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VPN on a router

Maximilian Holm, about Guides

Should I use a VPN on my router?

There are multiple reasons to put the VPN connection on your router:

  • If your VPN provider only allow a certain number of devices, putting a VPN on your router lets you somewhat bypass that
    restriction as your router will only be seen as one device regardless of how many devices are on your network.
  • IoT and other smart devices that might not support VPN connections (such as Philips Hue) will also be protected.
  • Can save time as you’ll only have to configure one device, rather than all devices separately
  • Protects devices from boot, rather than from when you connect to the VPN

The main benefit of using a VPN on your router is that it protects all devices, including those that normally do not support VPN connections, such as smart devices and IoT devices. Without a VPN on a router, these will communicate unprotected over the Internet.


What is a VPN router?

Unlike a normal router, a VPN router is a router which additionally connects to a VPN server. Just like a VPN on your computer, a VPN router redirects your traffic through a VPN server, allowing you to browse online without interruptions, all while your online activity is hidden from prying eyes.


How does a VPN router work?

Much like a VPN application on your computer, a VPN router creates a secure VPN connection between your router and the VPN server. Anything sent to and from the router will then become encrypted and will be tunneled through the VPN connection to the VPN server. In addition to encrypting your internet connection, it will also give you a new IP address.

In short, it means that your internet traffic can't be read or redirected, in addition to allowing any device on your network to get access to geoblocked content.


What are the pros and cons of using a VPN on my router?

When considering whether you want to purchase a VPN router, there are a few things to take into consideration. Do note that using a VPN router does not necessarily completely remove the need to use a VPN on individual devices. As an example, you may still want to use a VPN when outside your own home to protect yourself on public networks, as your VPN router does not extend to devices that are not on your home network.

Pros

Protect multiple devices at once

With a VPN router, all devices on the network can be protected with a secure, encrypted VPN connection, regardless of how many devices you have on the network. Since you can connect to the router either with a Wi-Fi connection or an Ethernet connection—and since it doesn’t require configuring each device individually on the network—it’s an easy way to improve the security and privacy for everyone in your household, regardless of their age or technical knowledge.

Convenience

Setting up a VPN on your router is convenient. You won't have to go through the hassle of connecting each and every device separately, using different clients and configurations. With a router, just have to configure it once. Set-it-and-forget-it.


Compatibility

With a VPN router, it does not matter if a device on your network supports VPN connections or not. Regardless of an individual device’s age or compatibility, it will be protected with a VPN on your router. In today’s age, everything from your phone and gaming device to lightbulb and fridge may have an internet connection. These devices may not have any inherent security, nor VPN support, making it more important than ever to put a VPN on your router.

Cons

Managing settings

Most routers don’t have a very advanced interface, which means that once connected, you are more or less forced to use the same VPN connection unless you reconfigure it again from scratch. It can be much more convenient and easier to connect from the OVPN client on your computer or mobile device, as it gives you more tailored control of each device.

Slow speed

Most routers are just not built to handle VPN connections, and may therefore severely limit your throughput much more so than if you were to connect manually from your phone or computer.

Port forwarding

While you can configure your computer to receive incoming connections in your computer firewall, that is not the case with most routers. Unfortunately, on most commercial routers, it is only possible to open ports for WAN connections, not VPN connections.

How do I know if my router supports VPN?

Not all routers are VPN compatible. As a rule of thumb, if your router is provided by your ISP, it likely does not support OpenVPN or WireGuard, if it even supports any VPN connection at all.

To find out if your router has VPN compatibility, you will need to check the manual that came with your router. If you have misplaced the manual or your router did not come with a manual, check the model number of the router on its back, you should be able to find the information online, or by contacting our support.

Even if your ISP-provided router or model do not support VPN connections, you are not necessarily out of luck. You can always use a VPN router in combination with your ISP-provider modem or router. In some cases, you can even replace it entirely with a VPN-compatible router.

VPN router comparison

Finding the right router for you can be hard. Ultimately, it depends on a variety of factors such as your budget, the speed you want to achieve through the VPN, your technical know-how, and customizability.

Here are a few suggestions for VPN compatible routers:

  • Vilfo
  • GL-iNet GL-AX1800
  • Teltonika RUT
  • Asus RT-AX86U

For a more detailed comparison of VPN routers, look below.

Vilfo

Vilfo is a Swedish company with several years of experience with VPN’s. Vilfo aims to make setting up and managing VPN connections as easy as possible, while still offering some of the best speeds on the market. It supports multiple VPN connections, both the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols, and can be set up on your own hardware. If you want a powerful, customizable, easy-to-use router that works out-of-the-box, Vilfo is your best bet.

Pros


Easy-to-use

Vilfo is probably one of the easiest VPN routers to use. You don’t have to deal with configuration files as Vilfo handles all of that automatically. Changing servers in Vilfo is just as easy as it would be with the OVPN app on your computer and phone.

Speed

Vilfo supports both OpenVPN and WireGuard. WireGuard can be up to three times faster than OpenVPN, making it a blazingly fast option.

Security

Vilfo has a built-in killswitch that works for all VPN connections and VPN providers. That way, your devices will be secure if the VPN ever unexpectedly disconnects.

Split tunneling

Vilfo supports multiple VPN connections, and is also capable of excluding devices from a VPN connection. That means that you can configure your network just the way you want, as you won’t have to use a VPN on all devices.

Greater insight into your network

Vilfo displays statistics about all connected devices, such as how much data they use or when they first connected to the network.

Notifications of important events

Vilfo can send you notifications to your email or phone about important events such as if a VPN connection suddenly drops or a new device connects to your network.

Port forwarding

Vilfo supports port forwarding for VPN connections, which means that you can open ports for both WAN connections and VPN connections.

Hardware

While Vilfo do sell their own high-performance routers, you can also install Vilfo on your own hardware if you want some more adaptability or control of the hardware you use in your router.

Cons

Limited protocols

Vilfo only supports OpenVPN and WireGuard, and not older protocols like PPTP or L2TP. That is not necessarily an issue though, as OVPN and other reliable VPN providers use OpenVPN and/or WireGuard.

Asus

Asus is a well-known router brand that offers a wide range of routers and an even wider range of products. Unfortunately, their focus is mainly on Wi-Fi and network performance, which does not always translate well into VPN performance. It is easy to get started with, but does not offer a lot of customizability.

Pros

Easy to find

An Asus router can be found in almost any electric store, and they have a wide range of models.

Easy-to-use

You will still have to deal with configuration files, but it is still easier to use than some other routers on this list, which is still worth mentioning.

Plenty of protocols

Asus supports plenty of protocols such as PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and recently, WireGuard. Do note that not all Asus models support WireGuard connections, so if you’re looking to use WireGuard with an Asus router, make to check both once and twice that the router you purchase supports WireGuard.

Cons

Low speed

Like most commercialVPN routers, Asus routers generally have bad speed over VPN connections, as they are generally not designed with a VPN in mind. This can be somewhat counteracted by using a fast VPN protocol like WireGuard, but as mentioned before, not all Asus routers supports OpenVPN.

Port forwarding

Asus routers only supports port forwarding over WAN. You can technically flash the router with something like AsusWRT Merlin which do support port forwarding over VPN connections, but even then you can only configure it over SSH. Flashing it with AsusWRT Merlin does void the warranty and is only recommended for advanced users. In either case, there are other alternatives on this list that are better options if you require port forwarding.

Security

Asus routers do not come with a built-in killswitch, which means that if the VPN server connection goes down, all of your traffic will leak outside the VPN tunnel with little to no warning

No split tunneling

Asus routers employ an all-or-nothing methodology, meaning that either everything goes through the VPN tunnel, or nothing does.

GL-iNet

GL-iNet is another company that aim to make connecting to a VPN as easy and painless as possible. GL-iNet routers support both OpenVPN and WireGuard, and with their wide range of models, you are bound to find something withing your budget that works for you.

Pros

Protocols

GL-iNet supports both OpenVPN and WireGuard which are some of the best-and-tested VPN protocols on the market.

Wide range of models

GL-iNet has a wide range of models with varying performance, from cheaper routers with limited throughput to more expensive high performance routers. Whatever you may need, you will likely find an GL-router that matches your requirements

Easy to use

While you will still need to use configuration files to configure your GL router for OVPN and most other VPN providers, it is still easier to configure than some other routers on this list.

Port forwarding

GL-iNet routers support port forwarding over both WAN and VPN connections.

Security

GL-iNet routers have a built-in killswitch.

Cons

Limited protocols

GL-iNet only supports OpenVPN and WireGuard, and not older protocols like PPTP or L2TP. That is not necessarily an issue though as OVPN and other reliable VPN providers use OpenVPN and/or WireGuard.

Teltonika

Teltonika RUT is a powerful router with a firmware based on OpenWRT. Their main selling point are powerful mobile routers which makes them an excellent choice if you are on the move.

Pros

Port forwarding

Teltonika RUT supports port forwarding for both WAN and VPN.

Wide range of models

Teltonika has a wide range of models, so you are likely to find something within your budget that meet your requirements

Protocols

Teltonika routers support almost all VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and WireGuard.

Cons

Security

Teltonika routers do not have a built-in killswitch which can be a bit of a security issue if the VPN connection goes down.

Hard to use

While easier to use than some other routers on this list, some of its features such as split tunneling requires a lot of manual configuration to set up. Other routers have split tunneling, killswitch and other features out of the box.

pfSense

pfSense is free firewall/router software based on FreeBSD. It can be installed on almost any computer or virtual machine in order to turn it into a dedicated router/firewall for your network. The strength of pfSense lies in that it is highly customizable, meaning that you can set it up exactly the way you want it, on almost any hardware. The downside is that it can be overwhelming and a bit hard to configure if you are inexperienced.

Pros

Customizability

pfSense is highly customizable. Any way you want to configure it, you can.

Hardware

pfSense can be installed on your own hardware, which means you have great control over how it will perform.

Protocols

pfSense supports almost all VPN protocols.

Cons

Hard to use

pfSense requires a lot of networkign knowledge to use properly. Anything you want to configure in pfSense you will need to do manually from scratch, including split tunneling, port forwarding and killswitch. Without the proper time, patient and know-how, you may find yourself less secure than using an easier to use VPN router.

OPNsense

Like pfSense, OPNSense is a free, open source firewall/router software, based on FreeBSD. OPNSense, like pfsense, is highly configurable and can be set up exactly the way you want it, on almost ant hardware. It can be a little hard to get in to at first and is not recommended for people that are inexperienced with network solutions, but can be fun for anyone that are a bit more experienced and like to fine-tune everything just the way they want it.

Pros

Customizability

OPNsense is highly customizable. Any way you want to configure it, you can.

Hardware

OPNsense can be installed on your own hardware, which means you have great control over how it will perform.

Protocols

OPNsense supports almost all VPN protocols.

Cons

Hard to use

OPNsense requires a lot of networking knowledge to use properly. Anything you want to configure in OPNsense you will need to do manually from scratch, including split tunneling, port forwarding and killswitch. Without the proper time, patient and know-how, you may find yourself less secure than using an easier to use VPN router.

OpenWRT

OpenWRT is a free, open-source router solution based on Linux. While OpwnRT—like pfSense and OPNsense—can be installed on almost any computer, the benefit of OpenWRT is that it can also be installed on various routers, such as TP-Link and Netgear routers. For that reason alone, it can be a bit more attractive than the aforementioned solutions. It is highly customizable, but does require some experience in order to set it up the way you want, and is not ideal for beginners.

Pros

Customizability

OpenWRT is highly customizable. You can customize it almost any way you want.

Protocols

OpenWRT supports most VPN protocols.

Hardware

OpenWRT, like pfSense and OPNsense, can be installed on most hardware. OpenWRT can also be installed on a lot of normal routers such as TP-Link and Netgear, which arguably makes it a bit more attractive than pfSense and OPNsense. You may be able to install it on a router you already have, unlike OPNsense and pfSense which you may need to purchase new hardware for.

Cons

Hard to use

Like OPNsense and pfSense, OpenWRT can be a bit hard to use. Anything you want to configure in OpenWRT you can, but it requires a lot of network knowledge to configure properly. In a lot of aspects, OpenWRT is easier to use than pfSense and OPNsense. But in some others, it is more difficult.

Maximilian Holm