Unleash the Power of Your Router!

In this Instructable, we will be adding fans, a heatsink, and 9dB antenna to the LINKSYS WRT54G series router for use with DD-WRT firmware upgrade! These routers areÖwellÖawesome. Before we begin I wanted to provide a rundown on the router to spark your interest, especially if youíve never caught wind of its awesomeness! J They have been implemented in more scenarios than almost any other router on the market due to cost, ease of use, and potential abilities. With the GL being Newegg.com Ďs number one selling wireless router as well as on the sites Top Ten sold of ALL products (as of today 5/10/2010) and the GS reported in New York Times Online Top 10 Most Popular Routers worldwide(as of today 5/10/2010) , you cannot go wrong with this little wolf in sheepís clothing. The $50 WRT54G with DD-WRT firmware in a parabolic dish setup helped to set the 2nd place world record for unamplified Wi-Fi distance in Venezuela @ 173miles!!!! Second only to the $100 XR5 on a $190 PCEngine WRAP board at 189miles in Italy. Recap here Long Range Wi-Fi Wiki Most versions of this router have the ability to upgrade its firmware to an open-source Linux build called DD-WRT downloadable from DD-WRT (free). If you decide to upgrade to a firmware on this site, PLEASE read ALL the directions, FAQ, Wiki and Forum EXTREMELY THUROUGHLY, as improper firmware flashing can leave you with a very expensive paperweight. I cannot stress this enough! You have been warned! With a (somewhat) simple upgrade to the appropriate firmware, this $40 - $60 router can save you hundreds of dollars and open up a seemingly endless amount of capabilities (and void the warranty). Chances are though, if youíre confident in performing these upgrades, you couldnít give a darn about warranties. Youíve already voided more of them than you care to keep track of. AmIright? The purpose of upgrading this router is so that we can safely use the "DD-WRT" firmware "Overclocking" and "Increased Transmit" functions to their max without having to worry about overheating issues! Note: Iíve heard several people arguing that adding heatsinks is not necessary; that they have maxed theirs out without any problems. I have personally burned out 2 of these units, and had serious stability issues in others due to overheating by maxing out without extra heatsinks at the very least. Please refrain from filling the comments section with "You donít need heatsinks or fans" comments or the likes. If you donít want to install them, keep it to yourself. Thank you! J This type of upgrade is most useful in very large households, businesses, neighborhood-Wi-Fi, trailer parks, RV parks, campsites, etc. With this one Iíll be using it for an ad-supported neighborhood Wi-Fi which provides both an internet source for people who cannot afford it, but also a way to reduce costs for the person who pays for the source connection- usually high speed cable service that a single household will never fully utilize; unless you have a pirate in the midst. (YaaarRrRR, I cannot condone piracy, mateys!) In this Instructable I will not be covering flashing the router with DD-WRT, nor will I covering its configuration. That is one thing that is far too router specific for me to want to post. You can however find out all the information you need at the DD-WRT website.

!!WARNING!!
Do NOT buy antenna on ebay!
I have personally purchased a pair of "9dB Antenna" from a VERY reputable seller. They did not reach anywhere near 9dB. If you follow this instructable and use antenna you got from ebay, don't complain when it doesnt work. Having said everything I wanted to get out of the way: I hope you and all the wonderful Instructable enthusiasts enjoy this Instructable! Comments, suggestions and questions are highly encouraged! Without further ado, lets mod!

Step 1: LEGAL

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
A community member has brought it to my attention that certain modifications to these and other routers can potentially cause the units to transmit at levels that may be above legal limits. Please read FCC Wireless Rules and Regulations before attempting any mods and adjust your power and transmit levels accordingly!!!! Thanks Calis! By continuing, the EU agrees that they have read the document, and comply with the rules listed within. Personal Disclaimer: By following any steps in this Instructable, the EU understand that I am not to be held responsible for anything you break, injuries inflicted, pets stolen, food spoiling or any other damages done caused by following this guide, or while following this guide. Any digits, eyes, brain cells or the likes lost or damaged will have to be replaced at your own expense and you will not be reimbursed for any of it. You have been warned. Again.

Step 2: Do Not Run With Scissors

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
And always look both ways before crossing the street.

First and foremost, like all projects where small bits of plastic, glass, metal, wood or any fine particles could potentially leave you blind, or otherwise injured or uncomfortable - WEAR YOUR FREAKING SAFETY GLASSES!

In this project we will be working with solder and flux fumes, both of which can cause cancer, so letís not take any chances and wear a respirator that filters those fumes, or make yourself a good fume extractor with carbon filter.

Lastly, put your favorite beanie on. If you get frustrated, your brains are likely to leak out your ear, and letís face it, youíre just going to leave it for someone else to clean up. Itís not shown in any of the pictures, but I am properly grounded when working with the unit powered off. If working with power, un-ground yourself or your likely to jump start your heart, and thatís no good when itís already doing its job.

Step 3: Gather the Supplies

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
To get started, youíre going to need some supplies. One thing that makes the Instructables community so great is the membersí ability to improvise. In all reality were like a bunch of real-life MacGyvers. Minus the explosions. Except for This guy. Not too many of those on here Iíve noticed. So if you donít have some of the materials, and you figure it out your own way, Make an Instructable and post the link in my comments! Iíll come check it out! I donít have one, been meaning to make one, but this is VERY handy. This one in particular is particularly impressive: Third Hand/ Helping Hands Anywho, hereís what I used for the project: 1. WRT54G Series Router · Click Here For DD-WRT compatible WRT54G routers 2. Vice Grip 3. Soldering Iron 4. Solder Wire 5. Soldering Flux 6. De-Soldering Braid 7. Thick stranded wire · Approx 8 inch w/ ends exposed 8. Thin stranded wire · Approx 4 inched w/ ends exposed 9. Electrical Tape & Packing Tape
10. Paint Brush 11. Isopropyl Alcohol 12. Cotton swabs · 1 or 2 13. Old toothbrush 14. Wire Stripper/ Clipper 15. Sharpie · Duh 16. Small Screwdriver · Most likely Phillips 17. Very Short Screws · 4 18. Needle-nose Pliers 19. Safety Pin 20. Dremel · Bits and Cutting Tool: Varies on which ones you like most. lol 21. Fan for mounting on case: Whatever size you wish J

Extras that I recommend:

1. Dual 9dB Antenna 2. Small Fan-on-Heatsink 3. Small power switch for external fan (not shown in picture) 4. Hot-Glue-Gun · For securing the power switch 5. Pringles Lid · For mixing glues 6. Toothpicks · For mixing glue 7. Arctic Alumina Ceramic Thermal Adhesive · Newegg - $14 · You will use this on so many projects, itís well worth the small investment
Go!

Step 4: Dissect the Specimen

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Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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After acquiring all the materials needed for this mod/upgrade, were going to have to take it apart. This is rather simple, but requires a decent amount of force. Start by flipping it over, and placing your thumbs against the back of the two front legs. Press pretty hard on either side, and it will pop right off. Grip the small lip on the back of the underside with one hand, and the base/ board with the other, and pull apart. They should come apart rather easily. Take your small Phillips, and remove the 2 little screws holding the in place. With your left hand, hold the plastic casing, and grip the board with your right. Slide the board away from you and it will slip right off the little placement pegs. Flip the mainboard over.

Step 5: Add Power Cable

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Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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Locate the solders thru-hole pins on the underside of the power jack. Youíll be applying a SMALL about of flux on them later, but the longer it sets there, better chance it has to corrode your parts and can lead to dendrite growth. Youíd be amazed at how fast stranded copper wire can corrode away with a tiny bit of flux left on itÖ Weíll take our stranded wire, straighten it out, and strip both ends of it leaving about 1 - 1.5 cm exposed. Now weíre going to take our paintbrushes, and dip JUST THE VERY TIP into the flux. Twist the ends of the wire so the copper strands form a sort of spiral. I forgot to do this in this picture, but I corrected it later, and forgot to take a picture. Generations of selective OCD is funny like that sometimes. Gently apply the flux to JUST THE VERY TIP of the wire tips ON ONE END. If flux makes its way down past the wire shielding, you arenít gonna be getting it out, and you might as well get a new wire. Press the side of the soldering iron tip to the speaker wire, and feed the solder wire through the other side. By doing this it heats more than just the point of solder contact which helps the solder flow freely through the center of the wire strands. Should look something like this when youíre done, except twisty. ( Because you arenít going to forget that part :P ) Apply a minimal amount of flux to the two pins on the power jack. Press your wire to the Jack, and press the side of the soldering iron tip to the top of the speaker wire until the bond, then remove the iron. Do this to both wires. Before we do anything else, we want to thoroughly clean the remaining flux from the board. For that we need to wash it several times with some isopropyl alcohol and a small (preferably lintless) swab. I havenít had any in a while, so Iím extra careful not to leave any particles on the board. Ive tried several methods for applying alcohol like eyedroppers, needle tipped squirt tips and spray bottles. For this purpose, the spray bottle is the way to go. If I were removing tiny components, obviously Iíd be using a needle tipped bottle, and a decent iron for that matter. Make sure the mainboard is THUROUGHLY cleaned! Apply some electrical tape under the wires to protect it from the thru-hole solder tips that can slowly dig into the wire over time due to the vibration of the added fan(s). Flip the mainboard over, and crease the wire along the side of the antenna plug. Since these edges are pretty sharp too, I also put electrical tape on them, buts itís more than likely not necessary.

Step 6: Aquire Heatsink

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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In this step, we will be adding the optional but recommended heatsink/ fan on the CPU. The best fan for this project in my opinion is a small but powerful heatsink mounted fan that you can get off a bunch of old NVIDIA cards. I was lucky that a local computer shop had a box of the NVIDIA RIVA TNT 2 cards going for $2 a pop! I bought 15 in total and the guy gave me a discount @ $20 total for the lot. I plan on modding many more of these routers in the future if anyone would like to buy a finished one, just let me know J Flip the card over, and pinch the pins to release them. Pull the heatsink off the chip; unplug it, and CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN! That abomination of a goop needs to be thoroughly cleaned off so the tiny particle silvers in the superior Arctic Silver Ceramic Adhesive can fit into the microscopic grooves on the underside of the heatsink.

Clean with a lint-free cloth and rubbing alcohol over and over until no more residue rubs off and discolors the cloth.

Then clean it again.
Maybe once more.

Thatís good.

Ok, stop.

Now weíre going to remove the pins and the fan. Save the screws cus were just gonna use em again. This is a perfect opportunity to clean the topside of the heatsink. Take your old toothbrush, spray it with a bunch of alcohol and clean clean clean! Now letís break off the unnecessary metal brackets extending from the sides.
Grab your vice grips, clamp them on to the bracket nice and tight, and bend it back and forth till it snaps off. Now take your wire clippers and trim the edges as much as you can. If this is satisfactory for you, then you can skip the next part. I however love watching the sparks fly off metal objects Iím working on, so I rarely pass up the opportunity to grind out sharp edges whenever I can :P Grab your Dremel, attach your favorite spark-inducing grinding bit and enjoy the fireworks! Once the edges are baby bottom smooth, itís time to go ahead and work on that fan.
Now by default, the fan blows air AT the heatsink.
For this mod, we want the fan to blow heat up and out of the unit and away from the CPU. It should be mentioned that it is a good idea to remove the sticker from this side, because heat, spin, and gravity will all be working against it when you flip the fan over.
I have only had it happen once, but the sticker came off and got jammed between the fan and heatsink, blocking the rotation. The router was not damaged, but the fan had to be replaced. For added coolness, just flip the fan over and press it to the topside.
A dab of superglue might work if the adhesive doesnít. For this fan in particular, youíre going to need to drill larger openings on the other side of this fan for the screws to fit in.
I recommend using a cone shaped routing bit, but others can be used so long as youíre very cautious.
The cone shape helps keep you from drilling the holes TOO BIG all the way through, thus preventing you from accidentally making holes that the screws just falls through. Also another perfect opportunity to clean something. Grab that old toothbrush and clean clean clean those fan blades if they need it, chances are they probably do! Once you have drilled your holes large enough for the screws to drop in, but not all the way through, go ahead and mount it back to the heatsink. To remove the white plug on the cord without cutting it, just slide your paperclip under the lip, grab the corresponding wire and give it a little pull.

Step 7: Install Heatsink

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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In this step we will be mixing and applying theThermal Adhesive to the CPU, and mounting the heatsink/fan. The ratio is equal 1A:1B. Mix them in the Pringles lid with the provided black mixing scraper wand thingy. This will become pretty thick and start setting in about 5 minutes, so keep it movin quickly! J Apply a THIN layer of the mixed thermal paste over the entire surface of the CPU. Do not overdue it here, this is some extremely strong thermal glue that dries rock hard and will be holding onto that chip for years, even with minimal application. Chances are; once it dries, youíre never going to get it that heatsink off unless you take the CPU with it. Position your heatsink over the CPU at whatever orientation allows the entire chip to be covered, and WITHOUT letting the heatsink touch any other parts! (The arrangements of parts varies with the different versions of this router), Press down firmly for about 30 seconds, and then find something heavy to set on top of it. Let it dry for 2 hours.

Step 8: Mount the External Fan

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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Take your fan, set it in the position you want it on top of your router, and tape it down. Hook up your Dremel drilling tool; make your pilot holes for the screws. Remove the tape and fan, attach your cutting tool to the Dremel and start cutting the pre-punched area on the top of the router. Here I attached a switch on the large fan so it can be turned off if it gets too loud. I made a hole behind the fan for easy/ concealed access. Super glue on the bottom and a little Elmerís glue with ink from a Crayola marker mixed in on the top, and were good to go J

Step 9: Wire It up

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Unleash the Power of Your Router!
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The final step is to wire everything up.

The pictures for this section can sum it up much better than I can, so Iím going to leave it at that.

If you arenít sure which large speaker wire to attach your little ones to, just plug it in, touch the wires together, and if it works, mark those wires. If it doesnít, Mark the other wire.

I solder all the wire connections together, just follow the same steps as step 4 for wire soldering. To put it back together, you follow the same directions as taking it apart, except backwards J Now we can add the 9dB antenna, and this little puppy is primed and ready for some serious overclocking! Again, this was my first Instructable so please be nice! I really enjoyed working on this, and Iím glad I can finally give something back to the community. You guys are awesome J

Step 10: Additional Firmware Options!

Unleash the Power of Your Router!
Several Instructable members have requested that I add another slide that lists some additional alternative free firmware releases. I have also been accused of working for DD-WRT. I assure you that I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the firmware release teams. For your additional free firmware requests, Ask and you shall receive! **WARNING** Changing the firmware on your router is a risky procedure which if done incorrectly, can result in permanent damage to your hardware! Do not attempt to flash your router to another version of firmware if you are already satisfied with its performance, and do not need addition capabilities that you will never use! ALWAYS thoroughly and extensively research the firmware in question before attempting ANY upgrades/ downgrades sideways or the likes!! Failure to understand the risks involved will almost definitely result in damaged hardware! Router Firmware Releases DD-WRT Tomato For those of you who have accidentally lost portions of their memory with failed/ incorrect flashing with DD-WRT in the past, Tomato firmware has a setting to do a complete erase of NVRAM! OpenWRT Gargoyle HyperWRT + Tofu (HyperWRT +Tofu is a Linksys WRT54G/GL and Linksys WRTSL54GS firmware based on stock Linksys firmware + HyperWRT + added extras.)

If you have another firmware version that you would like to add, please let me know in the comments section, or send me a PM!
 
 

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