Best VPNs for routers

An increasing number of devices in our home are connected to the internet. In the age of smart homes and the Internet of Things (IoT), TVs, gaming consoles, streaming devices, alarm systems, doorbells, and more are transmitting information over the internet. With all of this data comes big privacy and security concerns. From hackers snooping via microphones and cameras to corporations tracking your information for sale to third parties, there are a number of ways your data can be abused.

Thankfully, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) solves these issues. Although you may consider a VPN to be a piece of software for desktop computers and mobile devices, many can be configured to your home router to protect every device in your home. A VPN connection will encrypt all traffic flowing to and from every internet-connected device and tunnel it through an intermediary server. This server can be in a location of your choice, so as a bonus, a VPN is great for unblocking geo-restricted content, for example, if you want to use it with your smart TV.

In this post, we reveal the best VPNs for routers and explain more about why you’d want to use one and how to get started. For our list of the best VPNs for routers, we base our decision on the following criteria:

  • Offers relatively straightforward setup with home routers, including setup guides
  • Provides fast connections with minimum downtime
  • Uses strong encryption along with a range of security features
  • Operates a large network of servers with plenty of location options
  • Includes prompt and knowledgeable customer support

The best VPNs for routers

Here are our picks for the best VPNs for home routers:

1. ExpressVPN

Express VPNJul 2019

ExpressVPN is hands-down the best VPN for routers. It has plenty of options to suit every level of tech-savvy. Pre-configured routers are available through FlashRouter, but ExpressVPN makes its own custom firmware that is simple and intuitive and can be installed on compatible routers. Already have a VPN-enabled router? Not a problem, as ExpressVPN is compatible with other firmwares, including Tomato, OpenWrt, and DD-WRT. If you have any trouble, 24/7 live chat customer support is on hand to help.

ExpressVPN is known for its unblocking capabilities and can get you access to a range of popular streaming services. It doesn’t log your information and uses “military-grade” encryption, leak protection, and a kill switch to keep your traffic secure. Aside from working with routers, ExpressVPN has apps for Windows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV.

Pros:

  • Has lots of setup options for routers
  • Offers fast speeds and reliable connections
  • Provides server options in 94 countries
  • Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and others

Cons:

  • Costs slightly more than some rivals

BEST VPN FOR ROUTERS:ExpressVPN is an excellent all-rounder and makes router setup simple for every competency and budget. It’s fast, reliable, secure, and great for streaming.

Read our full review of ExpressVPN.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is another great choice for routers. It operates a massive network of more than 5,000 servers, with many optimized for various tasks, including streaming, double VPN, and anti-DDoS. Pre-configured routers are available or you can set up the VPN yourself using a guide from NordVPN’s extensive library. There’s even a tutorial for setup with the newer but increasingly popular OpenWrt firmware, a rarity among providers. A live chat support team is available around the clock.

If you’re looking to stream, NordVPN is a great choice and can unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and more. Apps are available for all major operating systems, including Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Six devices can be connected simultaneously under one plan, with a router counting as just one. Security is top-notch with strong encryption, DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and automatic wifi protection.

Pros:

  • Offers pre-configured routers and router setup guides
  • Provides a huge server selection
  • Unblocks Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu
  • Allows you to connect six devices at a time

Cons:

  • Connection to servers can sometimes be slow

BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is inexpensive, secure, fast, and reliable,  and easily unblocks popular streaming platforms. Some servers are even optimized specifically for streaming.

Check out our in-depth review of NordVPN.

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a growing VPN provider that offers great speeds, strong security, and access to lots of blocked content. Pre-configured routers are available and the provider supports set up with various firmware, including Tomato and DD-WRT. A live chat agent is available any time to help if needed.

Security features include 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, and automatic wifi protection on familiar networks. Apps are provided for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android, and manual configuration with Linux is possible. Seven devices can be connected simultaneously, so that’s six in addition to the router.

Pros:

  • Easy to configure with routers
  • Provides a fast, reliable connection
  • Comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Allows up to seven concurrent connections

Cons:

  • Has trouble unblocking some streaming services

FAST SPEEDS:CyberGhost’s fast speeds make it a great choice for browsing, streaming, torrenting, and pretty much anything else you want to do online.

Read our full review of CyberGhost.

4. IPVanish

IPVanish is another one of FlashRouter’s featured VPN providers (along with ExpressVPN and NordVPN). Aside from pre-configured routers being available, the VPN can be configured manually with compatible routers. IPVanish recently introduced 24/7 live chat to its list of perks, so there’ll always be help at hand should you need it.

This provider is a popular option for users of Android devices that lack a keyboard and mouse as its interface is remote control-friendly. It has apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. Connect up to a whopping 10 devices at a time under one plan. IPVanish will never log any personally identifiable information and keeps internet traffic secure with military-grade encryption, leak protection, and a kill switch.

Pros:

  • Has the option of a pre-configured router
  • Provides 24/7 live chat support
  • Allows 10 simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Doesn’t unblock some of the more popular streaming platforms

REMOTE-CONTROL FRIENDLY:IPVanish is ideal for use with devices that lack a keyboard and mouse, and offers a fast, secure connection.

Delve into our in-depth review of IPVanish.

5. PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN is a small provider in terms of server network size, but it still has plenty to offer. Pre-configured routers are available, but there are lots of setup guides should you wish to configure your router manually. There’s no live chat available but email queries are responded to promptly. This service is great for streaming, with blazing fast speeds and the ability to unblock a ton of streaming services, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Private VPN apps are available for MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV, with six connections allowed at a time. This provider keeps your information secure and private with a no-logs policy and a suite of security features.

Pros:

  • Keeps your information secure and private
  • Has very fast speeds
  • Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, and more

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer 24/7 live chat
  • Has a small choice of servers

GREAT FOR UNBLOCKING:PrivateVPN unblocks a range of streaming sites and has excellent speeds.

Read our full PrivateVPN review.

Benefits of using a VPN router

Setting up a VPN router doesn’t have to be a difficult process and it can offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Protecting devices that there are no native VPN apps for: While most providers offer apps that cover computers, smartphones, and tablets, this still leaves other internet-connected devices unprotected. Using a VPN router, every IoT device in your home is protected, including your smart TV, streaming device, game console, alarm system, and anything else you may have hooked up to the internet.
  • Protecting multiple devices at once: When you sign up for a VPN package, you usually have a limited number of simultaneous connections allowed under one plan. Protecting your home router only counts as one connection, so you still have the others to spare to cover the devices you and your family take out of your home, such as laptops and smartphones.
  • Doubling up on protection: If you want to be extra cautious and use two VPNs at the same time, you can configure one at the device level and another at the router level. If one fails, you have a backup.
  • Accessing geo-restricted content: Aside from securing all the traffic flowing to and from each device, a VPN enables you to spoof your location. This means you can unblock streaming services, gaming sites, gambling services, sports networks, and other content that may be restricted based on geolocation.

Getting started with a VPN router

We’ve compiled an extensive guide to VPN routers, but here we’ll run through your basic setup options:

1. Purchase a pre-configured router

FlashRouter offers lots of routers pre-configured to your chosen VPN provider’s servers. This is the simplest option, but it’s the most expensive and will mean purchasing a new router even if you have one already.

2. Use a VPN-enabled router

If your router is already flashed with appropriate firmware (that supports OpenVPN), you can follow your chosen VPN provider’s guide to configure the VPN to the router. This should be fairly straightforward and can still be an option for the non-tech-savvy.

3. Flash a router with new firmware

If your router doesn’t already have firmware that supports OpenVPN, you can choose to flash it yourself with new firmware, such as DD-WRT, Tomato, or OpenWrt, all of which are free and open source. Bear in mind that flashing a router is not the simplest of tasks, and carried out incorrectly, could render your router useless.

When deciding on which route you should go, some things to consider are complexity, cost, flexibility, and features.

Can I use a free VPN with my home router?

While there are lots of seemingly attractive options for free VPNs available, they’re a poor choice for almost every use case. For routers in particular, you’d be hard pushed to find one that is configurable with a router and has the required level of support to back you up. Even if it’s doable, you may go to all that trouble only to find you have a slow, intermittent connection that isn’t good for much at all.

Free VPN services have a large number of users and few servers, resulting in poor connections and even queues to connect to a server. What’s more, while you’re connected, many free VPN providers will serve up annoying ads or insert tracking cookies to collect your data for sale to third parties.

Aside from offering a poor user experience and lack of privacy, free VPNs often lack on the security front. In a study of VPN apps, many were found to carry malware, most leaked information, and some didn’t encrypt internet traffic. Going with a paid provider is simpler, offers a lot more security, and only costs a few dollars per month.

Image credit: Pete Linforth licensed under CC0