Beware the SamKnows WNR3500L v1 software: how to upgrade

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Cash's picture
Beware the SamKnows WNR3500L v1 software: how to upgrade

I bought a used WNR3500L N300 (a version-1) used recently. I spent most of today trying to upgrade it in every possible way short of hardware tinkering with no luck. Finally I thought to do a search on the exact firmware the thing was running, which ended in "SK".

Turns out "SK" stands for "SamKnows", some sort of monitoring scheme I want no part of.

If this is your firmware and you try to upgrade with almost anything, the upgrade fails with this message:

"Firmware upgrade failed. Please check your file."

Trying with tftp just results in timeouts.

There is a way to rescue your router from SamKnows:

It would have been nice, really nice, if the SamKnows people could have changed the error message to read something like "Your file is perfectly valid, but it isn't infected with our weird spyware, so you are SOL." But then, that would lead to less people just giving up and running the router with whatever version of SK firmware they got it with.





This is a mini-DDWRT. It installed with no problem, and now I'm going to flash the big version.

Boontonflyer's picture
I don't know where you bought

I don't know where you bought it but it's tehnically US GOV'T PROPERTY !! SamKnows/FCC project is an ongoing project to evaluate ISP performance in the US.

The router is the property of the US Government (via FCC) until the project was completed .

Project is scheduled to run ~~ another year or so.

This router (referred to as a "whitebox" has special firmaware embedded in it that tests services that ISP is providing on an hourly (sampling interval) basis.

Would suggest that you stop commenting about it on the internet. You may have some government people coming to your door !!!


Cash's picture
I bought it via Amazon. The

I bought it via Amazon. The seller seemed to be a sleazy character and earned a negative rating. The router came with the basic box and power supply but no stand and was poorly wrapped. The seller seemed to have no idea what he had when I told him about it being a Sam Knows router and asking about the stand, leading me to suspect that it might even be stolen.

It appeared to be a normal router, with nothing in the appearance or the software to indicate it was anything but a normal WNR 3500L, which led me to view the probably perfectly innocent Sam Knows project with suspicion when I discovered it. It would have been nice if they could have changed the case and the software to indicate it was not a normal router and spending hours trying to flash it with anything but Sam Knows images would be a waste of time.

manicsquirrel's picture
SamKnows is a project by the

SamKnows is a project by the FCC. Volunteers were solicited in areas all over the country to participate in a study that that monitored broadband performance of local ISPs. A special router was sent to all of the participants which would collect information and report back to the FCC. The purpose of this study was to determine broadband performance in the United States.

After the 12 months study, the FCC sent notifications to participants that the official study was now over and they were welcome to keep the router. Additionally, it was advised the router would continue to report statistics.

Each month, I get a report from the FCC/SamKnows, showing my daily available bandwidth (up and down) and any outages of my ISP.

However, lately, I've been having some issues with the wireless functions on the router and was looking for a newer firmware for the device. This is how I ran across this post.

It is my belief that there were many leftover routers with this firmware and that some vendors have acquired them or are reselling routers used in the test.

Thore's picture
Now I can understand someone

Now I can understand someone's reluctance to use a router that transmits data back a 3rd party but Samknows is a legitimate project. Although, I'm not sure how someone could sell this type of router since the end user would have their information transmitted without proper consent.

I find it funny because I'm also having issues after 3 years of usage and wanting to upgrade.