How to Set Up a VPN on Apple Airport Extreme

Apple users may be familiar with Apple Airport Extreme or Time Capsule and they may be already using one of these as their router. Apple Airport Extreme has become particularly popular thanks to the fact that it is a powerful and comprehensive solution to set up a network with a Mac computer or iOS devices. In order to enhance the level of security of your connection, you may want to add a VPN service to Apple Airport. This would also allow you to access content that is not available in your country due to geo-location restrictions. Airport is designed to be basic and straightforward, but unfortunately its simplicity is a downside as it doesnt support the necessary options to set up a VPN service to secure the data that is transmitted through the router.

You will find a VPN tab under the GUI, but it only enables you to connect to a single private network point, such as a business network and it only works with PPTP and L2TP, while OpenVPN, which is considered as the most secure option, is excluded. This means that it wouldnt support VPN encryption services. Fortunately, it is possible to use a VPN with the help of a dual-router setup configuration. Since there is not an easy way to set it up on Apples firmware, you will need to run a second third-party router dedicated for VPN along with Airport Extreme.

Setting up a VPN on your router, is it really worth it?

Whether you want to use Apple Airport Extreme or not, you may be wondering what are the advantages of setting up a VPN on your router. If you are just getting started with VPNs, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with all the configuration options that are available. In the majority of cases, a VPN service would be configured over OpenVPN or providers would offer their own software. That is why not many users are familiar with the option of connecting directly on the network router. There are certain aspects that you need to consider when it comes to setting up your VPN service on a a router. Here are the pros and cons of this configuration.

The main advantage of configuring a VPN on your router is that you will be able to encrypt all your devices at the same time, using just a single VPN connection and account. The set up will allow you to encrypt data transferred through wired LAN and Wi-Fi connections, assigning the same IP and country of your choice to all of them. This is a practical and affordable way to enhance the security the internet connection on all your devices, particularly if you have a large number of them. You can ensure that all your data in encrypted at once, without having to do individual set ups.

The downside is that you will not be able to choose a different IP and location for each device. All the traffic is directed through the same VPN connection and it is not possible to establish a different path for all the devices connected to the network. However, there is an easy solution that will suit Airport Extreme and Time Capsule users perfectly. You can setup a secondary router to manage all VPN connections while the Airport is used as the open access point. Using a dual-router setup will resolve the issues and will expand the capabilities of your home of office network to an impressive level.

Another drawback that you need to keep in mind is that you may experience a drop in speed across the entire network. While VPNs may affect the speed of your connection, the best providers support incredibly fast servers and routes that are more efficient than the ones used by your ISP. This means that you can expect a fast service when you use different applications because the loss of speed would be minimal. Using a dual router setup can also take care of this issue and gives you the possibility of streaming content effectively and without experiencing a considerable lag.

How to Use a VPN Router with Apple Airport Extreme?

In general, it is not possible to set up a VPN service on a standard consumer Wi-Fi router without making certain updates. The best option to overcome the limitations of a regular home router is to replace its default firmware to an open-source GUI option that adds functionality to your device while supporting more features. Keep in mind that it is not possible to make such update on an Apple device since they are designed to work exclusively with Apples software and firmware. This is why you would need to rely on a dual router configuration.

Dual-Router Setup

The process of replacing the firmware of a router is known as flashing and while it is an effective solution, it doesnt work in every situation. Apples restrictions mean that it is not possible to flash an Airport or Time Capsule as this could void the warranty of the device, not to mention that it would remove all the Apple features that are included in their software. That is why in this case, you would need to use a second network router that is enabled for VPN. This can be set up next or behind the Apple Airport, which has native support for bridging, meaning that you can use the device as a switch by turning the router portion off from the Network tab.

While this way of connecting the Airport to a second router bypasses Apples firewall, it disables all the networking capacities of your router. The best option is to place a switch between the broadband ISP modem and the two routers. The order would be as follows: Internet Modem Switch Switch Port 1 Airport Extreme Switch Port 2 VPN Router. If your internet provider has updated modems that have multiple LAN ports, you wouldnt need to add a switch hub to the configuration. By connecting a second router you can create two separate network, which provides more possibilities and additional benefits. You will find some of them below.

Two Simultaneous Network Connections

Using two network routers effectively means that you have two separate connections. Your Airport would be running directly on your home ISP service, while the second router will serve as a dedicated secure VPN gateway. This is an ideal setup for home and office networks and can help you to make things easier. The encrypted side can be used to keep your data secure and to unblock online services, while the Apple Airport or Time Capsule can work as an open connection for daily tasks. There are other possibilities, including using the VPN router as a secure home or small business network. The main advantage is that you wont deal with the hassle of having to reconnect to VPN servers frequently as you can switch from one connection to another fast and easily.

Boost your Wireless Coverage

When it comes to Wi-Fi, weak coverage can be really frustrating but with a secondary router you can improve the performance of your connection in a convenient way.You wont need to add Wireless repeaters because a secondary router placed in a different location can add coverage to areas in your home or office where the Wi-Fi signal is weak. This also means that you can take advantage of two different access points, which reduces the load on each individual router and helps you to configure guest Wi-Fi connections easier.

What are the Router Requirements for VPN?

The first thing that you may need to do is to flash the router in order to be able to run a VPN connection through it. You can replace the default firmware with popular options like DD-WRT (or alternative versions of it) or with Tomato. They will enable you to unlock VPN features for client/server connections and to increase the functionality of your router. Flashing your router is something that you can do on your own and as long as you follow the instructions carefully, there shouldnt be major issues. However, it is important to check if your device is compatible with the firmware of your choice. You should also need to take your time to complete the process because a mistake could result in permanent damage to your router. Below are the most popular VPN enabled options available and the features that will help you choose the right option for your needs.

DD-WRT

This is the most popular option and it supports more features than any third-party firmware, which is ideal for advanced users although it may make the performance a bit sluggish. It offers impressive compatibility so you can install it on a wide selection of devices. If you dont feel comfortable with the idea of flashing the router yourself, you can find pre-configured routers from reliable sellers like Flashrouters, Routersource and Buffalo routers.

Tomato

Tomato is the another well-known solution and it is preferred by many users over DD-WRT due to the fact that it combines a good selection of features with efficient performance. It supports an extensive list of devices and you can find pre-configured routers from Routersource and Flashrouters.

ASUSWRT

This advanced Asus GUI firmware is a lighter version of DD-WRT, designed to offer a more efficient performance. It is VPN ready and you can find it in the latest Asus Routers. If you want to enhance the performance of your router even further, you can upgrade to Asuswrt-merlin or DD-WRT.

Flashing Firmware Manually

As previously mentioned, the process of replacing the default GUI firmware of a router with a third-party option is known as flashing. While it not extremely difficult, it is not exactly simple and requires a lot of attention to avoid irreversible damage to your device. It is important to consider that flashing a router is likely to be against the manufacturer conditions and may void your warranty. However, if you have an inexpensive router and want to give it a try, you shouldnt feel intimated. Flashing your own router can be a rewarding experience. Just make sure that you research about the third-party open source firmware options available before you start.

Both DD-WRT and Tomato are great options and can transform a regular consumer router into a powerful and sophisticated device that can rival expensive options designed for business purposes. Flashing your router manually allows you to enhance the performance and coverage of your Wi-Fi connection and gives you more control over the bandwidth and customization options. Of course, it also gives you the possibility of adding a VPN service directly on the router. Once you have flashed your router, you will be able to use it with Airport Extreme or Time Capsule to make your connection flexible and secure at the same time.

If you feel that you dont have the time or skills to try to flash your router manually, there is a convenient option that you can consider. Instead of flashing the router on your own, you can buy a professionally pre-configured device. Here are are some of the best retailers that offer a great selection of pre-configured routers, as well as great customer service.

Flashrouters.com
They have a great selection of professionally pre-configured routers running DD-WRT or Tomato. You can even get routers with VPN services integrated from different providers. With the practical solutions that Flashrouters offers, you can easily find a device that can be part of a dual router setup that will enable you to use Airport for regular tasks while letting the flashed router support a VPN and other advanced features. Although buying a pre-configured router will cost you more than flashing your device manually, it is a practical option that will let you integrate Airport or Time Capsule seamlessly and you can switch between networks in just one step. Flasrouters offers useful information that will help you to understand better how the dual-router Airport setup works. They also offer excellent customer support and guide you through every step of the process.

Routersource.com
Another great option to purchase a pre-configured router is Routersource.com, which provides a wide variety of devices and professional networking services. They have models running DD-WRT and Sabai OS, which is a firmware that is specifically designed for VPN setups and provides great performance even while running high capacity traffic. It is ideal for establishing connections with OpenVPN protocol as a client or as a server and you can enjoy optimal speeds and consistent performance.

Buffalo DD-WRT and Asuswrt
Buffalo also offers routers that integrate DD-WRT so you wont need to worry about manually flashing the devices. There are three models that are ready to go and that would suit different needs and budgets. Buffalo routers are reliable options and their performance keeps improving. The second-generation models have been enhanced and are packed with great updates. Another practical alternative is Asuswrt, which is ASUS firmware based off DD-WRT. It is included in some of the most advanced models by the manufacturer and it supports two internet sources. It is also possible to find routers pre-configured with Asuswrt-merlin, an advanced version of Asuswrt.

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