Is the Linksys WRT54G obsolete? Depending on how many devices you have and how fast your upstream connection is, it probably is. And it’s difficult, though not impossible, to secure.
Remember, when the Linksys WRT54G came out way back in 2002, it was pretty unusual for a household to have much more than a desktop and a laptop, and not all game consoles had network adapters standard. Plus, upstream connections were slow by today’s standards. I had a 768-kilobit uplink. Yes, 3/4 of a megabit. Netflix didn’t get into video streaming until 2007. Audio streaming existed in 2002 but wasn’t commonplace yet. Smartphones were seven years away from becoming commonplace too.
The WRT54G was a device for a different time.
Indeed, its specs are pretty anemic by today’s standards. The most recent incarnations have a 240 MHz CPU, 8 megabytes of RAM, and a couple of megabytes of flash memory. My Asus RT-AC66U router had a 600 MHz CPU, 256 MB of RAM, and 128 MB of flash. A WRT54G couldn’t keep up with the 60-megabit Internet connection I had in 2017, let alone what I have today. Just plugging the Asus into that Internet connection made it faster, if only because sometimes I had 14 devices on it. That may sound ridiculous but think about it. That’s less than four devices per family member.
With Internet speeds increasing beyond 100 megabits, sometimes even to 1 gigabit, the Linksys WRT54G is obsolete in those cases. You’re wasting money on the faster Internet speeds.
On the other hand, for someone who lives alone, has a laptop and a smartphone and maybe a tablet, and has the least expensive Internet connection the local provider offers, a WRT54G may be able to handle duty as a primary router. It’s not the most secure option, but it’s workable.
The WRT54G as an access point
One place where some would say a WRT54G is still useful is as an access point. They’re limited to a 54-megabit 802.11g connection on the 2.4 GHz band, but when you load DD-WRT on them and position them in the dead spots in your house, they eliminate your dead spots. They’re better than no connection at all.
But I wouldn’t recommend it, for one specific reason. Security.
Is a Linksys WRT54G secure?
The latest firmware I can find for the WRT54G, third-party or otherwise, dates to 2010. That’s an eternity ago. At the very least, this means the WRT54G is vulnerable to the KRACK vulnerability from 2017. There will be other more minor vulnerabilities as well.
Yes, DD-WRT stopped dedicated builds for the WRT54G sometime around 2010. I get taken to task for saying that. You can run a generic Broadcom build if it fits in the flash memory. That means a micro or a mini build.
Getting your hands on those can be a bit of a pain, and poorly documented. Here’s how.
Navigate to https://download1.dd-wrt.com/dd-wrtv2/downloads/betas/ and click on the current year, then on the most recent date. Then navigate to Broadcom, and pick a micro generic build or the plain mini build.
You’ll need to repeat the process from time to time to update it. And yes, you’ll be running beta software in perpetuity. DD-WRT betas are plenty stable, but if you don’t like that idea, it’s time for a different router.
You can also use one as a switch, after disabling the wireless functionality and the DHCP server. But I wouldn’t do that long-term since it’s limited to 100 mbps.
Why do people buy obsolete Linksys WRT54G routers then?
So why do people still buy them? Because they work. I’ve had other brands of routers conk out after two years, and there are still WRT54Gs out there that are 15 years old and still work. Not a lot of computer equipment lasts that long.
I certainly admire longevity and durability, but I can’t recommend the WRT54G as a primary router anymore. Here’s what I look for in a router. A good choice today for relatively modest needs is a TP-Link Archer C50. It’s reliable and inexpensive, supports more modern wi-fi, and has enough power to handle higher-speed connections with several devices. Its range is also likely to be better. And it’s less expensive than buying a new WRT54G.