2014-08-03

Excellent DD-WRT Router for Me: Netgear WNDR3400 / N600

My WiFi performance was suffering, and so I decided to do something about it and upgrade my router.

When I say my WiFi performance was suffering, I really mean it:  I live in a large high-rise apartment building and there are 100+ WiFi access points visible from my home office.  All of the contentious traffic was severely curtailing my WiFi reliability.  I was lucky to get 1 Mbit/second throughput.  Sometimes I was lucky to stay connected even with my WiFi router in the same room.

I decided it was time to go for 5 GHz, which is a WiFi band which is used less frequently and which has a tougher time traversing walls.  And of course I wanted DD-WRT support.  The set of features I was looking for included:
  • Trouble-free DD-WRT support
  • 5 GHz 802.11n Support
  • Simultaneous dual band capability
  • Inexpensive.  Maybe even cheap.  For me this means under $50.  Under $35 is even better!
It sounds like an easy task to bring all this together: All of this technology has been around for over 5 years.  But nothing is as easy as it seems until you know exactly what to do.  Finding the best router for DD-WRT takes a lot of qualitative analysis.

Finding the best router: WNDR3400 (or N600)

After doing some research I found that some Netgear WNDR3400's can be very inexpensive and  support DD-WRT.  This router is also known as the Netgear N600.  In particular, DD-WRT is compatible with version 1 of the '3400.

In shopping around, I found this refurbished Netgear WNDR3400 routers for sale on Amazon for under $35.  I figured the price was right, and if I managed to get a version 2+ I would assess it on its own merits.  (Update: For the real bargain WNDR3400s, make sure you check out the "new and used".)

Well, I ended up getting a version 2, which is not DD-WRT compatible.  But I fired it up anyway, and it performed wonderfully in terms of reliability - it sped up my home WiFi incredibly.  I decided to keep the WNDR3400v2 using the principle that "super-fast working WiFi without DD-WRT" is better than "awful WiFi".

Version 2 Label

After a month or so of operation I remained happy - the N600 was working great.  A family member gave me a call and needed a new router, so I decided to buy another WNDR-3400 for her.  After all, it provided great performance and at an incredible price.   But when I got my next refurb, it was a Version 1!  The gamble paid off!


Version 1 label
Interestingly, the physical details of the v1 is a quite a bit different than the v2.  In particular, the port layouts and LEDs are different.  Both versions purport to have identical function, but clearly they are different devices on the inside.  Anyhow, with a version 1 model in-hand I was ready and excited to install DD-WRT!
The N600: v1 on top, v2 on bottom. They must be very different on the inside.

Choosing the right DD-WRT firmware for the WNDR3400

The hardest part about DD-WRT is knowing what firmware to install.  I have a list of what I look for:
  • A version that has the features I need
    • 2.4 & 5 GHz WiFi
    • Working Ethernet
    • Working SSH
    • Working IPTables
  • No Heartbleed-ing
  • Reliable
  • Known not to brick or otherwise destroy the router
Sounds easy, right?  Never!  The DD-WRT community has an incredible amount of informal documentation, and parsing it all is a substantial job in of itself.  DD-WRT is a hobby, not a product, and so there are a lot of tradeoffs, broken features, gotchas, and potential brick-makers.

After some significant research, I chose a build that seemed to have the right mix of reliability and working features that wouldn't brick my WNDR3400.  To be precise, I used exactly this build:

ftp://ftp.dd-wrt.com/others/eko/BrainSlayer-V24-preSP2/2013/05-27-2013-r21676/broadcom_K26/dd-wrt.v24-21676_NEWD-2_K2.6_mini-WNDR3400.chk

 Installing DD-WRT on the WNDR3400

Now, before you try to do this, just remember that this worked perfectly for me but it may not work for you at all. So please proceed at your own risk. After all, some people do things like drive their car to the repair shop because the oil light is flashing red.

Once I downloaded the firmware build noted above, I installed the firmware using the following procedure:
  • Turned off my computer's wifi
  • Connected my computer to the router's port #1 via an ethernet cable.
  • Restarted the WNDR3400 via its power switch
  • Fired up Firefox on my computer
  • Entered the Netgear firmware update page on http://192.168.1.1/
  • Used the Netgear's firmware update page to install the firmware.
  • Waited about 5 minutes
After installation (again, about 5 minutes), the WNDR-3400 rebooted and the DD-WRT login page appeared.  After that, I used the DD-WRT configuration pages to set up the access point exactly how I like:
  • Set the local password
  • Set the SSID and WPA2 password
  • Configured DDNS
  • Configured SSH
  • Configured port forwarding, static DNS entries, etc.
After configuring all this I did a speed test.    Performance was as awesome - just as good as a hard-wired connection to my cable modem.

Now my WiFi is fast, reliable, and has DD-WRT.  My old v2 router will go to my family, who can use it without DD-WRT.

My WNDR3400 v1 in action with DD-WRT!
Issues with r21676

The only impactful bug I have found so far is related to SSHd.  Despite leaving the private sshd port  22 and putting the public sshd port on 10002, SSHd was publicly listening on 22 and 10002.  This is behavior is different than other DD-WRT builds I have used. 

My simple work-around was to have sshd only available on 10003.  Interestingly, I didn't immediately see this via iptables or netstat.  It took a portscan for me to reveal this.

 So far I find the WNDR3400 very reliable.  It has been up and running for more than a month without any known issues.

Installing DD-WRT on a WNDR3400v2

I have read about some people being successful installing DD-WRT on a v2, but I was unwilling to try - the evidence I saw out there wasn't that strong or compelling.  But if you try, please let me know the outcome in the comments.

UPDATE: I was also able to install DD-WRT on a v2!  Yes, it is possible.  I haven't tried all features, but everything I use on a daily basis is working great.   See this post for details.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the info!! I was wondering if you did a heartbleed vulnerability test for your ddwrt upgrade. It seems that builds stopped prior to the protected versions. I'm not sure if the mini version even has openSSL. Thanks again!

LanceJ said...

I stuck with the Mini build for exactly this reason. In addition, I did perform a heartbleed scan test with one of those python scripts on both the "public" and "private" interfaces, with no issues found.

Aaron Roecker said...

Does upgrading the firmware to dd-wrt give you dlna media server support on the wndr3400? I have a v1 and am contemplating updating the firmware to dd-wrt. Has everything been running smoothly for you since the install?

LanceJ said...

So far the WNDR3400 has been rock solid with this build. It's been up and running for two+months without a reboot and without a loss of performance or reliability. I do not have a need for dlna support, but if you try it please let me know how it works out for you.

Aaron Roecker said...

I put the mini version on about a week ago and thus far everything has been running amazingly well; no reboots. I don't really need DLA or USB storage support either, but am curious to know how well it works if it does. I guess you need the mega version to add support. I'm pretty impressed how much better the router now works. With the stock firmware I was rebooting the router every few days. None so far with dd-wrt.

corrwtch said...

Great article! I just installed dd-wrt (same build) on a WNDR3400 V1H2, which has the same port arrangement as the V2 unit pictured. I will post an update once I have it configured and running.

LanceJ said...

I have to say that this router with DD-WRT has been rock solid in terms of performance and reliability. I have been moving a lot of data over all interfaces with a bunch of clients for months and it has never needed a reboot.

Jeff Lang said...

Thanks for the guide! I had been reading around for info on switching my Mom's old WNDR3400 to DD-WRT and was confused as to what the latest stable firmware was. Flashed 21676 and so far so good apart from the 5Ghz network isn't showing on any devices. Did you have any trouble with it?

LanceJ said...

I'm using 21676 on my WNDR3400 v1. Both 2.4 and 5 GHz radios are working perfectly, using channels 6 and 36+1, respectively. I do have distinct SSIDs for each channel. My uptime is well over 150 days without any degradation in performance or quality.

Aaron Roecker said...

@jeff the 5Ghz channel needs to be turned on in the settings menu By default it is off. Could that possibly be your issue?

Anonymous said...

my is wndr3400v2, it's been running for a month plus, one day the speed slow down, I had to reboot the rounter and the modem, so after that the 5Ghz disappeared NO Blue light, disappeared from router’s configuration page as well. excepted this issue everything is good. is there anyone have the same issue?

Mike said...

In the photo of the two routers isn't the v1 on top? It matches the port layout of the photo you have of the v1 label, whereas the other one does not. Trying to determine which I have and this confused me.

Tomek SzymaƄski said...

Hi, I'm new here and I just got WNDR3400 V1H2 (v1 refurbished) router. I never had a chance to knew Shibby's Tomato, that's why I need your help

I wanted to upgrade my router to use it as Bittorent and DLNA server, which was not possible in original FW, so I installed Tomato from http://www.linksysinfo.org/index.php?threads/netgear-wndr3400-v1-beta-tomato-support.41510/ 1st post (wchich was bad move, because there exist a newer one at http://tomato.groov.pl/download/K26RT-N/build5x-128-EN/Netgear%20WNDR-series%20%28untested%29/tomato-WNDR3400-K26USB-NVRAM64K-1.28.RT-N5x-MIPSR2-128-MiniIPv6.chk). The firmware works very well, it's obviously better than the original, but the Bittorent option doesn't work (I read there is only GUI for it) and there is no DLNA support, so I have few questions:

1a. Can I flash for example tomato-K26USB-1.28.RT-MIPSR2-128-BT.trx firmware to my router, and will it work? Is there some problems with that firmware in this router for example 5GHz don't work or some stability issues? Does it fit in router's flash?
1b. Does this firmware includes working Bittorent client and DLNA server? What is the diffrence between this and for example tomato-K26USB-1.28.RT-MIPSR2-28-BTgui-VPN.trx firmware? I already checked that it shoul be (I think) MIPSR2 version, not the MIPSRV1, am I correct? I read, that version tomato-WNDR3400-K26USB-NVRAM64K-1.28.RT-N5x-MIPSR2-128-MiniIPv6.chk doesn't have this things, because it's a mini version
1c. How should I do this? Can I upgrade via GUI (i'm afraid to experiment, my router is still in foil ;) )? There is information, that I shouldn't do that, but maybe is possible if I'm upgradind Tomato to newer Tomato? Can I do upgrade via commands, not GUI that will pass the thing when I brick the router :) I'm a little bit afraid.
2. If firmware 101 is only one I can get, how to install missing packets? I found, that I have to install ipkg, but this is very complicated for me. Also I'm not sure if it could show DLNA server in GUI (I think, that it should work with Bittorent, as there is a GUI option for it)
3. Is there a possibility to do things I want using DDWRT firmware?
4. How could I do this using as little Linux interface as possible ;)

Yes, I tried looking this in Google :)

TIA for all the help!

Unknown said...

Yeah he has it mixed up. I just had to check mine to make sure. V2 is on the bottom.


Share