What is DD-WRT? A Comprehensive Guide

Justice Ekaeze  - Tech Expert
Last updated: January 2, 2024
Read time: 18 minutes

This article discusses the DD-WRT firmware in detail, how it helps you do more with your router, and how to keep it safe when used.


Your router is capable of so much more than you know, much more than is on the box. With DD-WRT, the limits to what your router can do are in your hands. Yet, you must not want to compromise your online privacy and security merely because of your router firmware. Therefore, we advise you to dive into this article to ensure you know the risks before installing DD-WRT on your dedicated router.

Wireless routers are an integral and almost unavoidable part of our lives. While they are beneficial, they also present users with some difficulties. Some users have complained of repeated glitches, lost connection, or total failure if it serves multiple devices simultaneously.

As a result, users are often advised to upgrade their router’s hardware, but this only sometimes fixes the problem. What do you do then when this does not work?

Upgrading the router’s software is the most effective solution. You can do this by installing DD-WRT, which almost immediately improves the router’s functionality upon installation.

If your router especially has trouble working with a VPN, installing DD-WRT also helps.

You may want to know about DD-WRT and how it can improve your router’s functionality. This article covers every detail about DD-WRT, including its benefits, risks, and the best way to use it.

Three best VPNs for DD-WRT routers: Quick overview

  1. ExpressVPN offers great support if you wish to set up OpenVPN with your DD-WRT router and also includes live customer support and tutorials. The VPN also has fast server networks and assures users of privacy and security.
  2. NordVPN offers adequate installation support and adds an option to purchase preconfigured routers, a very affordable choice that meets all user needs. It also includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  3. Surfshark is the best budget VPN for DD-WRT routers. A great option with easy-to-follow router setup instructions and also offers pre-flashed routers. In addition, it has generally high speeds and impressive security.

What is DD-WRT?

DD-WRT is an abbreviation split into two. The first part, DD-, is for Dresden, the city in Germany where the technology was created. The second part — WRT, stands for Wireless Router.

DD-WRT is essentially firmware — a software or program that alters how one device communicates with others.

For example, consider a plugin on your PC that allows you to do more than the browser and PC allows. Firmware like DD-WRT is often permanently fused with the selected piece of hardware for lasting effect.

When you install DD-WRT, it gets to work in replacing your router’s firmware. The process completely rewrites the router’s software and is known as “flashing.” Flashing helps you to make much-needed changes to your router, such as how it interacts with connected devices and the internet.

Because DD-WRT was created using the Linux OS, the firmware is an open-source program. That means any user can tweak it and pass the new version off to other users to either use or further tweak to their taste. The firmware is also free to download, making it much easier for users to install and use. 

Benefits of DD-WRT

Using DD-WRT opens the door to many benefits for the router user. Below are a few of the benefits that come with DD-WRT:

1. IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) functionality

IPv4 is currently used in the internet landscape to generate digital addresses for devices and route online traffic to the appropriate locations.

Your routers currently run using this IPv4. And unfortunately, this internet protocol is outdated and is already running out of available addresses for the surge of devices popping up yearly. 

IPv6 is the future, and DD-WRT is already ahead of the curve. So, with DD-WRT, your router can skip the queue and gain functionality for the next, more improved computing phase.

2. Higher router power

Standard routers are manufactured with some safety measures; the firmware intentionally reduces the router’s power. But with DD-WRT, you can shed those constraints and use the router fully. This process is known as “overclocking.”

3. Several options for customization

One key thing that DD-WRT brings to users is the freedom to operate. This freedom also includes customization options, and you can stretch the functionality of your router beyond the standard list of functions.

For example, you can adjust your antenna, set a time restriction for the internet, and configure a firewall and many other customarily blocked functions. DD-WRT makes it so much easier for you to fully explore the possibilities of your router’s potential for no charge at all.

4. Improved reliability

While regular routers can be prone to glitches and connection interruptions, DD-WRT ensures your router becomes more reliable.

DD-WRT makes your router’s connection much more dependable, and with its constantly updated code, you are assured of this reliability continuing indefinitely.

Because it is built on the Linux OS, it is not prone to any outside tweaks or throttling that big corporations use to make excessive profits. This is an added layer of confidence that users have when they choose to use DD-WRT.

5. Improved quality of service

Whatever the quality of your router before the DD-WRT, it becomes eclipsed after installation. Therefore, issues like lags, technical errors, bandwidth, and overall device performance can be significantly improved by installing DD-WRT on your router.

Your router’s QoS (quality of service) is an important metric to consider if you want to install DD-WRT, and with the increased control that it provides users, you can choose which features to increase and which to keep as is.

6. Faster connection speeds

This function goes without saying when considering all the other benefits listed above. With all that control, customization, and optimization DD-WRT offers, your router will experience much faster internet speeds. This is especially great if you need to stream, play online games or even take work conference calls.

7. More information on your router performance

With DD-WRT, you can actively track your router’s performance and generate charts, graphs, and statistics showing how well (or how badly) your router is performing so you can make the needed adjustments.

8. Increases the range of your Wi-Fi

Your standard router usually has a limited range. Usually, you would need to get a range extender to help boost the router – you don’t have to. With DD-WRT, your router can become a range extender, boosting its range and improving the connection distance.

DD-WRT gives your router a better, stronger, and more optimized signal, nullifying the need for an extra “range extender.”

9. Ability to use a variety of advanced services and programs

There are other features that DD-WRT offers users after installation which are outside of the increased functions and controls. These include,

  • Demon-based services: These services refer to automated programs to run when required. Demon-based services often include Help Windows, Artificial Intelligence, and other similar applications. They are services that assist you in customizing your router to meet your specific requirements.
  • Adblocking: Ads can be annoying when you’re surfing the internet. DD-WRT has a built-in program that prevents ads on web pages or videos. The program filters out and blocks ads, letting you surf and stream without interruptions. 
  • DNS caching: With DD-WRT, your router can store the web address (which are translated into code of numbers called Internet Protocols/IP) of the pages you visit so that it is much easier to translate when you wish to visit any in the future– this is known as DNS caching. 
  • Easier power cycling: Since naturally, you would have to turn your router off and unplug it from its power source to complete “power cycling,” it can be tedious if the router is placed in an inconvenient position in the house. With DD-WRT, you can skip the manual phase and power cycle and do it from the firmware settings instead, completing the process for you.

10. More VPN support

VPNs are a highly beneficial software tool that offers users a safe and private internet experience. Unfortunately, not all regular routers are optimized to use VPNs. If your router is not optimized for a VPN, we recommend flashing it with DD-WRT. Flashing prevents any network lags from using the router and a VPN.

DD-WRT can also help secure every device connected to the router with a “VPN passthrough” function. With this function, any device connected to the flashed router is protected by the VPN, adding a bonus feature the VPN itself may not have had originally.

DD-WRT risks to note

With so many benefits of DD-WRT, you should also know about the potential risks involved. As it has so much power to improve your router, so does it have the potential to cause great harm. 

Once you choose to install DD-WRT, you effectively void the device warranty. As a result, the manufacturer is within their rights to refuse you any technical support or repair.

In addition, while DD-WRT is hailed for its ability to “overclock,” you should be wary of this function. Extended periods of overclocking can cause permanent damage to your router.

Before installing DD-WRT, weigh the pros and cons and ensure the former outweighs the latter.

You can retain the device warranty if you have installed DD-WRT but want to undo the flashing. This is known as the 30/30/30 method, which involves three steps:

  • Resetting
  • Unplugging and reconnecting, and
  • Going back to the router’s default settings.

However, you should know that this method is only sometimes sure to work, primarily if any permanent damage has been incurred, perhaps due to overclocking. Furthermore, not all routers support the flashing process, and you might risk permanently ruining the router all together

To avoid ruining your router, research to see if your router is compatible with the firmware. You can check the DD-WRT database for this information. We have outlined some of the compatible routers in the next section of this article.

If you decide to install DD-WRT, here’s a list of things to note:

  • Make sure your router is compatible.
  • Choose the best file for your router type.
  • Make sure your device settings are in default.
  • Keep the router undisturbed and connected to power the whole time.

If you omit these steps, your router can be damaged or permanently bricked. We do not want that, so we have outlined how to install the DD-WRT and keep your router functioning safely.

How to choose a DD-WRT router

As highlighted in the risks to consider before installing DD-WRT, not all routers are compatible with the firmware, especially if you wish to use the VPN passthrough function. With this in mind, the best option would be to get a new router compatible with DD-WRT firmware to avoid complications. 

While not many routers are compatible with DD-WRT, many reliable ones work smoothly with the firmware and can even execute the VPN passthrough. The following are things to consider when choosing a DD-WRT router:

  • Your budget for your router: DD-WRT is guaranteed to improve your router’s speed and performance, so there is no apparent need to buy the most expensive options. However, it’s not a bad idea, regardless. 
  • Payment for extra tech support: Bearing in mind that installing DD-WRT voids your device warranty, you need to be extra sure you will not need any tech support after installation. However, if you use a premium VPN along with your flashed router, there’s often tech support from the VPN company you can rely on.
  • The procedure for installing DD-WRT on that particular router: You have to follow a strict order of installation specific to your router to avoid any complications you might face during or after installation. We recommend acquainting yourself with the installation guide for the compatible devices or the exact device you wish to purchase. Once you narrow it down, you can pick the easiest or the best option. 
  • Which VPNs do they work with: This step is for those particular about the VPN they wish to use or the one they already have an existing subscription with. In addition, since different DD-WRT routers work for different VPNs, you must figure out which works best for which before making a purchase. 

Once you can reconcile these concerns, you will be prepared to choose the best router. 

Top five routers for DD-WRT

1. Linksys WRT1900ACS

The Linksys WRT1900ACS router also works with the DD-WRT firmware and is an excellent fit for any home. You can use it to create separate networks, block websites and select which devices to give more internet speed. And all these functions are before you even install DD-WRT.

2. Netgear Nighthawk R6700(AC1750)

The R6700 is the perfect router choice if you have a large home, thanks to its strong signal and wide range of connectivity. In addition, it is lightning fast, works well with DD-WRT firmware, and supports Smart TVs and many other smart home devices, making it an excellent choice for gaming, streaming, and regular internet surfing.

3. Asus RT-AC88U (AC3100)

While the Asus RT-AC88U is the most expensive choice, it is worth the extra cost. It has impressive high-end features and boasts high connection speeds – peaking at over 3000Mbps, great for streaming and gaming. It also has 8 gigabit LAN ports, which can serve even the most tasking of usage.

If you want an overperformer, you should go for the D-Link DIR-890L. It is the equivalent of having multiple routers working in one house. The router is noted to have a 2.4GHz wireless band that offers users speeds of at least 600Mbps and then two separate 5Hz wireless bands with a combined speed of over 1300Mbps.

The best part is that it can choose between the three with the best connection and automatically switches to that one for an uninterrupted connection experience. In addition, it comes equipped with six antennas, making it the only one on the list with assured highest speeds regardless of where you are in the house.

Next on our list is the more budget-friendly option, which surprisingly has excellent speed and range performance scores. The TP-Link Archer C9 is excellent for large homes, is compatible with IPv6 protocol, and allows users to set up guest networks and alter access to potentially harmful websites. Again, these features are available straight out of the box before installing DD-WRT and can only multiply post-installation.

How to set up a DD-WRT router

There are many ways you can set up a DD-WRT router, and each of them is dependent on a few factors:

  • The router you choose,
  • The DD-WRT file you use,
  • Your internet connection and,
  • Your preferred choices.

The first and most crucial step is ensuring your router has DD-WRT software installed; some routers come pre-installed with the firmware. But if the one you’ve got does not have the firmware installed, here’s what you can do:

  • Make sure your router fully supports the DD-WRT firmware.
  • Locate your router’s online administrative settings.
  • Using these, download the DD-WRT firmware onto the router.
  • Let the installation reach completion, ensuring nothing interrupts it at any point during the process. 
  • Connect your router to your network again.
  • If prompted, log in to the DD-WRT.
  • Define your desired DD-WRT settings, or make use of the default settings.

A dual router configuration offers users a much more straightforward process. However, this will require getting a second router (pre-installed with DD-WRT, ideally) and connecting it to the former router via an ethernet cable.

This method would skip the reconfiguration phase for the new router, making it easier to switch between the standard internet and the DD-WRT firmware.

Three best VPNs for DD-WRT routers in 2024 – Detailed list

VPN ServiceExpressVPNNordVPNSurshark
DD-WRT Routers Ranking 123
Streaming ServicesNetflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer
Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, HuluNetflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, BBC iPlayer
Average Speed (Mbps)100Mbps100Mbps100Mbps
Popular Unblocked Sites95%88%86%
Total number of servers300054003200
Simultaneous Connections5Unlimited 6
The Best Deal (per month)$6.67/mo$3.49$2.30

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN new features block logo 120 by 120 now

Our top recommended VPN vendor for DD-WRT compatible with multiple devices and has user-friendly interface.

servers More than 3,000 speedy VPN servers present in 89+ countries
Trusted servers nord TrustedServer technology (for better security)
encryption Protects connection with robust AES-256 data encryption
Zero-logs policy Users’ data is not stored
Split tunneling feature Split tunneling feature with high efficiency
network lock feature Boasts Network Lock (kill switch) feature
tor compatible Supports Tor over VPN
P2P optimized servers Allows Peer-to-Peer connection
simultaneous connections Each account can connect up to five devices at once
money-back guarantee 30-day tested refund policy
  • Boasts custom firmware to make installation process fast
  • Customer support is up to the mark
  • Robust security with no data keeping
  • A bit expensive

ExpressVPN is our top pick for DD-WRT routers, and it is super-friendly and relatively simple to set up. The VPN also has custom firmware, making it easy to install on DD-WRT routers. In addition, with the “FlashRouter” feature, ExpressVPN offers users a preconfigured DD-WRT router for $224.99.

ExpressVPN is easy for experts and novices to install. The app has a detailed installation guide that walks you through the installation process. Thanks to its extensive server network of over 3,000 servers in about 90 countries, you have an unlimited unblocking capability when you use the VPN — whether it’s a streaming platform or a gaming lobby. The servers are also very fast, ensuring your connection is stable the whole time.

Your internet experience with ExpressVPN is air-tight thanks to its high-grade 256-bit encryption, split tunneling, zero logs policy, and Network Lock. You can subscribe to ExpressVPN for $6.67/month and get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN for Streaming

A reliable VPN service that suits perfectly well with DD-WRT router. It boasts multiple impressive features to keep you anonymous.

servers Has more than 5,000 secure VPN servers in over 50 countries
Ad Blocker feature Threat protection (malware, tracking, and ad blocker)
encryption Military standard, most reliable encryption available: AES-256
Kill switch A kill switch feature that is easy-to-use
Split tunneling feature Split tunneling feature with effectiveness
MultiHop mode Offers double encryption mode
tor compatible Provides seamless Onion over VPN functionality
Zero-logs policy Ensures that no data is stored
simultaneous connections Allows users to connect up to six devices at once with each account
money-back guarantee A 30-day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee
  • Responsive customer support available 24/7
  • Boasts fast and stable speeds on all servers
  • Does not compromise on user’s privacy
  • Does not have customization for routers

NordVPN is a popular VPN primarily because of its security and privacy features. Unfortunately, the VPN service has no app optimized for routers, but it works great with popular DD-WRT routers like Linksys. If you have trouble with your router’s configuration, you don’t have to worry; NordVPN has pre-flashed routers, so you do not have to waste more time.

When it comes to performance, NordVPN is a comfortable top contender. The VPN boasts over 5,000 servers in over 60 countries and, with this might, can unblock virtually any popular streaming platforms from anywhere you are in the world.

For safety, NordVPN offers users the Double VPN feature, which protects and routes your primary traffic through a second server. It also has an obfuscation feature that blocks your traffic and makes it appear as regular internet traffic. In addition, NordVPN has excellent customer service and is relatively affordable at $3.49/month.

3. Surfshark


A budget-conscious VPN service that has gained a quick-reputation for its top-notch features. It works extremely well with top DD-WRT routers.

servers Has a network of over 3,000 secure VPN servers present in over 70 countries
Trusted servers nord Runs on RAM-based servers (best for privacy)
Zero-logs policy No data-logging policy
encryption Robust data AES-256 encryption
P2P optimized servers Peer to Peer supporting servers
Kill switch Security-boosting smart kill switch feature
Clean web features Efficient CleanWeb ad and malware blocking feature
Split tunneling feature Split tunneling with dependable effectiveness
simultaneous connections Each account can connect to unlimited number of devices at once
money-back guarantee Refund policy of 30 days
  • Offers pre-flashed routers
  • Camouflage Mode prevents ISPs and governments to detect VPN use
  • Provides users with quick and helpful assistance
  • Desktop app may sometimes develop glitches

Surfshark is a budget-friendly option. It is an impressive VPN option for DD-WRT users and works with popular routers like ASUS and Netgear. Surfshark offers users unlimited multiple connections to allow them to protect many devices at once. If manual configuration is too much of a chore for you, you can always opt for the pre-flashed routers made available by Surfshark.

This VPN also has an impressive number of servers, with over 3,000 in 100 countries, making its unblocking ability among the best in the industry. You can watch Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max from any location.

Surfshark also boasts formidable security with its high-grade ad blocker, 256-bit AES encryption, and DNS and IP leak protection. In addition, it has some proprietary features such as WhiteLister, Multi-Hop, and NoBorders. Finally, Surfshark comes at only $2.05/month for users who need an affordable VPN option and has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Testing methodology: How to choose the best VPN for the DD-WRT router

After thorough research and testing, we narrowed down the key factors we looked out for (and the ones you should look out for) when we picked the best VPNs for a DD-WRT router. They are listed below:

  • Easy configuration: Ensure the VPN offers preconfigured or flashed routers and has a simple and detailed setup guide.
  • Speed: Speed is essential, and you must watch for VPNs that can maintain internet speed even with multiple connections.
  • Features: Make sure that your choice of VPN supports OpenVPN protocol and offers additional security features like a kill switch, DNS/IP leak protection, etc.
  • Unblocking ability: Ensure your choice of VPN has a large server network, which means it has a more comprehensive unblocking range.
  • 24/7 customer support: If you encounter difficulties, you need a VPN with responsive and expert customer support that works round the clock.
  • Money-back guarantee: Any new purchase comes with added risk, so you need a VPN that offers you a trial period and a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.

Why do you need a VPN for the DD-WRT router?

A VPN is necessary for your DD-WRT for many reasons, mainly because your router is the channel with which your devices communicate with the internet. Therefore, if the router is compromised, so are your devices, regardless of the number connected.

A VPN can keep your router and, by extension, your devices safe with robust encryption protocols. So if safe and private internet surfing is something you want, you need a VPN for your DD-WRT router.

Additionally, online streaming has become a popular method of accessing movies, TV shows, and live events in today’s digital age. Numerous free streaming sites provide a vast array of content. However, they may come with certain drawbacks, such as geo-restrictions or network limitations. Combining custom router firmware like DD-WRT with a VPN can help you overcome these challenges and enhance your streaming experience.

OpenWRT vs. DD-WRT: Which one is better?

OpenWRT and DD-WRT are similar in that they are both open-source programs, but they have one distinct difference – DD-WRT is compatible with more devices and has a much larger community of users for support and advice.

Another difference between the two is that installing and configuring OpenWRT requires more technical knowledge, and thus, it is pretty tricky for novice users. DD-WRT, however, is easy to understand and install.

DD-WRT has flaws; software glitches are bound to exist with such an extensive device compatibility range. But these are mainly isolated to specific devices.

Finally, either firmware can work depending on your need and know-how. But we recommend DD-WRT because of its more straightforward configuration and installation process. 

Ways to configure a VPN on a dedicated DD-WRT router

Once you get a router compatible with DD-WRT firmware, the next phase will be the VPN installation. The installation process can vary depending on the type you get, but there is a general guide regardless of the router type.

Below are the steps to follow to set up a VPN on a DD-WRT router manually:

  1. Select a premium VPN that supports passthrough on a DD-WRT server. Our top choice is ExpressVPN.
  2. Log in to your account with your VPN service in a browser window or in-app.
  3. Select a manual setup through OpenVPN; this is a robust VPN security protocol. It also supports DD-WRT, as both programs are open-source.
  4. Select a server based on your desired location and preferences. 
  5. Download the associated file for the server.
  6. Open your router’s admin settings and ensure you’re connected through DD-WRT instead of your standard firmware.
  7. Sign in to your router if required.
  8. Enable the OpenVPN client.
  9. Enter programming data into the various fields your router’s admin settings present using the file you downloaded from your VPN provider. 
  10. Log in to your VPN account via the DD-WRT admin settings.
  11. Input any more required code to set up your router further.
  12. Save your progress and then apply the new settings.
  13. Check your router’s status in your admin panel to see if you’re connected to a VPN.

Once complete, you can double-check to see if your IP address has been modified using an IP address checker.


You can get by just fine with your standard router, but it may have limitations. DD-WRT is a great way to reduce those limitations and increase your control over your router and its functionality. 

However, note that not all routers are compatible with DD-WRT, so you must make sure you take the time to research the router that works best with the firmware. In addition, DD-WRT opens up your router, maxing out its power, which might expose it to significant security threats.

To mitigate these threats, use a premium VPN, like the top three options for DD-WRT routers outlined in this article, to ensure the safety of your router and your devices and privacy in your traffic.

In addition, remember to put safety at the forefront. If your device isn’t compatible with the DD-WRT firmware, do not attempt to flash it, or you might brick it.


DD-WRT has seamless firmware-router compatibility. It affords you more control over your wireless network settings and lets you customize the router to suit your preferences.

Yes, but make sure your router is compatible with the DD-WRT firmware first and use only the specific file for your router.

DD-WRT allows you to optimize your router, allowing for prioritizing specific traffic over the rest. It also improves your quality of service, allowing you to give more bandwidth to specific devices.

Yes, DD-WRT supports VPN, all you need to do is to choose the best options for your desired use, and you’re good to go.

This would be risky because only some routers are optimized to work with the DD-WRT firmware. Therefore, we advise that you check whether your router is compatible with the DD-WRT firmware.

Share this article

About the Author

Justice Ekaeze

Justice Ekaeze

Tech Expert
50 Posts

Justice Ekaeze is a freelance tech writer with experience working for specialized content agencies. Justice has acquired extensive content writing experience over the years. He’s handled several projects in diverse niches but loves the cybersecurity and VPN sectors the most. His friends call him 'the VPN expert.' In his free time, he likes to play football, watch movies, and enjoy a good show.

More from Justice Ekaeze


No comments.