The Asus RT-N16 router is one of the most powerful routers currently available. The RT-N16 has 802.11n, gigabit network ports, a fast processor, lots of memory and flash, and two USB ports for running a printer and external hard drive at the same time.
The stock Asus firmware is not that great, people have reported a lot of problems with it. So a great way to improve this router is to install a third party firmware. The two most popular are Tomato and DD-WRT. Tomato seems to have all the advanced features plus it is easier to use than DD-WRT so I decided to install Tomato. The standard version of Tomato does not support USB. Luckily there is another project called TomatoUSB that allows the use of the USB ports on the RT-N16.
The only problem with the alternate firmwares is that the documentation is severely lacking. There doesn’t seem to be a single, easy to follow guide on how to install the firmware. You have to spend many hours reading forum posts that are sometimes contradictory.
In reality installing Tomato is actually pretty simple once you figure it out. There is a lot of confusing information online, but if you follow the steps below you will have a working Tomato install:
- Download the latest version of TomatoUSB from here: http://tomatousb.org/download. For the Asus RT-N16 you need to use the “Ext” build for Kernel 2.6 MIPSR2. The Ext build has the most features and it will fit in the RT-N16’s flash space. I used Build 47, but use whatever the latest version is.
- Install the Firmware Restoration Utility from the CD that came with the router. Run \Utility\setup.exe from the CD to install it. If you no longer have the CD you can also download it from the Asus website.
- Disable the firewall on your computer. This is required, the Restoration Utility refuses to run unless it is disabled. To disable it on Vista or Windows 7, hit the Start key then type firewall to get to the firewall control panel. On XP you should be able to go to the Control Panel and find the Firewall icon.
- Using an ethernet cable plug your computer into one of the 4 LAN ports on the router.
- Open a web browser and go to http://192.168.1.1. Verify that the router login page loads. If nothing loads then your computer is not able to reach the router. You’ll need to fix this problem before continuing.
- Run the Asus Firmware Restoration Utility from the Start menu. If it gives you an error about the firewall then your firewall isn’t disabled. You need to disable it before continuing.
- Click the Browse button and select the file that you downloaded in step #1. Don’t click the upload button yet.
- Put the router in recovery mode: Unplug the router. Hold down the Reset button. Plug the router back in. Once the power light starts slowly flashing release the reset button. The power light should continue to flash. The flashing light means the router is ready to accept the new firmware.
- Click the upload button in the Restoration utility. The firmware will now start uploading into the router. Don’t touch anything while the firmware is being uploaded. After the upload is complete wait five minutes or so just to be sure everything is done.
- Now reset the settings to default: Unplug the router. Hold the WPS button on the back of the router. Plug the router back in. Hold the button for about 30 seconds and release it.
- Open a browser and go to http://192.168.1.1. Login with user “admin” and password “admin”. You should be logged into Tomato. Now you can configure your router using the Tomato GUI.
I’ve used the above steps to successfully install Tomato on my Rt-N16. If you have any suggestions or improvements to this guide let me know by leaving a comment.
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