Updated – Upgrade A Netgear AC1450 Router to AC1750 (R6300V2)
The best opportunities are not always obvious opportunities. Sometimes you have to put together pieces that appeared in different places at different times. Having a memory for minutia is helpful. Today’s lesson in making your own good fortune comes courtesy of Netgear and a refurbished router model it offers, the AC1450. For reasons not known to me, Netgear decided to offer one router model under two different model numbers. They differ only in the firmware that controls router operations. One model, the AC1450, was initially offered only by Costco. The other model, the R6300 V2 / AC1750 is offered everywhere else.
The firmware that controls the R6300 V2 is reliable firmware. Reviews online give it generally positive remarks. Like all routers, some people say it works great and some say it didn’t work well for them. Personally, I’ve owned six routers over the years and all have worked well. Four were refurbished Netgear routers, one was a new Asus router, and one long ago was a small TwoWire router. (I also own a couple of TP-Link travel routers. One is used to turn my Slingbox into a wireless client. The other is used when traveling. They’re amazing little devices.)
Some people have different and unhappy stories concerning router reliability. Sometimes a firmware upgrade goes bad. Sometimes the router is a lemon. Sometimes the user might have made a mistake in the setup. Buying a new router always makes me a little nervous. Doing business with a store that has a good return policy is essential.
While the R6300 V2 is considered to be pretty good, the AC1450 was given much lower marks by reviewers on sales sites. Many concluded that the firmware on the AC1450 was faulty in some respects and it made the router unreliable. Eventually, Netgear decided to mass market a factory refurbished version of the AC1450. Current sale prices for a refurbished AC1450 range from $65 to $70. This compares to a new R6300 V2, which sells for $150 to $175.
[Update 6-1-2015: According to a couple of comments below, Netgear firmware updates for the converted R6300V2 will not apply. Upon testing that claim, I encountered no problem updating my R6300V2, converted from an AC1450, from 18.104.22.168_10.0.70 to 22.214.171.124_10.0.71, the current release. I downloaded the update file from Netgear and manually applied it. My router was not connected to the internet at the time of the update, so I can not make any assertions about the automatic update feature.
Originally, my converted R6300V2 had a 1 year old DD-WRT Kong release installed, numbered 24345M. The router was serving as a 5 GHz client bridge. To test, I first loaded Netgear firmware 126.96.36.199._10.0.70, converting the router back to a stock R6300V2. I manually loaded the updated firmware, 188.8.131.52_10.0.71 and it was accepted with no complaints. I plan to put a newer DD-WRT release on it later and return it to bridge duties. DD-WRT allows me to use the 2.4 GHz radio as a 2nd SSID while Netgear does not when the router is used as a client bridge.
Thus, in spite of some worries expressed here earlier, and subsequently removed, there appears to be no problem with a stock firmware upgrade to a newer release. If anyone has a different experience, please report it in the comments.
Also, since writing this article last year, DD-WRT has added the AC1450 to its directory of supported routers at the ‘beta’ site, just in case you wish to go that route. Last year, converting to DD-WRT directly from the AC1450 was new and largely untested.
DD-WRT went through a bad patch of of files a few months ago. They were reported as unreliable and of mixed quality. This problem has largely gone away, although, as always when it comes to DD-WRT, you MUST first investigate the quality of the release before you upgrade your router firmware.
Tomato Shibby will also load onto a converted R6300V2 – at least it worked for me. Unfortunately, I had to send that router back because of a faulty 5 GHz radio. I don’t know of an AC1450 specific release from Tomato Shibby. The 5 GHz radio was also faulty with both DD-WRT and R6300V2 firmware. The first conversion AC1450 / R6300V2 I purchased is still working flawlessly.
Some anecdotal reports say it’s best to install Tomato Shibby from Netgear firmware. Versions of DD-WRT released within the past year allow you to return to stock Netgear firmware just by uploading it. (Just to be safe, perform a factory reset to clear NVRAM before re-loading Netgear firmware. Otherwise, you might have problems.) That’s how I did it. I do not know if routers from other manufacturers are this flexible.
I won’t provide conversion instructions for DD-WRT because there’s too many ways to mess up and I don’t want to be blamed if you brick your router.
Overall, never buy any router from anyone unless you can conveniently return it for being faulty. Don’t be afraid to return it. Router companies have no problem selling you something that slipped past the QC department or advertising amazing capabilities that only appear in a controlled lab setting. However, before returning it, make sure the problems have nothing to do with a faulty configuration or excessive wireless congestion from the neighbors that a little tinkering will remedy.
Sites of interest:
- DD-WRT index of betas – hint, all releases from the DD-WRT site are called beta.
- Tomato Shibby
- Kong’s ‘Personal’ Site
- DD-WRT Broadcom Forum
- DD-WRT wiki
- DD-WRT site – (considered to contain lots of outdated information)
- YouTube has videos for everything.
Anyone with more information about the Netgear firmware issue … please reply in the comments. That being said, it worked for me.]
Many people, including me, decided to purchase a refurbished AC1450 for the purpose of converting it into a functioning R6300 V2. (DD-WRT can also be loaded on both models. I have DD-WRT on two other Netgear routers I own; a WNDR3400 V1 and a R6300 V1). At some point I may put DD-WRT on the R6300 V2, but not today. I want to play with the stock firmware and eventually turn it into an ac level media bridge that’s connected to my Netgear R6300 V1.
Why Would I Want To Convert One?
Here’s a brief list of fairly good reasons to consider buying a refurbished AC1450 and converting it into a R6300 V2 / AC 1750;
- A refurbished AC1450 costs as much as $100 less than a new, stock R6300 V2
- User review sites say a R6300 V2 is more reliable than an AC1450 and reasonably reliable overall
- An AC1450 has a 2.4GHz speed of 450 Mbits/second and a 5GHz speed of 975 Mbits/second. A R6300 V2 has the same 2.4GHz speed but 5GHz tops out at 1300 Mbits/second
- Buy two, convert them, and turn one into a 5GHz media bridge. This feature is built into the Netgear firmware on its top tier routers.
- Bragging rights.
[Update 9-29-2014: The refurbished AC1450 appears to be selling out fast on the entire internet. By the time you read this it may be unavailable unless Netgear restocks vendors.]
So How Do I Know They’re The Same Hardware?
The FCC uses an identification number to identify routers. The FCC ID for both the AC1450 and the R6300 V2 is PY313200227. The skeptical might say “So what. Got anything else?”
Why, yes I do.
A lot of the information the FCC requires manufacturers to provide becomes public information. A few screen prints from the FCC web site follow.
Prompting for details via FCC ID
The details that follow.
The smoking gun
How Do I Get Started?
Your overall objective is to tell the router via telnet that it is not really an AC1450. It’s a R6300 V2 and, thanks to your efforts, it has the board ID to prove it.
You first need to download a few things. These include a program called telnetenable.exe, the user guide for a R6300 V2, and the most current firmware for a R6300 V2.
Then you need to enable telnet on your PC via Add Windows Features.
You need to know the MAC address of the AC1450. This comes from a label on the bottom of the router. Write it down.
You need to access your PC with Administrator privileges (run as Administrator).
Once you’re ready to begin, you need to disconnect from your home network. Otherwise, you might accidentally mess up your main home router. Turn off the laptop wifi. Connect the laptop to a LAN port (NOT the WAN port) on the AC1450 via a wired connection.
Next you turn on the AC1450, enter a few command to tell your router it’s really a R6300 V2, upload the new firmware, then restart your router. If successful, you will boot into a R6300 V2.
Download telnetenable.exe from MyOpenRouter.com Unzip the file. Make note of the folder in which it was unzipped. You will need to navigate there while in the Command Window. Telnet can only be run from a command prompt. Telnetenable.exe is used to open the front door into the router so telnet can finish the job.
[Update May 6, 2015: You now have to register at myopenrouter.com to download files. This is the link to the new page for telnetenable.exe.]
[Update September 26, 2015: Reader Judd offered the following comment below. It may or may not apply to you. I have not tried it. The originally described method worked twice for me, but things change:
I bought my AC1450 at Costco in the 2014 time frame. Worked OK but would need occasional reboots. Netgear finally came out with a firmware update which I loaded. After loading I had problems with the router communicating and, when I saw your article while searching for an answer to my problem, thought I would try upgrading mine to R6300v2. I couldn’t get TelnetEnable.exe to work however. So, after more research, I found an article on wiki.openwrt.org that told me:
“New TelnetEnable on Windows
The old Netgear Windows telnetEnable.exe sends probe packets to the router’s TCP port 23. Thus, it is not compatible with firmware and routers Netgear introduced after early 2014, which require UDP port 23.
For those new devices you will need a patched version of telnetenable which supports UDP. You can find it here (github.com)
Keep in mind that the newer routers no longer use Gearguy/Geardog as username and password. You will need to provide your web interface login details. Also, don’t forget to convert your MAC address to uppercase letters, and remove any colons.”
After following those instructions, your upgrade steps worked flawlessly and I now have an R6300v2. Great article and thank you!!]
[Update December 3, 2015: Reader Geekshriek commented below:
“I too was having issues with trying to get telnet to work. I eventually got it to work after trying what Ben said. I downgraded the firmware to “AC1450_V184.108.40.206_1.0.3” and telnet went through without a problem.”
Thanks. Great insight. However, another comment noted problems with this solution. Well, nothing ventured …. It costs nothing to try.]
If you choose to load DD-WRT later on, this is the web site to locate a current version for Netgear routers. DD-WRT can be a little touchy to load initially. Many versions require you to flash with a smaller initial version before loading the full firmware. You should also research the version you plan to load to make sure it is stable. Occasionally, one with problems sneaks through. You might be better off with a previous version.
Download the R6300 V2 User Manual, current firmware, and anything else of interest from the Netgear support page.
Enable telnet on your Windows PC. Check next to Telnet Client and click OK.
Sign in as an Administrator. Make sure your PC has no wifi connection to the main network. Connect the PC to a LAN port on the AC4150 (NOT the WAN port). Turn on the AC1450 and wait for it warm up.
Open a Command window via run as Administrator. Navigate to where telnetenable.exe is stored and execute it using a specific command. Replace the MAC address below with the MAC address of the router. Use all capital letters and no punctuation. I can only assume the name at the end is the user id and password to the router’s firmware. (The MAC address below is just a made up number for illustration purposes) The telnetenable zip file includes a document with an example and some useful information.
telnetEnable.exe 192.168.1.1 000FB5A2BE26 Gearguy Geardog
Tell the AC1450 it has been reborn as a R6300 V2 by changing the board id. Type
Hopefully, you get this response. If you typed in the wrong number, do it again. It’s supposed to be a forgiving process. I got it right the first time but others elsewhere have written it’s not do or die.
Powercycle your router after you get the OK.
Now you’re in the home stretch. Unzip the file with the Netgear firmware. Read any supporting documentation included. Load the R6300 V2 firmware following all instructions provided in the zipfile. A factory reset might be a good idea if it had been configured prior to installing R600V2 firmware. Restart the router using the power button after the firmware has loaded and begin your configuration. If the router balks at accepting the firmware, give it a restart before proceeding.
Use your browser and type the address 192.168.1.1. Tell this screen you wish to connect to the internet later. The firmware provides a wizard that makes the internet connection easy. Information on how to access it is in the User Guide along with all other set up information that is relevant to your network.
Load the firmware for the R6300 V2, following the instructions included in the zipfile. Don’t bother the router during the upload. You might brick it.
After a restart, you will see this initial screen. Note the upper left corner where the router identifies itself as a R6300 V2.
Disconnect the router from your laptop unless you plan to use it complete the router setup. Connect the internet to the WAN port on the router. You’ll need a wired connection to the router to complete the initial setup. Your cable modem might need to cycle off and on to sync up with the new router. The User Guide will tell you how to complete the connection to the internet using the setup wizard. Complete the configuration to meet your needs.
As a suggestion, during the configuration, consider turning OFF uPnP (plug and play) on your router. Any ports left open because a connected device asked for them to be open is just an invitation to Chinese hackers who use port sniffers. Even a little old lady from Pasadena with an internet connection is a target for these people. Netgear appears to leave them open by default. I turned off uPnP when I saw Chinese hackers (I looked up the IP addresses they used) sniffing at port 22 on my QNAP drive via Netgear router logs. They didn’t get in, but I still tightened thing up. (DD-WRT leaves uPnP off by default.)
Hopefully, it will work well for you.