Introduction to DD-WRT and whether you need it

Anton P. | August 25, 2021

DD-WRT is an alternative firmware you can supercharge routers with for increased functionality. In other words, it is a feature-packed, open-source project, giving netizens a chance to replace the standard router firmware. Of course, not all netizens need to consider third-party firmware. However, networking enthusiasts can undoubtedly benefit from DD-WRT in terms of performance and security. So, let’s find out when this particular firmware is a viable choice for your router.

What is DD-WRT?

DD-WRT is a Linux-based firmware designed for wireless routers. It is one of the many third-party firmware options available like FreshTomato or OpenWrt. However, DD-WRT is widely popular due to its supportability and feature-packed setup. The chances are that your modern router will be able to run it.

Although DD-WRT firmware extends routers’ functionalities, the boosted control is not as fine-grained. However, its proper configuration does require some technical expertise. In fact, you should install third-party firmware only if you can implement it confidently. To the very least, the tweaking of your factory firmware should already come naturally before the DD-WRT setup.

Typically, users replace the routers’ factory firmware because they feel unsatisfied or limited by it. DD-WRT is a possible replacement, and you might consider it in these scenarios:

  • Unprecedented or long-lived issues with your router. Third-party firmware might fix specific issues hindering your routers’ performance.
  • Routers’ manufacturers no longer release updates. Some providers might abandon certain models and provide no support or maintenance.
  • The current firmware does not have the features you need. Routers might not perform certain tasks. Functionality-wise, factory firmware will be unique for different router models.

Dangers to know before installing DD-WRT

Perfect is the enemy of good. Let’s say that you feel perfectly content with your router and its factory firmware. You might consider tweaking it even though this setup satisfies you.

Yes, correctly installed DD-WRT or other third-party firmware can indeed yield impressive results. However, there is no guarantee that the process will go smoothly. For instance, your router might malfunction or stop working outright. Thus, here are some of the repercussions that you should recognize beforehand:

  • Third-party firmware could void the manufacturers’ warranty. After installing DD-WRT or other firmware, your provider might refuse to honor the terms of your warranty.
  • You might permanently damage your router. If something goes wrong, you might no longer be able to use the router.
  • You might choose unreliable third-party firmware. Creators of DD-WRT maintain the project and polish it regularly. However, not all firmware examples get the same degree of support. Installing neglected firmware from a shady source can be a major security risk.

Thus, before you decide to embrace a DD-WRT router as your own, ensure that you have the necessary technical background. Additionally, find out whether the firmware changes will not repeal your warranty. Lastly, pick third-party firmware that you can trust (well-received and from a reputable source).

Benefits of DD-WRT: why is it worth it?

Installing DD-WRT can be a high-risk, high-reward investment. You already know about the dangers that may discourage you. However, DD-WRT can give your router the edge to achieve more:

  • Improved bandwidth prioritization. DD-WRT gives you more control over your connection. In this example, we refer to the option for prioritizing specific traffic above others. You can achieve this via Quality of Service (QoS). In other words, it allows you to dedicate more bandwidth to certain devices. For instance, it might be a turning point for your gaming if you prioritize your Windows PC.
  • IPv6 support. Many routers currently in use do not support IPv6. DD-WRT makes it possible for you to prepare for the future of the internet. However, it is better to keep both IPv4, and IPv6 enabled. While IPv6 is the solution to the scarcity of IP addresses, it will take time for the internet to support it fully.
  • VPN installation. You might not always have the option of installing a VPN on your router. DD-WRT gives you this functionality, and you can safely encrypt your entire internet traffic.
  • Better Wi-Fi range. DD-WRT allows you to transform a traditional router into a range extender. It means that your connection will cover neglected areas, giving you stronger signals in such spots. It is one of the best ways to boost your Wi-Fi.
  • Faster performance. This third-party firmware will likely give you better speeds. It is thanks to a variety of features, all combined to bolster the performance. Of course, the differences might be minimal and not as noticeable as you might expect.
  • More customization options. Overall, a DD-WRT router will be stronger, faster, and highly flexible. You will have many new settings; all focused on tweaking your experience. Generally speaking, you will have more control over the tasks your router performs. For instance, you will be able to block certain types of activities, modify your antenna, and customize your firewall. Firmware can also help you schedule internet blackouts at times when you want to reduce your screen time.

These are only a few of the advantages DD-WRT can bring you. However, it might be that your router already has the capabilities to perform most of them. It all depends on the gadget you own and its firmware. If it lacks functionality in certain areas, third-party firmware can fill in these gaps.

Things to consider when choosing third-party firmware

DD-WRT is a strong candidate for delivering you increased functionality and smoother performance. However, there are other options, and you might need to consider several things before installing a particular firmware. This sequence shows the steps users should take:

  • You encounter a firmware-related issue. Once the current setup no longer satisfies you, it might be time to consider a third-party option.
  • Finding compatibility information. Let’s say you consider several options, like Tomato and DD-WRT. The first thing you must check is whether your router is compatible with them. The DD-WRT support list will reveal whether your router can be supercharged with it. The same information is available for Tomato.
  • User-friendly interface and usage. A strong motivator for installing third-party firmware might be its ease of use. If you consider DD-WRT, it can get a little tricky to configure. Thus, it might be more suitable for netizens with a certain degree of technical how-to. On the bright side, DD-WRT is very popular, and you can find dozens of tutorials helping you achieve your goal.
  • Features firmware will bring. Different firmware options might vary in terms of the functionality they supply. Thus, if you want to tweak your router in a particular way, check whether the firmware will help achieve this. In terms of DD-WRT firmware, it is a feature-packed option. The chances are that you will find the configuration you need.

Final notes on DD-WRT

DD-WRT is a practical option if you wish to replace your router manufacturer’s firmware. It won’t disappoint with its feature-packed setup and other unique functions for tweaking routers’ performance. However, please bear in mind that such configuration is not exactly seamless. The process is much smoother if you have the necessary technical background in networking. If that is not the case, you might need to consult or find detailed instructions on preparing DD-WRT.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with using stock firmware. It is perfect for standard operation. Unless you notice specific issues, lack of maintenance or functionality, there is no particular reason for a third-party firmware.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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