What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router

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routerbeacon   What Is DD WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super RouterThe funny thing about my decision to write this article is that I am not really much of a router connoisseur. The extent of my router explorations amounted to me walking into the computer store, selecting the second-cheapest router I could find (usually a Linksys), and calling it good.

I liked it when the router worked instantly without much effort, but I was willing to go in and do things like change the admin password or enable router security, once I was convinced by my geeky friends just how dangerous an unsecured router could be (even though my nearest neighbors are the occasional deer and maybe a chipmunk.)

I first started actually poking around in that LinkSys router when I discovered that a neighbor – a person visiting the area from Texas for the summer – was in fact stealing my Wireless signal. It’s not a good feeling – but I quickly closed up that security hole. At the same time, I started digging around and discovered that I could do some pretty cool things with that router, like port forwarding, Internet filtering, and setting up QoS with high priority for my own PC!

Of course, it wasn’t only until very recently that I decided to recover a bricked Linksys by loading it up with the DD-WRT firmware. It wasn’t until the moment when that firmware came up in the browser screen that I realized just how much that I had been missing all of these years. Linksys clearly doesn’t hold a candle to DD-WRT.

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Setting Up Your Super-Router

By wiping the Linksys default firmware and installing DD-WRT, I had unknowingly and unwittingly converted that cheap router pretty much into a super-router. It is now capable of more things than I could have ever imagined.

Think about it – the hardware is the same, the setup is the same, but the capabilities and features of this router are now far beyond anything I thought possible with a Linksys. In this article, I’m going to show you some of the coolest features of DD-WRT which, if you decide to make use of, will allow you to transform your own router into the super-router of your dreams.

Setting Up Your Second Router as an Access Point

While DD-WRT isn’t the only router firmware capable of turning your router into a wireless access point, it is certainly one of the easiest. All you have to do is go into your router setup page, click on the “Setup” tab, and then follow this procedure:

1. Plug your computer directly into one of the LAN ports on the router with a network cable. Call up the Admin page and click on the “Setup” tab.

2. Disable DHCP under WAN Connection Type.

3. Make the static IP one up from your main router. So if your main router is 192.168.1.1, you will make this access point 192.168.1.2.

4. Change DHCP type to “Forwarder” and the DHCP server to the IP of your main router.

 

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This essentially has your main router pass DHCP addresses to any new PCs that might connect to this second router. The second router will show up to people as a second wireless connection that they can connect to, but it is still the same network, and your main router is handling the issuing of all IP addresses.

Monitoring and Logging Your Network Activity

One of the coolest things that I discovered about the DD-WRT is that it doubles as a convenient network monitoring tool. From any PC in the house, you can connect to the router and call up the bandwidth monitoring tool to see if there’s anything consuming your network bandwidth in a big way. This area is located under the “Status” menu, if you click on the “Bandwidth” tab.

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Also, if you click on the WAN tab, you will see a history of traffic details, showing you your average network traffic use on a daily basis. I don’t have any actual data in my log yet because I use my router as a secondary rather than a primary. However if you are running DD-WRT as your primary router – this tool can really come in handy for recognizing patterns – are your kids downloading torrents on certain days of the week? Is someone streaming movie files on the weekend?

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This tool may not tell you why your traffic is spiking on certain days, but it’ll certainly show you how much it’s spiking and when. The beauty of this is that it’s all logged, historical data, so you can do your analysis any time, unlike real-time data where you have to sit there and watch the traffic live, waiting for spikes.

Speaking of monitoring, you can also see all active users connected to your wireless network by clicking on the “Wireless” tab and scrolling down to the “Clients” area.

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Here, you’ll see the MAC address of every device that’s connected wirelessly. It shows the signal strength between the router and that device, which can also help you identify the distance the device is from the router.

Other Features

The fun doesn’t end when you are using DD-WRT. If you’re a gamer, you will absolutely love the ability to tweak the router to apply specific network bandwidth priority to your gaming escapades.

Under the QoS tab inside the “NAT/QoS” menu, just enable QoS, make the port “WAN” and Packet Scheduler “HTB”. Perform a speed test to determine your uplink and downlink speeds, and apply 85% of that value to the Uplink and Downlink fields in this form.

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You can select a specific protocol or game (Quake, Runes of Magic, PP Live, etc…), or you can configure priority for a specific netmask, mac address or even an ethernet port.

Other interesting features under “Services” is the ability to specify Cron Jobs to run from the router, or the ability to overclock your router!

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I don’t know if I’d have the guts to try and overclick my lowly Linksys, but then again it’s so cheap, what do I have to lose?

Another cool feature is under the Administration menu and “WOL” tab – you can set up specific hosts on your network with Wake on LAN (assuming the network card has that feature available).

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And, one of my favorite super-router features of DD-WRT, is the ability to set up a watchdog monitoring system. What this means is that for those older Linksys routers that used to have those annoying issues where network connectivity would suddenly drop out until you rebooted the router – you can set up the Wachdog to automate that process for you.

Basically, what I’ve done here is set up the IP address of Google.com as the test IP to ping. The moment the router can’t ping Google for over 1000 seconds, it will automatically reboot itself.

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This feature alone could give those old routers some new life! Why toss them in the trash when you can install DD-WRT and turn those old routers into the super-router you could never afford?

Give some of these features a test drive and let us know how it works out for you. Do you love DD-WRT as much as I do? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Wireless Wi-Fi Router via Shutterstock

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29 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Yash Desai

great article, finally convinced me to put dd-wrt on my router

Ryan Dube

Excellent – don’t forget to let us know how it went!

Nadia Hunt

I meant to add the comment here below.

Can you help me?

In my dd-wrt control panel I can’t seem to get into the setup, wireless or any of the available tabs. When, I am asked for the name and password I put in admin for both, but this still does not all me to get into the tabs. I wanted to rename the router and password protect it. Thanks. ~Nadia

Helper

Unfortunate recommendation : read on the dd-wrt wiki and you will know the answer.

Real answer : your router’s username and pass are now
root – admin instead of admin – admin

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Ashwin Ramesh

Neat! Should try it out!

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Dany Bouffard

DD-WRT is not the only one custom firmware there is also Open-WRT and Tomato, also dont forget to check if your router is compatible with the custom firmware, not all routers can get flashed.

Ryan Dube

True, I’d say this article is targeting the Lynksys family as far as flashing. Agreed on Open-WRT and Tomato – two others that I’d like to try out someday. Thanks for the comment.

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Eric Swank

Definitely an informative article that has answered a lot of questions for me. I recently learned about flashing the firmware on compatible routers, although there had been some apprehension about bricking the router. Mainly of interest is setting up an access point with another router to extend the range on the same network.
Thank You Ryan and Makeuseof.com

Ryan Dube

Your welcome, and DD-WRT is definitely the way to go for your purpose. DD-WRT only requires a few really simple settings to be configured to accomplish turning the router into a repeater, it’s great.

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Kylee Kanavas

So do i need two linksys routers?

Ryan Dube

No – you can use a single linksys and load DD-WRT onto it to replace the original firmware. It does everything the original Linksys firmware does and more. However, if you’ve never done it before or are nervous about it, ask someone that has done it before to give you a hand because there’s always a possibility of bricking your router if you don’t do it right.

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Rigoberto Garcia

Excelent article Ryan. Should try it out…

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Collin Hoffman

I wanted to try this with my old Linksys WRT54G2, but the revision I had wasn’t compatible with DD-WRT. I’ve checked periodically, but no luck (of course, I’m not sure that I could find my old router even if my revision was made compatible).

I personally prefer the Airport Extreme (my only Apple product), even though it is a little more expensive. It is so reliable that I forget the configuration password because I never need it. It really supports anything you could want from a router: Simultaneous dual-band, Gigabit ethernet, USB hard drive or printer sharing, a guest network separate from your main one, MAC address control, port forwarding, and much more. At a little over a year old, it’s lasted longer than my old Linksys, with about the same number of problems that I would get from the Linksys in a week or two.

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Mike Green

My router isn’t compatible :(

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sabih

I shall tell my father about this and get him to use it. Great! Thank you!

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Doc

“Make the static IP one up from your main router. So if your main router is 192.168.1.1, you will make this access point 192.168.1.2.” This may conflict with an IP address already issued by your main router – make sure that it’s either a reserved address or outside the range for DHCP leases (typically 2-100 or 100-199) on your main router.

Ryan Dube

That’s a good point. I did a quick ping to be sure it was available, but if it’s in the range for DHCP leases, you could potentially run into issues. Thanks for pointing that out.

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jessemanalansan

Is DD-WRT free of charge to use?

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Scutterman

I’m now considering getting a cheap router so I can try this out. If it works well I’ll use it as my main router, and keep my current one as a drop-in replacement.

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AriesWarlock

Can someone give me a summary of the benefits of DDWRT?

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Erik Wilkinson

Has anyone compiled a list of compatible routers?

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Do Huy Ngoc

is it safe to use? I mean a firmware is not like a software which can be easily re installed if something’s going wrong.

Henrique Dias

Yes you have the potential to “brick” your router… so It’s very important to study ddwrt site very carefully. They have a lot of useful information.

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Henrique Dias

I personally prefer Tomato over ddwrt as I think is more stable and user friendly.

Ddwrt is indeed a very powerful option to convert any home router to a professional level.

Very important is to know what you’re doing… specially on the installation phase is critical… depending on the mistake made you can “brick” your router (means leave it unusable).

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Nadia Hunt

In my dd-wrt control panel I can’t seem to get into the setup, wireless or any of the available tabs. When, I am asked for the name and password I put in admin for both, but this still does not all me to get into the tabs. I wanted to rename the router and password protect it. Thanks. ~Nadia

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Gerhard Tinned

I have a linksys router running ddwrt for years now. Works great!!! Never wanne go back to the original firmware! ;-)

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Andrew Niklas

how can i find the setup page of a dd-wrt router if i forgot the IP that i assigned it

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Griffin

“neighber” and “overclick” Not sure if just joking or spelling mistakes. Either way my OCD over what others do is kicking in. (I have no OCD about what I do. Just what others do)

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