Using A Router With A VPN
A VPN router is a convenient device — it provides VPN connections to all your computers and mobile devices. You won’t have to install a VPN client on each device, and all your devices count as one connection with your VPN provider. Another advantage is that you can connect devices incapable running a VPN client — Kindles, Netflix boxes, Apple TVs and gaming consoles such as XBox and PS3.
The Most Convenient Option: Buy A Pre-Configured Router
The easiest way to get a VPN Router running is to buy one that is pre-flashed and pre-configured for a specific VPN service. This means the router has a VPN firmware installed on it (DD-WRT or Tomato), and the firmware replaces the router’s original built-in “operating system”, allowing it to be configured for VPN (PPTP, L2TP/IPsec or OpenVPN).
FlashRouters is a good vendor for such devices. They have routers that are pre-configured for the following VPNs providers Private Internet Access (our top recommendation), PureVPN, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, HMA, VPN.AC and StrongVPN. Note that you must purchase the VPN service separately from the router.
You can find a list of all the prec-configured routers here: FlashRouters.
Flashing Your Own Router
Another DIY option is to flashing a suitable router with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware. Below, we recommend two of the best routers for flashing. You can find a full list of Tomato compatible routers can be found here, you can find out how to configure Tomato here, and you can find a guide to setting up OpenVPN here.
The ASUS RT-N16 Router
ASUS makes a number of routers that support DD-WRT. We like the ASUS RT-N16 because it’s a wireless N (300Mbps) router that you can get for under $100. The router has two USB ports, meaning that you can attach any USB hard drive or thumb drive, thus making a fully functional NAS device. It also has 128 MiB of RAM, 32 MiB ready for flash and three detachable antennas.
As with just about any other ASUS router, you’ll need to flash it with a proper DD-WRT firmware. Stock firmware does not possess an openVPN client by default. However, the flashing process is straightforward when using the ASUS Firmware Restoration Tool. See this guide to putting VPN software on it.
The well with either PPTP, L2TP or openVPN protocol. When it comes to speed and stability, the openVPN UDP protocol is probably you best bet.
A user on Reddit describes his experience connecting to a VPN on this router:
I recently purchased the ASUS RT-N16 and it has worked really well for me. It has never failed or stopped working under heavy load, and that’s with two computers torrenting, xbox live, media streaming, and a web server all running. Also, ASUS encourages it’s customers to install DD-WRT on it.
The ASUS RT-N16 is available from Amazon.
Update: The ASUS RT-N66U is now out with “a 600 Mhz processor (25% more powerful than most high-end devices), 4 times the high-end industry norm in Flash Memory/RAM, Dual Band Wireless speeds up to 900 mbps and 2 USB ports”
The Linksys WRT45G Router
Linksys routers have supported VPNs for more than a decade. Any of their router with “WRT” in their names will support a VPN using DD-WRT. We chose the WRT45G Router, because it is available for under $50, while supporting Wireless-G (802.11g at 54Mbps) and Wireless-B (802.11b at 11Mbps. The ASUS router is obviously newer and more future-proof, but Linksys router is an inexpensive, reliable choice too.
Here is the procedure to set up a VPN on a Linksys router:
- Open your browser and type the IP of the Linksys router in the address bar. The software prompts you for a username and password
- Click the “Security” tab and select “VPN”
- Select “IPSec VPN Tunnel” from the “Tunnel Entry” listbox
- Enter the tunnel name in the textbox. This can be any name you wish that is recognizable to you
- Select “Subnet” from the listbox in the “Local Secure Group” section. Enter the internal IP address. Typical internal, small home networks are 192.168.0.1 with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.
- Select “Subnet” from the listbox in the “Remote Secure Group” section. Enter the IP address of the gateway. Typical internal, small home networks use192.168.2.0 with a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.
- Select “IP Address” in the section labeled “Remote Secure Gateway.” This is the remote gateway of the host provider for your DSL
- Select “Auto (IKE)” under the “Key Management” section
- Select “3DES” in the section labeled “Encryption” and “SHA1″ for “Authentication”
- Ensure that “PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy)” is enabled and enter a password
Sharing VPN Using WiFi
Another alternative is to set your desktop or laptop computer up as a WiFi hotspot, and to share your VPN connection with all connecting devices. It does require leaving your PC running whenever you want to use VPN on a mobile device however.