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Linux/OpenWrt on the TP-Link RE200v1

Over a year ago, I got a TP-Link RE200 for free. Quickly, I discovered some severe limitations in the Firmware and wanted to port OpenWrt to the device. The first problem was opening the case: It's welded together.

I read on the Internet to use a vice to crack open the case - that worked pretty well. Inside, I found a serial header, a MediaTek SoC and some other parts. For details, see the OpenWrt device page at openwrt.org/toh/tp-link/re200.

Hacking around

My first attempts in booting a kernel failed miserably, but with the help of the OpenWrt forum at forum.openwrt.org I managed to nearly fully support the device.

I could never identify the 5G WiFi LEDs: Either they are connected to the MT7610EN chip or they are broken on my device. I suspect the latter, since stock firmware cannot activate them either.

Flashing OpenWrt

The web interface upgrade requires a firmware image with bootloader. The upgrade also overwrite the boot loader and there is no failsafe mode present. If flashing goes wrong, the device is bricked.

In order to update from stock to OpenWrt, a specially prepared firmware image is necessary. I create a small tool to ease preparation of such an image: openwrt-imagetool. The source code is available at www.aboehler.at/hg/openwrt-imagetool and Windows binaries can be downloaded here.

After starting the program, you simply select TP-Link RE200v1, an original firmware image (from TP-Link), OpenWrt image file and the output directory. The tool then creates the file 'openwrt-webif.bin' in the selected output directory after clicking on 'Process'. The tool comes without any warranty and usage is at your own risk.

The resulting openwrt-webif.bin can now be uploaded via the stock web interface.

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