Most people that use a VPN do so through a VPN client on their personal devices. There is an alternative however, it’s possible to configure your VPN on your router instead. The main advantage of this approach is that you only need to configure a VPN on one device, which will then protect all of the devices on your home network. This means you can protect devices that don’t support running a VPN directly, such as some smart TV’s. Unfortunately, not all routers support installing a VPN. Some routers that don’t support installing a VPN by default, can have third-party firmware installed that includes support for the feature.
A VPN router is a router that is designed to support running a VPN. This generally involves both ensuring software support and upgrading the hardware of the VPN, to ensure that it has the processing power necessary to encrypt and decrypt data fast enough to not cause performance issues when in use.
To run a VPN on a router, you’ll generally be required to provide an OpenVPN configuration file in the OVPN format and any supporting OpenVPN configuration files. These configuration files need to be provided by the VPN provider. Not all VPN providers offer support for the OpenVPN protocol or provide configuration files. If you can’t find a way to download a configuration file from the VPN provider’s website or through their VPN client app, you should contact the provider’s customer support for help.
If your router doesn’t support running a VPN by default, it may be possible to install a third-party firmware solution, although only some routers have available firmware. The process of installing the firmware correctly can be complicated and involves the risk that your router could be “bricked” or rendered useless. As such this option is not recommended for people that are not confident that they know what they are doing. Those less experienced or confident with the process could buy a VPN router designed to work with a VPN, or purchase a router with the modified firmware pre-installed, from stores like FlashRouters.
If your VPN is configured on your router, it encrypts all communications between your router and the VPN server. This includes the information any of your devices send through the router to the internet, but only once they’ve left the router. Any communications are not protected by the VPN while on your network. As such any device on your network can listen to the communications of other devices, including devices owned by strangers. So be careful allowing untrusted devices on your home network.
Running a VPN on your router counts as only a single licence use, while protecting all the devices on your home network. This can be very useful if you have a large number of internet-connected devices on your home network.
Using a VPN on both your router, and on a device that’s connected to it at the same time, from the same VPN provider, can cause some performance or stability issues in your connection. It’s recommended that you only use one VPN connection at a time. As such, if you’re running a VPN on your router, it’s a good idea to disable the VPNs on your mobile devices when you get home. Just remember to turn the VPNs back on when you leave.