Setting Up An OpenVPN Server on the Raspberry Pi

Setting up an OpenVPN server on a Raspberry Pi (RPi) is a great way to access a home network from a remote location.  In addition, it can be used to secure network communications when connecting to public Wi-Fi.  Since the RPi is very low-powered compared to other computers, it is ideal for keeping running all the time.  While it won’t win any performance awards, it is good enough to accomplish something like this for home users.

Requirements For This Walkthrough


  1. Local network
  2. Mac or PC
  3. Raspberry Pi  running Raspbian “wheezy”
  4. HDMI Cable (*optional)
  5. Keyboard (*optional)
  6. Mouse (*optional)
  7. Monitor with HDMI input (*optional)

*If the Raspberry Pi is set up as a headless machine, you will not need a monitor, keyboard, or mouse–just another computer, which would be used to access it remotely over the network via SSH.


  1. None

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  1. Ability to naviagate throughout a computer OS
  2. Knowledge of basic computer terminology
  3. Ability and confidence to enter commands in the Terminal, adjusting them to suit your enviornment, if necessary
  4. Familiarity with core networking concepts
  5. Basic understanding of Public Key Infrastructure

Setting Up the OpenVPN Server

Installing OpenVPN

Install OpenVPN and OpenSSL via aptitude.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install openvpn openssl

Copy Example Config Files Into the OpenVPN Folder

It is a good idea to copy the example config files to/etc/openvopn  and then edit those.  This way, you have a clean copy to reference if you make a mistake.  It also makes more sense to have them in the same location as the other OpenVPN files.

cd /etc/openvpn
sudo cp -r /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/easy-rsa/2.0 ./easy-rsa

Update the vars File With the Correct Path

Since you copied the files, you need to update the file to reflect the new location.  Then, open the file in a text editor.

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa
sudo vi vars

Change the line that readsexport EASY_RSA=”`pwd`” to:

export EASY_RSA="/etc/openvpn/easy-rsa"

I also found other links online that mentioned to change the the following variables below, which are at the end of the file.  When you generate the encryption keys later, this information is used.  Since I was just using this for a personal VPN, I just filled it it with fictional information (although, I left the country the same).

export KEY_PROVINCE="Delta Quadrant"
export KEY_CITY="Grid 492"
export KEY_ORG="Starfleet"
export KEY_EMAIL=""
export KEY_CN=raspberrypi
export KEY_NAME=raspberrypi
export KEY_OU=raspberrypi
export PKCS11_MODULE_PATH=raspberrypi
export PKCS11_PIN=1234

Initialize the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

Now you will tell the computer to use thevars file edited in the last section and then build the certificate authority.

cd /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/
sudo su
source ./vars
ln -s openssl-1.0.0.cnf openssl.cnf

Generate the Server Certificate and Key

The server will need its own key and certificate.  Each client will also need some–run the second command for each client needed, naming them appropriately:

./build-key-server servername
./build-key client1

There should now be some files in /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys :


Generate the Diffie-Hellman

Diffie-Hellman basically allows two users to exchange a secret key over an insecure medium without any prior secrets. Generate this by running the following command (this takes a long time to complete; do not cancel it):


Create A Server Configuration File (server.conf) From An Example

Make a copy of the example server config file to edit.  It is compressed by default, so it needs to be uncompressed and then renamed to match the server.

cd /etc/openvpn

Become the pi user again.


Copy the file; unzip it; make a copy of the file with the name of your server.

sudo cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz /etc/openvpn 
sudo gunzip server.conf.gz 
sudo cp server.conf servername.conf

Modify the server.conf File to Reflect the Keys Generated in the Previous Steps

View the Settings Before Editing the File

Run the following command(s) to see the config file without all of the comments.  This will print out all of the options available to set.  Disabled settings are commented out by a semi-colon; simply removing the semi-colon will activate the feature (once the file is saved). Use these two commands as a reference when editing the file.

cat servername.conf | grep -v "#" | tr -s '\n'
cat servername.conf | grep -v "#" | grep -v ";" | tr -s '\n'

Update the Config File With the Correct Paths to the Keys Generated in the Previous Sections

The example config file needs to be updated to reflect the paths and names chosen for the keys that were previously generated.  Following the example filenames above, see below for the edits:

ca.crt should change toca /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/ca.crt
cert server.crt should change tocert /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/servername.crt
key server.key should change tokey /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/servername.key
dh dh1024.pem should change todh /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/keys/dh1024.pem

Enable Gateway Re-direct to Allow All Traffic to Flow Through the VPN

Uncomment the line push ;”redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp” .  It should read:

push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"

Enable Client-to-client Communications (Optional)

Uncomment the line push ;client-to-client  .  This will allow connected VPN clients to communicate with other devices on the network.  This is useful in ensuring the connection works.  For example, I I used the iNet Pro app once connected on the VPN to run a network scan to verify that I was actually on my home network.  The line should now read:


Enable IPv4 Forwarding

Uncomment the line# net.ipv4.ip_forward=1 in/etc/sysctl.conf .  It should look like this when you are done.


Enable Routing

In order for traffic to be routed across the pi, IP-forwarding needs to be enabled.

sudo su
echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
exit # become the pi user again
crontab -e

Add the following to end of the file and save it.

@reboot sudo iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s ! -d -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE 

Start the OpenVPN Server on the Raspberry Pi

To make sure everything is working OK, simply start OpenVPN using the server config file.  Once you know everything is working, you can set it up as a daemon to run automatically. For now, it is better to see all of the details to verify its functionality.

sudo openvpn servername.conf

If everything went well, the final output on the screen should say something like

Initialization Sequence Completed

If a client were to connect, you would immediately see details as they happen.  This is a great way to test out your connection.

Start the OpenVPN Automatically When the RPi Starts

Now that the OpenVPN server is working and the settings look good, it is time to make it run as a service every time the Pi boots up.  This will prevent you from having to type openvpn servername.conf and having it run in the foreground.  

Edit the file /etc/default/openvpn :

sudo vi /etc/default/openvpn

Uncomment the line #AUTOSTART=”all”  and either leave it as is, or replace it with the name of the server config file (servername.conf  in this example).



7 Replies to “Setting Up An OpenVPN Server on the Raspberry Pi”

  1. Im gerting stuck on the “Copy Example Config Files Into the OpenVPN Folder” step. There’s no easy-rsa examples in raspbian (installed it today).

    I also tried force reinstalling openvpn, openssl and easy-rsa but I’m not getting those example files to modify and use as a base!

    1. It has been two years since I made this post. I wonder if the files no longer exist? That step isn’t critical as they are just example files; you can make your own from scratch for the same result, albeit a bit more work.

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