Free Your Wireless Router
Published: March 6th, 2022
Because I'm the type of weirdo that flashes LineageOS to my phone and runs Linux on my laptop, I figured why not flash a FOSS firmware replacement to my wireless router? OpenWrt ("Wireless Freedom" being their slogan) is free and open-source project for embedded operating systems based on Linux, primarily used on wireless routers and other embedded devices to route network traffic. Getting OpenWrt installed is far more easier than flashing LineageOS to an Android device or installing Arch Linux, assuming the stock firmware allows for manual firmware upgrades.
Why would you want to do this?
Here's the steps I took to flash OpenWrt to a Linksys WRT1200AC, but this should apply to many wireless routers as well. If your router doesn't support manually installing firmware from the web UI, there are four total installation methods available. The OpenWrt website also has a pre-installation checklist which may be worth checking out.
Installation Process & Basic Setup
- First, find your device in the Table of Hardware to ensure compatibility.
- Click on the Firmware OpenWrt Install URL to download the install image. Mine is a 10mb file.
- Log into the routers existing Linksys firmware by going to 192.168.1.1 in your browser
- Go to Connectivity and there will be an option under Router Firmware Update to manually choose a file. Select the OpenWrt image file that was just downloaded and click "Start". This process will take several minutes.
- After the notification that the router is rebooting, there will be another message stating that the router was not found. Simply log back into the router by going to 192.168.1.1 .
- We are now prompted with the OpenWrt login page (LuCI). The username is "root" and the password is blank. Note that you can also login via ssh.
- Setup a router password for the web interface by going to System > Administration. It's just good practice to secure your router.
- To setup WiFi, go to Network > WiFi. Under Wireless Overview will two entries (assume you have a dual-band router) that begin with "SSID". Click on Edit.
- Under Interface Configuration, the default ESSID will be called "OpenWrt". You can leave it, but if you're going to have both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks running, it's best to differentiate the two by giving each a unique but simple name that'd you'd give any other WiFi network.
- Now click on the Wireless Security tab to set up a password. For encryption I choose WPA3-SAE, however it's important to note that some devices won't recognize this, so WPA2-PSK may be a safer bet.
- After entering a password, click Save and you'll be brought back to the wireless overview. Enable radio SSID. You'll need to do this for both networks.
- At the bottom of the Wireless screen, click "Save & Apply". You now have wireless freedom!
An important note here is that I had been troubleshooting for 45 minutes trying to figure out why I didn't have an internet connection on both WiFi and Ethernet. It turned out that I simply had to power off my modem and power back on.
Although I'll likely never use all the capabilities, it's nice to have the freedom to do so should I choose. There's a ton of features to explore.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to send comments, questions, or recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org