By Aaron Weiss
July 07, 2006
It’s Dead, Jim!
Despite best — or not-so-best — efforts, accidents happen. Maybe your flash upgrade failed, or your router’s memory became corrupted. You may have made a mistake somewhere in the process. It could have been buggy firmware itself. After all, these open source replacements come with no guarantees. The time for blame has passed.
You’ll know your router has been bricked because, well, it no longer works. More specifically, you will probably see the power light blinking steadily. You may see most of its other lights lit solid.If your router has a “DMZ” light, note whether it is lit at power on or whether it lights a few seconds later, or never at all. This information could be useful soon.
Sometimes you can breathe new life into your bricked router. It is difficult to say exactly how often bricked routers are successfully revived, but it happens often enough that a number of resurrection techniques have emerged. There is no guarantee, of course, that any of these will work.
The methods devised by the networking community basically fall into two categories: gentle and desperate.
The more popular gentle recovery techniques involve establishing basic network communications with your router through software, followed by reflashing back to known, good firmware.
The desperate recovery techniques involve opening your router and attempting to physically reset its circuitry.
If you could simply reflash your seemingly dead router with an official Linksys firmware, you could, like Cher, turn back time. Not surprisingly, this is Linksys’ approved recovery method for Windows users, and the only one that won’t void your warranty – if it works.
To test if your router is only “a little bit dead,” you need to see if it responds to pings. First, reset your router to its factory default settings. Do this by powering it on and depressing the reset button for at least 30 seconds. You need the tip of a pen, or better yet, the pointy end of a pen cap to keep the recessed button depressed. The router’s lights will cycle off and back on after it reboots itself.
Using a computer with a wired Ethernet connection to one of the router’s LAN ports, open a command prompt in Windows (go to the Run command in the Windows Start menu, type “cmd” and then hit Enter). Use the ping command to see if the router responds at its factory default IP address, 192.168.1.1.
Pinging 192.168.1.1 with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time<10ms TTL=128
Reply from 192.168.1.1: bytes=32 time<10ms TTL=128
If you see something like the above, your router is not really dead. You may now dance a happy jig.
If, instead of “Reply from” you see “Request Timed Out” or “Hardware Error” or “Destination host unreachable,” your router is not responding. Do not dance a happy jig, and don’t bother with the rest of this Linksys-approved recovery, because you’ll just be wasting your time. Jump to the next section.
To proceed with the Linksys recovery, visit their Web site to download the latest official firmware. Select your router model from the drop-down list. Be sure to choose the exact model number marked on the underside label of your router – the WRT54G, for example, comes in versions from V1 to V6 (if unmarked, you have a V1).
Click the “Firmware” icon and proceed to download the firmware executable (.exe) file .
Force your network adapter into 10Mbps half-duplex mode. Because the procedure varies on different Windows versions, consult the Linksys support page for step-by-step instructions.
Launch the executable file you downloaded. Click “Next” on the splash screen. Set the “Router’s IP Address” to 192.168.1.1 and the “Router’s Password” to admin. Click “Next” again, and the firmware upload process begins.
About two minutes later, the update will complete, the router will reboot, and you’re back in business. At this point, you may revisit upgrading the firmware to an open-source replacement, but be sure to consider what may have gone wrong before, so as not to simply repeat your router’s near-death experience.
The Ping, Dear God, I Beg Of You Technique
If you router did not respond to pings at 192.168.1.1, it isn’t in great shape. But all hope is not yet lost.
Earlier, did you notice if the “DMZ” light on the front panel glows a few seconds after applying power? If yes, you may be able to reset the router to a failsafe mode. Cycle the power to your router and, as soon as DMZ lights up, depress the reset button for two seconds. It may take some coordination to pull this off accurately. Try again to ping the router.
If your firmware is truly hosed, your router may only respond to pings at 192.168.1.1 for a very brief window upon power-up. The moment power is applied, the router hasn’t yet loaded its firmware and is operating on a kind of BIOS. It is during this fleeting moment that you may be able to “catch” the router while still momentarily conscious, just before its brain-dead firmware is loaded.
You need to test whether your router is indeed responsive, even if just for a second, because that is all that’s needed to breathe new life into it.
First, connect both your computer and your router to a hub or switch (obviously, the switch built into the router doesn’t count). If your computer is wired directly to your router, your Ethernet link may drop when the router is non-responsive, and you could miss the brief moment when it blinks its eyes awake. The hub/switch will keep your link up.
Second, manually configure your wired network settings. Assign your computer the IP address 192.168.1.10 (the last digit should be any number greater than 1), with subnet mask 255.255.255.0, and gateway 192.168.1.1.
Third, open a command prompt in Windows, or a terminal in MacOS X or Linux. Windows users should type:
ping –t 192.168.1.1
The “-t” switch in Windows will keep the ping running indefinitely.
MacOS X or Linux users should type:
Your computer will continuously lob pings at the router. Now, cycle power to the router. You’re looking for any sign of life at all – does the router respond to any ping? Depending on your ping command, a successful reply may say “Reply from…” or “XYZ bytes from…” along with information like “time” and “TTL”.
If you do see even one or two replies, you’re set! This verifies that your router experiences a moment of consciousness.
If your router does not respond to a ping within a few seconds of powering up, it isn’t going to happen.