5 Best Routers for DD-WRT with VPN

13 May 2013 |

What is DD-WRT?

Commercial routers are generally designed for ease of use by non-techy users. Unfortunately this ease of use comes at the cost of limiting what you can do them. DD-WRT is an open source project aimed at developing a Linux based firmware solution that removes the restrictions placed on routers by their default programming.

Installing DD-WRT on your router gives it the full functionality of a business grade router, but without the cost. A full list of all the many advantages would be too long for this article, but some of the most useful are:

  • Advanced Quality of Service (QoS) controls – lets you change bandwidth allocation settings for different networks, and usually provides UPnP media streaming
  • Network storage (NAS) – external hard disks and USB flash drives can be plugged into DD-WRT flashed routers that are equipped with USB ports for use as network drives
  • Network printers – printers can also be plugged into a USB port for access from anywhere on the network
  • DNS caching – speeds up host name lookup to improve connection speeds to popular websites
  • Wireless bridging – turns the router into a WiFi repeater to extend the range of your WiFi signal
  • Advanced performance graphs – DD-DRT lets you analyse your network performance and bandwidth use with detailed graphs and statistics
  • Kai Daemon - this feature provides network tunnelling for the PC, Xbox and other consoles to the open source Xlink  Kai game platform
  • Adjust antenna power – to increase wireless range
  • VPN – DD-DRT can route the signals from all connected devices through a VPN service. This is particularly useful when you want to connect devices such games consoles, Kindle Fire tablets, mobile phones, AppleTV, Roku etc. that do not have built-in VPN clients.

Flashing routers to use DD-WRT

‘Flashing’ is the process of changing or upgrading the firmware (built in programming) of a hardware device. Not all routers can be flashed with DD-WRT, but there is an increasingly long list of ones that can, with models by Linksys, Buffalo Technology and Belkin so prominent they have started to include DD-WRT as the default firmware on some of their models. A full list of DD-WRT compatible models is available from the official DD-WRT website.

There are a number of ways to ways to get a flashed router:

  • Buy one in which the manufacture has installed DD-WRT as the default firmware
  • Buy a compatible router and flash DD-WRT onto it yourself. While not too complicated, this can be a bit tricky and requires some technical know-how. Also, while unlikely if you follow the instructions carefully, it is possible to brick your router so that it will no longer function, so is performed entirely at your own risk. You will, additionally likely void your manufacturers warrantee. On the other hand, it is the cheapest option! The full, official guide to installing DD-WRT can be found here
  • Buy a router with DD-WRT pre-installed – just search eBay for ’preinstalled DD-WRT router’.  There are a lot of sellers who will happily install and configure DD-WRT capable routers before supplying them to you, which makes life easy. In addition to this, although the manufacturers warrantee will probably be invalidated, many reputable sellers will replace it with one of their own.

Configuring a DD-WRT router to use VPN

Pretty near all builds of DD-WRT support VPN using the PPTP protocol. However, this is not very secure and it is generally better to use OpenVPN. The basic framework for DD-WRT supports OpenVPN, but unfortunately not all routers support builds that do, so it is always best to check before buying if this is important to you (recommended).

Many VPN providers supply setup guides for DD-WRT routers, although some only provide support for PPTP. General guides are available on the DD-WRT website for setting up PPTP and OpenVPN.

Some providers (such as TorGuard and ibVPN) also sell routers flashed with DD-WRT and preconfigured for their VPN service, while third party router sellers (such as FlashRouters) specialise in supplying routers preconfigured for popular VPN providers.

DD-WRT vs. Tomato

Tomato is an alternative Linux based firmware package for routers, most notably the Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers. Like DD-WRT, it can be used to flash a compatible router, allowing it to be used as a VPN gateway, as well as providing similar functionality to a DD-WRT flashed router.

DD-WRT is compatible with more routers, and is generally reckoned more newbie friendly, but many people prefer Tomato’s interface and excellent real-time network monitoring capabilities.

5 Best DD-WRT routers for VPN

There are a lot of routers that are compatible with DD-WRT, so this list can in no way be considered definitive. Still, these routers come highly recommended, and are good, solid choices. Given the differences in price and capabilities, we have decided against putting them in order of preference, in favour of letting you choose which features etc. are important to you. Note that all prices are as per Amazon.com (May 2013), for a new, un-flashed router.


Linksys E1200 ($44.99)

21cUBrMkR4L._SX300_This low cost Wireless-N (802.11n) single band router is consistently well reviewed, and has been picked as PCMag’s editor’s choice. For a single band router it is very fast, managing an average wireless maximum throughput of 60Mbps, and it comes with 4 10/100 Ethernet ports to connect wired devices. The E1200 is a basic, entry level machine, but one that works well and is fully compatible with DD-WRT.

Amazon has one of the best prices for this router, you can buy it here.


D-Link DIR-632 ($38.80)

318QWEH7i7LThis 8-port Wireless-N router come with very flaky out-of-the box firmware, but is very easily flashed with DD-WRT to make it a highly capable router at a ridiculously low price. In addition to the 8 10/100 Ethernet ports, this router has a USB port, which makes it ideal for adding network storage (NAS) or a network printer.

Click here to buy this router on Amazon now.


Asus RT-N16 ($82.98)

41igL5wjgYL._SX385_This single band Wireless-N gaming router is perfect for upgrading with DD-WRT, as the 2 USB ports, large RAM capacity (128 MB), large Flash memory (32 MB) and 4 Gigabit Ethernet  ports mean that with DD-WRT on board it is capable of enterprise levels of performance at consumer level pricing.

Click here to buy on Amazon now.


Netgear WNDR3700 ($99.00)

71Ym2yvhpUL._SL1500_The Netgear WNDR3700 is a dual band router that delivers simultaneous 300Mbs + 300Mbs performance for a combined speed of 600Mbs from its 8 internal antennas, and incorporates a WiFi amplifier for improved range. Also included are 4  x Gigabit LAN ports for high speed wired access, and a USB port for network drives and printers.

Click here to buy on Amazon now.


Linksys E4200 ($131.64)

71wloxE-9CL._SL1500_With transfer rates of 300Mbs + 450Mbs resulting in a throughput of 750Mbs, the Linksys E4200 dual band router is one of the fastest consumer grade routers on the market, and has picked up a PCMag Editors Award. The 3×3 MIMO antennas ensure fantastic WiFi coverage, while the 4 x Gigabit LAN ports mean blazing fast wired connections. There is also a USB port for network drives and printers.

Click here to buy on Amazon now.


Conclusion

A DD-WRT router is a fantastic way to take control of your wireless network and give you business grade functionality for a fraction of the cost. Most importantly as far as we at BestVPN.com are concerned, is the fact that it is the easiest way to connect all the internet enabled devices in your home to your favourite VPN service, shielding your internet use from prying eyes and allowing you to spoof your location so you can access services normally denied you based on you geographic location.

Author Picture Written by Pete Zaborszky
Pete runs Best VPN and wants to get detailed information to the readers. He is dedicated to being the best and providing the highest quality at anything he does. You can also find him on Twitter or Google+
  • wld

    Is this really wrotten at 2013 ? Please, delete that…. RT-N66 was released almost 1 year ago….

  • Mooose

    It should be noted that the Netgear WNDR3700 has 4 versions on the shelves. One of the versions, v3, has a flawed dd-wrt build. It’s worth avoiding it. The v2 is fine and preferable.

    • Douglas

      Thanks Moose. That is very handy information to know.

  • billyc

    I have the same question as wld. The best of router shall cover the ac router

  • Christine Bell

    I’m checking out a VPN service in order to view UK TV here in USA and their “chat” person says I should use a DD-WRT which would be my device screen. I’m not getting this. Can you tell me if utilizing a DD-WRT will somehow allow me to sit in my chair and use my Roku remote or other remote control to view BBC iPlayer, etc.?

  • Juan

    the e4200 dd-wrt firmware is still in beta and is a 2 step process to flash. e4200 has issues with 5Ghz wifi sustainability and some have reported issues with wifi stability. I dont know why this is mentioned as a solid router to flash dd-wrt. I own this router and flashed the manf. firmware back on becuase it takes voodoo magic to get the usb to work with a WD usb drive as a network storage. Not cool.

  • Douglas

    Hi Christine,

    The ‘chat person’ is right. Using a DD-WRT router will allow you to connect any internet enabled device (such as a Roku player) to a VPN service, even if it cannot natively be configured to do so (as it connects to the router, and the router is configured to connect to the VPN).

  • njo

    Never Netgear. Slow. Long boot process. They do not care much about new firware.

  • Navajo

    How can you put the DIR-632 into a “best of” list? It doesn’t even have Gigabit ethernet ports. The DIR-825 was good, the DIR-835 was better (only while running dd-wrt)… terrible factory firmware from D-Link. I run 8 DIR-825 units and 4 DIR-835 units at two different business locations (since 2010 or so on the DIR-825s), and they are the best routers I’ve ever used. *NOTE that you should use firmware build 21676, not the newest one (22118) as there are some features broken in that latest release.

    Out of 12 routers currently in use, I had one DIR-835 that I bought “open-box” that had hardware problems where I had to return it (the ethernet ports did not work, only wireless).

    Hope that helps.

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi Navajo,

      Thanks for the suggestions – we find this kind of real world use feedback invaluable. We do try to point out in the article that this list can in no way be considers definitive, but these routers docome highly recommended from a variety reliable sources. We have as yet not had the resources available to perform comprehensive group tests on routers, but this may change in the future (although even then the sheer number of routers on the market makes a truly comprehensive group test unfeasible).

  • gabe

    man.. i been tryng like crazy to upload the firmware… it says bad file…

    i have DIR-825 B1.. did the 30/30/30 got to the page… upload says not a good file..
    i tried with almost all of them same thing…

    i am able to do this..

    • Douglas Crawford

      Hi gabe,

      Good luck! If any of our readers have more practical advice, I’m sure gabe would love to hear it…

  • TechCoach

    Where are the speed comparisons? That’s what we really want to know.

    1. Compare between VPN running on a client vs. in the fastest router. I read its 500% slower through ANY router vs running VPN on the computer. True? What are the numbers?

    2. Compare between different flashed routers. Compare SPEED throughput. Like I have a 50 Gbps ISP connection, drops to 20 running VPN in the client and 3Gbps through a VPN gateway router.

    3. Compare between DD-WRT or Tomato on the same router.

    4. Compare between different VPN protocols running on clients, and routers all else being equal.

    If not at bestvpn, where can I find this info?

  • http://www.displacednames.com/ Junaid Ahmed

    nice and well done.
    useful info.

  • mosey

    wndr3700 is terrible the 2.4ghz goes out quickly 6monthes to a year, at least 5ghz works but my laptop does not pick that up. v2 is ok, the v3 is just garbage, its broadcom not atheros chipset and its scaled down and slower than v2. im never buying netgear again, its like i need a new router every year or so, and thats bull for a 99 dollar router. going with asus maybe

  • shar

    Hi
    I had a querry
    can a database be used to authenticate openvpn on ddwrt flashed routers
    and how do we implement this?

  • Ted Mittelstaedt

    Hold the phones on this one – the best router is going to be the Linksys WRT1900AC. This is the first Belkin-post-Cisco era product and Belkin/Linksys has announced it’s specs:

    dual core 1.2 GHz ARM processor
    128 MB of of Flash and has 256 MB of DD3 RAM
    will ship with an OpenWRT version as an option

    Here’s a quote on this product from Mike Chen, vice president of product management for Linksys:

    “We have brought back the WRT because our customers have asked for a router that had the reliability, functionality and open source capabilities, but with today’s AC wireless technology. The WRT1900AC is the result of all these requests.”