Almost 11 years ago, back in August 2007, I opined passionately here on my blog, “Why I will no longer buy from Netgear“.
Alas, I recently failed to heed my own advice, and I’m sorry to say that the results have been somewhat predictable.
Last September, I found myself in need of a new router because the power button in my ASUS RT-N66U router had stopped working (note, by the way, that this was due to a design defect in the power button, a fact which ASUS never explicitly acknowledged or made customers whole for, though they did switch to a different button type in their newer routers that no longer has this defect).
After asking around among my friends and doing an appropriate level of due diligence, I settled upon the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6S AC4000 (R8000P) router, described by some as the “mother of all routers.” And let’s face it… what could possibly be bad about a router with six antennas?
A few months after deploying the new Netgear router, I upgraded its firmware when urged to do so by Netgear to address security vulnerabilities in the older firmware version.
A couple days later, the internet in our house stopped working for all of our devices, and the only thing that got it working again was power-cycling the router.
A couple days after that, it happened again.
I tried to contact Netgear about it, at which point I discovered that while Netgear provides free technical support for the first 90 days after you purchase one of their products, after that there is no way to contact their support department without paying them money. The best you can do is post in their community forums, Tweet at them, or send them a Facebook message, and hope that someone at Netgear actually notices.
After despairing of contacting Netgear directly, I did some research, and lo and behold, I am not the only person having this problem. In fact, many people are having this problem, and in fact, it’s not just a problem with the router model I bought, but rather with recent firmware versions across Netgear’s product line. See, for example, here, here, here, and here.
I eventually had to downgrade to a firmware version released last October — one that is four releases out-of-date and has known security holes in it — to restore my router to a working state, i.e., a state which doesn’t require me to power-cycle it every 1-2 days.
A few weeks ago, Netgear asked people to test a beta release of firmware which they claimed would fix the problem. It didn’t fix the problem, and in fact many people who tested the beta release found that it made the problem worse. Soon after asking people to test it, they silently removed the beta firmware download without updating the posting about it to indicate that they had done so.
Since then, all they’ve done is (a) tell users to factory reset their routers, even though that doesn’t actually solve the problem, and (b) send private messages to users complaining about the bug in their forums, asking if they’re willing to run a specially instrumented firmware version which will collect additional logging information when the bug occurs.
In other words, five months into this debacle, Netgear apparently still doesn’t know the root cause of the bug and can’t reproduce it in-house.
If only I had listened to past me’s advice.