Firmware is basically the OS that comes on the router pre-installed. Now each manufacturer carries its own version. Just like OS there on your phone device or personal PC, it controls all inner workings of the device. It performs the following 3 main tasks:
- Router communicated with the device wirelessly.
- Protects the network from malware, viruses and other threats.
- Provides administrator software which we use in order to manage the settings of the router.
Table of Contents
- 1 About your Router Firmware
- 2 Benefits of replacing your Router OS
- 3 Top 6 Alternative Router Firmware to boost security and privacy
- 3.1 OpenWrt – Enterprise-grade router functionality
- 3.2 DD-WRT – Easy to use interface
- 3.3 Tomato – Advanced QoS and Load Balancing
- 3.4 Gargoyle Router Management – Configure everything
- 3.5 ROOter – USB Powered goodness
- 3.6 LEDE Project – Ideal for small or home offices
- 3.7 Bonus: LibreWRT – Compatible with Netgear, Linksys and TP-Link
- 4 Conclusion
About your Router Firmware
For mere performance, we need to update this. We all want our wifi to be fast and accessible from each room, now, what the update does is provide bug fixes and technology improvements which lead to a better experience for the entire family.
Another reason is the security protection which it provides. Today threats are there for online security and these have mainly in target home wifi-networks. Like, your router can get in hands of a security theft if it is not secured properly. These can then be further used along with thousand of others hijacked to launch malicious cyberattacks there on the organization’s sites and networks.
The best way to save yourself from this is to always have the latest version of firmware installed.
Remember: The router can get hacked without you knowing if the firmware is not up to date.
Benefits of replacing your Router OS
A question might come to your mind what is wrong with your router’s firmware which comes at default. Many users believe that freedom should be there to control the software which runs on devices they own and if needed to make changes for betterment. If we talk about third-party firmware then it provides users with some additional functions such as:
- Bandwidth quotas.
- Bandwidth allocation.
- Parental control.
- Boost wireless wifi signals.
- Enable password internet access and much more.
Turn your regular old router there into an enterprise-class device.
Top 6 Alternative Router Firmware to boost security and privacy
Caution: There are chances that you may brick your router while flashing. So make sure that you have a copy of the original firmware and also avoid performing this on one that is brand new in order to keep the warranty intact. Trust us, you don’t want to do that.
OpenWrt – Enterprise-grade router functionality
This is a highly extensible GNU or Linux distro that is available for embedded devices including wireless routers. This has been built up from the ground unlike others to be the fully-featured, easily modifiable OS for the routers.
This means that while practicing you can enjoy all the features you want without any bloat, powered by Linux Kernel which is more recent than many of the other distros. If you are a developer then this is a framework to build applications without the need to build a complete firmware around it; for users, this means full customization ability, to use the device in such a way that has never been envisioned before.
DD-WRT – Easy to use interface
This is a Linux-based alternate open-source firmware that seemed to have a lot of popularity among the users. It is suitable for a wide range of WLAN routers and embedded systems. It is built with the aim to provide users with easy handling and at the same time support, great functions within the framework of the respective hardware platform used.
- It provides support to 20+ different devices.
- It provides support to all the current WLAN standards (802.11a/b/g).
- VPN tunnel support.
- It supports different hotspot systems.
- Bandwidth management.
Tomato – Advanced QoS and Load Balancing
This is a system that is based on Linux and built primarily for routers with Broadcom chipset and gets distributed on the GPL license. Jonathan Zarate started with its development.
The best thing is that it has a user-friendly interface due to which all newbies and those with less experience can easily work with this. It has the following important functions:
- Performs bandwidth monitoring.
- Carries an advanced QoS.
- Password access control.
- It comes with enabled SSH or Telnet protocols.
- Configurable buttons and LEDs.
- It provides support for many wireless modes.
Gargoyle Router Management – Configure everything
This is yet another option on the list which is a free firmware upgrade for a wireless router that is based on OpenWRT but carries an enhanced interface (not LUCI) for easy use.
This is quite reliable, easy to use and configure, all thanks to the convenient graphs available there in the administration interface you shall know where your bandwidth is located exactly.
- Monitor Bandwidth usage for every connected device allowing you to keep close tabs on bandwidth hogs!
- Set Quotas and Throttles – make sure that all the resources of the network are fairly allocated.
- Block Forbidden Websites – block anything except while listing of the addresses allowed.
- Configuration a Wireless Bridge – the ability to connect to networks without the use of any ugly wires.
ROOter – USB Powered goodness
This is another open-source firmware designed for more than one hundred different routers which provides users extensive support for the usage of USB cellular modems there in the routers which are not able to provide such support from the factory. This one is based on firmware there from the OpenWRT project.
The main aim behind it is to support a great number of USB modems and get them operated at full speed on the provider’s network. Moreover, it also gives detailed information regarding your connection like the strength of the signal and cell tower details.
Since 2013 it is there in the market and seemed to be a popular download for improvising routers. Back in 2016, there were around 260,000 firmware downloads there for ROOter pictures. Now, since its inception, there have been 700,000 plus firmware downloads of all various versions.
LEDE Project – Ideal for small or home offices
LEDE stands for Linux Embedded Development Environment. This one was founded as a spin-off of the OpenWRT project and thus has the same goals. An embedded Linux distro is being built with the purpose of providing it easy for developers, system administrators and other Linux enthusiasts in order to build and customize the software for the embedded devices, especially we are talking about wireless routers.
This is a replacement for firmware for many small-office and home routers as well as embedded devices. Make sure to stick with your current system if you are happy with it. This gives stable, robust, secure and high-performance firmware for both embedded systems and home routers. The great thing about this is that you shall have fewer concerns regarding the need to frequently reboot it, major vulnerabilities or 0-days and poor performance.
Top 5 features DekiSoft like about the LEDE project:
- It has ad-blocking in order to account worst pop-ups and annoying web pictures.
- Carries VPN services in order to allow secure access there to the home network while one is away. They are also compatible with VPN solutions that are based in the cloud and have clients for Windows 11, Mac or Linux.
- Provides secure access to remote services in order to avoid snooping on traffic while browsing from home.
- Guest wifi networks with passcodes that are firewalled from private or business or family networks.
- Carries time limits as well as parental controls there for selected devices and many other capabilities.
Bonus: LibreWRT – Compatible with Netgear, Linksys and TP-Link
For now merged with LibreWRT, this is libre Embedded GNU or Linux distro. This is a set of embedded systems which are completely and fully free for general-purpose systems.
It is designed primarily with the purpose to provide its users with freedom and control over the software that runs on their hardware. Now, most of the hardware it provides support to includes a huge range of routers and some single-board systems. It is a set of fully free embedded OS which works on routers and a wide range of general-purpose systems.
The router is the main device that brings the internet to our home. You cannot have it limited to the features it can offer or the speed it can output too! Nobody loves a slow internet connection, period! We bring you 6 of the best alternative router firmware that is fully open source to install so that you can enjoy enterprise features such as QoS, Load balancing, Firewall, and better stability.
Do let us know what you guys have been using and if you have ever come across pfSense at all?