VPN vs VPN Passthrough On A Router – What’s The Difference?

VPN or VPN Passthrough on a router

For people looking to create a private network that they can access anywhere in the world, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can be a great idea.

A router with VPN technology can help you set up this network. However, when looking into VPN functionality on routers you will likely come across two similar terms that could be confusing.

Despite their similar sounding names, the VPN and VPN Passthrough features on a router actually provide a very different service.

Please read on to find out how these two features differ and what you can expect from each one.

Best Dual WAN Router

What is VPN (PPTP, L2TP, IPSec)?

If a router has VPN support it means it supports VPN technology, such as PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec.

Secure VPN - IPSec PPTP OpenVPN

Courtesy FutUndBeidl

A VPN allows you to create a secure link between private networks through the internet. This essentially allows you to access your home or office network without actually being in your home or office.

This has several advantages, the main one being that you can remotely access computers on your network from anywhere in the world. This can be useful for companies or organizations that want to allow their employees to work remotely.

As well as this VPNs encrypt the data that travels between your computer and the network which makes your private information incredibly hard to intercept. Because of this encryption using a VPN is often more secure than using a normal unencrypted connection.

There are different protocols that you can use when setting up a VPN. These are PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. We will now outline some of the differences below.


PPTP stands for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol. It is a popular VPN protocol that is supported by many devices and is easy to setup. It also has a low overhead which means it can provide fast speeds.

The downside is that it encrypts data using the 128-bit key which means it isn’t as secure as some of the other VPNs out there. In the past, it has also had some security issues reported.

However, if you simply need to quickly setup a VPN connection PPTP could be the way to go.


L2TP or Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is considered a step up security wise when compared to PPTP. This is because it is used with the IPSec protocol which has more secure encryption algorithms. While PPTP only uses 128-bit encryption, L2PT uses 168-bit.

The one downside is that all this extra encryption means it is a bit slower than PPTP.


OpenVPN is often thought of as the best choice for a VPN and as such has gained a lot of popularity. It uses open source technology such as OpenSSL and the SSL3/TLSv1 protocols.

It supports a number of types of encryption. The 128bit AES encryption is generally considered the strongest type although the 64bit Blowfish encryption is sometimes used.


The final type of VPN is SSTP, or Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol to give it its full name.

SSTP uses SSPv3 just like OpenVPN and is generally considered to be secure. However, the fact that SSTP was developed by Microsoft means the exact code used is not open to public scrutiny. Of course, the upside to this is that it usually works excellently with Microsoft products.

What is VPN Passthrough?

A common feature that could cause confusion is the VPN Passthrough feature that is available on many routers.This feature simply allows computers connected to the router to establish outbound VPNs.

As such if you are actually looking to use your router to create a VPN you should ensure that the router you buy fully supports VPN functionality, not just passthrough.

Usually any router with VPN Passthrough technology will support both PPTP and L2TP/IPSec VPNs.

How does VPN Passthrough work?

Routers use something called NAT (Network Address Translation) to let all the devices on the network share the one internet connection. This is incredibly useful and is what allows you to connect so many devices to the Internet.

However, the problem is that PPTP and IPSec don’t naturally work with NAT. Routers with VPN Passthrough technology work by allowing both these VPN standards to work with NAT. This in turn allows you to connect to your VPN via your router.

Basically, VPN Passthrough allows packets of data that originate from VPN clients on devices to pass through the router into the VPN server, from home. This is most often 

If you aren’t looking to create a VPN, but still need to make sure you can access one (a lot of people do), a router with VPN Passthrough technology will be sufficient for your needs.

What does a router do?


To conclude despite their very similar sounding names the VPN and VPN Passthrough features on wireless routers offer very different functions.

If you need to access your network from anywhere in the world then the way to do that is by setting up a VPN. As such you must buy a router with VPN functionality.

If this isn’t something you are worried about or if you simply need to connect to a VPN then a router with VPN passthrough technology will do for you.

If you have any questions about the router functions discussed in this article please leave a comment below. If not and you found the article useful please share it on your favourite social media platform!

6 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. So everyone should look for routers that say “we support VPN”?
    The VPN is somehow built into the router itself?

    1. · Edit


      It all depends what it is that you want to do. If you want to use a VPN on your device to connect to the outside world, a router which supports ‘VPN Passthrough’ will allow your VPN through the router. Otherwise, there is a chance that you will not be able to use VPNs with that router.

      If you want to connect to your home from the outside world, then your router would generally need to support ‘Open VPN’. This is a type of VPN that is often used ‘inbound’ (from the outside world to the home) to securely let you access your home if necessary. You would need to configure the access within your router. Open VPN is also used for other VPN types of access.

      If you want to install a VPN on your router that allows you to connect to a VPN somewhere on the internet, then most likely you will need to either ‘flash’ your router with an open source firmware (like DD-WRT, OpenWRT or Tomato), or buy a pre-flashed router which may even have VPNs configured onto them already. You can read more about this in another article we published here: https://bestwirelessroutersnow.com/dd-wrt-vs-tomato-vs-openwrt/

  2. We need to VPN between 2 Windows 7 PRO machines.
    Is PPTP our only choice if we wish to ONLY use built-in Windows capabilities?

    1. · Edit

      Hi Shirley,

      PPTP is not your only option. It really depends what it is you want to do. There are many different options depending on your setup.

      Check out this thread in Microsoft Answers.


      You Tube also has a goldmine of info and walk-through guides.

      We also recently posted a guide on creating a VPN on Windows, that may help somewhat…


      Good luck!

  3. In your professional opinion, would you recommend VPN service (e.g. TunnelBear, NordVPN, IPVanish) OR a VPN router like the ASUS RT-AC68U to cover a Fire Stick, 2 Android smartphones, a Kindle Fire, and a desktop computer?

    1. · Edit


      It really depends on the circumstances and how far you want to go. If you can, go the router route (no pun intended!). You’ll need to flash the router first (be careful with this). This article may help you: https://bestwirelessroutersnow.com/dd-wrt-vs-tomato-vs-openwrt/


Post Comment