Replacing DD-WRT with OpenWRT

January 06, 2012

I have had DD-WRT working on two WRT54GL v1.1 routers for around three years now, without too much in the way of glitches. The WRT54G* series have long been the friends of hackers and enthusiasts, and the superior firmwares out in the community offer a broader feature set than the stock Linksys firmware.

With DD-WRT, however, I consistently ran into the WDS-WPA2 encrypted link failing between the routers. I could link the two without issue using an unencrypted connection, but as soon as the connection was encrypted, it would drop out and not re-establish without a hard reset. In addition, DD-WRT does not appear to have made a new release in some considerable time, so in the interests of an updated firmware, OpenWRT seemed to be the best option.

Having finally got fed up of it (and having a little more time to fix it!) I replaced DD-WRT with OpenWRT Backfire 10.03.1. I used the openwrt-wrt54g-squashfs.bin image for the flashing, and did it using the DD-WRT web interface ‘upgrade’ function. The routers took a while to come back online afterwards, however have been stable and responsive since.

Once OpenWRT was installed on both, I used the example configs here to configure the routers for WDS-WPA2. I initially set them up with an unencrypted link, and then connected via wired and wireless, pinging both to check the link was up. I then enabled WPA2-PSK on the WDS link, rebooted and repeated the exercise. The pings went through fine, and the link has been robust and solid since - interestingly, though I can’t put my finger on what it is, the network seems to perform more quickly than it did previously, though that may be merely psychological!

So, I now have two OpenWRT-powered WRT54GLs, in an encrypted WDS-WPA2 link. One thing to note, the version of the OpenWRT must be the brcm-2.4 build, as the 2.6 kernel does not appear to support the broadcom chips with WDS and WPA at time of writing.