- If you own a Raspberry Pi device, turning it into your personal, network-wide ad- and tracker-blocker with Pi-hole is one of the best things you can do with it.
- However, if you plan on also appending a VPN to your network, you may run into a brick wall. Our guide will help you configure both services.
- Check out our Raspberry Pi section for more guides and news about this awesome device.
- Visit our VPN How-To Hub to discover more VPN troubleshooting guides on common issues.
If you recently invested in a Raspberry Pi device, you may probably know that a world of opportunities lies at the end of your fingers.
You can turn your RPi into a huge variety of things, but Pi-hole is arguably one of the most important uses for it.
It’s even possible to put a VPN on top of Pi-hole and use the whole ensemble as a whole. However, the guides you may find when querying various sites regarding this issue may put you off from even considering it.
Luckily, you have us. We’re going to tell you everything about the process.
However, it’s best if you come with just a smidge of previous rPi experience so that you won’t get stuck in the nomenclature (see, that’s a first example of what’s going to happen).
What is Pi-hole?
Pi-hole is a Linux-based application that you can install on your Raspberry Pi device. This service can help you block Internet trackers and advertisements on your entire network.
Pi-hole acts as a DNS sinkhole, which basically means that it provides systems looking for DNS info with fake results. Furthermore, this application can also work as a DHCP server, which can be used (preferably) on a private network.
Long story short, if you need a hardware, network-wide ad- and tracker-blocker, Pi-hole is exactly what you’re looking for. As opposed to traditional software ad-blockers, Pi-hole can keep ads from spawning on other devices on your network, such as smartphones or Smart TVs.
Note that it can be installed on other devices other than Raspberry Pi, just as long as they have network capabilities and they run on Linux.
How to use a VPN with Pi-hole?
1. Install PiVPN
PiVPN is the easiest way to deploy VPN on your Raspberry Pi device. You just have to fire up a terminal and run the following command:
curl -L https://install.pivpn.io | bash
Alternatively, if you access your Raspberry Pi remotely through SSH, you can use the SSH console and type the very same command we used above.
After you run this command, you’ll be greeted by a text-based GUI where additional instructions will be provided to you.
For instance, you have to confirm that turning your rPi into an OpenVPN server is what you want to do.
The instructions are pretty much straightforward if you have a bit of previous experience with rPi and OpenVPN. If not, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Note: selecting a network interface can be done with the Spacebar button. If you hit the Enter key on your keyboard, the default selection will be loaded and you’ll be taken to the next screen.
2. Install a VPN on your router
If you plan on using a commercial-grade VPN such as Private Internet Access, it would be best to install it on your router. That way, your entire network traffic will be routed through PIA and remain private.
However, you should know that not many routers accept external VPN services.
Private Internet Access
Need a VPN for your router? Check out Private Internet Access.
Note that each router model/brand has its own configuration, so there’s no universal way to deploy VPNs that works on any router. Check out our complete guide on setting up VPN on Netgear routers and try to adapt our recommendations to your gear.
3. Turn Pi-hole into a VPN gateway
If you don’t have the option to install PIA on your home router, you’ll have to turn your Pi-hole into a VPN gateway. This way, all traffic on your network will pass through your Pi-hole device and the VPN.
4. Disable your VPN’s DNS leak protection
If none of these steps look appealing to you, there’s one more thing you can do. If you plan on using a VPN on your computer and want to also benefit from Pi-hole’s DNS sinkhole capabilities, you’ll have to disable the DNS leak protection feature on your VPN.
The reason why the two (VPN‘s DNS leak protection and Pi-hole) can’t work together is quite obvious and easy to understand.
While your VPN‘s DNS leak protection is active, your device can’t use other DNS addresses other than the ones your VPN provides you with.
This means that Pi-hole can no longer block sites/domains effectively, which would expose you to tracking and advertisements once more.
We don’t recommend you to use this method, since it would make your DNS requests visible. And that completely defeats the purpose of using an anonymization tool such as a VPN.
Final thoughts on using VPN with Pi-hole
Whether you want to configure a VPN server on your Pi-hole host and connect to it remotely or using Pi-hole side-to-side with your favorite consumer VPN, there are ways to do it.
However, you shouldn’t rush into it if you don’t fully understand the implications of your actions. Some of the methods we’ve explained in this article can have quite an impact on your privacy if implemented haphazardly.