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Trendnet TEW-652BRP and DD-WRT Success!

I recently visited my dad while on a business trip when I coincidentally discovered that DD-WRT is now available for his TEW-652. The TEW-652BRP has been a great router for my father, but it isn't what I'd call "feature rich". An upgrade to DD-WRT is a big bonus.

I live 2500 miles away from my non-technical father, and so a well-specified router that helps me manage his network remotely is important to both of us.

This article will explain what I did to finally get DD-WRT working on my TEW-652BRP v1.0R.

About the TEW-652brp

It's a nice looking little black 802.11n, 2.5 GHz router. It was amazingly inexpensive (usually way under $30), and the TEW-652brp is available through Amazon. Mine is a version 1.0R, you'll likely want the same version. Out of the box, it works quite well - it has been stable, and I was fairly happy with the stock firmware. But it was short on features - I like having VPN, SSH, and flexible DHCP services on the home networks I support. The stock firmware on the TEW-652BRP wasn't so good at that stuff.

An upgrade to DD-WRT gives me all these advanced features and much more. According to the label on the back of my TEW-652BRP, I have hardware version V1.0R.

Plan A: An easy upgrade to DD-WRT.

The on-line literature suggested that I might be able to simply install the DD-WRT firmware using the Trendnet's built-in firmware utility.

I downloaded the "factory to DD-WRT" .bin file for the TEW-652BRP, found here. Then I logged into the router via http://192.168.10.1/ and navigated to the router's firmware update page. From there, I tried to upgrade the device using the "factory to DD-WRT" .bin file.

The firmware upgrade failed - the Trendnet firmware reported an error. Happily, no destructive action was taken by the firmware updater - the router was not bricked.

I initially believed that the upgrade utility didn't like the signature of the firmware file found on the DD-WRT website.

Plan B - Recovery Mode firmware utility.

So went to "Plan B": I'd upgrade the router's firmware using the recovery mode.

I set a static address of 192.168.0.2 on my PC. Then I powered up the router while holding down the reset button. I held the reset button down until the "status" LED started to blink.

Then I plugged into Ethernet and went to http://192.168.0.1/ with Firefox. Ta-da! A firmware update page came up.


Trendnet Firmware Recovery Page

I then attempted to upload the DD-WRT .bin file. Crap, same thing - invalid firmware file. Even the recovery mode wasn't willing to install a renegade firmware file.

Plan C - The solution

After two failures taking several hours, I decided to get a little more serious. I went to the Trendnet web site and downloaded their latest firmware, seen here. Then I got out the trusty hex editor and looked at the end of the file. The signature at the end was

AP81-AR9130-RT-080609-05
... aka ...
41 50 38 31 2D 41 52 39 31 33 30 2D 52 54 2D 30 38 30 36 30 39 2D 30 35

I then looked at the DD-WRT firmware's signature at the end of its .bin file, and, sadly, it was identical. So it didn't seem like my installation problem was a simple "file signature" issue, but maybe a checksum or some other algorithmic issue within the Trendnet firmware.

So I decided to try to run around the apparent checksum issue by avoiding the Trendnet software altogether. Which worked.

The story I read on the web was that the D-Link 615 rev. C is the same hardware device as the '652, but with different (and better) firmware. I decided to try to install the D-Link firmware onto the router, and then install the DD-WRT firmware onto the "D-Linkified" Trendnet.

The short story is that this strategy worked like a charm. But it did require some hex editing. Here are the details.

(1) Download the D-Link 615 rev C firmware. I used an old version, Version 3.00.

(2) Use a hex editor to replace the D-Link signature string at the very end of the .bin file.

AP81-AR9130-RT-070614-02
(aka: 41 50 38 31 2D 41 52 39 31 33 30 2D 52 54 2D 30 37 30 36 31 34 2D 30 32)

... became ...

AP81-AR9130-RT-080609-05
(aka: 41 50 38 31 2D 41 52 39 31 33 30 2D 52 54 2D 30 38 30 36 30 39 2D 30 35)

(3) Using Trendnet's stock firmware, install the newly modified "DLink" .bin file.

(4) Wait patiently for the upgrade to complete

(5) Tada! The D-Link firmware login page appears! Yay!

From there, I performed a similar procedure with the DLink firmware update page:

(1) Download the DD-WRT firmware from the FTP site. I used the "factory to dd-wrt" firmware for the Trendnet, found here.

(2) Use a hex editor to replace the Trendnet signature string at the end of the .bin file with a signature that the D-Link firmware accepts. I changed the signature as follows:

AP81-AR9130-RT-080609-05
(aka: 41 50 38 31 2D 41 52 39 31 33 30 2D 52 54 2D 30 38 30 36 30 39 2D 30 35)

... became ...

AP81-AR9130-RT-070614-02
(aka: 41 50 38 31 2D 41 52 39 31 33 30 2D 52 54 2D 30 37 30 36 31 34 2D 30 32)


(3) Log into the D-Link router (username admin, password admin).

(4) Using the router's renegade D-Link firmware, I upgrade the firmware with the modified DD-WRT .bin file.

(5) Wait patiently

(6) Ta-da! DD-WRT firmware page appears!

From this point on, I was able to use DD-WRT firmware. I've been using this firmware now for well over a year, and it has been totally reliable.

Update: Excitingly, I just bought a similarly capable router with OpenWRT fully pre-installed.  The GLI MT300N is under $20 and is a compact, modern router with OpenWRT of the box.  It is rock-solid and has a sweet interface for installing optional software packages.

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