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Firmware Updates for Wireless Routers

Ensure maximum reliability and performance

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Network routers contain built-in programmable logic called firmware. The firmware is embedded software that implements network and security protocols for that specific model of hardware device.

Every wired or wireless router ships with a tested version of firmware provided by the manufacturer. However, most routers are also designed to support a firmware upgrade process. This allows the manufacturer to provide enhancements to routers already sold. Manufacturers generally provide firmware upgrades as free downloads from their Web site.Additionally, a few manufacturers (like Linksys) provide their firmware as open source code on the Internet. Programmers worldwide are free to modify and extend the code with new features for their routers. Several versions of this hacked firmware can be found on the Web, but the average homeowner should avoid these types of firmware.

The Firmware Update Process

You begin a firmware upgrade by downloading a binary file package from the manufacturer's Web site. After the package is set up properly on a PC, an administrator can launch the actual upgrade from the wireless router's administrative console. The router will stop functioning if the upgrade fails to complete. For this reason, manufacturers generally recommend an Ethernet cable be run from the router to the PC to ensure maximum stability during the update. Consult the router's product documentation for details.

Immediately after purchasing a router, check the firmware version to ensure it is the latest version. Firmware can be installed on a router at the factory several months before the router is sold.

Then, check the manufacturer's Web site occasionally over time for any new firmware upgrade postings. Each time a firmware upgrade is posted, the manufacturer will provide notes detailing the enhancements it provides. Feel free to skip an upgrade if the new version does not offer any interesting features. However, if a router is performing sluggishly, freezing unexpectedly or experiencing dropped connections, firmware upgrade often supplies a quick fix.

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