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Mac users are often no strangers to playing around with Terminal windows and custom software. Although Mac OS X isn't open source, it's built upon BSD and Unix, and thus can be used to recover your WNR3500L in case something goes wrong... with the aid of the Developer tools and some third party open source packages.
Frankly, even for a Mac nerd like myself, it took quite a while of digging around on multiple articles, sites, and forums to find a combined solution for recovering a bricked WNR3500L - but I have managed to complete it successfully. Apple fans, rejoice that you can save yourself hours of Internet searching with my easy-to-follow tutorial!
Note that several of the steps in this tutorial are identical to those contained within the Windows tutorial. I am repeating them here as many users may not be interested in reading the Windows-specific article.
- 1x Bricked WNR3500L
- OS X Installation CD's or DVD
- Ethernet cable
- Mac Desktop or Laptop
- Teeny tiny screwdriver or similar implement
- Electrical tape (Optional, but recommended)
- USB-TTL Cable from FTDI. You can purchase one of these from Mouser Electronics. Ensure that you have model TTL-232R-3V3 specifically, or you can fry your router! See photo above.
- Torx T6 or T7 screwdriver
- Thin flathead screwdriver (Optional, but recommended)
- NETGEAR Original Firmware for the WNR3500L (Download from here and put into your C: drive).
- Patience. Some of these steps may take multiple attempts.
Step 1: Crack Open the Router
Well, don't literally crack it, unless you want a broken router! It's pretty easy to open, but be careful. Use the Torx screwdriver to remove the two screws on the bottom of the unit first.
Now, you will have to unsnap the case from the router. In the photo, look closely at the router's casing. You may be able to see the tabs on the left and right side. The panel you need to remove is the "top" panel - look at the back of the router and turn it so the text is right side up. The top panel, when the router is situated this way, is the one you should need to remove. Gently put your screwdriver (preferably flathead) in the seam and disconnect these tabs. Once you are able to slide the case off, put the router aside for now.
Note: The first time removing it, I needed the screwdriver to pry it loose, but on subsequent tries I discovered that the case "slides" and snaps into place. Try various methods to find what works best for you. You may not need an implement to unsnap the tabs at all, if you're lucky!
Step 2: Download the Cable Drivers and Install
Mac OS X has its own set of drivers for the USB-TTL cable, which you will need to download from here.
Once you unzip the file, ensure that you install the correct package for your version of Mac OS X, or your machine might implode, creating a supermassive black hole and rendering your feeble attempt at debricking your WNR3500L impossible.
Seriously, it might not work if you install the wrong one. When you're finished, a reboot is recommended.
Step 3: Modify the USB-TTL Cable for Use with WNR3500L
The bad news: you can't use the USB-TTL cable as-is.
The good news: Modifying it is super simple, no soldering needed.
It looks tempting just to plug the connector of that fancy serial cable you have there, doesn't it? The pin-out on the board looks like an exact fit. However, only three of the leads from the USB-TTL cable are needed, and simply plugging the whole thing in just doesn't work at all.
Take a look at the photo above. See how each of the leads is covered by a small plastic tab? Bust out your tiny screwdriver or whatever it is that you have that's tiny, and pry off the tabs on the black, yellow, and orange leads only. If you choose to remove all six, you will need to wrap up the unused leads in electrical tape to avoid shorting anything out. I just left the unused leads inside the plastic harness as shown above. Once you pry the tabs off, the leads that you will use slip out easily.