For about 4 years I’ve had a lot of faith placed in Netgear routers and networking equipment in general and had great luck with an old Wireless G router for years. Until a couple weeks ago, when I began to notice that my downloads were actually being subjected to a tiny bit of packet corruption/swapping. MD5 file integrity checks were repeatedly failing and I couldn’t get downloaded software to install, even if I used an Ethernet cable instead of a wireless connection. Only a direct connect from laptop to the modem always did the trick, and so narrowed things down to the router. Keep in mind that I troubleshot this problem for at least 5 hours across two days of experimenting using a PC and a Laptop, doing everything from full factory resets time after time, dismantling the router to blow it out with compressed air, to testing without wireless encryption enabled. The sad fact became clear that if any data passed through the router at all there was a good chance it would be screwed up by the time it got to the computers. And so began my quest for a replacement.
The dead router this little journey into hell all started off with was a Netgear WGT624 v3 with the latest firmware installed. I’d owned this router for several years with nary a hiccup or serious problem the occasional power cycle couldn’t fix. But as mentioned above, things started to get flaky and I had tried everything I and other forum crawling network experts could think of. So I decided to head to my nearby Wal-Mart just a couple blocks away and pick up a new one; a Netgear WGR614 v9 router (and I installed the latest firmware after it arrived). To my shock and disgust it had the exact same problem as the WGT624: data corruption.
So I exchanged it for a third router (a Netgear WPN824 v3) spending about 25 dollars extra after exchanging in the WGR614. This new router solved the problem I was having with corrupted packets and I was relieved. But then a new fucking problem cropped up! For some reason the router would require a power cycle at least two or three times a day. This was often because for some odd reason it would just randomly stop passing HTTP traffic between me and the Internet. I could ping the modem (gateway) IP, as well as the ISP’s DNS server addresses, but I couldn’t ping Google nor visit any website except the routers internal configuration utility page (e.g., 192.168.1.1). Even more bizarre was that one time this occurred after I had already accessed my computer by remote while I was away from home, using VNC on port 5900. Let me say that again: I had accessed my home PC over the Internet, and the router told me there was no active Internet connection when it went to check for firmware updates automatically after I logged into it to see if I could find the problem.
I put up with this router for a few days, hoping that after a while things would smooth out and I wouldn’t have to do power cycles so often. They didn’t get better. In fact, they got even worse. I was already having to power cycle the router on a regular basis until one day PORT FORWARDING STOPPED WORKING!! I couldn’t access my remote desktop over the Internet anymore and more importantly, I couldn’t accept incoming connection requests from Virtual Dave users.
Unfortunately I made the mistake early on (because the packet corruption problem had been resolved by the WPN824) that I was going to be happy with this router, and I threw the receipt away, so I couldn’t exchange it for a different router. The only option I had left was to take this router back to Wal-Mart and exchange it for another one exactly like it.
Not only did this replacement WPN824 mimic all the problems the previous WPN824 had, but the packaging had evidence of actually being a refurbished product, sold off the shelf by Wal-Mart as a new item at full price!
I’m sure it’s one of the ways Netgear cuts corners for the sake of competing with other “rolled-back prices” in Wal-Mart; I hope they don’t pull this shit with other vendors. I can’t assert that Wal-Mart is knowingly selling refurbished products at the same cost as a new item, but from the look of the professional shrink wrap job, they may not actually be aware of what’s going on.
Now you might say to me, “just because you have two seals doesn’t mean that you have refurbished rather than new. It may simply mean that at one point someone had to open the package for a customer, and the customer ended up not wanting it, or it was returned.”
Okay, I see your point, but it doesn’t change the fact that the router still didn’t work, nor did another one exactly like it I had purchased just a couple days earlier. Something odd I noticed between the two is the first of those two needed a firmware upgrade, but the second one didn’t. Just an observation.
There was one other suspicious piece of “evidence” I didn’t photograph and that was the “install the netgear software on your PC before you setup your router” sticker that covers the downlink ports on the back. It had obviously been re-applied before.
Also, the shrink wrap on the box wasn’t something you’d see from the standard cheap heat gun seal you’d find in most stores that will re-stock items with explicit “open-item” sticker with a reduced price on it; this LOOKED brand new from the outside, like it was sealed at the factory. So I guess the theory is, someone bought it from another Wal-Mart, found it didn’t work, returned it, Wal-Mart sent it to Netgear because they were told it was defective, Netgear put a new sticker on the bag around the router, and re-wrapped the packaging in house with little or no testing done on the hardware. I highly doubt Wal-Mart has spare Netgear stickers laying around to help disguise an open router bag. And good lord, what does this say about the state of our economy! I mean, if I were Netgear and I were serious about deception, I would still at least use a NEW replacement bag with a NEW tamper-sticker, instead of reusing an old one with a broken label stuck to it to save a few cents.
So to recap the sequence of routers I’ve been through:
Original Netgear WGT624 v3 (loved for years, dying of old age I thought), followed by a WGR614 v9 (which had the same problems as the previous router), followed by TWO WPN824 v3 routers. 4 Netgear routers, one old, two “new” and one that was obviously opened/returned/refurbished being sold as a new item. They all failed me in the end.
I’ve said to hell with Netgear and Wal-Mart, caving in and going to pick up a Linksys/Cisco from Best Buy, but I’m not going to give it a thumbs up or down until I’ve had some time to test it out. From what I hear, Linksys/Cisco’s are back up to snuff and have a better reputation than they did when I stopped using their products years ago. We’ll see.
Saturday, May 30th, 2009