The connected world has made world a smaller place and instant connections facilitate communication on the go. But as a knock-on effect of this connectedness, our privacy and digital security is increasingly losing the opacity which we all have a right to expect and receive.
VPN is a vanguard of online privacy and security in the wired and digital age that we are all a part of today. And that is not all; VPNs can enable you to access websites of your choice, from streaming to torrenting, giving you the freedom to surf the web unchecked by any filtering or blocking technology.
Setting up a VPN on router creates a protective layer of digital privacy in your entire house or an indoor space, so that any device that connects to the Wi-Fi will automatically route through the secure VPN network.
To do this, however, you should first know how to setup a VPN on your router.
This article will explain how to setup a VPN router, so you can connect every single device in your living space to the same VPN without any extra trouble.
Why It is Important to Have a Router with Your VPN?
The decision to use your VPN with router is more of a personal preference thing. If everyone in your family regularly uses VPN services, for instance, and there are multiple devices that need an Internet connection at home, then having a VPN router could make your life easier.
Considering the fact that you could get a two year subscription of a top-rated VPN like Surfshark for only $1.99/month, having a router with your VPN can be one of the most effective steps you can take towards maximizing your online privacy and security.
So, what are some of the advantages of having a VPN on your router?
Here are some:
1. Constant Connection to VPN Servers
Normally, you need to log into and launch a VPN service individually on every device every time that you want to be connected to the VPN. If you have a VPN installed on your router, you can eliminate this constant on and off switching for all of your devices, since you will automatically connect to your secure VPN as soon as you connect to your router’s Wi-Fi.
Convenience is a benefit worth a million.
2. Connect Multiple Devices
A router with a VPN installed in it enables makes all simultaneous login limitations irrelevant. Although every VPN provider offers support for multiple device logins, there is a limit to how many devices you can connect.
Using a VPN-enabled router, you’ll just have to connect your devices to the Wi-Fi like you normally do, and this action will ensure that all the traffic from your devices is being transmitted via the encrypted tunnels of a VPN.
3. Ensure Security of Your Devices
The Internet is an insecure place, teeming with hackers, cyber-criminals, viruses, and spies. The security afforded by a VPN, largely stemming from the use of heavy encryption, reduces your visibility to malicious agents on the web.
If you could extend this cloak of invisibility and protection to all the devices in your usage, you’d have much less to worry about as far as your online security is concerned. The possibility of forgetting to turn on a VPN is also eliminated if your router is by default serving as a VPN hotspot for your entire house.
4. Bypass Geo-restrictions/Unblock Streaming Sites
Security and privacy aren’t the only benefits that VPNs are capable of providing. A good number of users deploy VPNs for the purpose of accessing VPN geo-restricted websites. For instance, Netflix has a different library of content for different regions only accessible from within.
VPNs give you the ability to access websites from any region. As such, not only can you obtain superior privacy, you can also destroy the barriers that restrict complete Internet freedom if you have a VPN enabled in your router.
How to Choose a Router for VPN
The benefits of VPN services are many and are only becoming more relevant with the passage of time. But you still need to have the right router and the right VPN to make this combination work.
To start with, it is important to remember that not all routers are compatible with VPNs. You should always check the compatibility of the router before purchasing one. It is a good idea to check the router’s manual or read reviews about it to find compatibility details and whether you can setup a VPN on it.
There are at least 3 options that you can consider when you’re ready to invest in a VPN router setup. Let’s evaluate the suitability of each option so you can decide which works best for your needs.
1. Pre-installed VPN Routers
This is the simplest way available. Some companies like Flashrouters offer pre-installed VPN routers i.e. routers with a VPN installed by default. This means that you just have to plug the router in and start using it to connect to the Internet via VPN tunnel, without having to do any of the configuration yourself.
Although this is the easiest option, it is also the most expensive one. Nonetheless, if you are not very tech-savvy then I would recommend this approach, because the process of finding a VPN compatible router, flashing the firmware, and then installing the VPN can be quite complicated, even if you are a technical-minded individual.
2. Pre-flashed Routers
A pre-flashed router is basically one which the correct firmware installed in it, allowing you to setup a VPN yourself and even change settings that conventional router firmware don’t give you the permission to.
Flashing routers is a tricky process and the steps vary depending on the make and model of your device. You can save some serious brain fatigue by acquiring a pre-flashed router that is ready to be configured with a VPN.
What’s more, pre-flashed routers are a little cheaper than routers with pre-installed VPNs. However, this difference normally is around $30. So, if you want to save a few bucks and do the VPN installation bit yourself, this can be a great option.
3. Flash Router Yourself
If you’re a glutton for punishment, then this is the option tailor-made just for you. To flash a router yourself, you must first find and purchase a router that supports open-source firmware that VPNs are compatible with.
Most commercial routers have rigid firmware which hardly allow any changes in settings, much less allow a third-party VPN client to be installed.
So, you need to install a new firmware (or flash your router as it is normally called), before you can set out to install a VPN on your router.
The two most popular open-source router firmware that support VPNs are Tomato and DD-WRT.
Tomato is a little less popular than DD-WRT, largely due to the fact that it is compatible with fewer routers. However, it offers an easier user-interface and generally links better with VPN services than DD-WRT. It allows two VPN servers to be active at the same time and also offers superior bandwidth management.
DD-WRT is the more popular firmware of the two and it is supported by a larger range of router manufacturers and models. The firmware enables users to change a number of router characteristics including Wi-Fi signal strength, traffic control, remote access, bandwidth regulation, and other admin-level preferences.
It is better to choose DD-WRT as your router firmware because there are higher chances of your router being compatible with this firmware than Tomato. DD-WRT has a database where you can see if you router type is listed. If it isn’t, then your router won’t be compatible, and flashing such a device can lead to your router being “bricked” (broken). This is why I’ve been emphasizing the importance of checking your routers for compatibility.
Choosing a VPN Service for Your Router
Routers are only one piece of the puzzle. The other important piece is VPN.
The number of VPN providers that support routers is relatively small. And the providers that do claim to support routers often lack the engineering capability to ensure their VPN client functions properly on a router.
If you already have a VPN subscription, you should consult their customer support regarding the configuration process for your specific router.
The most successful VPN providers which have a good track record as far as functionality with routers are concerned include NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN. These providers support Tomato and DD-WRT routers and have easy to understand tutorials on their websites for setup instructions.
Other providers, however, can’t promise the same kind of functionality when it comes to setting up VPN on router.
The most important factor you should consider when choosing a VPN for router is competence and responsiveness of customer support. Running VPNs on routers requires more technical maintenance and it is easy for things to go wrong. A competent support staff can assist you in case you encounter any technical problems during or after setup.
In addition, you should also consider factors like VPN speed, server infrastructure, and overall performance.
On the privacy front, the VPN’s jurisdiction and logging policy also matter a great deal as well. Check out our article on VPN logging policies to learn about providers that actually value your privacy.
The only VPN services that fulfill these criteria are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark. So, if you’re looking for a VPN for your router, these should be the top providers on your list.
How to Setup a VPN on Router?
So, now you have both pieces of the puzzle: a router and a VPN. The next step is to setup the VPN on your router using instructions/tutorials on the provider’s website.
I will use Surfshark as an example for the setup process from here on.
- Assuming that you already own a DD-WRT router, you can simply follow the steps as detailed by Surfshark on their router tutorial to install the VPN.
- However, if your router isn’t already running on DD-WRT/Tomato firmware, then you first need to flash your router.
The step-by-step instructions for the setup process are as follows.
1. Download DD-WRT Firmware
To start with, you first have to download the DD-WRT firmware to install on the router. Check your router’s compatibility with DD-WRT on this database and then proceed to download the right version for your router make and model from the same link.
2. Router Configuration
In this step, you will be arranging the connections between your routers and computer/devices in order to enable VPN on the router.
Generally, you will require two routers to form this arrangement. The primary router should is the device which serves as a VPN passthrough. When this feature is activated, any device which connects to the router will gain automatic access to a VPN. Then, you must connect your primary and secondary routers together.
This is how you can make this configuration:
- Connect the LAN port of your primary router to the WAN port on the secondary router via an Ethernet cable
- Take another Ethernet cable and plug one of its ends to the primary router’s LAN port to the computer’s LAN port
If you don’t want to connect the router to a computer and want a wireless connection, then you can skip the second step.
3. Flashing the Router(s)
Use the downloaded firmware files to flash your router now. The steps for flashing routers varies for each type and model of routers, so you will have to consult your manufacturer’s manual for the instructions or simply use Google and YouTube to find tutorials.
4. Launch VPN on Your Router
It is now possible for your router to connect with a VPN service. Once again, however, the setup process varies for each VPN provider. For the sake of demonstration, I’ll just highlight Surfshark’s tutorial for connect the VPN client to DD-WRT router.
If you have followed all the above-mentioned steps correctly, then your router should now have a VPN enabled and ready to protect all the devices connected to it.
Although the convenience of having a VPN installed on your router is immense, the entire configuration process can be daunting and you might not even succeed after all the hard work for one technical reason or another.
If online privacy is something that you are heavily concerned about, then it would be a good idea to invest in a pre-configured VPN router. But if you live for the satisfaction of doing things with your own hands, then I hope this guide on how to setup VPN on router will prove helpful in your endeavor to build a digital fortress around all your devices and gateways to the web.