I have a new router Belkin RT3200. How to install OpenWrt on it.

Reason

As I wrote before, I had the plan to replace my main router (TP-Link Archer C7) with a Cudy X6 router and place an Archer C7 instead of my 10-year-old router. But before I was able to execute my plan, I bought Tesla Model Y.

But then I found out that Tesla is not able to get a stable connection to any of my routers. And Wall Connector has a similar issue. As a result, I had to put Archer C7 close to my computer, so Tesla and Wall Connector can connect.

So I had to buy yet another router. Initially, I thought I will buy another Cudy X6 router, but as I wrote here, it has some issues with hardware offloading, and once it was restarted somehow. Plus I want to try something new.

I found quite nice Linksys E8450. It has 512 MB of RAM, and 2 ARM cores 1.38 GHz each. It has a USB port. It has “Beam Forming” and “Enable Basic Service Set (BSS) coloring”. Everything looks great except the price. It cost $120 on Amazon and it is a bit too high considering that upgrading to OpenWrt is a bit tricky.

Very quickly I found that this device sells as Belkin RT3200. It has fewer LEDs on the front and no LEDs on the back. Lastly, it has white color instead of black for Linksys. But what most people didn’t tell you is that Belkin cost considerably less. I was able to buy it in Walmart for $67. For this kind of device, I think it is a very good deal.

Installing OpenWrt

Anyway, let me explain how to install OpenWrt on this router. Original instructions are located here. I will provide my instructions based on those assuming you will never need to return to the original firmware. If you need then follow the original instructions.

Please note that list is long and intimidating, but it is very simple. All you need to be careful about what you are downloading and that’s it. I suggest you go over the following list a few times to make sure you understand it.

  1. Go to https://github.com/dangowrt/owrt-ubi-installer/releases and download the files that contain the phrase “recovery-installer” in their name. Please be extremely careful. You only need 2 files from that location. Save them to some location.
  2. Go to the following page: https://openwrt.org/toh/linksys/e8450. Somewhere on the page, you will see the “Installation” section that contains a link. Do not download the file from it. You need to copy that link, paste it into your browser’s address bar, and remove the file name. For example in my case link was like this: https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/203.2/targets/mediatek/mt7622/openwrt-22.03.2-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-squashfs-sysupgrade.bin. You need to go to https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/203.2/targets/mediatek/mt7622/. Then you need to find file linksys_e8450-ubi-squashfs-sysupgrade.itb and download it. The file must contain the word “UBI”. Save that file to the same location as the 2 files in step #1.
  3. Set the IP address of your computer as 192.168.1.254 with netmask 255.255.255.0, no gateway, and no DNS.
  4. Connect any of the LAN ports of the device directly to the Ethernet port of your computer.
  5. Power on the device, and wait about a minute for it to be ready.
  6. Open a web browser, navigate to http://192.168.1.1 and wait for the wizard to come up.
  7. Click exactly inside the radio button to confirm the terms and conditions, then cancel the wizard.
  8. You should then be greeted by the login screen, the stock password is "admin"
  9. Go to the Configuration tab, then select Administration -> Firmware upgrade.
  10. You can see the current firmware version under "Current Firmware Version"
  11. If running you see version of firmware < 1.1.01.272918, upload the unsigned image: openwrt-...-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-ubi-initramfs-recovery-installer.itb
  12. Otherwise, when firmware version is >= 1.1.01.272918, upload the signed image: openwrt-...-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-ubi-initramfs-recovery-installer_signed.itb
  13. Be quite careful with what you select you should upload one of the files you downloaded on step #1. That file must contain the word “recovery-installer”. The double check file name you are about to upload.
  14. Click on the "Start Upgrade" button and wait for about 1 minute. When the router starts responding on ping 192.168.1.1, it means that it is ready.
  15. This is not OpenWrt yet, it is just a special version of OpenWrt that allows you to upload the proper version of OpenWrt.
  16. There is no password, so you can click on the Login button.
  17. Navigate to System -> Backup / Flash Firmware.
  18. Click "Browse" to select the file you downloaded on step #2 and then click the "Upload" button.
  19. Double-check that you are uploading file linksys_e8450-ubi-squashfs-sysupgrade.itb
  20. Uncheck "Keep settings and retain the current configuration" and make sure that "Include in backup a list of currently installed packages at /etc/backup/installed_packages.txt" is unchecked too.
  21. Press "Continue".
  22. In less than one minute router will be ready with a new shiny OpenWrt.
  23. Revert your changes to IP address on your computer and let it receive the IP address from OpenWrt.

Here is a video that could help you visualize the whole process. It is really simple. In that video, the author uploaded the file linksys_e8450-ubi-squashfs-sysupgrade.itb from the location from step #1. It will work too, it just has the previous minor version of OpenWrt instead of the latest one.

Testing

Because right now are holidays, I didn’t do my usual testing at my table and I immediately replaced my main router. I enabled Software and Hardware flow offloading and I was able to get 915 megabits download speed and 942 megabits upload. It is a very good result and from my memory, it was similar to the result I got when I plugged my computer directly into the modem. Now it has to hop from my PC to Archer C7, then to Belkin, and then to the modem and I think it is a very good result.

But WiFi speeds are not that great. I don’t care much about 2.4 GHz networks and I did only 5 GHz testing. I didn’t have any AX devices to test AX and as result, I put it on AC mode for now. I was able to download about 550 megabits when my iPhone 8 Plus was about 1 meter from it.

5 meters, 3 walls, washing machine and I got speed 260 megabits. About 12 meters, a few walls, and 1 floor, and I was able to get 150 megabits. About 15 meters and the speed drops to 100 megabits. I think it is a good speed. I didn’t test Beam Forming and BSS coloring yet.

Update 11 Jan 2023: and the best thing, this router made in Vietnam and no not in  China.

Outcome

That router worked 36 hours as my main router and everything works fine and smoothly. So far I’m quite happy with it.

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