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WRT54G Hacks and How to Choose the Best Alternative Firmware Router

The Linksys WRT54G is famous for being the first consumer-level network device that had its firmware source code released to satisfy the obligations of the GNU GPL. This allowed programming enthusiasts to modify the firmware to change or add functionality to the device.

Unfortunately, Linksys neutered this model (beginning with version 5) by chopping the RAM in half to 8MB and doing the same to the flash memory, down to 2MB. And it dumped the open source stock firmware with a closed source proprietary operating system called VxWorks. so that it is difficult to flash third party firmware on them. The latest version as of this entry, Version 8 (CDFF/CDFG) WRT54G, removed its detachable antenna. V8 users can no longer swap the stock antenna with more powerful alternatives. The VxWorks-based WRT54G comes standard with a four-port network switch (the Internet/WAN port is also in the same switch, but on a different VLAN) and a wireless chipset by Broadcom which provides Wi-Fi connectivity.

The WRT54GL (linux) version (16MB of RAM, 4MB of flash, and a 200MHz CPU) has more memory so it can run the full version of DD-WRT, (or more recently, Tomato ) which gives you the ability to adjust your transmit power to 50mW or more. The GL is a newer version of the discontinued WRT54G V4. There are some other Linksys routers worth a look and this Buffalo Technology AirStation High Power N300 Gigabit Wireless Router & AP is an Open Source DD-WRT Router.

The devices have two removable antennas connected through Reverse Polarity TNC connectors. If you have a Linksys WiFi router, vertically mount the unit on the wall so the antennas and the rest of the unit is a flat plane. This maximizes the router's ability to broadcast. You may need a Linksys SM-01 mounting bracket to accomplish this.

Linksys WRTSL54GS Wireless-G Media Storage Link Router with Speedbooster has 32MB of RAM and 8MB of flash and a new 264MHz CPU and a USB port that supports external storage, which can be shared and managed over the network via the router's firmware. With the right alternative firmware, the WRTSL54GS can run an embedded Bittorrent client and store files directly onto attached storage with no host computer at all.

For best results with alternative firmware, stick with the original models up to V4, the WRT54GL model, the GS models up to V3, or the Linksys WRTSL54GS with USB storage.

Linksys WRT54G / Wireless-G Router / Amazon Deal
Linksys WRT54GL / Compact Wireless-G Router / Amazon Deal
Linksys WRT54GX / Wireless-G Router Compatible with Linux / Amazon Deal
Linksys WRV54G / Wireless-G VPN Router / Amazon Deal
Travel routers allow you to carry a wireless network wherever you go:
Linksys WRT54GC / Wireless-G Travel Router with Speedbooster / Amazon Deal
Linksys WTR54GS / Wireless G Travel Router with Speedbooster / Amazon Deal

Bricked Routers

More on debricking a WRT54G - using a JTAG cable (unbuffered parallel port cable) and a debrick utility takes 10 minutes to flash a CFE (Common Firmware Enviroment) bootloader and then TFTP (Trivial File Transfer Protocol) the firmware which only takes a few seconds.

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Revised: 07/18/2011