Upgrading Linksys E4200 with Tomato Firmware

Low-end home routers are typically very poor, so 1½ years ago I bought a high-end Cisco/Linksys E4200. While I was living in the city this router was rock solid, wireless connectivity was great (unlike my previous router) and I basically didn’t think about it. Then I moved to the country, and my internet was up-and-down like a yo-yo. We couldn’t watch Netflix without 5 or 6 interruptions and retries.

Linksys E4200
The Cisco Linksys E4200 – good hardware bad Cisco firmware

The only thing that had changed – I thought – was the new internet service provider (ISP). So I called them, and talked with them, and complained, and nothing. Last week one of their technicians said, “Just do me a favour, and go directly from your computer to the modem”. I figured this was a waste of time, because the router had been so rock-solid while I lived in the city.

To my surprise, the internet was suddenly rock-solid and my download speeds increased about 2 Mbps!

So it was the Linksys router! A quick internet search revealed a Cisco forum with many complaints that the router didn’t work correct with PPPoE. Bingo. The good news here is that I could fix the problem – I didn’t need my ISP to solve it for me. But how to fix it? I didn’t want to fork over more money for a new router that had new problems I didn’t know about.

Open source router firmware for the Linksys E4200

The Cisco Linksys E4200 v1 has the Broadcom BCM4716 chipset.

This InfoWorld article discusses 6 open-source router firmware options. Some research into DD-WRT made it obvious that it may or may not work with the Linksys E4200. However, a search for “Linksys E4200 Tomato” immediately revealed that Tomato would work with the v1 version of the router (not the v2, which uses a different chipset). I found the firmware here and easily uploaded it to the router.

This was the file I downloaded:

tomato-E4200USB-NVRAM60K-1.28.0497.1MIPSR2-Toastman-VLAN-RT-N-VPN.bin

and installing it with the default Cisco firmware upgrade GUI (under Administrative menu option) was trivial.

I then did a 30-30-30 reboot, which is pressing the reset button on the router for 30 seconds, unplugging it while still holding the reset button for 30 seconds, and then plug it back in while still holding the reset button for 30 seconds.

Then I went to http://192.168.1.1 and logged in with admin/admin. I enabled DHCP, configured PPPoE and everything – including the 5GHz – is working wonderfully. I’ve been connected consistently for several days now, and it’s wonderful.

So I would like to thank the Tomato group and Toastman for building such a slick open-source router firmware. Thanks guys!!

Robert

OCZ Revo Drive – Fixed!

OCZ Revo Drives are amazing – with two 64GB SSDs combined in a RAID 0 configuration and slipped into a PCIe motherboard slot there’s really nothing faster!

Only problem is, after a few weeks of using it, Windows would say there were problems with the hard drive and check it on boot – which takes a normally really fast boot up time and makes it, well, really slow. Other times it Windows wouldn’t check anything, but it would just hang – often for 2 minutes! – just showing this:

No fancy little balls of light for two minutes!! I tried digging into the Windows Event log but never found anything actionable.

Today, it got worse – MUCH worse! During a disk check it crashed (I’ve never seen that before), then it wouldn’t start, then it did start but it blue-screened several times… You get the idea.

Anyway, here’s how I (think I) eventually fixed it without a low-level format!

  1. I have an ASUS P5K-VM mother board and I was a version behind on the BIOS – so I upgraded to version 1001 which is documented as fixing the “Q-Fan function abnormal after recover from S3 mode.” However, I have noticed that often motherboard updates fix a lot more than they advertise for some reason.
  2. Then I downloaded the OCZ Revo upgrade disk and burned it to a CD. The upgrade process was wonderfully simple and immediately upgraded my OCZ Revo firmware from 1.2 to 1.35.

I’ve restarted multiple times, put the computer to sleep and woken it up then restarted, etc. I’ve turned the computer off and then on again and it has always started lightning fast! Wonderful.

Thank you OCZ engineers!!

Robert