What Is VPN Passthrough?

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What Is VPN Passthrough?

What is a VPN passthrough? As I’ve learned more about VPNs and considered getting one for my family’s use, I’ve come across the term “VPN passthrough” and have wondered what it is and how it applies to me and my router. You might be in the same boat, so I’m sharing what I uncovered.

So, what is a VPN passthrough? The short answer is that a VPN passthrough is a router feature that allows any of your devices that are connected to your router to establish what’s known as an outbound VPN connection.

As with most things technology-related, the short answer brings up a host of other questions. I wanted to know why I’d want to establish an outbound VPN connection if I need a VPN passthrough feature on my router, and how to put a VPN on my router if I decide I want one. Ready to learn what I discovered? Keep reading!

What is a VPN Passthrough?  

To understand a VPN passthrough, you first need to understand routers. There are two main types of routers (at least, for our purposes): the kind that natively supports a VPN connection and the kind that don’t. When your router doesn’t natively support a VPN connection, a VPN passthrough is necessary to allow you to use it.

Some routers allow you to activate your VPN passthrough feature. These are considered the standard when it comes to routers; it’s harder and harder to find routers now that don’t have a VPN passthrough feature.

Outbound vs. Inbound VPNs

One key thing about VPN passthroughs that you need to understand is that they enable outbound VPNs--not inbound. With a VPN passthrough in place, you don’t have to open any ports--the passthrough allows your outbound VPN traffic to “pass through,” if you will.

Routers that support VPN passthrough support two of the most common types of VPN protocols--IPsec and PPTP. While some VPNs consider these protocols outdated and are moving away from them, if your VPN runs on these protocols, you’ll need a router with VPN passthrough.

Why is a VPN Passthrough Necessary?   

The reason VPN passthroughs are even necessary, to begin with, is because of NAT, which stands for network address translation. It’s a type of firewall that most routers use because it enables all the devices on your router to use a single internet connection and to share an IP address.

Because PPTP and IPsec VPN protocols don’t play well with NAT, a passthrough is a solution.  

Do I Need VPN Passthrough Enabled?

Unless you’re using an old router, it likely has a VPN passthrough already built in. An older router might not, but that’s usually not a problem unless you’re specifically using a VPN that’s on PPTP or IPsec protocols. Many consider these protocols, however, to be outdated.

Keep in mind that while some people confuse opening a port with enabling VPN passthrough, you don’t have to open or turn on anything to enable VPN passthrough. You do need to complete your basic VPN setup, but otherwise, you shouldn’t need to do anything to your router--your VPN will work automatically if you have IPSec, PPTP, or even L2TP VPN protocols and a VPN passthrough.

What is VPN Passthrough Netgear?

Netgear is a router. Netgear reports that all of its routers support VPN passthrough for L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec VPN protocols via a VPN passthrough. I’ve you’ve already had a VPN set up but installed a Netgear router which stopped your VPN from working, you might need to use Netgear’s customer service to perform troubleshooting.

If you want a Netgear router that specifically supports a VPN passthrough, you can look for models DGN1000 or D6300.

How Do I Put a VPN on My Router?

You’ll need to follow your VPN’s instructions to install your VPN on your router. Your router might also have instructions for installing a VPN. Depending on your VPN, you may be able to purchase preconfigured routers. You should make sure before beginning that your internet is up and running and that your router will support the type of VPN protocol you’re running.

More or less, however, here are the basic steps:

  • 1
    Connect your router to your computer either by an Ethernet connection or via wifi
  • 2
    On your router's control panel, you'll need to find some kind of a setup tab. Look for a connection type option and select your VPN's protocol
  • 3
    You'll need the name of the VPN server that you'll be using as well as your username and password.

Finish saving your settings and complete your router setup; you should now be ready to use your VPN on your home router.

What is VPN Passthrough Linksys?

Linksys routers are popular and come with VPN passthroughs embedded--no need for any additional equipment or to open any ports. Simply follow your VPN’s instructions to get your VPN set up.

Here are Linksys’ instructions for verifying that your Linksys router has VPN passthrough enabled:

  • 1
    Go to the setup page for your router (you'll need to be online for this).
  • 2
    Go to your setup page, then open the security tab and select the VPN Passthrough sub-tab
  • 3
    Make sure the following protocols are set to "enabled": L2TP Passthrough, IPSec Passthrough, and PPTP Passthrough
  • 4
    Save your settings

Can I Disable VPN Passthrough?

You can disable VPN passthrough, but there are some pros and cons to doing so. The pros are better security--open communication ports become effectively blocked and are no longer accessible. The problem with this, however, is that if there’s a user trying to connect to a VPN who is behind the firewall, that person’s connection will be blocked.  

In other words, it might make sense to disable VPN passthrough if you’re the only one on the network, but it doesn’t make sense to do so if you’re running a VPN for a small business or organization.

How Do I Use a VPN on my iPhone?

You can use a wide variety of VPNs, but my favorite after doing lots of research is this one since it works worldwide. Most legitimate, modern VPNs have apps that you can download to your Android or Apple device.

To set everything up, you’ll need the following data:  

  • The server name
  • Your username and password
  • Remote ID

If you don’t have this info, you should contact your VPN’s customer support.

Once you’ve opened your new app and signed in, you’ll need to use your app to configure your phone so that it gets VPN access. Usually, you’ll get a push notification or a notification in app asking for your permission--you can tap “allow.”

Enter the information you’re prompted to give--and your phone will likely also offer the chance to set up a Touch ID. Once you’ve got your VPN set up through the app, you can turn it off or on at will through the app.

What Should I Look for in a VPN?

One of the most important things to consider when you’re shopping for a VPN is whether or not the VPN logs your activity. VPNs tend to be “you get what you pay for” but the point of a VPN is to protect your privacy. There is some precedent for VPNs being required to turn over logs to government authorities, but if your VPN doesn’t keep logs, there’s nothing to hand over.

Even though I’ve talked a lot about PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec protocols, if possible you should avoid these in your VPN as these are largely seen as outdated.   

You also need to look closely at where your VPNs’ servers are located. If you’re traveling or living in Europe but want to watch your US Netflix account, you need a VPN with a server located in the US. If, however, you’re trying to avoid censorship in countries like Russia or Thailand, you need to make sure you’re using a VPN with servers outside the country.

Finally, check how many connections you get per account and consider how many devices and people in your family or organization you want to connect. And consider if your account gets throttled after certain usage threshold.

Final Thoughts on VPN Passthroughs

So, what is a VPN passthrough? A VPN passthrough allows your router to establish your VPN connection by allowing the connection to “pass through.” As long as you have the right router, you won’t have to open any ports.

VPNs allow greater measures of internet security, enabling people to browse anonymously and use unsecured wifi connections securely. They’re also popular in countries that retain strict internet controls, as they allow people to get around censorship. Whatever your reason for looking into VPNs and VPN passthroughs, I hope the information I’ve researched has been helpful!

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