Networking

Cracking open the Linksys WRT54G wireless router

The Linksys WRT54G - Bottom

Cisco attaches model and serial number information on the WRT54G's bottom-side.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

38 comments
pompchas
pompchas

What is the longevity of the WRT54G? I alway put my cable modem in standby when not in use but I'm not aware of any option on this router for this. I could just unplug it but dont want to mess up the config, Any sugestions

captxunderpants
captxunderpants

Article said "cracking" open, but was really pictures of carefully unscrewed and removed parts. I was sort hoping with for a hammer and seeing the insides of this device sprayed all over the workbench.

garen_evans2
garen_evans2

Ok, this is a silly question. I can log in and check my firmware version, but without opening the case, how do I find the hardware version of my WRT54G?

WKL
WKL

The backplane transformer modules you circled in red aren't actually "microchips" involved in the unit's firewall or router. They just provide galvanic isolation of the unit's internal circuitry from the outside world.

putergurl
putergurl

Why not a view of the bottom of the PCB? Those wire runs are exciting to some of us! http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=195 The above URL points out just one web site that explains a bit about the true cause of the leaky, rounded top capacitors the article mentioned. A web search for 'leaky capacitors' will yield further results. It boils down to faulty electrolyte in the capacitors due to some industrial espionage gone wrong. Power surges don't cause this sort of thing, their effects are typically more dramatic!

karsten.breivik
karsten.breivik

The asus wl-500g, wl-500gP and family are also broadcom based (as are routers from several of the vendors). in addition the Asus routers have USB 2.0 ports for peripherals, and use miniPCI sockets for the transmittors, thus supporting upgrade of the radio module from the broadcom to an atheros chip based radio. The Linksys versions running linux are branded wrt54GL. Other nice firmwares out there are OpenWRT, Tomato, Sveasoft and of course as mentioned dd-wrt. In my opinion, the OpenWRT is the most exciting since they are freeing themselves from the nvram config and using regular *nix based /etc/config files. They also have both 2.4 and 2.6 linux kernels working for the device, but with no radio support as yet for the 2.6 kernel. In addition there are supposedly Debian versions available so that you can do a basic install and then add packages up to a full debian install depending on the disk space you have available attached to your device. A bit surprised that vxWorks gets that much discredit. As far as I can understand, it is based on FreeBSD, which in my experience is one of the most stable unix distributions out there. But then again I have never tried the vxWorks based firmwares for myself. Flashing them are really easy - typically a matter of entering some upgrade mode by pressing in a button in the back while booting, open a console in windows and do tftp -i 192.168.1.1 , waiting for up to six minutes to let the firware copy from RAM to flash and then hardbooting the device. Notice, that when you enter upgrade mode, the devices typically reverts their IP addresses to the default - typically 192.168.1.1 regardless of the previous address. Also, if you brick the router there is usually information on openwrt.org to get you back up and running again. Also have a look at adding external antennas. You can get reasonably priced Yagis or make them yourself.

byoung
byoung

If I am not mistaken, the wrt54g actually had a pinout and a hole in the front panel for placing one or more ports in DMZ.. [*edit- I see the pushbutton for Safe Easy Setup, but also see even more empty pinouts.. maybe I am just crazy] And another rumor that at least one version/revision of the wondrously dependable router could actually support a linux install? I could die happy and smiling if only I could run ipCop from a linksys.

WKL
WKL

of extreme burnout. It's OK, I feel like taking a sledgehammer to a lot of this stuff all the time....

tbmmem
tbmmem

Hmmm, Lots of RF noise from the Linksys wall-wart. Very light weight, no transformer inside! Wound ferrite on in and out cables. Also, Must wait 30 seconds after removing power to assure a reset. I bought a second unit before discovering this.

noorman
noorman

Indeed; the signs on them indicate a transformer unit. [ It is a so-called 'passive' electronics component. 'Active' components are the semiconductors, like diodes and transistors ... ] They are there for isolation purposes, as stated. It can be seen as a sign of product quality that they are there, but they are widely used; they can be found on NICs too. (same goes for switches and hubs, of course). .

animoid
animoid

What you can do is carefully peel off the top of the cap and replace the electrolyte yourself. A tiny drop of distilled water will do. Then seal the caps. A drop of wax from a candle will do this effectively.

nboehme
nboehme

I have just recently had two older models (wireless b) of this router fail due to bad caps in the wall wart adapter that powers them. The rounded top was evident on the caps and replacing them got the router up and running. (It was hardly worth it though).

noorman
noorman

This started in 2000, or even before. Meanwhile, millions of motherboards and other electronic boards have suffered from the 'bulging & leaking' caps (capacitors). And it 's, indeed, a bad electrolyte recipe that 's the cause of it all. It 's linked to certain makes; http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=5878 http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=9423 http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=25837 Here is a specific website on the subject: http://www.badcaps.net/ .

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

I've seen quite a number of rounded caps lately, especially on PCs. It seems that a few motherboard manufacturers have used this company that was involved in the industrial espionage, and got the recipe for the electrolyte wrong. Needless to say, when I call the support line for any given manufacturer, and inform them of the defective capacitors, they have been quite up front, and have replaced the boards even when they are slightly out of warranty. This has just been my experience with this issue. YMMV.

aquilant
aquilant

I have tried and tried to connect remotely through my cable router to my Linksys WRT54G to no avail. Of course I spoke to the Linksys help desk, and they are worthless. They suggested something I already used, which was DynDNS. I found DynDNS was spamming email through my connection. I was actually, for about a half hour shut off my internet connection. Is there a simple no nonsense way of connecting using both the WRT54G and my modem? Now I have to get my IP address, after I disconnet the WRT54G from the modem every morning to make sure I can RDP into my system. Thanks!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Been using it for a month now and it's freaking great. There's no new firmware for my wrt54gs so I went with something else. OpenWRT started as a project for Linksys hardware specifically but has branched out to support a bunch of other routers. I'll be putting it on my DLink also as soon as they mark it out of testing on my model.

jimrinflorida
jimrinflorida

Within the last 6 months I have seen alot of failures with this product. The WRT54G - the new Wireless N model. Alot of people are seeing wireless networks than stop being broadcast with the wireless indicator off. These units are on battery backups, direct to the wall, or thru surge protectors so I can't see power supply as a problem. Many more seem to lose internet connectivity even after resetting modems and routers. They just seem to stop working. Has anyone else noticed more frequent failures lately?

scrantic
scrantic

The current versions of the linksys wrt54g do not as easily support the Linux firmware for simplicity you need to get the wrt54gl to support linux firmware's easily. www.dd-wrt.com is a good example of some linux firmware for the linux proudct line. Ads a whole wack of features and stability with talk of having asterix pbx running on them.

mrgigo
mrgigo

The WRT54G V1 - V4 all sport 16Mb Ram with a 4Mb flash. All will run Linux. Versions 5,5.1,6,7 have been butchered down to 8Mb of ram and 2mb of flash and will only run VxWorks. They're junk. The WRT54GL v1 and v1.1 will run Linux and sports 16Mb Ram and 4Mb Flash. The real gems are the WRT54GS. Versions 1 - 3 Sports 32mb ram and 8mb flash. Version 4 has 16mb ram and 4mb flash. They run Linus nicely. However, the WRT54GS v5,v5.1, and v6 have 16mb ram and only 2mb of flash. They are pretty much stuck running VxWorks. The sweetest is the new WRTSL54GS V1.0 This puppy has the 266Mhz CPU, 32Mb ram, 8mb flash, and supports USB drives. This opens up huge options for running web/db services on the box, self contained.

Ontario Canada
Ontario Canada

Reading WKL's post made me want to ask the now old question: "are there any reliable wireless or wired routers out there?". We've stopped using Linksys because of routers (wired and wireless) that frequently quit working and need a reboot. Netgear seems to be more reliable, but they aren't perfect either. I thought Cisco would be a good choice for those who can justify the expense, but I have had issues with them as well. We have also tried SMC, D-Link, TrendNet (which I think are just rebranded Netgears). With all brands, I can think of one or two installations that have worked flawlessly for years with no reboots but inexplicably have had other installations that are problematic. Netgear has had a higher proportion of units that work.

WKL
WKL

The Linksys wall warts are actually unshielded switching power supplies with no ventilation, rated at 5 volts at 2 amps. I've had a number of cases where their wireless routers and APs would start acting erratically, only to be traced to the defective switching supply. But they do actually have a small transformer as do most switching supplies.

cgoodwin73
cgoodwin73

Good info, I'll follow the links - I will say, though, that in large deployments, I'm seeing the units lock or default programming across multiple buildings in the complex, indicative of power issues. We've had very few dead units out of the ~40 deployed here across 14 buildings. Thanx! xdevilsownx

noorman
noorman

. Arcon ?? Canicon - http://www.canicon.com.tw/ Capxon - http://www.capxon.com.tw/ Chhsi - http://www.chhsi.com.tw (inactive site) Choyo CTC DST Fuh Yin - http://www.fuhyin.com.tw/ Fuhjyyu - http://www.fuhjyyu.com.tw/ Fujitsu (FPCAP) - http://edevice.fujitsu.com/fmd/en/products/fpcap/ (mixed results. can fail or be ok) Gloria - http://www.gloria-cap.com.tw/ (inactive site) G-Luxon - http://group.luxon.com.tw/ GL ?? Gsc - http://www.gsc-cap.com.tw/ Hec Hermei - http://www.hermei.com.tw I.Q. Jackcon - http://www.jackcon.com.tw/ JDEC Jee Jpcon - http://www.jpcon.com/ Jun Fu - http://www.jun-fu.com/ Lelon - http://www.lelon.com.tw/ Licon Nkcon Nrsy - These are phony Nippon caps so no site. Ost - http://www.ost.com.tw Partsnic - http://www.partsnic.com/ Pce-tur Raycon Rubysun (Shenzen Eagle New Technology Electrical Industry Co. Ltd.) - http://www.ygxkjdz.com/ Rulycon - These are phony Rubycon caps so no site. Skywell - http://www.skywellnet.com/ Stone - http://www.ystone.com.tw/ (not sure if this is the right one) Supacon Su'scon - http://www.su-scon.com.tw/ Taicon - http://www.taicon.com.tw/ (2 reports of fails only but not very commmon to see these caps on motherboards) Tayeh Teapo - http://www.teapo.com.tw/ Tocon - http://www.tocon.com.tw/ Wendell - http://www.wendell.com.tw/ Yec - http://www.yec.com.tw http://www.ylcorp.com.tw/ (neither working) .

ray.buczynski
ray.buczynski

I am also experiencing connectivity problems - sometimes failing 5-6 times/day. I do not have wireless enabled. I was ready to give my ISP a blast but they had a answer for me - get a new router. I'll try the firmware update tonite. It's never been updated in the 7-8 months I've owned it. Thanks everyone.

Handtech TC 92119
Handtech TC 92119

Hi Jim, I can't speak to your point directly without knowing a specific model and version number, but perhaps a firmware upgrade would take care of the trouble? I have a few clients that have the version 5 of the wrt54g and that model failed alot after it's release. But in February I think it was, Linksys updated the firmware for it, and on the routers that I put the new firmware on it seems to have solved the problems (fingers crossed). I'd check the linksys support section of their site and see what sort of updates are available.

cgoodwin73
cgoodwin73

I've used all flavors of the WRT54G in commercial and residential deployments: v1 - v4 are Linux, and suitable to flash with DD-WRT, etc., if I recall correctly. v5 isn't Linux at all (Vware??), and the unit has less processing power, if I recall correctly. Flashing the hacked firmware is a *major* pain due to instability. The GL series is a re-release of the last Linux version, the v4. Back by popular demand of the firmware hackers. Don't expect much from even hacked firmware - while the programming is impressive, the hardware is not. I've found them even more susceptible to locking and defaulting than the Linksys firmware, which is the most unstable I've seen. If you need an economic but powerful solution, buy a WRAP board, flash it with PFSense, and buy the Atheros-based card of your choice. ~$150, you've got an enterprise-grade unit. Otherwise, buy a Netgear WAP and love it for a couple of years with no lock-ups. My $29.99 unit has been the gateway for a major resort wifi network for a year without a single lock-up. I replaced a failed Linksys with it, snatching it out of my house one Sunday morning to get the customer back up. xdevilsownx

riverofcode
riverofcode

Actually I have a v5 that has been running the "micro" version of DD-WRT for a few months. Very stable but not quite all the cool features of the full dd-wrt for those with more ram. It still has more functions than the Linksys FW that it was running. I especially like being able to turn up the transmit power a bit.

llgingras
llgingras

I've had my unit for f6 yrs now and have never had a problem. I'm just going to update my firmware tonight since I have never taken the time to do it. I hope once I do I don't run into trouble. thx lg

karsten.breivik
karsten.breivik

no sweat. use tftp method as described in the doc. email me if you have problems installing. karsten.breivik at edb.com

Ontario Canada
Ontario Canada

Thanks for the information Karsten, I will grab one of those units and give them a try.

karsten.breivik
karsten.breivik

Have had very fine experience with SMC unmanaged switches. No downtime for for two years on any of the 15 or so I have. 3Com needs a boot every month and starts jamming the netw in hetereogenous environments so they are banned as far as I am concerned. Have had varying experience with D-link. As for wireless, it seems most of the devices out there uses broadcom based boards and transmitters, so they are really alike. Some use Texas Instruments and other boards. Some use Atheros based transmitters. Almost no one use Intel based transmitters. Anyway - most of the problems and hickups are caused by software errors. I had the same experience as you did with linksys gear - their products could best be described as shit on toast, so I turned to Asus. Had some problems with them as well. Anyway, I have been testing out various firmwares, and the openWRT firmware is second by far the best stabilitywise. DD-WRT is the best for ease of use. They fit most Broadcom based routers, including Asus and Linksys. However, I coose to stay with Asus since they are generous with onboard RAM and Flash in their products as opposed to Linksys who actually make their products worse by redusing the RAM and Flash for every version of their WRT54G. The only usable Linksys version is WRT54GL which have more Flash and RAM. If your main concern is stability, give OpenWRT a go. Use Kamikaze version based on linux kernel 2.4 for the newest, most modern router OS on the planet. Use White Russian version if you need too use the web GUI for configuration. Do not use Kamikaze version 2.6 since broadcom does not yet ship drivers for the 2.6 kernel - however, if you replace the onboard broadcom transmitter with an Atheros on, you can use the madwifi drivers for it. If you are really die-hard, go to routerboard.com and have a look at their custom wireless platforms :-)

jimrinflorida
jimrinflorida

My version 6 routers are doing the same thing. They stop broadcasting the wireless after months of working fine. It seems to be migrating to ver5 as well as I have seen 3 of those fail recently. All these routers are using WEP security with the latest firmware. I'm going to track this now. It scares me that I have seen 2 Wireless N routers fail already.

enriquechristian
enriquechristian

I bought a WRT54G Linksys router version 1 and from the very beginning it was giving me problems when trying to save the settings. I contacted Linksys Tech. Support and updated the firmware and it kind of worked for a while. Finally it stopped working and again back to Tech. Support, this time there was nothing they could do that made it work so they decided to replace it. I received a WRT54G version 6. This one in addition to having problems when saving the settings stopped broadcasting the wireless signal after I tried to set some basic security (WEP). The best of all is that the technical representative kept telling me that it was my firewall stopping it from broadcasting. I believe a firewall can prevent a file and printer sharing connection; or even a connection to the internet, but not to be able to "see" the signal. Specially when I was able to see the signals from two other nearby routers. To add agravation to this the technical representative said my router was performing to their standards (I now understand the Linksys standards are no connectivity at all) and she did not want to replace the new one. All of this took me three hours and I got very upset. After that I realized it will be a waste of my time and money (you have to pay shipping it back to them) to call again and try to get it replaced and I decided to purchase a D-Link that according to the specs seems to have a wider range (rangebooster) and more economical. I sicerely had a very bad experience with Linksys and will not buy their equipment again. My only concern is if the new D-Link WBR-2310 router will let me run Linux (I am planning to install Freespire in the very close range)

jimrinflorida
jimrinflorida

These are all customers of mine and the ones I find that quit are usually updated to the newest firmware already. Even pushing the reset button properly wont fix them. It just seems like a rash of Linksys routers have failed lately.

thfonz
thfonz

Yes there is an update tool that allows you to update the firmware of the router without going through the password phase. It works very well. You will have to call the Lynksys tech support and ask for it. It is 4 mgb. It uploaded the new firmware for mine and has worked fine since. I have the wrt45gs.

wratholix
wratholix

It makes these WRT54G popular routers, i got a few of them and who could have ever imagined this much change was possible from just a flash. Infact it is amazing, with DD-WRT this makes for one of the best wifi/routers to ever hit the market.

richard.allen
richard.allen

We have installed nearly 50 Linksys routers with DD-WRT (V3, V4 and V5) and have them operating in routed wireless enviroment with fail-over routing--essentially meshing the routers. Works great!

mellsworth
mellsworth

I also have a V5 and DD-WRT micro is 1000% better than the crap Linksys supported. I have now upgraded 20 routers with it and remotely manage nearly all of my families internet remotely. It routes 20-50% faster and handles from tens to hundreds of connections before locking up to thousands of connecitons (BT, P2P etc) And to Boot a QOS that actually works.