Installing a VPN onto your OpenWRT router is quite simple, so long as you have the right provider and good instructions. In today’s article, we aim to equip you with both. You’ll learn how to configure and use your VPN router, plus learn about the market’s top-ranked VPN providers that are OpenWRT compatible.
Virtual private networks deliver a fast, secure, and hassle-free method of keeping all of your online activity safe. They’re remarkably convenient to use on just about any device, though the one downside is you have to install an app on every piece of hardware you want kept safe. This is fine with common things like smartphones and PCs, but if you have many types of devices you want to secure, installing unique software on each one isn’t always an option.
One of the best ways around this VPN limitation is to install the software directly your router, bypassing the need to use a separate app for each device. A VPN router can protect your entire home network automatically. It can even secure the connections of people visiting your home and borrowing your Wi-Fi.
tl;dr: These are the best VPNs that are compatible with OpenWRT routers:
- NordVPN – Best Router VPN – NordVPN is the Swiss army knife of the VPN industry, and there’s no more robust cybersecurity package available to protect your OpenWRT router.
- Surfshark – A scrappy upstart provider that easily offers some of the best value for money.
- ExpressVPN – The premium choice for anyone in need of maximum VPN network speeds.
- CyberGhost – Extremely user-friendly, with a metric ton of servers.
- PrivateVPN – Our smallest recommended provider, but one which owns its entire network for complete oversight.
- PureVPN – Another kitchen-sink VPN with a ton of utility for breaking harsh censorship methods.
OpenWRT is one of the best pieces of open-source router software available today. By installing it to your device, then adding a VPN to it, you’ll have fast access to incredibly powerful features perfectly designed to keep you and your home network secure. Then you can safely connect game consoles, smart appliances, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and so much more.
Choosing the Best VPN
Installing a VPN directly to your router takes a little more know how than just downloading an app. Despite this, it’s still a fast and easy way to protect your home internet. Once you get things set up, you’re safe and sound for good, no need to double check to make sure an app didn’t crash or accidentally disconnect.
RELATED READING: What Is Kill Switch Protection?
Choosing the right VPN for your OpenWRT connection will take a little research, however. Not all services live up to the promises made in their marketing literature, and not all will support OpenWRT by default. Below are some of the most important criteria you should prioritize when looking for a reliable VPN for your router.
- Router support – Your VPN must state that it supports OpenWRT, otherwise you’re out of luck.
- Logging policy – To retain your privacy, always go for VPNs with a strict zero-logging policy.
- Reputation – A good VPN should have lots of satisfied paying customers.
- Security – Strong privacy features like 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch are vital for online security.
Top VPNs Compatible with OpenWRT Routers
When going to the trouble of installing a VPN on your OpenWRT router, you want a provider that doesn’t make any compromises on speed or security. These are the best providers for your VPN router:
NordVPN has some of the fastest speeds and most feature-rich configuration options of any VPN. Part of the method behind this is the company’s huge server network, which currently sits at over 5,500 in 59 different countries. You’ll always have a reliable connection in the region of your choosing with NordVPN. There are even exclusive specialty servers you can connect to for added security, including DDoS protection, onion over VPN, and double encryption.
NordVPN delivers a thorough zero-logging policy on bandwidth, traffic, time stamps, and DNS access to ensure your activity is never stored long-term. An automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection features on the VPN’s software hide your identity, as well. 256-bit AES encryption keeps every packet of data locked down tight for a sturdy foundation of online anonymity and security.
This provider has strong support for OpenWRT and multiple other types of routers. NordVPN offers a full walkthrough for getting the VPN set up and running, conveniently located in their site’s help pages.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Very affordable plans
- Most VPN servers with different IP addresses
- DNS leak protection, kill switch
- Based in Panama
- Great customer service via chat.
- Some servers can be slow and unreliable
- Sometimes slow in procesing refunds (but always do).
Surfshark is the new guy who manages to make an immediate impression on everyone he meets. That’s because if there’s a modern need for specific VPN functionality, this provider offers it. Despite its budget price tag, there’s really very little you can’t do with Surfshark–including install it onto OpenWRT routers.
We love Surfshark for its incredible 256-AES-GCM encryption, cutting-edge tunneling protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, WireGuard–though you’ll only be using OpenVPN in this case), kill switch, IP/DNS/WebRTC leak protection, anti-malware, and streamlined interface. On paper, their network doesn’t look too impressive–just 800+ servers in 50 countries–but it’s a lot cooler when you realize every one of those nodes can be obfuscated, or break through tough censorship with the NoBorders method.
Indeed, Surfshark “just works” for basically whatever you throw at it. It even has a privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI), and independently-audited no-logging policy to boot.
- Every server optimized for unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more
- Every server is a speciality server
- No questions asked money back guarantee
- Based in the British Virgin Islands, where there are no data retention laws
- Responsive customer support available 24/7.
- Growing network doesn’t have same coverage as more mature VPNs
- New-kid-on-the-block status may not instill same trust as larger providers.
Read our full Surfshark review.
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs on the market. The service delivers incredible speed test results to and from locations around the world, allowing users to connect and surf, stream, or download without lag. It’s perfect for watching live TV, catching up on sporting events, grabbing large files through torrents, or watching 1080p and 4K HD movies. ExpressVPN installs without any hassle on a wide variety of devices, as well, and is extremely easy to use across the board.
ExpressVPN offers access to 3,000+ servers in 94 countries worldwide. Data is kept secure with 256-bit AES encryption and a zero-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. The apps also come with DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch for even stronger online privacy.
ExpressVPN offers easy installation for a number of routers and supports OpenWRT setups, as well.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off - link below)
- Super fast, reliable connection
- Secure encryption & VPN protocols
- No personal information logs kept
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- High cost for month-to-month users.
CyberGhost is a fantastic VPN to use if you want balanced features, fast speeds, and strong security. Users have full access to over 5,900 servers in 90 countries from the moment their account is activated, providing all the speed and non-local IP address you could ever need. No matter if you’re bypassing censorship blockades or just trying to stream movies from foreign countries, CyberGhost can keep your data secure (and it does it without complicated setups, as well).
CyberGhost uses strong privacy practices to keep you safe online, starting with 256-bit AES encryption on all data along with a zero-logging policy on traffic, time stamps, and IP address. DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch are standard with the company’s custom software for most platforms, as well.
CyberGhost supports router installs through multiple encryption types for OpenWRT, DD-WRT, and other router firmwares.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
- Great user experience and easy installation
- No leaks detected
- Strict no-logs policy
- Live chat support (24/7).
- IPv6 WebRTC leak in macOS
- Sometimes experiencing average speeds.
PrivateVPN strikes a perfect balance between security and speed. The full-featured VPN allows anyone to stay safe on the internet, whether they’re using mobile devices, tablets, or PCs to connect. The software is fast and easy to use, as well, which makes PrivateVPN the perfect service for keeping your data safe and secure.
PrivateVPN runs a small but fast network of about 150 servers in 60+ countries. This allows the team to maintain incredible speeds without sacrificing quality or connection options. The software locks down your data with 256-bit AES encryption, keeps your connection safe with an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection, and features a zero logging policy on all your traffic, as well.
This provider offers great support for OpenWRT routers as well as several other types of router firmware and brands.
PureVPN is a feature-rich virtual private network service that can provide far more than simple encryption and online anonymity. By installing the app, you get full access to an entire suite of security software, including everything from malware shields to app blocking features, DNS website filters, and even anti-virus protection. These features work no matter which device you run the apps on, and many provide added security even if you use PureVPN on your OpenWRT router.
PureVPN’s server network sits at an impressive 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries. Data that passes through this network is secured with 256-bit encryption and protected by a zero-logging policy on traffic, as well. PureVPN adds DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch to every version of its software for a solid privacy foundation, allowing you to stream movies and surf the web with complete peace of mind.
PureVPN offers installation options for its encryption services on a wide range of routers, including OpenWRT and DD-WRT.
Read our full PureVPN review.
Getting OpenWRT on a Router
Some routers come pre-installed with OpenWRT. Others require a manual installation after you unbox and set everything up. Let’s take a look at both scenarios.
Method 1 – Install it Yourself
OpenWRT is a free and open-source piece of software. It’s maintained by the community and can be downloaded and installed by anyone in the world. This makes it an incredibly useful release, but the downside is installing OpenWRT can be immensely complex.
If you’re familiar with flashing firmware to devices or have installed DD-WRT or Tomato on a router before, you’ll no doubt be ready to deal with OpenWRT. If you’re not, carefully consider whether or not you want to install it yourself. Any mistake in the long and complex process can ruin your router, maybe even permanently. The method below might be better suited if you’re new to router firmware flashing.
To install OpenWRT yourself, visit the official installation guide on the wiki. Read everything, assemble your materials, then cross your fingers and start the process.
Method 2 – Buy a Router with OpenWRT Pre-Installed
A more expensive but easier solution to getting OpenWRT on a router is to buy the hardware with OpenWRT pre-installed. This is becoming increasingly common as more and more users turn to open-source solutions to power their devices.
Many VPNs even offer router sales with OpenWRT and their VPN connection installed, configured, and ready to go. Check with your VPN provider before activating your subscription to see if they offer pre-installed router sales. You’ll pay a little more for the hardware, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a ready-to-go OpenWRT.
If you just want a router with OpenWRT installed, check with any retailer that sells routers. Stores like Best Buy and Amazon often have a selection of OpenWRT routers you can choose from to get the process started right away.
Using a VPN with OpenWRT
If you have a VPN service and have a router running OpenWRT, how do you get the two to work together? The setup process isn’t as complicated as flashing OpenWRT itself, but it’s also not as straightforward as running a VPN app.
Below is a quick overview of what you’ll need to know before using a VPN with your OpenWRT router. Always consult your VPN service’s support guides for specific instructions on how to set everything up, as the details will change depending on which VPN you’re using.
What is OpenVPN?
Using a VPN with your router doesn’t mean installing an app directly to the hardware. Instead, it leverages an OpenVPN connection built into the OpenWRT firmware itself. This allows just about any VPN to work with your hardware, provided it comes with the correct, compatible encryption methods.
OpenVPN can be confusing to newcomers, as it refers to both a piece of software and a protocol used by VPNs. The good news is you don’t have to worry about any of that when installing a VPN on your router. OpenWRT includes OpenVPN as part of its service, you simply need to configure it with your VPN’s details and you’re ready to connect.
What Are PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec?
Some VPNs use alternate encryption methods instead of OpenVPN, such as PPTP, L2TP, SSTP and IPSec. These are simply different styles of encryption and connection protocols that can be faster than OpenVPN, slower, and either more or less secure. If your VPN service suggests using one of these methods, you’ll need to follow those guidelines when installing it to your OpenWRT router. If you have an option, always stick with OpenVPN protocols for the best performance.
FULL GUIDE: VPN Protocols Explained
What is an .ovpn Config File?
When it comes to actually adding VPN service to your device, most companies take one of two paths: completely manual installations and downloadable .ovpn files. With the former you’ll be provided a list of details you’ll have to manually copy and paste into your OpenWRT settings. Once this is done, you’ll reboot your router and be able to connect.
The .ovpn file setup is a lot faster than the manual method. Here, the VPN provider gives you a file with all the information your router needs to connect to the VPN. You’ll simply download this from the company, then upload it via OpenWRT. All of the relevant details will be filled out on their own, and you can start surfing with full encryption and privacy immediately.
It isn’t easy to keep all of your devices safe with a VPN, especially when so many things need a connection to the internet. Installing apps on every piece of hardware is one option, but for fast and foolproof protection, you can always add a VPN to your router. OpenWRT and VPNs get along quite well together. If you’ve got the former, try adding a VPN to it by default and see how much your online security improves.
Run into any trouble getting your OpenWRT-equipped router protected with a VPN? Ask for help in the comments below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.