Is the Linksys WRT54G obsolete? Depending on how many devices you have and how fast your upstream connection is, it may be.
I’ve talked a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of old milestone operating systems. But what were the advantages and disadvantages of Windows NT 3.1? That’s a fair question.
If you’re looking for the pros and cons of Linksys vs TP-Link, I have experience with both and I’m glad to share it.
Linksys is a well established brand. From 2003 to 2013, they were Cisco’s consumer products division. Since 2013, they’ve been part of Belkin. Prior to Cisco buying them, they were an independent company, founded in 1988. Linksys was the first company to sell 100 million routers.
I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of TP-Link. They were founded in 1996 but if you were buying their stuff before 2005, you’re well ahead of me.
It’s not as easy to find DD-WRT compatible routers as it should be. Or maybe I should say it’s not as easy to find out if a particular router is compatible with DD-WRT as it could be. Here’s the trick.
I picked up a couple of refurbished Linksys EA6200 routers this past weekend. For whatever reason, DD-WRT isn’t officially supported on them, though it does seem to be a popular DD-WRT router. A lot of people make the upgrade far more difficult than they need to. With some simple hacks, Linksys EA6200 DD-WRT installation is pretty straightforward.
I came up with an 18-step process that I simplified just as much as I could. Unlike some methods I’ve seen, I don’t have you editing any binary files or creating custom startup scripts.
I set up a DD-WRT router on Charter’s Spectrum broadband, and had a hard time getting it to work. It wouldn’t pull an IP address on the WAN side, or it would pull a 192.168 address rather than a Charter public address.
Here’s what I had to do to fix it.
Do you need a new router? If your Internet is slow after upgrading to a faster service, and if your wifi range and reception is poor, or your Internet connection just generally misbehaves a lot, you might need a new router.
Even the New York Times, of all places, has published articles extolling the virtues of new routers. If your wi-fi at home is bad, they say, think about picking up a TP-Link Archer C7 router. I like the Asus RT-AC66U myself, but in my experience, and the experience of my colleagues, a new router makes a huge difference.
When one longtime friend upgraded to a TP-Link Archer, he told me his wi-fi improved so much his wired network was suddenly struggling to keep up with it. That’s fixable. He’s a candidate for Gigabit Ethernet.
Most of us have an old router like a Linksys WRT54G laying around, or if we don’t, it’s very easy to find one–the nearest garage sale or thrift store is a good bet–but sometimes all we need is a switch, to hook up a couple more computers or other devices to a wired connection. Using a router as a switch wastes some of its capabilities, but it’s easy to do. Here’s how to use a router as a switch.
I’ve been using and recommending DD-WRT for years, but it’s getting harder to find inexpensive routers to run DD-WRT. Many inexpensive routers now use non-Broadcom chipsets that DD-WRT and other third-party firmware don’t support well, or at all.
But there’s still a way to get inexpensive, compatible routers that isn’t likely to change any time soon.
I found a couple of old Linksys WRT54G routers and decided to load DD-WRT on them. The first one, an abandoned-by-Linksys WRT54GS model, gave me some trouble, which led me to buying a TP-Link unit to run DD-WRT on. The second unit, which was a vanilla WRT54G, still had firmware available on Linksys’ site, so the upgrade was somewhat straightforward–it went by the book, at least. I installed the latest Linksys firmware, then installed the DD-WRT mini build, then upgraded to the full build.
After getting DD-WRT running on it, I configured it to behave as an access point on channel 6. I was surprised at how strong the signal was. Years ago, I ran a pair of WRT54G routers, and they struggled to cover the house. It’s possible that was due to age, or perhaps I was getting too much interference from my neighbors since we were probably all running our wireless on the default channel in those days because none of us knew better.
As for my WRT54GS, when I tried to upgrade it, I got a nice message stating, “Upgrade are failed!” Nice. Too bad it didn’t add “All your base are belong to us.” That’s when I learned you need to install the last Linksys upgrade first, then upgrade from that. So I downloaded that from some forum, tried flashing that, and received the same message. So I set it aside, figuring I bricked the unit. A few days later, after getting the WRT54G running, I fired up the GS, visited its configuration page, and… found DD-WRT running on it! Upgrade are failed? More like all your upgrade are belong to ME.
In all honesty, I probably got lucky. It’s always best to go by the book on things like this.
The WRT54G is limited, of course, to 802.11b and 802.11g (54 megabits max) but as a complement to a more modern router, it still has a few tricks left. If you have one laying around, it won’t cost anything aside from about 30 minutes’ worth of effort to load DD-WRT on it and see what it can still do for you.
And if you don’t happen to have one laying around, it’s not hard to find a used WRT54G. I find them at estate sales, garage sales, and rummage sales pretty frequently because a lot of people set them aside when they either buy newer, faster routers or their ISP forces them into an all-in-one unit. Don’t pay too much for it, because it’s aging technology, but I’d say they’re worth grabbing for $5 or less.