I’ve been using OpenWRT for a couple of years now, so I thought it was time to talk a little about it.
First off what is OpenWRT? It’s a replacement firmware for many domestic router models. There are a few different replacement firmwares but if you’re looking for something comprehensive and geeky I would definitely check out OpenWRT. You can see a list of supported routers on the OpenWRT homepage. My current favourite router is the TP-Link 1043 as it’s inexpensive with plenty of onboard memory and a reasonable CPU.
You flash the OpenWRT firmware image just as you would an update form the router manufacturer (this varies depending on the router). Then you can log in to the web management interface.
From there you can configure your network connections, firewall, etc … There are useful information pages such as realtime graphs –
Besides the basic features included with the router there are 100’s of additional packages you can install. These can be added via the web GUI –
I use a few additional packages including the OpenVPN client to link to OpenVPN servers, and a IPv6 tunnel client so I can use native IPv6 on my network, even though my ISP doesn’t support it yet.
A very simple one to set up was the USB print server. This allowed me to plug a desktop printer in to the USB port on the back of the TP-Link router and use it like a network printer –
OpenWRT is not for everyone. The firewall configuration can be tricky to figure out (mainly because it’s so comprehensive!) and flashing firmware to any device always has a risk of turning it in to an expensive doorstop, but if you are looking for a powerful router running on inexpensive hardware I would definitely give it a try.