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Guide to Setting up a VPN on Your Router
June 1, 2020
Maintaining a high standard for online security is increasingly important for everyone who browses the web. Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) on your router is one way that you can boost security and efficiency across multiple devices, adding confidence to your transactions and protecting your data from being intercepted.
A VPN is a key consideration for businesses, but individuals and households can benefit from using one, too. In this article, we’ll offer a straightforward guide for how to get started with your VPN. We’ll also provide some basic background information and other resources if you’re looking for different options.
What is a VPN?
VPNs allow you to bypass your ISP’s servers by directing activity through a secure remote server. Creating a link between your device and the server is typically called tunneling, which provides a secure end-to-end connection for all of your online activity.
This connection is called a private network. It can protect your identity by masking your typical IP address, and the encryption built into the VPN tunnel secures your information. Even if a third party manages to breach your data, they shouldn’t be able to make any sense of it. At the very least, it prevents your online data from being sold for marketing or misuse.
How to set up a VPN
Begin by unpacking and connecting your router for setup. To save trouble later, consider keeping the hardware specs and accompanying documentation available throughout the procedure. You’ll also want to have as much information as possible from your VPN provider before you get started, and their standard support options may be able to help in a pinch.
1. Sign in to your router
In order to set up a VPN on your router, you first need to log in to your device. This is how you’ll access your router’s firmware interface to configure VPN settings. If you’ve never logged in to your router before, the process is easy but you’ll need to know your device’s IP address.
To find your IP address:
1. Type Command Prompt into the search bar next to the Windows button.
2. Type ipconfig and hit Enter to load your router information.
3. Look for the Ethernet or WiFi heading and you’ll find your router’s address next to the Default Gateway entry.
Once you have your IP address, follows these steps:
4. Enter your router’s IP address into your preferred browser’s search bar (Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge, for example).
5. From here you will need to enter a default administrative login or other user information you selected during an earlier configuration.
6. If your router’s firmware won’t load or your device is behaving unexpectedly, check your specs or search the web for other user experiences for extra insight.
2. Use your router’s interface to configure the VPN
Logging in to your router is easy once you’ve gone through the process and saved your information, but each firmware interface is different. That means how you configure your router VPN preferences will depend almost entirely on the make and capabilities of your device.
You can easily configure some models as part of the installation process, but others will require a manual setup in order to work properly. That means you may have to do some research on your device in order to find specifics tailored to its interface and configuration.
Your choice of VPN client will also impact the process in some ways, particularly if you install new firmware for your device. Fortunately VPN services typically want to make this process as simple as possible, so you can often count on support for guidance with installation or configuration.
If that sounds too daunting, there are other options to consider. Scroll down a few paragraphs to read our section devoted to pre-configured VPN routers.
3. Confirm that changes have been applied
Some VPN routers will provide their own diagnostic systems, but it never hurts to make sure that your configuration is working properly. The easiest way to test your router and confirm that your VPN settings are working correctly is to check that your IP information is properly masked. There are plenty of paid and even some free options for VPN testing, or you can try a quick solution on your own.
To easily check your public IP address:
1. Perform a Google search for “What is my IP address?”
2. Your information should load below the search bar and above the search results.
3. Next, enter “IP Address” followed by the information you found.
4. If the results come up with a geographic registry in your area, you should contact your VPN support for help troubleshooting the leak.
Advantages of a router VPN
We’ve already talked about some of the general advantages of using a VPN, but there are plenty of unique perks to using a VPN router specifically.
Automated and automatic security
For one, a router VPN typically doesn’t require users to log in or activate on a recurring basis. That means protection is essentially continuous and automatic as long as your router is properly configured, making it a great baseline for home or business security.
Protect multiple devices
Another important advantage of a router VPN is the ability to protect multiple devices without worrying about any extra steps. With a software VPN, users need to install the program on every device they want to be covered by their secure connection. As a result, software solutions usually aren’t ideal for businesses, and even the average household may get frustrated navigating a variety of devices and options.
Can I set up a VPN on my router?
More and more standard routers support different types of VPN functionality and even some older models can get by without major concerns. Older hardware has some drawbacks though, increasing the risk of excess energy consumption or lost bandwidth.
Unfortunately, compatibility can be a bigger issue than the age of your device. In particular, many models don’t come with everything you need to get set up right out of the box.
When to upgrade from a free provider
If you have a low volume of online activity, you won’t necessarily need to rush to upgrade. However, it’s important to remember that a VPN app and a router VPN offer different advantages.
For example, software-based VPN apps can be easier to toggle but don’t offer the same protection as a router VPN. On the other hand, software VPNs are a great resource for frequent travelers. If your routine involves a limited number of online transactions or you don’t work primarily from your home computer, a software-based VPN is a useful stopgap. Otherwise, the advantages of a router VPN may justify the effort of replacing an older, incompatible model.
Both software and hardware solutions can marginally increase energy consumption and bandwidth usage, especially with older devices or heavy internet usage. But with recent technology and moderate online use, your user experience shouldn’t suffer.
Routers pre-configured for VPN functionality
Want the protection and efficiency of a VPN router, but not a fan of the setup? Fortunately, there’s an expanding market for VPN routers designed for fast installation and a simplified configuration process. You’ll find options at a variety of price points depending on functionality and your comfort level with a more complicated setup.
This is a good choice if you’re short on time or experience. Working with an older router or setting up more complex configurations on your own can be tricky, especially if there are compatibility issues.
Choosing the right device and provider
Pre-configured options are a great way to cut out the hassle of set up. If you’re eager to avoid a DIY configuration, there are plenty of user-friendly options to consider when you search for VPN routers at just about any major tech outlet. We suggest starting with your preferred manufacturer or singling out a device with your desired functionality.
When it comes to providers, you also have plenty of options to consider. NordVPN is a popular and established brand. TunnelBear VPN is another well-liked service, particularly when it comes to first-time VPN users or tech newbies.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember when setting up a VPN on your router is to keep your hardware needs at the front of your mind. How much you spend and how you set up your router depends a lot on the manufacturer and provider, so we encourage shopping around to make sure all your needs are covered.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.