If you‘re looking for the most convenient way to protect all the devices in your home or office from hackers, spies, and nosy ISPs, setting up a VPN on your wireless router is the answer. By installing VPN software directly onto your router, you can encrypt internet traffic for every connected smartphone, laptop, tablet, gaming console, streaming box, and IoT gadget with zero effort on your part.
I know this all probably sounds incredibly technical if you‘re not already an IT whiz. But don‘t worry! In this beginner-friendly guide, I‘m going to walk you through everything you need to know about VPN routers step-by-step.
By the end, you‘ll have all the knowledge required to turn your normal, insecure router into an ultra-safe, encrypted fortress for all your Wi-Fi devices. Just stick with me!
Why You Absolutely Need a VPN Router in 2022
Before we dig into the nitty gritty setup details, you might be wondering why a VPN router is so important in the first place.
The short answer? Your online privacy is under attack from all sides:
ISPs are spying on you – Internet providers can legally record your browsing history, sell it to advertisers, and mine it for personal details.
Hackers are everywhere – Public Wi-Fi is a major risk. It‘s super easy for shady folks nearby to snoop on your connection and steal passwords, bank info, emails, and more.
Big Tech tracks everything – Sites like Google and Facebook profile your interests and behaviors through invasive monitoring of your online activity.
Governments undermine encryption – Laws like the UK‘s Snoopers‘ Charter force ISPs to log connections. Australia is trying to ban end-to-end encryption entirely.
Devices rat you out – Smart home tech with sloppy security design easily lets hackers access cameras and microphones.
Companies get hacked – Not a week goes by without another data breach. 3 billion(!) records were compromised in 2021 alone.
Thankfully, a VPN router lets you take back control and surf the web safely:
Encrypts all traffic – A VPN scrambles data leaving your devices so no one can see what you‘re doing.
Changes your IP address – Masks your real location and physical address to prevent profiling.
Bypasses geographic blocks – Lets you access region-restricted content by appearing to connect from another country.
Prevents tracking – Your online movements can‘t be monitored, recorded, or sold when you use a VPN.
Shields public Wi-Fi – Securely encrypts connections from coffee shops, airports, hotels, and other public hotspots.
Hides modem MAC address – Your router‘s unique MAC ID is concealed to offer another layer of anonymity.
So in a nutshell, a VPN router lets you take back your online privacy once and for all! Next I‘m going to cover the two essential ingredients for building your secure home network.
VPN Router Setup Requirements
To setup a smooth, fast VPN connection across all your household devices, you need:
1. A High-Quality VPN Service
Choosing the right VPN provider is absolutely crucial. You want to look for:
Proven speed – Using a VPN adds processing overhead that can slow down your connection. A top provider like ExpressVPN optimizes servers to minimize speed loss.
Zero logging – Vital for privacy. A no-logs VPN means no recording or retention of your activities ever.
Watertight encryption – Military-grade protocols like AES-256 bit encryption keep your data safe from prying eyes.
Abundant servers – More server locations means you can always connect somewhere nearby for better speeds.
Trustworthy reputation – Check sites like VPNMentor for unbiased reviews to avoid shady newcomers.
Based on extensive testing and research, I recommend ExpressVPN as the best VPN for routers in 2022.
Some standout benefits include:
Blazing fast speeds with an average of just 8% reduction.
3,000+ servers spread across 94 countries for unlimited access anywhere.
256-bit AES encryption plus a strict no-logging policy to protect your privacy.
24/7 live chat support to instantly help with any connection issues.
With a proven track record and rave reviews from experts, ExpressVPN checks all the boxes for premium protection and performance.
2. A High-End Gaming Router
In addition to robust VPN software, you also need advanced router hardware capable of efficiently handling the extra encryption overhead.
Here are the key specs to look for when shopping for a VPN router:
Dual or Tri-band WiFi – Multiple wireless bands prevent congestion and interference for top speeds on all devices.
MU-MIMO & Beamforming – Cutting-edge WiFi innovations allow simultaneous connections to multiple clients.
USB 3.0 Port – Faster USB connectivity for adding external storage drives and printers.
1.8GHz+ Dual Core CPU – A faster processor is essential for buttery-smooth VPN throughput.
Gigabit LAN Ports – Wired connections of 1Gbps or higher prevent bottlenecks.
Based on the above criteria, I recommend the Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 AX6000 as the ultimate router for powering a home VPN in 2022.
With its quad-core 2.2GHz CPU, tri-band WiFi reaching speeds up to 4.8Gbps, eight gigabit ethernet ports, and 2 USB connections, the Nighthawk RAX120 has all the processing muscle and top-end hardware features needed to deliver your max VPN performance.
Now that you‘ve got the right VPN service and hardware picked out, let‘s get into the fun part – setting up your encrypted router!
Step-By-Step: Configuring Your VPN Router
In this section, I‘ll demonstrate how to configure two of the most popular router firmware platforms to connect with your preferred VPN provider:
Option 1: Setting Up VPN on an Asus Router
Asus makes some of the most advanced consumer wireless routers on the market. Many modern Asus models come with built-in VPN functionality via their AsusWRT firmware.
Here‘s how to get your VPN up and running:
Step 1 – Update Firmware
Before getting started, log into your Asus router admin panel and ensure you‘re running one of the following firmware versions:
AsusWRT – Native OpenVPN support. Found on RT-AC86U, RT-AC5300, RT-AC88U, and other models.
AsusWRT-Merlin – Enhanced AsusWRT firmware with added tweaks. Download from here.
If needed, manually upgrade to the latest AsusWRT firmware from Administration > Firmware Upgrade.
Step 2 – Access Admin Interface
In your browser, navigate to:
This automatically redirects you to your router‘s IP address. Enter your admin username and password when prompted to log in.
Step 3 – Configure VPN
From the sidebar menu, click on VPN > VPN Client to access the VPN configuration page:
Here we‘ll setup your new VPN connection profile.
Step 4 – Create Profile
Click the Add Profile button. In the new window, fill in your details:
- Profile Name – Name your connection, like "ExpressVPN New York"
- VPN Username
- VPN Password
- Interface – Choose WAN to encrypt all traffic
Step 5 – Upload VPN Files
To connect, you‘ll need the
.ovpn file from your VPN provider for your chosen server location.
Click Choose File, select the
.ovpn file, and click Upload. Repeat this process for your
ca.crt certificate file.
Step 6 – Connect to VPN
Click OK once the files have uploaded successfully. Back on the main page, locate your new profile and click Connect.
Confirm the profile shows a green checkmark indicating an active VPN connection! Now your traffic is safely encrypted.
And that‘s it! Setting up VPN on an Asus router is quick and easy thanks to the built-in AsusWRT firmware. Next I‘ll show you how to configure VPN using DD-WRT firmware.
Option 2: Setting Up VPN on DD-WRT
DD-WRT is a widely supported open source firmware that unlocks advanced functionality like VPN support on compatible routers.
Here‘s how to get OpenVPN up and running on DD-WRT:
Step 1 – Install DD-WRT
First, you‘ll need to install DD-WRT if your router didn‘t come with it pre-installed:
- Download the correct DD-WRT firmware for your model from here.
- Go to Administration > Firmware Upgrade on your router‘s admin page.
- Select the DD-WRT
.binfile you just downloaded.
- Click Upgrade and wait for installation to complete.
Once flashed, DD-WRT will reboot your router. Log back in at
Step 2 – Initial Setup
When you first launch DD-WRT, you‘ll be prompted to create a new password. Next, under Setup > Basic Setup:
- Choose your router‘s local IP address (e.g.
- Select your Time Zone
- Configure your WiFi SSID and password
Then under Security > Firewall, disable the SPI firewall to allow VPN tunneling.
Finally, reboot once more for the changes to take effect.
Step 3 – Configure OpenVPN
Head to Services > VPN and open the Client tab to setup your VPN connection:
- VPN Type – Select OpenVPN Client
- Server IP/Name – Enter your VPN provider‘s server domain or IP
- Port – Leave as default 1194 unless specified
- Tunnel Device – Should be
Step 4 – Add VPN Credentials
- Certificate – Copy and paste your
- Private Key – Copy and paste your
- CA Certificate – Copy and paste your
- Username – Your VPN username
- Password – Your VPN password
You can obtain these by downloading your VPN provider‘s
.ovpn config file.
Step 5 – Start the VPN Client
Click Apply Settings to save, then click Start OpenVPN Client. Confirm your public IP has changed – you‘re now connected!
It takes a bit more elbow grease to get VPN working on DD-WRT, but the open-source firmware offers tons of customization potential.
Getting Over the VPN Router Learning Curve
I know that was a boatload of information! If your head is still spinning from all the technical nitty gritty, I totally understand.
Don‘t get discouraged though. Here are my best tips for getting over the initial VPN router learning curve:
Start with the easier setup options – If you‘re a networking newbie, I‘d recommend choosing a user-friendly router like AsusWRT to start with. The built-in VPN functionality keeps things simple.
Pick a top-rated, beginner-friendly VPN – Go with a provider like ExpressVPN that offers 24/7 live chat support. Their experts can walk you through any setup issues.
Take your time and don‘t skip steps – Slowly work through each configuration section step-by-step. Rushing through can lead to frustrating errors.
Keep your manual handy – Have your router and VPN provider‘s setup guides on hand for reference. They often contain hardware and software specifics not covered here.
Try a trial setup first – Sign up for a short VPN trial, and practice installing on your router without fully committing just yet.
Use visual examples as a guide – Study the screenshots and diagrams here to understand how the admin interface should look at each stage.
Leverage community help – Post on forums and subreddits if you hit a wall. Fellow users are often happy to assist.
Contact support if needed – Don‘t bang your head against the keyboard for too long. Ping customer support – that‘s what they‘re there for!
Stick with it! – The initial setup process can be tedious, but just remember – the privacy payoff is well worth it after getting your router VPN in place.
You‘ve got this! VPN routers may seem intimidating, but take it step-by-step and you‘ll get the hang of it before you know it.
Why a VPN Router is Safer than VPN Apps
Once you‘ve completed setup, you‘re probably wondering about the pros and cons of securing your network via VPN router versus individual VPN apps.
There are good reasons why a router-level VPN is considered superior:
Simpler setup – Configuring once centrally versus installing apps on every device. Changes push instantly to everything connected.
Reduced cost – No need for multiple VPN subscriptions since router counts as a single connection.
24/7 encryption – VPN router protection is always-on by default for any device that joins your WiFi network.
No app gaps – Devices like smart home tech and gaming consoles often can‘t run VPN apps, leaving them vulnerable.
Extra line of defense – Router VPN adds an additional layer of security on top of device-level VPNs for double the protection.
No configuration needed – Devices automatically route through the VPN tunnel without having to change any settings manually.
Better performance – Centralized processing prevents bogging down individual device CPU/battery resources.
Now the downsides:
Slower speeds – Maximum internet speeds are reduced roughly 10-30% on average. This depends on VPN provider optimization.
Potential connectivity issues – Certain sites/services may not work properly through a VPN tunnel. Workarounds like split tunneling can help.
Extra troubleshooting – More factors to consider when diagnosing problems. Determine if issue is the router, modem, ISP, VPN, etc.
Single point of failure – Router malfunction knocks out internet for all connected devices simultaneously.
Can get complicated – No getting around the added networking complexity compared to simple VPN apps.
So in summary, while a VPN router takes more effort to setup and has some drawbacks, the security and privacy benefits generally outweigh the negatives for most people. Combining both router and device-level VPN for maximum protection is an even better option.
Phew, that was a lot of information to digest! Let‘s recap the key takeaways:
VPN routers provide simple, set-it-and-forget security for all WiFi connected devices in your home. No more messing with individual apps.
Choose a speedy VPN provider with lots of servers like ExpressVPN and a high-end gaming router like the Netgear Nighthawk for optimal performance.
AsusWRT routers offer the easiest setup, but DD-WRT works well too for more advanced customization.
Follow each step slowly and carefully when configuring your VPN. Check screenshots and manuals if you get lost.
Don‘t get discouraged by the initial learning curve. The privacy benefits are well worth the effort once up and running.
While not perfect, a VPN router offers superior protection, convenience, and privacy compared to standalone VPN apps.
I sincerely hope this guide has demystified setting up your own VPN router. Please don‘t hesitate to contact me with any questions – I‘m always happy to help out!
Wishing you safe and private surfing from here on out 🙂