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VPN FOR ROUTERS: 5 paid + 5 free services (2020)

Last updated: June 5 2020 By Dean Chester

How to create secure, confidential Internet access right away for all your devices? That's right - set up a VPN on your router. It doesn’t matter if you use a DSL or PON router, it’s easy to do it on any model. But some restrictions are often not talked about, which is why the result is unsatisfactory. After reading this article, you’ll be able to configure the best VPN on your router.

As opposed to conventional devices, such as a computer or smartphone, routers are used to access the Internet through 100% of the time. Thus, when using a VPN router, we do not turn on or turn off the secure connection when we feel like it, but configure it for a long time.

No wonder, we expect three main characteristics from a VPN service we select:

  1. Server connection stability
  2. High speed
  3. Maximum efficiency (bypassing all possible restrictions and maximum traffic protection).

Alright, but is this enough for daily operation?

Not always. There are also hidden characteristics that directly affect the result.

Read on and you will find out which VPN services are the best ones to use with a router and what nuances you need to consider for efficient and easy VPN use.

Firstly, I will share my experience in setting up VPNs on routers (DD-WRT, Asus, Tomato, OpenWrt, pfSense and others), and then we will look at the top 10 VPN services that combine the necessary technical characteristics with parameters which are important for routers. 5 of them are paid, and 5 others are free or have a free trial period (5 completely free VPNs weren't found).

 
The five best VPNs for Routers
  1. ExpressVPN: The most stable and fast VPN service with many features, including bypassing the geo-restrictions of video services. Uses the latest diskless servers.
  2. NordVPN: One of the largest providers optimized for routers. High speed and proven safety. Also uses diskless servers.
  3. Surfshark: An excellent provider with which you can save money without losing the stability of the connection and capabilities. Not as fast as the two above, but much cheaper.
  4. PIA: First of all, it is interesting because of the port forwarding feature for torrenting from a secure network, but it also suits all router models.
  5. Mullvad: Ability to configure the WireGuard productive protocol on routers with OpenWrt.
 
5 VPNs for limited but free access
  1. ProtonVPN: The best combination of speed and router support among the free services.
  2. Hide.me: Good speed and no registration needed, 10GB per month, 3 countries. Connection failures.
  3. GooseVPN: 30 days for free.
  4. ZenMate: 7 days for free.
  5. HMA: 7 days for free.

Recommendation. Since the most important parameters of the Virtual Private Network used through the router are stability and speed, I strongly advise against using free VPNs. Even the best free provider is significantly inferior to paid ones in terms of these parameters. If for some reason you don’t like the service, you can simply refund your money. All paid VPN services presented in this review have a 30 day money-back guarantee.


What important characteristics should a VPN service for a router have?

As I said, a suitable VPN service should provide a stable connection and high speed. But these are not the only parameters to consider. The practice has shown that most services do not provide settings for routers. Besides, many VPNs do not have their own DNS servers, which is fraught with a leak of information about the resources you visit.

Here is a complete list of the obvious and non-obvious features that a VPN should have for routers:

  1. Router support
  2. Connection stability (no frequent shutdowns, stable speed, fast connection)
  3. High speed (sufficient to ensure that all devices connected to this network do not experience speed problems)
  4. Own DNS servers (for maximum security)
  5. Torrenting support
  6. Streaming support (unblocking geo-restricted content of Netflix and other popular services)
  7. Online service support (some router models may not work correctly with VPN, in which case the support service can help)
  8. Money-back guarantee (if all of the above fails).

As you can see, choosing a VPN is not as easy as it might seem at first glance.

Free providers are an especially tough case. Yes, yes, I already said that it’s better not to use them, but the demand is great and I did everything I could to find the least unstable providers (more precisely, their free versions).

Keep reading and you will find out which VPNs more closely match the criteria listed. I will briefly describe their pros and cons, as well as the features of their settings on routers.


Best VPN for routers based on 2020 test results

Due to all parameters, ExpressVPN became the best VPN. It is at the same time one of the fastest services, the most stable one, and it provides an unprecedented level of privacy. It uses diskless servers for a 100% lack of logs and is based offshore in BVI to minimize possible pressure on the company.

The second one is NordVPN. It is one of the largest services. It also uses diskless servers, is based in Panama, and has high speed and excellent stability. It’s in the second place only due to a slightly smaller choice of locations (supports 59 countries versus 94 for ExpressVPN).

Other VPNs also showed good test results on routers. All of them have their own DNS servers and generally attach great importance to protecting privacy.

Read on about the pros and cons of all services.

Comparison of the main characteristics of VPN services that are in demand for routers

Service Ranking (out of 10) Speed, Mbps Country selection Torrenting Netflix Price (monthly
ExpressVPN 10 >100 94 +

+

$6.67-12.95
NordVPN 10 >60 59 + + $3.49-11.95
Surfshark 10 >50 61 + + $1.99-11.95
CyberGhost VPN 9 >70 30 + - $2.85-9.95
Mullvad 9 60-80 36 + + €5

ExpressVPN

Main advantages

  • High speed
  • Locations in 94 countries
  • Detailed setup instructions
  • Netflix and Hulu support

Overview

During the tests on routers, ExpressVPN showed the best results.

Firstly, it has an incredibly extensive database of guides for setting it up almost on any device model.

Secondly, the tests confirmed the real connection speed of above 150 Mbps.

And thirdly, it is the best provider to maintain confidentiality due to its policy, diskless servers and secure jurisdiction.

Tests also confirmed the safety of torrenting and the effectiveness in unblocking the content of popular streaming services for at least 20 popular regions of the world.

The provider offers a configuration based on the OpenVPN protocol.

 
ExpressVPN Preview
Extra 20% discount plus free 3 months
 

Price

The table lists the ExpressVPN tariff plans

  1 month 6 months 1 year
Price (monthly) $12.95 $9.99 $6.67
Money-back guarantee + + +

Functionality on a router or on other platforms does not depend on the duration of the subscription.

Conclusion

  • ExpressVPN has everything you need to use on your router.
  • Compatible with all models.

It supports all other platforms and allows you to connect up to 5 devices at the same time on one subscription.

I’ll also add that ExpressVPN is one of the leaders in the number of positive reviews (based on the analysis of Reddit activity).

 
ExpressVPN Preview
Proven Reliability Combined with Maximum Confidentiality
 

ExpressVPN's router settings


NordVPN

Main advantages

  • High speed
  • Huge selection of servers
  • Confirmed security
  • Netflix and Hulu support

Overview

NordVPN also has an incredibly wide range of router configuration guides, is fast, and supports almost all router models. A distinctive feature of the service is an incredibly large selection of servers. More than 5700 servers in 59 countries, and for each of them, there is a configuration for routers.

NordVPN consistently supports streaming, effectively protects the use of torrents and is suitable for daily use.

The provider offers a configuration based on the OpenVPN protocol.

 
NordVPN Preview
Proven location and traffic protection, access to 5700+ servers
 

Price

The table lists the NordVPN tariff plans.

  1 month 6 months 1 year 3 years
Price (monthly) $11.95 $6.99 $4.99 $3.49
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30 30

Functionality on a router or on other platforms does not depend on the duration of the subscription.

Conclusion

  • NordVPN is ideal for daily use (for any purpose).
  • Compatible with any type of router.
  • Suitable for watching videos in any quality.
  • Effectively protects the user's location and other personal data.
 
NordVPN Preview
The Most Popular VPN Service According to the Google Trends
 

NordVPN’s router settings


Surfshark

Main advantages

  • Low price
  • High quality
  • Confirmed security
  • Netflix and Amazon Prime support

Overview

The third VPN service that has successfully passed our tests is Surfshark.

This relatively young provider (launched in 2018) managed to earn the trust of users and many professionals in a short time. Surfshark supports many innovative technologies and can even work in China, bypassing the Great Firewall of China.

Its main advantages are its low price (from $1.99 per month) and support for an unlimited number of devices per subscription (it may be useful if your router is too weak to handle the traffic of a large number of connected devices).

Surfshark offers a configuration based on the OpenVPN protocol.

 
Surfshark Preview
Start using from $1.99 per month
 

Price

The table lists Surfshark VPN plans.

  1 month 1 year 2 years
Price (monthly) $11.95 $5.99 $1.99
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30

Functionality on a router or on other platforms does not depend on the duration of the subscription.

Conclusion

  • Surfshark VPN is well suited for the use on routers.
  • Compatible with most models.
  • Successfully circumvents geo-restrictions of Netflix and other video services.
  • Unlimited number of simultaneously used devices per subscription.
  • Low price.
 
Surfshark Preview
Effective use of VPN on the router. Easy setup according to detailed instructions
 

Surfshark’s router settings


Private Internet Access

Main advantages

  • Port forwarding
  • Confirmed Security

Overview

Private Internet Access (or simply PIA) has one benefit and two drawbacks over the previous VPNs. It supports port forwarding, but it is not suitable for Netflix and its jurisdiction is the USA (5 eyes).

Port forwarding allows you to associate the port used by the torrent app or game console with the channel’s VPN port. These are some cases in which this can improve the speed and visibility of other members of p2p or the gaming network.

PIA offers a configuration based on the OpenVPN protocol.

Price

The table lists the plans for Private Internet Access.

  1 month 6 months 1 year
Price (monthly) $9.95 $5.99 $2.85
Money-back guarantee 30 30 30

Functionality on a router or on other platforms does not depend on the duration of the subscription.

Conclusion

  • Top-level VPN that is regularly tested
  • Good security
  • Port forwarding
  • Does not support Netflix

PIA’s router settings


Mullvad

Main advantages

  • WireGuard Support
  • High speed

Overview

Mullvad is primarily interesting due to its support of the progressive VPN protocol called WireGuard. It allows you to achieve the same efficiency with the lowest computing costs as the popular OpenVPN.

Thanks to this, the use of WireGuard allows you to achieve high capacity even with low-power routers.

However, only a small fraction of them can support this protocol. To do this, you need OpenWrt support (a list of suitable router models).

Mullvad offers configurations based on the OpenVPN protocol and WireGuard. Supports 36 countries. Does not support Netflix.

Price

The service has a simple pricing policy and one tariff plan:

  1 month
Price (monthly) 5
Money-back guarantee 30

I should note that Mullvad has the most anonymous registration policy with no email required.

Conclusion

  • Mullvad is a great choice if your router supports OpenWrt.
  • Suitable for 1-month use.
  • Not suitable for streaming.

Mullvad’s router settings


Best Free VPN for Routers

My research of more than 20 free VPN services led to disappointing results: only two of them really support routers.

To provide you with at least 5 free solutions, I had to add services with a free trial period here. There is, however, good news. GooseVPN, which has a record 30 days free trial, provides the configuration of OpenVPN.

Warning: All free VPNs have significant drawbacks. For routers, this is primarily low speed and an unstable connection. If you can easily reconfigure a computer or smartphone by changing the location or server, then on the router it is much more problematic to do this.

Free ProtonVPN

Main advantages

  • Unlimited free traffic plan
  • Trial of the“Pro” version with the transition to a free plan

Overview

ProtonVPN is the most convenient free VPN available in 2020. More precisely, this is a free plan of a paid service. As on the other platforms, it provides the best conditions for users of routers.

First of all, it provides an OpenVPN configuration for configuring any devices. Secondly, it has detailed instructions for novice users. Thirdly, ProtonVPN is included in the top 10 VPN services according to CoolTechZone.com; therefore, if you wish, you can safely switch to the paid version.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Acceptable speed
  • 7-day trial of the full-featured version
  • Powerful paid version
  • Does not keep logs
  • Free version does not support torrentibg and streaming
  • 3 countries

Free hide.me

Main advantages

  • 10GB per month
  • Good speeds (relative to other free VPNs)

Overview

Hide.me lags far behind ProtonVPN in terms of technical parameters, but ranks second in our ranking of free providers as the only alternative to the leader.

The service offers access to 4 locations, does not support streaming even on the paid version, and has average connection stability.

The documentation on setting up a VPN on the router is also very scarce.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Provides OpenVPN configuration
  • Does not keep logs
  • Monthly traffic limit
  • 4 countries
  • No detailed guides

Goose VPN

Main advantages

  • 30 days trial period

Overview

Goose VPN is a mid-range service, interesting only for the duration of the trial period. The speed of its servers is higher than that of free VPNs, but it is difficult to single out anything else.

The service offers an OpenVPN configuration for routers. The connection stability is medium.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • 30-day trial
  • 25 countries
  • Weak connection stability
  • No detailed guides
  • The trial version requires a credit card

ZenMate

Main advantages

  • 7 days trial period
  • Ranked in Top 10 VPNs

Overview

ZenMate is stronger than Goose VPN, but has a significantly shorter period of free use. However, it is available without a credit card. You can also note the possibility of unblocking geo-limited content of video services and special servers for torrenting.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • More than 70 countries
  • Does not keep logs
  • Servers for streaming are not fast enough for daily use
  • Short free period

HMA

Main advantages

  • 7 days trial period
  • High speed
  • Large selection of countries

Overview

HMA, another professional-grade VPN service, will be of interest to those who need a very large selection of countries (more than 160).

The trial period is 7 days and is available only after you pay for a subscription.

Does it make sense to use it for free? Only if you need short-term Internet access through the IP address of some exotic country.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • More than 160 countries
  • Does not keep logs
  • Requires a credit card
  • Short free period

FAQ

⚙ How to set up a VPN on a router?

The easiest way to set up a VPN on the router is to follow the detailed instructions of the selected VPN service, which you must first subscribe to. The fact is that access to the VPN is impossible without a special configuration for communication with the VPN server.

All instructions are about the same, but the procedure depends not only on the model of your router but also on the technical features of the VPN protocol and DNS settings. All this information along with examples and screenshots can be found in the user panel.

❔ How does a VPN router work?

An ordinary router allows several devices to access the Internet via one channel at once. The VPN router does the same, but also it encrypts and packs the traffic in a virtual channel to a special intermediate server, which becomes, so to speak, a channel in the channel. That is why a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is called that.

The opposite is also true. The encrypted traffic from the server arrives at the router, is decrypted, and distributed to the Wi-Fi network or by wire.

👎 What are the cons of using a VPN router?

There are three unobvious problems associated with using the same VPN connection for multiple devices.

👉 The router often lacks the power to pack, encrypt, decrypt, and unpack traffic, especially if the channel width of the Internet service provider is large. As a result, the speed drops significantly. The solution is a powerful but expensive router.

👉 The bandwidth of one VPN server may not be enough. The solution is to use only the fastest servers.

👉 In case of a connection loss with the server (found in absolutely all services but with a different frequency), the Internet will be absent for all devices connected to this router. The solution is to use two routers. This is also a partial solution to the first problem.

Read also:

CoolTechZone - Chief Editor
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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