Netgear Config Files Are In Binary Format. Seriously?

I couldn’t help myself, I needed to write a short rant. I am using a Netgear GS116Ev2 switch as my core switch at the moment, and it works great when it works. When it doesn’t, it’s pretty stupid. Twice in the last week, while performing some changes to the configuration (and not even something big, I am talking about adding a VLAN) the switch became unresponsive and I had to restore to factory settings. Trying to find a support email is close to impossible, so that doesn’t help either. Getting a reply from their Twitter account looks even more difficult, they really seem not to give a fuck.

Anyway, this is not what the rant is about. Knowing how finicky this switch can be, I now have a habit of creating configuration backups as often as possible, so if this happens again, I can restore the latest working configuration quickly. Last time this switch decided to fuck things up, however, I decided to take a look at my config file to make sure everything looked ok in there. And, surprise surprise: you can’t look at your cfg file in a text editor! Netgear decided to use cfg files in binary format.

You can find some discussions on the Internetz with people suggesting to use hex readers and stuff to try and read these files, but the point is very simple: I don’t want to do that, and I shouldn’t have to go through this hassle just to read a freaking cfg file.

Now, if anyone from Netgear ever sees this, please, please give me an explanation for this design choice. I am sure I am missing something here, there must be a reason why you chose to go this way.

And whatever the answer to this is, please reconsider this decision. Start using plaintext cfg files like everyone else.


  1. I completely agree. Idiotic. How the hell are you supposed to know what the config actually is inside your file before importing it?

    Tenet 8: Avoid captive user interfaces (Mike Gancarz)

  2. And I just ran hexdump -C to see if the cfg file had anything resembling the English language which it did not. Shame on me for expecting to be able to understand the config file of a product I payed $200 for. Decisions in the industry of software development are made by people who are siloed away from customers, or are just retarded.

    • I didn’t even try running a hexdump on the cfg but I am not surprised to read your results. After all, since Netgear chose to use binary files, I didn’t have high hopes that the cfg file could be readable after all.

      I don’t know, this still seems such a dumb thing to me. It’s something that annoys me quite a bit, so I will probably look elsewhere when I get tired of this switch or when it will crap out on me the next time.

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