How to Create a VPN Server: 2 Ways to Easily Set up a Server at Home

How-to-Create-a-VPN-Server

Regular internet users are wisening up to the antics of internet service providers and regulatory bodies like the Senate and FCC. This means that there’s a rise in awareness of cybersecurity, and more people are now looking into how to create a VPN server for themselves.

The most common reasons why people choose to set up servers of their own are:

  • To bypass the effort required to log into a VPN service each time it’s used.
  • To have a VPN continuously running.
  • To be able to run the VPN on multiple devices at the same time.
  • To be able to set up a secure LAN game via the internet.

The only real downside here is that someone with a personal VPN server needs a fast upload speed to make it worth their while. It’s also worth noting that setting up a server at home may become costly if that requires purchasing a new router. However, it saves money in terms of the VPN subscription, since any number of devices can be connected to the router, and subsequently the VPN.

What you should know before building your own server

It’s important to know why someone would want a VPN before getting one. The way a VPN is set up will affect what can be done while using it.

Creating your own server is an excellent option for those who want to connect to their own network while traveling. This may be because they want to have a more secure connection or because they want to access location-specific content, like US Netflix while in the UK. Knowing how to make your own server is also a good option for people who want to connect to public WiFi.

Moreover, it’s also crucial for a person to know which internet protocols they want to use. Some protocols, like PPTP, do not come recommended at all since they’re no longer secure. Other protocols, like IKEv2 and OpenVPN, are much more secure, but not all of the VPN server options out there support every protocol option.

And finally, it’s important to research the VPN service options. Not all VPN services support setting up a server at home via a router.

How to set up a server at home

There are a couple of ways to go about this, and each option has it’s own upsides and downsides. However, those often only relate to how much effort and money a person is willing to put in. The other side to this is that setting up a server usually involves some technical know-how. And this can be intimidating for the average person who’s never done something like this at home.

A subscription to a VPN service is still needed to set up an encrypted VPN tunnel on a router server. Each VPN service will have instructions on their website that detail how to do this.

The easiest way to set up a server at home involves using routers that support VPN server options. Here are two ways this can be done:

Use a router that supports custom firmware

Many standard router models can be configured to create a private server. These models need to support the ability to have new operating software “flashed” onto them. This will then replace the old operating software. Usually, people use DD-WRT, but there are other custom firmware options like OpenWrt, too.

The DD-WRT database is the best place to find out if a router supports this option.

The significant downsides of this option, though, have to do with its technical difficulty. It can be a frustrating experience for anyone who isn’t familiar with how this works. Plus, someone who doesn’t flash their router correctly can also “brick” the router – making it virtually useless for any further use.

How to create a server using DD-WRT

  1. Make sure the computer is connected to the router via an ethernet cable (this is essential). Then download the correct DD-WRT firmware for the router model. This is very important since using the wrong firmware can have disastrous consequences.
  2. Make sure the router is plugged in and on.
  3. Type the router’s IP address into a browser’s search bar. The router’s IP address can usually be found on the device itself or its packaging.
  4. The router’s web interface will now appear. An admin page may open, which usually requires a login. Not all routers are the same though, so it’s important to research what will happen here for each specific router. The login default on an admin page is usually something like admin/admin or admin/password. But these details can often be found on the router as well.
  5. A menu should appear, from which the “Administration” or “Advanced” options can be accessed. Find the “Router Update” option under one of these menu options.
  6. Click “Browse” under the “Router Update” option and select the DD-WRT firmware that was downloaded in the beginning.
  7. Click “OK” or “Proceed” on the warning pop-up that will appear and wait for the firmware to finish the installation. It’s essential that this process isn’t interrupted.
  8. Restart the router. After it’s on again, enter 192.168.1.1 into a browser’s search bar via the computer.
  9. Enter new login details on the DD-WRT Router Management page that will appear. Remember these login details because they are now the only way to access router settings in the future.
  10. After clicking “Change Password,” the settings menu will appear, from where a VPN can be set up.

The instructions for setting up a VPN server on a router will be outlined further on.

Use a router that’s been pre-flashed

Using a router that supports custom firmware may be a cheaper option. But those willing to spend a bit extra can buy a router that already supports setting up a VPN server to save time. These routers are essentially pre-flashed with the DD-WRT or OpenWRT firmware. It’s worth it to shop around, though. Some companies charge a significant markup on pre-flashed routers.

The process for setting up a VPN server on a router with built-in VPN support is pretty much the same as for a router that has to be flashed first. The router’s web interface will need to be accessed first to start setting up the VPN.

As stated above, each VPN service will have their own instructions. But here are the general steps to follow to set up a private VPN on a router with the DD-WRT firmware installed.

How to set up a VPN

  1. It’s important to start this process off by making a backup of the router settings in case something goes wrong or the VPN service is ever canceled. Under the “Administration” section, select “Backup” then click the blue “Backup” button.
  2. Make sure to store the downloaded file somewhere safe and rename it to something recognizable.
  3. Go to the internet service provider’s website, log in, and get their configuration script. Finding the script may be tricky depending on how the website is set up. But finding a “Change Server” option under “Account Settings” will often work. From there, search for “Installers” or “Router Installers.”
  4. Choose the DD-WRT option and copy the command line. There is a way to manually install a VPN on a router, but it’s incredibly tricky and requires a lot of knowledge on the subject. So it’s better to simply let the VPN provider do its thing.
  5. Back at the DD-WRT control panel, go to “Administration” again and select “Commands.” Paste the command line provided by the VPN provider into the command box that appears.
  6. Make sure the command line is correct, then click “Run Commands”.
  7. If the command line has been entered correctly, a notification will appear that says something like “[VPN Name] installed correctly.”
  8. Wait for the router to reboot automatically.
  9. Start browsing the web anonymously and securely.

The biggest upside to choosing the router server method is that every device connected to the network will be protected by a VPN.

Limitations to setting up a personal VPN server on a router

Besides the many benefits, there are a few downsides to creating a server using a router:

Firstly, it’s much more of a hassle to change the VPN server address a person chooses to connect to. So accessing geo-blocked content won’t always be an option, unless the server gets changed. It’s much easier to switch between different servers using a VPN client on a computer than it is on a router.

The other downside is that home-based networks usually have a slow upload speed unless they have something like a Gigabit Fibre connection. Meaning this can make browsing the internet an extremely slow and frustrating experience, hearkening back to the old dial-up days.

Besides a couple of downsides mentioned above, setting up a personal server at home to use with a VPN can be a great option. It all comes down to personal preference. But anyone who wants to know how to how to create a VPN server of their own using a router now has the tools to do precisely that.