How to Build a VPN Router (Step by Step Guide)

written by

Jack Foster

last updated

September 30, 2020

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Many of us use VPNs to protect our security and privacy. I’m sure you’ve all seen the shocking statistics on internet privacy, or heard the news stories about government leaks. Most VPNs will allow you to connect to multiple devices without having to buy more than one licence.

However, people tend to have more than one device themselves, let alone an entire family. I have an iPad, an Android phone, a desktop PC and a laptop. That’s 4 devices just for me, and doesn’t include the rest of my family. Most families will have in excess of 10 devices, and not all VPNs will cater for that.

So what do you do when you want to protect your entire home? I know personally I’d want to include my games console, TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc. Obtaining a VPN licence for your router could be the better option! This will ensure your home network is covered by a VPN and in-turn protect any device that’s connected via the WiFi.

Different Types of VPN Router

There are essentially 2 ways you can create a VPN router. The first option is to download and configure the files onto your router. This can be quite complicated, and may not turn out too well if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I personally wouldn’t recommend this method just because of the risk involved.

The second and easiest option is to buy a router that’s pre-configured, taking the hard work out. You won’t have to download any files or install them. You simply take the router out of the box and plug it in, with a VPN already installed.

If you already have a router and don’t want to get rid of it, then buying a new router may not be an affordable option. If that’s the case, then by all means download the files, but just be careful and follow a step-by-step guide.

Pros and Cons of a VPN Router

There are plenty of good reasons to bring a VPN router into your life. I’ve outlined the main pros of setting up a VPN router below:

Single Installation: When you buy a VPN router, it works in exactly the same way as a normal router. However, you have the added protection of a private network. Essentially it’s like using a VPN but anything that connects to your router will be secured. If you buy a VPN licence the ‘standard’ way, you’ll need to install the software onto all of your devices. With a VPN router, you’ll only need the installation once, minimising time and effort.

More Affordable: It’s actually more affordable to use a VPN router in the long-run if you have a lot of devices in your home. The cost of a VPN subscription doesn’t change if you’re using it on your router. But if you have more devices than the VPN can cover, you won’t have to worry. Remember, once the software is installed onto your router, that covers every device that’s connected to it. You won’t have to purchase multiple subscriptions or licences.

Compatibility: One of my gripes with VPN providers is that they don’t always cover all devices/platforms. For example, lots of VPNs aren’t compatible with Smart TVs, so you might not be able to make the most of your licence. Having a VPN router means that it covers all your devices. It doesn’t matter whether the VPN provider has an app or software for the device, as your router has it covered.

Security: Ensuring your entire home network is secure is a no-brainer. A VPN router will mean your network is protected for all online activities. It means that potential hackers will find it a lot harder to access your WiFi network. It also means that anyone coming to your home (friends and family) will be protected too.

Of course, it’s not always fun and games. Unfortunately there are some disadvantages of a VPN router which may be worth considering before investing:

– Speed: The more devices you have, the slower your connection will become. Yes, having a faster overall connection is good, but each device will take a portion of that total speed away. If you know that you’re going to be using your connection for things like gaming or streaming, you may want to consider a better connection.

– Setup: As I mentioned earlier, setting up your own VPN router can be complicated. If it’s something you haven’t done before, I suggest you follow a guide before diving in. Many VPN providers will actually offer you instructions on how to do this. Make use of their support and ensure you follow the steps carefully.

How to Choose a VPN Router

If you’ve decided to buy a new router than can run VPN software, continue reading. Not all routers will be compatible with VPN software, so you will need to check this out beforehand. My advice here is to research your router of choice or check the router’s manual.

Most shop bought routers won’t come with a VPN pre-installed. This is why you must check whether your router is compatible before purchasing it. Here are some options for you to consider:

VPN Compatible Routers

There are plenty of routers which will support VPN firmware. These routers will offer pre-installed VPN software so you won’t have to worry about installing it yourself. You should be able to connect to most VPN servers with a VPN compatible router. Most of them will support OpenVPN protocol which essentially means you can use any VPN provider out there.

How to Setup your VPN Router

After choosing a router and the best VPN, you’ll want to setup your VPN router. Many VPN providers will provide instructions on how to do this, but if not, here’s a run down of what to do.

  • If you have a VPN router which is compatible with your chosen provider, log into your router and connect it to your VPN. ExpressVPN have detailed instructions that you can follow to configure your router correctly.
  • If your router requires you to flash it and install the relevant firmware, follow the instructions below.

1 | Download Firmware

You’ll need to ensure that you download the relevant firmware for your router. First you’ll need to check whether your router is DD-WRT compatible by clicking here. This will supply you with a download file for your router so you can get started.

2 | Connecting your Router

You’ll now need to setup your router. This step will be different depending on the router you have, but in most cases will require two routers plus your internet connection. You need to configure your primary router to enable VPN passthrough. VPN passthrough means any device connected can run VPN software. You need to activate this first, then connect your routers.

3 | Flash your Router

Once your router (or routers) are connected, and you’ve downloaded the firmware, you will need to flash them. Flashing them enables the VPN software to be used on your router and works differently depending on your router. Some router’s will come with instruction on how to do this, whereas others you will need to look online.

4 | Using your VPN Router

Once your firmware is running and your router has been flashed, you can connect it to your VPN. Remember, most VPN providers will have instructions on how to do this (like I showed you above with ExpressVPN).

You should be able to use your VPN provider’s app to configure your VPN settings. These will include server options, server locations (changing country), and plenty of other features depending on your provider.

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