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Linux hackers re-claim the Linksys WRT54G

Jun 26, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 12 views

As predicted, the open source community has come up with a way to convert VxWorks-based LinkSys wireless WRT54G routers to Linux. The process does not require hardware hacking, and installs a recent version of “DD-WRT micro.”

A version of Linux that supports the VxWorks-based “series 5” WRT54G has been available since April, when the DD-WRT project created its “micro” edition, with a 1.7MB footprint. However, the firmware could only be installed on routers modified to expose their JTAG ports (complicated instructions here).

Now, Jeremy Collake, aka “db90h,” appears to have created a “VxWorks Killer” flash image that overwrites the VxWorks bootloader on series 5 WRT54G routers with normal Broadcom CFE firmware. This then enables the device to be put into maintenance mode at startup, after which Linux firmware can be installed easily.

Currently, the process is not reversible on WRT54G devices that have not been modified to add a JTAG interface. Additionally, power failure during the two second installation process could permanently incapacitate or “brick” the device.

Compared to the full DD-WRT distribution, the “micro” version leaves out packages that include chillispot, nocat, rflow, kaid, samba client, SNMP, IPv6, MMC/SD Card Support, SSH, PPTP/PPTP Client, and UPnP, according to WikiPedia. However, it does support PPPoE.

Additional details, downloads, and complete instructions can be found here. The website has also published a brief HOWTO, here.


The first four generations of LinkSys's WRT54G router were based on embedded Linux, which resulted in a large community of router hobbyists adopting the devices and creating improved firmware distributions. However, late last year, LinkSys chose to switch its fifth-generation WRT54G to VxWorks.

At the time, Linksys's director of product marketing, Mani Dhillon, told LinuxDevices that the switch saved LinkSys money. Despite added licensing costs, less Flash and RAM were needed, leading to savings given the device's enormous volume. “We sell literally hundreds of thousands per month,” Dhillon said.

After switching the standard WRT54G to VxWorks, Linksys introduced a Linux-based WRT54GL model that it said it created specially for Linux hobbyists, hackers, and aficionados. The L version is identical to the “series 4” WRT54G units that Linux hobbyists have long enjoyed hacking, according to the company.

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