Setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your router is a great way to improve online security while also protecting all devices connected to the network: PCs, laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, and even consoles. And don’t worry about the installation process — it’s easier than it sounds.
Table of contents
What is a VPN router?
In layperson’s terms, it’s when you run a VPN on your router, effectively encrypting the data of every device connected to your network — network-wide data encryption with only one device having a VPN. Pretty neat, amirite?
Aside from that, a VPN router can also refer to a router specially made suitable for hosting a VPN (because not every router has the option to run a VPN).
How does a VPN router work?
When you install a VPN app on your device and connect to a server, all the data from browsers, apps, games, services, and whatever is sent and received via a VPN connection between your device and the VPN server.
A VPN router acts like that for every device connected to it.
This means you don’t have to install VPN clients on every device you own, and the VPN protection is extended even to items that don’t natively support VPN apps. So, if you have a VPN on a router, it will protect all the devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network — smartphones, laptops, TVs, smart fridges, you name it.
How to install a VPN on a router
VPN installation begins with the VPN itself. If you don’t have one, consider purchasing a Surfshark VPN subscription!
And once the VPN part is covered, let’s begin with the technical setup:
- Open the router configuration panel. Access it by entering your router’s IP (Internet Protocol) address in your browser, just like a URL. If you don’t know your router’s IP address, here’s how you can find it:
- For Windows 10 users:
- Open the Start menu, type in, and select Command Prompt;
- A console window will appear; type ipconfig and press Enter;
- Your router’s IP address should be on the Default Gateway line.
- If you’re using macOS:
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu;
- Then, click on Network;
- Here, select Wi-Fi -> Advanced… -> TCP/IP;
- You will find your router’s IP address displayed next to Router.
- Check for a VPN client tab. Usually found under the advanced settings of your router. Depending on your router’s model and brand, this section may be elsewhere. Click around to locate it.
If you didn’t find it, your router is not VPN-compatible. But don’t worry — most routers can be made VPN-compatible with certain firmware (we discuss how to make your router VPN client-compatible below).
- Follow your VPN client’s guidelines. Most VPN providers have it on their support page; here are Surfshark’s instructions for setting up a VPN on:
- Make sure your connection is VPN-protected. To do this, you can search “what is my IP” on Google and see if it shows a different location. If not, check if you followed the instructions correctly and/or contact Surfshark customer support.
- Enjoy your VPN router!
Different types of routers that support a VPN
There are three main router types.
This type refers to routers provided by an internet service provider (ISP), and not all routers support a VPN and can’t be configured to support one.
The consumer type means a person can buy the routers off the store shelf. Most routers in this category may be compatible with a VPN but aren’t yet configured to support one.
Custom firmware or preconfigured routers
It’s a type that means the router is configured (flashed) to support a VPN before it’s put on a shelf and already has the appropriate software installed. These typically sell for a higher price.
If you’re reading this article, there’s a high chance your router is consumer-type. Here’s how you can check if your router supports VPN software from the get-go:
Is your router not VPN-compatible? Here’s how to fix this
Disclaimer: Incorrectly flashing your router can damage it and make it unusable. If you decide to proceed, do it at your own risk.
If your router is not already VPN client-compatible, you can usually set it up with third-party firmware to fix the issue. Here’s how:
- Find out your router’s IP address (follow the instructions from Step 1 of the How to set up a VPN on a router instructions above);
- Access your router. To access your router, enter the IP from Step 1 in your browser like you would a URL. This should bring up a prompt that asks you for your router’s username and password. If you haven’t changed them, you should find them in the router’s manual (Tip: you can access most routers by typing in admin for both username and password);
- Get the firmware for your router. Check if your router is supported by going to the DD-WRT website. Use the search box to find the model of your router (you can also try OpenWRT or Tomato if you can’t find your model on DD-WRT);
- Download the bin files from the DD-WRT website for your specific router. This is very important as the process can void your warranty or even make the router no longer work;
- Find the firmware install page. Many router interfaces have it under Administration. Click around until you find it;
- Upload the DD-WRT bin file. Again, make sure it’s the right file for your browser, then upload it and wait;
- Set a username and password. The default DD-WRT IP is 192.168.1.1. Enter that in your browser as a URL, and you’ll be asked to set a new username and password;
- Make sure your router is connected to the internet;
- Prepare for installation. Navigate to the VPN tab under Services and check the Enable bubble next to Start Open VPN Client;
- Now follow the steps above in the How to set up a VPN router section.
Or you can just ditch the current router (don’t forget to recycle) and get a VPN router instead. A preconfigured VPN router can save you some trouble!
Tips to get the most out of your VPN router
- Connect to the nearest VPN server. If you want speed, connect to a VPN server closest to your location. The more servers a VPN provider offers, the greater your options;
- Don’t double up unnecessarily. Don’t have a VPN running on both your router and your device — your VPN-protected router has got you covered! Doubling up on the VPN connections will decrease your internet speed;
- Look for the latest encryption standards. Newer encryption standards are faster and more secure. WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN are the best, most secure ones on the market. However, not all VPN routers support them. Make sure your VPN client isn’t going to waste on a VPN router that can’t fully support it;
- Be cautious of free VPN services. Free VPN service providers may not have the security standards of paid ones. You may find yourself dealing with slower performance, intrusive ads, and possibly even having your online activity logged and sold to third parties;
- Bookmark your router settings. That’s the router’s IP address we talked about before. Have it bookmarked on your browser so you can easily access the VPN router settings whenever you need.
Setting up a VPN on a router: pros and cons
You might be thinking, ‘’Why the hell do I need to install a VPN on my router,’’ and you’re within your right to do so. However, it all boils down to personal preference. Convenience might be the answer to most, but we’ve got to look at the pros and cons to form an opinion.
Saves time when installing the VPN
Secures all home devices at all times
Ensures buffer-free & private streaming
The connection between the device and the router isn’t secured
Protects all guests that come to your home
A more involved installation
Also works on devices you can’t install a VPN on
Take your VPN router out for a spin
Setting up a VPN router may seem daunting, but it’s not that difficult when you’re well-informed. The benefits — time saved on VPN installation, all connected devices secured in one go, and so on — speak for themselves. Having read this article, you’re now armed with the knowledge of how to set up your VPN router.
May we suggest Surfshark? The VPN has excellent setup guides for various routers and an optimized server network that offers great speeds. If anything goes amiss, you can rely on the 24/7 support service to help you get back on track. Even better: there’s a variety of pre-flashed (read: preconfigured) VPN routers (that is, with Surfshark already installed) you can choose from.
Disclaimer: We prohibit using Surfshark services for any unlawful purposes as it is against our Terms of Service. Please be sure to act in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations of streaming service providers.
How to set up a VPN on a router:
- Access your router’s control panel by typing in your IP in the browser’s address bar;
- Install the VPN firmware on your router by downloading it from the DD-WRT website;
- Install a VPN app;
- Go to the VPN tab from the router’s control panel;
- Enable the Open VPN Client and enter your server info;
- Hit Save and Apply Settings.
Can I use a VPN on a Wi-Fi router?
Yes, you can install and use a VPN on your router, but first, check if it’s VPN-compatible and the router model. A VPN on a router encrypts ALL of your network’s data, ensuring a surefire way of staying safe online on any device using Wi-Fi.
Can you set up a VPN on any router?
You may install a VPN on most routers, but in some instances, it’s considered illegal. ISP-issued routers naturally don’t support a VPN but can be flashed to support it; some internet providers state in their terms of service that changing their issued firmware or software may result in fines (read: illegal).
Should I put a VPN on my router?
Generally speaking, it’s more convenient and solves the problem of “my device doesn’t support a VPN app.” A router encrypting all of the passing data at once does the encrypting for every other device and removes the need to install and turn on a VPN app whenever you want to stay safe online.