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?

Your house is cursed. Our wireless router is three years old and it’s still doin’ fine.

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!

I’ve had several kinds over the years - a few Belkins and at least one Linksys, I think.

Do you have it on a UPS or surge protector?

That’s the only thing besides really bad luck that I can think of…

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 :frowning:

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! :slight_smile:

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.

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.

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?

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.

Does anyone smoke in your house?

No, no smokers.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

You want the WRT54GL. The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54is 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.

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.