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Firmware for wireless routers Router10

8 Open Source and Linux Router Projects

The Linux and the open source community doesn't just create great desktop and server solutions. They also create worthy router solutions, many which are open, free, and/or Linux-based. You'll find firmware replacements for open Wi-Fi routers that you flash or upload to the router. Additionally, there are Linux-based distributions that install onto generic Intel/AMD PCs or run as LiveCDs. Plus there are options for embedded systems, servers, and appliances.

Here we're going to take a look at the most popular open source or Linux-based router projects. Now let's get started!

DD-WRT

DD-WRT is arguable the most popular, feature-rich, and well-maintained open source firmware replacement for wireless routers, embedded systems, and PCs. Its Linux software runs on compatible open routers and systems. The first versions of DD-WRT were actually based on the Alchemy firmware from Sveasoft, which we'll discuss later. The founder and main developer of DD-WRT is Sebastian Gottschall (BrainSlayer).

DD-WRT provides all the usual features of wireless routers. It also features the typical features found in firmware replacements. Like other comparable firmware replacements, DD-WRT can operate like a normal wireless router or can be put into three different modes: Client, Bridge, and Repeater. Additionally, it supports VLANs and virtual SSIDs. It also features QoS, hotspot functions, a VPN client and server, and much more. DD-WRT also has additional features not found in other firmwares, like support for PCs.

RouterOS

Though the code is not open and it is more of a commercial offering, RouterOS from MikroTik is Linux-based. It installs onto and turns regular PCs into a enterprise-level router. It gives you all the necessary features, including routing, firewall, bandwidth management, wireless access point, backhaul link, hotspot gateway, VPN server, and more.

You can download and use all the features for free, for the first 24 hours. After the free trial you can use limited features or purchase a license starting at $45.

Untangle

Untangle can help protect, control, and monitor the online activities of small businesses, schools, and homes. It can be installed and run on a dedicated PC or ran inside Windows. Its core features are open source and licensed under the GNU Public License v2 (GPLv2).

Though it can optionally replace the router of a network, it concentrates more on managing the Internet experience rather than provide network functionality like most of the other projects we're discussing. Whether in router or standalone mode, it provides network-wide protection from a single centralized location--you don't have to install firewalls and anti-virus software on each computer, for example.

Features offered for free include firewall, web filtering, SPAM blocker, virus and spyware protection, captive portal, AD blocking, protocol controls, and a VPN server. Their premium services offer enhancements and additional features.

For more details and help on setting up Untangle, you can refer to a previous tutorial of mine on this site.

ZeroShell

ZeroShell can provide the main LAN services for small-to-medium-sized networks, similar to RouterOS. It's offered on a Linux LiveCD, so it doesn't have to be installed. It just needs a small drive to save the configuration.

ZeroShell can perform as a router, firewall, RADIUS server, wireless access point, VPN, and more. It includes QoS, hotspot, and Internet load-balancing and fail-over features. It also supports VLAN tagging, multiple SSIDs, and Windows Active Directory.

I've also done tutorials on ZeroShell for LinuxPlanet, covering several topics: introduction and setup, setting up RADIUS server for Enterprise Wi-Fi encryption, configuring captive portal, Internet gateway and router, and creating bonded VPNs for higher throughput and failover.

Talisman Sveasoft

Sveasoft offers a wireless router firmware replacement, currently called Talisman, similar to DD-WRT. When scouring the net, you might find some controversy about Sveasoft charging for access to their Linux-based software. Right now, Sveasoft charges a $25-per-year subscription in order to download their firmware files. In addition to the basic firmware, they offer a VPN version with IPSec support and a mesh networking version.

Tomato Firmware

Tomato is yet another firmware replacement for off-the-shelf wireless routers. Its similar to Talisman and DD-WRT but doesn't include all the same features. Its a bit smaller, leaner, and simpler. It offers bandwidth traffic monitoring, different wireless modes, QoS, and site survey. Like DD-WRT its firmware and source is freely available.

Vyatta

Vyatta touts itself as a cheaper and open source alternative to Cisco, targeted for enterprise-level networks. The router operating system offers all the core LAN services: NAT, routing, firewall, VPN, and QoS. They provide their core open source product for free with documentation. The subscriptions offer additional features, commercial add-ons, and commercial support.

CoovaAP

CoovaAP is a an OpenWRT-based firmware replace for wireless routers, specifically designed for Wi-Fi hotspots. It includes the CoovaChilli access controller, an embedded captive portal, and features bandwidth traffic shaping. It supports a variety of configurations, such as free access with Terms of Service acknowledgment and even commercial or paid access.

You can also find tutorials I've written covering CoovaAP on LinuxPlanet.

Firmware for wireless routers Wifi_h10

By Eric Geier (NoWiresSecurity Founder & CEO) - originally published on LinuxPlanet
      
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List of wireless router firmware projects

This is a list of firmware modifications for wireless routers or software distributions for PC-based routers that have been created and are maintained by people and groups other than the manufacturer of the product. Most of these originated because vendors were obligated to make their source code public as part of it was based on software licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. The Linksys WRT54G series was the starting point for many of these projects.

Review: 6 slick open source routers

DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWRT, M0n0wall, PfSense, and Vyatta suit a wide range of devices and networking needs

Teach your router new tricks with DD-WRT or OpenWrt

Open source DD-WRT or OpenWrt firmware can breathe new life -- and advanced features -- into your old wired or wireless router
      
      

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