I was having router trouble for the better part of a week with intermittent dropping and clients losing connection often. In addition my range was greatly diminished in the 2.4gz bandwidth when moving just 8-10+ feet away from the primary router. The Anker Wi-Fi Repeater I was using did help extend the range, but because the router itself was dropping clients or just dropping and regaining signal so often, even with the repeater the clients would have intermittent issues on the web.
This was particularly noticeable in causing poor video streaming performance with Amazon Video on Demand, for some reason Netflix was able to somehow work more reliably but I could definitely tell some devices were worse off than others. None of my Roku devices could get a reliable connection anymore, nor the Samsung SmartTV, but the laptops were fine as were the Kindle Fires.
I tried everything from installing the latest stock firmware from Netgear, doing a hard reset of the router, scanning the network and changing channels (there is very little other wi-fi interference in my neighborhood).
Finally, I decided to see if DD-WRT could help solve the problem.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Though dd-wrt can be installed on many router models, this article only covers the Netgear WNDR4500 model (see exact model here) if you have a different router model you will have to search the dd-wrt website or myopenrouter for instructions for that router model.
What is DD-WRT
DD-WRT is a router firmware that is Linux-based and can replace the firmware of several routers. The have an extensive router support list, but this firmware is not for the feint of heart. See dd-wrt device support list.
DD-WRT can be much more powerful than your existing router firmware, it offers many more options including the ability to increase your signal power which isn’t an option in many stock wi-fi router firmware versions.
DD-WRT is also a completely local firmware, so unlike Linksys where you have to login to their cloud connection to access your router now after the latest update, you can just directly log into your router.
It is thanks to this My Open Router article that I was able to find the right build of dd-wrt for the Netgear WNDR4500 router and if you need this specific build, then download it here.
Once downloaded go to your Netgear WNDR4500 homepage and login to the admin panel, typically unless you changed the IP subnet of your router this is 192.168.1.1 IP for the Netgear WNDR4500 router. The default password is admin/password (hopefully you changed it previously though and didn’t leave the default).
You will then want to go to the Administration, Upgrade or Update Firmware section.
Updating Netgear WNDR4000 Firmware
Here you will browse for your dd-wrt file you downloaded, it should be called “dd-wrt.v24-K26_WNDR4500_10-12-2012.chk” click the Upload button.
After about 3 minutes, when it is finished uploading you will want to perform a hard reset of your router. They call this the 30/30/30 reset on dd-wrt since you have to hold the rest button for 30 seconds, then 30 more seconds while you unplug power, then 30 more seconds while you plug power back in.
You will want to use a paperclip or something to depress the reset button on the bottom of the Netgear WNDR4500 Router.
Hold the reset button in for 30 seconds
While holding the reset button in, unplug the power and wait another 30 seconds
Plug the power back in while still holding reset and wait another 30 seconds.
Try to access your router at 192.168.1.1
You should see the dd-wrt screen that tells you to configure a username and password right away.
From here you have a lot of tabs and options at your disposal, there are 2 default interfaces the wl0 which is the 2.4 Ghz wireless network and the wl1 which is the 5ghz wireless network. You want to configure both with their own SSID by click on the Wireless tab, then in basic settings.
Click on Wireless Security and then configure the WPA2-AES256 security.
Now you should be able to start testing with your clients, if you still don’t have enough transmission range or you see interference then try changing the Wireless channel between 1 and 13. Use a tool like inSSIDer to check Wi-Fi signals and make sure you use a channel that has little competition or usage.
Finally you can further tweak dd-wrt to increase the transmission power of your router, you do this with the wl0-advanced tab under Tx Power.
The default is 71, but you can increase it a bit. Note: You can damage your router and antenna if you increase this too high, making these changes just like flashing your router with dd-wrt is done at your own risk. By increasing the Tx power you are increasing the broadcast range of the router.
Since I have replaced the Netgear WNDR4500 firmware with dd-wrt v24-k26 I have seen no Wi-Fi client drop-offs as well as better range and throughput on the 2.4 ghz spectrum. Don’t get me wrong here, Netgear is a very reputable manufacturer of networking devices and one of the big players selling some great ethernet switches, routers, wifi devices etc.