Fixing Netgear DG834N Problems
Pathetic WiFi range? Locking up all the time? Power light going red when you restart? - does this sound like your experience of the Netgear DG834N? Have you sent back your router three or four times and each time had the same problem with the new units? Feeling like maybe its just you because there are hundreds of people on the forums saying how good it is?
That was exactly my experience and if it sounds like yours take a look at this blog because I may be able to help you...
For years I have owned and recommended Netgear's 834 series wireless broadband routers. I myself have been running 834's since the very early 802.11b only model, the DG834M. At the time they were the only router with a decent firewall and good quality web interface and even now the 834 series are still one of the easiest and most configurable routers on the market supporting everything from static routes to their own VPN.
So after many years of faithful service, when I finally decided it was time to retire my very early model DG834G (which was beginning to show signs of age when connected to modern ultra high speed broadband) I naturally looked at Netgears newer generations of the 834 series.
Choosing from the 834 series
I wont go into detail here but after struggling to decide on whether to get a newer DG834G, a DG834PN or a DG834N I consulted with a friend who owned a DG834N. Despite some issues mentioned on the forums he recommend it, having had no problems himself; so I went ahead and ordered mine from EBuyer (130340).
Of course I was aware this is only a draft 1.0 802.11n router but I didn't have time to wait for a true 802.11n so I took a risk.
Upon arrival the first thing I did was copy all the firewall rules and settings from my old DG834G to the DG834N. This meant having both routers on at once so I disabled the WiFi on the new router to prevent unauthorised access and interference with my existing WiFi. Copying the settings took quite a while and the first thing that struck me was how much faster the interface was on the DG834N compared to my old DG834G. Using them side by side it was quite apparent and a reassuring sign I had spent my money wisely.
The start of the problems...
Once everything was configured I enabled the WiFi on the DG834N, disabled it on my DG834G and continued adding my clients to the WiFi MAC address access table. All was fine for about 5 mins then the router suddenly locked up. Hmmm, thats strange; thinking it was just a fluke I power-cycled the router and set up a ping from my cabled desktop just to see what was going on.
This time all seemed fine so I fully disconnected my old DG834G and installed the new DG834N in its final location under the stairs. Power up - excellent, all lights alive. Internet working (and boy was it fast compared to the DG834G!), my cabled desktop pinging, everything fine; I was over the moon - looked like this had been a sweet job.
Time to start testing...
Now my Dell Vostro Laptop is only a 802.11g machine but it would be good enough for testing so I powered it up and started to walk about looking at the signal strength. From experience I know exactly how far 802.11g should reach with my laptop and a Netgear router because I'd been using my DG834G for years so I new instantly that something was wrong, the range was absolutely terrible! Then all of a sudden nothing.... I went and checked the cabled desktop, the pings had stopped responding - yet again the router had locked up!
So I went back down to the router, removed the power cable, did the usual count to 10 and powered it back up again. Thats strange a red power LED? Did it again, the same thing? At this point I had to do something else so I disconnected everything and left it.
Upon returning later on I powered it up and all was fine, green power LED, all connections the works, so being optimistic I carried on using it. After 5 mins, all of a sudden, no pings. The router had locked up again.
Crashing router and loosing patience...
After pulling the power and seeing that red power LED again I was starting to loose my patience. Out of curiosity I connected up my old router and hit Google. A quick search revealed a number of Netgear users with the same problem. One user even said he had returned multiple routers and each one had the same fault. Now as we know build quality isn't great these days but I found it hard to believe a hardware fault could be this common which meant it must be a firmware problem and one that only affects a few users.
The firmware on the DG834N I had was the newest currently available 1.01.06. Getting desperate I downloaded it and re-flashed the router although I wasn't convinced this would solve anything and basically it didn't, so I sat down and had a think.
After a bit of thinking I remembered a friends DG834G which out of the box locked up within a few minutes of booting, yet upon testing at the office stayed working for days and days at a time. We eventually concluded that it must be some environmental factor that caused the problems so we disconnected the WiFi antenna. This solved the problem, the router stayed live without crashing. A quick firmware update later and the problem was solved. Unfortunately I had no newer firmware for the DG834N, so what to do?
Concluding that like the DG834G the DG834N's crashing problem may be WiFi related and having no antenna to remove I did the next best thing and disabled the WiFi in the web interface. Voila, 2 hours uptime and no problems; the problem had been solved. (Well not quite, I had no WiFi but at least I knew where the problem was.)
Since the problem was quite obviously related to WiFi (and more than likely the abundance of it in my area) one of the obvious things try first was manually configuring the WiFi channel. For those of you that have not done this before, its really quite easy and well worth every minutes work as you will get greater WiFi range and less interference.
The first thing you need to do is use your laptop (or WiFi enabled desktop) to work out what channels all your neighbours access points are on. How you do this depends on your WiFi drivers but usually you can do some sort of scan then look at the details. Once you have made a list pick a channel which is furthest from any other in use in your area. For example if you have people on 1, 2, 9 and 11 a good channel to pick would be 5 or 6. Its recommended for best performance you try to get at least 4 channels away from the strongest signal but obviously this isn't always possible.
Once you have decided on a channel, go into the Netgear web config and change the WiFi channel (which by default is set to auto) to the number you have picked. Hopefully you should then be fine! If not, try another channel.
Now while I cant guarantee this will work for you it certainly solved all my problems. My range is surprisingly better than it was with my old DG834G and I've not had a single dropout since. I can only conclude that there is a fatal bug in the DG834N's firmware which causes the system to lockup whilst trying to find a spare channel under certain circumstances.
Now I have it working personally I am very happy with my DG834N. Even with just 802.11g my WiFi is faster with a greater range and amazingly enough even on cabled connections web browsing is considerably faster (something I didn't expect)!
Despite my problems I would recommend this router although its not for the feint hearted but then if you aren't willing to face problems you shouldn't go for bleeding edge equipment. At the end of the day this router is based on a standard that isn't even finalised yet so its not surprising the firmware is a bit beta.
One final thing I will say before I go: If you really want to run at the super high 802.11n speeds I recommend you equip all your clients with matching Netgear adapters. The standard isn't finalised so don't expect 802.11n equipment which isn't same brand to work together yet.
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