Should You Update Your Router’s Firmware?

Firmware is software that is stored on a memory chip within a hardware device, like a wireless router, or the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) in your computer’s motherboard. Now, in my experience, there are two camps of thought when it comes to updating firmware. Some say ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and others like to upgrade firmware with every new version released. I personally fall somewhere in between. From time to time, I will check to see if there are any available firmware updates, but I may only do this a few times a year. Most updates are functionality improvements, some may be security measures, others just solve known bugs in previous firmware versions that you may have never encountered anyway.

Recently, I was checking some settings on my wireless router (a D-Link 655-DIR, pictured above) and noticed the firmware was version 1.22 which dated back to 2008. The current firmware version available at the D-Link website is 1.33 dated from January 2010. That is a significant number of versions, (although not every version is publicly released) to encourage me to update the firmware for my trusty router.

The following instructions are based on my sole experience with my D-Link 655, but most likely other manufacturers follow the same general firmware update procedure. Check your manual or online for specific instructions for your router.

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First, you need to access your router’s administration page. This is like accessing a webpage, only it is served up by the router itself. Typically, the address is http://192.168.0.1/ which is a sort of universal ‘home’ address. Simply type this into your browser’s address bar and you should be taken to your router’s Admin, or log-in page:

By the way, if you have not set up a password, you should do so as soon as you can, for security reasons. Some where it should tell you what your current firmware version is, as mine does right on the log in page in the top right corner (see yellow arrow).

Then, look for some sort of page that points to ‘Firmware’ or ‘Update’, etc. Hopefully, like D-Link, there is a built-in ‘Check now’ button to click. Otherwise, you will need to visit the manufacturer’s site to check and/or download the newest firmware:

If there is new firmware, you should first backup your current configuration. For instance, if you have given your home wireless network a custom name along with a wireless access key (you are not running an unsecured wireless network, are you?), you will need to restore these settings since some firmware updates will restore the router to its default settings, like they were when you first took it out of the box.

Then, once the backup is made, and you have the new firmware update file ready to upload, you need to connect your PC or laptop to a wired connection since it is less prone to failure than a wireless connection during the upload process. Also, once the update is completed, you may not have wireless access until you restore your previous settings. So establish a wired connection and complete the process, which may take about a minute or so. Then, most likely, the router (not the computer) will need to reboot, which takes about another 30 seconds or so. Then if all is well, you can restore your previous settings and everything should be good to go.

That’s how easy it is to update firmware on a router.

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