Review: 6 slick open source routers

DD-WRT, Tomato, OpenWrt, OPNsense, pfSense, and VyOS suit a wide range of devices and networking needs

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Hackers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but the lousy stock firmware your routers shipped with.

Apart from smartphones, routers and wireless base stations are undoubtedly the most widely hacked and user-modded consumer devices. In many cases the benefits are major and concrete: a broader palette of features, better routing functions, tighter security, and the ability to configure details not normally allowed by the stock firmware (such as antenna output power).

The hard part is figuring out where to start. If you want to buy a router specifically to be modded, you might be best served by working backward. Start by looking at the available offerings, picking one of them based on the feature set, and selecting a suitable device from the hardware compatibility list for that offering.

In this piece we've rounded up six of the most common varieties of third-party network operating systems, with the emphasis on what they give you and who they're best suited for. Some of them are designed for embedded hardware or specific models of router only, some as more hardware-agnostic solutions, and some to serve as the backbone for x86-based appliances. To that end, we've presented them with the more embedded-oriented solutions first and the more PC-oriented solutions last.

DD-WRT

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