Open-source router firmware can open up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to internet connectivity. For many people, the firmware of choice is DD-WRT. All you need is a wireless router, a service that supports its functionality and you are good to go.
The Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 is indisputably one of the best wireless routers out there. It’s pricey, too. One way to make the whole investment more affordable is by flashing the router yourself as opposed to buying one from a third-party vendor.
A number of companies offer routers that they have previously flashed with an open-source firmware such as DD-WRT in exchange for a hefty price tag. The reason they are still in business is that there is risk involved. If you make a mistake while changing the firmware, you can brick your expensive device. Buying a pre-flashed one gets you off the hook in this regard. But it can be nerve wrecking.
Documentation is sparse and contradictory, the various firmware releases are not tested in all possible scenarios. They are often in beta. If you want to take the risk with DD-WRT on the Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000, here is how to do it.
The router must be at factory defaults. That is easier said than done as Netgear’s own firmware no longer allows you to bypass the setup wizard. The best you can do to minimize risk to the device is attempt the process with a brand-new router that’s never been in use. If this is not possible, use the router’s admin interface to reset it to factory defaults, then run the wizard to re-create the tested configuration.
WARNING: Do not perform a 30-30-30 reset. Do not perform a reset using the reset button on the router, unless you really have to. It’s been known to be very finicky on the Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 (see this for more on the reset button). You can reset the router to factory defaults using the admin interface. You will find this feature in the Advanced section; after the reset and a reboot, Netgear will welcome you to its setup wizard. If you need to reset the NVRAM, try the power button before you resort to more radical measures.
The reset button used to be the most resilient part of an electronic equipment. With the Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000, this is clearly no longer the case as evidenced by reports of many devices that don’t work because the reset button fails to reset them.
The following steps have been tested on a device that was purchased in the United States in November 2019. Follow these directions at your own risk. This site takes no responsibility (!!!) for your decisions or your actions. This site does not take any responsibility for Netgear’s changes to its product lineup. You have been warned.
Step 1. Connect with the admin interface
Unpack your router, plug in the cables, boot it up. Using a web browser, connect with the device at:
The router will greet you with the Netgear’s Genie setup wizard. Follow the directions to set it up as a router. When prompted, refuse to switch off the WiFi of your main router. Select a password for the admin account. Don’t change anything the wizard doesn’t force you to change. Do not upgrade the original firmware. Ignore warnings.
Your router must be as close to its factory settings as possible. This way, you avoid resorting to any extreme measures to get there.
Step 2. Settle on your preferred version of DD-WRT
Stay away from the build R9000-factory-to-ddwrt_20171211 (the K4-AC-ALPINE branch) as it is slow and buggy. Look for something more up to the task. For our current recommendation, see step 3 below.
The steps described in this post work with the following build of DD-WRT:
Step 3. Flash the firmware
Say your prayers first. The firmware upgrade feature is located in the Advanced section of the admin interface. The router will complain that your are performing a “downgrade”. Skip the warning and proceed.
If everything goes well, the .img file will replace the vendor’s firmware with DD-WRT. The router will reboot. Don’t worry if the lights don’t flash; give the router more time than you think it needs. Eventually, it will reboot, come back online and you’ll be able to connect to the admin interface of DD-WRT at:
Now you need an update.
Step 4. Update your DD-WRT firmware
This patch will bring the DD-WRT firmware up to the latest:
Reboot the router and be patient. Ignore the lights; they don’t work in this build.
You are done. Congratulations.