How to Upgrade Your Router's Firmware

Firmware updates offer feature and security improvements

What to Know

  • Download the firmware file, log in to the admin console, and open the router IP address as a URL in a web browser.
  • Locate the firmware section in settings and then transfer the file to the router. Reboot the router.
  • Check the update log for the router or associated app to see if an update has been applied.

Updating the firmware on a router is important because it may provide new features and security improvements that are critical to its functionality. If you've had your wireless router for years, odds are good a firmware upgrade has been released. However, unlike updating computer software, which you can usually do with a simple updater tool, router firmware upgrades are not as easy to understand.

How to Update Your Router's Firmware

Every router is different, but there's usually a somewhat similar process for upgrading the router's firmware. Check your router manufacturer's website for a user manual that includes specific instructions for your make and model.

Some routers upgrade their firmware automatically, but this is only the case for newer, "smart" routers such as some mesh network routers. If you've heard that your router needs a firmware upgrade but you have one of these newer routers, check the update log in the app to see if the update has already been applied.

  1. Download the firmware file from a trusted source. Ideally, you'd get the firmware directly from the manufacturer's website. For example, if you were upgrading the firmware on a Linksys E1000 router, you'd visit its download page on the Linksys website to find the firmware download.

    Linksys E1000 downloads page

    If you download the firmware file from anywhere other than the manufacturer's official website, scan the file for malware to be sure it's safe.

    Download the correct firmware file for the hardware version of your router.

  2. Log in to the router's administrative console.

    192.168.1.1 login page

    Open the router's IP address as a URL in a web browser, such as http://192.168.1.1 if your router's IP address is 192.168.1.1.

    These are common default IP addresses for some of the more popular wireless router brands.

    • Apple: 10.0.1.1
    • Asus: 192.168.1.1
    • Buffalo Tech: 192.168.1.1
    • D-Link: 192.168.0.1 or 10.0.0.1
    • Cisco/Linksys: 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1
    • NETGEAR: 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.0.227

    After you reach the router's login page, enter the password and username for the admin user.

    Review these lists of default login information for these router brands: NETGEAR, Cisco, Linksys, D-Link.

  3. Locate the firmware section in the router's settings. The option often resides in an Advanced or Management part of the settings, but it could be anywhere because not all routers are the same.

    Comtrend firmware update settings

    Verify that the router firmware version you downloaded in Step 1 is newer than the one your router currently uses. Look for a firmware version number that you can compare to the one you downloaded.

  4. Transfer the firmware file to the router.

    Some routers might require a flash drive that contains the firmware file, plugged into an open USB port on the router, but others let you upgrade the firmware from the router's control panel.

    Follow the steps given to you for your specific router.

    Do not interrupt the firmware installation. Avoid updating the router firmware if the power might suddenly go out, like during a storm. Never shut off the router during the upgrade.

  5. Reboot the router after the firmware patch applies. Your router may reboot itself during the update process.

Why Upgrade the Router Firmware?

Your router’s firmware controls the operating system that's specifically designed to run on your make and model of router. Your router manufacturer may release a firmware update to fix a vulnerability that was detected in the current firmware. When bugs are found and corrected, updated firmware is released so that users can implement those fixes.

Router manufacturers might also issue a firmware update to add new features to the router, such as parental control settings or IPv6 support. Other upgrades might include adding new security mechanisms that weren't in previous versions of the firmware.

Besides security fixes, your router manufacturer might have found a way to enhance your router's overall performance, which is always a good thing.

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