Resurrect a router

If you’ve got an old wireless router lying around, one of the most useful things you can do with it is install a third party firmware that supports VPN. Then, you can set it up so that any device that connects to it is automatically connected to a VPN service.

This way, if you just want regular internet service, you connect to your main router; if you want secure VPN internet service, you connect to the flashed secondary router.

1. Install DD-WRT

dd-wrt powerThis is probably the trickiest part of the equation. DD-WRT remains our favourite third-party firmware, but you do need to be careful installing it.

Head to the website and look up your router model in the router database. There are specific guides and firmwares for each router model, and you must pay close attention to your model’s instructions.

Then connect your computer directly to the secondary router with an Ethernet cable and follow the instructions.

If you’re lucky, the process is as simple as hard resetting the router and using the web interface to upgrade the firmware. Some routers, however, require more elaborate rituals to convert to DD-WRT.

2. Set it up as a client for your existing network

Now we want to set the router up to use your main internet connection – that is, to connect it to your primary router. Connect the WAN port on the soon-to-be VPN router to a LAN port on the primary router with an Ethernet cable.

You want to give your router internet access. Log onto the DD-WRT admin page at 192.168.1.1 and change the following settings:

  • Set the WAN Connection type to Automatic Configuration – DHCP.
  • In the Router IP, set the local IP address to something that doesn’t clash with your main router. The third number should be different from the third in the main router IP address. (For example, if the main router IP is 192.168.1.1, use 192.168.2.1). Subnet mask should be 255.255.255.0.
  • This new IP address will be the one you now have to use to access the admin page.

3. Configure wireless

Head to DD-WRT’s Wireless settings and set up a wireless network on the VPN router. Of course, the usual wireless security rules apply: use WPA2 and give it a good password.

4. Configure the VPN

VPNNow to set up the router as a client on the VPN network. You can find the VPN configuration settings in Services -> VPN.

Most VPN services providers will have a guide to setting up their service on DD-WRT, and you’ll need to check their help guides, since different providers use different settings.

PPTP is easiest to set up, since you only really need a server address, username and password. PPTP is less secure than OpenVPN, however.

OpenVPN typically requires a more involved setup, and you’ll likely have to copy and paste scripts and authentication certificates into the appropriate fields.

All done

Once the router is connected to the VPN, you should see that its WAN IP (at the top of the page) becomes the VPN IP address. Any device connected to it – wirelessly or through a wired port – will now route all internet data through the VPN.

Separate networks

In this configuration, devices connected to the secondary router cannot talk to devices connected to the primary router.

If you have devices in your home that you want to talk to each other (if you have a home server, for example), it’s best to connect them to the same router. Otherwise you’ll have to mess with advanced IP forwarding settings, which can be tricky.