A free VPN can seem attractive when you want to access blocked content without paying anything. Unfortunately, free VPNs are often too unreliable and risky. For this reason, making your own VPN server at home can be a great alternative.

I’ve tested various methods of making a VPN server and found the 4 best ones (some are free, but others require some cash). If you’re tech-savvy and have some free time, you can try using one of these methods to create your own VPN server at home.

However, if you don’t have the technical know-how, I recommend subscribing to a reliable VPN service (like ExpressVPN) instead. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up, allows you to access geo-restricted websites, and it doesn’t require extra upload bandwidth to run. You can even get up to 49% off your subscription, so it’s pretty affordable, too.

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How to Make Your Own VPN Server — 4 In-Depth Guides (Updated in 2021)

Before setting up your VPN server, check if your IP is static (always stays the same) or dynamic (changes from time to time). If it’s dynamic, you’ll have to set up DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System), a service that maps domain names to dynamic IP addresses. This way, you won’t have to re-configure your VPN server every time your IP address changes. You can find instructions for setting up DDNS on your router provider’s website.

Method 1: Buy a VPN Router

The easiest way to make your own VPN server is to buy a router with a built-in VPN. Most high-end routers come with this feature, but to buy one new can cost anywhere from $100-$300. (For reference, you can get a 1-year subscription to ExpressVPN for less than the price of a low-end VPN router). Just make sure your router supports your preferred protocol, such as OpenVPN, because changing protocols this way is not easy.

How to set up your VPN router:

  1. Open your router’s control panel. Enter your router’s LAN IP address into the search bar of your internet browser. Router manufacturers usually give routers one of the following IP addresses: 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
  2. Enter your username and password. Both will usually be “admin”, unless you’ve already changed them.
  3. Enable the router’s VPN. Go to settings (or advanced settings), select “VPN service” or “VPN”, and enable it. Ensure all websites are accessible to everyone using the VPN connection. Then, click “Apply” to finish off.
    Screenshot of a router's interface highlighting the VPN setting on the Advanced Settings menu

    VPN settings can be found in a router’s advanced settings

How to set up your VPN client (the device used for connecting to the VPN):

Follow these steps after you’ve set up your router.

  1. Download configuration files. Go to your router’s control panel and download the configuration files for your device — they should match your device’s operating system.
  2. Unzip the files and copy them to the VPN client folder on your device. You can copy the files wirelessly or using a USB cable.
  3. Connect to the VPN away from your home network. After connecting, test for DNS leaks. If there are no leaks, you’re all set!

Method 2: Set Up a VPN Server on Your Router

This method involves replacing your router’s operating system with advanced firmware, such as DD-WRT, Tomato, or OpenWRT. This process is called flashing and it lets you create and host a VPN server on a router. Just note that this method can be quite time-consuming, so you may want to skip the manual set up and try ExpressVPN instead.

Since there’s more room for mistakes, this method is pretty risky, so be warned. Also, make sure your router can support the firmware first, or else it might break (or “brick”) your router. If you’re unsure, then you can check the supported router’s database for each firmware. Doing the background research here is crucial.

To flash your router, follow these steps:

  1. Check compatibility and download. Ensure your router supports DD-WRT, Tomato, or OpenWRT firmware, or purchase a router with the firmware pre-installed. Then, download the compatible firmware.
  2. Connect your computer to the router. Use an ethernet cable to connect the computer and router by plugging it into their respective LAN ports.
  3. Open the router upgrade settings. Open your browser, enter your router’s internal IP address (most routers are set to 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1), and log in to your router. Then, go to your settings and find the router update or upgrade section.
  4. Flash your firmware. Every router has specific instructions for this step, so please refer to those. This is crucial because getting it wrong can break the router.
  5. Restart and log in. Restart your router and then log in again.

Once the router is flashed, you’ll need to create a VPN server:

  1. Enable OpenVPN. Open your router’s control panel, go to the wireless tab and find the VPN tab. Then, enable OpenVPN.
  2. Set up your VPN server and clients. This is a pretty complex process, so please refer to your chosen firmware’s specified instructions. One simple mistake could cost you your router.

Method 3: Use Another Device as a VPN Server

Another way is to turn one of your devices (such as a smartphone or computer) into a VPN server. This might be the best option if your router isn’t compatible with OpenVPN. Just choose a device that’s kept on all the time because you won’t be able to connect to the VPN if it crashes or turns off when you’re not home. You’ll also need to set up port forwarding on your router so that you can access your VPN through the internet.

How to make a VPN server on a Windows 10 computer:

Windows 10 actually has a free, built-in VPN function. However, it uses PPTP, a VPN protocol that is outdated and full of security issues. Instead, I recommend using OpenVPN, which is fast, secure and reliable. I’ve provided the basic steps for setting up OpenVPN on Windows 10 below, but you can find detailed instructions on OpenVPN’s website.

  1. Change firewall settings. Enable port forwarding and inbound connections in your computer’s firewall settings.
  2. Install OpenVPN. Download OpenVPN for Windows and install it. Make sure you check the “EasyRSA” box on the “Enable Components” part. Then, install the TAP drivers when it asks.
  3. Configure EasyRSA. This needs to be done to request and sign certificates and to create certificate authorities.
  4. Generate certificates. Generate the certificate authority and certificates for the VPN server.
  5. Build client certificates. You’ll need these to connect the client (your device) to the VPN.
  6. Configure the VPN client. Make configuration files for the VPN server and VPN clients. Then configure each client with the generated files.
  7. Connect to the VPN server. Use your VPN client to connect to the server.
  8. Check that the connection is secure. Test for leaks before you start using the VPN.

How to make a VPN server on a macOS computer:

Setting up a VPN server on a macOS computer requires third-party software because Mac computers aren’t compatible with OpenVPN. I recommend using Homebrew or Tunnelblick, which are both free and easy to install. Once OpenVPN is installed, the process is very similar to Windows.

If you prefer to use a smaller device as a VPN server, Raspberry Pi is a good option. It’s powerful enough to support several connections at a time, which is great if you want to connect more than one device to the VPN.

Normally, setting up a VPN on a Raspberry Pi is quite complicated, so I recommend using an install script called PiVPN. It’s very secure and it allows you to customize your VPN port, client DNS server, and key encryption strength. For the installation, you’ll also need a micro SD card and an ethernet cord or WiFi dongle. You can find detailed instructions on the PiVPN website.

Tip: If the instructions above seem too complicated, I recommend opting for a VPN that only requires a couple of clicks to set up instead. ExpressVPN offers native apps for dozens of operating systems including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux (plus, it only takes 2 minutes to set up). Even better, you only need 1 subscription to connect up to 5 devices at once, which I find really convenient. It comes with a money-back guarantee as well, so you cantry it out yourself completely risk-free. If you aren’t satisfied with it, you have 30 days to claim a full refund.

Method 4: Set Up a VPN Server on the Cloud

You can also rent a cloud server from a reputable platform and create a VPN there. Some suitable cloud platforms include:

  • DigitalOcean
  • AWS
  • Scaleway
  • Amazon EC2
  • Amazon Lightsail
  • Vultr
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Compute Engine
  • DreamCompute

While you won’t be able to use a cloud VPN server to access your local network while away from home, this method allows you to rent a server in whichever country you choose. This means you’ll be able to access content that is available in the country where your server is located. For example, you could use it to access your US Netflix account when you’re abroad.

However, using a cloud server is a monthly expense and has some possible privacy concerns. This is because you have to trust your provider with all your internet traffic. Since you can get a reliable VPN service for nearly the same price, I’d recommend using ExpressVPN because of its robust security features.

Once you’ve chosen a cloud platform, you’ll need to download and install a suite of VPN setup tools called Algo. Then, you’ll need to set up the devices that you’re going to connect to the VPN.

This method requires coding, which may be complicated for the average user. I’ve provided the basic steps below, and you’ll find the code required for each operating system on the GitHub website. To make things simple, these steps are based on using Amazon Web Services because it has a free version. Other cloud platforms will be slightly different when installing Algo.

To set up a cloud VPN server on your device, follow these steps:

  1. Create a free account on Amazon Web Services. If you have an existing Amazon account, you can use your login and password when creating the AWS account.
  2. Download Algo VPN. Unzip the file after downloading.
  3. Install the Algo VPN dependencies. Make sure you follow the appropriate instructions for your device, since this process is a little different for every operating system.
  4. Run the installation wizard. To complete the installation, you’ll need to choose a server location, enter the access and secret keys from AWS, and set your VPN preferences on Algo.
  5. Connect your devices to the VPN. Make sure to follow the appropriate instructions for your device, as this will require different configuration for Android, Mac, Windows, and iOS devices.

Why Make Your Own VPN Server?

The main benefits of making your own VPN server are reduced costs, increased privacy, and remote network access. It can also be a good learning experience because it can be technical (depending on your method). If you’re willing to embrace the challenge, then the rewards are worthwhile.

Reduced Costs

There are a few methods to set up a VPN server at home that don’t cost anything. For example, you can set up a VPN server on your router or another pre-owned device. In addition, several cloud platforms have free versions, such as Amazon Web Services.

Increased Privacy

Creating your own VPN server means you won’t be entrusting your data to any questionable VPN providers. Since you’re the one who owns the servers, you’ll have more control over your own data. While reputable VPNs will adhere to a strict no-logs policy, some providers have been caught sharing user data with third parties like advertisers.

Having your own VPN server can also protect you from hackers when you use public WiFi. Since all the traffic between the server and your device is encrypted, no one will be able to find and steal your personal information.

Another privacy benefit, which is specific to cloud VPN servers, is that you can dispose of a server and set up a new one straight away. When you delete a server, all data will be removed for good.

Remote Network Access

If you create your own VPN server on your home router, it’s possible to access your local network when you’re away. This way you’ll be able to access your Netflix account and other geo-restricted services when you’re traveling abroad.

It’s also super handy and cost-effective for small businesses that work remotely. For example, anyone connected to your home VPN network can access files and use the printer from anywhere.

The Disadvantages of Making Your Own VPN Server

Unfortunately, making your own VPN Server has more disadvantages than advantages, so it’s not the best choice for everyone. For most people, using a reliable VPN service is a better option because it’s a lot less technical, has fewer security risks, and comes with many more benefits. ExpressVPN is a much easier alternative to making your own VPN server and it comes with world-class security features, unblocks dozens of popular streaming platforms and you can use it on all of your devices at home or away.

But there are a number of things to consider before attempting to make your own VPN server:

  • No access to geo-restricted content. A home VPN server only lets you use the IP address of your home network, which means you can’t use a foreign IP address to bypass geoblocks (unless you use the cloud method). A big advantage of a VPN service is its global server network and large pool of IP addresses. You have access to thousands of servers in dozens of countries that let you access geo-restricted websites in a couple of clicks.
  • Slow speeds. If your internet connection already has limited bandwidth, a home VPN server might make matters worse. Your connection will likely get slower, and result in longer wait times for downloads. If you’re looking for fast speeds, a top-tier VPN service is a much better choice.
  • Your ISP still sees your activity. While a home VPN server can protect your personal data from hackers or protect you on public WiFi, it only encrypts traffic between the VPN server and the VPN client. This means that what you do online is still visible to your ISP. You don’t get full anonymity like you would with a trusted commercial VPN service.
  • No shared IP protection. With your own VPN server, you’re still only using your ISP-given IP address alone. When you use a VPN service, you share IP addresses with other users, making it much harder to track your online patterns.
  • Complicated setup. Most VPN services have a native app for all major devices, which can be installed in a couple of minutes. In contrast, making your own VPN server is more technical and requires extra time and work to get started.
  • No automatic security updates. VPN services regularly update their security features, so you’re well-protected at all times. A home VPN server doesn’t come with automatic security updates, so you’ll have to do them manually.

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FAQs on Making Your Own VPN Server

Can I create my own VPN to unblock Netflix?

Yes, it’s possible to create your own VPN to unblock Netflix. With most of the methods above, you can access your own local network while you’re away from home. This means you’ll be able to access your Netflix account even when you’re traveling abroad. While you can’t access your local network with the cloud method, you could still use it to access your Netflix account when abroad by choosing a server in your home country.

However, making your own VPN server requires quite a bit of technical knowledge. In most cases, you’ll only be able to access your home Netflix library. Therefore, it’s better to use a VPN that’s proven to be reliable with Netflix instead. ExpressVPN is easy to set up, and it has a global server network of over 3,000 servers, so you can easily access Netflix libraries from all over the world.

Is it free to set up my own VPN server?

It depends on which method you use, but most methods are free. Buying a VPN router will cost you anywhere between $100-$300 while flashing your existing router is free. Another way that’s free is hosting a VPN server on another device you already own, such as a smartphone or computer.

The last method, setting up a VPN server on a cloud, can go either way. Most cloud platforms charge a monthly subscription fee, which is around the same as a reliable VPN service. However, some of them have free versions like Amazon Web Services.

If you want to protect yourself without complicated setups then it’s better to sign up for a low-cost premium VPN instead. ExpressVPN is pretty affordable ⁠— if you go to its website right now, you’ll find a subscription plan for as low as $6.67/month.

What’s the difference between a VPN server and a VPN client?

The VPN client and the VPN server are the two ends of an encrypted VPN tunnel. A VPN client is the device on which you want to use a VPN connection (say, your laptop). A VPN server hosts and delivers the VPN service to your device. To put that into context, ExpressVPN (for example) lets you choose from thousands of different IP addresses because it has thousands of servers. You’re kept completely anonymous while connected to its servers. If you’re connecting to your home VPN server, you’ll only be given the IP address of your home network, so you’re not as protected. However, if you’re using public WiFi, you’ll be kept anonymous since it’ll look like you’re actually online at home.

Can I make my own VPN for torrenting?

I don’t recommend making your own VPN for torrenting. While it is possible to do so, if you don’t have the technical knowledge, chances are it won’t work — your speeds will probably be way too slow, and there’s a chance your data won’t be encrypted properly. In addition, once your traffic leaves your local network, it’s still visible to your ISP. And since you use your own IP address, you’re not anonymous while using P2P software, either.

Therefore, if you want to torrent safely, it’s a much better idea to use a reliable VPN service. ExpressVPN uses military-grade encryption, masks your real IP address, and adheres to a strict no-logs policy, so you know you’re well protected. In addition, its entire network is P2P-friendly, so it’s really easy to use if you want to stay safe while torrenting.

Can I set up your own VPN server on Android, iPhone, Mac, Windows 10, and Linux?

Yes, you can set up your own VPN server on Android, iPhone, Mac, Windows 10, and Linux devices. All of them have different configuration instructions and involve some degree of technical knowledge.

However, If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, I’d recommend trying out ExpressVPN because it’s much easier to set up. It’s also compatible with all of these devices (each installation method only takes a couple of minutes) and is a highly trusted service. You’re protected with its zero-logs policy, robust security measures, and the fact it undergoes independent audits regularly.

Try ExpressVPN Now

Make Your Own VPN Server Today!

Making your own VPN server at home is a great option if you don’t mind the technical challenge. It can be a cheaper alternative to a commercial VPN service, has some privacy benefits, and gives you remote access to your local network. But because it’s quite time-consuming and requires extensive technical knowledge, it’s not for everyone.

If you’re short on time or not very tech-savvy, I recommend using a reputable VPN service like ExpressVPN. It’s easy and quick to set up so it’s great for beginners. It also protects your privacy, has super-fast speeds, and offers access to geo-restricted content. It even comes with a money-back guarantee, so you can test it out completely risk-free. If you’re not impressed you have 30 days to claim a full refund.

The best commercial VPN services in 2021 are…

9.8/10
9.8/10
9.6/10

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Original source: https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/how-to-make-your-own-vpn-server/