Firmware Restore Utility vs Factory Reset

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distilled

Senior Member
So I know about two metric tonnes less than nothing about embedded systems, NVRAM vs. ROM etc.

My environment is three locations connected by VPN, two 86u routers and one 68u. One of the 86u locations also has a 68u AIMesh node.

I had been having increasingly annoying problems with Merlin firmware, for the first time in years, on one particular 86u, the one with AIMesh. I was having drops and lost wireless connections daily.

I tried factory resetting it, formatting JFFS, removing all addon scripts, reconfiguring WiFi by disabling Smart Connect, beamforming etc. Nothing seemed to help.

ThenI switched back to stock firmware, and everything was flawless. But missing the bells and whistles of Merlin - Skynet mostly - I switched back.

Then I noticed that when I was rebuilding after a factory reset, VPN certificates simply wouldn't save. Many, many tries and sometimes they eventually would.

Then the device icons in the device list that I had uploaded just vanished. Then, finally, the web interface disappeared when I was repeatedly trying to get a VPN CA to save. Instead of the proper page, I was getting a pink "404" type page.

I couldn't SSH in or use the web, so I used the Asus firmware restore utility on a hardwired PC. It failed the first try, but automatically retried, and it finished successfully.

The VPN cert saved properly on the first try, Skynet installed, device icons are intact and I haven't had a single drop, with almost 50 devices gadgets attached (mostly low bandwidth IoT gizmos that don't call home anyway).

So, just for my personal edification and for the sake of posterity, anyone tell me why the firmware restore seemingly did what factory reset didn't? It makes no difference, I am not one to dare argue with good result, but I would love to understand what happened. Is there something extra this software does, or did I just happen to sacrifice a goat to the right deity that week?
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Not pretending to understand why/what the firmware restore utility does differently, but unless you had flashed the same firmware (repeatedly) as I recommend in the Nuclear Reset/M&M Config guides, then it is doing something different enough. :)

The routers we are playing with may be expensive, but they have the lowest resources (hardware) possible and the specs are of the barely adequate variety too (way too low RAM, not enough and not fast enough NVRAM/JFFS capacity, etc.), at least for the fastest available ISP connections and the features they offer too.

Doing whatever it takes to get the router back into a good/known state is a bit of a hunt for most people. I believe even fewer actually understand why all the possible ways exist, let alone actually understanding why one works when another one fails (and they're all called 'resets'). :)
 

distilled

Senior Member
I followed your Nuclear Reset and M&M config religiously, and they are very helpful.

Without an intimate personal understanding of the hardware, I am forced to paint by numbers, following the example set by those of you who are more knowledgeable. I look for and follow the guidance of those more familiar with the territory, and I am grateful that those of you who are willing to share your wisdom here.

I have no idea what magick seems to have made my router stable again, but I am pleased beyond words that it is.

I considered just having a new router sent overnight, or setting up PFsense and using the 86u as just an AP and everything else, but it felt really good to have my faith in Asus renewed.

I have tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear in the office, and a few hundred at home, and it would be nuts to expect the same level of performance. But it is nice to repeatedly see Asus hold its own. I just wondered if there was a known reason for this FUBAR, or if it was just one of those things that is best explained with a "You got lucky". And I apparently got lucky. And that is a-OK. :)
 

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