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  #1  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:05 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Why do my wireless routers always die?

And can they be fixed?

Wireless routers always last, say, a year and a half in this house. Then they start needing to be restarted all the damned time and I buy a new one.

This one is a Belkin F5D7234-4 v. 1. I looked up its support page and there was no firmware update or anything - just one firmware version and that from 2008.

Is it just expected to have to replace these things fairly frequently, or is there something that's killing them, or what?
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  #2  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:20 PM
Maserschmidt Maserschmidt is offline
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Your house is cursed. Our wireless router is three years old and it's still doin' fine.
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  #3  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:22 PM
Hirka T'Bawa Hirka T'Bawa is offline
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I have a D-link that I borrowed from a friend that I have to reset every freaking day or my laptop doesn't connect to it (my wired desktop doesn't have that problem), while the Linksys at my house has worked fine for the past 4 years...

I know I didn't add anything worthwhile... Posting partly so you know you aren't alone, and partly to subscribe to find out why this router is a pain in the butt!
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  #4  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:26 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I've had several kinds over the years - a few Belkins and at least one Linksys, I think.
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  #5  
Old 05-02-2010, 07:28 PM
Digital Stimulus Digital Stimulus is offline
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Do you have it on a UPS or surge protector?

That's the only thing besides really bad luck that I can think of...
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  #6  
Old 05-02-2010, 08:16 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Do you keep it well ventilated, or is it stuffed in a cabinet or stacked under other things? They could be overheating. Or getting nicked by power surges.

I use a Linksys and I keep it on a shelf by itself. Still, about once or twice a week I have to reboot it so my laptop or my roommate's computer can connect. I tried replacing it with something else and I couldn't get it to connect at ALL so I just returned the new unit and live with the old one. I'm scared to see what will happen if it truly dies and I have to replace it for real
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  #7  
Old 05-02-2010, 10:31 PM
Gukumatz Gukumatz is offline
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Wireless routers are under the condition of a) being constantly on and b) usually have shitty cooling systems.

A few tips (I've picked up while working IT support):
- Mount it on a bracket, not straight to a wall. Just give it half an inch or so away from any flat surface, so the heat will dissipate better.
- Turn it off when you go to bed. (Or better yet, get one of those power-timers that go between the router and the power outlet.)
- Dust it with a can of pressurized air. Once or twice a year should be fine, but it does need to be done occasionally.
- We use surge protectors for pretty much every digital applicance. Not so much because they're expensive to replace, but because we don't want to put the man-hours into reprogramming them unless we absolutely have to.

Our rule of thumb is that if a router doesn't last 3+ years, we're either not taking care of our equipment or it's a shitty model. I avoid Belkin, syslink and dlink equipment at all costs.

Also, if you can use wired connections, then for the love of Og, do so!

ETA: No, I know routers don't generate a lot of heat, but with high ambient temperatures the extra degrees might be what's knocking it out.

Last edited by Gukumatz; 05-02-2010 at 10:34 PM..
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  #8  
Old 05-02-2010, 10:35 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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I don't know why I keep buying Linksys routers (wireless and otherwise) they only seem to last me a few years and then it get's to the point where the have to be reset regularly. I just, a few days ago, replaced a linksys router with a Netgear switch and the router at my house is has to be reset every time I need to move something from one TiVo to the other or the other TiVo won't show up on the network.
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  #9  
Old 05-03-2010, 08:14 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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It's on a surge protector, and it stands on its little foot on a table next to the printer. If Belkin and Linksys and all those suck, what's a good brand?
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  #10  
Old 05-03-2010, 08:23 AM
Athena Athena is offline
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After having several cheapo DLink routers die, I bought a higher end Linksys on the advice of an IT geek I know, and it's worked fine for years. I think I dropped $150 on it, though. Definitely not the cheapest one out there, but it seems to work a lot better/more consistently than the cheap ones I had. I can't remember the last time I had to reboot it.

Last edited by Athena; 05-03-2010 at 08:24 AM..
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  #11  
Old 05-03-2010, 10:13 AM
yoyodyne yoyodyne is offline
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Does anyone smoke in your house?
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  #12  
Old 05-03-2010, 10:33 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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No, no smokers.
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  #13  
Old 05-03-2010, 10:52 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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Domestic surge protectors are rather oversold in terms of what thy can protect against. Use of one is no guarantee that issues of unreliability or short lifetime are not being caused by power line problems. A proper power conditioner is sadly significantly more expensive. For equpment powered by a wall wart, replacing that with a higher quality regulated power supply may be a good option.
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  #14  
Old 05-03-2010, 11:26 AM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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I'm sure there are a few models that are particularly unreliable, but i think that the OP has probably just had bad luck. I really don't think you can say that "Belkin and Linksys and all those suck," because like most types of electronic equipment, some will fail while most will probably work for an extended period.

My first wireless router was a Linksys BEFW11S4, which i got 6-7 years ago, and while i'm not using it anymore, it still works fine. I replaced it with a used WRT54G, on which i put Tomato firmware, and it's running great. It's not the latest and greatest router on the market, but it cost me $10, the Tomato firmware dramatically increases its functionality, and the WRT54G series has a reputation for reliability and ease of use.

Last edited by mhendo; 05-03-2010 at 11:27 AM..
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  #15  
Old 05-03-2010, 12:39 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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I was looking at the WRT54G earlier because it's the most popular model on Newegg - answer a really stupid-ass question? Is there any reason a normal non-power-user household would want to change the firmware on a router?
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  #16  
Old 05-03-2010, 02:04 PM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I was looking at the WRT54G earlier because it's the most popular model on Newegg - answer a really stupid-ass question? Is there any reason a normal non-power-user household would want to change the firmware on a router?
The Tomato firmware i use is very easy to install, and while i could live without it if i had to, it has some features that are nice to have.

Bandwidth monitoring

I know there is software that will do this for you, but my router keeps track of how much i upload and download. It can do this in real-time, and also gives stats on an hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Even though i'm not on a limited bandwidth ISP, and have no real need to keep track of my usage, it's a nice feature to have.

Wireless Transmit Power

Some routers, like the WRT54G, actually have the capability in their hardware to transmit a stronger wireless signal, but have no mechanism for adjusting the signal in the standard firmware. The Tomato firmware allows me to boost the wireless signal of the router, which is handy because our router is upstairs and my wife mainly uses her computer downstairs.

Note that you need to be careful about boosting wireless transmit power. Set it too high, and it can put an unnecessary strain on the transmitter, causing it to overheat and die. The factory setting is, i think, 45mW, and i have mine set to 60. Most guides recommend that you don't go over about 70 or 80.

Quality of Service (QoS)

This is particularly handy if you use things like BitTorrent, or VOIP services like Vonage or Skype. Basically, QoS allows you to prioritize which types of data get priority on the router. If you use Skype or Vonage, you might want to give high priority to those applications, so that your calls will not suffer interference if other people are using the internet. By contrast, if you use a file-sharing application like BitTorrent that runs in the background, you can give it a low priority, so that it doesn't slow down your regular browsing.

If you want to use QoS, you should read up a bit on the best ways to prioritize traffic for your particular connection and uses. There's a pretty good starter guide here to setting up QoS on a Tomato-equipped router.

Network Connections

The Tomato firmware has a very easy-to-use interface for administering things like IP addreses of your equipment. It's very easy, for example, to set static IP addresses for things like computers, servers, printers, etc. There is also a page for setting Dynamic DNS services like DynDNS and EasyDNS, so you can get access to your network from any internet-connected computer.


Tomato is not the only third-party firmware available for these routers. Another very popular one is DD-WRT. I chose Tomato because the set-up seemed more straightforward, and because reviews suggested that the interface was very easy to use. If you do decide to install any third-party firmware, make sure you follow the instructions closely, or you could end up bricking your router. The process is quick and easy; just don't try any shortcuts.

I should add, if you decide to go for the WRT54G, see if you can grab one off Craigslist. The local Craigslist here in San Diego always has at least three or four available for about $20-30. I was lucky enough to pick mine up for $10.

There are a couple of possible drawbacks to this router. First, it's a G router, so you miss out on the latest N wireless specification. For us, that's not a big deal. Also, it does not have the latest Gigabit ethernet capability, so your ethernet connections will be restricted to about 100Mbps. For connecting to the internet, this isn't an issue, because your connection won't be anywhere near 100Mbps anyway, but if you're transferring large files over the home network, it won't be as fast as a newer Gigabit connection.

Important Note: the Tomato firmware does not work on all versions of the WRT54G. Check out the compatible models here.
Quote:
Linksys WRT54G v1-v4, WRT54GS v1-v4, WRT54GL v1.x, WRTSL54GS (no USB support)

This will not work on Linksys WRT54G/GS v5 or newer WRT54G/GS routers.
That's one reason that, if you want to use Tomato, you might actually be better off getting a second-hand router.

DD-WRT supports a larger range of routers. You can check for supported makes and models in their database.

Last edited by mhendo; 05-03-2010 at 02:07 PM..
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  #17  
Old 05-03-2010, 02:25 PM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
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Another rec for Tomato here.

The linksys products I have resurrected (One WRT54 and two WET11s) died due to dried out filter capacitors on the switching regulator input and output. They need to derate them a bit more for the ripple current they see.
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  #18  
Old 05-03-2010, 02:58 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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The QoS thing sounds really useful for us, actually. We might have to try it out.

By which, of course, I mean I intend to hand my boyfriend a box with a router in it and say "The internet says we need Tomato. Get on that." He'll say some nonsense about how I could do it, which, while true, is immaterial.
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  #19  
Old 05-03-2010, 04:44 PM
yoyodyne yoyodyne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I was looking at the WRT54G earlier because it's the most popular model on Newegg - answer a really stupid-ass question? Is there any reason a normal non-power-user household would want to change the firmware on a router?
You want the WRT54GL. The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 is similar but has higher power output available, IMO it's better than the Linksys.

If you want to go with 'N', the Netgear WNR3500L is 3rd-party firmware friendly and is what I have now.

The 3rd-party firmware generally exposes more features and is more stable than the manufacturer's firmware. It can also be less user-friendly to configure.
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  #20  
Old 05-03-2010, 05:14 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
ETA: No, I know routers don't generate a lot of heat, but with high ambient temperatures the extra degrees might be what's knocking it out.
It doesn't take a lot of heat if the ventilation is poor. For a while, I was keeping three routers (cable modem, Vonage phone and a network switch for the cabled computer) stacked on top of each other. While there was some air between them, the heat built up until one day (about a year after starting this configuration) our phones stopped working. Turns out the Vonage router got too hot. Half an hour to cool down and it was back to working just fine. I've rearranged them and haven't had the problem since.
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  #21  
Old 05-03-2010, 05:29 PM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Because they're mostly shite? This is a topic that you can't get my pal Phatlewt started on unless you want to hear a rage-induced rant. We've gone through 5 at least in the last 3 years.
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  #22  
Old 05-03-2010, 09:17 PM
HorseloverFat HorseloverFat is offline
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Belkin is by far the worst brand for home routers. Most of these things barely get past year two so its not uncommon to keep buying them. Also, a lot of "dead routers" are just dead power supplies. Next time, replace the wall wart and see if it works.
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  #23  
Old 05-03-2010, 09:21 PM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Mine die fast too. My wired router (belkin) still works. I have replaced my wireless router twice, and my newest router is acting strange already.

I don't know why they die so fast, but my impression is that they overheat because they are left on 24 hours a day.
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  #24  
Old 05-04-2010, 02:06 AM
charlie145 charlie145 is offline
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Whilst it is of course important to attach your router's power supply to a surge protector you should also use surge protection for the phone line.

Consider something like this

On the bottom of the image you can see the 'in' and 'out' ports for the phone line. As a mobile IT technician I have seen many people with fried modems who are surprised that their surge protector did nothing to prevent it.
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  #25  
Old 05-04-2010, 03:25 AM
Busy Scissors Busy Scissors is offline
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I had a belkin appear to die recently, re-setting did nothing (think I asked about it on here). All that was required, though, was a default to factory settings on the router page followed by a re-setting up of the network. There's a comment on this on the belkin site, it's something to do with the lease for setting up an IP address expiring with the provider. Worth a try if you've not done this already.
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  #26  
Old 05-04-2010, 08:37 AM
Kenyth Kenyth is offline
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Practically every problem I see on dead or dying electronics has to do with the filter capacitors on the power regulating circuits. These electrolytic capacitors seem to wear out quicker than any other component. Sometimes, they even balloon, leak, and burst!

I attribute it to the fact that electrolytic caps are the most expensive and largest discrete components in the circuit. That makes it very profitable for companies to use the smallest and cheapest components they can to fit the bill. The caps used in the design usually barely meet the requirements and are put under a lot of stress so they wear out quicker. IF you can find them, AND are handy with a soldering iron, AND the component failure hasn't fried anything else, you can replace the existing caps with higher rated ones and solve the problem.

Wireless routers in compact (poorly ventilated) cases also tend to overheat the transmitter easily, particularly if you use third party firmware and turn up the transmit power (I'm guilty).
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  #27  
Old 05-04-2010, 11:00 PM
Leaper Leaper is online now
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Hmm. Should I be concerned about leaving my Airport Express plugged in all the time, given the discussion so far?
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  #28  
Old 05-05-2010, 10:22 AM
control-z control-z is offline
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Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Hmm. Should I be concerned about leaving my Airport Express plugged in all the time, given the discussion so far?
Probably not, you paid dearly for it and I would expect Apple would use better components than other brands.
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  #29  
Old 05-05-2010, 10:24 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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The Airport finally died, but it took it, I dunno, five years?
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