Is there value in installing OpenWrt on a home access point?

Hi, long-time OpenWRT and LEDE user here, but it has always been with my home wifi routers. I currently have OpenWRT installed on an Archer C7v2, and while the routing part works great, the wifi suffers due to some sort of wireless driver bug that many other people on here have witnessed. Therefore, I'm in the market for a wireless access point to use instead of the Archer's built-in radios.

Should I just get any old WAP to get stable wifi, or is there some advantage to also installing OpenWRT onto the WAP? I'm unclear on why I would want OpenWRT on an access point, though, since I thought most of the heavy lifting occurs in the router, while the AP just beams a signal to wireless devices. What's the benefit?

Also, any recommendations for an AP? We use both 5GHz and 2.4GHz in a 1600 sq ft single-story house. The Archer has a hard time getting reliable wifi to the far bedroom that is currently my wife's work-from-home office; it's not physically too distant but there are several walls and a closet in the way. She gets her work done but sometimes it gets slow and drops to one bar. I was hoping a dedicated AP would have just enough extra oomph to make it stable.

Thanks!

I'm in Australia where most 5G channels need DFS
most manufacturers only just allow the 2 80MHZ channels 36,149
and due to this these channels are always used by neighbors
so to give you more options 52,100,132 s these as always free

you also know if there is a bug found there will be a fix "KRACK"

also something to try with your C7 other have had problems with the -ct drivers
s maybe changing them to the non ct drivers

Thanks Lucky1! That's a good point about security updates (although I would hope that a reputable manufacturer would also patch security holes for a few years).

Yeah, I have already switched to the non CT drivers, but 2.4 GHz still goes down every day or two. And our Logitech hub is wifi-N only, which forces a wifi radio restart at really inopportune times. :slight_smile:

just a note tho if it's your 2.4G it has not changed much
you may have another old device that will do this laying around
& may like your Logitech hub better
even some old netgear adsl modems & routers modes have an access point mode

usually my old routers become access points I think it help justify updating my routers :slight_smile:

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just a side note my because I'm not in the US
but I see so many people somehow don't have the correct plug pack
& there router keeps having problems
well if you only have a 1A plug pack you router says it needs 3A
then it cutting out is not it's fault
sometimes adding usb drives change this also with added loading

The biggest advantage is ongoing security support. For example, flaws were found in previous WPA implementations, and OpenWRT users got the fixes promptly, while many owners of proprietary routers were left high and dry with insecure networks, by manufacturers that would rather sell them a new device.

consider also the protection from oem backdoor...

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Yep, longtime C7 user myself... 4 or so yrs back it was one of the most used and supported OWT routers, now it feels kicked to the curb. I used to get >60days uptime, with no problems back in the 16.x.x - 17.x.x days, when I ran it as the single router/wifi box for the house. Last couple years it's been an AP with a Zotac x86 box as the router.

Sad that this radio/driver/firmware/wherever it is bug has still not gotten fixed...

FWIW, running latest (19.07.7) stable -ct stock drivers an FWhas been somewhat better for me, the drops happen but usually recover, gets stuck once every several days that I need to do some kind of reset. I havent gone the way of just rebooting it every night, or a script to check 2.4ghz and reset....

To your original question, another couple of reasons to keep your C7 and run OWT on it are, the radios/antennas in the C7 werere rather good back in its day, probably still are. It was one of the highest scorers in thruput vs range in the Smallnetbuilder.com testing. A nice thing for an AP.

Also, the chips are compatible (ath9k/ath10k) with the latest work on the make-wifi-fast project improvements of Airtime Fairness and Airtime Queue Management, some is already in stable OpenWRT, with more coming. I've noticed better behavior and latency improvements. So, it should keep you nearer to the cutting edge of better performing wifi, over some other choices. A few other chipsets will also work with this, forgetting which.

So, theres a lot of value and life left in a C7, would be a great AP choice if only the 2.4ghz bug could be fixed. Currently, with my level of problem with it, that reboot every night job might fully erase even that.

Edit: re-read your original post, and see that one C7 isnt quite cutting it. Have you thought about moving the C7? Another "it's an AP now" benefit is more flexibility in being able to position it, or a second one, closer to problem areas. Not sure if a single "official AP" unit could be depended upon to have a lot more coverage, I dont have any experience to comment on. I've read good reviews of the TP-LINK 225 235(?) family, but their OWT support is new, and I've read a few issues posted.

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Even with all else equal - and its not (security updates, no OEM back doors as already mentioned) - I think there is value in having the same firmware interface across the board. I think OpenWrt and having the same firmware interface makes it just a little bit easier to do things like set up multiple wireless SSID's on their own VLANs (home, guest, IOT devices, VPN).

I've been running OpenWrt (recent snapshot) on a LInksys EA8500 picked up used on ebay and set up as an upstairs AP and switch in a 3300 sq ft house. Coverage on the upper floor is fantastic. It also provides a usable 5 GHz (and 2.4 GHz) on the lower floor of the house. The EA8500 range and speed are a little better than an Archer C7 I used to run in my experience. If you can find one, that might be a good option for you.

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Maybe get a more powerful router like the 7800 today and use the c7 as AP?

It's been a long time coming and isn't even here yet, but hopefully we'll soon have AQL which will make OpenWrt a much better choice for APs than almost all other vendors' firmware.

The typical home user oem stuff usually has bits that phone home for various reasons. Some even have analytics to track network trends and spy on you which they claim is anonymized but I loathe the idea of using my connection to willfully contribute to analytics or any kind. Also flashing to Open firmware can in some cases unlock hardware features, take my Netgear R6120 for example, with Netgears firmware it is restricted to AC1000 class and it only has channels 36-48 and 149-161. It is missing the DFS channels from 52-144 as well as 165 not to mention the OEM firmware has the radios capped at right around 18dBm or 63mw.

Switching to OpenWRT or DD-WRT unlocks the previously restricted hardware and now I have an AC1200 class router with full channel support from 36-165 and the wifi radios each now can go all the way up to 25dBm or 316mw!!!

Those 2 reasons alone (the spying and unlocking hardware) are the 2 absolutely MASSIVE reasons to run away from oem firmware.

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@smeep Even a 'silly' thing like WPA3 is something you won't see in vendor updates. Don't think consumer networking sees lots of updates. I think only ASUS is decent on that front (and apparently only after they were forced to by a judge after some firmware security issues).

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My AP is EoL. It's still plenty fast and powerful enough for my purposes but I'm going to have to bin it anyway for lack of security updates. And it doesn't support DFS channels so my SNR isn't what it could be thanks to neighbors.

Don't be me, get an AP supported by OpenWRT.

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Installing OpenWrt is also an opportunity to self-host some primitive services for yourself instead of using cloud services (which are often very intrusive). Especially if this services do not need much of computing power. Just make sure that they do not constantly write into internal flash. Separate partition and/or extroot on USB thumb drive/MicroSD/etc. is definitely required for this use-case.

This is an oversimplification. Wi-Fi involves sophisticated protocols which make use of cryptography. These protocols evolved for a long time. There were multiple times when vulnerabilities were found, which instigated this evolution. That is why it is needed to constantly apply security updates and sometimes switch to more new protocols, developed to mitigate fundamental vulnerabilities of previous ones.

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