DD-WRT is a fantastic piece of software that will allow you to unlock the power of your home router. Essentially, it is a type of firmware that you can use to replace the original one on the router. The problem with the original firmware on many systems is that it is often watered down and lacks advanced features.
Please understand, however, that you need to be computer-literate to successfully install and configure the software. At one point in the install procedure, if you fail to follow the steps appropriately you can permanently break your router and be aware that many manufacturers void their warranty if you install after-market software. If you don’t feel comfortable with technology, you may well be better off just purchasing a router that already has DD-WRT installed.
Features and Benefits of DD-WRT
DD-WRT has a ton of software features that aren’t usually found in the original firmware on a new router. By flashing your router’s firmware, you can gain the following benefits (among many, many others):
- Offload VPN demands onto your network device instead of your local machine, thereby saving hardware resources and improving the speed of your VPN connection
- Enhanced security using encryption technologies
- Local network features such as NAS, printer sharing, and remote file sharing
- The ability to configure a VPN to your home network so you can securely reach files and media no matter where you are
- Unblock websites for your entire local network
If you already have DD-WRT installed, or looking for additional guides, see also:
- How-to Setup your DD-WRT Router as a Wi-Fi Repeater
- How-to Share your Printer on DD-WRT
- How-to Setup a VPN Server on DD-WRT
- How-to use a DD-WRT Router as a NAS Storage Device
- How-to use DD-WRT for FTP Backups
There are several things you are going to need before you begin the installation and configuration process. First of all, you are going to need a router that is capable of running the DD-WRT software. Not every router has this capability, so check the list of capable routers before you begin. In addition, if you use or are planning on using OpenVPN, you will want to have at least 8 megabytes of RAM. You should also be prepared with your router manual and an Ethernet cable. During the configuration process, you will want to have your VPN credentials handy as well.
The Installation Process
- If you haven’t already, double check that your router is capable of running the software. If you don’t see your router on the list of DD-WRT capable models, you will need to get a different router to run DD-WRT.
- Find the DD-WRT .bin installation file in the database and download it, then select the appropriate file. One is named “factory to DD-WRT,” which is what you will need if your router is still running the original firmware.
- Perform what’s called a 30/30/30 reset on your router. You will need to push and hold the reset button on your router for 90 seconds in total. After the first 30 seconds, unplug your router’s power cable (while still keeping the reset button pressed). Wait for 30 seconds. Then, while still having the reset button pressed and held, plug the power cable back in and wait for 30 more seconds before finally letting go of the reset button.
- Connect your computer to your router via the Ethernet cable.
- Open the web interface of your router by typing its IP address into the URL bar. If you don’t know its IP address, they are usually set to 192.168.1.1, but you should consult your router manual.
- Find the configuration page of your router that allows you to upgrade your firmware. This is usually subsection of a tab or menu link named System Tools.
- Browse to the “factory to DD-WRT” file that you had downloaded earlier and select it for installation. Wait until the process has completed and your router has rebooted.
- Perform another 30/30/30 reset.
- Pull up the web interface of your router by entering 192.168.1.1 into your web browser and login with a username of admin and a password of admin. By now, the software has been successfully installed, though you should note that the default wireless network is not secured.
There are basically two ways that can configure a VPN on your new router: with the GUI or with the command line. It is pretty common for VPN service providres to give their customers an OpenVPN configuration file, so that is what we will configure in this process.
- Login to your DD-WRT router and browse to Services and then VPN. From here, enable the OpenVPN client.
- Open you .ovpn file in your favorite text editor – we are going to need to copy information from this file into the GUI.
- Now we will need to copy information from the text file to the GUI as follows:
- In the GUI’s Server IP or Name text field, paste the information from your text file. It will follow the format of provider.com xxxx. The xxxx indicates the required port.
- In the GUI’s TLS AUTH KEY text field, copy and paste the text between the <tls-auth> and </tls-auth> tags.
- In the GUI’s CA Cert field, copy and paste the text between the <ca> and </ca> tags.
- In the GUI’s Public Client Cert field, copy and paste the information between the <cert> and </cert> tags.
- In the GUI’s Private Client Key field, copy and paste the text between the <key> and </key> tags.
- Be sure to click the save button first, and then apply the settings.
- Now you will want to double check that your service is running correctly. Browse to Status and the OpenVPN. You should see a ton of logging messages, but if you don’t you may have either not enabled or properly copied and pasted the information into the GUI.
Using the Command Line to Configure A VPN
Using this method, you are essentially going to bypass the GUI and enter configuration commands directly into your router using text. Unfortunately, you will need to reboot your router a few times when you use this method. However, using the command line does give you a little more flexibility when you want to change your connection to a new server location.
- Locate the configuration file from your provider (you will likely need to visit their site and download it).
- Login to your router and browse to Administration and then Commands. Now copy and paste the configuration commands into the command window and enter your username and password. Be certain you click “Save Startup.”
- Now you will need to reboot your router, which may feel a little tedious.
- Return to the command window after logging into your router again and type the following to start the VPN service:
- /tmp/ibvpn/vpn start xxx.yyy.zzz.aaa
The xxx.yyy.zzz.aaa parameter is the IP address of the server you are trying to connect to.
- Press the Run Command and you should be able to connect to your provider’s server now. However, note that the code you run will be different based on the VPN provider you are using.
- If you want to stop the service via the command option, simply enter the following command:
- /tmp/ibvpn/vpn stop
Removing the DD-WRT Software
If at any point you want to revert back to your router’s original software (which is unlikely), it’s not too hard to do.
- The first thing you need to do is locate and download the original firmware for your model of router. They are usually compressed, so you will need to unzip the file before you can proceed.
- Perform another 30/30/30 reset on your router.
- Connect your computer to your router with an Ethernet cable.
- Pull up the web interface by typing the IP address of your router into your web browser.
- Select “reset to default settings,” browse to the file location where you stored the original firmware, and upload it to your router.
- Click the Upgrade button and wait for the process to complete. Please note that each model of router is different so they may require slightly different procedures. As such, you may need to research how to perform this operation on your specific router model.
It is pretty straightforward to upgrade your router to DD-WRT and to revert back to its original firmware. Even if you aren’t especially technically savvy, the procedure is relatively basic and painless. Just know that installing the software and configuring a VPN is only the tip of the iceberg – this software is loaded with tons of cool and valuable features that usually surpass any original router firmware.