Belkin RT3200/Linksys E8450 WiFi AX discussion

hello after configurate the wireless how to restart properly

Sorry, but what do you mean by "it works"? If I enable the checkbox nothing breaks and the router still works. However I don't see much difference on the sirq value, as described in the posts following this one: https://forum.openwrt.org/t/netfilter-flow-offload-hw-nat/10237/263. As I understand, the device should have 0% sirq but also I think the thread is talking about patches for a 5.4 kernel, not 5.10 that RT3200 has.

Well, as there are no so much AX routers out there compatible wieth openWRT and I have found a sale (not a big one, but for reasonable price) of this device in amazon, In jump to the pool (lets see if there is water) and bought this device.

It will come soon.

But now I need to know the best way to proceed.
I know this device is in beta openWRT support, so I need to test it to see if it works with my current needs, or I will need to return it before the evaluation period expires.

So I need to be sure I can return it to the original state and firmware that it was shipped.
The installation of openWRT and returning to the original firmware seem a bit more complex than other routers.

First of all: Is there a way (not too complex) to return to the original firmware?
Should I make a backup of the installed firmware or it is easily downloadable from belkin (I suppose it is)?

I now in general snapshots do not include luci, but you can install it later, so it is not a problem if you can install it.

But there seem to be an ubi and not ubi firmware (do not know exactly what is the difference or what ubi is).

Which one should I test?

In the forum I have met a topic where it seem you can get a compiled snapshot version of the firmwate to the device with luci support.
First you install the kernel to replace the original firmware, and get the minimal options to make a sysupgrade as if you were upgrading a previous openWRT version.
OpenWrt Firmware Selector (aparcar.org)

But again it seems there is an ubi and non ubi version.
Which should I use?
Is this page trustable?

It seems you can conserve the original firmware in another partition and reboot from one or another.
It good be great to compare and see differences and have a "return to original" option.
Does it work with no problems?

The non-ubi builds don't overwrite the stock bootloader making it easier to revert. The ubi builds do the opposite making it harder to revert unless you backed up the factory bootloader during the installation steps (see the ubi installer wiki).

However there was a compatibility issue with the non-ubi builds which prevented them from being flashed from stock. A patch was released to fix this but I don't know if it has been implemented in the firmware selector snapshot builds yet. If the issue has been fixed, I think it is possible to select a custom non-ubi build with luci from the firmware selector but I am not sure.

I too am interested if non-ubi snapshot builds work now.

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Thanks.
First thing I will do when it arrives is study how to do the backup copy of the firmware.

Then I will try to install non ubi first to see if it works.
If I cannot I will try ubi version.

If they work the same, I suppose modifying the original boot process as less as possible will be better in case I want to switch back and forth from openWRT and original firm or want to revert to send it back to amazon.

The process of installing seems a bit scary, not as easy of other openWRT installs I have done.

I count with the guidance of people in this great forum.

Will keep informed of progresses.

I backed up my firmware from the stuff in the UBI volume, but now I'm considering switching to non-UBI. Is there a nice easy "uninstaller" script, or is it just a series of commands to run manually?

I saw an answer in general terms somewhere in the thread, but not as a "run this exact command, then run this exact command" doc.

The ubi installer wiki has revert steps. This is the only way to go back to stock from ubi at this point. Just go slow and follow the instructions closely.

On thursday I will receive the router, and will try, if I am able to make a firmware backup first.

I will try to use the non-ubi snapshot first.

Looks like the non-ubi builds may still be broken? Just attempted to load a recent non-ubi snapshot SYSUPGRADE build from stock (FW_RT3200_1.0.01.101415) with no luck.

I have read that if the firmware in the router is 1.1 does not work, and have to downgrade first.

But if you have tried downgrading and it did not work, I better save myself that step and directly go to installing the ubi version.

I will have to learn more about how all the process works and what is ubi. It seems a more complex booting sequence than usual.

It's running 1.0 (1.0.01.101415) stock - definitely pre 1.1.

After reading about how to install openwrt in this device, I am getting a bit nervous.
It seems a bit complicated, because there seems to be several options dependint on the firmware router has, if you have previously installed openwrt, if the stock firmware is 1.1 or previous...
I have experience flashing openwrt in other devices, like tp-link wrt1043ND, fritz!box 4040... but not with susch a complicated boot sequence of ubi.

So please, guide me to the correct steps in general (detaild steps for each option is in the documentaion).

I asume that me router will have the stock firmware with 1.1 version of boot, as it is new.
Then if I interpreted well the doc in router's page, I should:

  1. Take a backup of all the routers partitions with the original firmware. Does the procedure mention in the documentation take care of all partitions including boot, or should I be aware of other partitions to backup?
  2. Using the web interface of the original software, burn the firmware of version 1.0 provided in the documentaion in order to solve some problem with CRC (that I did not understand well).
  3. Booting again and from the web interface, flash the ubi booting firmware in order to be able to install the openwrt snapshot firmware.
  4. Reboot and use the web interface to flash the OpenWRT snapshot.
  5. reboot and configure OpenWRT.

May be I can try previously installing OpenWRT without flashing ubi.
In that case, I have just to skip the 3rd step. Am I right?

Hi Fernando,

let me answer one by one to your questions.

  1. To be on the super extra safe side make backups of all flash partitions before switching to UBI.

  2. The problem is not CRC but rather the Web UI of more recent versions of the stock firmware apparently doing more checks on the to-be-flashed firmware. Users have reported that flashing OpenWrt (installer or non-UBI sysupgrade) gets rejected unless they downgrade to version 1.0 of the stock firmware first.

  3. , 4. , 5. Sounds correct. In case you want to switch to UBI-layout, first flash the file
    openwrt-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-ubi-initramfs-recovery-installer.itb
    in vendor firmware web-ui, running version 1.0 of stock firmware. Once OpenWrt recovery comes up, flash file
    openwrt-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-ubi-squashfs-sysupgrade.itb.
    If you do not want to switch to UBI, you do not need to run the *installer.itb image, just load
    openwrt-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-squashfs-sysupgrade.bin in vendor web-ui.

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Great thank, I see that I have understood it correctly.

I will try to revert to 1.0 stock firmware and then install non-ubi first (probably won't work).
It would be easy in case I have to return the router to revert to stock firmware, and it seems possible to boot in stock or OpenWRT, that will be nice to compare results.

Anyway if OpenWRT works well enough and stable I prefer OpenWRT even if its performance is not as great as with original firmware, as I prefer versatility to a bit more speed, that I don't really need.

The most delicate process will be the first: being sure I have backed up all partitions and double check that the files are correct with no transmission error.
Where can I find the details?

Another thing I would like is to test performance of original firmware (ethernet and wifi) and the openWRT.
How do I make the tests?
Software to do it?
Any post here that explains a correct way of doing performance tests?

I have just read the wiki entry for flashing this device, and I still have several questions:

  1. The wiki still lists the non-UBI installation as "is pending integration". Since this commit clearly includes "mt76: eeprom: tolerate corrected bit-flips", current snapshot builds should support non-UBI installation, correct?
  2. Given that both UBI and non-UBI installations are now possible, what would you recommend?
    a. How much less space will I have if I install in non-UBI mode?
    b. Is wear leveling completely non-existent with non-UBI installations? Or will it still wearlevel within the Openwrt partition?
    c. What does the changed wear leveling mean in practice?
  3. How do I backup the existing partitions? Is that done via the dedicated installer? Or are there other ways to backup as well?
  4. If I go for a non-UBI installation, I simply flash the non-UBI sysupgrade image from stock firmware and that's it, right?
  5. If I go for the UBI installation these are the steps, correct?:
    a. Install the UBI recovery image from stock firmware
    b. Boot into Openwrt recovery & flash UBI sysupgrade image
  6. Can I simply use the UBI images directly from Openwrt's download page? Does that mean the installer is not stricly needed for installing the firmware? The wiki does explicitly tell you to use said tool, but from what I gathered from this topic this isn't strictly needed?

Sorry for the long list of questions, but would appreciate all the input :slight_smile:

I have read here that if you are going to stay with OpenWRT and not revert to original firmware, ubi install is better.

It has to do with the limited writes and error correction a NAN memory has.
Original firmware is not expected to be upgraded many times, so original boot does not implement bad blocks substitution, ubi does and tries to distribute write over the whole NAND.

The space in the original boot scheme is less (half) as it implements a policy of writing new firmware to a secondary space and booting from there preserving the previous.
Thus it can survive corrupted firmware installs.

OpenWRT ubi works differently and you have much more space.

If you are going to install it in a new router, you can read a couple of posts above yours, were I have asked the same (just to be sure) and received a complete answer.

Answering to @Mushoz questions, one by one:

  1. Running non-UBI snapshot on devices with factory flash content should be possible after that fix. I cannot try it myself as I have rewritten the flash of all my devices multiple times, hence it will always work fine for me (but may not with OOB/ECC data in flash still coming from factory). Would be interesting to see the results on a new/untouched device and there is little to no risk involved in trying.

  2. Most of this is answered here.
    a. Expect ~16 MiB of space available on non-UBI variant vs. ~75 MiB of space with UBI variant.
    b. Unfortunately the stock-layout (and also non-UBI OpenWrt) uses JFFS2 which doesn't do any wearleveling at all. So it's completely missing.
    c. Apart from using a different flash layout the UBI installer also replaces the bootloader with a much more recent version. Among other improvements the updated bootchain allows to recover logs in case of kernel/driver crashes (which have become rare by now, because of that...). And from a layer-8 view it means you are running (almost) 100% free open source software.

  3. The installer does backup the most fundamental parts which are enough to revert to factory firmware if everything goes well (it usually does). In addition to that, you are recommended to also do a backup of the complete flash using the *initramfs-recovery.itb image. See the complete procedure.

  4. Yes, correct. To try non-UBI builds you should just flash openwrt-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-squashfs-sysupgrade.bin image (note: no ubi anywhere in this filename).

  5. Almost correct. Flash first the installer image (using recovery instead will not work and you will end up with a brick if you try using that to flash anything!). Wait for OpenWrt recovery to come up, then flash sysupgrade image.

  6. For the first installation you do need the installer which is not (yet) provided on the official downloads page. Once you have completed the conversion to the new bootchain and UBI flash layout you can from then on use images from downloads.openwrt.org .

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  1. power-cycle == disconnect the device from power or use the power switch and reconnect after a few seconds (ie. a hard reboot).

  2. Yes, you are right, the wording is a bit confusing, I will change that.

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Thanks for explaining why the rewriting of the bootloader was done to begin with. It never made sense to me until now. I can confirm that trying to install a recent non-ubi snapshot build to a virgin unit running 1.0 (ver 1.0.01.101415) to be exact doesn't yet work. I am getting the same behavior as before as the unit just rebooting so either the patch hasn't yet been implemented yet or it has but it doesn't yet work.

To make sure I am understanding this correctly:

  1. The recovery initramfs image can be flashed to backup the partitions while it's still running the stock firmware. (Which should be done BEFORE you do anything with the device)
  2. The recovery-installer initramfs image can be flashed to use to install the actual ubi sysupgrade image.
  3. Both images should be flashed on the stock firmware upgrade page.

Is my understanding correct? And that also explains why you still need the dedicated installer to do an UBI flash: There is no recovery-installer image directly from OpenWRT's download page, hence the need of the installer which will generate one for you.

Is my understanding of the difference between those 2 images correct?