Today, the notion of firmware often comes up when talking about routers, as the majority of routers are marketed for less than what they are actually capable of. This is the result of the manufactured software that they come with – router companies are better off putting out new and new products than constantly upgrading one. DD-WRT however, is a type of firmware solution for the latter, let it be an old or a new model. “Firmware” itself refers to software that is not necessarily manufactured and improves the device’s capabilities. Firmware also enables greater control over a given device, meaning that you will be able to fine-tune it more precisely to your needs.
About DD-WRT Firmware
Originally, DD-WRT was a Linux-based firmware, created for Linksys routers in 2005. Since then, the software has been made compatible with many other routers (and types of routers). While the first three years of DD-WRT saw a lot of shuffling, recently almost all software that is published is downloadable for free. Contrary to the trend of branded routers that manufacture software that is not developed, DD-WRT often labels its output to be in a beta state, because they constantly develop and improve their programs – there is no need to have a “final” product. As computing changes, so does DD-WRT.
Consequently, DD-WRT’s uses also vary a lot today. It is just as suitable to browse the web as any other, but you can also book it as a candidate for making P2P and torrenting activities more fluid, and – most relevantly – DD-WRT is used to enable VPN support for routers, greatly expanding their respective usages.
VPN on DD-WRT Routers
The vast majority of routers do not enable people to use a VPN network through them. It is usually not the incentive of router companies to support this. It is DD-WRT (or a similar) firmware that enables a device to be on friendly terms with a VPN. It is also worth noting that almost all VPN companies work with different parameters as far as setup goes. While below we are going to provide a general framework for how routers are set up in this matter, we cannot “sidetrack” to include every single VPN company out there, as they measure in the hundreds.
VPN-based router setup is divided into two main areas based on encryption: OpenVPN and PPTP setup. In both cases, it is essential to closely follow the specific steps of the VPN company you are affiliated with. Otherwise, here are some general steps that are applicable to all setup processes.
First, to install the firmware software, it is usually advisable to do a router reset before tampering with it. Then, you should access its settings. Typing in 192.168.0.1 (or 1.0 or 1.1 or similar) should work. If it does not, then your ISP has set a specific address for it, contact them. Do not tell them that you want to do some VPN though, it is none of their business (and they may also engage in DNS hijacking against you).
Inside the router settings, there is a specific section reserved for firmware upgrades. There, you are supposed to browse the DD-WRT software and select it. After another router reset, things should be more or less in the new order.
This changes the setup options of your router. DD-WRT has a built-in section for VPN, where you have to enable the usage of it first. This GUI method is reserved for OpenVPN mostly. After enabling VPN, you have to adjust the aforementioned specific settings to those of the VPN company of your choice in a corresponding other section. Once you saved your progress, you are ready to go. The more complicated method involves typing in commands inside the setup area again. DD-WRT has a separate section reserved for these as well.
It is also worth adding here that any router that is compatible with up-to-date firmware and has high speed capabilities is referred to a Flash (or flashed) router.
DD-WRT vs Tomato
The most commonly used open-source alternative for DD-WRT is Tomato. Not the plant, but the software. Both excel at different parts of router support. Both of them are Linux-based and open-source, meaning that next to those working for the brands, anyone can contribute publicly. Simply put, DD-WRT can almost be understood as an operating system for routers. Today, it is filled up with a wealth of features, and is backed up by much better device support. We recommend using DD-WRT to those who are more invested in the depths of router configuration. The abundance of settings might confuse a newcomer. Also, since DD-WRT is constantly updated and updated, some versions might be less reliable than others. Tomato on the other hand is a steady horse. It has less features than DD-WRT, but this is exactly what makes it more user-friendly to less adept users. However, because of this, there are fewer devices favoring this type of software.
In the context of VPN services, a kill switch is a fail-safe device, designed to protect your internet (and VPN) connection. When enabled, it will automatically shut down your online connection if it experiences an event that threatens the VPN connection from functioning properly. This feature is used because no one VPN service or encryption gives 100% protection at all times. There are several levels to attack an internet connection from, and a kill switch mainly protects against exposed IP addresses. Not all VPN companies have this feature. Some of them that do offer this (for free) are Private Internet Access, HideMyAss, VyprVPN or NordVPN .