This might be surprising, but your router has an operating system and software running on it. This is called firmware, software designed for specific hardware.
And like the computer operating system, you can change the software running on your router. Custom router firmware can be installed to provide additional features not yet available on the device. This could be anything from running a paid access point to connecting via a VPN.
Read on to learn more about router software and discover what is the best router firmware.
What is the best firmware replacement for the router?
- Why use custom router firmware?
- Is it safe to install custom router firmware?
- Which router will work with custom software?
These firmware are available
- 1. DD-WRT Firmware
- 2. Fresh Tomato Firmware
- 3. Advanced Tomato
- 4. Open source router firmware: OpenWRT
- 5. Chilifire
- 6. Gargoyle Firmware
- Which is the best router firmware?
Why use custom router firmware?
The first and foremost reason why you want to install replacement firmware is to add features. Often, additional features may be available on consumer-level hardware but are not highlighted for several reasons.
This is understandable. Manufacturers want to keep the device simple and easy to configure. In most cases, they sell much more expensive hardware to people who want those features. Fortunately, people have been researching ways to get fancy software on this simple hardware!
Some of the features that alternative firmware provides are:
QoS (Quality of Service) allows some types of traffic to be prioritized over others
- Wireless bridge
- Ability to turn into a WiFi hotspot
- Add SNMP (monitoring protocol)
- Detailed diagnostic tool
But will the router work with custom software? And is that something you should do?
Is it safe to install custom router firmware?
Installing custom firmware on the router provides new features. But it is not an option that people should use.
If you are uncomfortable with the voided warranty, avoid installing new software on your router.
Installing custom firmware will void the device warranty. If you have just purchased a new $ 150 router, it may be safer to use the manufacturer’s firmware.
If not, it’s also possible that you freeze your router and render the device useless.
Which router will work with custom software?
This question depends a lot on the router model. Typically, devices from the most popular router manufacturers are targeted by many firmware developers.
Chipsets, the brains behind routers, are also used in other models. As such, you’ll sometimes find that some uncommon brands have custom router firmware available.
Either way, you are still safest with models that have been tested with each replacement firmware. However, before proceeding, always remember that you should check each firmware to see which models it supports.
Next, find out what different firmware is available.
These firmware are available
1. DD-WRT Firmware
DD-WRT is by far the most famous known replacement, distribution and testing firmware. It has been in development for several years now and is considered stable. It’s easy to install from the firmware upgrade page and includes all the features listed above.
After installation, you will find that you can do everything with the router (things that previously could not be done). Even if the features have been included before, upgrading to a safe and reliable firmware is a good idea. Say goodbye to default router configuration vulnerabilities.
DD-WRT is free and available for some new routers. You can check if your router is supported by accessing the router database.
2. Fresh Tomato Firmware
Based on the famous Tomato software, Fresh Tomato is an improvement, based on DD-WRT. It is easy to install, under active development, but not feature rich. Fresh Tomato compensates for this by being user-friendly and provides some advanced features like QoS and shell.
However, Fresh Tomato is not available on many routers like DD-WRT. Check the home page to see if your router (and the version number is also important) is listed as compatible.
3. Advanced Tomato
Like Fresh Tomato, Advanced Tomato is an improvement over the original Tomato firmware. If you are looking for an improved user interface, now is the time to switch to Advanced Tomato.
With modern design, GUI of Advanced Tomato is very intuitive. This is a strong alternative to DD-WRT. As a result, the router management experience will completely change the way you use wireless routers.
4. Open source router firmware: OpenWRT
OpenWRT is known as an open source router firmware. Instead of trying to be an option for everyone, OpenWRT has built a platform where others can build packages. OpenWRT has a package management system that allows you to expand your router in any way you can think of.
Of course, you will need the knowledge and time to program it. However, firmware images are also available for download and installation on the router hardware.
OpenWRT itself does not include the GUI (Graphical User Interface). Instead, X-WRT adds this functionality and includes the ability to monitor and manage the router remotely via the web interface.
If you want a WiFi hotspot, Chilifire is the firmware that should be selected. This professional firmware allows you to provide free or paid hotspot access from consumer routers.
The downside is Chilifire has a free version that supports limited access methods and up to 10 users per month. If you want to provide more than that, or charge for access, Chilifire will take a percentage of your revenue.
In return, you get a very professional firmware that will leave you with no management headaches. This firmware is available on many different routers, so check Chilifire’s website for complete information about compatible devices.
6. Gargoyle Firmware
Based on OpenWRT, Gargoyle is another firmware that adds bandwidth management quotas and network access rules to routers. It mainly supports TPLink devices, along with some Buffalo, Netgear and Linksys routers. However, since it is based on OpenWRT, the list of compatible routers will be the same (with some variations).
Updated every few months, Gargoyle applies upstream fixes from OpenWRT, keeping your router secure and stable.
Gargoyle is a good option if you’re looking for something different.
Which is the best router firmware?
Now you have an idea of what firmware is suitable for updating your router software.
If you are looking for the best router firmware, consider:
- Advanced Tomato
Each option has its own pros and cons. Obviously, you are limited to the hardware you own or can buy, but the final option is still in your hands. If you are looking for easy-to-use software, consider Tomato.
DD-WRT has the most features and community support, so it’s a great option too. You can refer to the article: DD-WRT, Tomato and OpenWrt – Where is the best router firmware? For more details.
If you want to set up a VPN but don’t have a router, can you install one of these firmware examples? Try a dedicated VPN router instead.
Wish you find yourself a suitable choice!