Though every router has its own specifics and each VPN provider takes a slightly different approach to setting up their service through a router, there are a number of common aspects that we can go over for VPN routers. We are going to elaborate on a number of scenarios; from commonly used steps to more specific problems, like different types of routers and them being used for different purposes. Apart from your preferences, your device and the service you’re looking to setup (a VPN or smart DNS service), there are specific parameters that are most probably assigned differently in the case of most companies. We are going to provide general information about what these can be, but listing every instance of it would make this article way too long for a healthy read. All in all though, it can be said that setting a router up is a lot less complicated than it sounds. The different types and also VPN companies pay very close attention to provide you with detailed instructions to get your private network to work.
There are two main ways to check if your router is compatible with VPN services. First and foremost, you must check the type of software you use on your device and also whether or not it is outdated. If any of these are true, the usual case is installing a firmware upgrade. Firmware can be best understood as specific programs; software that simply enables your router to be usable in unison with VPN. The other solution is to set up a second router only for the purpose of running VPN traffic through it.
It is also wise to inform yourself through the setup guides of the VPN company you are subscribed to. Even though the process of setting up a router for VPN is similar in its major steps, smaller details might vary from service to service.
When you newly purchase a router, the easiest way to identify if it supports VPN or not is by asking of course, but if you are more self-indulgent, the box of the device usually indicates it. If you see a “DD-WRT” or “Tomato” text – the two most common types of open-source firmware associated with VPN – you are in the right place. In fact some routers, like the Asus RT-AC88U AC3100 or the Netgear Nighthawk X8 R8500 AC5300 are specifically designed for VPN connections and activities done with them such as streaming or playing video games.
Flashing Your Router
There are four types of widespread router firmware today, apart from the default router setups: DD-WRT , Tomato , OpenWRT and OLEG. Flashing a router refers to a device that does not use any of these software. The device at hand is upgraded by either of these, enabling a good number of new utilities to enjoy. A single router can be flashed by any of the above. Most VPN companies support the open-source firmware software DD-WRT and Tomato. Both of these are based on Linux and are the most steady and popular choices for VPN routers today. Chances are if you go with a quality VPN provider, both Tomato and DD-WRT will be supported.
DD-WRT is more advantageous than a manufactured router’s out-of-the-box software for multiple reasons. First, and least relevantly, most routers today are capable of IPv6 connection, but the manufacturer’s setup does not use it at all. If you also want to have some VPN fun, this should not be a problem; most companies do not support IPv6 either. However, DD-WRT is constantly developed, while a standard router setup can barely ever be changed. The reason for this is that organizations that sell routers are better off financially if they just put out another model with better statistics than constantly improving one capable device (or so they think).
You can also personalize your Wi-Fi connection with DD-WRT, but not in the manufactured state. And, on top of these, DD-WRT is completely legal. The only thing you lose with it is warranty. When flashing a router to DD-WRT, we recommend you do a thorough search to figure out if your device is supported AND if your VPN company supports DD-WRT. This is a Linux-based solution, and setting things up requires some Linux commands to type in. Not many people are experienced with this operating system, and thus if you are new to it, following instruction guides is a must!
This quick tutorial intends to give you a basic idea about how a VPN router setup works. There are four very important tasks that you must complete.
1. Backup Current Settings
Regardless of you working with one or multiple devices, we definitely advise you to save the settings of all of your routers before messing around with them. Making a simple typing mistake is common and if things go haywire by some mysterious means, it is good to have a backup load the healthy settings back in from.
2. Wireless and LAN Settings
Secondly, you need to adjust the settings of your wireless and LAN networks, depending on the VPN company’s instructions and the actual router system you want to create. For example, if you work with a single router, LAN is generally turned off or is unnecessary. Additionally, this step requires you to input the company-specific data needed to set the router up for their own type of VPN connection. This can include encryption info, the algorithm used, and so on. Both DD-WRT and Tomato have setup pages reserved for VPN.
3. Turn Off IPv6, Switch on IPv4
We cannot emphasize enough that today, there is next to no IPv6 support among VPN companies. Connections generally use IPv4 and therefore it is vital to do things before setting a VPN router up. The first is turning off your current IPv6 connection if you have one, and the second is disabling it and enabling IPv4.
4. Launch Your VPN
Then, the last step is simply activating the VPN, which should be done with a click of a button on DD-WRT and Tomato. Always remember to closely follow the instructions of the VPN company you are associated with. You might need to input a few Linux commands into the router, since DD-WRT and Tomato are Linux-based programs. This is really no big deal and VPN setup guides always pay close attention to topics that sound difficult (but they aren’t at all).
Pre-Flashed, Pre-Installed VPN Routers
A pre-flashed router is a term applied to a device that is all set for VPN-powered connections. To explain it, it is important to state that DD-WRT and Tomato are massively popular as firmware for VPN usage today. So much so that router companies assemble products that are already upgraded with these firmware. And, since a DD-WRT or Tomato’s presence makes a router a flashed one, a pre-flashed device is one that can be purchased with firmware from the get go. Additionally, some VPN companies also team up with websites like FlashRouters.com to reserve certain models for cooperation with a VPN service.
In every single case of FlashRouters.com’s offerings, you will get the firmware and your VPN service already installed on your device, making it good to go for an instant VPN setup. You will mostly be able to find three brands of routers associated with VPN: Asus, Netgear and the first firmware-friendly company: Linksys. If you are curious about FlashRouters.com’s selection of machines, we can only recommend giving a closer look. Next to a written overview, you can also find a complete list of the tiniest details you might have never even heard of. IF there are any add-ons available for a given product, you will also be informed about them on the same page. Thus in our opinion, tech support on the site is fantastic.
Dual Router Setup
A dual router system means two separate but interconnected routers that can be set up in particular ways. In the case of VPN, we are now going to present the basic steps and also mention the advantages of a dual router system.
Basically, a dual router system for VPN has two distinct machines in it. The first is your regular one that helps with everyday internet connections. The trick is that the second router is plugged into the first. Additionally, the second device is set up for work with VPN. The advantage of this is that you can change between a regular, unprotected internet connection at full speed and a VPN-enhanced one at will. And if the second one is a flash router, you also increase the performance of your online connection.
Generally, a dual router system is great to avoid the limitations from the side of ISPs. You are more often than not presented with pricing structures and hardware for internet access that are more favorable to ISPs than to you, the customer. By introducing a second, a VPN router into the mix, you can bypass your restraints and browse a more free internet.
Dual Gateway Setup
A dual gateway is somewhat similar in concept to the dual router, but in this case, there is only one router involved. Do not immediately run to this solution, though: it has its own restrictive perks. For a dual gateway, it is highly recommended you use a flash router.
The main advantage of such a system is that you can decide whether some types of internet traffic should or should not be protected by a VPN. Being selective about what do you want to protect is great. For example, there might be foreign websites that you otherwise cannot access and need VPN for, but you are also interested in browsing local domains. A VPN applies for the entire network by default, and its speed reduction might not be the most favorable thing for local internet surfing. A dual gateway solves this problem as you can create a “whitelist” of network devices than can interact with VPN or not. This is done by setting up two different Wi-Fi networks on the same router. If you use the Tomato firmware, you can also customize which websites you want to protect.
A VPN extender refers to a specific type of router system. It is essentially a dual router network, but one in which there is no physical connection between the two (or more) devices, either because they are too far apart or there is no ethernet port on one of them that enables cables to be plugged in. So, the second router is set up in a wireless manner. This is done so by assigning an SSID key (an identifier) to the main router that can be shared between it and the other one. A router that is set up this way – as a VPN extender – is called a dedicated VPN router. Most Wi-Fi connections work on this principle; they share their identification data with other devices so that more and more of them can be connected to the same network.
This phenomenon happens because of the IPv4 problem. The second latest type of identification protocol – IPv4 – has a limited set of addresses it can host, and the internet has grown beyond it. With the help of techniques like a VPN extender, you can enable multiple machines to get internet access from the same address. Even though IPv6 is more advanced, we recommend using IPv4 for now, as VPN companies barely ever support the former.
Smart DNS Router Setup
Flashed routers not only play nicely with VPN, but with smart DNS as well, another type of online access service. While the former deals with changing IP addresses for protecting your identity, the latter gets its works done with the help of temporary DNS address modification. Routers too can don these mantles. If you set up one, then whenever your internet connection starts, you will automatically be connected to the smart DNS network you assigned to it. Remember that such a service will not unblock the total content of a given country like VPN. Smart DNS is focused on providing access to streaming websites, so you will only be able to access those. Similarly to above methods, a smart DNS router can also distribute signals in a house or office building, for example. Accessing websites like Netflix, Hulu or Pandora is thus possible on a router basis as well.