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My trusty old WRT54G seems to have stopped working and I have an old Dell around, so I thought "why not use the old computer as a router?" Where can I find good information on setting up this machine as a router? Some things I'd like:

  • a couple wired connections (I'll need at least one more NIC)
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • use my Airport Expresses with WDS to extend the range of the wireless network
  • a decent firewall
  • possibly also Snort
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Cost of electricity over running a full computer vs. a simple dedicated router ? – Rook Jan 11 '10 at 3:52
up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are a lot of BSD based Router distros out there. I personally use OpenBSD as it is touted as Secure by default. Having installed it a number of times, it now take me less than 15 minutes for a fresh install. It has a great packages system, and has a new release every six months, but you can keep running your router as long as you need. It is basically a rock solid BSD operating system.

I have been using OpenBSD for over 8 years as a firewall/router/content-filtering-cache for my home network. The best part of most modern BSD distros is that they use OpenBSD's Packet Filter (PF) which IMHO is the easiest firewall ruleset to configure.

If you want a pre-setup disto, check out

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I should also mention, that once OpenBSD is installed, it's ready to go. But to activate it as a router you want to read the FAQ on setting up the server as a gateway for your network: Just keep your eye on the "Errata page" for system patches which have to be applied manually. Some say this is the downfall of patching the core OS of OpenBSD but in my opinion it is very simple. – Lantrix Jan 16 '10 at 1:46
For setting up the Airport for WDS (which is what I do), I have my main base-station setup as Bridge mode, with the OpenBSD gateway running a DHCP server. This way the Airport plugged into the "internal" Network card on the OpenBSD router is bridging the physical network to the wireless network. Then my airport express is joined using WDS into the main airport and extends the signal to the other end of the house. – Lantrix Jan 16 '10 at 2:46

PFSense is a fantastic BSD distro that is designed just for this. It is very modular and can do everything that you're looking for. It is similar to m0n0wall which gets a lot of hype, but m0n0wall is designed for embedded systems, where pfSense is designed to run on normal hardware.

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I suggest Vyatta Community Edition. It's built on a Debian base.

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Here's an article on bit-tech that walks you through building a Linux-based router.

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