Installing 23.05.x on Linksys e8450 or Belkin RT3200

Is there a comprehensive information guide on all the UBI files used for loading these two related routers? I currently run a handful of Linksys WRT3200ACMs in my network strictly as DumbAPs. Last year I picked up a couple of the Linksys e8450s at the recommendation of someone on GitHub and used the DangoWRT process to get the UBI process completed and working with OpenWRT 22.03.3. There were some some issues my use of DSA and VLANS, so I back burnered it for almost a year. After reading some of the developer threads over the past few months, I decided to get back on it today when I saw 23.05.3 was out.

Every different e8450 (UBI) file I downloaded seemed to make the current build cough on the upgrade... lots of red boxes and warnings. After spending much of the last 4 hours trying to hunt down a definitive guide/cookbook for getting from what I have to what I want... it seems that it's mostly patchwork with pieces everywhere and many of them undated.

So, if someone understands which and what order these new files should be applied to a working UBI build of 22.03.3, I'd sure appreciated the help. I can and have fixed a lot of other unrelated electronics here lately and I'd just a soon not grunge this build if I don't have too...

Thanks!

Disclaimer: I never owned this device (nor any other based on this SOC family) and there have been quite considerable changes recently, over the past couple of months, so take the below with caution, read up the details on the device page in the wiki (understand them), take a step back if you encounter any warnings and maybe wait a little for further advice and explanations.

O.k., your current state of the device is 22.03.3, with the full migration to (the first iteration) of the OpenWrt flash layout (ubi).

Based on that, you should be able to simply sysupgrade with https://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/23.05.3/targets/mediatek/mt7622/openwrt-23.05.3-mediatek-mt7622-linksys_e8450-ubi-squashfs-sysupgrade.itb (beyond 23.05.x you will have to do another migration to the second iteration, but based on your descriptions that's not relevant now and can be deferred to the point when you upgrade to 24.xy.0 or newer (respectively current main snapshots)).

Always be specific, which exact file (full URL) did you download, what exact error message are you getting (if easily possible in text form, if necessary via a screenshot). Crystal balls are hit by supply chain issues, so our guessing is impacted.

The e8450/ rt3200 is under active development (in main, not 23.05.x) right now, with quite significant (and potentially breaking!) changes, so take your time, confirm each step and don't ignore any warning messages.

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The e8450 OpenWRT firmware is currently undergoing some turmoil due to a number of devices having suddenly stopped working. Be very cautious which installer you use right now. If you use the wrong one with a mismatching firmware or potentially even if you do everything right, you could soft-brick the router and require recovery with some tools that aren't entirely beginner-friendly. If you're not ready to get down into the dirt, I recommend waiting for a bit until the devs get to the bottom of the issue.

If you really want to get into it and are ready to slog through the mud, you'll need to choose which direction you want to go. The pre-release installers are for snapshot only. They are not compatible with the stable firmware, and there will be issues. The stable installers cannot run snapshot at all. Attempting to do so is guaranteed to brick the router. In other words, look very carefully at the page for the installer and make sure you select the correct one for the version of the firmware you want to use. Word of warning: If you run the pre-release installer for snapshot, you cannot go backward without some advanced tools, a prior backup from the very same device, and knowledge of how to manually re-write the flash memory and its partitioning. The changes made by the installer are one-way.

Assuming you've chosen to run the stable firmware, run the installer package once and only once. Do not try to run it a second time, or it could put your device at risk of the problems currently being experienced. Follow the instructions on the installer web page carefully. Once the installer has been run, it will leave you in a recovery environment. From there, you really should use the web interface's "Backup Firmware" to download a copy of all MTD partitions on the device. I can't stress this enough, especially now. These backups are crucial in case something goes wrong down the line. Once you have your backups, follow the instructions and run a matching and compatible sysupgrade file. The sysupgrade file is what installs the real firmware.

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Right now, if you have a working E8450, I would be really cautious to flash anything.
Lot's of devices have turned unbootable or only intermittently bootable in last few weeks. For that reason dangowrt created a few weeks ago the "late bootloader in UBI" installer version, but that has not helped. The installer 1.1.x may have hastened process?

Nobody knows yet, if this is a manufacturing quality error that surfaces with age, or something with the current OpenWrt master or 23.05.x

(The error happens already in the bootloader stage, so it is not about OpenWrt firmware itself or settings.)

My own RT3200 belongs now to the sad crop of broken devices.

So, just sit with the current firmware a few weeks. Hopefully dangowrt figures out the reason for bootloader troubles.

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Thanks, that did give me some direction... and a bit more reading/research showed I should reapply or apply the new version of ubi-initramfs-recovery.itb, which booted cleanly (thankfully). Then I was able to apply the sysupgrade version and got none of the red patch warning and force options. Rebooted into a clean load of 23.05.3.

I'm quite happy with the "20,000 foot view" of Openwrt with DSA as it allows me to create a handful of 802.1q devices for br-lan.x y and z for VLANS and transport those over the backhaul ethernet to each of my WRT3200ACM WAPs. Then I can use those VLANs for multiple SSIDs on the wireless side and physical port assignments to various devices needed different VLAN configs... But close up, I waited quite a while (almost a year) for the necessary Kernal updates to stablize the switch functions in Openwrt...

In the research for a new platform (I still need the 4 physical ports at remote WAPs) led me to the e8450 as one of the Devs was supposedly working on code for Mediatek... and the e8450 and RT3200 were going to get some extra attention. Now there is a new instability... and more waiting... I guess the wait is inevitable... but I'll build this one out and see how it plays.

What did you mean by "main" in "under active development (in main, not 23.05.x)"?

"main" is the new name for the "master" development branch.

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That's probably the best advice. I have a couple more e8450s still in the box. I think I'll let them sit for now. I'll build out my VLAN structure on this one and see how it plays with the other WAPs in the house. I'll save the other ones until I see some updates from Dangowrt. wait, wait, wait...

Starlink wants me to upgrade my V1 dish to something new (beta tester), so I'll work on that and wait, wait, wait... some more on Openwrt.

I have updated my RT3200 from 23.05.2 to 23.05.3 and now once the router reboot it will not come back online unless I switch if off and back on manually. Can I reinstall 23.05.2 to resolve this issue? I am running this command to reboot the router in the Scheduled Tasks:
30 4 * * 0,5 sleep 70 && touch /etc/banner && reboot
Version Number:
OpenWrt 23.05.3 r23809-234f1a2efa / LuCI openwrt-23.05 branch git-24.086.45142-09d5a38
My previous version:
https://imgur.com/4yUTEzd
Thank you for your time and support.

I'm assuming you are using the UBI memory version of OpenWRT. Reading through the notes, they recommend you run the new .fip file again before you run the .itb sysupgrade. This was the method I used on my test mules for the Linksys e8450 and have had no reboot issues.... and I've been rebooting a lot.

So, if you haven't already, perhaps try to run the .fip file, then reload 23.05.3. Beyond that I probably can't be much help as I am building back-haul Dumb Access Points with heavy use of DSA/VLAN config. I don't use router/firewall/dhcp components.

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Thanks a lot for the quick response. Can you help me with the URL to this .fib file please? Yes, I am using the UBI version but I didn't apply anything regarding the mentioned installer - mentioned a lot in this device topics - or anything special.

Sure, for the Belkin UBI version it is:
https://firmware-selector.openwrt.org/?version=23.05.3&target=mediatek%2Fmt7622&id=linksys_e8450-ubi

Use the top one, then re-apply the bottom one.
Hope it helps!

Thanks again. I am not sure if there something wrong with the boot package. I have downloaded at least two times, all giving the same result:
https://imgur.com/JRzgSEF

Those are the errors I was seeing too... but after applying the new .fip file when I loaded the sysupgrade, it went through clean. Don't know if it will help, but this was the guide I used to get the UBI correct:
https://youtu.be/_JchPPHkFN8?si=nCKG-TIHIB_r5a8v

Thanks, but it didn't help as there's no mention of flashing .fip file at all, and it's for those who coming from Stock to OpenWRT. I am already on OpenWRT. Thanks anyways. I appreciate your time and comments.

Sorry it didn’t help. I did read it or I wouldn’t have known to do it. If it wasn’t on this forum it may have been on one of the GitHub threads or the OneMarcFifty discord server.

I’ve had no issues with 23.05.3 - but, I don’t use OpenWRT systems for regular router functions. I only use them for WAPs and heavily use DSA for pushing VLANs to remote areas of my property with corresponding SSIDs as well as Ethernet. I turn off all the WAN, LAN, Firewall, DHCP and IPv6 functionality. That may be why I’m not seeing issues. But since so many are having these issues Im going hold off on my e8450 conversion until there is a better understanding of what the OKD cause is.

All my traditional router functionality is upstream on a Netgate/pfSense+ system

Thankfully, a new guide has been posted on the wiki and it goes over the process of re-flashing the .fip and recovering from the boot failure altogether.

https://openwrt.org/toh/linksys/e8450#recovery_from_openwrt_kiss_of_death_okd

My dumb openwrt AP died and I now have a Linksys E8450 I could convert.
However, I keep coming across threads that seem to imply there are problems with this hardware. How have yours been working out? Do they work well even though they only have internal antennas? Any reliability issues? Would you suggest it or would you suggest something newer?

I don't want to get a really high end up since I'm only converting it to dumb AP.

Thanks.

The E8450 hardware is pretty solid. It takes some serious effort to truly kill it. That said, yes. There are currently some issues still in review, and there are no answers as to precisely what is behind it all. Because of this, there are a few precautions I'd strongly recommend taking if you do want to make use of it.

Its performance is overall decent, but it isn't built for an excessive number of clients at high speed, and the antennas do limit its maximum range. In other words, don't expect it to provide WiFi support on its own for a large office with many users, a building with a large footprint, a building with many floors, or an environment loaded down with interference. Instead, think the way a company does when setting up WiFi access points. Map out the space you have, find the best place(s) to set up APs for best coverage, and operate that way.

As for the precautions to take to make sure you can recover from the problems that might occur, make sure you take and save a backup of the device's factory partition at the earliest opportunity. This is rather simple to do from OpenWRT if you're running the stable (not SNAPSHOT) firmware. Additionally, it would be wise to have a USB to Serial adapter available ahead of time. They're typically fairly cheap and readily available online. Just make sure you have one that supports 3.3v logic and your preferred computer operating system. As long as you have the backup, the serial adapter, a basic understanding of the U-Boot bootloader, and the basic understanding of how to run command-line programs, you'll be able to recover from anything short of hardware failure.

Now, as for how frequent the issues are: It's difficult to get a real, confirmed number given that many users won't come to comment or report unless things go wrong. However, the number of reported issues are relatively few overall. Additionally, nearly all of the issue reports I've seen were recoverable.

I now have five devices using this hardware model. Three of them are Belkin RT3200s and two are Linksys e8450. I had two of them deployed together to provide full WiFi coverage over a three floor, 150 square meter building in a high RF environment, and had solid coverage and zero issues with them over a period of more than a year. The only time I experienced issues with any of them was after playing around with the intention of trying to cause a failure or doing things out of the expected and suggested installation process. However, other people have claimed to have problems appear randomly and when running them normally. My thought is that they're very much worth putting into service, even now that the manufacturers have discontinued them. However, I still have the backups safeguarded in case something goes wrong, and I also have experience in recovering devices of this general hardware class.

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That is quite the review and helps. In my case, it's a 3500 sq foot house with three floors and it would either go in the center floor or I'd use two, one on the lower level and one on the center floor.

I definitely do not want to deal with the KOD problem this router seems to be known for and a bit concerned about the built in antennas.

Thanks again.

With a house of that size, you'd probably want at least two APs to provide complete coverage, regardless of the model you end up selecting. A single AP is very likely to end up with poor or dead zones of coverage with that kind of footprint.

Things to keep in mind with the e8450: It does have four antennas, configured with one set forward and one set at the back. Both sets are at the top of the unit, and the sets are arrayed in an 'X' shape. This is good for reliable coverage nearby and to either side, but not so good for simple signal strength or coverage directly in front or directly behind of the unit. It's also not very good for long-range. On the flip side, high gain / long-range antennas are a bit of a gimmick for anything but very specific setups, and they're not very good under many common conditions. After all, what is the point in having the AP set up with excessive and potentially law-breaking effective output power in an attempt to try and reach distant clients, when the clients themselves can't transmit with enough clarity and power to be heard by the AP? Not only that, but the high gain antennas often result in close-in issues due to distortion, interference, and awkward radiation patterns.

The good: OpenWRT does an excellent job with the e8450 when configured with 802.11r fast transition / roaming features. If you do set up two or more APs to get full coverage, I highly recommend looking into that and the DAWN application as well. The combination of features can provide excellent performance even when needing to roam around the building and between coverage zones.

Stability: Given the reports of issues, it seems that you would most likely have better results with the e8450s if you either keep the factory layout (non-UBI) or if you use UBI installer 1.0.2 to install the stable UBI version. OpenWRT 23.05.3 or previous are safe to use with either of the above. Unless you're looking to help out with the troubleshooting, avoid the snapshot and the pre-release UBI installers 1.1.x or newer at this time. There's simply too much going on right now for those to be safe to use outside of development and testing. The UBI installer 1.0.3 may also be safe, but the bulk of the reports of issues started coming in around the time that the code used in that installer release came out. It may be purely coincidence, but it may not. We don't yet know for sure.

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