I bought a new Asus RT N16 router today. I am going to load Tomato USB on the router. If I brick the router during this process, do I need any extra hardware to unbrick the router? I read somewhere that you need to connect to the router using serial cable to unbrick some routers. Is that the case with N16?
It shouldn't the Asus CFE is quite robust and the recovery tool work well but you do see a few bricked ones going cheaply on ebay (thanks!). Some guides get the reset button wrong. A recommended way to load tomato is with the recovery tool, so good chance to learn how to do that. Easiest way to brick is to power cycle too quickly after firmware load, it can take minutes to write to flash especially with 20MB Asus firmwares, and if write not complete router wont boot.
Serial console useful for development, and the RT-N16s I have looked at have an internal connector provided for this - but you really need to know it is working before a problem, there are a few scenarios it may be needed - don't mess with nvram vars directly!
If you mess with the bootloader CFE you would need JTAG.
Thanks for the info. Could you please refer me to a recommended guide that gives the correct information?
Also, I was advised by someone to use the router with the stock firmware with at least a week before flashing it. Is it necessary?
I understand there are several versions of tomato like original Tomato, Tomato USB, Tomato Shibby etc. Which one is recommended?
There is an old guide here
but it skips the important detail of what colour and how the appropriate 'reset' button is labelled.
The RT-N16 has a red "WPS" button, and a black recessed "RESTORE"
When working normally the Asus software uses the WPS system to easily add new secure wireless devices. The "restore" button resets all nvram settings to default (for when you have forgotten router password etc).
You force enter recovery mode by turning router off pressing and holding the "BLACK RECESSED" button while turning router on.
You can see an example of confusion on P2 in this thread:-
The WPS button can be configured in tomato to do custom functions, such as turn wireless on/off
Also don't use the old tomatousb firmware linked. It would be easy to produce a version of tomatousb that could be loaded directly from the Asus firmware, but it would be specific to this router and you wouldn't learn the recovery method!
Unlike many other manufacturers who give up on old hardware as soon as it is sold Asus are actively developing the RT-N16 firmware adding new features such as AiCloud, and others are in development or already added by rmerlin in his mod of Asus firmware available on smallnetbuilder.com. Asus software also has fancy setup/ configuration software, so do check it out. Tomato is historically much more streamlined and better performing, but do watch out for for developments of EasyTomato (which is currently promoting an alternative install method via dd-wrt), which promises slick new easy setup web interface plus all the advanced features available in the popular Toastman mod.
Thanks a lot for the detailed post. I'll go through the links before flashing my router.