Looking for router/hub advice

This post is more than 2 years old.

After switching providers yesterday, I noticed that my net access was mysteriously dying every 4-5 hours. I hit up the status page on my router and see that everything looks fine. I can do a DHCP Release/Renew and immediately get a good response, but I still can't do anything on the Internet. Unplugging the router fixes it every time. Is it a bad router? If so - it seems like a bit of a coincidence that it died the same day I switched providers. However - I'd be less likely to blame the hardware if a simple restart didn't fix it each and every time. The router in question is a Linksys BEFSR41. The firmware hasn't bee updated since 2004, which is probably around when I picked up the device. I'm tempted to just swing by Office Depot and pick up a new Linksys model. If it works again for 5 years I'd consider that a fine investment for 40-50 bucks.

p.s. And may I say for the 100th time how much I hate dealing with hardware and networking?

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA https://www.raymondcamden.com

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Andy Sandefer posted on 12/30/2009 at 1:45 AM

In my experience this type of hassle always seems to be a configuration problem that only the ISP (and their incompetent phone support techs) can resolve - meaning it is something on their end of the line. Good luck talking to them and getting your issue elevated to the right person. Personally, I have 2 routers that have been collecting dust for nearly 3 years because we've been on U-Verse and have had zero downtime since then. The service uses the U-Verse gateway appliance that controls TV, VOIP and internet and it seems to work pretty well despite all of the gaming and everything else I try to throw at it.

Comment 2 by Gary Funk posted on 12/30/2009 at 1:48 AM

@Ray: First I would upgrade the firmware. That may solve your entire peoblem. If it doesn't then run out and buy a new toy.

Comment 3 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 1:48 AM

Yeah, I'm tempted to blame LUS. This is still pretty new to them, well, they've supported businesses in my area for a few years, but they are still new to the residential net/video/phone system. I don't mind "wasting" 50 bucks for a new hub - it may be worthwhile just to get the 8 port one - and if I have to call em I'll consider it growing pains of the new system.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 1:49 AM

Gary - there is no new firmware. :( I was pretty surprised. It had not been updated since 04.

Comment 5 by Gary Funk posted on 12/30/2009 at 1:57 AM

Ah, so you must have the 3.0 hardware version. Go get the new 4.3 hardware.

Comment 6 by Simon posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:01 AM

My guess is that it's the hardward. I have had two Linksys wireless routers that are flaky and required a restart every now and then. The wireless router that came with my FIOS connection is awesome...and it's not made by Linksys.

Comment 7 by Brian Billman posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:09 AM

Get a Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS and install Tomato firmware. Rock solid and tons of features. Also should be right in your price range. Only reason I'd upgrade is to get gigabit+wifi.

Comment 8 by Ryan posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:11 AM

Yea, I have to restart my Linksys W11S4V4 at least once a day. I just lose my connectivity to the Internet. Of course it is about 5 years old so I just deal with it ;). Don't know 100% if it's the hardware either but always assumed it was.

My broadband provider is Charter Communications.

Comment 9 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:11 AM

I specifically _dont_ want WiFi. I mean I won't mind if it is there, but I'll disable it. My drop is on the second floor in my home office. The walls here block wifi. I use powerline networking to go to a wireless router downstairs in the kitchen which provides connectivity for my laptops. I also powerline down behind the tv for the ps3/xbox.

Comment 10 by Cameron Childress posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:46 AM

Ray - I'd definitely fully investigate updating the firmware first. Sounds like you have already looked at that though.

Also - I have found some routers to get EXTRA flaky when I have certain apps running. Torrents and other P2P software that blast huge quantities of very small packets through your router can make it fall over sooner. I have a WRT54G that died daily under load, but that is great now that I switched to Tomato firmware.

If you do go the route of buying a new device, I definitely second the recommendation for Tomato or DD-WRT. Check and make sure any device you buy is compatible with one or both. You don't have to install new firmware right away, but at least you have the option. My experience with Tomato is great and it does ALOT more than the default firmware. Some firmware also offers several VPN endpoint configurations. Tomato specifically (in my experience) is worth looking into and really not that hard at all to install on the device.

Comment 11 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:49 AM

So I assume Tomato is an OS firmware for the DD-WRT hardware?

Comment 12 by Cameron Childress posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:52 AM

Both Tomato and DD-WRT are firmware:

http://www.polarcloud.com/t...
http://www.dd-wrt.com

There are also others, but those are two of the most popular in my experience.

Comment 13 by Steve Moore posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:55 AM

Don't you use a Mac? Maybe not related, but I'm now on my third wireless router (different brand every time) because my MacBook Pro behaves like you've described, works fine for awhile, then gone for no reason. I've disabled wireless-N and using only G now. Helped some.

Comment 14 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 2:58 AM

@CC: Thanks for the clarification.
@SM: I use my MBP at night mostly. I use a Mac desktop during the day. I've observed the "death of connectivity" issue in both areas, with similar results both times.

Comment 15 by Shimon posted on 12/30/2009 at 3:06 AM

Ray, I happened to have such problem with my Netgear router and here are few things which i learned:
1) switching to wireless N @5GHz helps because there are no interfering devices such as wireless home phone and bluetooth on that diapason
2) new Apple Airport Extreme works much more stable than Netgear with 3 internet hungry laptops connected at the same time. Looks like price of the device tells about it's stability under higher loads.

Comment 16 by Glen posted on 12/30/2009 at 5:20 AM

Might be worth taking the lid off to see which bit gets really hot... I had a router recently that worked reasonably well - it was a crappy non-branded chinese thing, but worked - gradually it got worse and worse with my connection when we put more demand on it with streaming video, etc. I think the problem boiled down to router "age" - the components were slowly dying and also the router was not upto streaming video... There were a couple of caps that got really hot - should not really... Anyway, it sounds rubbish, but check out where the heat comes from, people have recommended various fixes from beer cap heatsinks upwards...

Might be useful, might not so don't get too distracted :)

Comment 17 by jules posted on 12/30/2009 at 6:08 AM

"And may I say for the 100th time how much I hate dealing with hardware and networking?"
Ditto that. Just because I use a computer to do work, everyone thinks I know how to:
• get a 10 year old pc on FiOS through a wireless router
• set up or fix every $10 piece of crap mp3 player available in CV.

Comment 18 by Chris posted on 12/30/2009 at 6:44 AM

The Tomato software is so much easier to manage than the Linksys. Very easy to upgrade too also.

Comment 19 by Mike Dawson posted on 12/30/2009 at 7:03 AM

Make sure you have not hard-coded any DNS entries that point to your previous ISP.

Comment 20 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 7:23 AM

@MikeD: I fixed those already, but good tip.

Comment 21 by James Moberg posted on 12/30/2009 at 7:24 AM

I have ComCast cable internet and used 2 different Linksys routers (Wireless G and a WRT54G both updated with latest firmware). They both experienced the same mysterious issue as yours (DHCP dropping and not allowing a renewal until a reboot). A tech from ComCast came over and tested the lines and the modem. He stated that both were fine and blamed the routers. I thought it "may" be due to my iPhone, but disabling WiFi on the iPhone and/or giving using a static IP didn't change anything. I ended up going to Costco and purchasing a Belkin N+ router that was on sale during December. I don't have any problems now.

Comment 22 by Shimon posted on 12/30/2009 at 10:11 AM

@James Moberg - did you switch to N though or you're still on G?

Comment 23 by Nick Kwiatkowski posted on 12/30/2009 at 5:03 PM

Ray,

I would recommend the DD-WRT firmware as well as a replacement of the stock one. Works a lot better, has a lot more features, and for me, seems to be a lot more stable. I used to have to reboot my router every day or it would get slower and slower and eventually lock up. Updating the firmware fixed that in a sinch :)

Comment 24 by Evagoras Charalambous posted on 12/30/2009 at 6:36 PM

Ray, I too struggled with routers for a while until I made the move to a WRT54G router and installed DD-WRT on it. I have never had a single issue after making the move, and the thing runs forever without needing any reboots. So it's possible that it could be your router's fault as well.

I also tried Tomato, and actually installed it on the same router model at a friend's place. Excellent as well, AJAX interface, and a little easier to install because its installation file was smaller (the particular router has an initial limit set by its BIOS if I remember correctly, and I had to install DD-WRT in a two-step process - but this might have changed by now).

Having seen and worked with both, I prefer DD-WRT but that's just a personal choice. You can not go wrong with either of them. And as for wireless (you mention that your walls on the second level block the signal), one of the nice things about both of these interfaces is that you can adjust the strength of the signal to anything you want, bypassing the default set by most routers, making the signal strong enough to go through bomb shelters. I just make sure to turn the wireless off when the baby is home. :o)

Comment 25 by James Brown posted on 12/30/2009 at 6:40 PM

Ray,
I used to use the Linksys routers/firewalls but I switched to Watchguard and never looked back:
http://www.watchguard.com/p...
They even make a "non-wireless" version.

Comment 26 by Jody Fitzpatrick posted on 12/30/2009 at 7:22 PM

Hey Ray,

I read some comments but not all so if someone said this already I'm sorry. Have you tried logging into the router and doing a system reset? You know setting the manufacture defaults back to normal, and then see if that works?

Comment 27 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 7:25 PM

@Jody - nope. I'm a network noob, so I tend to not touch crap once it is working.

Let me give folks an update. The mysterious, and somewhat regular, network death hasn't happened. Or - if it has, maybe I missed it. I was playing Warcraft late last night and lost connectivity for 1 minute, but never had to reset the router, it just came back by itself.

I'm just going to stand back today and see whats what. (Although I may still go buy a router since I've got next to no hardware write offs for 09.)

Comment 28 by Mike posted on 12/30/2009 at 8:49 PM

Hi Ray -

My comment won't be popular, but I've had nothing but bad luck from Linksys. On my last one, I flashed it to WRT-DDT, but I wouldn't recommend doing this unless you really want to tinker with your settings. I have good luck with Netgear & DLink (although I use an Airport Extreme now).

Comment 29 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/30/2009 at 8:50 PM

I use an Airport downstairs. For the most part, it's perfect. If Apple sold a non-wireless one, I'd pick it up. Of course, if Apple sold toxic sewage, I'd probably pick that up too.

Comment 30 by DanaK posted on 12/30/2009 at 9:06 PM

I have the same issue with my Linksys N running on Comcast. My MBP shows it has a signal but no connectivity. A router reboot always clears it up. It's only a few months old.

Comment 31 by James Moberg posted on 12/30/2009 at 9:36 PM

@Shimon - One of my the Linksys routers was G and the other was N. The Belkin router is N and had some additional features that made it worth purchasing - Gigabit switch (not a hub) - USB storage port - DMZ mode - sticky DHCP IPs - Guest WiFi Mode (like access at hotels)
http://www.google.com/produ...

Here's a link to the PDF guide:
http://en-us-support.belkin...

I've used DD-WRT in the past with an older Linksys router and thought it was superior. I unintentionally bricked it the first time I installed the firmware and had to open the case and cross some wires to reset it. Other than that, it worked well.

Comment 32 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/31/2009 at 12:25 AM

And since I said things seemed better - of course it just died on me. I was going to head to Office Depot this morning, but changed my mind. I'm leaving in two hours so it's a bit too close. So I'm tempted to first try the DD-WRT route, see how that works, and then go buy hardware if I need to.

Comment 33 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/31/2009 at 12:27 AM

Well, kudos to the DD-WRT folks. They made a nice app to tell you if your router is supported. Mine isn't. :)

Comment 34 by Matt posted on 1/2/2010 at 8:08 AM

The next best networking hardware to a real cisco is Yamaha netvolante.jp devices that are solid and with proper firewalls as well. Only negative is the GUI is in Jpn but the config is done thru command line in English

Comment 35 by Mike posted on 1/5/2010 at 1:25 AM

I would recommend the Linksys WRT610n v2 if your gonna buy a new router, then get DD-WRT installed and you can do all sorts of crazy stuff.

thats what i'm running and it's awsome

Comment 36 by Raymond Camden posted on 4/2/2010 at 5:07 PM

Hey guys. I finally got around to buying new hardware. I picked up the Cisco RVS4000, which apparently is going to EOL May 1. Lucky me, right?

So here is the odd thing. Before I switched, I did a Speakeasy test. I saw DL speeds of 40mbs or so, uploads of 10 or so.

Now I see downloads between 10-20, uploads of 5. WTF. I thought maybe it was the VPN software, but I've turned off any VPN support. Anything else I should check or should I just return it?

Comment 37 by Raymond Camden posted on 4/3/2010 at 10:45 PM

Ok, I switched to a DLink one and the speeds are much closer to what they should be. However, now I'm seeing something freaky. DNS seems off. If I go to x.com, and I've yet to visit x.com, it is INCREDIBLY slow. Hitting x.com again after it though seems speedy.