When you install a VPN on your router, all devices connected to that router’s network will automatically be protected by the VPN. This can be very useful, for example when you want to protect your entire family when they go online. However, not all routers work with every VPN. Luckily, there are multiple special VPN client routers that you can set up yourself, so they’ll only connect to the internet via a VPN connection. A VPN that works very well with most routers is ExpressVPN:
By setting up a VPN connection on your router, you ensure that all data passing through the router is automatically encrypted and anonymized. Meaning you don’t have to install a VPN on all your devices separately; everything is encrypted once it passes through the router. Below we explain how it all works and give you a few tips on how to choose the best VPN router.
Reasons to install a VPN on your router
Most people simply install a VPN directly on their computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. This is often the easiest and quickest way to access the internet safely and anonymously. However, more advanced users may wish to set up a VPN on their router. There are several reasons why you might want to do this:
- By setting up a VPN connection on the router, all your internet traffic goes through the VPN server. You don’t have to install VPN software separately on every single device.
- Some Smart TVs or devices do not have designated VPN software. Installing the VPN on your router still gives you all the advantages of a VPN. One of the advantages is being able to unblock different streaming sites.
- Security companies often discover security breaches in public Wi-Fi, which shows that even secure Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable to hackers. This also applies to our home networks. By using a VPN, you make it extra difficult for hackers to break into your Wi-Fi network.
As soon as the VPN client on the router has been set up correctly, all the devices on the network are connected to the rest of the internet via a secure VPN connection. The following graphic shows what it looks like when your router is set up as a VPN client.
What should you look for in a VPN router?
Just like purchasing other hardware, there are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing a VPN router. In addition to general things like speed it is good to check out the following things:
- Installation process: In order to install a VPN on your router, you need to set up the router in a very specific way. This process is called flashing. When choosing a VPN router, you can get a pre-flashed router. You often have to order these from America, but they are an option if you don’t want to flash your router yourself. When putting together our list of best VPN routers, we paid attention to routers that can easily be flashed or routers that are pre-flashed.
- Network ports and connectivity: with routers you can set up different network ports or connections. This allows you to use a VPN on some connections, but not all. Moreover, it gives you the possibility to set up different VPN-servers on different network ports. This way you can have a local VPN tunnel on one port, and an American one on the other. This can be useful for watching American Netflix, without having to use a (slower) American VPN-connection for all your devices (if you don’t live in the US).
- Price: Of course, price is also a very important aspect to take into account when choosing a VPN router. The difference in price between certain routers is huge. Some VPN routers are four times as expensive as others. It is important to consider whether you really need all the extra options that these more expensive routers offer. For this reason we also looked at the price of the VPN routers when compiling our list of the best routers.
- Processor power: Usually when you choose a router, you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to the processor. However, this is an important aspect when looking at VPN routers. Because the router has to encrypt and decrypt your data via the VPN provider, the VPN router has to work a little harder than a regular router. That’s why we also looked at the processing power of the various routers.
In addition, you also have to pay close attention to the price of the VPN software itself. After all, most VPNs aren’t free. To make use of the VPN functionality of these routers, you have to get a VPN subscription as well.
The best VPN routers (to flash them yourself)
To get started, we will discuss five routers that you can set up yourself. These are so-called VPN client routers, that you can set up to connect to the VPN provider. If this process of setting up your own router seems too complex to you, you might prefer a router that is already set up by the store or manufacturer. Further on in this article we will therefore also discuss where you can buy routers that are already set up for VPN use (pre-flashed routers).
1. Asus RT-AC88U – Best option with 8 network ports
The Asus RT-AC88U is a great router VPN with 8 network ports. Because of its speed, number of ports, easy to install VPN software and the reasonable price, this router has deserved the first place on this list. The highest speeds with this router can be achieved with devices that support a 5GHz connection. All in all, this is a great choice: excellent performance, many ports, easy to install software and still a good price.
2. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 – Fantastic performance but slightly more expensive.
The Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 is an impressive piece of technology. This router looks more like a spaceship than a normal router. What is very nice about this router is that you can use a network port to determine whether a VPN connection should be used. This way you can choose to divert and encrypt only a part of your devices via the VPN connection. The predecessor of this router used to be our favorite, but with the arrival of the Asus RT-AC88U this router has dropped a bit.
You can also choose to set up multiple VPN tunnels. For example, one device can be connected to a local VPN server via the router, while another device (on the same network) is connected to an American VPN server. Useful if you want to watch the American Netflix, for example. With the button below you can order the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300.
3. Linksys WRT3200ACM – Solid option
The Linksys WRT3200ACM is extremely easy to set up in combination with most VPNs. Especially ExpressVPN, our favorite VPN provider, works very well with this Linksys router. When you have a subcription with ExpressVPN, you will receive an activation code. Enter this code in your new Linksys WRT3200ACM router and you are ready to use the internet safely and anonymously with all your devices!
You can use OpenVPN TCP and UDP as VPN protocols. Switching between servers is also very easy. This router is based on OpenWRT and the firmware of this version is specifically developed for ExpressVPN. Though this router still works very well with other VPN-providers.
4. TP-Link Archer C2300 – Cheapest
The TP-Link Archer C2300 may not be the best router on the list in terms of performance, but it still works fine. That’s why we recommend it as an entry-level model. Online security and privacy must be accessible to everyone, including those who don’t have the money for one of the aforementioned VPN routers.
Having said that, this router is probably the best VPN router of the moment in its price range. You can achieve excellent speeds with this router, though the best speeds are achieved when the connected devices support 5GHz.
5. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 – Fantastic router but very expensive and achieving high speeds on Wireless AX.
Although this router will be too powerful for many users, we still wanted to mention it as number 5 in our VPN router overview. It is probably the best router available at the moment, but the downside is that you can only reach the highest speeds with devices that support Wireless AX technology. Maybe this router deserves a higher place in the future, but for now this option is too expensive for many users and not all of its functionalities will be will be relevant for the avarage user.
How do you flash your router?
In order to flash your router, and thus ensure that the connected devices are connected to the Internet via a VPN connection, you need to take the following steps:
- Find your router in the router database of DD-WRT (on this page) and download the .bin file;
- Check the specific instructions on this DD-WRT page to find out how to install the new firmware exactly. If your router is not listed here, please Google your router in combination with DD-WRT;
- The easiest way is to change the firmware is by using Web-GUI:
- Reset your router (via the button on your router);
- Log on to your router’s management system via your computer, which can be accessed via your router’s IP address;
- Search the management system for where you can flash new firmware;
- Flash the firmware (this process may not be interrupted, otherwise your router may be permanently damaged);
- Reset your router;
- Your router is now flashed.
For more information on how to flash your router, please check out our DD-WRT article, which explains, in greater detail, how to flash your router.
The best VPN routers with pre-installed VPN firmware
Instead of flashing your router yourself, you can also choose to buy a router that is already correctly configured to work properly in combination with a specific VPN. This is called a pre-flashed router. We have selected a few routers that are already set up to work well with a specific VPN provider. Below you can find the best routers for ExpressVPN. We chose ExpressVPN because it is our number 1 preferred VPN provider, according to our tests and reviews.
- Super fast and simple VPN
- Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading and streaming (i.a. Netflix)
- 3000+ servers in 94 countries
To make use of the VPN functionality, you will need to get a subscription to the VPN provider that the router supports. Please note that all pre-flashed routers come from America and you will have to pay by credit card or Paypal. You also need to order a special adapter, if you live outside of the US and you have a different type of power outlet.
1. Asus RT-AC5300 DD-WRT FlashRouter for ExpressVPN
The first router we selected for ExpressVPN is the Asus RT-AC5300. This is a real terrific router. This router doesn’t just look like a powerhouse, it is. Internally you will find a very fast 1.4 GHz processor, externally you can see no less than 8 antennas. It allowzs you to easily connect 10 or more devices at the same time. This router is also described as the optimal choice for online gaming and watching videos in 4K quality.
This combination is ideal for streaming Netflix in high quality, or watching BBC iPlayer. With the button below you can order the Asus RT-AC5300. This router is set up to work perfectly in combination with ExpressVPN.
2. Linksys WRT3200ACM for ExpressVPN
We already discussed the Linksys WRT3200ACM in our top 5, but because this router works so well with ExpressVPN, we also put it on our list of pre-flashed routers. It is an excellent VPN router for ExpressVPN, and if you order it using the button below, you don’t have to flash it yourself.
How do you set up a VPN on your router?
Setting up and configuring the VPN correctly on your router is quite simple. This process is called flashing, in which you adjust the firmware of the router. You do need the right instructions though, because there is a small chance that the router will get damaged if you do it wrong.
OpenWRT is the most common open source package that makes your routers ready for a VPN connection. We have written an extensive manual on how to install DD-WRT and VPN on your router. In this manual we explain the process step by step and added images to make it even easier.
I already have a Wi-Fi modem, provided by my internet service provider, how does that work with a VPN Router?
Chances are you received a Wi-Fi modem from your internet service provider (ISP). If you still want to connect your devices to a VPN router, you have to buy it separately and connect it to the Wi-Fi modem of your ISP. The best way is to use a cable to connect your VPN router to your Wi-Fi modem. This allows you to reach the highest speeds. You also need to set your Wi-fi modem to ‘bridge mode’. This ensures that your Wi-Fi modem only transmits the internet to the next router and does not act as a router itself. This way you can still connect a VPN router with a standard Wi-Fi modem from your internet provider.
Conclusion VPN router
If you are looking for a good VPN router, pay attention to factors such as the installation process, the number of network ports, the price and the processor power. In order to give you a clear overview of the best VPN routers, we carried out a comparative research into the best VPN routers ourselves. Our top 5 of routers on which you have to set up your own VPN is:
- Asus RT-AC88U
- Asus ROG Rapture GT-AC5300
- Linksys WRT3200ACM
- TP-Link Archer C2300
- Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
You can also choose to order a pre-flashed router from America. You don’t have to install a VPN yourself, but it will cost you a little more money and you might need to buy a separate adapter to power your router. We would therefore recommend you to flash your router yourself using our DD-WRT step-by-step plan. Still interested in a pre-flashed router, we recommend these two for ExpressVPN: