Flash TM-AC1900 to Asus RT-AC68U

(Updated on 2018 May 10The refurbished TM-AC1900 router which was introduced in this article is NO MORE a good deal because of this reason. We will keep an eye on it if there are newer solutions in the future.)

Some Asus AC routers are more expensive in Canada compared with in USA even when it is on sale. For example, Asus RT-AC68U, which gains a good reputation due to its performance and quality. It’s discount price could be still around $170 CAD while the regular price is around $240 CAD (2018 Jan) in Canada. But in USA, Asus RT-AC68U’s on sale price could be lower to $99 USD while the regular price would be up to $160 USD.

However, people have another option to get more lower price Asus RT-AC68U router, to buy certified refurbished items, which is still good, and the price could be from $49.99 ~ $59.99 USD. We bought one, no any issue when used in past several months. We paid extra money for shipping to Canada, but compared with local price, the price is still much better.

The router which we ordered was from T-Mobile USA, it is actually an Asus RT-AC68U router but the firmware is modified by T-Mobile based on Asus’s original firmware. But the hardware is exactly the same. You can use it directly without any changing in Canada.

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However, we did flashing the router to Asus RT-AC68U firmware. The main reason is T-Mobile no more provides updating after their last firmware (maybe in 2016 ?) on this TM AC1900 router, but Asus keeps on releasing firmware updating for this router.

The most flashing steps we did were from Alex’s “Flashing TM-AC1900 to RT AC68U”, If you are familiar with how to flash a router, please just ignore all content below and go to read his steps directly. For giving more explanations to those First-Time router flashing friends, like us, here we try to collect as many as we did and we met as long as we can remember. The content could be as each step’s expanding from Alex’s guide.

(Note: Before you start flashing, Please know You Are At Your OWN RISK,  WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR DEVICE ! Also, if you get any confusing content from steps below, please read Alex’s original steps)

1:

Install WinSCP and Putty. This means you download WinSCP and Putty tools on your computer. Alex has given the tool package download link; These 2 tools will be used later such as copy firmware files, retrieving existing firmware etc. You can also download them from anywhere you can find;

Also,  Install ASUS Device Discovery Utility from Asus official website,  Alex called the tool as Asus Restore Utility; We installed this utility, but actually we did not use it during our flashing process (in step 6);

In the file package Alex also included a unzip tool for .7z file, we do not know whether we can use 7zip tool which is more popular because we used Alex’s tool.

2:

Create a specified folder on your computer. Any folder name is OK as long as you remember it;

3:

Download the file package from Alex’s link, which includes a lower version firmware, a newer version firmware and a mtd-write file; All files are saved into the folder you created in Step 2;

4:

Note: From Alex’s step 4 to step 10, the main target is for flashing a firmware version which provides option to let user enable Telnet/SSH (TM-AC1900_3.0.0.4_376_1703-g0ffdbba.trx version has the option), if your existing firmware on your router has already an option to allow you enable Telnet/SSH, you do not need to do from his step 4 to step 10, just jump to his step 11 directly;

During these steps, we disconnected our computer from local area network, then connected to TM-AC1900 router;

TM-AC1900 router uses default IP address which is 192.168.29.1, so we set our computer a static IP address 192.168.29.5 to set another local area network so that we could operate from our computer.

 

5:

Please just follow Alex’s guide to set router into Recovery/Restore mode; Since this step is important to First-Time router flashing users, so please go to Alex’s original content (step 5) to read carefully. For backup, please allow us “copy” Alex’s content as below but we set font size small enough and set color to white so that they are not easy to see, we changed several words too (please read Alex’s original step 5):

Hold reset button 10 seconds  –>  Power off router (keep holding reset) –> Wait 10 seconds, keep holding reset button –>
Power on router with still holding reset button for 10 more seconds

6:

From computer’s web browser, input 192.168.29.1 to access TM-AC1900 router, you should see a Mini-CFE screen like below:

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Alex also mentioned “If Mini-CFE won’t load use Asus Restore Utility” but we did not do it since we could see CFE miniWeb Server screen;

In case of you can NOT see the CFE miniWeb Server interface, we suggest you read Asus official guide “How do I use the rescue mode of a router? “, but please note Asus used the model AC66U but not our AC68U, but we think most steps should be similar;

7:

In above screen shot, we have already mentioned: Browse on your computer and find out the firmware file TM-AC1900_3.0.0.4_376_1703-g0ffdbba.trx from the folder which you created in Step 2, and then click Upload button. This is called flashing an old version firmware previously;

8 ~ 10:

Wait for the flashing finished and router reboot done (you will have to wait for couple of minutes.);

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Go back to your computer web browser and input 192.168.29.1 and login as admin / password or admin / admin to try to enable SSH (Administration > System > Enable SSH > Yes > Apply)

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Note:

We found a friend KMF’s comment about these steps, if you meet the same issue, please read his information, you can find from Alex’s webpage bottom:

 The AC-1900 that I purchased required an extra set of steps between step 8 and 9 as currently written (January 2018). After flashing “TM-AC1900_3.0.0.4_376_1703-g0ffdbba.trx” and rebooting, the NVRAM *must* be reset for admin/password to work in step 9.

To do so: turn the router off, press and hold the WPS button (on the side), turn router power on while holding the WPS button down until the power LED starts flashing (about 20 seconds), then release the WPS button. [Same as in Step 20 in the procedure.]

Once I figured that part out, everything else worked exactly as written and I have a working RT-AC68U!

11:

(Note, from step 11 we might have some different steps compared to Alex’s steps but most of content are similar)

Open Putty, set its protocol as SSH. Connect it to 192.168.29.1 (Host Name or IP address), when you are asked account information, input above admin account information (admin / password or admin / admin)

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In Putty screen, input the following command:

cat /dev/mtd0 > original_cfe.bin

This will generate the router’s char device /dev/mtd0 content to an file named “original_cfe.bin”, we will use this file later;

12:

Open WinSCP, set file protocol as SCP, connect to 192.168.29.1 with Admin account too:

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In WinSCP,  we should see the original_cfe.bin file in right side. If you can not see it, please try to refresh the window. Then, copy this file to your local computer (to the left side on the screen, a folder which you selected)

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13:

This step matches Alex’s step 15. Go to a website https://cfeditor.pipeline.sh/

Upload the file original_cfe.bin from above step 12 (from your local computer), and select Source CFE as 1.0.2.0 US

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Then you will get a new CFE file new.bin, download it to your computer, rename the file name to new_cfe.bin;

14:

This matches Alex’s step 16.

In WinSCP,  Upload 3 files:

new_cfe.bin ,

mtd-write,

FW_RT_AC68U_30043763626.trx

to router

15:

This step matches Alex’s step 17, 18, 19. Please read Alex’s original steps! If Alex’s url does not work, you can read the content in gray color below:

In Putty, input the following 3 separate commands (Note: run them one by one !  do not copy all of them in one time !)

chmod u+x mtd-write

./mtd-write new_cfe.bin boot  (Note: we used command “./mtd-write -i new_cfe.bin -d boot”  here due to Ekit’s comment information, so we suggest read all newer comments from the bottom of Alex’s web page since we might meet newer configuration on the router in 2018 or later)

mtd-write2 FW_RT_AC68U_30043763626.trx linux

16:

This matches Alex’s step 20. Do a NVRAM reset on TM-AC1900 router. We suggest read Alex’s step 20.

a. Power off router
b. Wait 10 seconds
c. Press and hold WPS button
d. Power up the router and continue to hold WPS button for 15-20 seconds

17: In step 16 above, the router should reboot. Please wait it reboot finished. Now we can set back our computer’s IP address to original one (normally, we just set it back to automatically get an IP address, or, set an IP address like 192.168.1.x,but please do not use 192.168.1.1); Actually by this step your TM-AC1900 router has had Asus RT-AC68U firmware yet;

18: From computer web browser, visit 192.168.1.1 this time, you should see a newer login interface, please input admin / admin or admin / password, you will see the new router management interface.

Since it is 2018 now,  soon later you should see a message to notice there is newer firmware, which is for Asus RT-AC68U, please just do the updating.

Our new login screen like this :

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And, when we are writing this blog post, we see current firmware version is 3.0.0.4.384.10007:

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Please for free to indicate any errors if you find here. All steps are based on Alex’s steps, if you have further questions, please visit Alex’s web page, also, please do NOT forget to read all newer comments there. This blog might not keep updating on time but Alex’s page will have newer comment often.

Also, Alex provided further operations in his web page. You can try to do if you are interested in them.

Thanks Alex and all !