WRT54G2 Cisco Linksys wireless router randomly disconnecting clients. What should I do?
May 26, 2011 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My wireless router is driving me insane. After trying everything I know (changing wireless channels, upgrading the firmware) should I just give up, throw money at the problem and upgrade to what seems to be the top of the line?

My home wireless router randomly disconnects clients, and even though it keeps working normally, clients that are kicked out cannot reconnect unless the router is restarted. This is extremely annoying and has been going on for more than one year. I've tried everything that is recommended in this case, like changing the wireless channel, upgrading firmware, checking for interferences, but nothing seems to work. I think the problem is that I have too many clients connecting to the router at the same time (something like 7-10, between computers, smartphones and set-top boxes), even though nothing in the router documentation talks about a maximum number of clients.

So, I'm frustrated with this situation and willing to do what people do best when they're frustrated with electronics - buy a more expensive electronic. But I am wondering - will it solve the problem? I'm afraid to spend $150 on a new router and end up in the same situation. Is there anything else I should be trying? And would buying the new, top of the line router solve the problem?
posted by falameufilho to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend has this same router, and it (I assume that it's the culprit) kicks me off all the time--even if it's just me and/or one or two others connected--and I can't reconnect unless I either restart my computer or the router is restarted. Major pain in the ass. I have no idea what the cause is (just that it might not be a problem of too many people connected, as you suggest), and will be watching this with interest.
posted by phunniemee at 7:49 AM on May 26, 2011

I had a Linksys WRT54G. It sucked. Then I bought an Airport Express for $99. Not a single problem in two years.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It depends a bit on your Internet provider and setup? (Like, if you're using AT&T, the answer is definitely not Apple products, not that you're likely tempted by that.) And it's not necessarily a new router. From whom are you getting Internet?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:57 AM on May 26, 2011

7-10 should not be too many connections.

If your router can handle third-party firmware (I like Tomato--the description is pretty nerdy, but I have thrown it on a half-dozen routers in the last few years and then never had to touch them again) you might try it before you put down the cash for new hardware. There are a lot of different versions of the WRT54G so I'm not sure off the top of my head if it will work with yours; I have had a WRT54GL for years and it's flawless.
posted by bcwinters at 8:03 AM on May 26, 2011

I have two airport extremes (one older GigE model, one newer dual-band GigE model). No problems, really easy to setup with the OS X utility, including printer/drive sharing using the USB port. They just work.
posted by strange chain at 8:03 AM on May 26, 2011

I have a router from the same family that had the sane problem, even with Tomato or DD-WRT firmware. I turned off WPA security (replaced with with MAC address filtering), and the problem was gone. I can't explain why.
posted by exogenous at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2011

Try installing a third party firmware as suggested above -- either DD-WRT or Tomato.

Mostly because it's free and might work. If it doesn't work, go ahead and buy a new wireless N router.
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on May 26, 2011

I'm guessing you've also done a factory reset on the router? Failing that, give Tomato or DD-WRT a try.

I needed to do an unusual bit of routing with my WRT54GS a few years ago, and after spending days fiddling with the Linksys firmware, I installed Tomato, and had the thing working the way that I wanted in about 15 minutes. I haven't touched it since.
posted by schmod at 8:19 AM on May 26, 2011

This may not be a router issue.

I used to have a linksys router and my connection was always being disconnected. It wasn't because of the router itself, I traced it to the client software that was provided by linksys. What happens is that your computer believes the signal is not strong enough and keeps looking for a better signal. This is incredibly annoying.

I fixed the problem by removing the client software and sticking to the built-in Windows wireless connection manager.

This might not be your problem but do look at the whole picture rather than just focus on the router being the issue, (this is coming from the man that removed the starter motor from his car at the weekend only to discover that the problem was a flat battery).
posted by hudders at 8:19 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tomato. Works great, 1000% better admin interface than whatever it came with, and if you're going to throw it away anyways, it's definitely worth a try.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:50 AM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: This router was given to me by my cable company, so I'll probably have to return it to them, which makes me wary of installing tomato on it. So I guess anything that would void the router's warranty is not really an option at this point.
posted by falameufilho at 9:01 AM on May 26, 2011

Apple make the best wi-fi routers by a wide margin.
posted by w0mbat at 9:11 AM on May 26, 2011

If the router was "given" to you by your cable company, do you know if you're renting it from them? They tend to do that. It's generally much cheaper over the long term to buy your own router (and modem, but that's a separate issue).

I've been running DD-WRT on two WRT54GLs for years with no problems. The WRT54G2 is more limited in flash memory, but will still run one of the micro versions of DD-WRT, but apparently not Tomato.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:13 AM on May 26, 2011

Sounds like you got the router from your ISP. Have you talked to them about your unreliable service? They will probably be happy to swap it out. Then you can eliminate the router as a possibility (or confirm it).
posted by banshee at 9:42 AM on May 26, 2011

SO I knew people would show up and recommend Apple's Airport. I recent got an Airport Extreme and the RF performance on it is mediocre at best. It's reliable, it's pretty to look at and the setup utility is OK if you don't mind a thick client app versus a web based config. But the RF performance is decidedly meh. I get worse 2.4 GHz reception than I did with the stock 2wire unit I got from AT&T. Although so far it has been very reliable although not perfect. I'd recommend something with huge antennas which exist for a reason.
posted by GuyZero at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2011

I had Linksys routers forever, and they always sucked. Finally upgraded to an Apple Airport Extreme and not only can I now watch videos on YouTube in 1080p with no buffering (impossible to even attempt before), I get great quality on all my streaming. Life-changing.
posted by awesomebrad at 10:35 AM on May 26, 2011

I don't really have an answer but I'm curious what the clients are. What kind of computers/set top boxes/phones etc are you using? Are there devices that seem to have a worse time than others?
posted by zixyer at 10:35 AM on May 26, 2011

I also had the same kind of problems the the Linksys WRT54G. Then I bought a used Airport Extreme on Craigslist and all my connection problems ceased. Was easy to set up and not a single dropped connection since.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:42 AM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Zixyer, in my household there is 1 iPhone, 1 iPad, 1 iPod touch, 1 Lenovo Thinkpad, 1 Macbook, 1 Roku box, 1 Tivo and several Nokia smartphones. They are all randomly kicked out of the network at one moment or other. The laptops seem to be worse, but I *think* that perception is related to the fact that they're used more. Outside of that, it's all the same.
posted by falameufilho at 11:09 AM on May 26, 2011

Try assigning static IP addresses.
posted by PickeringPete at 12:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, you can totally get a great router for less than $150. Here's what's on sale at the moment.

Also, stop renting it from the cable company. The comcast modem/router combo that I used to have was simply dreadful in terms of performance, reliability, and what I was paying for it. It might take you a year or two, but you'll recoup the savings eventually. Other companies (ie. Verizon) do not charge you to rent the hardware. In fact, the standard Actiontec routers that Verizon supply to FiOS customers are pretty great.

I've used Apple's wireless access points. They're very stable, and you pay for it -- they're basically a cheaper, friendlier version of enterprise-grade APs that you'd buy from Cisco, 3Com, or HP, and are really great if you're trying to network a small office or school, but can't afford the enterprise-grade stuff. A bit better and more expensive than consumer-grade hardware, but still far cheaper than Cisco gear.

However, as others have mentioned, their actual RF performance is lacking. I own an 802.11g Airport Extreme, along with a WRT54GL, and the WRT54G blows it out of the water in terms of performance and range. The Airport Express is not meant to work beyond the room that it's located in -- it's got a *very* weak antenna.
posted by schmod at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2011

First, try static IP addresses (or DHCP-assigned static ones), and see if the situation improves. Be sure to keep a log of the machines, dates and times you noticed a drop has occurred.

You'll either find out the problem goes away, or that the problem isn't as bad as you think and you can live with it...or you can tell your ISP "of my x machines, y have been dropped randomly from the router over the last z days, I believe the router's bad -- can you send me a new one?" which is more likely to get traction than "it seems to drop connections randomly."


Apple make the best wi-fi routers by a wide margin.

[citation needed]

posted by davejay at 1:44 PM on May 26, 2011

Keep in mind that wireless G is faster than typical broadband connections, so an N router is overkill unless you're accessing a server on the local net for file sharing and what not.

The Asus WL-520gU router is inexpensive and reliable and runs tomato fine - I've setup a half dozen of these for friends & family.

Most of the online instructions for putting tomato on the WL-520gU are overly convoluted, involving flashing intermediate DD-WRT and other random unnecessary activities. It's really not that hard.

Beware of its little brother the Asus WL-520gC which is cheaper but won't load tomato.
posted by and for no one at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2011

I've never trusted the black-bodied WRTs too much. If I had to buy a router this instant I'd buy a WRT54GL without a second thought on another minute spent on research. There's a reason why the WRT54GL is a 46 time monthly Customer Choice award winner (including this and 11 of the last 12 months) on NewEgg.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:36 PM on May 26, 2011

Not that it's realistic for everyone, I retrofitted the house Cat5e, got a decent low end Dell 24-port gig manageable switch (2224? So IP phones can have their own VLAN and the servers can use FEC) and anything that doesn't walk around has a jack close. Oddly, I never have connectivity, or bandwidth, issue. WLAN is convenient, it is not consistently reliable.

Anything that doesn't really have "ephemeral" connectivity (which includes the HTPCs, HDTVs, Cable DVRs, Blue-Ray players, the Wii, alarm system, IP phones, desktops, servers) have either static configs or perm leases in DHCP. I think the only things on WLAN + dynamic DHCP are the iPhones, iPads, a Blackberry and one or two knockabout laptops and guest access. DHCP is convenient, it is not consistently reliable.

Oh...and anything that can uses 802.11a. That gets me out of the business of competing with my neighbors cordless phones and baby monitors. And at 54Mbps and up, streaming works fine. I find I don't have anything that can use 11n without purchasing additional hardware, and it's still far slower than a gig wired connection.
posted by kjs3 at 7:40 PM on May 26, 2011

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