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Increasing the signal with Linksys WRT54GL....?

Discussion in 'Tomato Firmware' started by FattysGoneWild, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    I have been looking into this online. Seems most people are running it at 70mw. Does this effect the performance or life of the router?
  2. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    You can set any power you wish without needing to worry about overheating or reducing the life of the router. But stick to under 150 so as to avoid nonlinearity in the wireless system (if you aren't an RF engineer, this won't mean anything to you, just take it as a sensible upper limit).
  3. rhester72

    rhester72 Network Guru Member

    Increasing router signal strength improves apparent signal but does nothing for the data going in the other direction. Better antennas are the way to go.

  4. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Rodney's right - better antennas will improve strength in BOTH directions. Unless you need all-round coverage (say, a house with several floors).
  5. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Do you guys have any links for better antennas? Are they easy to replace?
  6. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Depends where you live, try google. The antennas unscrew from the back of the WRT54GL.
  7. Delta221

    Delta221 Addicted to LI Member

    Antennas for the WRT54GL are very easy to replace. They screw right off. You can find all sorts of cheap and powerful antennas on eBay for $18-25 dollars, plus shipping. Directional antennas are the best, but it all depends on your setup. If you get directional antennas you should get two, or two pairs, so that both the client and server can transmit at the same range. Or if you only want your wireless signal in one part of a building, or field. If your router antenna can transmit 1 km, and your laptop can only transmit 100m, then you can have a problem... Directional antennas have to be pointed at one another for the best results.
    Or you can just get regular (omni-directional) antennas, which are more powerful than the stock ones. They transmit in all directions, so you don't have to point them at your target machine/host. I got two for my WRT54GL, they are rated at 7dBi. They work great, though they are twice as long as the normal ones.
    The WRT54GL takes antennas with a RP-TNC connector. Some directional antennas need an adaptor/wire which is sold separately for a few dollars more, so make sure you know if you need to buy one with the antenna you choose. Unscrew your antenna, and compare it with whatever you want to buy. I think the antennas have female connectors. There are alot of antennas out there, you don't have to buy a linksys branded one, it can be any 2.4 GHz antenna, as long as it has the right connector.
    If you get one too strong (check your local laws), you might need to get a licence.
  8. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Does the tin foil method really work?
  9. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Pringle Can USB antenna

    Not sure what you mean by the tinfoil method. But one very easy way to make a quite high gain antenna is the old "Pringles" tube. Instead of using cable and making a small antenna inside the tube, you need to cut a small square hole at the same place which is 3 3/8" from the bottom of the can (center of the hole), and just insert the active part of a USB wireless adapter. It'll just take you a few minutes if you have a can around.

    I tried this once and about five new SSID's appeared from a few kilometers away. The great thing about USB adapters is that you can put them just about anywhere to get the best signal.
  10. szfong

    szfong Network Guru Member

    I'm assuming you mean reflectors, and yes they work great, BUT you must make it VERY accurately. I use heavier duty baking oven aluminum foil + cardboard and adjust it as perfectly as possibly, I don't really trust the signal strength meter, I initiate an ftp transfer and watch the bitrate. Anyhow, I then duplicate it with thin copper/metal sheet if available and thin softwood (xacto knife cuttable) to wrap it around. It'll double the range vs the omni. The sheet metal is razor sharp, I always sand it smooth.
  11. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

  12. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Nobody's replied so ..

    If you increase the antenna gain you have some advantages and some disadvantages. You make the signal stronger in one direction, at the expense of all other directions. That's OK if you have a link you are trying to improve. If you have several clients, perhaps even some on another floor, then changing your antenna can make things better for some, but much worse for others in the wrong direction. Anyway, to answer your question, put a better antenna on one end, it will improve things. Put better antennas on BOTH ends, you get even more benefit. But only in that one direction.

    If instead, you increase transmitter power, you will improve the signal from the router at all clients. But the signal received by the router from the clients will stay the same. However, since most traffic is TO your client, you will usually get better throughput and fewer packets dropped, but don't expect any huge improvements, just a more solid signal. Of course, there's no point in increasing the signal by either method if it is already adequate.

    Have fun experimenting!
  13. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Is it true the stock Linksys firmware leaves the transmit power level at 28mW with the WRT54GL?
  14. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    That's about right, it's quite low, it's actually similar to what most wireless cards use, so they would be about equal in strength.
  15. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Curious. I got to looking at the product manual. It says the RF power output is set to 18 dbm. Is that equal to 63mW? Or is the Linksys manual wrong?

    Appendix B:
    Model WRT54GL
    Standards IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u,
    IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11b
    Channels 11 Channels (US, Canada)
    13 Channels (Europe, Japan)
    Ports Internet: One 10/100 RJ-45 Port
    LAN: Four 10/100 RJ-45 Switched
    One Power Port
    Button Reset, SecureEasySetup
    Cabling Type CAT5
    LEDs Power, DMZ, WLAN, LAN (1-4),
    Internet, SecureEasySetup
    RF Power Output 18 dBm
    UPnP able/cert Able
    Security Features Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI)
    Firewall, Internet Policy
    Wireless Security Wi-Fi Protected Accessâ„¢2 (WPA2),
    WEP, Wireless MAC Filtering
    Dimensions 7.32" x 1.89" x 6.06"
    (186 x 48 x 154 mm)
    Weight 13.8 oz (391 g)
    Power External, 12V DC, 0.5A
    Certifications FCC, ICES-003, CE, Wi-Fi (802.11b,
    802.11g), WPA2, WMM
    Operating Temp. 32 to 104ºF (0 to 40ºC)
    Storage Temp. -4 to 158ºF (-20 to 70ºC)
    Operating Humidity 10 to 85%, Noncondensing
    Storage Humidity 5 to 90%, Noncondensing
  16. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Someone needs to measure it with proper test equipment. Bear in mind that the figures which we bandy about here in the forum are just relative numbers, that probably don't bear much relation to actual transmit power. For instance, DD-WRT's output at the same number setting is usually a few dB stronger than Tomato. The figure of 18dBM is *probably* the maximum power output which Linksys use in their firmware. The actual power is varied by both firmware and in the driver itself, depending on what country you select. The transmit power is also varied with the speed in use, making it quite hard sometimes to make measurements on a link with different clients - each with different negotiated link speeds.


    I don't think the Linksys data sheet means very much.
  17. asterger

    asterger Network Guru Member

  18. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Just to be sure. The transmit power adjustment does work in Tomato with the latest version Tomato Firmware v1.23.1607 right? I came across this thread http://www.linksysinfo.org/forums/showthread.php?t=61011 that says it does not work. Maybe its a really old thread or some thing.
  19. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    There are some things you need to do if you are using the ND driver version. Read the whole thread for information. Victek and Teddy Bear versions of Tomato already have these mods incorporated.
  20. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    I went ahead and skimmed through the thread. Post #82 http://www.linksysinfo.org/forums/showthread.php?t=61011&page=9 is whats confusing me since nothing more was really said. I dl Tomato firmware from the official site. 2 are listed.


    The 1 in bold is the 1 have installed. And when I click "about" in the firmware gui. It says the following:

    Tomato Firmware v1.23.1607
    Copyright (C) 2006-2008 Jonathan Zarate

    Built on Sun, 14 Dec 2008 02:54:59 -0800

    Is the version I am running fine? Or do I need to make an adjustment? Still trying to learn about this firmware. Really new to it. Thanks for being patient with me.
  21. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    To know whether you need ND or regular version run this
    nvram show | grep wl0_corerev
    via telnet or gui

    When digit is =>9 then use ND version. If <9 use normal version
  22. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Im sorry. I do not know how to do that with either method. Can you please tell me the exact steps using the telnet method or gui? Which ever 1 is easier. Would really appreciate it.

  23. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    open cmd (start button>run>type cmd)
    you will be prompted for login: root
    password: Your password you use to login into tomato

    then copy and paste command nvram show | grep wl0_corerev
    hit enter you will get a number that indicates (see my earlier post here) what version to use.

    Giddy up:thumbup:
  24. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Thank you kindly sir! This is what came up:

    Tomato v1.23.1607

    BusyBox v1.12.3 (2008-12-14 02:54:58 PST) built-in shell (ash)
    Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.

    # nvram show | grep wl0_corerev

    Looks like I need the ND version correct? If so. I am surprised my router did not brick on me when flashing it brand new. I have been running with the other version for 2 weeks or so now. What do you advise? If it needs to be reflashed. Do I reset Tomato back to defaults and then erase nvram. Log back in and flash with this other version?

  25. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    Maybe I'm being to caution here but, yes, restore>erase nvram>flash ND> erase nvram> configure.
  26. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    Wait what router you've got?
  27. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Thank you. I will get on it right away. Now since the transmit power is screwed up with this version. What is the easiest way for a newbie to fix it? Also any chance I might have screwed up the router since I am using the wrong version?
  28. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Linksys WRT54GL v1.1 first 4 numbers of the serial # CL7C

  29. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    Try using ND, it has newer wireless drivers
  30. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Wow. Glad I waited. :biggrin: I was going to flash again soon. Just curious. You said I needed the ND version instead of the current version installed. Was that just a misunderstanding on my part or some thing? Thanks again for all the help. :thumbup:

  31. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    I misunderstood for a sec, if "wl0_corerev=9" you should use ND, like I said it has newer wifi drivers.
  32. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    No problem. I noticed the file being a .trx for the ND instead of .bin for the older version. Will it still update fine and accept the .trx? As I mentioned earlier with this ND version. Since the transmit power adjustment is broken. How would I correct that the easiest way possible for some one that is new to this like me?

  33. Assman

    Assman Addicted to LI Member

    Not quite sure what you mean by "broken transmit power adjustment" but it might be due to the fact that you might need newer drivers (ND version), what I did for my router (in sig) was simply rename trx to bin.
  34. bripab007

    bripab007 Network Guru Member

    If you're wl0_corerev is greater than or equal to 9, than you can run either the ND or the non-ND version (but you should really just go ahead and run the ND version, due to the newer wireless drivers that may give better results with hosts running certain Intel Wi-Fi chipsets).

    If your corerev is 7 or 8, than you can try running the ND version, but if you notice problems with your Wi-Fi clients, then you should probably back down to the non-ND version.

    If you're corerev is less than 7, typically, you don't want to risk flashing the ND version at all.
  35. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    I mentioned that because of this thread.


    Apparently it is broken in the ND version and thats why I was wondering the easiest way for a newbie like me to correct that problem.

  36. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    The easiest way would be for you to use Victek's version, where it is already fixed as far as is possible.
    The WRT54GL can use either old or new drivers, and you can flash the .trx or .bin file if you are already running tomato without renaming.

    When using ND driver, if you want to set full power you must use channels 1-8 only.
    This post tells you why. There is no remedy as far as we can tell, this behaviour appears to be hard coded in the drivers themselves. It is the same in original firmware and DD-WRT - which are using the same drivers. That is why I said the linksys data sheet probably doesn't mean very much.

  37. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    Thanks again to all for the info/help. You guys are great! :thumbup:

    I have heard 1, 6 and 11 are the best channels to use. I can for get 11. Which is currently what I am using and the only 1 using it in my area. In this case if I move to Victek's firmware. A bunch of people in my area are using 1 and 6. Bummer.

  38. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    Try it and see what happens. You probably won't notice much difference between the channels, depends how close the other routers are. But unless you have an Intel wireless card and suffer from reboots to the router, there's no reason to use the ND driver at all!
  39. neoufo51

    neoufo51 Network Guru Member

    Thanks for this thread, guys. Because of switching to the ND version on my WRT54GL, I was able to improve the signal quality by about 20% on both my machines! And I thought my signal quality was pretty good to begin with!
  40. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    After reading this post from you again. http://www.linksysinfo.org/forums/showpost.php?p=343349&postcount=123 Since I am currently still using the non ND version. Do you advise using channels 1-8 still for full power for non ND version? I think that is what I understood from that post. But want to double check with you since I am currently using channel 11.

  41. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    As far as I recall, the non-ND driver allows the use of full power on channels 1-9. When you have flashed it, you can easily tell from the signal strength indicator on your wireless card. You may find it is different for you, as the wireless card in your client *may* be able to tell the router what power to use - this is a grey area !
  42. FattysGoneWild

    FattysGoneWild LI Guru Member

    I see. I went ahead and got brave. I flashed the firmware again with Victek's mod ND version. Right away I noticed a performance increase with wireless. Every thing seemed to go well. Accept 1 part. And I did clear NVRAM after the flash as well. When I changed my router password. I tried to log back in and it kept on asking for my password. I was putting in the right 1. This was in IE7. Finally after it not taking. I hit cancel several times and seen the Tomato screen with nothing on it. I thought some thing went bad real fast. Opened firefox and logged in fine. Retyped my same password in the password manager with Tomato and saved again. It works fine now. Any idea what happened?

    After I configured every thing and got my network setup. I did for get to change what country I am in the Advanced/Wireless area. Changed it to U.S. and rebooted the router. Also rebooted the lap top. Hope every thing is fine.

    Under the firewall tab. NAT Target. It is set to default of masquerade. Is that setting fine or do you advise changing it to SNAT? I have no idea what they do. I also enabled all the UPnP settings if that makes a difference for either 1 of those options. I needed UPnP enabled for my gaming consoles.
  43. Toastman

    Toastman Super Moderator Staff Member Member

    You seem to have it all sorted out quite well now. The weird behavior you noticed until you changed to firefox, was due to your browser cache storing old information. Usually you can refresh the page and it will drop outdated info and pick up the new. Some browsers also have a specific "clear cache" command.
  44. neoufo51

    neoufo51 Network Guru Member

    Any other tweaks out there for the WRT54GL?
  45. Gewehr98

    Gewehr98 LI Guru Member

    I cheated.

    I installed a WSB24 in the RF path between my WRT54Gv1.0 and wireless clients. That, in conjunction with the pair of Linksys HGA7T antennae installed on the WSB24, took care of any signal strength problems on my property. :biggrin:

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