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So you've gone and done it... you've bricked your WNR3500L. Nothing sinks the spirits like constantly flashing lights and endless reboot loops. However, don't lose hope or get frustrated - there's a solution to your woes, and it's called a serial console.
If you're familiar with Linux or have been a longtime Linux user, you're probably familiar with the concept. However, I'm guessing that lots of people - first timers - will be trying out Ubuntu's newest release of Linux, dubbed Lucid Lynx. If that describes you, and you're looking to recover your router on Ubuntu, you're in the right place.
- 1x Bricked WNR3500L
- Ethernet cable
- Ubuntu 10.04 PC/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 onto your Desktop or wherever you would like it to be located)
- 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: Install Minicom, TFTP, and the FTDI Libraries
Ubuntu 10.04 does not come with the software or drivers that you will need pre-installed, and as such, you'll have to install them yourself. Fortunately, with the Ubuntu Software Center, this is made quite simple. To begin, fire up the Software Center, accessible from the main toolbar.
I don't think the order in which you install these programs matters; I started with Minicom. Minicom is the program you will use to communicate with the WNR3500L over the serial cable interface. Simply type "minicom" into the search box as shown above, and install the minicom application by pressing the Install button.
Next, you can install TFTP, which is the program you will use to transfer the firmware file to the router once you are connected. The program you need to install is "tftpd"
Finally, you'll need to install the libraries for the serial cable itself. If you don't, Minicom will not be able to initialize the serial interface. To do this, type "FTDI" into the search box, and install the libraries shown above.
After completing all of these steps, I would recommend a system reboot.
Step 3: Give Your Computer a Static IP
Head over to Ubuntu's network connections panel via the toolbar.
In the dialog box that pops up, give yourself an IP address that ends in .2XX or something similar - as long as it doesn't end with .1. Enter "255.255.255.0" in the Netmask setting, and 192.168.1.1 as the gateway, then click Apply.
Step 4: Connect Router Via Ethernet
Note: Do NOT connect the power to the router just yet.
Connect the Ethernet cable you have in your possession to an orange port on the WNR3500L to the Ethernet port on your PC. Note that it must be an orange port, NOT the yellow port... it won't work otherwise. At least, it didn't for me.