Easy to live spare router choice

Hello everyone,

When I switched to fiber a year ago, I replaced my old WD MyNet N750 with a X86_64 mini computer and I am very happy with it (celeron with AES + 2x 1Gbps LAN + 32Gb msata)

Unfortunately, this computer can only boot UEFI OS. It's not so easy to upgrade and I had to install an OpenWRT 20 snapshot instead of a stable 19.x (snapshots have UEFI builds).
Every time I need to upgrade it I have to reinstall my old WD router during the process as Snapshot versions don't work every time and it might take longer than expected (and I can test the build on the WD before the final upgrade on the X86 computer).

I love this old WD router, he has everything I want but it is starting to get very old and I have a feeling that it is not going to last long.

Eg. the “Emergency Room” mode (web page available at startup after a reset which allows to push a firmware) is more and more capricious, the last time it took me more than 25 attempts to be able to flash it.

In addition it begins to be really limited in power, even for my 300/300Mbs connection. (but it is a backup router, that does not matter too much until I upgrade to full Gbps)

So I am looking to replace this venerable backup router and I cannot identify, in the jungle of routers, a good candidate.
I bought a Fritz!box 4040 last year but I don't like it at all (pb with VLANs and not stable at all, need to reboot it every 3 days, even with the stock FW used as a Wifi AP... perhaps a pb on this particular one).

What I need (after all):

  • low cost if possible (~50$) even if it is not really decisive, I can go for 150$ if it is a really good choice (but the lower the better)
  • small size with no external antenna if possible (I just love the WD form factor, small, 4+1Gbps, no ext. antenna + USB to power the wired Zigbee gateway located next to the router... just perfect for my needs !)
  • Wifi not needed .... but I don't care too much especially if it doesn't have ext. antenna
  • at least 1+2 Gbps ports (I'm missing a port on the x86-64 so I had to install an usb/ethernet adapter) no pb if it has more ports of course
  • more powerful than WD N750, but I don't expect it to handle a full Gbps with SQM (the WD has a single core 560MHz Atheros AR9344 + 16/128MB) I can just be happier with a smoother Luci experience and a better throughput
  • very "VLAN friendly" (so not a IPQ40xx please !!) because my ISP needs that (vlan 832)
  • very (very very very) easy to deal with, easy to deploy openwrt (from the stock FW or like the WD with an embeded web service during reset), hard to brick, easy to unbrick
  • well supported (stable branch please)

there are too many references to explore, detail, dissect, verify ... I admit not knowing where to start to choose my backup openwrt router:

  • by the choice of SOC?
  • by the choice of an architecture [choose an X86_64 again] ?
  • BananaPI / Nanopi or equivalent
  • Using a compatible manageable switch?
  • chossing a Gl.inet / Ubiquiti / Mikrotik ?
  • and why not a simple multi ports gpbs repeater or powerline (like a TL-WPA8630P ??) ?

It would be really great if any of you could help me get on the right track.


Fanless R2S with switch: nanopi r2s - Buy nanopi r2s with free shipping on AliExpress

Where are you located, roughly? If you'd be in North America, these Askey RAC2V1K / RT4230W REV6 Support would be available for a steal.

I wonder if @NoTengoBattery's custom build will run on that Fritz!box 4040. I have an old release -- about April 2020 -- of his custom build running on my (very similar) Linksys ea6350v3 and it's really awesome; an extremely professional piece of work (and I do management system development for carrier grade network appliances for a living).

It fixes the switch configuration issue and has outstanding performance. I don't use it as my main router because it can only route about a gigabit overall (a HW limitation) and I need more because I have routed internal VLANs, but i use it as my hot spare router just as you describe. Might be worth messaging him or asking in the forum thread.

gl-inet AR750 travel router is a good choice for a hot spare.

Thanks to all for your replies

@murraydr44 I took a look to nanopi r2s yesterday, perhaps a bit expansive for what it is (more than 100$ including duty fees) but almost perfect for my need (only 2 gbps ports instead of 3) but no stable release available. As it will be a backup router I can take the time to have it prepared and forgot it until I need it... but I also want be able to take it at the bottom of the drawer, and easily install the last stable (or RC), that why I love so much my old WD router, it is so easy to use when I need is ... now (and not in 15 minutes), I don't play with OpenWRT often enough to remember well how I have to upgrade each HW at home

@slh I live in France, the Askey RAC2V1K looks very big !

@Cheddoleum I think my 4040 has an hardware pb, not a wifi problem, even when I don't use it as a AP (just a wired router) it needs to be restarted every 3 or 4 days ... whatever the firmware (stock or any OpenWRT build) ... very annoying
I will not spend more time on it. I used this build (no VLAN pb with this one) :

@dlakelan gl-inet AR750 has 100Mbps ports, will take a look at gl-inet AR750S

P.S sorry for my English -> 2 a.m here, it starts to be hard to write in English

Wouldn't it make more sense to run another OS/distro that actually works without any hassle? :slight_smile:

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Hi @diizzy
not sure to understand well what you tell me (I'm not really fluent in English)

If I understand well you suggest me to get a second X86_64 router as a spare
I would be happy to do that, but it is a bit expansive (150~200€ !) to buy a powerfull box like that and not use it each day, isn't it ?

I own a 2013 (8 years old, and no much improvment on the market this then !) Archer C7 V2 that shares the same SOC than GL-inet AR750S. I still use it with its stock FW as an ethernet switch + AP on my desk without any trouble, even if it is big, ugly and bulky and even if I don't like at all the stock FW capabilities (don't care to much as a switch/AP)

And I bought for 70€ a Archer C5 (same HW) in 2015 I used to do the same role elsewehre in my house before I gave it to a friend.
... today a GL-inet AR750S also costs 70€ with the same old internal parts (but with an ideal form factor for me I must admit)

I'm sure you can understand that I'm not please with the idea to spend:

  • 70€ for something that exists since almot 10 years without any new improvment
  • 200€ for something I will not use at a daily basic

I can perhaps buy any lower cost more recent Wifi router/ap (not necessarily compatible with OpenWRT) to replace the C7 in my desk, and use the ugly C7 as my spare router ... but after 8 years I expected to be able to play with a newer toy (sorry, I'm also a geek ;op )


No, I'm asking you why not run something else than OpenWrt which appears to break frequently in your setup (on your x86 box)?

I see you considered the GL-AR750S/Slate from Gl.Inet. Have you also considered the GL-MV1000W / Brume-W, or it's sibling, the GL-MV1000 / Brume? I own the latter for the exact same purpose you stated in the OP and couldn't be happier. It's super small and works right out of the box. My ISP link is 200 down /100 up and it's been able to provide link speed over Wireguard. Of course, your mileage may vary based on several minor discrepancies between my ISP connection and yours, but I thought it was worth mentioning it.

@diizzy Oh, I didn't understand that.
Why ?

  • because I' can't be happier with the X86_64+OpenWRT setup and perf. It never breaks (the Fritz 4040 bothered me a lot, not the x86).
  • because I wasn't able to find another distro that matches my expectations (IPv6 for eg. it not supported almost everywhere, and even if I think that OpenWRT's IPv6 implementation is unecessary complex and should be really better/simplier .. but I'm not a dev. guy, so I can't propose anything better, so I accept that, of course !)
  • because I don't update it so often (perhaps every 8/10 months) but as I actually need to use snapshots build (until 21.x) it is a bit tricky each time I need to uptade it (perhaps it is because of that you thought I have a setup that breaks frequently. In fact: snapshot = lottery. Sometimes it works, sometimes not and in that case I need to trust my backup router and put it in line in no time, but 21.x is coming soon, and will support UEFI)
  • because my ISP needs very special DHCP options and OpenWRT supports them
  • because I don't want to use, for many reasons, the ISP router
  • because I am an IT guy and I want to have a ready-to-go backup on the shelf
  • because ... many more but I think it is enough :upside_down_face:

But I'm always open to learn something new, if any other distro can do the job for me I will be please to test it, last time I have done than kind of testing none were good enough for me (pfsense and derivative and many more, I spent a full month to test all that I can find

=> "in the OP". Sorry, what is "OP" ? opening post ?

  • because GL-MV1000 costs 125€ and GL-MV1000W costs 135€
  • because, at the moment, I don't know anything about Armada 88F3720, I need to find out more about it. And I will.
  • because I opened this thread exactly for that, so thanks a lot for your input :+1:

Yes. It's short for opening post.

An old desktop PC with some extra network cards can be pressed into service as an x86 OpenWrt box. This has high performance and low (potentially zero) purchase cost, but it will guzzle electricity.

A lot of instability / crashing of old consumer routers is due to the 12 volt power supply wearing out; try a different power supply cube before condemning the router.

You can run old builds on a UEFI system by installing a UEFI version, then re-writing the kernel and rootfs manually and reconfigure GRUB. The UEFI boot starts up a UEFI version of GRUB2 (which you would keep), which then loads OpenWrt conventionally.

Openwrt 21.02 RC2 is already out, so you can use it instead of 19.x. Edge router X (around $50), if available in your area, is a good candidate. I use it as my main router, it had its own issues but the current 21.02 RC2 works great.

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I would imagine most calling your upgrade path broken if you need to have backup device ready everytime you need to upgrade and 8-10 months is a very long time for security updates. :wink:
If it's fine with you that's great I guess otherwise just look at pretty much "any" server/network oriented distro such as Debian, Alpine or BSDs such as FreeBSD or OpenBSD.

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Back when I used a an x86_64 router, I ran Ubuntu server on it, with OpenWRT as a container under LXD. It works amazingly well, and has a Separation of Concerns benefit: your drivers and OS are separate from the routing application[s].

It also solves the upgrade problem: simply:

  • clone the container, making sure the clone has distinct MAC addresses.
  • before starting the clone, mount its filesystem and temporarilty:
    • disable DHCP and WAN
    • change the LAN IP address
    • point it at the old container's IP addres as its router
  • start the clone, and do the upgrade.

When everything's ready:

  • stop the old container
  • on the clone, re-enable DHCP and WAN, restore the original LAN IP, remove the router entry from LAN.

Done. The new container is your new router. Disable the old one and delete when you're sure everything's fine.

Did this many times over the space of a couple of years. Recently switched to using OpenWRT directly on a Raspberry Pi 4 and no longer do it this way. But I'm thinking of running Ubuntu and LXD on the Pi and going back to this because it was such a convenient and powerful arrangement.

Link to an excellent script for making OpenWRT containers.

thanks a lot for all the replies.
Allready tried another power block for my 4040 ... will give it a last chance with a third one and with these crappy vlans

once 21.x will become stable UEFI images will be there without the need to use snapshot builds, so I will not have a "broken upgrade path" anymore and will be able to upgrade more easily, and so more frequently.

Actually the 21 rc2 has at least one bug for my use case (unable to honor any DHCPv6 lease for any lease time < 12h ... don't know why and wasn't able to find any other that reports the same pb, tried on my 3 OpenWRT routers) and perhaps a second one (DHCPv6 PD has a strange behaviour to allocate subnets to downstream routers, only if downstream routers are in 21-rc2, I'm currently testing that but it is not 100% reproductible and I need to sleep a bit sometimes)

Also any of these router (x86 or not) are chinese HW. They can be healthy for years .... or not, for many reasons (even if I never loose any router yet).
So I need (or I want if you prefer, personal choice) to have an "always available" spare router. it has to be small (not the old and noisy big PC) and user friendly

With my 8 years old twins and too many things to do I don't have enough time to play with more VMs/container/RPi/build environments etc ..., as I still have few of them to manage (and I don't like the Pi for this use case, not embeded enough, even If I have an unused Pi4 available. the nanopis look better to me for a small router)

will probably end with a good old MT7621

many thanks again to all

I actually saw one other mention of an issue with DHCPv6 and lease time recently, but I'm not sure if it was you :slight_smile:

I set my VPN to France to try and fake out eBay (.fr) into giving me some price quotes on devices I am interested in that match up your request.

I have a few GL-AR750S. Great little routers but lack antenna / radio diversity and underpowered single core ~718Mhz CPU ie. it's a travel router. The AR750S had challenges migrating to 19.07.7 and is more challenging to compile. Good in a pinch or for smaller tasks but not a great gigabit router IMO. I got my introduction to OpenWrt with this product. Fun to Mesh up etc.. 70EUR used free delivery on eBay if you are lucky. Usually higher around 80EUR plus 20EUR ship.

I have always heard good things about Mikrotik. No personal experience though.

I just saw Mikrotik Hex S RB760iGS on eBay France for 47EUR plus 20EUR shipping. Those look nice. Dual core 880Mhz. Snapshot only though. 16/256 + microSD (future proof from the 16mb flash?). Search them on the TOH the other ones are 19.07.7 stable. The dual core ones are all MT7621a.

Mikrotik hEX RB750Gr3. 41EUR + 18EUR shipping. 19.07 stable. 16/256 I'm alittle worried about the 16mb flash being smallish for future proofing but its not too bad especially for that price/ performance point.

I believe these routers get up near 1Gbps according to eBay / Amazon reviews without SQM/QOS. You would have to confirm that.

I also saw NanoPi R2S Routeur METAL SHELL RK3328 Dual Port Gigabit Ethernet pour OpenWrt 5.4. 59EUR + 4EUR shipped from Hong Kong. Quad core 1300Mhz. Snapshot only? I don't know anything about rPi. These look nice though.

I'm also curious about trying to boot OpenWrt off USB 3.0 in LEGACY mode (if the BIOS supports it) - but that is beyond my skill level. But even a small laptop uses 20-30 watts versus 5 watts per stand alone router on average. The AR750S uses around 2.5 - 3 watts. I'm using one (AP/STA ( WPA3) --> LAN --> TV box) for my TV plugged into the TV's USB port so it powers on and off with the TV. The AR750S takes 2 minutes to boot up though.

@16F84 thanks for this detailed reply and for your efforts ! I appreciate it a lot.

I made a choice and have ordered one hour ago a GL.iNet GL-MT1300 (Beryl) because of its soc and its ideal form factor for me (3nic + usb + compact) + 32/256M ... the Brume is too expansive for my need

I know I will need (again) to use snapshot builds but I hope this will change soon with the 21.x branch (as for my X86_64)

I took a look to the Mikrotik range, unfortunatly I didn't like the way to flash it

My second choice was the Nanopi R2S (or R4S!) but recent (01/06/21) changes in French custom laws convinced me to not buy from China for this time

Since today my WD is definitively dying (doesn't load well after a boot, whatever the installed version, need to reboot 3 or 4x to have a complete boot), my suspicions were therefore founded, I so had to make a quick decision.
of course I would have preferred a more recent SOC for less money, but I didn't have too much time to do a better choice.
And it seems to correspond to more than 90% of my specifications

Thanks again everybody !