Learn how to set up your spare Raspberry Pi as a VPN into your home network. Browse the internet safely through your known network and hide your traffic from e.g. open WiFi hotspots.
NOTE: This was tested with a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W (new model with WiFi), so I’d say it will work with basically every Pi available.
Let’s jump in!
Flashing Your Operating System to SD Card
If you’ve already flashed a operating system for your Raspberry Pi to a SD card, you can skip this. Go ahead and install a headless Raspberry Pi OS Lite, enable SSH and WiFi to remotely access it. After that, jump here.
For everyone else, here’s the easiest and safest way to flash your SD card and install an operating system on it.
Download & Install the Official Imager
MacOS users can get their version here. This is the latest build packed as an
For Debian’ish Linux users: The Imager is available in official
apt repositories and can be installed from your terminal:
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y rpi-imager
Flash The SD Card and Prepare The Operating System
Next, insert your SD card into your machine.
No matter which OS you’re on, open the search bar and type “Raspberry Pi Imager” to find the application and open it. Under “Operating System”, choose the Raspberry Pi OS Lite (ARM). Select your SD card and hit the “WRITE” button.
When you’re finished, unplug and re-insert your SD card into your machine. Your favorite file explorer will pop up and show you the content of the SD card.
Enable Remote SSH
Create a new empty file called
ssh. Done. On first startup, your Raspberry Pi will know what to do with it. You will be able to
ssh into the Pi with the following standard credentials:
You don’t have to remember it, because I generally recommend changing it as soon as you logged into the machine (I’ll show you later how to accomplish that). Remember: This Raspberry Pi will be quite open to the Internet, so choose a good password.
Enable and Configure WiFi
Create another file called
wpa_supplicant.conf on the SD card. Open it with your favorite text editor and enter the following information:
country=<Insert 2 letter country code here>
Hit save, exit, insert your SD card into your Raspberry Pi and power it on!
In the next few step, we are going to:
- Connect to our Raspberry Pi
- Update the Pi
- Install OpenVPN software
- Secure our installation
- Create client certificates
When powered on, your Raspberry Pi is going to try to connect to your configured WiFi. If you have DHCP enabled, your Pi will automatically get a local IPv4 address. Locally, it’s reachable with hostname
Open a shell / terminal and type
$ ping raspberrypi
# There should be a response here
If you can’t reach it by host, try to look the IP up in your local DHCP provider, e.g. your router.
When you get a successful response, log into your Raspberry Pi:
$ ssh pi@raspberrypi
$ ssh pi@<assignedIP>
The default password is
When logged in, change your password by typing
passwd and enter a new, secure password.
Update The Pi
After that, we first will do an update:
$ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
In this tutorial, we make it simple and use PiVPN. If you’re into it, you can build everything up from scratch, but when there’s a simple solution, we should use it. First, hit the official PiVPN website and copy the install command.
Yes, this utilizes “curl pipe to bash” and I hate it, but the install script is safe to use and makes everything pretty easy.
This will download some tooling. Based on your Pi board, this can take some time, have a coffee.
After that, it will open up a terminal GUI. You’re asked to assign your Pi a static IP in your home network. This is crucial, do not skip it! I own a FritzBox router, which enabled me to assign the Pi a static IP by simply ticking a checkbox. If you’re unsure how to accomplish this in your home network, there’s a solution for (basically) every router publicly available - go to your favorite search engine and look it up!
When prompted to choose a user, you can either stick to the default (username
pi) or create a new one. For this tutorial, we will stick to
OpenVPN when asked if you prefer WireGuard or OpenVPN. For our purposes (mainly speed!) we rely on using UDP. For simplicity, we stay on the default UDP port
Since you will need to be able to connect from the “public” internet and your internet provider most probably changes your public IPv4 address everye 24/48 hours, you will need a service called DynDNS. This is a third party tool that gives you a public domain name and routes to your ephemeral IPv4 address. I use dynu.com - it is safe to use, free and super easy to setup. Make an account there, setup your router to use it and come back when you’re done.
From left to right: How your traffic is routed
When we entered our DNS information, we can choose to enable elliptic curve algorithms for encryption and stay with a standard 256 Bit encryption (if you’re paranoid, go for the 521 Bits).
You will be asked to install “unattended upgrade” utilities. This is going to be installed via
pip (package managing for python modules). It will ensure that at least security-relevant upgrades will be installed without your supervision. Do it!
When the installer is done, reboot your Pi.
Create Client Certificates
Your devices will connect to your VPN via a DNS, using a client certificate and a password of sufficient length (which, again, depends on your paranoia).
To create one, log into your Pi and run:
$ ssh pi@pi-ip-address
$ pivpn add
This will start an interactive session where you can enter:
- The name for the new client
- How long the certificate should last before it needs to be renewed
- a secure password
Note down the password (safely) and copy your new created certificate from
/home/pi/vpn/myclientcert.pem to your local device.
Basically, we’re done now. Make sure to configure your router to allow incoming traffic on port UDP 1194 to your Raspberry Pi.
Aftermath: Securing Your Installation
Let’s take some security considerations for now. Basically, your router has opened a port which allows some access into your home network. Everyone that successfully authenticates against your OpenVPN installation will be able to mess around in your home net. Let’s avoid this!
- ONLY allow UDP 1194 on incoming traffic from outside your network (can be done on your router firewall)
- On your Raspberry Pi, install
sudo apt install ufwand configure it to…
- allow UDP 1194 from everyone
- allow TCP 22 from inside your home network
- Don’t forget to enable it!
sudo ufw enable
Keep your system updated.
unattended-upgrades is sufficient for system-stuff, but also keep your OpenVPN server updated on a frequent basis.
On your router, you are able to restrict traffic inside your own home network. Make use of it! Clients which enter your network through your OpenVPN Pi are mostly not going to need to do stuff in your network, they often just want to access a home cloud or use it for tunnelling traffic to the public internet. Restrict everything as needed and use least privilege whenever possible.