When you are using one of the best VPNs that supports a larger range of devices, you have two options—
- Protect each of your devices individually by installing the VPN natively; or
- Install the VPN software on your router and protect every device connected to your home’s network.
Now, of course, we are assuming that you are using a VPN that supports router installation. Most of the VPNs that feature highly in our top list do—ExpressVPN and NordVPN for example—but this is worth checking if you are not sure. If you are using a VPN that doesn’t offer router support, perhaps it is time for you to swap it out for a different provider?
And the other thing is making sure your router supports a VPN installation.
With a VPN installed on your router, the data on all devices connected to the router is protected when it leaves your network. This eliminates the need to protect every device individually. When you are not connected to your router with a VPN installed, your data will not be protected.
Installing a VPN On a Router: Initial Checks
There are two things you need to do first:
1. Check your VPN supports router installation
As we just mentioned, double check that your VPN service provider supports router installation and offers the necessary information and firmware. Not all VPNs are router-friendly.
We are going to be using ExpressVPN in this guide as the example.
2. Check you own a VPN-compatible router
If you are using a standard router provided by your ISP, you probably won’t be able to install VPN software on it or configure it to use a VPN. This isn’t always the case, but most of the time it is.
We highly recommend investing in a router that comes from a reputable manufacturer—e.g. Asus or NetGear—as opposed to using your ISP’s one anyway; they are often much better, faster, and have more features.
There are plenty of options when it comes to purchasing a suitable VPN router, so many in fact that it warrants its own article.
In general, though, these are your three options—
- VPN-compatible routers that come ready to go out of the box. They have intuitive firmware and support OpenVPN as standard, meaning all you have to do is configure your VPN connection info and log in. Examples of these are most of Asus’ models.
- Pre-configured VPN routers that let you set everything up with minimal effort. These often come pre-configured for a specific VPN. These are often more expensive, though. An example is ExpressVPN’s DD-WRT FlashRouter.
- You can also manually configure your own router (called “manual flashing”) and set it up for VPN installation. This can usually be done on routers sold by reputable providers. However, it cannot usually be done on ISP-provided routers.
Manual configuration is a very involved task that requires a lot of research, but don’t worry, it’s not too difficult! It’s simply a case of “flashing” your router by installing firmware such as:
- DD-WRT, compatible with most routers; or,
- Tomato, compatible with a more restrictive number of routers but works better with OpenVPN.
Still, we don’t recommend manual configuration unless you are comfortable with a very intense setup process.
Instead, invest in a reputable router brand that supports VPNs as standard such as those offered by Asus. These have integrated VPN functionality and it makes the job a whole lot easier.
Don’t buy a pre-configured VPN unless you are comfortable being tied to one VPN service provider.
VPN Router Installation: Step-by-Step on an Asus Router
Asus is one of the best router brands when it comes to VPN use. Most Asus routers come VPN-ready and can be set up very quickly with most leading VPNs.
Here are a few of Asus’ best models that support VPNs: RT-N66U, RT-AC56U, RT-AC66U, RT-AC68U, RT-AC87U, RT-AC5300, RT-AC3200, RT-AC3100, RT-AC1750, RT-AC88U, RT-AC66R, and RT-AC55U.
Got one of those? Let’s take you through the process step-by-step, using ExpressVPN as an example.
1. Go to Your VPN’s setup page
This can be found once you’re logged in. If you don’t have an account, get one here.
Once there, select ‘Manual Configuration‘ from the device list and then select ‘OpenVPN‘ along with the configuration files for the location(s) from the location drop-downs you want to install on your router.
Once you have done this, download and save the .ovpn files where you can find them later. Also, make sure you have your ExpressVPN username and password ready—the one provided on the setup page, not your login credentials—as you will be asked to enter them later.
2. Log in to your VPN-compatible router
In your internet browser, navigate to your router’s control panel by entering 192.168.1.1 in your search bar. This is the default address unless you’ve changed it. We’re using an Asus router. This will lead you to the Asus web interface.
Type in your username and password for your router. Unless you’ve changed this, both your username and password will be ‘admin‘ without the apostrophes.
When you’ve logged in, click on ‘VPN‘ in the ‘Advanced Settings‘ menu.
After you have done this, click on the tab that says ‘VPN Client‘ and then click ‘Add Profile‘. You are now ready to configure ExpressVPN.
You will see four fields—
- Description: Type in something memorable such as “ExpressVPN Connection“
- Username: Copy and paste the username provided on your setup page.
- Password: Copy and paste the password provided on your setup page.
- Import .ovpn file: Press ‘Choose file‘ then upload the .ovpn file you downloaded earlier.
After you have done this, click ‘Upload‘, ‘OK,‘ and then ‘Activate‘ to boot up ExpressVPN.
And voila – you should now be connected!
3. Check your connection
Before you go ahead and start using your devices, double check to make sure that you are connected to the VPN through your router.
Head on over to leak testing sites and run some diagnostics. In case of testing for IP leaks, you should see a flag and IP address.
If you see your own IP address and home country’s flag (if you are trying to connect to a different country), you are not protected and have done something wrong—go through the steps again and make sure you are doing everything properly.
If you see a different IP address and another country’s flag (unless you have connected to a server within the same country) you are protected and can browse the internet on all devices connected to your router with confidence that ExpressVPN is protecting you.
Best VPNs for Router Installation
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s only a small handful of VPN services that support router installation. Even then, only a few of these are good enough to be considered one of the ‘best’ for routers.
These are our picks—
Wonder why we used ExpressVPN as our example? It’s simple. ExpressVPN is by far the best all-around VPN. It is a leading provider, if not the leading provider, of VPN services that offers a huge network of fast servers that don’t compromise your privacy.
2,000+ servers from the U.S. to Europe to Africa (94 countries total, which is a huge number) and beyond protect your identity, enable you to bypass regional blocks, censorship, and safely torrent files, along with a host of other features including extensive router support.
ExpressVPN has several custom apps and pieces of firmware for router providers such as Asus, NetGear, and Linksys which makes router installation that much easier. If you’re a hardcore ExpressVPN fan, you can even buy a pre-configured ExpressVPN router. With their VPN router app, you can connect as many devices as you want.
If you ever have trouble setting up your router to work with ExpressVPN, they have a huge knowledge base that contains video tutorials. We can also vouch for their speedy customer support as we found out during our full review.
You can try ExpressVPN for 30 days risk-free with their 30-day money-back guarantee.
Coming in close second to ExpressVPN is NordVPN. They currently offer 5,000+ servers in 62 countries and they’re very fast, secure, and support everything from streaming to torrenting.
If you go with NordVPN, you’ll be able to take advantage of their desktop and mobile apps for VPN routers. This means you can manage your router connection remotely and easily just by logging in to the app. It also comes with a kill switch that automatically disconnects all your devices if the connection drops.
NordVPN lets you connect up to 6 devices at once.
Based in Panama, NordVPN operates an anti-logging policy which means no matter what you do, none of your data or information is ever captured. Even if it were, nothing could be done with it since NordVPN is based in Panama, outside the scope of any agreements between countries such as 5 Eyes.
NordVPN offers a 7-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
In less than 10 years since its launch in 2011, CyberGhost has grown in size to over 20 million users. Part of this success is thanks to the fast, reliable, and secure service with 2,000+ servers across 60 different countries.
While CyberGhost doesn’t have its own router app like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, you can find pre-configured routers for CyberGhost. They also have great setup guides for installing the VPN on your router.
You can connect up to 7 devices with CyberGhost. That means if you set up your router, you can stream Netflix, torrent, avoid government censorship, and hide your information on all your devices. All connections are protected by AES 256-bit encryption alongside OpenVPN.
CyberGhost also has some of the best customer support in the industry so, if you do get stuck, help will never be too far away.
You can try their service free for 24 hours with a 14-day money-back guarantee for their monthly plan, or a whopping 45-day money-back guarantee for all other plans.