Testing different versions of Merlin / Merlin's Forks - How to safely switch?

Lord Lovaduck

Regular Contributor
Hi guys. I am testing different versions of both Merlin and John's Fork on the same router (AC68U).
I have a dedicated unit I can use to do the installations. What's the best way to move back and forth from different versions and / or forks?
Is it safe to simply use recovery mode / the CFE Mini Web page to move from one firmware to another, without making any other considerations?
Thanks for any comments!
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
When coming from Merlin to John's you have to use recovery mode. The GUI won't let you install it. Going the other way I'd just use the GUI. In each case I'd do a hard reset afterwards.
 

Lord Lovaduck

Regular Contributor
Thanks, this is useful.
Any experience with DD-WRT / Tomato? I saw some comments about NVRAM size to be an issue with Tomato. Not an immediate need but I may use some VLAN support and those two have it built-in.
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
I haven't used DD-WRT for some years, and not on Asus hardware. Today I wouldn't even consider touching it. In my experience it was perpetually broken and support was effectively nonexistent.

I haven't used (Fresh)Tomato but it does look interesting. If I needed VLANs that would be my first choice (but again, I've not used it myself).
 

john9527

Part of the Furniture
If you try DD-WRT or Tomato, you may need to do a 'step' install to get back to the latest Merlin or ASUS code due to differences in partitioning.
I have a set of builds that are known to work.
 

Lord Lovaduck

Regular Contributor
If you try DD-WRT or Tomato, you may need to do a 'step' install to get back to the latest Merlin or ASUS code due to differences in partitioning.
I have a set of builds that are known to work.
Thanks John! That was part of my concern, I know partitioning is an issue. And AFAIK not all firmware updates bring the proper support to repartition, I'm afraid!
Wouldn't this be also be a problem going from your fork to vanilla Merlin? For example, if I want to install Merlin 386.4 from your (John's) fork, wouldn't the partition size be a concern? Should I therefore use a similar stepping process to get partitioning right? Inquiring minds want to know....
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Any experience with DD-WRT / Tomato?

Don't bother with DD-WRT. FreshTomato is excellent though. My AC68U was running 2021.7 few weeks ago. Nothing special was needed when switching back and forth firmwares, I use Mini CFE Web server. Wi-Fi performance is close/same as in Asuswrt, tons of options, GUI themes are beautiful. Asuswrt-Merlin and FreshTomato compete with available options. I think FreshTomato is in the lead at the moment with VLAN's, Captive Portal, Web Server, built-in Adblock, 2x DDNS services, offline clients, color separated logs, even Cake QoS on AC68U. Asuswrt-Merlin stuck with >10y old GUI, unfortunately.
 

Lord Lovaduck

Regular Contributor
Don't bother with DD-WRT. FreshTomato is excellent though. My AC68U was running 2021.7 few weeks ago. Nothing special was needed when switching back and forth firmwares, I use Mini CFE Web server. Wi-Fi performance is close/same as in Asuswrt, tons of options, GUI themes are beautiful. Asuswrt-Merlin and FreshTomato compete with available options. I think FreshTomato is in the lead at the moment with VLAN's, Captive Portal, Web Server, built-in Adblock, 2x DDNS services, offline clients, color separated logs, even Cake QoS on AC68U. Asuswrt-Merlin stuck with >10y old GUI, unfortunately.
Thanks @Tech9 . I really care about VPN support which is a bit complicated to implement in AsusWRT. At the same time I need the speed testing to evaluate service level. I may end up with a mixed environment, unless I find something in FreshTomato. In any case, I just looked into it again, found this version: freshtomato-RT-AC68U-ARM_NG-2021.8-AIO-64K.zip
Is that what you were running? I can see this is 2021.8 of course, a bit newer... And what level of Asus WRT / Merlin were you moving back and forth from? Thanks for any help, it saves time and effort to walk on somebody else's steps.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Is that what you were running?

I haven't tested the latest 2021.8 yet. The router was running 2021.7 AIO. There is Tuxera driver bug in 2021.8 for ARM when USB storage is used, reading the comments. It also changes WAN MAC for come reason, but I don't know the details why. I'll run it when I have the time and check what's going on.

And what level of Asus WRT / Merlin were you moving back and forth from?

FreshTomato to current Asuswrt 386. Straight shot in Mini CFE Web worked just fine. Reset after, of course. Go with what @john9527 recommends though. My routers are all experimental and I don't care much if something goes wrong. My Asus routers operate in flash, reboot, reset cycle most of the time.
 

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