4 Reasons to Set Up a VPN on Your Router (Instead of Your PC)
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You have a VPN account, and want it to run on all of your devices. Unfortunately the VPN service provider limits you to five concurrent connections. What can you do?

The answer is to set up a VPN on your router. Here’s why you should do that, and what problems you might face.

1. No Need for Individual Device Setup

When you sign up for a VPN, you’ll almost certainly get the option to install it on several devices. You might use this provision to set up the VPN client on a desktop PC, a smartphone, tablet, perhaps a media streaming device (like the Amazon Fire TV Stick). You may have a device left over for a family member.

Imagine setting up five VPN clients! This can potentially take up quite a bit of time, which is why setting up your router to connect to your VPN is a far better option.

VPN clients can cause your portable batteries to drain faster; they require additional CPU resources to deal with the encryption and decryption of data. Putting this load on the router, giving you a central point for configuration (which you can do from anywhere on your network) just makes sense.

2. Your VPN Is Always On

With a PC, your VPN might disconnect without warning; perhaps when the PC sleeps. But with your VPN set up on your router, this won’t happen.

The same thing might happen with a smartphone or other portable device. Battery management settings can result in the VPN dropping. When this happens, there is a potential for data to be transferred unencrypted.

If your life depends on total anonymity, this can be a frightening possibility.

Furthermore, if you’re trying to use a social network securely, without risk of ad trackers stalking your browsing activity, a moment of VPN-free activity could undo this.

3. Easier to Connect Devices Through the VPN

VPN accounts typically require a username, password, and perhaps some form of key (two-factor authentication) to be input when setting up. This probably isn’t something that you want other members of your household messing about with.

Yet you want them to engage in secure, private online activity.

Setting up your router with a VPN is the ideal solution to this. Partners, parents, kids, grandparents; whoever is using the web, you don’t want to saddle them with the additional strain of a VPN. While VPNs are straightforward to understand What Is The Definition Of A Virtual Private Network What Is The Definition Of A Virtual Private Network Virtual private networks are more important now than ever before. But do you know what they are? Here's what you need to know. Read More , they aren’t something everyone will understand. Whether the other users live in the same house as you, or as visitors, having the VPN running on your router means that you take that concern away from them.

4. Even Without a VPN Client, Devices Are Protected

Indeed, anyone visiting your home with a device they need to use online can do so with just the credentials you give them. Similarly, new devices you introduce to your network get online in the same way.

With the VPN installed on the router, finding a suitable client is no longer an issue. While most VPNs support Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, some don’t support Linux, for example. In this case, you have the option of setting up OpenVPN.

Smaller devices (such as IoT or smart home hardware) that don’t have VPN support, meanwhile, will not enjoy the support of your chosen VPN provider. And yet, some of the security issues with smart home hardware Why The Internet of Things Is The Biggest Security Nightmare Why The Internet of Things Is The Biggest Security Nightmare One day, you arrive home from work to discover that your cloud-enabled home security system has been breached. How could this happen? With Internet of Things (IoT), you could find out the hard way. Read More in recent years could be mitigated if the hardware connects to the internet via a VPN.

But if you have the VPN set up on your router, that’s no longer a problem. All devices on your network will connect to the internet via the VPN connection you specify. Privacy, and security, remain in your control.

Downsides to Setting Up Your VPN at the Router Level

As good as it is to have your router configured with a VPN, it isn’t ideal in all scenarios. Additionally, setting you your router as a VPN has some performance issues:

  1. Local resources become restricted. If you need to access a local source or service that uses VPN blocking, you’ll have a problem. For instance, in the UK, BBC iPlayer blocks VPN access, even from within the UK, using a UK VPN server. Other sites and services are following suit. The only solution here is to disable the VPN in your router.
  2. Bandwidth and speed are lowered. By setting up a VPN on your router, you’re essentially converting the device into a gateway. As a result, if all of your data is coming via this route, your internet connection will be slowed. This can be due to the processing required for encryption, as well as the distance between you and the VPN server.
  3. You’ll need to manually remove/change credentials if you switch VPN providers. It might be obvious, but it is also a frustrating fact. Switching to a different VPN (or even changing your password) means some manual revision of your credentials in the router.
  4. Few routers support VPN client functionality. Only relatively few routers support VPN client functionality. If yours doesn’t, you can buy a new one that does.

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Cost too much? Some routers can have VPN client functionality added by flashing a custom firmware, such as DD-WRT. Our list of the best VPN routers The 5 Best VPN Routers The 5 Best VPN Routers Instead of setting up a VPN account on every device, why not upgrade to VPN router and protect every device in the house all at once? Read More should also prove useful.

It’s Time to Set Up VPN on Your Router Instead

By now, you should have an idea of why you should set up a VPN on your router:

  • No individual devices to spend time setting up
  • An always-on VPN
  • Easier to connect to the VPN
  • Devices are protected without individual VPN clients

You’ll also be aware of what could cause problems:

  • Some local resources are restricted
  • Squeezed bandwith and lower speed
  • Lack of VPN client functionality
  • Router-level credential management

What you do next is up to you; but however you’re using the internet, make sure you’re behind a VPN! Our guide on setting up a VPN on your router How to Set Up a VPN on Your Router How to Set Up a VPN on Your Router Installing a VPN is a great idea. But running the VPN app on each device is a pain. The answer is to install a VPN on your router. Read More should help. Not sure which VPN to use? Check out our list of the best VPNs currently available The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More .

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  1. Registered User
    May 3, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Christian,

    Thanks for posting this article. Below I've shared some results from my own recent experience of setting up a router-based VPN that I hope will be helpful to people who may be wondering about any pros and cons.

    - - -

    1. Local resources become restricted.

    If you need to access a local source or service that uses VPN blocking, you’ll have a problem. For instance, in the UK, BBC iPlayer blocks VPN access, even from within the UK, using a UK VPN server. Other sites and services are following suit. The only solution here is to disable the VPN in your router.

    2. Bandwidth and speed are lowered.

    By setting up a VPN on your router, you’re essentially converting the device into a gateway. As a result, if all of your data is coming via this route, your internet connection will be slowed. This can be due to the processing required for encryption, as well as the distance between you and the VPN server.

    - - -

    I recently installed a router-based VPN and but haven't experienced any of the drawbacks described above. Last month I purchased a Linksys WRT3200ACM and through some trial & error I flashed it with DD-WRT's firmware and installed Private Internet Access as an OpenVPN client on the router (although PIA is incompatible with Netflix and the BBC iPlayer)...

    But even with PIA running on the gateway, I can still watch Netflix or something from the UK on my Mac by running Windscribe's VPN client or Viscosity locally, or even by using a Windscribe browser extension. Granted, there's an increase in my ping times from the double-hopping so it's not ideal for gaming but it works fine for streaming geo-blocked content.

    Also, I've had no problem accessing local sources using my network. For instance, my AirPort Time Capsule is now bridged to the Linksys and operates safely behind its PIA firewall, but it can still be used as a router for my laptop or phone and the speed of OTA file transfers to its storage drive has increased by nearly half at times and the external bandwidth to the internet has been excellent.

    I count myself lucky that everything with the VPN and network is working as desired. Has anyone else had different results or service conflicts after setting up a VPN-based router?

    -Jeff