WRT54G to WRT1900ACS: Empowering Networks with OpenWRT


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What’s a WRT1900ACS?

The WRT1900ACS is a capable router from several years ago that are dirt cheap on the used market and have a ton of features that I like. With an alternative OS like OpenWRT or DD-WRT, you unlock new features that compare to a proper router.

I started running home networks on a Linksys WRT54G, an ancestor to the WRT1900ACS. a pioneering router that redefined home networking. Its open-source firmware became a playground for tech enthusiasts, setting the stage for a community-driven approach to router customization. I still keep one in storage for nostalgia’s sake.

The WRT1900ACS was released in 2015 but still holds its own in 2023. Equipped with a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and four antennas, the WRT1900ACS holds its own. I use it as a border router on a 600 mbit cable circuit and it keeps up with multiple traffic streams.

This router has a USB 3.0/eSATA connection, a USB 2.0 connection and gigabit ethernet. I’ve used an external USB drive to act as shared storage for my LAN, and shared movies and music using the router’s built-in DLNA server.

One thing that attracted me to the WRT1900AC series of routers is dual firmware images. The router keeps a backup firmware image at all times. If the router crashes and doesn’t come fully up 3 times in a row, it’ll switch to the failover image. I keep the Linksys image on one side and OpenWRT on the other, so I can always go back if needed. If you want to go all-in, you’ll need to upgrade the firmware twice.

Under OpenWRT, I’m able to use enterprise-class networking tools with a friendly GUI. I’ve added network traffic monitoring, a Wireguard client and server, VLANs and a reverse proxy for my network.

If I were to compare the two, I’d say DD-WRT is a little easier to pick up, OpenWRT is more flexible. I’ve been focused more on OpenWRT of late, as I’m running a homelab and use it as a sandbox for ideas to use at work.

Installing OpenWRT

OpenWRT has detailed information about the router and installation instructions at https://openwrt.org/toh/linksys/wrt1900acs, but the process is pretty straightforward. You’ll use the Linksys stock firmware, go to the firmware upgrade section of the web admin tool, and upload the “Firmware OpenWRT Install” version. Mess up and brick your router? turn it on, wait for the lights to come on, then turn it off. Repeat two more times to return to the failover image and try again.

Once you install OpenWRT there is a multitude of extensions and applications available. Be mindful of available disk space and memory when choosing applications to install!


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