Boost Wireless Router Signal Strength with Tomato
Boost Your Router WI-FI Signal Strength using Tomato Firmware
With increasing streaming services available for the Wii, more are having problems with inadequate signal strength from their wireless router. Not all Wii owners can have the Wii and the modem/wireless router in the same room. If you have a compatible wireless router, there are several applications that can boost your Wi-FI signal strength. The most popular of these are Tomato and DD-WRT. This guide uses Tomato for its simpler presentation. DD-WRT offers more functions for hacking your wireless router, but this guide addresses one issue only, that of increasing the WI-FI signal strength from the wireless router without introducing a lot of artifactual noise.
Tomato is a Linux-based replacement firmware for several Broadcom-based Wi-Fi routers, including the Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS and the Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54. Tomato will replace the firmware of your wireless router; it is possible to brick your router. This guide will NOT address brick recovery-one-way trip ONLY. No guarantees and no support for errors. So do it right or do not do this at all.
I had a backup replacement router available and a friend who was willing to rush another spare over in case of serious problems. Take this as a word FROM the wise.
Check for Tomato Support of Your Router
First, make sure that your wireless router is supported by Tomato. Check the compatibility guide HERE. Not all models in a series are supported (example is that not all models in the Linksys WRT54G series of routers are supported); make sure and check the specific model number of your router against the compatibility list. DO NOT REPLACE YOUR ROUTER FIRMWARE UNLESS IT IS KNOWN TO BE SUPPORTED BY TOMATO
Download the Latest Tomato Firmware Version
Download the latest Tomato firmware version from HERE. Extract the files from the 7zip archive using 7-Zip 32-bit, 64-bit, or WinRar 32-bit, 64-bit. Make sure to read the README file included in the Tomato folder to correctly identify the bin file version you will be installing.
Log onto Router Administration Page
1. Log onto your router’s Administration Page. To identify your router’s Gateway IP address, have the router plugged into the PC and powered on; then do following:
From a PC using Windows XP, open the Command Prompt Window: go to Start > Run and type in the word “cmd” and select OK. At the prompt, in the black screen Command Prompt Window, type “ipconfig”.
From Windows 7, click the Start button and type “cmd” in the search box. Click “cmd” in the list of search results. Now type in “ipconfig”
2. The router’s IP address is listed as the Default Gateway address. Usual router IP addresses:
Microsoft MN-700 192.168.2.1
If these IP addresses differ from the one listed under your ipconfig Default Gateway, use the one on your PC screen.
3. Type the router IP address in the URL window of your browser. Example: Linksys router
On connection, the logon dialog box of your router will display. If previously set, a username and password will be needed to continue. The default typically used by Linksys is no entry for username and “admin” for password.
Backup Your Router’s Current Firmware
1. Once you are on your router’s administration page, find and go to the firmware upgrade section.
2. Backup router firmware - Select Config Management, then click on the Backup button.
3. In the File Download dialog box, click on the Save button. Look for the Save As dialog box and choose a location to where you want the Config.bin file to be saved and then Click Save. After the download of your router’s firmware backup is completed, click on Close if that dialog box pops up.
Now that you have made a backup of your router’s native firmware, we can proceed to upgrade your router with the Tomato Firmware.
Upgrade Your Router to the Tomato Firmware
1. Go back to the router Administration page and click Firmware Upgrade
2. When the Firmware Upgrade Window opens, click Browse and look for the Tomato files you previously downloaded.
3. Make sure you have read the README file included in the Tomato folder to correctly identify the bin file version needed for this step. Example: if using a Linksys WRT54GL router, choose the file named WRT54G_WRT54GL.bin.
4. After choosing the correct .bin file, click the Upgrade button and wait for the upgrade to complete. DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR ROUTER DURING THE UPGRADE or your router will be left with no complete installed firmware- BRICK.
5. When the upgrade to Tomato firmware is complete, your router will need to be reset. Perform a hard reset of your router.
NOTE: If you change your mind about using Tomato in the future, this same Upgrade sequence can be used to reinstall your router’s original firmware using the backup file created earlier.
Reset the Router
1. Read through the reset sequence so you can get your hands and plugs all in place. You will be holding down the reset button for 90 seconds while powering down and back up.
2. Locate the Reset button on the back of your router, then press and hold it for 30 seconds.
2. While still holding the reset button down, either turn off the power to the router or unplug the router and hold for 30 more seconds.
3. After 30 seconds have elapsed, keep the reset button depressed and power the router back on. Hold that reset button for another 30 seconds
You will have been holding that reset button down for a continuous 90 seconds while going through the power cycle. This should ensure that all vestiges of the previous firmware have been removed from your router.
Log Back onto the Tomato-Upgraded Router
1. When the router comes back online, direct your Browser back to your router URL (example for Linksys 192.168.1.1).
2. You will now see the logon dialog box for Tomato rather than that of your router’s original firmware.
3. The default Username and Password for Tomato will be either root and admin or admin and admin for the Username and Password fields, respectively.
Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal
From the Tomato menu, select Advanced, then select Wireless. The default is set to 42mW, change the setting to 70. While your router is capable of transmitting at up to 251 mW, overheating and severe reduction in the life of the router are major constraints (the router will burn out). A setting of about 70mW is considered useful for most users in providing an increase in signal strength without introducing a lot of noise and artifacts in signal transmission. After selecting your transmission power setting make sure to check on the temperature of your router. I have had mine at a setting of 78mW for 3 years in a cabinet with an open front and back (parabolic reflector in the back) and plenty of space all around the modem/wireless router setup.
Depending on the layout and the materials used in the construction of the home, the effects of increasing the transmission power ranges from near miraculous to no discernable effect.
Logout from Tomato
Now, select Logout and select Cancel when the Logon Dialog Box pops up. Return to your Browser’s Home Page or wherever you like. Check out the effects of your signal boost.
Some other things you can do with your new upgraded router includes tracking bandwidth use, getting daily/weekly/monthy usage reports, and setting of Quality of Service (QoS) rules. QoS rules instruct your router to distribute bandwidth to the various gadgets and applications based on your priority rules.
For more information on additional features of the Tomato firmware, go HERE or read the Tomato wiki.
To optimize the signal strength of your wireless router, try and keep it off the floor, away from the walls, and metal objects. Experiment with changing your wireless router channel and check the effect of changing to each channel. Try changing to a channel used by fewer of the neighbors.
Hardware Solutions to Boost Wi-Fi Signal
Other options one can consider to increase the signal strength of your wireless router include the following (please Google for more information):
- replace the antennae of the wireless router with another (7dB) or use a directional antennae such as the Cantenna (purchased or home-made). If the wireless router is near an outside wall of the home, a high-gain antennae will replace the omnidirectional antennae with a directional one and optimize use of the router's power instead of dispersing the signal in all directions
- use a range extender or add a wireless access point with a repeater
- place an additional router or wireless Ethernet bridge in your signal chain
- you can also use a Powerline adaptor in combination with the range extender or router. Powerline adaptors plug into an electrical outlet and use the electrical wiring of the home to extend the computer network.