What is wrong with my router?
August 13, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What is wrong with my Linksys WRT54G and how do I fix it?

TWC Roadrunner
Linksys WRT54G
Firmware v8.00.2
Mac OS X 10.6.8
Airport Extreme

Basically my internet is incredibly spotty and acting odd on my Mac Pro. Webpages load, albiet perhaps a bit slowly. Streaming video, however, forget about it. Buffering and freezing constantly. It seems to not be an issue on my iPhone and on my PC Netbook. I have 3 to 4 bars of airport service so it's not like the signal is super weak.

I think it is something in the WiFi link, because logging into the router itself through a browser doesn't always work, or the menus respond incredibly slowly, etc.

If I ping the router I get dropped packets and latency spikes like this:

64 bytes from icmp_seq=13 ttl=64 time=3.919 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=14 ttl=64 time=3.854 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=15 ttl=64 time=4.091 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=16 ttl=64 time=3.737 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=17 ttl=64 time=3.205 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=18 ttl=64 time=18.489 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=19 ttl=64 time=10.175 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=20 ttl=64 time=21.729 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=21 ttl=64 time=20.189 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=22 ttl=64 time=21.198 ms
Request timeout for icmp_seq 23
64 bytes from icmp_seq=24 ttl=64 time=8.500 ms
Request timeout for icmp_seq 25
Request timeout for icmp_seq 26
64 bytes from icmp_seq=27 ttl=64 time=6.969 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=28 ttl=64 time=37.156 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=29 ttl=64 time=435.191 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=30 ttl=64 time=108.551 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=31 ttl=64 time=474.257 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=32 ttl=64 time=129.100 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=33 ttl=64 time=1.716 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=34 ttl=64 time=13.231 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=35 ttl=64 time=3.813 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=36 ttl=64 time=3.046 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=37 ttl=64 time=4.556 ms

If I ping it on my Netbook I get the occasional spike up to 50ms or so but not the dropped packets. I'm assuming these dropped packets and spikes are what's causing me to notice the issues when I try to stream video on my Mac Pro. I've tried changing the wireless channel and sometimes that seems to work for a bit, but it always ends up shitty again. Same thing if I release and renew the DHCP connection, reboot the router, reset the router, etc.

I was thinking of buying an EnGenius wireless extender and hooking that up to the router and just bypassing it's wireless broadcast altogether but I wanted to see if anyone had any troubleshooting ideas that I could run through first.

I don't have the ability to connect the Mac Pro directly to the router, unfortunately.
posted by nathancaswell to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
Install the Tomato firmware on your Linksys. It will almost certainly fix the problem.
posted by killdevil at 7:25 AM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why do you have the Linksys and the Airport Extreme? Which one is serving your WIFI?
posted by reddot at 7:37 AM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: Airport Extreme is the card that's in the Mac Pro.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2011

Routers are disposable; the hardware regularly fails. I've used Linksys WRT54Gs for about 6 years now and they seem to last about 2 years before the hardware fails. Your inability to reliably ping the router itself via wifi even after changing configurations and rebooting and stuff says to me the router is dying. If it goes like my last 2 Linksys, it'll half-work like this for a few weeks until dying entirely.

The simple thing is just to get a new router. They're cheap. Don't frankenstein up something with a wireless extender. If you really don't want to replace the existing router, it may be that the only thing that's broken is the power transformer, not the router itself. You could start by replacing that.
posted by Nelson at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2011

Seriously slap Tomato firmware on it.
I have the same router, and use to have consistent problems if I wasn't right next to it.
I would have to reboot frequently and it was getting annoying.

It is a simple as loading a new firware on the router page (you know the whole

I've been running Tomato for years, never need a reboot. My signal is boosted to about 90mw (from ooriginally 42 IIRC), I have QOS setup to prioritize traffic.
It is a dream, and I don't think I could ever use a regular firmwared router, and in fact have stored a second backup I received for free in case this one bites the dust.
posted by handbanana at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: Seriously slap Tomato firmware on it.

I'm going to try the Tomato firmware as soon as I can get into my neighbor's to confirm that the router isn't a v5 or newer b/c the Tomato site says those won't take it (router is downstairs).

Routers are disposable; the hardware regularly fails.

The router is actually brand new, or at least new to us, my neighbor called TWC and complained and they brought out a new one a few weeks ago. The old one was doing the same shit.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2011

The Tomato firmware is fine, but depending on the vintage (hardware revision) of your WRT54G (only v1 to v4 directly supported), you might have to pick a version of Tomato that will fit within your available memory, and if you have a hardware revision that only has 4mb of memory, Tomato may not work for you. On preview, if you can't run Tomato because of memory limits, you might still be able to load a DD-WRT image with some non-essential features removed.

I'd still load the latest firmware revision from Linksys, use WPA2 security with a passphrase of 9 or 10 characters, and I would set the group key renegotiation time to some interval a longer than 3600 seconds (1 hour), unless you live in a very dense neighborhood. The long latency pings and lost pings are characteristic router behavior, viewed from the ping utility, when the router is trying to renegotiate a link with your machine; they're either due to intentional security keyphrase exchange re-negotiation, or happening as a result of the router thinking your connection is lost.

And if the router seems to be working normally with your netbook, and your iPhone, don't rule out this being a problem with your MacBook. Try disabling your internal WiFi, and using a USB WiFi stick, to trouble shoot.
posted by paulsc at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2011

I've had no hardware issues with my three WRT54-series routers and have found them reliable; as others suggest above, though, the stock firmware is a mess.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:12 AM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: The router is a WRT54G v8.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:25 AM on August 13, 2011

The old one was doing the same shit.

This makes me think you need to rule out a problem with the wireless card in your Mac. Check this out with a similar router elsewhere?
posted by zomg at 8:28 AM on August 13, 2011

You're getting wireless from your neighbor?

What's the signal strength like?
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2011

"... Firmware v8.00.2 ..."

Current firmware for v8.0 hardware is 8.00.8, dated 3/17/2010. Before you do anything else, download and update your router firmware.
posted by paulsc at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

"... I don't have the ability to connect the Mac Pro directly to the router, unfortunately."
posted by nathancaswell to computers & internet

You can update router software using your netbook, but you will have to have a wired connection to the router to update router software successfully.
posted by paulsc at 10:07 AM on August 13, 2011

I had a similar linksys that had a number of problems that were all solved by installing dd-wrt. Seriously - linksys used to be a decent brand maybe 10 years ago, but that is certainly not the case anymore.
posted by plinth at 4:58 PM on August 13, 2011

Throw the LinkSys in the trash and buy an Apple base station. Very much more stable, and it will do 802.11N at 300 megabit rather than 802.11G at 54 megabit.
Get the Airport Express if short of cash, otherwise get the Extreme, which does both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and which you can hang a cheap USB drive off for remote backup if you want.
posted by w0mbat at 7:15 PM on August 13, 2011

If I ping it on my Netbook I get the occasional spike up to 50ms or so but not the dropped packets. I'm assuming these dropped packets and spikes are what's causing me to notice the issues when I try to stream video on my Mac Pro.

This sounds like something more specific to the Mac Pro than the router. But you could try a few things on the router, such as changing the default channel for starters. The Mac might be much more sensitive to interference, so changing channels might help with signal reliability.

As for the Mac Pro itself, see if you can update the firmware on the Airport. Doing a quick search shows quite a few threads that you're not alone on Mac -> WRT connectivity issues.

Other things to try on the Mac:

1. Change the connection type from "Automatic" to a custom location under System Preferences -> Network

2. Try disabling IPv6 on the Mac

3. Try setting either the router or the Aiport card to use G only (thus avoiding 802.11b traffic which operates in the 2.4Ghz range)
posted by samsara at 7:17 PM on August 13, 2011

Prior to installing any 3rd party firmware on your Wrt54G (like tomato) you should insure that you have the most up to date firmware on the router. Use this page. Make sure that you know your model number that you can find at the bottom of the 54G (I've owned 2 of them).

So many times that is all that is needed.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:35 PM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: I installed the latest firmware, didn't fix it. Tried to install dd-wrt (admittedly after a few drinks), bricked it. So fuck it, time for a new router I guess.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:57 PM on August 14, 2011

Response by poster: The shocking conclusion: after bricking the Linksys (perhaps subconsciously), I dropped the cash for an Airport Extreme.

Pings to the new router dropped to under 1 ms with no packet loss.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:12 PM on August 15, 2011

Possibly due to the Airport defaulting to a different channel than the Linksys...but good to hear you're back up and running!
posted by samsara at 7:06 PM on August 15, 2011

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