When looking for online security, router speed improvement, security, and other excellent features, which is the best open-source router firmware? DD-WRT vs OpenWRT vs Tomato, which one can give you the best router performance?
The router is usually an overlooked tool responsible for delivering information from the internet to your device in the house or office. Most routers running on stock firmware do not have very desirable features, and it may expose you to a few challenges such as attacks and guests accessing your personal information. That is why you will need to get yourself a third-party firmware to improve on performance and functionality.
The process of selecting open-source router firmware for your router can be very exhausting. You will find many recommendations from people around you and on the internet. You will also find that there is a scarcity of documentation you could use for installing the software. Especially when you consider the technical terminology and figures you have to equip yourself with before you finally settle for a specific firmware for your router.
From Looking at the basics, the process does not need to be complicated. The three open-source router firmware, DD-WRT, Tomato, and OpenWRT, have their advantages and disadvantages and strengths and weaknesses that make them a better option.
You will have to mind the specific features you want on your network and whether the router can support the firmware (DD-WRT vs Tomato vs OpenWRT). By considering the details, there is nothing complicated about choosing an open-source router firmware, and we will be going through the process to help you get the best option.
In terms of open-source router firmware, the DD-WRT is considered the primary player. The firmware has been in the scene for a long time to establish itself adequately. They are also known for supporting more routers than any other firmware. It is not by surprise that you will come across vendors selling routers that have been flashed with DD-WRT. At this point, flashing DD-WRT on the majority of routers is not a significant move.
Being a complete toolkit, DD-WRT is equipped with most of the things you could look for in a router and might even be more than what you expected to get. This is one of the biggest strengths of the DD-WRT firmware.
For individuals who seek the freedom to control their firmware, the DD-WRT has many options that would make it easy for you. If you want a simple and straightforward option, then the DD-WRT could prove tricky to use.
As mentioned above, DD-WRT can support more routers than any other firmware. And this could be the reason why they have the most significant community. This sizeable community means that it is easier to find DD-WRT support than any other firmware for custom routers.
Features of DD-WRT
- Access control
- Quality of service
- Dynamic DNS
- Anchor Free VPN
- Wireless access point configuration
- Wireless distribution system
- Universal plug and play
- Bandwidth monitoring
Advantages of DD-WRT
- It provides IPv6 functionality that makes it suitable for routers. Most routers use IPv4, and the protocol has not undergone updates meaning there are no sufficient addresses for the many devices we have; hence DD-WRT is a better option.
- Most primary router firmware will limit the router from utilizing its full power. When using DD-WRT, you can easily bypass these limits and experience the maximum potential of your router.
- DD-WRT gives you more power to control the router functions such as modifying antennas, blocking the internet, and blocking certain activities. You get to prevent some of the most challenging settings to tweak
- DD-WRT is more reliable because it reduces the amount of connectivity and glitch interrupting the router’s activity. The reliability is attributed to DD-WRT being a Linux program, and it cannot be manipulated. It also undergoes continuous upgrades for a better wireless connection.
- With so much control over your router when using DD-WRT, you can easily enhance your QoS by configuring a few resources, such as selecting activities that should get more bandwidth.
- DD-WRT generates information about the performance of your router and allows you to view statistics on how your router is performing.
- DD-WRT can make your router a range extender making it stronger, improved, and easily accessible to devices that are farther.
Disadvantages of the DD-WRT
- By installing DD-WRT firmware to your hardware, you could easily void your router’s warranty, and a manufacturer could decline to repair it in case it runs into problems.
- The overlocking feature on the DD-WRT could easily damage your router if poorly done. You could destroy your router and end up not having a warranty.
- Even though DD-WRT is compatible with many devices, a few routers may not be fully compatible, and you might end up breaking the router when you try flashing with DD-WRT.
Routers compatible with DD-WRT
There are many excellent DD-WRT compatible routers in the market today. You can choose a pre-flashed router or a compatible router for you to flash. A few examples of the compatible routers are:
- ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
- Netgear Nighthawk AC1750
- Linksys WRT AC1900
- D-Link EXO AC1750
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S AC2600
- TP-Link Archer C7
- Asus RT-AC88U Dual-band Router
- Netgear R7000 Router
- Linksys WRT AC3200 ACM Router
- TP-Link AC2600 Archer A10 Router
- D-Link AC2600 DIR-882-US Router
Tomato router firmware
Tomato is one of the most simplified firmware that is user-friendly compare to the other two. This firmware, just like DD-WRT, has also been around for a long time. The firmware is widely known for its direct and undisputed firmware that provides you with the features you need with no additional bulky features that would be considered junk.
Tomato is known for improving the speed of routers. The recent AdvancedTomato firmware has used the Tomato shabby to develop a new school GUI that provides real-time monitoring of crucial stats using graphical animations.
The advanced interface of the Tomato is the central selling point, and this makes it easy to manage networks and giving a visually appealing experience.
It is essential to understand that there are multiple versions of the tomato firmware, and each of them has different features, and some are purposefully developed for unique usage. The version of Tomato you will choose depends on the model of router you are using. Additionally, Tomato will not support many routers like the other firmware. And the Advanced Tomato is more of a lifesaver for people who prefer using the Tomato.
Features of Tomato
- Easy to use graphical user interface
- Personal web server
- Bandwidth and access restriction
- Multiple wireless modes
- The dashboard is more comprehensive
- Persistent configuration when upgrading firmware
- Boot wait protection
- Fewer reboots when configuring
Advantages of using Tomato firmware
- Tomato has a feature for blocking IP addresses that improve privacy and protects your router from being visible to other servers.
- You can set operation hours on your router to control the network usage in your house or office.
- Tomato firmware comes with built-in USB support, making it easy to share files from your Pc to your router.
- A feature can block unwanted or unsecured websites and filter the traffic that goes through your router.
- You can set up a VPN to use for remote access to your router when you are away.
- It is equipped with a feature for setting MAC address that filters out devices that do not have permission to connect to your router.
Disadvantages of using Tomato
- It is only compatible with a few router models making it a less flexible option.
- Tomato does not have numerous network configurations compared to DD-WRT
Routers compatible with Tomato
Tomato firmware is excellent when it comes to ease of use. You can easily get a pre-flashed or a router where you can install the Tomato firmware yourself. To choose the best router for Tomato, you can check our comprehensive review but some are as follows:
- Netgear Nighthawk smart wifi router (R7000)
- ASUS RT-AC66U
- Netgear Nighthawk x6
- Linksys WRT3200ACM Router
- ASUS RT-AC3200
- Linksys EA6900
- D-Link DIR-868L
OpenWRT is the eldest open-source router firmware. This firmware is recognized as the key driver to the development of DD-WRT and Tomato. It has gained popularity as a more substantial firmware option compared to the various options available. As of now, OpenWRT is a combination of the older OpenWRT and LEDE.
OpenWRT is the haven for people who like free software. Among the three firmware in the discussion, OpenWRT is the only firmware that does not have non-free binary blobs. OpenWRT operates mainly in the traditional distribution way. The only downside of running like a conventional system is that the OpenWRT cannot support several routers successfully. This is because they need non-free drivers to operate.
OpenWRT being a firmware that led to many others’ creation, is entirely open-source, making it easy to customize. With its base on the Linux Kernel, the firmware allows package management and has many additional add-ons. OpenWRT is not easy to set up and use even though it is compatible with a wide range of hardware. Such hardware could be superior home routers to pocket routers and enterprise routers.
Features of OpenWRT
- Configuration can be extended for all available hardware drivers
- Supports wireless functionality
- Dynamic configuring of port forwarding protocols
- Supports IP tunneling
- Provides accurate network usage statistics
- Supports any hardware that uses Linux kernel
- Compatible with mesh networking
Advantages of OpenWRT
- OpenWRT is more stable and can be reliable for working over prolonged periods.
- It is easier to use older routers with OpenWRT as long as the flash can handle new updates and releases even when a manufacturer stops updating.
- OpenWRT uses a Linux kernel, which makes it resistant to vulnerabilities that commonly attack routers.
- The OpenWRT setup is protected and ensures that you get a full internet connection without subjecting your router and devices to external attacks.
- You get IPv4/IPv6 transitioning by using the default dual-stack connectivity.
- You can easily create a WLAN for guests to allow internet access and not your local devices.
- OpenWRT allows for the connection of webcams that can be used for surveillance or creating videos.
Disadvantages of OpenWRT
- OpenWRT is challenging to install and configure, making it firmware that is not user-friendly.
- Even though OpenWRT influenced the creation of the other two firmware, it is not fully compatible with many routers.
Routers compatible with OpenWRT
There are several routers that are compatible with OpenWRT firmware. We will sample a few to ensure you make a quick pick if you need one. We recommend reading our comprehensive reviews on the best OpenWRT routers before making a choice:
- Turris Omnia 2GB
- Zyxel Armor Z2 AC2600 Router
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S
- TP-Link AC1900
- Linksys WRT AC3200
- TP-Link Archer A9
- Linksys MR9600
DD-WRT vs Tomato vs OpenWRT comparison
|Compatibility with multiple devices||Yes||No||No|
|Simple to install and configure||No||Yes||No|
|Built-in VPN support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|User friendly and straightforward||No||Yes||No|
|Quality of service support||Yes||No||Yes|
|Availability of options||Yes||No||Yes|
DD-WRT vs Tomato vs OpenWRT: which one is the better open-source router firmware?
By comparing DD-WRT vs Tomato vs OpenWRT, we realize that selecting the best is not easy. All of the three offer outstanding features and have many other minor and desirable features to offer. Therefore, the firmware you will choose entirely depends on what you are looking for.
For software developers, programmers, and tech enthusiasts looking for open-source router firmware that offers them the freedom for customization, OpenWRT is the best option. It has features that would make things work on a personalized level and be tweaked even to minor details.
If you are looking for a user-friendly router for your router, the Tomato is the most impressive option. The firmware is easy to use and is great on performance and good stability. It has an appealing interface that welcomes new users with a proper balance between functionality and performance. It can work seamlessly without having to follow through with technical terms and acronyms to install. You can easily install and configure the basic settings without further ado.
For a more comprehensive firmware and has several features that it supports, you can settle for DD-WRT. The firmware is well-established and trusted for providing good stability. DD-WRT has a long list of features that can be optimized to significantly improve the router’s performance and operation, giving it more flexibility and functionality. It allows for maximum compatibility with numerous router models.
How to install third-party firmware to your router
Time needed: 30 minutes.
Going through the multiple menus and settings on a router can get messy. Considering the type of documentation with unknown terms and figures, you can quickly get confused. By installing the third-party firmware, you give your router more functionality. Here are a few steps for setting up your router for a more superior performance:
- Verify that the new open-source router firmware you want to install is compatible with your router
You can check online or on the firmware website if your router is compatible with the open-source firmware. This will enable you not to spoil your router or waste your time.
- Download the updated version of the open-source router firmware you want to install either in .7z or .zip formats
The steps are easy to follow and will apply for all three alternative router firmware described in this article. You will just need to check the steps stipulated by your firmware for download from their website.
- Go ahead and unpack the file into a directory by using appropriate programs
The file may be a .zip or .7z file containing many other documents. You can use a program to unzip the file in order to get the file that you want. Then save the unpacked file on the folder that you want such as the desktop.
- Using your pc internet browser, access the router settings using the default IP such as 192.168.1.1
- On your router’s web user interface click on the Administration tab, then click on Firmware Upgrade
Once you are on your web user interface for your router, you need to check for the ‘administration (admin) tab’ and click on it. Then, click on ‘Firmware Update’.
- Click the browse tab and move to the unpacked firmware in the location of the file you selected
Once you click on Update Firmware, then you need to search for the downloaded and unpacked file using the browse tab.
- Select the firmware that matches with your router
From the unpacked file, you need to select the file labeled with your router’s model. This is important because the packages have different versions that are compatible with different types of routers
- Upload the firmware
Click on apply and wait as the open-source router firmware on your router gets flashed with the open-source firmware. Ensure that the power to the router is not disrupted
- Complete the process of flashing the router with the alternative firmware
Once the upgrade process is complete, check the router’s configuration once again and see that the interface has changed.
When you type in the default IP of your router on a browser, it gives you a login page for the router. You will be required to enter the username and password for the router on the login page. You can find the login details printed at the back or base of your router.
Open-source firmware FAQs
As discussed, each open-source firmware has its own pros and cons. However, DD-WRT Firmware is by far the best router firmware out of all 9 alternative/open-source firmware available today due to its stability over time as compared with competitors such as OpenWrt, Tomato (Fresh & Advanced), Freetz, LEDE, Voxel, Gargoyle FW, or Chillfire FW. It is also the most well-known, distributed, and tested alternative firmware out of 9 open-source /alternative firmware. DD-Wrt comes preloaded on various compatible routers from manufacturers including Netgear, AsusTek Computer Inc., Belkin International’s Linksys division among others so finding one suited for your own device should be easy because compatibility isn’t a hard thing. However, if you are looking for a firmware that is the easiest to use, then consider Tomato.
Tomato is easier to use as compared to DD-WRT. However, DD-WRT is the most well-known router, distributed, and tested firmware that has been updated for several years. We also have more DD-WRT compatible routers as compared to Tomato compatible routers. Openwrt, Chillfire, and Gargoyle are other options as they have fewer features but are easier to use. All of them offer an improvement to the manufacturer’s firmware. Thus as you choose your firmware, you need to know if you are excellent with installation and setup so as to choose the best firmware for your router.
You should change the router’s firmware if the router you have may be running a custom version of firmware that is unstable and requires regular rebooting. In addition, if you want more customization, increased performance, and more features then changing the firmware will serve you well. Moreover, if the router has security concerns for example some D-Link routers had backdoors, allowing access to the administration interface without any kind of username or password if your browser has a special user agent string then you should consider getting an alternative firmware.
No matter the firmware you choose among DD-WRT vs Tomato vs OpenWRT, you will see some improvement compared to the router’s stock firmware. The firmware also comes with extra functions such as OpenVPN client support to perform more tasks with your network.
The firmware also tends to be more secure than the stock firmware from the manufacturer, and you will be getting timely and frequent updates to ensure you enjoy the latest and the best features.
It is essential to follow the instructions provided when configuring your firmware to minimize risks that would expose your router to damages.
From a general perspective, the DD-WRT seems to be the most preferred firmware owing to its compatibility and excellent performance. Compared to the other two, it has more features that are more appealing to users.