How To Get The Most Out Of Your Dead Home Router...

Cheap home routers. Linksys, Dlink, Netgear and Belkin. The Big Four of home networking.

Either as routers or access points, I've used several of each over the last 10 years. I've also had one of each brand bite the dust, sometimes quickly, sometimes not.

On this last Belkin router failure, I was able to buy a couple weeks by resetting to defaults and reconfiguring it. But eventually, it stopped routing, stopping administering DHCP and the web page could no longer be reached by wire or wirelessly.

I was about to throw it in the graveyard when I was bothered by the fact the Ethernet lights were still blinking. A few tests confirmed that it was indeed passing traffic on the wired ports.

Have you ever noticed that although it might take two minutes for a home router to reboot, that the Ethernet ports will pass traffic within 2 seconds of being turned on? Or have you noticed that the router might be glad to give you a list of connected devices, but in fact they are only DHCP leases, and any client that didn't get a lease is nowhere to be found?

Possible explanation for all these behaviors? That the wired Ethernet ports are in fact a seperate, independent device from the rest, probably their cheapest unmanaged switch module, only connected to the main router board by a local Ethernet port, same as anything else.

I dug out of my graveyard the other three fried routers. All of them pass traffic on their wired ports. So I am now in the process of pairing them up with my 16 port mid span that I never used.

Hello 16-port POE! Anybody else noticed this failure mode?

The average home router has a 4 port switch on the LAN side. You'd use one of those ports for an uplink, giving you 3 usable ports. Doesn't seem all that worthwhile to me, and would make for kind of a messy wiring closet.

Just as the mysteriously died, I'd worry about them mysteriously working again and you end up with DHCP conflicts on parts of your LAN and woder why your NVR can no longer see the camera at the front door.

Cheap routers are cheap. When they break, I throw them out. When I need a switch, I buy a switch.

...When I need a switch, I buy a switch.

What size 3, 7 or 15 port?

Undisclosed 1 vs 2 the matchup we have all been waiting for!

I think 1 is just intellectually curious here, though I agree with 2, since it's so cheap these days, just throw it out :)

Undisclosed 1 vs 2 the matchup we have all been waiting for!

Though to you it must seem like Rocky V. At least.

I have also seen this happen to home routers. For a bit, I did use one as a switch. Now that switches are so low cost, and the concern about security and stability of the bricked router, I have replaced it swith a simple unmanaged 5 to 8 port switch for only a few $.

I have a box of old routers, firewalls, etc. Since new ones are so cheap, there really is no use for them, even though in their day a nice small office firewall/wireless/router was hundreds of $$. (Taking my box out to staples for free electronics recycling)

I've noticed that failure mode before where the router functions start acting flakey but the switch stays active. However, I've always thrown them out. My concern is that the router side could randomly come back to life with default settings and starts handing out DHCP assignments. Also routers old enough to die are generally 100Mb speed and Monoprice has a $9 8-port 100Mb switch.

If you have a router you no longer trust in production and want to experiment, reflashing the firmware to DD-WRT is an option for certain brands.

Most, if not all home based routers are running some form of Linux as with most other embedded routers and switches; the hardware that is mainly up and running before all other services are the Ethernet ports and bonding drivers; other services are dependent upon Ethernet functioning.

The bonding drivers will bond the Ethernet ports and pass traffic between these ports after a few seconds of booting (Typically).

Services such as Routing, TCP/IP, DHCP, DNS, PPP, PPPoE, etc. will take longer to load and function as a service as they are loading the application and configuration files on slow processors; this is expected behavior of most embedded routers. The key here is to find network hardware that has relatively fast and a decent amount of memory hardware.

Possible issues of the things you described of mostly due to corrupted file systems that are mounted during boot and/or memory allocation issues; reboots might fix the issues, but most of the time, they are a lost cause.

DD-WRT is an option, as with other embedded hardware options where you can load Linux, build modules and configuration files to do all the routing and switching you want. Overtime, we got tired with the issues that have been described above and found a vendor that has met our expectations.

We have been using Mikrotik RouterOS since v2.8 (15+ years). It is rare that we have a service call to reboot a Mikrotik device, and we have hundreds of their devices installed throughout the state of Hawaii (Residential and Commerical).

Thanks. Nice explanation.

So you think there is no chance that the ethernet backplane is running on a seperate rom based processor?

I ask only because I don't know anything besides an unmanaged switch that begins to pass traffic within 2 seconds of power on.

Second the Microtik recomendation, I use a RouterBoard 95 with 1000mw, I love it, neighbors hate it. I think ubiquiti uses them for some of their gear, though they might not admit it. Cheap too!

So you think there is no chance that the Ethernet backplane is running on a separate ROM based processor?

To be honest, I was only generalizing to limit my exposure of writing a novel. I would not suspect anything less; my expectation is that an Ethernet Switch Controller (with a built-in switching fabric) would exist rather than the board containing 5 or 6 different single port Ethernet controllers. If that were the case, then the OS will need to control the bonding and MAC tables (Which might take a bit longer than a few seconds, but depending on how fast the RAM was, it could be relatively quick I would think. I believe one piece of hardware that supports bonding of the chipset driver is ADM6996L; frames would literally be switching in a matter of seconds once powered on.

Hope that makes sense.