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Installing a VPN on your router is one of the best ways to secure your entire home network. Instead of worrying about each device separately, all of your connected devices will be secured by default. Plus, even devices that don’t normally support VPNs will be able to reap the benefits of one. Really the only issues are finding a router that supports a VPN connection and a VPN service that can be installed on a router. Luckily, we’ve written this guide to help you every step of the way.
Install VPN on a router: Quick guide
- Choose a VPN provider that supports router configuration. We recommend NordVPN, now available for 72% off
- Make sure that your router supports manual configuration
- Access your router by going to 192.168.1.1 and reconfigure it according to the specifications
- Test your router by checking the IP and geo-location
What is a VPN router?
Typical VPN software works by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a remote server, thus keeping your online activities secure. Such software has the benefit of a user interface, which allows you to pick and choose servers, tunneling protocols, and sometimes even which apps go through the VPN.
Meanwhile, a VPN router is configured in a way that it does all the heavy lifting that the VPN software would do. There’s no router user interface, so you’ll have to set it up through a different device, usually a computer.
Once a router is configured with a VPN, all connected devices will reap the benefits of a secure VPN connection. Even devices that don’t usually support VPN connections can take advantage of this. So if you want to unblock some regional content on your smart TV – this is the way to go.
Pros and cons of installing a VPN on a router
- You will no longer need to check for the maximum amount of simultaneous connections. The moment you set up a VPN on a router, it will sufficiently cover all devices used under your roof. Instead, you’ll be free to secure multiple devices outside your home.
- You’ll be able to use a VPN with devices that natively don’t even support VPN or their apps. Ever got frustrated by setting up a VPN on KODI, or Apple TV? With a VPN on the router, you won’t have to worry about a setup for each device separately. Every device that will connect to your WiFi will instantly be protected.
- You’ll stay protected 24/7. Sometimes one might simply forget to log into a VPN, and that can cost you dearly. A VPN router will always be connected, ensuring 24/7 protection. You will need to connect to it only once, just like you connect to your WiFi if the login credentials have been saved.
- You’ll need to go through the arduous process of setting up a VPN on a router. This is very hardware-dependent and in some cases even impossible to pull off. It might even require flashing the device’s firmware that will void your warranty and isn’t an option if you’re using a router from your ISP.
- Once you set it up and want a bypass to connect directly, you might run into additional problems. Some banks might flag you for strange connections coming outside of your native country when you’ll try to connect to your local bank (this can be remedied by choosing the best VPN for online banking). Some services that were set up to work from your local country might also have hiccups. Some IP Set-Top devices pre-configured to work with your IP might even refuse to work and will need additional tinkering.
Does my router support a VPN?
The easiest way to check whether your router supports VPN is to consult the router’s manual. If it supports it out of the box, you’ll immediately notice a section dedicated to the VPN setup.
Even if the router’s manual is silent, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. Most likely, you can get VPN configurations up and running with custom firmware.
If you’re renting a router from your ISP, more likely than not, you will not be able to use it as a VPN client as they run various backdoors so that their customer service could troubleshoot your Internet problems via long distance.
Install VPN on a router: Step-by-step guide
1. Choosing a VPN provider
First of all, you’ll have to choose your VPN provider, preferably NordVPN. If you’re planning to set it up on a router, you can ignore info like the maximum number of available connections and focus on support. Some of them have router apps, some of them support many router models and have easy to understand setup guides. Don’t skimp on your provider’s reputation and additional features. You want to make sure that your provider will actually make you safe.
2. Choosing a router
More likely than not, you already have a router. If you feel like making a fresh setup, you can potentially look into the best VPN routers, which are optimized for VPNs. In some cases, DD-WRT or Tomato routers should be enough. In other cases, it’s entirely possible to buy pre-configured routers with your VPN providers’ settings. This neglects the art of setting it up but dramatically saves your time.
3. Connecting the VPN router
First of all, you’re going to need to log in to your router. If it was set up by your ISP and you just plugged it in, chances are that it doesn’t even have a password. If it does, it might be written on a sticker on your router.
Once plugged in, you’ll have to type your router’s IP address in your web browser’s address bar to access your router. There are various ways to figure it out. On Windows, you can go to the Command Prompt, type in ipconfig and find the Default Gateway of your LAN connection. In this case, I was connected wirelessly and my router IP is 192.168.1.1. Keep in mind that your default router IP might be different. You can find it in your router’s manual.
4. Configure your router
This point is very user-dependent, and if you need more detailed instructions, you’ll have to follow guides that specifically address how to set it up on your device. Some routers will have out-of-the-box ready VPN functionality, others might need some workarounds or firmware flashes to bypass these restrictions.
5. Optional: Flashing your VPN router
It might happen that your router doesn’t natively support VPN configurations. This is merely a software limitation that can be resolved by firmware flashing. It will alter your device’s factory settings, so you must know what you’re doing. Once you start the process, there’s no way back, so you have to be extra careful not to damage your router, or it will be bricked.
6. Testing your configuration
Once you’ve completed the VPN set up on your router, you should test it to make sure that it actually works. Connect to your router with a VPN connection and open up a DNS leak test link to check what IP it displays. If you did everything correctly, you should be able to see a different IP with an associated country flag.
How to set up a VPN on a DD-WRT router
The majority of people suggest that installing a DD-WRT router is quite technical and can lead to bricking. This is the reason why a lot of people opt to buy the DD-WRT routers that are already flashed. You can even choose to purchase pre-flashed DD-WRT VPN routers as they come with software that is preloaded. However, DD-WRT VPN setup is not difficult if you have a guide nearby.
Even though it’s possible to set up a PPTP VPN router, it’s now considered obsolete. If you’ll be going the extra mile by setting up a VPN on your router, stick to OpenVPN. Here’s how to do it:
Setting up an OpenVPN router
- If you have a DD-WRT router, you can install the VPN software on it. You should bear in mind that certain VPNs are incompatible with DD-WRT firmware. This means that you’ll want to check the manufacturer to determine whether you can flush the router using the DD-WRT by yourself.
- We will remain a bit vague on this, as the setup can vary according to the exact model of the router you have. To get the firmware, you’ll need to update that router. Once you find that it is compatible, you’ll have to find firmware details on precisely what you want to get downloaded.
- Once you set up DD-WRT. Go to http://192.168.1.1 for setting it up. This screen will provide you with a username as well as the password for the router.
- Click on the Control Panel. Go to your web browser and then click on the Settings page of the router. After you have gotten to the control panel of the DD-WRT router, you should click on the Service tab. You can then go ahead and click on the sub-tab of your VPN. You should then enable the option of Start OpenVPN client. This will take you to the OpenVPN configuration panel.
DD-WRT versions with user pass authentication
This is a step that will depend on whether your DD-WRT firmware version comes with user pass authentication. If it does, follow the next steps. If it doesn’t, you can just move to the next section.
If your DD-WRT version doesn’t come with user pass authentication, you should follow the settings below. First, enter the Server IP/Name.
Usually, you get this from the VPN. You’ll need a username that you can get from the VPN. This may differ from your VPN login username. You’ll also need the password from the VPN. This might be different from your usual VPN login password. So, what do you do with DD-WRT versions that do not have user-pass authentication?
DD-WRT versions without user pass authentication
If you have a DD-WRT version that doesn’t require user pass authentication, there are also specific steps that you will need to follow.
First, you’ll want to check for the text box labeled as “Additional Configuration.” You can then go ahead and enter the command pass /tmp/auth.txt. When asked for the Server IP/Name, enter the VPN user’s address you’d like to connect to.
The server IP name can be found on the .ovpn config file that you can get from the VPN. Open the .ovpn file using a text editor. You can copy the remote server cluster name that has been listed in Config file before pasting this on the server address or port field in OpenVPN.
How to set up a VPN on a Tomato router
Tomato is a custom firmware for routers that adds OpenVPN support.Check online with your router manufacturer to see if your router supports this firmware. You should also read a full guide on how to install Tomato on your router. Once you’ve got Tomato installed, you’ll still need to configure a VPN of your choice.
- Connect to your router’s settings page by typing in 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 in your address bar
- Select VPN Tunneling -> OpenVPN Client
- There, select the following options: check Start with WAN box, select TUN under Interface Type, choose either UDP or TCP under Protocol, and add Server Address/Port information from your provider
- Under the Advanced tab select the following options: Poll Interval: 0, redirect Internet traffic: Checked, accept DNS configuration: Strict, encryption cipher: AES-256-CBC, compression: Disabled, TLS Renegotiation Time: -1, connection retry: -1, verify server certificate: Unchecked.
- Depending on your setup you may add a custom configuration but it will heavily depend on your provider.
- In the Keys tab, open a configuration file downloaded from your VPN provider. Then, paste Static key from <tls-auth> to </tls-auth> block. Also, to get Certificate Authority, you’ll need to paste text from <ca> to </ca> block.
- At the bottom of the settings page, click Save. Click Start Now, to establish a connection. Verify on the Status page that everything is working as it should.
You can also add additional configuration for DNS servers to be safe from DNS leaks.
How to set up a VPN on an OpenWRT router
You should start by flashing your router with OpenWRT firmware. You’ll be able to find information on how it’s done on the official OpenWRT website. When you’re done with that, you still need to configure a VPN on your flashed router. What you should also be aware of is that OpenVPN packages aren’t included by default in the firmware files that you’ve downloaded. You’ll need to modify the image to include OpenVPN configuration.
It’s a highly technical setup that will severely depend on the options suggested by your VPN provider. Your best bet will be to consult their website for guides. This is one of the most technical setups, so you should really know what you’re doing. For example, here’s a NordVPN customer support guide on how to do it with its VPN.
How to set up a VPN on an AsusWRT router
This is a pretty straightforward setup. Most Asus routers can be configured with OpenVPN software, and they don’t require flashing. As always, it greatly depends on your model, but the general process should go as follows.
- Under the Advanced Settings tab select VPN
- Click OpenVPN clients
- You should download OpenVPN configuration files from your provider, go to Client control -> Import .ovpn file -> Browse, then select the file and upload it. If you can choose, select UDP instead of TCP because it’s slightly faster
- Wait for a page to refresh itself
- After the import, most fields should autocomplete. You’ll still need to enter the credentials that you use to log in to your VPN provider
- You can select your DNS configuration to Strict or Exclusive, depending on if you want to use the configuration on all devices or just some of them. This is especially handy if you need your configuration work with only your Apple TV, Playstation, or other devices that natively don’t support VPNs
Dual VPN router setup
Having a dual router setup is beneficial if you want to switch between a VPN and a non-VPN connection easily. To achieve this, you’ll need to set up a LAN-to-WAN connection using two routers and an Ethernet cable. Your second router doesn’t have to be as good as the one used for the VPN connection. It will suffice if it supports AC wireless.
The instructions below are for Windows users.
Alternative: Sabai Routers have a feature called Gateways that eliminates the need for dual router setup.
Set up the primary router
- Connect to the regular router (A) using WiFi.
- Run cmd.exe from the Start menu, type ipconfig, and press Enter.
- The line that says Default gateway is your router’s IP address and its second-to-last digit is the subnet. Write the IP down for future reference.
- Enable VPN passthrough in your router’s control panel. It can be found under NAT or Firewall settings.
Set up the VPN router
- Make sure it’s not connected to the primary router by the Ethernet cable.
- Connect to the VPN router (B) using WiFi or use an Ethernet cable from your computer to Router A.
- Go to Router A’s control panel and find its IP address settings.
- Change the subnet, so that if Router A uses 192.168.1.1, Router B should use 192.168.2.1
- Enable the DHCP server in Router A’s control panel
- Specify DNS servers. You can use those offered by the VPN provider, or public ones, eg. GoogleDNS: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199
Connect both routers
- Get the Ethernet cable and stick one end to any LAN port of Router A.
- Stick the other end of the cable to the WAN port of Router B.
- Make sure your Router A WAN port is connected to a modem or other internet access point.
If you did everything correctly, the internet connectivity should be there. If it’s not, you can try disabling the VPN to see if it’s causing the issue. If that proves to be the case, contacting your VPN support would be best. If the VPN has nothing to do with this, try flushing the DNS. If the DNS error persists, try manually entering it in your device’s TCP/IP settings. And if all else fails, reboot your router.
How to install VPN on your router on Windows
If you are a Windows user, installing a VPN is relatively easy. Of course, the details will depend on your specific router, but the general steps are always the same. First off:
- Choose a VPN provider that has OpenVPN configuration files available. We recommend NordVPN, available with a 72% discount
- Find out your router’s IP address. To do that, go to the Command Prompt. Type in cmd in the start menu and press Enter. Then, type in ipconfig and press Enter. Look for the Default Gateway of either the Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. In my case, it’s 192.168.1.1
- Go to that IP address in your internet browser
- Log in with your router credentials and look for OpenVPN settings
- Download the OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN provider and configure everything according to the router’s manual
- Test the connection to see that everything works
How to install VPN on your router on MacOS
For macOS, installing a VPN on your router is fairly straightforward. The specifics will depend on your router model and VPN provider, but the overall process is as follows:
- Pick a VPN provider that is compatible with your router. We suggest NordVPN, which is currently available for 72% off.
- Find out your router’s IP address. On macOS, you can do that by opening the System Preferences from the Apple Menu. Then, click on Network. Go to Wi-Fi, then Advanced, and then TCP/IP. You will see your router’s IP address next to Router. In this case, it’s 192.168.8.1
- Visit that IP address in your web browser
- Log in to your router’s software with the correct credentials
- Get the OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN service and set up your router by following their guides
- Test the connection to verify that everything works
Which VPN is the best for your router
If you invest top dollar in a state-of-the-art router, you should do the same with your VPN. Don’t be surprised that your connection doesn’t live up to your expectations if you’re using a VPN service that has slow servers on the other side of the globe, cannot unblock Netflix, and doesn’t allow torrenting.
Speed and security are the top two criteria to consider when deciding on a VPN for your router. While speed often correlates with the number of servers and locations, it’s also the quality of the infrastructure that makes the difference.
Speaking of security, the country where a VPN resides is essential because some of those are members of the Five, Nine, or Fourteen Eyes Alliance, sharing intelligence data between themselves. Having a clean reputation is also essential – some VPNs have already been caught cooperating with governmental institutions. Others clearly state that they do not offer a no-logs policy and are willing to disclose your personal data to third parties.
The quality of Customer Support shouldn’t be your last consideration, either. We suggest choosing those VPN providers that offer 24/7 live support. There might be times when your connection drops for no apparent reason and works only without a VPN. Submitting a ticket and waiting for the response from another time zone can often mean you’re done for the day while calling a helpline or starting a live chat can solve your issue within minutes.
Below are a few recommendations for the best VPN services for routers – we urge you to find the right one regardless of the budget.
NordVPN – the best router VPN service
NordVPN will provide you with the best security and stability among all VPN services. They have clear setup instructions and can be used in combination with more accessible configurations like AsusWRT and even OpenWRT. You can also use third-party router software to help you manage your connections. Should you run into any trouble, their customer support is ready 24/7 to help you with even the most complicated queries.
With any subscription, which starts off at $3.30/month, you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee. You should be able to test their configuration options on your router, and if you don’t like something, it will be super easy to refund for a full price. There’s even a possibility to buy a pre-configured VPN router from them. It will save you loads of time.
Surfshark – unlimited security for all your devices
The great thing about Surfshark is that it supports an unlimited number of devices. So even if you configure your router with this VPN, you don’t have to worry about securing your devices while on the go. Plus, it’s quite affordable, starting at $2.49/month. Supported routers and firmware include DD-WRT, AsusWRT, Tomato, Mikrotik, Linksys, and more.
Besides that, this VPN is insanely fast with the WireGuard tunneling protocol and has no trouble getting around geographical restrictions of streaming services like Netflix. Plus, it offers great security features, such as a kill switch, ad and malware blocker, multi-hop, and more.
Private Internet Access – great VPN for a router
For users that don’t need blistering speed and Agent 007-grade security, Private Internet Access VPN might just do the trick for a fraction of their competitors’ prices. $2.19/month is simply unbeatable and one of the main reasons why this provider is so popular across the globe.
But it’s not only about the price. It’s compatible with DD-WRT routers, allows torrenting, unblocks the US Netflix library, and even offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you still feel like you’re paying too much. While Private Internet Access doesn’t provide a router app, the hassle of manually configuring it is worth the money you save in the long run.
Which router is the best for VPN setup
First and foremost, a router has to support OpenVPN or have an operating system that supports OpenVPN, such as DD-WRT or Tomato. Most often, a router comes with the original firmware and has to be flashed to open-source DD-WRT or Tomato first before starting a VPN setup. While you should always check if the specific model you have or are planning to buy supports OpenVPN, choosing Asus, Synology, or Buffalo routers is a safe bet. Be aware that routers from your internet service provider that also incorporate a modem most often will not be suitable for this task, meaning you’ll need to purchase a VPN-compatible router.
Then your VPN router has to be fast. It will be handling the traffic of multiple users and encrypting, so naturally, there’s a speed drop-off. To minimize it, make sure your router’s CPU clock is 800 MHz or more, and the AES-NI feature is available for speeding the encryption process up.
Your VPN router has to be decently priced based on your needs:
- Gaming VPN router – top speed, low latency. You will need a high-end VPN router, so be ready to pay $300+.
- Torrenting and streaming VPN router – top speed, latency, not an issue. You will need an excellent VPN router, which can be found in the range of $200-$300.
- Browsing VPN router – good speed, latency, not an issue. A good VPN router should suffice, and you can really get one for less than $200.
Can I put a VPN on my router?
That depends on your router model and if it can be configured with your VPN provider. For example, ISP-rented routers usually do not support VPN configurations. Additionally, not all VPN services have router configuration files.
Does a VPN hide browsing history from the router?
Yes, A VPN hides your browsing history from everything, including your router. A VPN encrypts your entire web traffic and makes it unreadable.
How do I get a free VPN for my router?
A free VPN is not recommended for your router. It’s unclear how free VPNs make money so it’s possible that the provider will be monitoring and selling your browsing data. A premium VPN is a much safer and reliable way to secure your entire home network.
Do routers have a built-in VPN?
No, not all routers support VPNs. For example, routers that are given by ISPs usually do not support VPN configuration. You may have to buy a new one or install DD-WRT or Tomato on your current router.
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Karol is an experienced freelance writer, translator, and editor. His creative output covers a wide range of technology topics such as fintech, privacy, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and more. He does not limit himself to just plain articles and writes guides, editorials, think pieces, and reviews.