Your small, home-office router has the potential to be as powerful as an enterprise device, it's just a question of getting the power out of it.

So how can you harness that power? Replace your router's firmware with the free, open-source DD-WRT firmware. You'll get all kinds of new capabilities, including boosting your router's signal, improving network performance and far more.

One word of warning, though: There's a chance you could do serious damage to your router if things go wrong during the firmware upgrade. You could even "brick" your router -- break it so badly it will no longer work. The great odds are that won't happen, of course, so read on if you want to get started.

Step One: Get the right router The first step is to make sure your router can be upgraded, or else buy one that does. Not all routers can have their firmware upgraded to DD-WRT. Many, in fact, can't.

Also, some routers from the same manufacturer can be upgraded, and some can't. To make things even more confusing, even the same models of routers from some manufacturers can be upgraded while others can't, depending on the firmware and hardware version and the underlying operating system.

For example, some versions of the Linksys WRT54G can use DD-WRT, while others can't because of changes to the firmware and underlying hardware.