Asus rt ac87u: query about which is best firmware-merlin or asus

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pattox

Regular Contributor
I have an rt AC87u which I bought on Ebay some time ago with the idea of keeping it as a spare, or perhaps as a future replacement. It has the latest (and last) Merlin firmware which dates back to early/mid 2020. Still unused but I'm planning to activate it soon.

Merlin no longer provides updated firmware for this router. However I noice that Asus has released new firmware dated may 2021.

I'm just wondering whether, from the perspective of security, features and functionality should I stay with the older Merlin firmware, or reflash with the newer Asus firmware. And if I were to reflash from Merlin back to stock Asus which is the recommended way of doing this.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
I would use latest stock Asuswrt with current security updates. Flash it in GUI on top of existing firmware, reset the router, set it up manually.
 

Zastoff

Very Senior Member
I have an rt AC87u which I bought on Ebay some time ago with the idea of keeping it as a spare, or perhaps as a future replacement. It has the latest (and last) Merlin firmware which dates back to early/mid 2020. Still unused but I'm planning to activate it soon.

Merlin no longer provides updated firmware for this router. However I noice that Asus has released new firmware dated may 2021.

I'm just wondering whether, from the perspective of security, features and functionality should I stay with the older Merlin firmware, or reflash with the newer Asus firmware. And if I were to reflash from Merlin back to stock Asus which is the recommended way of doing this.

 

elbubi

Regular Contributor
ONLY from the perspective of securiy, Asus stock would be advisable.
From performance, functionality, features, Merlin is years, or centuries, ahead.
ArchPhoenixTeam release is supposed to be the best of both worlds, as it combines the goodies of both of them (Merlin base release + Asus stock security fixes)
 

pattox

Regular Contributor
I've always used the Merlin F/W (then Johns Fork) on my rt ac56u so I was not familiar with the stock Asus f/w. However for the 87u I thought the stock Asus f/w was the safest way to go. But after reflashing and exploring the gui I just didn't like it.

Decided to try the Arch Phoenix instead but received the "invalid firmware" message. Then tried to reflash back to the most recent 2020 Merlin version and again received the same "invalid firmware".

Which is the best way to sidestep this obstacle? Firmware restoration tool?
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Careful with this Firmware Restoration Tool. Wrong file flashed will brick the router.
 

pattox

Regular Contributor
I'm sorry I started this now. The firmware restoration tool won't allow me to restore to the most recent Merlin f/w. The "invalid f/w" message a short while after starting the restoration.

Its all working but can't shift away from the latest Asus f/w.

I have tried an earlier version of the restoration tool but that aborts the Merlin f/w about 1/3 of the way through. It's obvious that this latest stock Asus firmware doing some checking and not allowing "unauthorised" f/w to proceed. I don't plan to try any further experiments unless someone who has more knowledge about this than I do can suggest a way forward.

Unless I missed it, the Asus f/w doesn't seem to have the dns filtering option. Apart from the general Merlin look and feel its probably the only feature I would miss.
 
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elbubi

Regular Contributor
Really silly question, just thinking outloud: Have you tried downgrading to an older (and less restrictive) stock firmware and then try to flash Merlin's?
Don't now if downgrading is allowed via webui or restoration neither, but I guess that at least via restoration it should be possible.

Cheers!
 
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pattox

Regular Contributor
I notice that this problem arose with the rt ac88u last year. One solution involved the creation of a special beta version his fw by Merlin. Since he no longer supports the rtac87u that’s not going to happen.

I tried a downgrade to the very first version of the Asus fw using the normal gui but had the same result-ie invalid fw.

Tried again using the cfe miniweb interface, and that worked. Then via cfe uploaded the most recent 2020 Merlin. I tempted to try the Arch Phoenix but I'm not sure that I want router firmware with a sketchy and unknown provenance. I believe there is an UNBOUND patch for the merlin fw which I will explore.
 
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elbubi

Regular Contributor
I notice that this problem arose with the rt ac88u last year. One solution involved the creation of a special beta version his fw by Merlin. Since he no longer supports the rtac87u that’s not going to happen.

I tried a downgrade to the very first version of the Asus fw using the normal gui but had the same result-ie invalid fw.

Tried again using the cfe miniweb interface, and that worked. Then via cfe uploaded the most recent 2020 Merlin. I tempted to try the Arch Phoenix but I'm not sure that I want router firmware with a sketchy and unknown provenance. I believe there is an UNBOUND patch for the merlin fw which I will explore.
Just saw this old post of yours.
Have you dig into that patch?
 

pattox

Regular Contributor
I did try the Arch Phoenix for a very short while but found problems with the vpn. In the end flashed the most recent Merlin firmware but will now only use the ac87u as an access point because of security issues.

Using the very latest stock Asus firmware would fix the security issues, but I tried it and just didn’t like it.
 

joegreat

Very Senior Member
I run my AC87U on latest Asus - for security reasons. :cool:
 

Robo

New Around Here
I have the latest Merlin FW and am concerned about security as well. So downloading the latest AsusWRT and then flash right over it or do I need to do a factory reset first? I am using the 87U now as just a router and guest wi-fi as have the ZenWifi AX660 as my wifi now in AP mode.
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
I have the latest Merlin FW and am concerned about security as well. So downloading the latest AsusWRT and then flash right over it or do I need to do a factory reset first? I am using the 87U now as just a router and guest wi-fi as have the ZenWifi AX660 as my wifi now in AP mode.
You definitely need to do a factory reset after, but it might be wise to also do one before (with a minimal setup) just to ensure the new firmware installs without issue.
 

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