Finding a suitable router and DD-WRT build
The first step to take if you want to make use of DD-WRT is to find a router that supports it, or determine whether or not a router you have access to can support it. This isn't terribly difficult, since the DD-WRT site contains a list of supported devices that's updated regularly. If you've had good results with a particular manufacturer in the past, look for its name on the list and pick a recent model.
My manufacturer of choice is Buffalo, and my current DD-WRT router is the WHR-HP-G300N, most recently given a DD-WRT update by Buffalo itself back in May 2011. Belkin, D-Link, Netgear, and Linksys also have DD-WRT routers in their lineup, as do a whole slew of smaller manufacturers you may or may not have had experience with, including Accton, Gateworks, and Rosewill.
The next step is to pick a specific model of router. DD-WRT routers fall into roughly two camps, based on the chip sets they use:
- Routers built with the Broadcom chip set can use a slightly wider variety of DD-WRT builds (more on this below).
- Routers built with the Atheros and Ralink chip sets use builds that are made specifically for the router model. For example, my Buffalo router is built on Atheros and needs a build made specifically for it by Buffalo, but with a little work you can replace it with an unbranded DD-WRT build.
Broadcom routers also use two different flavors of DD-WRT depending on their make:
- The "normal" build, also referred to in DD-WRT's documentation as NEWD. This is the one to use for recently manufactured routers.
- The VINT build, which uses an older wireless driver designed for earlier revisions of the Broadcom chip set -- specifically, the 4710 and 4712 CPUs.
DD-WRT also comes in a number of different "sizes," with various features included or omitted. The smaller builds allow routers with less flash memory to use DD-WRT, albeit at a loss of functionality. The "micro" build, for instance, is designed to fit in a 2MB flash space and, thus, omits IPv6, OpenVPN, and the firewall. The "standard" build, with the vast majority of features, requires 4MB; the "mega" build (everything plus the kitchen sink) requires 8MB.
If you're in doubt about which build to flash, check the supported device list in DD-WRT's wiki. Each entry in the list contains some instructions on how to flash and which firmware build to use.