Best VPNs for Netgear routers and how to install

Netgear routers, depending on the model, can work with VPNs in one or two ways:

  • You can set up a VPN server on the router itself, allowing remote access to your home network
  • You can set up a secure connection to a VPN server in another location

Netgear routers only include the first option by default, which gives you secure, remote access to a computer, IoT devices, or a media server in your home. Basically, the router is the VPN server.

The second option secures the internet connections of all the devices in your home and lets you unblock region-locked content. If you want private torrenting, geo-unblocking, and added security, this is for you.

Unfortunately, the VPN function built into Netgear router firmware doesn’t work with the second option. So if you want to connect your Netgear router to a VPN server in another location, you’ll need to replace the firmware with something like DD-WRT or Tomato.

Putting new firmware on your router is free and isn’t particularly difficult, but it does carry certain risks, such as potentially damaging the router or voiding the warranty.

Best VPN for Netgear routers: ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website: www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

If you want to securely connect your Netgear router to a VPN server in a remote location, we highly recommend ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN makes its own custom firmware, which works with two popular Netgear router models:

  • Nighthawk R6300v2
  • Nighthawk R7000

The benefit of this custom firmware is that once installed, it’s all set up and ready to go. There’s no fiddling with connection settings and configuration files. It’s easy to switch servers and selectively connect and disconnect individual devices from the VPN.

ExpressVPN router app

If you have a Netgear router other than those two, ExpressVPN is still an option, but you’ll need to replace the firmware with an open-source alternative and manually set up connections to each server.

ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested and is great for unblocking region-locked content like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It’s also very secure and doesn’t store any identifying logs. Customer support is available 24/7 via a live chat feature on the website.

BEST VPN FOR NETGEAR ROUTERS:ExpressVPN is our #1 choice ExpressVPN’s custom firmware and well-rounded suite of other features makes it our top pick for Netgear router owners. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

ExpressVPN is the only VPN provider we know of that makes Netgear-compatible router firmware, though NordVPN and PrivateVPN are also good choices if you’re willing to try an open-source firmware alternative.

Netgear router VPNs explained

Many Netgear router models support Virtual Private Networks, but that might not mean what you think it means. A VPN set up on a stock Netgear router is much different than a typical VPN app on your phone or laptop.

Netgear lets users set up their own VPN server on the router itself. This allows you to access your home network from some other location through the internet. For example, if you’re out of the house and want to access your home PC, internet-of-things devices, or a media server, you can do so.

However, this setup does not secure your internet connection while at home or let you access region-locked content.

That’s where a VPN provider, like ExpressVPN, comes in. VPN providers operate servers all around the world and let you connect to them via encrypted tunnels. This enables you to access content that’s only available in other countries, for example. It also protects your privacy by preventing your ISP, government agencies, and hackers from snooping on your browsing activity and downloads.

Unfortunately, Netgear routers don’t support the option to connect to a remote VPN server. Replacing the firmware is necessary if you want to do that.

How to set up a VPN to your home network on a Netgear router

This setup, which comes as a stock option on many Netgear router models allows remote access to your home network, not the internet. This is useful for smart home and IoT devices, home media servers, and remote access to computers. It is not intended to give you an encrypted tunnel to the internet or a different public IP address.

netgear genie vpn
Image from Netgear.com

Not every Netgear router comes equipped with this feature, but many do, including all ProSafe and Nighthawk models.

Because you’re setting up both a client and server, you’ll need to set up the VPN both on the router and on the device with which you want to connect.

Here’s how to set up a VPN on a Netgear router:

  1. Open a web browser and go to http://www.routerlogin.net.
  2. Enter the username and password for your router admin panel (Netgear Genie). By default, the username is admin and the password is password, but you should change these if you haven’t already.
  3. Go to Advanced > Advanced Setup > VPN Service.
  4. Check Enable VPN Service and click Apply
  5. Specify the VPN service settings you want. This depends on what you want to use the VPN for.
  6. Download the OpenVPN configuration files for the type of device with which you want to connect, such as For Windows or For Smart Phone.
  7. Move the files onto the device you want to connect to the VPN and import them into your OpenVPN app of choice.
  8. Choose the OpenVPN profile you’ve created in the app and connect!

You can use the free, official OpenVPN apps available for most major operating systems. They are usually available from your device’s app store or default repository.

How to replace firmware on a Netgear router

If you want to connect your router to a remote VPN server, you’ll have to replace the firmware with something that offers this capability. This process, called “flashing,” can permanently damage your router and void the warranty if not performed correctly, so proceed with caution.

  1. Download VPN-compatible firmware that works with your specific Netgear router model. We recommend something of the DD-WRT or Tomato varieties.
  2. Open a web browser and go to http://www.routerlogin.net.
  3. Enter the username and password for your router admin panel (Netgear Genie). By default, the username is admin and the password is password, but you should change these if you haven’t already.
  4. Select Advanced > Administration > Router Update.
  5. Click Browse and navigate to the firmware you downloaded in step 1.
  6. Click Upload to flash the router.
  7. Restart the router.

With your new firmware in place, you can set up a VPN connection. Check out our articles on the best VPNs for DD-WRT and best VPNs for Tomato routers for more information.

Are there any free Netgear router VPNs?

As discussed above, you can turn some Netgear routers into VPN servers that let you connect to your home network. This is a built-in feature and you can connect to it using free and open-source VPN apps on your phone or laptop.

If you want to connect your router to a VPN server in another location, however, there are no free options that we know of. Most free VPNs only work with phones and laptops on major operating systems.

At any rate, free VPNs are best avoided. They cap your data, throttle downloads, and force users to wait in queues to connect. Many track your online activity and sell the data to third parties such as advertisers. Some can even infect your device with malware or sell your bandwidth for use in botnet attacks.

Opt for a paid VPN if you want a quality service.