Yesterday I got some good news: new version of the firmware for my Belkin F5D8233-4v3(01) wireless router (the name just rolls off our tounge, no?). The connection has been a little flaky for my iPod touch and Jo's MacBook Air. So I thought, great, let's push this through and get on with the work of the day. How naïve.
The router started acting up the minute the upgrade was done. To be fair, the upgrade procedure (and my eventual downgrade) was a breeze. But this alleged bug fix (3.01.28 (Aug 8 2008 17:41:58) - stay away from this kids) made my rather trustworthy router unlearn the basics of maintaining a DHCP lease.
What happens is basically that, following a router restart, things work as expected (a little slow in the initial handshaking) for, say, 10-30 minutes. Then everything stops dead. If you log in to the administration page (192.168.2.1 by default) you'll find that the vital stats (IP number, DNS etc.) are at 0.0.0.0. Try another reset, you'll probably have to restart all client computers/devices you want to use too, and enjoy another 30 minutes of internets. Several people have reported this problem with the Belkin model, while others are reportedly working alright with the same model + firmware. My ISP is Swedish Bredbandsbolaget, and it's likely that part of the cause of this problem is their particular handling of the DHCP protocol, in conjunction with the proficiency of Belkin's hacker staff.
After 24 hours of this little dance, and a lot of missed work, I was ready for some more drastic measures. I looked up Belkin firmware, and found out two things:
The latest connection-breaking enabled (3.01.28) version isn't listed on Belkin's site. I can see why.
There's a v4, and it's completely unspoken whether this one applies to my hardware, and if so, why it wasn't pointed to instead by the automatic version control. There's also a v1 around, same questions apply there.
I downloaded the latest listed version (3.01.17 - Nov 29 2007 17:48:13) and flashed it back in. No problems there. This might very well have been the version the router shipped with - while exciting, I can't recall if that's the case. That strategy didn't work, the router started acting up again (just a little less frequently) after a day or so. Tried .28 firmware again following a total reset. Same problem, just a little less frequently (like, 12 hours). After a lot of searching I found a matching description of my problem.
Do not buy if your ISP uses DHCP, 03/31/2008
By bbennett, Orlando, FL
I would not buy this router if your ISP uses DHCP to maintain your Internet connection (dynamic connection type). There is a serious WAN bug that causes this router to momentarily drop all data on WAN DHCP Acks (Acks are used by your ISP and router to maintain your internet connection). This bug appears to have been introduced in firmware 3.01.14 and above to 3.01.18. Firmware 3.01.10 appeared stable in my tests.
You can see from the reviews they all talk about dropped connections, being booted from Xbox live games etc.. This is all caused by the WAN bug that belkin until this time has no fix for and their support is of no help. There is no fix aside from getting a static IP from your ISP and changing the connection type so that you no longer use DHCP to maintain the WAN connection. It also works fine if placed in access point only mode, but that defeats the purpose of the router in the first place.
If you have a Static IP or PPPOE type connection it works fine and the router is pretty good aside from this bug. I got a static IP from my ISP just to fix the problem until Belkin offers a fix. If you just browse the web and do not stream data like video, remote desktop or gaming, the bug would go unnoticed.
Also, do not upgrade the original firmware for any reason (3.01.10). This bug was introduced in 3.01.14 and above. I loved this router until I upgraded the firmware and there is no way to downgrade as belkin refuses to send the 3.01.10 firmware or offer it for download. They also say it is fixed in the UK firmware 3.01.18, but it’s not.
Recommends this product? No
I can only agree.
Seems that I was almost on the mark with trying 3.01.17 - I now know that you can indeed downgrade the Belkin firmware.
I found another post suggesting that 3.01.18 (uk) resolved the issue. I popped it in, and now I can use my connection to get work done.
N.B. that resourceful woman from Orlando, Florida suggested it does not fix the problem. And indeed, it still goes down about once a week though, and what's worse (or better, I don't know) is that is appears to be triggered by a certain kind of LAN traffic. Sometimes it happens for no reason at all, I just try to check out some webpage and find out that all connections are stalled. But when I connect to another computer at home through Apple file sharing, there is a ≈ 50% chance of the router freaking out. Resetting is a lot more straightforward than during the nightmare week described above, so I'm not going to bother with anything for a while. Neither am I buying Belkin crapp again.
Knowing when to quit
1/2 a year later the craziness started all over again. Since I was looking for a backup NAS anyway, I decided to call it quits. The router was replaced by an Apple Time Capsule, which I'd heard better of. My surprise could've been greater when the time capsule had a hard drive failure after less than a week, however, unlike the main subject of this post, Apple offered my money back, no questions asked. I decided to go for a new exemplar instead and it's worked flawlessly since for both backups and router.
Since this writing I've tried this embarrassment of a router in my folks' apartment, and at work. Another two ISPs (one is a corporate network and not even an ISP in the ordinary sense). This includes flashing to the most recent firmware as of late 2010. Same issues remain. Not much left to prove.