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So... you bought a WGR614L or WGR614v8 router, or perhaps the WNR3500 Version L, U or 2 router. You've also been hearing a lot about this "firmware upgrade" and "DD-WRT" stuff but have no idea where to begin.
If you look around, you will see there are all kinds of firmware versions out there. Once in a while, you'll hear about people have upgraded to the wrong thing and it "bricked" their router. You hear that one firmware does one thing and another firmware does something different; some do it better while some others don't, and so on. It can be confusing and even a bit intimidating.
I'm here to show you how easy it can be to find the right firmware for your router, and also share some simple upgrading steps and best practices.
Rules for Basic Firmware Installation
First, there are some general rules that apply to both the WGR614 and WNR3500 routers when applying a new firmware. If you follow these steps, it will help to ensure a quality upgrade.
Always update via a wired connection. This eliminates the chance of errors. If you are running a computer that is both wired and wireless disable wireless. When completed you can turn it back on.
You always want to start with a clean slate when changing firmware. The best way to do this is to do a 30-30-30 reset.
To do a 30-30-30 reset, you must push the reset button with your router powered on. Hold it for 30 seconds with the router powered on. STILL holding it, pull the power cord for 30 seconds. Still holding it, plug the router back in and continue to hold the reset button for 30 more seconds. You will have held the button for a full 90 seconds without releasing it.
After your router has reset, wait a few minutes for everything to stabilize before installing the new firmware. Your router should now be using the address of 192.168.1.1. If it is not at this address, start over or read more on resetting your router here.
After flashing a new firmware to your router wait least for several minutes before doing anything with it. This gives it time to make sure all the NVRAM settings are configured. Then do a soft reset of the router by unplugging it for 30 seconds.
After flashing your router with new DD-WRT firmware go to 192.168.1.1 in your web browser. You should be met with a screen asking you to set your login and password. You know then that everything took.
Installing DD-WRT Firmware is a Two Step Process
This is where a lot of folks get confused. The factory NETGEAR firmware uses a filename that ends with the extension of .CHK, whereas the DD-WRT firmware's filename has an extension of .BIN. You can't simply use the NETGEAR GUI to install DD-WRT. It will say that it is not compatible.
So, what you have to do is install a temporary firmware that is created by the folks at DD-WRT. It comes with a filename with the extension of .CHK. You first install it from the NETGEAR Factory GUI then you install your permanent DD-WRT firmware afterwards.
This goes for both the WGR614 and the WNR3500. We will describe the individual files later in this article.
Where To Get the Right Firmware Files
DD-WRT is a free third party developed firmware that, basically, is built by volunteers. We host several firmware files for both the WGR614 and the WNR3500; you can find them via the "Downloads" tab at the top of every page for your convenience.
Note: Since they are constantly putting out new beta or test firmware, the downloads here may not be entirely up to date. It's always good to check the main repository first to verify that a new build was not just released.
The folks at DD-WRT have made it easy to determine what their latest recommended firmware is and what their latest test or beta versions are.
There is a router database located at http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/support/router-database All you have to do is simply type in the model of the router you have and you will get their latest recommended firmwares. These should not be confused with their latest beta or test builds you may have heard about; these are tried and true firmwares that you can install with confidence.
When in the router database, simply type in your router model and you will be shown what is available.
For example, on the WGR614:
As you can see it shows the various models and if they are supported. If you have a WGR614 V8 you will see that it is supported and if you click on it you will see their recommended firmware.
This makes it very easy to find the recommended firmware for your router.
Note: Some people warn that the Router Database my not be correct for their particular router. We have found that so far it has worked fine for both the WGR614 and the WNR3500.
How to find "BETA" or "Test" DD-WRT Firmware
It gets a lot more confusing if you want to find the latest firmware builds by the folks over at DD-WRT. They have created a download area here. This download area lists all the files they have created for public use and it is quite a big file list at this point!
Without going into alot of detail as to why, the files you would be looking for regarding the NETGEAR routers would be listed under http://www.dd-wrt.com/dd-wrtv2/down.php?path=downloads%2Fothers%2Feko/
Then, depending on who compiled the files, the ones you may be looking for would be under BrainSlayer-V24-preSP2 or possibly under V24-K26 or maybe even under V24_TNG. Hence why it gets so confusing. If you want to see a full explanation of the different file folders see here.
However, since this particular article isn't about how to get the latest beta or test firmware but rather, how to upgrade easily, we will stick with the basic install process. Once you have become familiar with DD-WRT then you can look into testing newer firmwares.
DD-WRT and WGR614 Models
You first need to check and see if your WGR614 router is the correct model to install DD-WRT onto. There are serveral models of the WGR614 routers. If you are not sure which one you have flip it over and take a look at the label.
As you can see this picture above is a Version 9 model.
At this time the only 2 WGR model versions able to use DD-WRT are the "L" version and the "8" version.
DD-WRT and WNR3500 Model Routers
With the WNR3500 it can get a little confusing on the model numbers. Before upgrading to DD-WRT you first need to determine which one you have.
Here are the various options.
WNR3500 V1 - Cannot install DD-WRT
WNR3500 "U" or "L" - Can install DD-WRT and has 8MB flash and has an USB port.
WNR3500 V2 - Can install DD-WRT, has a 4 MB flash and no USB port.
Its very important that you know which model number of router you have. For example you don't want to accidently brick your router by trying to install a firmware over 4MB on a V2 unit!
If you have a WGR614 Router go to Page 2 to see how to install DD-WRT if you have a WNR3500 click on page 3