Fixing Old Routers With Open Source Firmware

With Netgear in the news again recently for newly discovered vulnerabilities now is a great time to give an alternative firmware a try. Depending on the model of router you have the typical choices of firmware beyond the stock version are DD-WRT, Openwrt, or Tomato. I have personally used DD-WRT for many years on a variety of routers. In the case of this last weekend I was attempting to revive an old Netgear R7000 after the yellow wan port decided to die but the rest of the router was functioning fine. Normally the stock firmware on consumer routers doesn’t let you tweak things like which port on the back is the WAN port. These alternative firmware options let you do just that plus much more. I was able to locate a current build of DD-WRT and flash it to the router.

The first benefit was restoring full functionality to the device by converting what is normally port 1 on the back of the router to work like a new WAN port. The second benefit was resolving the potential security vulnerabilities in the stock firmware. As DD-WRT is on a continuous update cycle with monthly releases and stock firmware for consumer devices is updated a few times a year if you are lucky.

If this is your first time flashing firmware to a router I would suggest practicing on an older device you’re not worried about bricking. You could probably find an old Linksys router for under $10 at a thrift shop or eBay. When in doubt read the forums or ask the community.

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