Readers of the VPN Guru will know by now how important a VPN is in this day and age. The popular cybersecurity tool is the easiest and safest way to keep your information private and secure online. VPNs also allow you to spoof your IP and get access to a variety of regionally restricted websites, apps, and content. The great thing is that most top-tier VPNs will have native apps for your most used devices, including your smartphone and computer. But what if you want a VPN’s protection on your PS4, Xbox, or Smart TV? You need to install a VPN on your router. This isn’t a very straightforward process, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, I’ll show you how to set up a VPN on your TP-Link router.
If you have a Linksys router, a Netgear router, or any other brand of routers, read our general guide here.
Why Setup a VPN on your TP-Link Router?
Let’s first start with what a VPN is.
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is a cybersecurity software you can subscribe to that helps maintain your privacy, security, and anonymity online. VPNs use their own servers to re-route your traffic, passing it through a secure “tunnel” over a safe connection. When this happens, your traffic is hidden from third-party surveillance systems, and not even the government can monitor what you do online. To add to that, VPNs encrypt your data to make data-theft something you never have to think about again.
In other words, a VPN makes it very very very difficult for a person or an agency to know anything about your online activities.
Another great option you get with a VPN is its ability to unblock geo-restricted content. Because a VPN re-routes your traffic through its own server, you end up getting a public IP that matches that server’s location. This means that by simply selecting the servers you want to connect with, you can choose what your public IP will be. Want to access a website blocked by your country? Simply change your IP and you’ll be able to do that. Want to watch a show that is only available in the US? An American server will help you get an American IP so you can bypass that block.
Why set up a VPN on your Router?
Now that you know what a VPN does, let’s talk about how installing it onto your router can provide you with an exceptional online experience.
By setting up your VPN on your router, you’re guaranteeing that all of your devices are protected. Most VPN providers have a limit on how many devices you can use the VPN on simultaneously. If your VPN is on your router, you bypass the device limit and can cover any device connected to your internet. This is a great option for startup companies, small businesses, and families. On a more personal note, a VPN on your router helps you use that secure connection on devices that don’t have native VPN apps, like your gaming consols and your Smart TVs. You’ll get wider access to content online by being able to spoof your IP, and won’t be at risk of any attack (gamers, DDoS included!).
Best VPN for TP-Link Routers
We suggest using ExpressVPN on your TP-Link routers. ExpressVPN is known to be the best VPN on the market today, and for good reason. You can find VPNs that provide niche features that surpass that of ExpressVPN, but you won’t find a service provider that checks all of a VPN’s boxes as well as ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec protocols, both of which can be used to manually configure the VPN onto your router. In this guide, I’ll be discussing both methods using ExpressVPN as an example. If you don’t want to use ExpressVPN, these configuration instructions can be used with other top-tier providers. Be sure to check your provider’s FAQ and support pages for any installation guides that they may have.
How to Install VPN on TP-Link Router – Step by Step Guide
For this guide, I’ll be using ExpressVPN to explain how to install a VPN client onto your TP-Link router.
Let me be clear in saying that TP-Link routers can be configured using 2 distinct methods. The first one doesn’t involve flashing your router but does require some manual configuration on your behalf. The second method involves 2 steps: flashing your TP-Link router with DD-WRT and then installing the VPN client on your flashed router. Manual configurations will differ based on your VPN provider, so I suggest checking the support page for any guides on how to manually configure the VPN onto a TP-Link router. In ExpressVPN’s case, here’s the link to their detailed guide.
As for the second method, you can use the steps below to configure any TP-Link router you have, as long as it’s compatible with DD-WRT. Here’s a list of supported routers for DD-WRT, check if your router is on the list before moving on to the step-by-step process below. If your router isn’t on this list and you can’t find a manual configuration guide for your VPN, you can purchase a VPN compatible router to make the process a little easier.
Step1 – Flashing your TP-Link Router with DD-WRT
If you’ve checked the list mentioned above and saw that your TP-Link router support DD-WRT, you can proceed with this installation guide.
To start, let me explain what “flashing your router” means. A router is, more or less, a mini-computer. It runs on firmware; a router’s operating system. Not all firmware gives you the option of installing a VPN client onto your router, so you need to change the firmware before you can do that. Flashing your router means exactly that; the process of changing the firmware (operating system) of your router.
WARNING: Flashing your router is a very technical process, so you need to be careful. The process is straightforward enough, but you need to make sure that your router is compatible and that you’ve downloaded the correct firmware for your router. Follow this guide on how to flash your router with DD-WRT to a T, and don’t forget to do your research.
Take as much time as you need setting up for this step. Once you’re sure you have the correct firmware downloaded, the rest will barely take you 20 minutes.
Step 2 – Installing a VPN Client on your TP-Link Router
After you’ve flashed your TP-Link router with DD-WRT, it’s time to install the VPN client on your new compatible router. I am going to be using ExpressVPN to show you how to install the VPN client but the process works for most VPN services out there.
- Log into ExpressVPN. Go to Setup ExpressVPN.
- Click on Manual Config and choose OpenVPN.
- Download the .ovpn file.
- Go to your TP-Link Router’s configuration. This can be accessed by typing in the router’s IP into your browser’s address bar. You can find the IP on the back of the router with the rest of its identifying information.
- In the control panel for DD-WRT, find Services and click on VPN.
- Enable the Start OpenVPN Client option.
So far so good? Great!
Now, you’ll notice that there a few fields you need to fill in. Don’t worry, you have all of the information you need in the .ovpn file you just downloaded.
Open the file with a text editor. Most people have NotePad on their computers which works perfectly for what you need to do.
The file contains a lot of information about the VPN client, but all you need to find is the Server IP/Name, Port, TLS Auth Key, CA Cert, Public Client Cert, and Private Client Key.
Finding this information is actually rather easy:
- Server IP/Name and Port: Find the word “remote” in your file. You’ll see line with an address followed by 4 numbers. The address will follow this pattern: xxxx.copythisaddress.com. Copy the address and insert it into the server IP/Name field. Then, copy the 4 numbers you see directly after the address and paste them in the Port field.
- TLS Auth Key: Search for <tls-auth>. If you scroll a little after that, you’ll find </tls-auth>. Copy the text between those two tags. Start copying where it says “BEGIN OpenVPN Static Key” and stop after “END OpenVPN Static Key“. Paste that information into the TLS Auth Key field on your router’s configuration page.
See how easy that step was? That’s all you have to do for every other step too! Just copy the text and paste them into the fields. Here are the tags you should look for in the .ovpn file so you can copy the text:
- CA Cert: look for <ca> and </ca>
- Public Client: look for <cert> and </cert>
- Private Client: look for <key> and </key>
After you’ve pasted all of the information into the correct fields, click on Save then on Apply Settings.
That’s it! You’ve officially installed a VPN client on your TP-Link router!
To make sure that all systems are go, go to Status and click on OpenVPN. You should see “Client: CONNECTED STATUS”. That means that your VPN is connected and you’re good to start using it.
Let me know in the comments if this guide was helpful, and share your experience with VPN configured routers for all of us to read!