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Jul 12 2017

Bad Wifi: Netgear releases Orbi 1.12.0.18 update that keeps disconnecting your devices

Despite an initial rough start with the NetGear Orbi Home Wifi System I’ve been a big fan of it up until today. The reason I bought the Orbi was because I kept having wifi drops in some areas of my house with my Asus RT-AC87U router due to it’s placement. I play a lot of online games like Clash of Clans and if you know CoC the dreaded wifi symbol while you are playing is not something you want to see. That symbol means your connection sucks and you are about to get dropped, I would get that frequently with my Asus router at the far end of my house. Once I had Orbi up and running my wifi problems were completely gone for 7 months, until today.

Netgear pushed out a 1.12.0.18 update to my router and satellite last night and today I awoke to constant and frequent disconnects on both my iPad Air 2 and Galaxy S7 Edge. I could literally not go a minute without a disconnect. I called their support who was basically useless, they said to enable Implicit Beamforming which has been disabled by default many updates ago because of issues it caused with some devices. I tried that anyway and it seemed to help a little with the iPad but not the Galaxy S7.

Ironically Netgear had a big focus on fixing wifi disconnects with this update which has apparently plagued them from the beginning, read the Netgear forums and there are lots of threads on this issue like this one and this one. They also have problems with the Orbi losing connection to your internet device (i.e. cable modem), I also experience this frequently as well, the only fix is to reboot the cable modem. Most of the updates up until now have not really done all that much, this one had a lot of big fixes as seen below:

  • Fixes the iOS disconnection issue.
  • Fixes the Dropcam disconnection issue.
  • Fixes the convergence issue when an Ethernet connected device moves from one Orbi to another.
  • Fixes the issue where the Orbi app can’t find the Orbi router if the router is using IPv6 and is in AP mode.
  • Fixes the issue where the Orbi app can’t display more than 20 connected devices.
  • Fixes the issue where the installation assistant might not display if the device is connected to the Orbi network wirelessly.
  • Fixes the issue where the 2.4 GHz backhaul setting is disabled if the fronthaul MU-MIMO and TxBF is disabled.
  • Fixes the issue where IPv6 devices on the guest network can access the Orbi router’s web GUI.
  • Includes security fixes for the following security vulnerabilities:PSV-2016-0133, PSV-2017-0607, PSV-2017-0615, PSV-2017-0736, PSV-2017-2190

So an update that supposedly fixes disconnect issues (which I never experienced) does the opposite and starts causing them instead. Thank you Netgear for breaking my perfectly wonderful wifi system. Apparently their engineering team has been spending most of their time introducing new Orbi devices and not spending much time refining their current firmware.

I ended up downgrading both my router and satellite to the prior version which is 1.11.0.20 which has been working perfectly. In fact I have never had an issue with an Orbi update until now, I’m beginning to suspect the reason why is that they haven’t really done much with any of their 11 updates up until this one. Look at their typical release notes for the last 3 updates:

  • 1.10.1.2 – Fixed few bugs
  • 1.9.1.2 – Fixes bugs and security issues. – Improves the firmware upgrade process. – Continuous improvement in wireless connection stability
  • 1.8.0.6 – Fixes bugs and security issues. – Supports Korea wireless region

Now that they have finally starting to pay attention to some of the serious issues that Orbi has had they have apparently tried to fix some things and broke other things. At this stage with this new update I’m not going to update past 1.11.0.20 until Netgear gets their act together which is a shame as I will be missing out on potentially other fixes and enhancements. I loved my Orbi up until today and just yesterday was recommending it to people. However after this update dropped I will not recommend it anymore and may just end up migrating to one of the competing systems from Ubiquiti, Google and Eero which is a shame as Netgear had a good thing going with Orbi. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for me and if Orbi can no longer deliver that anymore than it’s adios amigo.

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6 comments

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  1. BSA

    Why I’m not surprised at all. Netgear products are traditionally priced well,has good hardware and features, but absolutely abyssal QC of software.
    It’s been this way for a while. start selling products with half baked software and hope customers don’t mind to be unpaid beta testers.

  2. Mark Rubash

    I downgraded back to 1.11.0.20 due to frequent disconnect errors. Unfortunately, the Orbi firmware automatically upgraded me back to 1.1w.0.18. I don’t know of anyway to stop the automatic upgrading, which is definitely a problem. The damn thing was working fine before the upgrade, now I’ve wasted a good part of a weekend only to end up back where I started. This sucks!

  3. esiebert7625

    Netgear support told me if you manually downgrade it won’t auto upgrade. Of course they don’t know what they are talking about, mine auto upgraded about 6 days later. To prevent auto upgrades you can try 2 things, go to Advanced, Security, Block Sites, set keyword blocking to Always and add downloads.netgear.com as a blocked site. Optionally there are NVRAM settings that you can change, these are copied from this netgear forum thread. https://community.netgear.com/t5/Orbi/Firmware-V1-12-0-18-Discussion/td-p/1320421/page/5

    Perform these step after you downgraded the firmware to a prior release.

    1) Launch your favorite web browser and go to /debug.htm

    2) Login when prompted

    3) Check Enable Telnet

    4) Start a Telnet session. I use Putty. Enter the Telnet is using port 23

    5) You can skip this step if you like. I am calling it out for illustration purposes only…

    Type nvram show | grep auto_*

    You will see a list similar to this:

    [email protected]:/# nvram show | grep auto_
    vpn_access_mode=auto
    wl_auto_antenna=1
    set_auto_agreement=0
    orbi_auto_upgrade=1
    ipv6_autoConfig_dns_assign=0
    ipv6_autoConfig_dns1=
    ipv6_autoConfig_dns2=
    upnp_enable_autoScan=0
    ipv6_auto_dns_assign=0
    bas_auto_conn_flag=0
    orbi_auto_upg=0
    autofw_port0=
    ipv6_auto_dns1=
    ipv6_auto_dns2=
    qos_auto_bandwidth=0
    green_enable_autorefresh_status=0
    enable_dev_auto_refresh=1
    wl_rate=auto
    auto_check_for_upgrade=1
    auto_update=1
    [email protected]:/# [email protected]:/#

    The 3 configurations highlighted above you will want to update the value from =1 to =0

    orbi_auto_upgrade=1
    auto_check_for_upgrade=1
    auto_update=1

    6) To update run the following commands:

    nvram set orbi_auto_upgrade=0 (no spaces after set)
    nvram set auto_check_for_upgrade=0
    (no spaces after set)
    nvram set auto_update=0
    (no spaces after set)

    7) Type the following commands to confirm the 3 configurations are set to =0

    nvram show | grep orbi_auto_upgrade
    nvram show | grep auto_check_for_upgrade

    nvram show | grep auto_update

    8) After you confirmed the 3 configuration values are set to =0 then type nvram commit (this step will save the changes)

    9) Type exit to terminate the telnet session

    10) Go back to the /debug.htm web page and uncheck Enable Telnet

    Please note within a day or so the Orbi will know there is an updated firmware release available but it will not automatically install it. If you do go back into a Telnet session after the Orbi knows there is an updated firmware release the configuration orbi_auto_upgrade will have a value greater than 1. That is okay. Do not change the value back to =0

  4. 192.168.1.1

    I also dislike seeing CoC, that time my connection sucks and you are about to get dropped, it is uncomfortable.
    Thanks for sharing your experience to keep disconnecting devices.

  5. Jeff

    The latest firmware is a trainwreck. Problems upon problems that aren’t user friendly at all. Downgrading the satellites don’t help because the router will force the update onto them. Doing the telnet stuff won’t help, so the last resort is to block the router from connecting to the netgear download directly.

    This router is really anti-consumer and really takes control away from power user. I might as well just switch back to Linksys.

  6. Mike Rose

    For what it’s worth, a factory reset on my Orbi resolved the issues with the firmware. But it’s poor form to push an update that causes connectivity issues.

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