How to Set Up OpenVPN and DynamicDNS on NETGEAR's Nighthawk R7000 Wi-Fi Router

If you have an r7000 Nighthawk router, be proud: it's one of the most, if not the most, powerful router on the home market today. Plus, it's packed with features, and one of them that I'm betting many users might not even know about is it's built in OpenVPN and DynamicDNS support.

These two features work together to provide a secure gateway to your home network from anywhere, allowing you to access files, stream network resources, and more -- all through a rock-solid OpenVPN connection. The r7000 makes it extremely easy to not only get a free dynamic DNS address but also to get the OpenVPN clients up and running. Here's how.

Why do I want an OpenVPN connection?

OpenVPN allows users to connect to their home network securely from virtually anywhere, on any device that an OpenVPN client is available. It works differently than a program that simply gives you remote access to the desktop; it actually brings the client computer into the network remotely, placing network drives and devices directly in the file explorer -- as if you were on your network at home. Plus, it's protected by OpenVPN, which is renowned for its safety and security. So, sound good? Ready to get started?

Step 1: Open a Free No-IP Dynamic DNS Account

This first step ensures that your OpenVPN clients will be able to connect without having to reset the connection settings from time to time due to changing IP's. Fortunately, NETGEAR has made this ridiculously simple. Under Advanced Settings -> Dynamic DNS, either input your existing Dynamic DNS information -- or, if you don't have one, you can open one right from your router. Put in a username and password and click away. You'll be whisked away to a registration process, then receive a verification email, after which you should be good to go.

You'll be able to tell if dynamic DNS is updating successfully via the screen shown above.

Step 2: Enable OpenVPN on the R7000

The next step is to enable the integrated OpenVPN support on the router. Simply navigate to Advanced Setup -> OpenVPN, check the box, and click Apply. If you didn't complete dynamic DNS setup, a warning box will be shown to alert you that a new configuration file will have to be downloaded every time the IP changes. I highly recommend you set up dynamic DNS as shown in step 1 to avoid this!

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Step 3: Download and Install the OpenVPN Client

Now to download the client that you will use on your remote device in order to connect to your OpenVPN network. The r7000 provides a handy link right there on the VPN settings page to use, which should bring you to the download page for the OpenVPN project. Here, you can grab the client appropriate for your device; in my case, 64 bit Windows. Once downloaded, go ahead and follow the prompts to complete the basic installation on your machine.

Step 4: Rename the VPN Network Device (Windows Only)

If on Windows, head to the Control Panel -> Network and Sharing Center -> Change Adapter Settings and rename the newly created network device (likely named TAP-Windows Adapter) to NETGEAR-VPN.

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Step 5: Download and Copy the OpenVPN Configuration Files

The r7000 will automatically create the configuration files you need to connect to your home network using OpenVPN. Simply click the appropriate button from the OpenVPN config screen (Windows vs. Non-Windows), unzip the file, and copy the contents to your OpenVPN config directory. This is usually located in Program Files -> OpenVPN -> Config.

Step 6: Get on a Remote Network, Run OpenVPN, and See If It Works!

You will want to first disconnect from your home network to test this out; otherwise, since you're already connected to the network you want to get to with OpenVPN, the tests would be irrelevant! I used my tethering connection on my mobile phone, for example. Once you are on the Internet from an alternate location than your home network, open the OpenVPN client and click "connect." You should see a whole bunch of feedback from the log window, with a final message stating that you have connected successfully.

At this point, your network devices such as shared drives, NAS devices, etc. should show up in your file explorer as if you were on your home network. Profit!

If you have any trouble with this tutorial, have questions, or experiences to share, make sure to hit up our R7000 forums!

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GBMD
GBMD's picture
I have several questions as

I have several questions as to the setup of the VPN (OpenVPN) to my r7000 Nighthawk.
I have a rudimentary understanding of Networks and VPN operation. I have set up two VPN's over five years ago and it was a difficult and time consuming task, given my limited knowledge. So here are my questions.

1) Setting up the VPN for the r7000 Nighthawk was very easy. So easy in fact that it makes me question whether or not I have set it up correctly and securely. Given that I used Netgear's Configuration files and key, and I didn't setup a complex password/algorithm encryption scheme, how is it secure? How is mine unique compared to other Blackhawk VPN's setup with the same Netgear configuration file?

2) I read that OpenVPN would only run as "Administrator", but my wife's computer (Windows 8.1) clearly runs it without administrator privileges. (I maintain an "Administrator" account and she has a user account on her computer.)

3) My wife's computer has full access to the "HomeGroup" and other resources on our home network, but my computer (also Windows 8.1) cannot even access ReadyShare, yet the VPN appears to be operating correctly. I can ping the router address, I can ping readyshare and I can ping other computers on my home network.

4) Do I need to setup a password? I didn't see anything about that when I loaded the software and despite extensive research (several minutes anyway) I couldn't figure out what the password is or how to change it.

I know that I am connecting to my home network, I just want to make sure that it is through a VPN and that the VPN is secure.
Thanks

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