Protecting your home network is no easy task. Lots of devices depend on Wi-Fi to perform basic functions, yet they’re unable to provide security in the form of encryption or identity protection. You can either unplug all of your devices and live in a disconnected world, or you can look into adding a VPN service directly to your router.
Linksys makes some of the most popular routers in the world. Adding a VPN to your Linksys hardware isn’t as complicated as you might think, either. Our guide below walks you through the entire process, including the best VPNs to choose from, and whether or not router installs are in your best interest.
VPN Software vs Router Installation
VPNs are fantastic multi-purpose digital tools that encrypt and anonymize your internet connection. It’s like creating a private tunnel between your device or router and the world wide web. Instead of sending raw data anyone can see, a VPN makes it unreadable to third parties, hackers, ISPs, and more.
There are multiple ways to access a VPN’s capabilities, including downloading apps to your device and adding the VPN to your router. Below we look at some of the pros and cons of each.
VPN Apps and Software
There are a few different ways you can make use of a good VPN. The most common is to download a custom app for your device (Windows PC, iPhone, Mac, etc.) and running that in the background while you go about your daily internet activities. This method is incredibly user-friendly and can be done in just a few seconds. All it takes is a login name and a mouse, then you’re connected and safe.
The downside to using VPN apps for encryption protection is they’re not 100% secure, mostly due to user error. If you forget to turn on your VPN, you could surf using exposed data without even realizing it. On top of that, the apps can sometimes crash or be completely incompatible with your operating system.
Another issue with VPN apps is they don’t run on every device. If you have a non-standard smart TV, for example, you probably won’t be able to install a VPN directly on it. Lightweight streaming devices like Fire TV can also have a difficult time running VPN software since they aren’t made for heavy computing, just video streaming.
Pros of VPN Apps
- Can be a little faster than router installs due to increased hardware power.
- Offers extra features that may not be available on router installs.
- Easy to switch servers and configure added VPN options.
- Extremely easy to set up, install, and use on a daily basis.
Cons of VPN Apps
- Must always be active in the background of every device you want protected.
- Possible to forget to run the software, exposing your network and identity.
- Can be difficult to set up on non-standard devices.
VPNs on a Router
Configuring your router to use a VPN connection is a sure-fire way to protect your entire home network without fail. Every device that uses your Wi-Fi will enjoy the encryption and anonymity a VPN provides, including smart appliances and other unusual internet devices. Friends and family temporarily accessing your network will also be protected by a router VPN, as well.
A big upside to installing your VPN on a router is you don’t have to run apps on any of your devices. The router itself encrypts the connection before leaving your home, preventing any unencrypted packets of data from hitting the internet at large. All you have to do is set it up and forget about it.
The downside to VPNs on a router is the setup can be more complex than some users are accustomed to. It isn’t a one-click install, it requires some router configuration editing. In some cases all the DNS details have to be entered manually. You don’t need to be a computer expert to install a VPN on your Linksys router, but a little knowledge would be beneficial.
Pros of Router VPNs:
- Protects the entire network, including Wi-Fi connections from smart appliances.
- Allows friends, family, and even children to utilize the protection of a VPN.
- No need to run apps on any of your home devices.
- Frees up resources on low-powered devices.
Cons of Router VPNs:
- Installation can take more time and require more technical knowledge.
- Low-powered routers often can’t handle the encryption overhead.
- Not all router models are supported (though Linksys usually is).
- Some security features may not be available via router install.
The OpenVPN software is a free and open-source app that runs on most modern platforms. It’s designed as a no-frills solution to encrypting your connection. There’s no easy to use GUI, just configuration files and manual settings pages connected directly to your VPN service.
Using OpenVPN is a viable way to keep your data safe, but unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to stick with one of the above methods. Many VPN-router setups utilize OpenVPN in some way, so don’t be surprised if you run across the name while researching router configurations.
Best VPNs for Linksys Routers
Ready to integrate your VPN with a Linksys router? With the guidelines below you can protect your entire home network with very little effort, whether you’re going for native support or the best VPNs to use with a DD-WRT router.
Choosing the Best VPN
Selecting the right VPN takes a bit of research, especially if you plan on using it with a Linksys router. Below are the top criteria you should take into consideration while evaluating different services. We’ve also provided a few recommended VPNs to help you get started.
- Router support – Not all VPNs will support router installs by default. Some have crippled access, others full-fledged integration.
- Logging policy – Some services store detailed records of user activity, much like ISPs. To retain your privacy, always go for a VPN with a strict zero-logging policy.
- Reputation – The more positive reviews and uplifting testimonies a VPN service has, the safer you’ll be.
- Security – Strong privacy features like 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch are vital for solid online security.
ExpressVPN is a fast and secure VPN that comes with all the right features to keep you nice and safe online. The company runs a dedicated network of hundreds of servers across 94 countries around the world, giving you reliable access to fast downloads and international IP addresses with just a few clicks.
ExpressVPN secures all data with 256-bit AES encryption, along with a remarkably thorough zero-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. Custom software for multiple platforms bundles DNS leak protection and automatic kill switch features to keep your identity secure, as well.
Like most VPN services, ExpressVPN supports router installs via DD-WRT, giving it basic Linksys support for many models.
Want to know more about ExpressVPN’s fantastic features? Check out our full ExpressVPN review.
2 – IPVanish – Stellar Security
IPVanish knows that VPN users need the best mixture of speed and security, without compromise. The company provides lightning fast downloads and streams with a large network of over 950 servers in 60 different countries, complete with tens of thousands of IP addresses to choose from. All of this is available using IPVanish’s easy to use software and router connections, giving you fast access to a safe world wide web.
IPVanish’s VPN apps come with DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch. All transmitted data is kept secure with 256-bit AES encryption and a zero-logging policy on traffic, providing complete security every time you log in. You also have complete freedom to download and stream as you see fit thanks to IPVanish’s unlimited bandwidth.
IPVanish offers limited Linksys (DD-WRT) router installation support. You can also buy a pre-installed VPN on a Linksys router.
Curious about IPVanish? Find out more in our complete IPVanish review.
3 – CyberGhost – Superb Security
CyberGhost is keenly focused on providing two things to all of its VPN users: speed and security. The service starts with a network of 1,200 servers across 60 countries, all of which are extremely fast and lag-free. You’ll never have a difficult time locating just the right IP address location with CyberGhost, even if you need a connection outside of the world’s major cities!
CyberGhost offers solid security with a foundation built upon 256-bit AES encryption and a zero-logging policy on traffic, time stamps, and IP address. Both DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch come standard with the service’s custom software, as well.
CyberGhost doesn’t directly support Linksys routers, though you can use it with any DD-WRT enabled hardware, which includes most Linksys products. This means you might have an extra setup step to complete before using the VPN with your particular router.
Learn more about CyberGhost’s features in our thorough CyberGhost review.
4 – NordVPN – Strong Protection
NordVPN is a truly impressive VPN. The service offers over 3,300 servers in 59 different countries, one of the largest networks in the industry. It backs this up with a solid reputation and some truly stand-out features, as well, including dedicated P2P connections, double encryption, and onion over VPN routing.
NordVPN provides great security for all of its customers, starting with a thorough zero-logging policy that covers bandwidth, traffic, time stamps, and DNS access. This is in addition to automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection features on its custom software along with 256-bit AES encryption on all data.
NordVPN supports Linksys router usage through the alternative encryption protocols L2TP and PPTP. These are different from the usual OpenVPN protocol and can be slightly less secure overall. Note that you won’t be able to access NordVPN’s unique security features if you use it directly with a router.
Learn more about NordVPN’s pros and cons in our full NordVPN review.
5 – PureVPN – Privacy and More
PureVPN is a versatile VPN that offers some useful extra features that go beyond the usual VPN offerings. Users gain access to unique security add-ons such as DNS-level website filtering, a feature that prevents phishing and similar scams by blocking suspicious websites before any data reaches your computer. If you use PureVPN through its custom software, you’ll have access to malware shields, app blocking filters, and even an always-on virus scanner, as well!
PureVPN runs a large network of over 750 servers in 140 different countries, including dozens of locations across six continents. Data that passes through this network is secured with 256-bit encryption and a zero-logging policy on traffic. PureVPN also includes DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch in every version of its software.
Using PureVPN with a router is easy. The company supports Linksys and a variety of other manufacturers and provides installation instructions to guide you through the process from beginning to end.
Router Hardware and Firmware
Linksys makes some of the most popular routers in the world. They’re reliable, affordable, and offer a good balance between customizability and out-of-the-box functionality.
Linksys and DD-WRT
The Linksys router brand generally refers to the line of hardware. The firmware that runs these devices goes by a different name, and it has an interesting history with homebrew coders. In mid-2005 the open-source router firmware DD-WRT was released, itself based on the Linksys WRT54G firmware. DD-WRT brought a number of unique features to Linksys and other router brands, most notably the ability to customize VPN settings without the need for hacking.
DD-WRT can be installed on a wide range of routers. Most Linksys models ship with the company’s own firmware installed, which usually doesn’t support VPN connections. You can add DD-WRT to just about any Linksys router if you need VPN access, which makes it a popular brand for privacy enthusiasts.
Installing DD-WRT on a Linksys Router
Installing custom firmware on a router isn’t a quick or painless process. There are a lot of variables to consider, and a lot of instructions to read. If you can’t purchase a router with DD-WRT pre-installed, your best bet is to check out the official and extremely detailed installation process tutorial. It guides you through everything from beginning to end. Take your time, move slowly, and before you know it you’ll have DD-WRT firmware on your Linksys device.
Buying Linksys Routers with a VPN Pre-Installed
One relatively new movement in the VPN scene is to offer routers that have the company’s software pre-configured and ready to connect. You can purchase these routers at a discount along with some VPN subscriptions, then simply plug it in and set it up with your home devices. The VPN encryption and anonymity protection are made available right away, no additional installation required.
Check with your VPN for these pre-installed router offers before signing up with the service. In many cases you can save a lot of time and money by utilizing this method, and you won’t lose access to future customizations by doing so, either.
Protecting your home network with a router-based VPN connection is a smart and efficient solution to online security. You’ll keep every device in your house secured, including smart appliances, smart TVs, and the devices of family and friends paying you a visit.
Read Best VPN for Linksys Routers: What to Know for a Smooth Install by John Bardinelli on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter