Linksys WRT54GL Router

By | November 14, 2006

Update: Also check out my full ADSL setup over at this link.

I’m picky. I’ve been battling to get the best possible setup for my home internet connection for quite some time. I do a lot of gaming, and even more P2P (mainly via Bittorrent).

My search for the ultimate router started when had a problem where my basic ADSL router would die with perfect regularity if I left a torrent running overnight. After some research, I came to the understanding that Bittorrent asks a lot of a router. By design Bittorrent opens a heap of connections, and also hops around between connections very frequently, dropping and adding new ones all the time. Without going into the gory details of Network Address Translation (NAT), I can say that Bittorrent tends to load up router NAT tables pretty heavily.

So I went searching, and came across this page at Tom’s Networking. “Great!” I though, “here’s the clearest indication of P2P performance of different routers”. And off I went to order a Netgear Rangemax 240. It even sounded fast. However, following a few nights and days of testing, the Netgear was sent back for refund. Basically with Bittorrent running, I could browse two or three websites, and the fourth site would simply not respond. The DNS would resolve, but the connection would timeout. Crazy thing is that I could still browse the original two or three websites with no issues. I can only presume the NAT table system was dying horribly.

After further research, I read of some users who were having great success running customised firmware on Linksys routers. The price of the Linksys WRT54GL (the ‘L’ suffix stands for ‘Linux’, meaning these particular models support custom firmware), was so good that I figured I couldn’t go wrong at least trying it. I grabbed the router and uploaded a copy of the DD-WRT firmware. There are other custom firmware options, but it seems DD-WRT offers the simplest interface.

The first thing I changed was the NAT table settings, increasing the table size from the default 512 to 4096, and dropping the NAT timeout from 3600 seconds to 90. In English this basically tells the router “store heaps of connection details, but discard them pretty sharpish if you don’t need them anymore”, which is exactly the behaviour we want with Bittorrent and other P2P apps.

The result? Bittorrent downloads are consistently 50-100kBps faster than I’ve ever had them, and web browsing is still possible with torrents running (well, unless of course our third-world internet is congested). The router is also as stable as a rock, and the custom firmware offers so many tweaking options that I can’t imagine it being unable to deal with anything thrown at it. Heck if you want to sell WiFi access to your neighbours it appears to only take a couple of clicks!

20 thoughts on “Linksys WRT54GL Router

  1. aidan

    hey great article but im not as tech savvy. I am looking for a wireless router as I have already been caught with one that doesnt do what i need. I bought a belkin F5D7230-4v4000 specifically for the kids to use nintendo wii and ps3 i then find that in the fine print the v 4000 doesnt work with nintendo but the older v2000 is recommended …even the guy in the shop had no idea. Now i am going to buy another router and well i have no idea what to go for that is going to be compatible. I would have thought 802.11 would mean anything with 802.11 would work but no it doesnt.

    Any suggestions…small 2 story house, computer up stairs,,looking for all round compatibility with Wii and Ps3 when it comes out in March.

    Reply
  2. Ben Post author

    Wow, I was actually quite stunned when I read that your router was incompatible with the Wii. But then some digging took me to Nintendo’s ‘router compatibility page’. It’s crazy to think that they don’t fully support the basic 802.11g standard?

    I’d imagine picking any compatible router from that Nintendo list would do the trick. I’d hope the PS3 was fully compatible with anything!

    Reply
  3. dalas v

    Make sure you have B/G mixed mode enabled on your routers to get the Wii working. The Wii (currently) only works with B.

    Reply
  4. GC

    I had problems with my wireless router/access point and the Wii. It was slow as christmas and it wouldn’t connect to the store half the time. I moved my Wii all around and closer to the router to no avail.

    The solution was changing my wireless from channel 6 to channel 11. After I did that the Wii’s connection is super fast. I don’t understand why all my other wireless devices (mac, laptop, etc) worked perfect on channel 6 but the Wii wouldn’t.

    Reply
  5. jj

    i’m havin wicked probs with my adsl ap belkin with 1 aerial the only tech page i found for config was in php…? any help its stoopid br model not listed on www.
    need to config & p/fwd

    Reply
  6. jj

    i’m havin wicked probs with my adsl ap belkin with 1 aerial the only tech page i found for config was in php…? any help its stoopid br model not listed on www.
    need to config & p/fwd
    ps loving the humor of this site, uk.

    Reply
  7. jj

    i’m havin wicked probs with my adsl ap belkin with 1 aerial the only tech page i found for config was in php…? any help its stoopid br model not listed on www.
    need to config & p/fwd

    Reply
  8. Steve

    The WRT54GL is painfully slow with peer-to-peer. Warner Cable checked the line 3 times. Then I plugged in my old $30 netgear router and all the problems went away. I could actually surf AND upload 10k with Azureus.

    Turns out this is a known problem with this router (per the Azureus wiki). You need to keep global connections below 200 using either DD-WRT or settings in Azureus itself. I haven’t tested it yet, but hopefully this saves someone some grief.

    Reply
  9. Ben Post author

    Steve, you need to upgrade to an open source firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT. I have no issues running 500+ global connections with my 54GL

    Reply
  10. Neur

    Ben I have a 54GL also, have problems with web pages not completing or taking a long time to complete. Also email that has web images take some time to complete , like ads from Sears etc…. Question , will an upgrade to third party software fix this problem? My dl speed is 7.3 mb but there seems to be a log jam at the router. All the problems are gone if I connect my TW modem directly to the pc….thanks

    Reply
  11. Neur

    Ben, Not to beat a dead horse but if something goes wrong with the upgrade to tomato firmware can I go back to the old linksys firmware in an emergency???

    Reply
  12. Ben Post author

    I believe so. The Tomato firmware has an upgrade page, and I think you can just upload the latest default firmware there.

    Reply
  13. André

    Hi,

    At the moment I’m using WRT54GL with dd-wrt latest firmware, and I still have problems using P2P. After I start using P2P programs, 5 minutes later I just can’t do any operation that uses internet. The pages just don’t respond, and it looks like utorrent is using all internet available.
    Do you have any idea what might be the problem?
    I already deactivated UPNP and redirected the ports utorrent is using.

    P.S – Sorry for my crappy english

    Reply
  14. André

    Hi,

    At the moment I’m using WRT54GL with dd-wrt latest firmware, and I still have problems using P2P. After I start using P2P programs, 5 minutes later I just can’t do any operation that uses internet. The pages just don’t respond, and it looks like utorrent is using all internet available.
    Do you have any idea what might be the problem?
    I already deactivated UPNP and redirected the ports utorrent is using.

    P.S – Sorry for my crappy english

    Reply
  15. Gene P.

    Ben, I just got a WRT54GL and upgraded to the DD-WRT version 23 standard. I was wondering where you can change the NAT table settings and the NAT timeout like you described.

    Reply

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