VPN Showdown: The Differences Between PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN (Networking FAQ)

Welcome to VPN Basics

If you are just starting to scratch the surface of VPN, VPN Providers and their respective benefits, you are already on the right path to identity protection, network privacy, and personal security. It is likely you are browsing around to try and find some basic answers to decipher the large array of acronyms that techies are throwing around, and you probably just want a straightforward breakdown of all these VPN (Virtual Private Network) acronyms like OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP.

If you are already using VPN but still trying to optimize your service, this feature breakdown of the most popular VPN security tunneling protocols should assist in that decision. PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN are all Virtual Private Network protocols used in order to establish a fast, secure, and reliable connection between two nodes. In this article, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each protocol one by one, so that it can be clarified which protocol is better for which user.

PPTP Client Settings on DD-WRT

What is PPTP?

Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is the most commonly used method for establishing virtual private networks (VPNs).

  1. Encryption Type/Level: Supports up to 128 bit session encryption keys.
    • The data encryption is done using the Microsoft Point to Point Encryption Protocol.
    • Only requires a username, password, and server address in order to establish connection.
  2. VPN Comparison: It is not the most secure option out there; upgrading to OpenVPN is recommended for users looking for better security.
  3. Compatible & Usually Pre-installed with MS Windows XP/7/8, Linux, DD-WRT, Tomato, Android, Apple iOS and Mac OSX.
    • Limited to no compatibility with default/manufacturer router firmware.
  4. Port Configuration: Uses TCP port and GRE.

PPTP provides a fast and easy to setup solution for users who do not have much concern over security and reliability and is the quickest/simplest method of VPN to set up with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware. Its compatibility with a wide range of platforms is a plus point. However, due to it’s well-reported security flaws, it is not recommended by most tech experts.

What is L2TP?

Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP) is a popular method for establishing VPN connections and is provided as an option by most Internet service providers (ISPs).

  1. Encryption Type/Level: Supports up to 256 bit session keys using the IPSec protocol, however the session keys can vary depending on the algorithms being used.
    • Uses double encapsulation of data for better security.
  2. VPN Speeds: Slightly slower when compared with PPTP and OpenVPN.
  3. Built-in clients and support for L2TP/IPSec is also available in all modern devices/operating systems out of the box.
    • Compatible with: Microsoft Windows XP/7/8, Linux, Android, Apple iOS and Mac OSX.
  4. Port Configuration: Utilizes UDP 500, Protocol 50, UDP 1701 and UDP 4500.

L2TP/IPSec provides a highly secure and reliable connection. L2TP is advanced protocol when compared to PPTP and is combined with IPSec in order to obtain better security.  The speed may be lower than PPTP but Internet speed varies based on a number of factors. Usually, the difference in speed is negligible.

L2TP is recommended for people who require greater security due to do the professional nature of their internet use. It is also recommended for people looking to setup VPNs just on their mobile devices. If you use a shared secret log-in with L2TP, it will not be compatible with open-source firmware configurations, and in this case it would be best to use PPTP or OpenVPN.

OpenVPN Integrated Routers - DDWRT & Tomato

What is OpenVPN?

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is the most advanced, and the most popular, open source software application being used to establish VPN connections.

  1. Encryption Type/Level: Supports Up to 256 bit session keys are supported; however, the session keys can be vary.
    • Data encryption is done using the OpenSSL library.
  2. VPN Speeds: Considered the fastest VPN protocol, faster than PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.
  3. VPN Comparison: OpenVPN provides a highly reliable, easy to install, and stable connection. For unstable connection, OpenVPN sacrifices a little speed in order to increase stability.
  4. Not included within routers default firmware, but can be utilized with a firmware upgrade to DD-WRT or Tomato firmware.
  5. Port Configuration: OpenVPN can be configured to use either TCP or UDP ports. It is compatible with MS Windows, Linux and Mac. It can be made compatible with Android via installation of a third party application.

OpenVPN provides a reliable and secure connection, with high speed. The free online availability of the software application and the continual support of and updating via the open-source community makes it the ideal choice for users with moderate to intermediate computer skills.

Deciding Between PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN

So here we have it. The VPN protocol facts are on the table. So where do we stand?

A PPTP solution is easy to setup and use, and provides fast connection. It is recommended for users that are whose main concern is setup simplicity and accessing blocked or restricted content or websites in their area. PPTP is NOT recommended for those whose primary intent is network encryption and security since PPTP is not as secure and reliable. However, in certain countries, other VPN platforms are unavailable or banned so PPTP is better than nothing at all.

An L2TP/IPSec VPN connection is slower, yet secure and reliable. It may be a step up from PPTP but interoperability between devices can be difficult and varied.

The clear winner in the battle of VPN protocols is OpenVPN which provides speed and security, but is not an out of the box feature in most operating systems and is a bit more complex to setup for that reason and . the application has to be downloaded and setup, and compatibility has to be ensured. We recommend OpenVPN because it often offers the best of both worlds (speed and security) when it comes to VPNs services if available to you.

How To Integrate OpenVPN on a Router

Sadly, OpenVPN is not an included option on most consumer routers right out of the box. We think it should be so we flash all our routers with enhanced firmware with full OpenVPN implementation as a client connection or to create your own OpenVPN server (this goes for PPTP as well.)

The one issue for most people with OpenVPN integration is the barrier of knowledge to entry and that is where we can give a helping hand. Each VPN provider has a different way to setting up their OpenVPN connection and how to do it within a router. Using a VPN provider within a router means that the setup only has to be done once and can cover all of your devices. Any device connected to an OpenVPN connected router will be using OpenVPN even if it is not an integrated option on your iPhone, Tablet, Roku, or SmartTV. OpenVPN for every device!
Tired of Buffering Routers? Get a DDWRT or Tomato VPN Routers

Ready to get cracking with any of these VPN encryption protocols right on your router to protect your entire network with one setup? We might have a few good VPN-ready routers for the job.

When looking to establish a VPN between two nodes, it is extremely important to know your priorities, and to also understand if your router is up to par. If you are looking for the best DD-WRT router to work with OpenVPN, the Netgear Nighthawk R7000 is a processing power and wireless heavyweight standout – 1 GHz processor, Wireless-AC up to 1900 Mbps. For Tomato, the Asus RT-N66U is one of our most popular options. To peruse some of our best selling VPN installed routers, take a gander at the bestselling VPN services/routers.

All FlashRouters include provider-specific setup guides and three months of VPN router expert setup support. If you wish, you can enter your account information and preferred server location during checkout in the SSL-secured Comments section and a networking technician will preconfigure your router for you. So no matter what the VPN provider related task, FlashRouters is here, ready to make your network sing!

One thought on “VPN Showdown: The Differences Between PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN (Networking FAQ)

  1. Tejasvi

    People some time feel that L2TP itself provides encryption of data. But it does not!

    Unless L2TP is used with IPSec the data is not encrypted.

    “Layer 2 tunneling protocols, such as L2TP, do not provide encryption mechanisms for the traffic it tunnels. Instead, they rely on other security protocols, such as IPSec, to encrypt their data.”


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