turn Mac into VPN secured wifi router

These days it seems like privacy and security are becoming ever more scarce, especially online. If you want any sense of security online, your options are a bit limited: purchase a VPN secured router or purchase a VPN subscription from a reputable provider and set up your computer to utilize that connection for online security.

While this gets your computer a secure connection to the internet, the apps only work for specific devices, namely laptops and smartphones. If you’re like most people, this author included, you have several devices that access the internet over wifi, and you want all of them to benefit from a secure VPN connection. That includes streaming boxes like Roku, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV.

NordVPN’s router apps

One option is to use a VPN-secured router, like the ones available from NordVPN. We recommend NordVPN for Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV users because of its excellent router support. You can flash the NordVPN router app onto an existing compatible wifi router or buy a pre-configured one directly from NordVPN via FlashRouters.

The router app is free (not including the VPN subscription) for users of these router models:

  • Asus: RT-AX86U, RT-AX88U (AX6000), RT-AC5300
  • D-Link (requires flashing with DD-WRT): DIR-885L, DIR-895L
  • Linksys (requires flashing with DD-WRT): EA8500, WRT1900ACS, WRT3200ACM
  • Netgear (requires flashing with DD-WRT): R7500, R7800, R8500, R9000

This is an easy solution and comes with a simple interface for switching servers and controlling other settings.

If you don’t want to buy a pre-configured router or don’t already own one of the routers on this list, another option is to configure a virtual router on your Macbook.

How to turn your MacBook into a virtual router

With this step-by-step tutorial, you will be able to set up your Mac laptop as a VPN-secured router for your entire network of wifi-enabled devices using a single VPN connection.

Note: not all VPNs support the configuration of virtual VPN routers. NordVPN, is our recommended choice as it offers full support for setting up a virtual VPN server.

Here’s how to set up a virtual router on your Macbook:

  • Connect your Mac directly to your modem
  • Install the VPN on your Mac
  • Configure the Mac to share the VPN connection
  • Setup the Mac’s wifi to host a wireless network
  • Connect all your devices to the wireless network hosted by your Mac and viola! VPN for all your devices.

First and foremost, to share your Mac’s VPN connection over wifi, you need to connect your Mac to the internet with an ethernet cable freeing it up from the wifi. Once you have the cable connected and the wifi disconnected, you can start configuring your VPN-secured internet connection.

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Set up the VPN

If your VPN provider has a VPN client program, check if it has an internet sharing option. If they do, follow their instructions for setting up sharing the VPN from your machine. If they don’t offer a Mac client program or one that can be shared, you can manually configure it.

Manual VPN Setup

There is a menu on your Mac screen at the top of the screen. You will see a tiny apple logo in the top left corner of that menu. Click on it to get a system menu, then select System Preferences.

System Menu
System Menu

1. In System Preferences, click the Network icon.

system preferences
System Preferences window

2. In the Network window, click on the plus (+) sign at the bottom of the left panel to add a new service. In the pop-up window, select the following options:

  • Interface: VPN
  • VPN Type: L2TP over IPSec
  • Service Name: [choose a name for your VPN connection]

Then click Create.Create VPN Mac

Configure your VPN

3. You will need your username, password, and server address for these next steps. Depending on your VPN provider’s settings, you may also need an IPSec key. This can also be referred to as a Shared Key or Shared Secret. You can find these under the Manual Configuration section of the VPN provider’s support website. Most providers will also have a list of servers you can choose from.

Enter the following details:

  • Configuration: Default
  • Server Address: [server address of your choice]
  • Account Name: [username]
  • Encryption: Automatic (128 bit or 40 bit)

4. Check the box next to “Show VPN status in menu bar” to see your VPN connection status in the menu bar.

5. Next, click on Authentication Settings… On the User Authentication screen, enter your password and the IPSec key in the Shared Secret box under Machine Authentication, then click OK.

6. Next, click on Advanced… Check the box for “Send all traffic over VPN connection,” then click OK.

Network Advanced Settings
Network Advanced Settings

7. Click Apply to save your settings, and then connect to your VPN with the Connect button. You are now connected to a VPN server. Now you just need to set up your VPN for sharing. Return to the System Preferences menu, then click on Sharing.

System Preferences Window
System Preferences – Sharing highlighted

8. Select Internet Sharing from the left panel in the Sharing menu. The Internet Sharing options will appear on the right side of the screen. Set the following settings:

9. Share your connection from [the VPN PPTP connection you just created]. Next to “To computers using:” check the box for “Wi-Fi.”

Network Sharing Screen
Network Sharing Screen

10. Select Wi-Fi Options…, and enter the following details:

  • Network Name: [choose a network name also known as an SSID]
  • Channel: [leave as default]
  • Security: WPA2 Personal
  • Password: [choose a password]
  • Verify: [re-enter your password]

Then click OK.

Wifi settings screen
Wifi Settings screen

Start Internet Sharing

11. On the Sharing menu, check the box next to Internet Sharing. You will see a prompt asking you to turn on Internet sharing. Click Start. When Internet Sharing has been activated, a green light will appear next to the text: “Internet Sharing: On”.

Network sharing on
Internet Sharing is now on

12. You will now see two new icons in your menu bar. The first icon shows your VPN connection status. The other new icon shows your Internet Sharing status.

VPN and Wifi icons showing connection and sharing
VPN and Wifi icons showing connection and sharing

VPN secured router: up and running

13. If you select the wifi icon by clicking on it, you will see that it is no longer searching for available wifi signals. Instead, it tells you that wifi internet sharing is on. The name of the wifi signal that the Mac is broadcasting–“Virtual VPN Router” in this example–is our SSID and the wifi channel the signal utilizes.

VPN secured router up and running
Wifi : Internet Sharing

14. Finally, we have a couple of devices connected to our “Virtual VPN Router” over wifi, an Android phone and an iPhone. You connect your devices to this wifi router the same way as you would any other wifi, using the SSID and password you put into the wifi settings screen above.

Android device connected to Mac
Android device connected to Mac
iOS device connected to Mac
iOS device connected to Mac

How to stop internet sharing

If you should want to stop Internet Sharing or stop using your Mac as a VPN-secured router, simply go back to the System Preferences window and select the Sharing icon again. In the sharing window, uncheck the box next to Internet Sharing.

How to disconnect your VPN

To disconnect your VPN, go to System Preferences > Network and click the Disconnect button.

This setup is fundamental and should work for any VPN service. The real test is when you click the Connect button in the Advanced Network settings window. If it cannot connect, you will want to verify the username, password, and especially the IPSec key provided by your VPN service provider.

As the VPN server you are connecting to gets more and more traffic routing through it, all that traffic can get bottlenecked. Be wary of connecting too many devices to your VPN-secured wireless network. Start with just a handful of devices and work up from there. If you notice any lag, remove any unnecessary devices or try switching your VPN connection over to another server.

Creating a virtual VPN router FAQs

What is a virtual router?

A virtual router is software that allows you to emulate a physical router on another device. Setting up a virtual router on your device turns it into a Wifi hotspot with VPN encryption.

Why do people use a VPN on a virtual router?

People use a VPN on a virtual router because it enables any device connecting to it to enjoy the protection of an encrypted VPN tunnel for all of their internet traffic. It can be especially useful in places like hotels when you don't have a normal router or don't want to connect to an insecure public wifi hotspot.

Can I do this with any VPN?

No, not all VPNs support the configuration of virtual VPN routers. NordVPN is our recommended choice as it offers full support to set up a virtual VPN server.

See also: How to set up a Windows virtual router.