Tomato and dd-wrt Supercharge Your Home Wi-Fi Performance, and Boost Reliability

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 17, 2009

A few weeks ago, on the WebWorkerDaily blog, I did a post called "The Home Wi-Fi Reboot: Don't Neglect It." It discussed a problem I was having with my home Wi-Fi network, where I was occasionally getting dropped connections. I solved the problem I had by doing a cycled reboot of my router, access points, computers, and checking all physical connections, followed by a channel change on my router. (Changing channels can get rid of interference problems with other wireless devices.)

I was really interested, though, in several of the reader comments that came in about using open source firmware on a wireless router. Here are the two open source firmware products that readers mentioned to me, and why you want to know about them if you have a home Wi-Fi network. You can get a better wireless signal and improved performance with these, and much more.

If you don't know about dd-wrt, it's worth getting familiar with it. It started out as a Linux-based firmware replacement for one Linksys router, intended to add various types of authentication options. Since then, it has ballooned into many downloadable versions for almost any common Wi-Fi router. With dd-wrt, you get a whole lot of router options that you wouldn't otherwise have, and you can get better performance around your home or office.

One of the best options is to set dd-wrt so that you have a router reboot in the middle of the night each night, which I've found to keep my home Wi-Fi signal humming along perfectly. Additionally, I get a better signal around the house than I did before using dd-wrt. Open source firmware like dd-wrt also decreases the likelihood that a hack or malware is going to affect your router. And, dd-wrt is great for upgrading the functionality of old routers. There is online support  available if you no longer have support for an old router, including the option to chat with dd-wrt developers.

To install dd-wrt, just go to this page, type in your router's name and model number, and get the firmware download for the particular version of the router that you have. Once you have that, you just need to follow the easy installation instructions found here, to put the firmware on your router. Get to know the web interface for dd-wrt, for the many configuration and performance-boosting options it offers.

Tomato is a Linux-based alternative to dd-wrt that can reportedly add much more functionality to your router than you probably already have. I'm happy enough with dd-wrt that I'm not currently using it, but some readers of my original post on this topic raved about it. It provides them much better signals and performance, automatic reboot options, software-driven views they can look at of the Wi-Fi performance they're getting, and more.

Although they were written over a year ago, Lifehacker has a couple of excellent posts up about what you can get out of these open source Wi-Fi boosting applications, for dd-wrt here, and for Tomato here. I especially like Lifehacker's discussion on how to use Tomato to boost your Wi-Fi signal and get much better performance. Who doesn't want better performance?

I don't know about you, but my home Wi-Fi network is very important to how I work and play. If that's true for you too, check these open source options out.