OpenWrt on an old Laptop

What other network hardware do you have?

You could use the ExpressCard slot to add another ethernet adapter or get a USB ethernet dongle (however the laptop only seems to offer USB2, so this would not allow gigabit ethernet). Wether any of these options are interesting or cost effective I can not tell, nor which expresscard NICs are supported by Linux/OpenWrt (but as ExpressCard seems to use PCIe I would hope this not to be a big issue.)

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Considering the costs for upgrades you're already looking at, as well as the inherent issues of using a notebook in this capacity (cooling, fan wear and dust issues, heat dissipation with the lid closed (potential heat damage to the screen), what happens with the battery - keeping it in isn't good (will deteriorate quickly and may burn up), removing it might not be either (physical stability)), I would suggest to reconsider this plan.

Getting an old (EOL) x86_64 UTM, some kind of x86_64 (baytrail-d or newer Atom SOC) thin client or some kind of mITX based solution might not be more expensive, but is likely to work better over the long term. And this notebook can still be a worthwhile computer (aka "surf station") with a desktop linux installation.

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all I have right now are just an old laptop and an Orange Pi

Thanks, you all for the advice maybe I have to find another way to achieve this, maybe look more into the Orange Pi single NIC solution or get another hardware

Great suggestion from @frollic :

Don't belittle laptops.

Don't get me wrong, the performance is there, as should be the power consumption - the long term stability not always.

Business notebooks, which are designed to be run in a dock (lid closed, full throttle over longer periods of time) might get away with this, many consumer notebooks however will not. They're lacking in the cooling department, both the fans (noise and what happens over time with dust build-ups) and a closed lid, as well as battery degradation (constant re-/charging, under hot conditions, removing the battery might infringe case stability/ warping, keeping it in might lead to ballooning and could be a fire hazard). Long term 24/7 usage (as in servers or routers) is not their intended use case.

Dedicated (EOLed) UTMs, mini-ITX or dedicated thin clients (and anything inbetween) fare much better in this regard.

In all fairness, there is nobody stopping users to run non-business laptops simply with the lid open to allow for better venting/cooling if the design requires this...

Indeed, however consumer grade PC hardware is pretty stable and robust, as long as we are not talking over-clocked "gamer" devices that have been run most of their previous life outside of the manufacturers recommended conditions (voltage, temperature, ...). Not saying there is a guarantee that it will work, just that there is no reason not to try if all one owns is a consumer laptop.

However, I would always at least look at the power consumption, because even a new (cheap) router can earn its cost in power-savings over a few years. I know this is a dicy calculation, because recycling/dumping already built devices also carries a cost as well.


In fact this is not always true, laptops designed for mobility, most of their components are designed to work under more tough conditions (because you will take them outside), I do have a laptop running DNS servers 24x7 for more than 3 years, even the mechanical 160G SATA disk has 25000hrs running not breaking, of course battery is the first thing to remove before doing that.

My case is even worse. I use a netbook (consumer) for the same purpose for more than 5 years (it's from 2013 or before), HDD with 18914 hours on and battery INCLUDED.

Those netbooks are actually quite OK for this purpose (other than computing power) because low heat and low power in general. I lost the power of my EEEPC901 otherwise I would just put one there.

If the chosen laptop has a mini-pci or mini-pcie slot you can add a second ethernet using a mini Realtek Ethernet card.

I have one in my hp thin client router and it works perfect. Thin client even had a suitable mounting hole built in - no cutting needed.

The Realtek cards can be found cheap. There are even multiple port cards in this form factor but I can’t vouch for those AND much more expensive Intel chipset cards, which are a waste of money

My netbook even has 2 mini-pci or mini-pcie ports. What I did notice is that it is very slow for OpenWrt even though it is x86. It has an Intel Atom n2600.

The n2600 is a very, very slow cpu, much slower than even an amd jaguar (as found in many thin clients).

Cpu mark for the 2600 is around 300, while a gx412 is just over a thousand.

You’re not going to get good performance from something as old and under powered as an n2600

I don't expect it to do 1 Gbps routing. The port is 100 Mbps. I see that WireGuard does not reach that 100 Mbps.

Yes, encryption, even with how optimised WG is, is a huge ask for that 2012 atom SOC