TL;DR – For those of you who just want the facts, here is a list summing up the article:
- Step 1: Install Tomato USB (Guide for RT-N16 and Guide for RT-N66U)
- Place in central location (placement is key)
- Install high gain antennas (These will work on both the RT-N16 and RT-N66U)
- Optional overkill: Install heatsinks (These or these will work, and a guide)
- Increase wifi transmit power in Tomato Settings
- Enjoy your re-born router!
Since I upgraded to the Asus RT-N16 in November of 2011 I have been very happy. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the range of this router. While it was adequate, and I never lost signal on my property, it would start to fade once I started moving away from my house.
Now that I have been using the router for a while I have decided to make a list of what I have done to make it even better.
Recently I have been working with an Asus RT-N66U for a client and the tips in this article should work for it as well. It uses the same antennas and the Tomato firmware works just as well. Aside from overclocking, everything should work as written.
Install Tomato USB
I am not going to go into great detail about this, but after playing with the stock firmware, and DD-WRT, I decided that Tomato was where it was at. More feature filled than the stock firmware, and more stable than DD-WRT. Also, all of the features work out of the box (unlike port forwarding which seems to be broken with any recent DD-WRT build on this router.
To install Tomato USB you can follow this guide to install it with the Asus upgrade utility: http://tomatousb.org/tut:installing-on-asus-rt-n16
However, if you are on a linux box (like me). You can follow the guide here (http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Asus_RT-N16#Installation_Instructions) to install DD-WRT, and then use DD-WRTs update utility to transition to tomato.
Increase Asus RT-N16/RT-N66U WiFi Range!
This was my biggest gripe with the router, so I had to do something about it. First off you should try and position the router in a central location, with all three antennas pointed straight up. Originally I had mine positioned on its side, with the antennas horizontal to the ground. After moving it so that they were vertical, things greatly improved. Positioning is the most important step!
The second option is purchasing higher gain antennas. This is where I saw my largest gain. I installed 3, 9dBi antennas from Amazon (Link). They are much larger than the stock antennas, are not white, but they get the job done.
Lastly, turn up the power! There is a lot of debate on this topic as to what is safe and what is not, so here;s the deal. I run at 60mW according to the tomato settings. I have ran this way for the life of the router. It still works just like the day I bought it. I consider this a safe level. Just play with it a bit and see what works best for you. Here is some reading on the topic (http://www.linksysinfo.org/index.php?threads/asus-rt-n16-transmit-power.33078/) You will find a lot of people saying not to turn it up because of heat issues. I have never experienced any heat issues, but if you are worried adding a few heatsinks (like these or these ) would be easy enough.
Asus RT-N16 Overclock
That’s right, overclocking isn’t just for pc’s anymore! I use my router to run several optware packages, and the added boost from overclocking the chip was very beneficial. I already hear whining from people who are going to claim that this is destructive, and how wrong I am. Well guess what? 1. I don’t care, and 2. it works just fine. I have no heat issues, and no software issues. Just smooth performance.
We aren’t setting records here, just a slight clock change.
I run CPU 532 MHz and Ram 266. (This is from the Tomato wiki)
RT-N16 Safe Overclock
*Note: While these values are considered safe, and are what I personally use, every router and user is different. I am not responsible in the very unlikely case that something goes wrong.
(In tomato) Execute the following in Tools > System
nvram set clkfreq=532,266,133 nvram commit reboot
Some report issues with this setting, and some actually report better stability underclocked. For me though, these settings work perfectly.
I honestly don’t know what else I want going further. Some add heatsinks, but I feel that this is very unnecessary. I’ve considered adding POE ports to run a switch or 2, but not sure I would use it. Anyone have any requests?