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What is DD-WRT? A complete guide.

Every router comes with default firmware, a set of commands embedded into hardware. However, sometimes you might want to upgrade your firmware in order to get better performance and security. DD-WRT allows users to significantly improve their router and add new features. So where should you start?

Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez

Jul 26, 2021 · 4 min read

What is DD-WRT? A complete guide.

What is DD-WRT?

First, let’s start with etymology. “DD” stands for Dresden, a city in Germany, where DD-WRT firmware was developed. “WRT” refers to a wireless router.

DD-WRT is firmware compatible with most router brands and was designed to significantly improve their performance. It expands your router’s capabilities, enables new features, and even provides better speeds.

The process of upgrading your old firmware to DD-WRT is called “flashing” and could take up to ten minutes. “Flashing” your router requires some technical know-how, so you need to know what you’re doing before starting the process. Otherwise, you can “brick” your router, turning it into a useless piece of junk.

Benefits of DD-WRT

There are many benefits to installing DD-WRT, but we’ll discuss a few that might interest our readers specifically.

  • IPv6 support. While IPv6 eventually will replace IPv4, there are a lot of routers that don’t support this protocol. DD-WRT can easily run IPv6, which is more secure and more advanced than IPv4, not to mention that it supports more IP addresses.
  • Firewall. DD-WRT has a configurable and solid firewall, which blocks unauthorized access.
  • Increasing Wi-Fi range. With DD-WRT installed on your router, you can change the broadcasting power of your transmitting antenna and adjust other settings to increase your Wi-Fi coverage.
  • Performance tracking. DD-WRT provides you with extensive information about your network, making it easy to troubleshoot connectivity issues and track your router’s performance.
  • Bandwidth prioritization. If you’re an avid gamer, you might want to get as much speed as possible to avoid lags. DD-WRT allows you to prioritize your bandwidth and give your selected devices more speed.
  • VPN support. Not all routers support VPNs and this can be a major drawback for many users. You can install the NordVPN app on your router and protect all devices connected to your network. This allows you to shield internet activities not only for yourself but also for other members of your household.

Install NordVPN on your router.

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DD-WRT risks to consider

  1. Compatibility. Not all routers support DD-WRT and in this case you’re left with only one option — buying a new router. You can check the list of supported devices here and see if your router is compatible with DD-WRT.
  2. “Bricking” your router. If you want to upgrade your router, you need to know what you’re doing. The internet is full of stories about unsuccessful firmware configurations and people failing to recover their routers to factory settings afterwards. Follow the tutorials closely and consult an expert if you have any doubts about the process.
  3. Warranty void. When you get “inside” your router and install a custom firmware, your router’s manufacturer might void your warranty or charge you extra for technical support and repairs.
DD-WRT

TOP 5 routers for DD-WRT

Netgear Nighthawk R6700(AC1750)

R6700 is a router designed for large homes to ensure strong signal even in the furthest corners of your residence. Known for its blazing speeds, it can easily support a handful of smart home devices and is a perfect choice for streaming, gaming, and daily browsing.

Linksys WRT1900ACS

WRT1900ACS is another router that can run DD-WRT firmware and provide users with a solid performance. With Linksys Wi-Fi app you can create separate networks, blacklist websites, and prioritize devices that need the most speed. And if you need even more customization, just install DD-WRT and get the best of this model.

Asus RT-AC88U (AC3100)

RT-AC88U is more expensive than the routers mentioned above, but it’s packed with features and might interest users looking for high-end options. The router can provide speeds up to 3167 Mbps, making it a great option for gamers. It also has 8 Gigabit LAN ports, which should be enough even for the most demanding users.

TP-Link Archer C9 (AC1900)

Archer C9 is a budget-friendly router, suited for large homes with a demand for high speeds. It supports IPv6 protocol, allows users to create guest networks, and can restrict access to certain websites for additional security. However, if you’re looking for even more features, just upgrade to DD-WRT.

D-Link DIR-890L(AC3200)

This router is like three routers under one roof; it has a 2.4GHz wireless band delivering speeds of up to 600Mbps, and two separate 5GHz wireless bands offering speeds of up to 1300Mbps. DIR-890L automatically chooses one of the three Wi-Fi bands and connects your devices. It guarantees that your gadgets are connected to the fastest band available and prevents older devices from affecting performance. Since it has six antennas, it provides users with the highest speeds no matter where you are at your house.

How to set up a DD-WRT router

Setting up DD-WRT firmware will vary from router to router. You can find DD-WRT setup instructions for different routers on their website, but here are a few general tips:

  1. Make sure that your router is compatible with DD-WRT.
  2. Download DD-WRT firmware to your computer.
  3. Connect your router with a computer via an ethernet cable.
  4. Reset your router to clear its memory.
  5. Enter firmware restoration mode.
  6. Flash the firmware and then restart your router.
  7. Log into your router and finish setting up DD-WRT.

OpenWRT vs. DD-WRT: which is better?

OpenWRT and DD-WRT are both open-source firmwares, but the latter is supported by more devices and has a bigger community for support and advice. Configuring OpenWRT typically requires more technical knowledge than DD-WRT, so it can be daunting for less tech-savvy users.

IT experts claim that while DD-WRT tries to support as many devices as possible, this comes with a price — minor flaws are common.

Another interesting open-source project is called Tomato and is often compared with OpenWRT and DD-WRT. It’s hard to tell which one is better, as everything depends on your individual needs.

Should you install a VPN on your DD-WRT router?

A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address, thus enhancing your online security and privacy. You can install NordVPN on your router and protect the whole household or download the app for every device separately. With one account, you can protect up to six devices: routers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more.

When you have NordVPN installed, it protects your network from hackers, snoopers, and even your geeky neighbour. Nobody can see what websites you visit, what you download, or where you’re located. You can set up a VPN router in a couple of minutes and take security into your own hands.

Online security starts with a click.

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