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WiFi makes router halt <2 minutes after boot
October 26, 2008 8:00 AM   Subscribe

My Linksys WRT54G becomes unresponsive about 2 minutes after boot if the WiFi is on. This prevents Internet access even for wired clients. This does not happen if I quickly get into the router at boot and disable WiFi. Any ideas? Should I move to DD-WRT?

I've got a WRT54G that is fairly new (says V8.0 on the bottom, and I'm running the latest V8.0 firmware [8.00.5, IIRC]). Previously we had some WiFi connectivity issues within the apartment building, but moving from the swamped channel 6 to the empty channel 1 helped. We're still on channel 1, and no one else is (a few people are on 2, but they're low power enough that it shouldn't be a problem).

We are using WEP 128 and not broadcasting the SSID (Yes, I know, false security, but it keeps out casual attempts at access, which is all I want to deal with. In addition, we have some Nintendo DSes in the apartment, and they cannot do WPA). When the router gets into its halted state, NetStumbler can still see someone broadcasting on channel 1 with our router's MAC, but no one can connect. And, as I said, this kills wired connections too.

Currently my apartment is doing fine without our WiFi, but I'd like to untether my laptop ASAP!

So, restated more clearly and succinctly:
1) Is there a way to get this to work better with the stock firmware?
2) Should I try moving to dd-wrt, or another one — are they more reliable? A lot of the alternative firmwares do not seem to work with my V8.0, but dd-wrt says it will.
posted by Xoder to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I'm not sure different firmware will help. Your router sounds like it's either got a corrupted config or hardware.

Is it new? If so, return it. Sounds like a lemon.

If it's not new- what changed? Did you try doing a factory reset?
posted by mkultra at 8:13 AM on October 26, 2008

Alternate firmware is a good idea regardless in order to fix the problem caused by the way the stock firmware (on many Linksys models, anyway) handles purging old DNS entries. You can test alternate firmware without overwriting anything permanently: all you need to do is make sure to have a copy of the stock firmware from the Linksys website on hand and you can restore either via TFTP or from the web interface.

If DD-WRT is the only thing that will work on the newer hardware, then that's the way to go, but the flashing procedure can be more complicated than it is with other firmware because you typically have to flash to a "mini" firmware first with newer models.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2008

I had a WRT54G with the same problem. Apparently there was a whole run of them with faulty hardware. DD-WRT worked for me for a little bit, but soon failed just as bad. I'd say give it a shot, but you may just have to get a new router.
posted by fishmasta at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2008

Did you install the Windows-based "control panel"? I installed it on a desktop PC which is the least frequently used machine on my network . After some time, I noticed that the router would lose all connectivity after a few minutes when the control panel was on. If I disabled the control panel, or turn the PC off, the router is fine.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2008

Thanks all for the quick responses!

mkultra, it is not new. I got it 2nd hand from my brother. It worked fine for him and had provided good service for us for the past 9 months. Nothing has changed since I first set it up.

Thanks for the recommendation for DD-WRT's general stability, Inspector.Gaget, but I worry about fishmasta's retort. fishmasta, when did you buy this WRT54G? Do you remember the hardware revision?

DrJohnEvans, I did not install the windows-based "control panel" on any of my hosts. Thanks for the suggestion!
posted by Xoder at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2008

The WRT54G went a transformation in hardware, as you probably know. They cut RAM and Flash in half by switching to VxWorks. I guess the good news is that they've been bumping up the CPU speed.

So if you try, make sure to hunt down the "micro" versions of dd-wrt should you attempt it. You won't get a lot of the neat stuff like IPv6, SSH or XLink Kai.

Wikipedia suggests that your symptom isn't rare:

Some performance issues have been encountered with the Linksys firmware which may cause sluggish or total network failure. This is usually caused by a large number of connections clogging the router.[25] Installing a third party firmware and increasing the maximum ports setting to allow more connections is the usual solution (in DD-WRT found under Administration->Management->Maximum Ports).
posted by pwnguin at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2008

The stock firmware might be overwhelmed by a high number of connections, but it shouldn't be that quick. I'd watch the wifi light once you plug it in until it dies, & watch for the high speed flicker of p2p.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2008

Pronoiac, we have at least 7 hosts (7 people), at least 4 of which use a good amount of P2P (3 media addicts, and one WoW player). Sounds like DD-WRT is the place to go for increased connection performance. We've killed other routers in the past!
posted by Xoder at 3:08 PM on October 26, 2008

You might be able to raise the maximum connections with the stock firmware.

It might be helpful to get the P2P users to throttle their uploads to some fraction of the maximum: I don't know how WoW acts, but I've had P2P-using roommates who could keep me from listening to streaming audio or even watching Youtube videos. Not that P2P is bad, but the default is often "go for broke & swamp the connection," which is not good for your roommates. That would only get worse with more roommates doing the same thing.

If you put on DD-WRT, you can set up QOS rules so that the P2P stuff doesn't kill the entire connection, which doesn't even require cooperation from roommates. I happily recommend this.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:41 PM on October 26, 2008

No joke... try a different channel. I've had this happen on 3 wrt54gs.

I like channel 11.

It's free and takes about 30 seconds, what do you have to lose?
posted by Jfalways at 6:35 PM on October 26, 2008

I have DD-WRT on my router - it is rock solid with torrents ect and I love it. However it was a pain to flash.
posted by laukf at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2008

Jfalways, as much as I was looking for an excuse to flash over DD-WRT, changing to Channel 11 succeeded! We're guessing a neighbor just got a 2.4GHz cordless phone or something.
posted by Xoder at 5:32 AM on October 28, 2008

cool! Glad to know (months later) that it worked.
posted by Jfalways at 8:32 PM on April 10, 2009

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