Best VPNs for OpenWrt in 2021

OpenWrt is a piece of open-source firmware, a Linux operating system that can be embedded on devices such as routers to enhance performance.

If installed on a router, OpenWrt affords you the freedom to ditch the configuration and application selections provided by an original vendor and set it up for your needs, and is one of the firmware applications that support VPN installation. 

What are the Best VPNs for OpenWrt

We list the best VPNs for OpenWRT below. If you need more information about any of these services, check out our detailed summaries further on in this guide.

  1. NordVPN - the best VPN for OpenWrt routers. It has excellent speeds, great security features, and clear, concise set-up instructions.
  2. ExpressVPN - a great VPN for an OpenWrt router. A huge fleet of servers to choose from plus excellent customer support.
  3. Surfshark - a cheap VPN for OpenWrt. It has all the features of a service twice the price, ideal for a OpenWrt-configured router.
  4. Private Internet Access - a super-secure VPN for OpenWrt routers. You can trust it to keep your whole network safe as it has a proven no logs policy.
  5. VyprVPN - a solid VPN to use with OpenWrt. Clear set-up instructions and a great track record of unblock geo-restricted content.

The Best VPNs for OpenWrt: a closer look

We take a closer look at the best OpenWrt VPN services below. If you would still like more information, check out our detailed VPN reviews.

NordVPN is the best VPN to use with an OpenWrt router. It's the quickest VPN on this list so your speeds won't be affected, and a host of top-class security features will keep you safe.

  • Pricing

    From $3.30 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

NordVPN is our top pick to use with an OpenWrt router. The provider has detailed set-up instructions available to guide you through installation and plenty of other avenues for support if you get stuck at any point in the process. NordVPN usually allows for simultaneous connections on up to 6 devices, but if you install it on your router, you can protect as many as you like (as long as they're all connecting to the internet through your OpenWrt router). To ensure a secure browsing experience is preserved on these devices, NordVPN has a wealth of security features, including a CyberSec tool that flushes out malware and the Double VPN function, which can route your traffic through two private servers for enhanced protection. 


NordVPN has over 5,000 servers worldwide, which helps it maintain its position as the quickest VPN on this list. This is also great news for your router because it means NordVPN will affect your speeds much less than the vast majority of VPNs. Installing NordVPN on your router will mean all the devices on your network can view content from outside the region your network is based in thanks to its ability to bypass geo-restrictions.


A 30-day trial period is thrown into the mix to sweeten the deal, so if it turns out NordVPN isn't the right provider for you, you can claim your money back with ease!

ExpressVPN is a reliable, fast, and trusted all-rounder, and more than capable of providing protection to your whole network via an OpenWrt router.

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

ExpressVPN is one of those providers that does absolutely everything you need a VPN service to do and more, making it the perfect choice for your router. The provider has actually developed its own router firmware and has excellent customer support whatever your issue, so whether you're installing the custom firmware or a standard VPN on an OpenWrt router, there are experts on hand to help out. With ExpressVPN, you can unblock content in 94 countries including the US and UK, affording you access to an endless bank of shows exclusively available in such regions. 


ExpressVPN has up-to-date encryption protocols and a kill-switch to keep you safe as you connect to their TrustedServer network, which runs entirely off Random Access Memory (RAM) meaning all your session data disappears when you disconnect – in other words, their no-logs policy is guaranteed. ExpressVPN's entire network is made up of bare-metal servers, meaning they aren't sharing with other companies or entities that could compromise user privacy and security.


This provider also adheres to a month-long money-back policy, so you can still test it out even if you're not 100% decided! 

Surfshark is a budget-friendly VPN with all the features of a service that costs twice as much. The list of privacy tools is impressive, as are the speeds.

  • Pricing

    From $2.49 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Surfshark is another VPN with excellent instructions on how to install its service on a router with OpenWrt, which is super-helpful considering how many technical aspects of the set up there are. The provider affords users access to over 3,200 servers, which is right up there with its pricier competitors, and considering Surfshark is relatively new to the VPN game, the signs are encouraging. 


Despite being low cost with a capital L, Surfshark still manages to consistently provide top speeds – according to our most recent speed test, it's the second quickest VPN on this list – and the security features to match. Worried about your ISP finding out you're using a VPN? Activate camouflage mode. Irritated by ads? Surfshark's CleanWeb tool will block them. Apprehensive your data might be being stored somewhere? Surfshark has recently switched to completely diskless servers so you can be sure they keep no logs.


Despite it only being a couple of dollars, Surfshark will still give you your money back if you're not happy at the end of your first 30 days of usage. 

Private Internet Access have had their no-logs claim proven in court, making them a service you can trust, whether that's on a single device or on a router with OpenWrt.

  • Pricing

    From $2.08 - $9.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a popular choice to pair with an OpenWrt router thanks to its privacy and security guarantees. As previously mentioned, Private Internet Access has had its no-logs claim proven in court after they were subpoenaed by the US government and they had no data to hand over. This is precisely the attitude you want from your VPN service provider, and it makes PIA a particularly strong contender to use on a router; install it, forget about it, and you'll be protected 24/7. Of course, a proven no-logs claim isn't the only security assurance PIA offers – all their servers are bare metal, they provide users with kill-switches and a MACE feature to block ads and malware. 


Another thing that makes PIA stand out from the crowd is its server network; a huge 24,000+ servers dwarf all the other providers on this list. This means you're not going to find your speeds clipped by overcrowded servers; PIA has more servers just in the US than Surfshark, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN worldwide (combined!). They even let you connect to 10 devices simultaneously, but if you're installing it on an OpenWrt router, all the devices on said network will be encrypted and protected.


Just like the others, PIA has a four-week period for you to try their product out, and if you aren't satisfied, you'll get your money back.  

VyprVPN is a sold choice to use with OpenWrt, particularly if you're looking for a VPN with extensive network control – VyprVPN owns and manages its entire network.

  • Pricing

    From $1.39 - $6.47
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

VyprVPN is another VPN we recommend for OpenWrt routers. Although the customer support for such an action isn't quite as extensive as some of the other providers on this list, it does have instructions for setting up on the site. VyprVPN is one of the only VPNs that owns all its own networks rather than renting our servers in data centers, which means the provider can mitigate the possibility of potential vulnerabilities that arise in the latter arrangement and changes can be implemented and bugs fixed at a much quicker rate. 


VyprVPN has a great string of features to keep your whole network safe via a router installation. Their Chameleon protocol, for example, ensures that even your internet service provider won't be able to tell your using a VPN by scrambling OpenVPN data, rendering it undetectable by Deep Packet Inspection – a great feature if you're living in a region where VPNs are blocked. VyprVPN has over 300,000 IP addresses at its disposal, so connecting quickly and unblocking geo-restricted content are both easy tasks.


Still unsure? Download it now and get your money-back within 30 days if you change your mind. 

The advantages of using an OpenWrt VPN

As you're probably already aware, VPNs can be installed on individual devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. However, they can also be installed on routers. Advantages of doing so include:

What to look for in a VPN for OpenWrt

There are some factors that you should prioritize when deciding which VPN is best for your OpenWrt router. To be a true contender, a VPN must have:

A note on trial periods...

 

Trial periods that give you the opportunity to ensure you're happy with a product are great, and it's wonderful that so many VPN companies afford customers this liberty. You can definitely still take advantage of these offers when looking for a VPN for a router, but just remember – setting up a VPN on a router takes a lot longer than on a singular device, so firming up your decision before purchase will also have its merits! 

How to install a VPN on an OpenWrt router

Installing a VPN on your OpenWrt router is a tricky process. Be aware that the steps below are a general rundown and that most reputable VPN providers will have provider-specific instructions on their pages and/or customer support for this process. 

  1. Make sure your router either comes or is flashed with OpenWrt firmware.
  2. Choose a VPN provider from the list above and download the software.
  3. Install OpenVPN and change the route password to enable it.
  4. Download your VPN's client configuration files for OpenVPN.
  5. Change the file extension to 'conf.' from 'ovpn.'
  6. Add a forwarding rule (LAN to VPN) and create a firewall area. 
  7. Use your chosen provider's instructions to configure the DNS server

How to 'flash' your router with OpenWrt

If you're reading this article, it's likely you already have an OpenWrt router set up and are to download a VPN for it. But OpenWrt may be useful if you don't yet have a router with it set up. Aside from being able to support VPN software, advantages include:

If you already have a router, you can install OpenWrt firmware by 'flashing' it, which essentially means reconfiguring your router by ditching the old firmware and replacing it with something else – in this case, OpenWrt. This is quite a technical process – OpenWrt is a lot more tricky to install than other VPN-supporting firmware like DD-WRT and Tomato

Flashing your router with OpenWrt is device-specific and methods therefore vary. Luckily, OpenWrt provides general instructions for the four main methods you can use to flash your router with OpenWrt, as well as installation instructions for over 1,500 different device models

Before you flash your router...

 

If you go through this process incorrectly, you can end up 'bricking' your router – causing irreversible damage and making it no more useful than, you guessed it... a brick. This means it's really important that you get a firm handle on exactly what you're doing before you start. If you've already bricked your router trying to install OpenWrt, de-bricking instructions can be found on their support page

Do free VPNs work with OpenWrt? 

For any paid product or service, a free alternative is always tempting – especially when marketed by experts. This has never been more true than in the VPN market, which is saturated with providers offering free services. 

Although there are some reliable free VPNs out there, using one in tandem with OpenWrt is not something we would advise. Due to the fact they aren't raking in monthly subscription fees, free VPNs just won't be able to provide the same level of customer support as their paid-for counterparts. 

ProPrivacy has reviewed hundreds of VPN services in the last few years, and it's an unfortunate fact that selling data to third parties, working with law enforcement authorities, and not providing protection against ads and malware are all frequent practice amongst free VPNs, but not paid services. Considering that there are plenty of cheap VPN services, like SurfShark, it's just not worth the risk. 

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now know that transforming your OpenWrt router into an ultra-secure middleman between you and the internet is possible with a VPN. If you're still umming and ahhing over exactly which one to download, here's a reminder of our top picks: 

  1. NordVPN - the best VPN for OpenWrt routers. It has excellent speeds, great security features, and clear, concise set-up instructions.
  2. ExpressVPN - a great VPN for an OpenWrt router. A huge fleet of servers to choose from plus excellent customer support.
  3. Surfshark - a cheap VPN for OpenWrt. It has all the features of a service twice the price, ideal for a OpenWrt-configured router.
  4. Private Internet Access - a super-secure VPN for OpenWrt routers. You can trust it to keep your whole network safe as it has a proven no logs policy.
  5. VyprVPN - a solid VPN to use with OpenWrt. Clear set-up instructions and a great track record of unblock geo-restricted content.

Written by: Aaron Drapkin

After graduating with a philosophy degree from the University of Bristol in 2018, Aaron became a researcher at news digest magazine The Week following a year as editor of satirical website The Whip. Freelancing alongside these roles, his work has appeared in publications such as Vice, Metro, Tablet and New Internationalist, as well as The Week's online edition.

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