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Routers with DD-WRT and VPN – Where to Begin?

I decided to set up a VPN for use at home. After doing a little research, I found that a common setup is to get a router that is compatible with DD-WRT, a Linux-based firmware for wireless access points and routers, and then to connect to one of many VPN services.

DD-WRT VPN diagram

After signing up for a year with VPN Unlimited, I plugged in an old Linksys WRT54G (v5) router I hadn’t used in a while, and prepared to upgrade the firmware to the newest version of DD-WRT that would work with it. To find out what firmware I needed, I went to the DD-WRT Router Database and typed in “wrt54g” into the search box. For my version 5 router, the newest version of the firmware was “v24 preSP2 [Beta] Build 14896”, which was dated 9-7-2017; fairly new! I could choose from either the “Micro Generic” or the “Micro OLSRD Generic” firmware. Since I’m not setting up a mesh network, I opted for the plain vanilla Micro firmware. The upgrade went off without a hitch! I then found the pages which described how to connect to the VPN using either PPTP or OpenVPN.

DD-WRT control panel, Services --> VPN

And yet, here is where the trouble started.

I could not find the “Services / VPN” tab in the control panel of DD-WRT. It soon became apparent that I had not done enough research on the VPN functionality of DD-WRT. Some routers in this series (namely versions 1.0 through 4.0) had 16 MB RAM and 4 MB flash memory. These versions supported many different versions (standard, micro, micro_olsrd, voip, openvpn, etc.) of the DD-WRT firmware. My version 5 router, having only 8 MB RAM and 2 MB flash memory, can only hold the micro versions – which lack VPN functionality!

Since I won’t be able to use this router for VPN, I will have to buy a new one. Fortunately, I found a list containing some of the better current routers for this purpose at FlashRouters. Though you can buy the router pre-configured with DD-WRT there, I will likely buy it at Amazon for less and load the firmware myself. If you are concerned about bricking your router when changing the firmware, buying it pre-configured may be your best option.

About the author: I solve problems. Solutions Architect / Senior Software Engineer / Business Analyst / Full-Stack Developer / IT Generalist