We have used the pcWRT Router for over a year now, so it is time to give it a review. As a bonus, pcWRT has made available a special offer that will benefit both of us!
The pcWRT router has parental controls that allow you to schedule when a device can be on the internet, and what sites are allowed (or disallowed) at certain times…..or you can blacklist (or whitelist) sites completely. This calendar function is really useful, as I don’t have to worry about my children (or me!!) checking social media for ‘just a second’ during our homeschool day. You can also block VPN and Proxy and other things, and lock SafeSearch on Google and YouTube. Because control is at the router level, it cannot be circumvented by any device reliant on the household WiFi connection. You can set up a profile for every device in the home, or group some together. A guest network (or default) can be set up, so visitors on your WiFi will also have restriction. For example, we have the DVD players together, and turn their internet off at night so there is no unauthorized streaming of videos. The calendars are easy to update in case you need to change something quickly for a snow or sick day. You can see screen shots and learn more on the pcWRT website.
In addition, pcWRT works together with OpenDNS to provide content filtering. The router locks directly to OpenDNS, so savvy teens who know how to switch the DNS server on their browse will not be able to bypass it. OpenDNS is free, and has a number of categories that can be blocked, you can be as restrictive as you like. In addition, there is a blacklist (and whitelist) function. The service will list sites visited, and attempts at visiting blocked sites. Beware of getting too riled up, however….may of those sidebar ads from innocent sites will be link to phishing or porn sites….and they will show as visited because the ad loaded on the original page (this is a small drawback, but pcWRT plans to develop better monitoring of actual websites visited. In the meantime, you can check the history of the browsers on your devices to find the offender).
The system isn’t perfect, but none are. For example, there is no way to perfectly filter Google images. Even though SafeSearch is locked, a search for euphemisms (like jugs) will result in some inappropriate images. This is because of the way Google search is done on these, and there is just no way to filter them out.
So overall, we use pcWRT to prevent arguments about internet time (it’s set up in the calendar, and when the internet goes off, it’s off….great for when we want to get school started, or have non-screen time before bed), and as a defense against accidental browsing into the wrong ‘neighborhood’. It is never a substitute for parental vigilance, and making rules such as having all screens in public areas at all times.
Overall, we have been happy with the performance of the router on our DSL internet. The range and speed is good, and it hasn’t dropped connections (I wish the same could be said for our internet service!!). The setup is easy, and all directions are on the main pcWRT website, and in handy printed instructions included with your new router. The developer is responsive on their website forums with help, and rolling out new features. Firmware updates are easy, and all have worked fine for us. There is no subscription with pcWRT….just buy the router and all updates are free. They currently have the router pictured above, and will soon have a dual band AC router with 1200Mbps combined WiFi throughput more appropriate for super high speed internet connections.
If you’ve read this far and want to try it, pcWRT is offering a $15 off rebate now through the December 31, 2016 (I will also receive $15 for referring you). Drop me a comment below and I’ll email you instructions for claiming the rebate. Click here to purchase the pcWRT router on Amazon. (affiliate link).