Are wireless routers disposable?

by Simon St. Laurent

I spend a fair amount of time providing technical support for friends, family, and the occasional local political campaign. Looking back over the past few years, it seems clear that I'm spending a lot less time helping people with Windows (thank you, Macintosh) but a lot more time helping out with various wireless network problems. Most of those problems seem to be caused by dying routers.


2008-03-07 08:53:15
Curse you, Simon! ;-)
Todd Ogasawara
2008-03-07 10:16:33
Simon: I've had problems with both wired and wireless routers: Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link wired routers have all become flaky over time. The Linksys and Netgear were revived by firmware updates. The D-Link is toast. I've had good luck with about a half-dozen Linksys WiFi routers and WAPs scattered around various places. These have lasted for years. I tend to keep their firmware updated. So, that might help a bit too. I've got an ancient Microsoft 802.11g router (bought for $20 at a Costco firesale years ago) that seems to becoming more flaky recently. No firmware update option for that one. You might want to check out some of the Open Source firmware upgrades available for some routers like the Linksys WRT54G. That might revive some of the fading WiFi routers.
M. David Peterson
2008-03-07 15:23:48
I go through about one WiFi router per year, on average. Not sure why that is, but I certainly seem to have the same experience with WiFi routers that you do.
2008-03-07 23:39:23
I have one Linksys wireless that has been working pretty steadily for four years. I have also gone through a number of others (Linksys and Netgear, both wired and wireless) in the other part of the house.

The number one problem I notice is our electric supply. Pretty common to have to reboot both the modem and the routers a couple of times each month. Even surge suppressors don't seem to help there.

Tom Passin
2008-03-08 10:32:01
I have an 802.11b Linksys wireless router which has been going ok for about 4 years, with one firmware update.

I think that many of the products use the same few chip sets - certainly that's the case for many wireless cards - so maybe there is one variety that is less reliable. Declining output sounds like a consequency of prolonged overheating.

Norman Walsh
2008-03-08 10:53:27
I've had the same experience. Once a year, maybe every other year, my wireless router just gives out. I hate throwing things away so I have a small collection in the basement.
Guy Rixon
2008-03-10 08:43:05
I've had eight WiFi routers at home over the last few years. They all seem to break down as noted in the article.

Interestingly, they last a lot better if they're not on continuously. I have a pair of identical router/WiFi/DSL boxes, one in my main home and one at a holiday home. The latter is older, but has been used less; its WiFi part seems less degraded than the newer one.

At work, my project has some WiFi routers that we use very occasionally on exhibition stands; they are only on for maybe 15 days per year. They are all about four years old and ought to be long-dead, but they seem to be OK.

Carla Schroder
2008-03-10 15:52:54
Maybe the problem is low-end poo hardware. I use Soekris and WRAP boards with some kind of dinky linux, like Pyramid or Voyage, and an Atheros-based wireless card. The boards are indestructible, and Linux has a powerhouse networking stack that can do anything. There are a number of specialized wireless router Linuxes that have both graphical and command-line interfaces.

Another thing to try with Brandname Blue Boxes and their competitive cousins is to put OpenWRT or DDWRT on them. The stock firmware isn't known for its quality or robustness, so it's a free easy test to see if it's hardware or software that's failing.

2008-03-11 16:19:21
My old Linksys BEFW11 wireless router works fine. But Vista introduced gratuitous incompatibilities with early routers in DHCP handling, so even if old stuff works fine the network environment, lack of support, and companies' drive to make money all pressure you into replacing anything more than 4 years old.

More reasons to go open source.

Asbjørn Ulsberg
2008-03-13 02:17:02
I agree that most wireless routers are crap. I have some good experience with D-Link's latest "DIR-XXX" series, though. They produced crappy stuff more than a couple of years ago, but then they did something that suddenly improved the quality of all their products quite noticably.

I bought one of the first wireless routers from their new series, in 2005. It has some GameFuel accelleration (basically just throttling of data based on what protocol it's served on, with preference to gaming over other type of data) and is extremely stable. It's only got one antenna, so it doesn't reach all parts of my apartment very well, but I haven't had one single hiccup with it during these almost 3 years. Not one single reboot required.

I've also installed later D-Link models (DIR-650 and DIR-615 I believe) in both my father and mother's house and they are working flawlessly too.

2008-03-13 05:25:22
I've had very good luck with WiFi routers over the years, but I've stuck with the same brand (Linksys), update the firmware for reasons (not out of boredom or just because there is updated firmware), but I've never had one go belly-up.

When I ran the Mfg. firmware there were no problems, but when I went to Sveasoft a couple years ago, I found the server would "wedge" and refuse to hand out DHCP addresses or otherwise freeze-up. A quick power-cycle cured that problem every time. I just (yesterday) upgraded to DD-WRT firmware, and everything looks good so far.. I have always had my Cable modem, router and switches on UPS and I suspect that has contributed to their longevity/reliability. Also, when using third-party firmware, I think too many people crank up the power output too "eleven"[0] and bring about the untimely demise of the router. I treat my equipment like it was in a data center and it just keeps on going...


2008-03-13 16:13:51
No problems with my 4 year old Linksys WRT54G. I didn't realize others didn't just keep working.

Why is this posting here instead of on WirelessDevCenter or Etel or ?

Mike Smith
2008-03-13 17:48:32
I've had a Linksys wifi router for something like 5+ years with no noticeable problems, but note: both my router and DSL modem are on UPS. Any device that operates with a plug-in wall brick adapter is probably going to need a reboot after any brief power glitch. You probably won't notice the glitch, but the device will. Before I put them on UPS, they frequently locked up or crashed. Now I also have a free-standing VOIP phone powered by a wall-brick, same problem; it frequently needs a reboot...
2008-04-23 12:09:12
I lose a router about once a year. This is the 4th one I'm on, we are making an honest effort to unplug it whenever it is not in use. I think this might only delay the inevitable. No question it is annoying that this particular piece of equipment always craps out and all other hardward just keeps chugging along. So far it was a linksys, then a netgear, back to linksys, and now another netgear... at least from the responses here it doesn't look like i'd have had any more luck with a d-link... but i'll have to try that next just to be sure.
2008-05-27 22:05:37
I really happy to have found this article... For several years, I thought it was just my own bad luck, but you (and all the other comments here) have proven to me that wireless routers are crap. These pieces of junk have been the source of endless hours of frustration. I'm on my fifth Linksys router (had to replace them at a rate of once every 1 - 1.5 years), and it's dying a slow painful, frustrating death. I'd get another brand, but I'm not sure which one, if any, would be more reliable. Once I get another replacement, I'm going to take this one out back and shoot it with my .45.
2008-06-03 17:20:31
Ya, I thought it was my conection to my tower but the router looks better to shoot by the day. I'll have to barrow my dad's gun collection and give it a 42 gun slaute to the box.

I want to know what kind of signals that your router sends... (plz email it) Myself: G & B

dont think it matters but still fun to check.
I do think that once you find one that works for over a year remeber that exact one and find a copy. like Netgear WGT00000 (or whatever it is).

2008-07-20 10:18:02
I do at home or small business IT support. I find the following routers have a problem after about 1-2 years and need replacing. Belkin, Netgear, D-Link. I rarely have problem with Linksys. I did have a problem one,but fixed it with a firmware upgrade