Some time ago I had some problems with my Linksys router. It was WRT54GS v5. It was a great router back then, but when I connected to it using my new Windows 7 laptop via Wi-Fi, the network connection slowed to a bare minimum.

I have tried everything and changed all router settings but to no avail.

The real problem turned out to be a few tweaks in Windows 7 (long story), but I didn’t discover it until after I completely overhauled my Linksys router.

The «bricking» event happened after I contacted our writer team and one of the writers (who no longer writes for us) suggested that I flash the «crappy» Linksys firmware with the free Tomato firmware.

What he couldn’t tell me is obvious, assuming that I less router lover than me is that I have to check the compatibility of the router with Tomato firmware.

In short — by the end of the night I erased my router from all firmware and walled it up tightly. I couldn’t even ping it. In all the blogs and forums that I read, everything was like dead people.

Unlocking a bricked Linksys router

After putting the router in a box in the basement and buying a new, faster router, I forgot all about the old, «dead» Linksys router.

I recently wanted to build a subnet on my home LAN. I thought about the brick router and wondered if I could, years later, fix it. Worth a try, right?

After a bit of research, I found a lot of «reset» sequences that supposedly work with Linksys routers. Typically hold the reset button for 15-30 seconds (depending on who you’re talking to), turn your router off (while holding the reset button), then turn it back on and keep holding the reset button for 15-30 seconds. 30 seconds worked for me.

Although the power light was flashing continuously (a sign of a bricked router), and although I couldn’t access it at 192.168.1.1 with my browser, I was surprised to see that my computer «saw» the router when plugged into the network cable.

unbrick wrt54g

Even better, I could actually ping it.

Unlock Linksys WRT54G

It seemed so strange to me that I could ping the router but couldn’t get to the emergency recovery screen over the Internet that all the blogs and forums mentioned should appear after a reboot. I have clearly made a real number on this thing.

So I went looking for a way to flash my Linksys with firmware without having to use any web interface. Tomato firmware is out for my version of Linksys. However, I have discovered an amazing set of tools and instructions in DD-WRT. The first step is to go to this page and download the vxworks_prep_GS_v03.zip file. After unpacking the files, run the VxImgToolGUI.exe utility.

Unlock Linksys WRT54G

Make sure you select the correct WRT54G version you are trying to unlock. Enter the MAC address from the label under the router and then save the file as My54gsImage.bin in the folder where you extracted these files.

Now here’s the problem. The DD-WRT instructions tell you to go to your router’s «webgui» screen, click on firmware update, and use the vxworks_prep_GS_v03.bin file. The problem is I can’t get the web interface.

Solution? A very, very cool tool called the Firmware Upgrade Utility. Select the latest version, download and install, and then run the utility.

Unlock Linksys WRT54G

This amazing little application updates the firmware via TFTP. As per DD-WRT’s instructions for upgrading from a bad flash, you can simply use the good LinkSys firmware image you just created with the above utility, or the DD-WRT image file (included in the zip package you unpacked) .

I first tried using the firmware update utility to reinstall the Linksys Image Recycle Bin. Just enter the router’s IP address (which you know you can ping), navigate to the firmware file, and hit submit.

unlock linksys router

You will see a progress bar as the utility transfers the new firmware to the affected router.

unlock linksys router

When it’s done, try reloading it and see if you can get into the web control window by navigating to 192.168.1.1 with a browser.

At this point, I still couldn’t connect to the router using a browser, but I decided to move forward anyway. What could I lose — the router was already bricked up, right? In the «Flash Recovery Recovery» instructions, the DD-WRT command says to follow the flash above with the flash file 12548_NEWD_Micro.bin included in the zip collection you extracted.

This time, instead of using the firmware update utility, I decided to use the TFTP command as mentioned in the DD-WRT instructions. In this case, I opened a command prompt and typed:

«TFTP -i 192.168.1.1 PUT dd-wrt.v24-12548_NEWD_micro.bin»

After the quick file transfer screen, the following window opened.

I typed in the router’s IP address for «Server», no password, and navigated to the bin file above. I changed the repeat to 99 times and hit refresh.

unlock linksys router

After the transfer process went through the routine, the status message finally showed the message: «Firmware updated successfully!»

I was a little in disbelief — did it really work? Has my longbrick Linksys router finally been brought back from the grave?

With great anticipation, I again went to the browser window and typed: 192.168.1.1 — and saw this:

unbrick wrt54g

Let me just say, it was around 2am and I was still jumping out of my chair screaming for joy. I honestly started this little «no cloud» effort, thinking that the odds were against me. But when you’re only dealing with paperweights, really, what do you have to lose?

Now that I see that it’s actually possible to dig a way out of a bricked Linksys router, I’ll be tempted to collect all the «dead» Linksys routers my friends and family throw away and then flash them with DD-WRT using the procedure above!

Have you ever pawned your router? Did you manage to fix it, or did you give up and throw your router away? Share your own experience in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Linksys router via ShutterStock

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