11May

Increasing Asus RT-N16/RT-N66U Wifi Range, performance, and functionality

TL;DR – For those of you who just want the facts, here is a list summing up the article:

  1. Step 1: Install Tomato USB (Guide for RT-N16 and Guide for RT-N66U)
  2. Place in central location (placement is key)
  3. Install high gain antennas (These will work on both the RT-N16 and RT-N66U)
  4. Optional overkill: Install heatsinks (These or these will work, and a guide)
  5. Increase wifi transmit power in Tomato Settings
  6. 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.

Future Upgrades

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?

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Comments

  1. Kanaida says:

    What’s the range on this sucker? I gotta go through a concrete wall and kitchen cabinets, and a small room with walls.

    • Craig Layne says:

      My house sits on 1 acre. My router is nearly on the property line, and I am able to get a usable signal on the entire property. And this is in G-only mode. For some reason I have trouble with the Draft-N interfering with some legacy devices. I would think you wouldn’t have an issue, but I really don’t have a block wall to compare to.

  2. I installed the Tomato firmware on my RT-N66U, now 5GHZ wireless disappears :-( do you have idea how to bring it back ? I like tomato qos features, but without 5GHz on router I am not able to use it for MM streaming

    • Craig Layne says:

      Does the stock firmware function properly?
      What/whose tomato build are you using?
      Anything show up in your log files? (http://192.168.1.1/status-log.asp)

      My gut feeling says that its some sort of hardware failure. However, if the stock firmware functions properly, then you can eliminate that as a possibility.

      Second guess would be that you have an older/faulty build of tomato.

      Let me know what you find.

  3. Hi, thanks for help.
    I tried to use latest ASUS fw, and led for 5ghz didnot lit, so I checked the log, and found this:
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: eth0: Broadcom BCM47XX 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet Controller 5.100.138.20
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: wl_module_init: passivemode set to 0×0
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: PCI: Enabling device 0000:01:01.0 (0000 -> 0002)
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: eth1: Broadcom BCM4331 802.11 Wireless Controller 5.100.138.20
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: PCI: Enabling device 0000:02:01.0 (0000 -> 0002)
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: eth4534536: 5.100.138.20 driver failed with code 11
    Jan 1 00:00:07 kernel: Algorithmics/MIPS FPU Emulator v1.5

    I think your gut feeling like prophet ;-), and 5ghz NIC is broken. However its strange for me, because it broke suddenly as I tried the tomato FW for first time. (I used tomato shibby 64k aio 102 version). Is possible that tomato fw somehow broke the HW ?

    • Craig Layne says:

      Yep, definitely looks ti be a hardware issue. I would leave it flashed with the stock firmware and contact Asus or the retailer for a replacement.

      As far as tomato causing the problem, I won’t say it’s impossible, but highly unlikely. I would assume that the hardware was faulty when you received it. Even if it was working properly on arrival, I would venture to say that there was some sort of problem there.

      Good luck on getting your unit replaced :)

  4. Flávio Moraes says:

    Hello friend! Your tuto is very good!
    I’m having trouble configuring SAMBA and FTP to share USB disk. For SAMBA, can not connect with Win7-64, but only with XP, whereas with FTP, I can only connect the LAN and not her WAM. I am firm with Tomato Dual Boot Version 1.28.0526 MIPSR2 K26 USB 8M (Beta). Do you have any tutorial or hint to solve these problems? Thank you!
    PS: Sorry for poor english …

  5. Craig Layne says:

    Evening Flávio Moraes!

    I am not an expert on the file sharing functions but I will do what I can.

    First off, I would not recommend using a BETA build. Normally there is nothing wrong with using the BETA branch, but when you run into problems you must return to a stable build.

    I recommend the stable builds by:
    Toastman
    https://www.4shared.com/dir/v1BuINP3/Toastman_Builds.html#dir=79224764

    Or Shibby:
    http://tomato.groov.pl/?page_id=164

    Next, do you receive any errors when trying to connect to the Samba share? Can you see it at all on the win7 PC?

    For the FTP issue:
    In tomato’s admin panel go to USB and NAS >> FTP Server (http://192.168.1.1/nas-ftp.asp) and ensure that in the very first box “Enable FTP Server” That “WAN and LAN” is selected.

    Tomato FTP Wifi Settings

    Hope this helps.

  6. hi is it possible to use 1 directional antenna to the rt-n16 and leaving the other 2 antennas with their standard 5dbi antenna? if it is possible where would i install the directional antenna? middle right or left slots?

    • Craig Layne says:

      The RT-N16 is a MIMO router. It’s my understanding that it uses 2 antennas to transmit and receive, and the other one is dedicated for receiving only. It balances the load across the antenna’s and kind of does a self optimization for range.

      I would imagine that installing just one directional antenna wouldn’t be ideal. However, it is worth a try if you are throwing a signal a long distance.

      If you want to give it a try on the cheap here is an article covering a diy bi-quad antenna. http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.danilolarizza.com%2F%3Fp%3D77

      Directional antennas are definitely something I would be interested in hearing more about so let me know if you discover anything. Heck, I may put a few together this weekend for myself.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I just upgraded our router at the shop to an asus rt-n66u. We have a directional antenna like this one http://www.countrymilewifi.com/point-to-point-antenna-assembly.aspx that we have used without problem with our old lynksys and d-link DIR-655. I’ve always removed 1 antenna and hooked up the big antenna in it’s place. We have had good luck picking up signal in the house which is about 200 ft away. I hooked up the new asus rt-n66u router the same way and cant pick up signal even 50 ft outside the shop. I tried adjusting the tx power to 100mw and even 200mw and noticed no difference. Are these dual band routers in capable of transmitting on this antenna? I also tried turning off the 5ghz radio in the settings since this antenna is only a 2.4ghz.

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