Updating your PC is so straightforward that, depending on your operating system, it’ll be taken care of for you automatically (aggressively so). You might even remember to keep your graphics, sound and motherboard drivers up-to-date. But what about your other devices? It’s a little trickier to patch your modem / router and NAS, but it is possible.
First of all, why would you want to update the software that runs your router or NAS? To be fair, the “if it’s ain’t broke…” proverb has some weight here. Setting up and configuring some of these devices — NAS hardware in particular — can be time-consuming and the last thing you want is for all the work to go down the drain because a firmware update forces a factory reset.
There are literally thousands of Wi-Fi routers on the market. Look through the catalog of an office supply or local computer store, and you’ll be faced with a plethora of choices. And some vendors make it hard to compare models by giving marketing-based names to features that are really the same as competitors.
However, updating can come with plenty of benefits — security patches, bug fixes and performance improvements. The best thing to do is consult the “changelog” or “release notes” for your device’s latest firmware.
For example, here’s what the release notes look like for Netgear’s ReadyNAS OS. As you can see, it does a good job of explaining what’s changed and includes guidance in case the update reverts a setting or otherwise alters the behaviour of the hardware.
Alright, you’ve decided you want to update your router or NAS. How do you go about it?
Update via the device’s web interface: Thankfully, a lot of devices come with a web user interface that does most of the heavy lifting. Often, there will be a status or administrative page, where you’ll find a button or link you can click to check for updates and either download or apply it immediately.
Once initiated, all you have to do is sit back and wait and once the process is completed, the device should reboot. Afterwards, make sure everything is as it should be — as mentioned previously, updates can revert or change settings.
Visit the manufacturer’s website: Google is your friend here. Take note of the device’s model number, being as verbose as possible, as firmware can not only be hardware-specific, but region-specific as well. Enter this value into the search box, along with the words “firmware” or “update” and with some luck, what you need will be the first result.
Alternatively, go to the manufacturer’s site and look for the Support page. Many provide a search box or dropdown, from which you can locate the support hub for your model, where the latest firmware can be found.
Unfortunately, if you have to download the new update yourself, you’ll also have to apply it manually, usually via the web UI. Older devices might require you telnet is — that is, use the command line to get things done — which complicates the process, but any half-decent vendor should provide extensive instructions on how to proceed.
The good news is, after the first time, you’ll be able to breeze through the update steps in the future.