Setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your router is a great way to improve your digital security. You can protect an entire network at once by connecting all of your devices to a VPN router: PCs, laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, and even consoles. And don’t worry about the installation process — it’s easier than it looks.
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, 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 that 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, then 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
- 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” in it and press “Enter.”
- You should see your router’s IP address 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.”
- For Windows 10 users:
- 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 somewhere else. Click around to locate it.
If you didn’t find it, this means 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. Here are Surfshark’s instructions for setting up a VPN on:
- Make sure your connection is VPN-protected. To do this, you can simply search “what is my IP” in Google and see if it shows a different location than yours. If not, check if you carried out the instructions correctly and/or contact Surfshark customer support.
- Enjoy your VPN router!
Can all routers use a VPN?
No, not all routers support VPN software from the get-go. Here’s how you can check it:
Is your router not VPN-compatible? Here’s how to fix this
Disclaimer: Flashing your router incorrectly can damage your router 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 How to set up a VPN router.
Or you can just ditch the current router (don’t forget to recycle) and get one of these beauties instead. A pre-configured 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 that is 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 with free VPNs. Free VPN service providers may not have the security standards of paid ones. You will often find yourself dealing with slower performance, intrusive ads, and possibly even have 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 could easily access the VPN router settings whenever you need.
Setting up a VPN on a router: Pros and cons
There are many good reasons to install a VPN on a router – and a few downsides. Here they are:
Constant VPN protection
A more involved installation
Saves time for VPN installs on each device
Secures all home devices
Ensures buffer-free & private streaming
The connection between the device and the router isn’t secured
Protects all guests that come to your home
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 for 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 on how to set up your VPN router.
May we suggest Surfshark? The VPN comes with excellent setup guides for a variety of routers, possesses an optimized server network that offers great speeds, and if anything goes amiss, you’ll be able to rely on the 24/7 support service to help you get back on track. Even better: there’s a variety of pre-flashed (read: pre-configured) VPN routers (that is, with Surfshark already installed) you can choose from.
Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in any way that would potentially violate Terms of Service of other service providers.