How to Setup VPN on a Router

How to Setup VPN on a Router

/ James Masterson

The average internet user is continuously exposed to dangers concerning online security and privacy. Companies and hackers are trying to collect personal information for their uses, and there’s not much an average user can do. An excellent way to stay protected is to browse the internet using a Virtual Private Network or VPN in short.

Using a VPN will ensure a private, encrypted connection to the internet, which has many benefits to the average user. However, connecting your device to a VPN is a pain, and what happens when you have multiple devices that need protection, like if you’re in an office setting or using your gaming console?

To avoid the pain of connecting multiple devices individually, you can install a VPN directly to your router, ensuring safe browsing to all connected devices.

Router VPN Installation & Benefits

A VPN is an inexpensive solution to a serious problem, and everyone should consider using one. To make sure it’s always running on multiple devices, you need to install a VPN directly to your router. By doing this, your devices, co-workers, or friends that connect to your WiFi will also have the necessary protection.

Another advantage of installing a VPN directly to your router is that you avoid the annoyance of loading up the VPN time and time again. With a VPN service on your router, it’s running all the time, and you can connect multiple devices with ease. With a VPN already installed to your router, all you have to do is turn on the internet connection, and you’re good to go. The installation process is simple, but you need to ensure that you have the right router and a good VPN provider. You will need:

  • A router that supports VPN usage
  • VPN provider that supports router connection
  • A few minutes to set it all up

Router Settings & Setup

The first step is to make sure you have a router that can run VPN software. Not all routers support VPN usage, so you need to check the router’s manual or simply Google it. The simplest way to go about this is to google your [Router ID] + [VPN], and that should do the trick.

If your router does not support direct VPN installation, don’t worry — you still have a few options left.

One way to resolve this issue is to install a new firmware to your router, which is a process known as flashing. This is the default option to take if you want to keep your current router and avoid the hassle of buying a new one (which we will discuss later). Two of the most popular firmware upgrade options are DD-WRT and Tomato, and both support VPN usage. Not all routers support these firmware updates, so you need to check the compatibility lists:

Once you make sure your router supports new firmware, the installation process is relatively straightforward, and all you have to do is follow the instructions. The exact installation steps differ based on your firmware choice and the router model, but you can always refer to the official installation guides for each of the options:

We’ll talk more about this later on. Again, you must make sure your router is supported; otherwise, the installation may break your router entirely. The other options you have is to buy a new, pre-installed router that comes with a VPN installation, or to get a VPN-compatible router which gives you the option to choose your desired VPN provider.

Although the process seems complicated, it’s simple once you give it a go.

Choosing Your VPN Provider

When you are 100% certain your router supports VPN usage; it’s time to choose your VPN provider. It’s worth noting that regardless of what router options you chose, most VPN providers will meet the compatibility requirements. Premiums VPNs such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN can easily be installed to Tomato or DD-WRT routers, so no need to worry about compatibility.

When choosing a provider, you should instead look for performance metrics and great online support. Things like speed reports, server locations, and security standards are what matters when choosing a VPN. Take a look at this top 5 list for router-supported VPNs, which is up to date for the year 2020.

Once you got your router and VPN provider handled, it’s time to set it up for usage.

Setting up VPN to Your Router

As we already mentioned, the setup process differs based on which VPN provider you choose to go with. All you have to do is follow the installation instructions found on their website.

If your router is directly VPN-compatible, log in and set up the configuration to connect with your provider’s servers. Every VPN provider should have a detailed setup guide for this. For example, NordVPN offers detailed tutorials for every option that they support.

If your router isn’t compatible out of the box, it should be compatible with either DD-WRT or Tomato. In this case, you will have to install new firmware before configuring your VPN. This process is slightly longer, but it’s not as complicated as you may think.

To manually set up your VPN to a router, you have to do the following:

  • Download the firmware
  • Assemble your router
  • Flash the router
  • Connect the VPN client

Download Router Firmware

The first step is to choose which firmware to use while making sure it’s compatible with your router. The most popular options are either DD-WRT or Tomato, and you can check the fully detailed review here. Take your pick and double-check the compatibility by googling [Router ID] + [Firmware], this should give you enough information to download the file.

Assemble Your Router

The recommended apparatus for VPN setup is to use two routers and an internet connection. However, this is not always the case, and some routers can do the job on their own. Ideally, you want to have a primary router connected to both the computer and the secondary router used for VPN client software. You will need two ethernet cables to connect the primary router to your computer using the LAN ports, and to your secondary router using the WAN ports. Such configuration will allow your secondary router (powered by the VPN) to connect to your primary’s router internet connection.

Now that your VPN is connected to your router, and it’s time to install the firmware.

Flash the Router

As we mentioned earlier, every router works differently when it comes to upgrading new firmware, so check the user’s manual or look for instructions online. The process is simple once you get your hands on the instructions. Following the instructions and flash your router.

Connect the VPN Client

Once your router is upgraded with new firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato, you can connect it to your VPN client. The instructions for this process will depend on the VPN provider, so look up the tutorials on their website. For example, NordVPN makes this process easy using their FlashRouters app. Once you’re connected and logged in, you should have access to features such as location, server, and more. Again, the process is very much dependent on the provider, so make sure you check your provider’s website for exact instructions.

And that’s it — you manually set up a VPN to your router.


There are many benefits to setting up a VPN on your router, and it’s an excellent way to stay protected while browsing the internet. Although the process may seem complicated, it’s straightforward once you get your hands on the instructions. The process is different for each router model and VPN provider, so you will have to do some online research. This guide should give you enough basic information to proceed, and it’s up to you to decide how to move forward.

James Masterson
Meet the author

James is a software engineer and an information architect with a keen eye for detail. Among his key interests are enhancing the usability of our Windows 10 content, troubleshooting errors, and tech news.