Installing a VPN on your router can be a great way to protect all the internet-connected devices in your home, but there are some drawbacks.
So, when should you and shouldn’t you use a VPN on your router?
Here are the pros and cons.
As long as you keep your router switched on, the VPN connection will always be in place to encrypt your home’s internet traffic.
That means that you don’t have to wait for your computer to boot up fully before you benefit from VPN protection.
2Protects all types of internet-enabled devices
You can’t install a VPN directly onto some devices, such as games consoles and smart TVs.
But with a router you can cover all your gadgets that don’t support VPN client software directly.
3Beats ‘simultaneous connections’ limits
Most VPN services restrict the number of devices that are running the VPN at any given time (i.e. simultaneous connections).
By installing the VPN at router level you can cover lots of devices and it only counts as one connection.
1Tricky setup and lacks flexibility
As you can probably tell from reading this guide, installing a VPN on your home router can be difficult and time consuming.
It’s definitely not for beginners.
Even after you’ve completely set up your router with the VPN client software, it’s not as easy to change the settings as when the VPN software is installed at device-level.
While this should be fine for users who just want to protect their privacy, it’s not as convenient for those who want to use a VPN for content unblocking and streaming.
It’s super easy to switch server locations and settings to accommodate streaming within custom VPN apps for devices like computers and smartphones, but it’s not so simple on routers.
If you’re looking to stream content it might be easier to install the VPN software directly onto your preferred device.
However, some devices like Apple TV don’t currently have VPN apps, so installing the VPN at router-level will be your only option.
2It can be expensive
If you want to use the best and safest VPN protocols and encryption like OpenVPN with AES-256 you’ll probably need to buy new router hardware, which can cost hundreds of dollars.
And that doesn’t include the price of the VPN subscription itself, which can cost more than $100 a year.
3Not all VPN services support router connections
There are some VPN services that aren’t compatible with routers, such as Hotspot Shield and TunnelBear.
Always check if a VPN service supports router connections before you purchase a subscription.
Even if the provider does support router connections it might only support unsafe VPN protocols on router such as PPTP.
4Internet traffic between your devices and the router is not secured
Another downside of using a VPN at router-level is that traffic between devices and the router is not encrypted.
While this isn’t so much of an issue if you trust everyone connected to your home network (and don’t mind them seeing your online activities), it does pose a security risk should a random stranger gain access to your network.
A VPN router encrypts the traffic of every device on your WiFi network.
You should, however, avoid using a VPN on both your device and the router at the same time to avoid slowdowns and instability.
One workaround would be to set up a separate router for devices that don’t come with custom apps like your Xbox or Apple TV. That way you can still use custom VPN apps on your computers and smartphones.
ExpressVPN’s router applet and the FlashRouters Privacy app – which is available for many DD-WRT routers – allows you to exclude certain devices from the VPN tunnel.