How to Set Up and Use ExpressVPN on pfSense

ExpressVPN runs on a wide range of pfSense routers that support the OpenVPN protocol. Aside from that, your pfSense must run software version 2.4.5 or newer. So, before you can set up ExpressVPN on your pfSense router, make sure to update its software.

It's also worth mentioning that ExpressVPN is designed to run on pfSense routers intended for a basic home network setup. That means professional-grade pfSense routers and firewalls will benefit more from a large-scale VPN solution.

With that said, here's how to configure ExpressVPN on your pfSense router.

How to Set Up ExpressVPN on pfSense

We'll show you how to set up ExpressVPN on a pfSense router using an OpenVPN connection, which means you'll get the best possible data protection. Do the following:

1. Subscribe to ExpressVPN using your computer and any Web browser.

2. Once you subscribe, click "My Account" using the top-placed main menu on the ExpressVPN site. Provide your credentials and access your ExpressVPN dashboard.

Signing In to ExpressVPN Website

3. Navigate to Set Up Other Devices > Manual Configuration > OpenVPN.

4. Make a note of your OpenVPN username and password. Then, select a server by scrolling down, and then download that server's OpenVPN (OVPN) files to your computer.

OpenVPN OVPN Files Listed on ExpressVPN Website

5. Now, log in to your pfSense device and navigate to System > Cert. Manager. Select the "CA" tab and click on "+Add." Then, enter the following information:

  • Descriptive Name: Come up with an easy-to-remember name. 
  • Method: Select "Import an Existing Certificate Authority."
  • Certificate Data: Launch the recently downloaded OVPN file in a text editor (right-click on it and select "Open With," and then choose a text editor). Then, copy the text between the <ca> and </ca> tags and paste it into this field. 
  • Certificate Private Key (Optional): Feel free to leave this blank. 
  • Serial for Next Certificate: Leave this one blank as well. 
Saving Certificate Authority pfSense ExpressVPN

6. Now, select "Certificates" and click "+ Add." Use the following information:

  • Method: Select "Import an Existing Certificate."
  • Descriptive Name: Enter any name (like 'ExpressVPN Certificate'). 
  • Certificate Data: Once again, open the OVPN file in a text editor. Then, copy everything between the <cert> and </cert> tags. 
  • Private Key Data: For this field, copy everything between the <key> and </key> tags (from the recently downloaded OVPN file, once you open it in a text editor). 
Importing ExpressVPN Certificated on pfSense

7. Using the top navigation bar, go to VPN > OpenVPN. Select "Clients" and click on the "+ Add" button. Fill out the information in the "General Information" group, based on the following.

  • Disabled: Leave this unchecked. 
  • Server Mode: Select "Peer to Peer (SSL/TLS)."
  • Protocol: Select "UDP on IPv4 Only."
  • Device Mode: Select "tun – Layer 3 Tunnel Mode."
  • Interface: Feel free to pick "WAN" here. 
  • Local Port: Don’t change anything (leave blank).
  • Server Host or Address: Once again, open the OVPN file in a text editor. Then, copy the server address found between the word "remote" and the 4-digit port number. 
  • Server Port: Your 4-digit port number is found in the OVPN file. 
  • Proxy Host or Address: Leave this field blank. 
  • Proxy Port: Leave blank. 
  • Proxy Authentication: Select "None" here. 
  • Description: Come up with a name that’ll help you recognize your VPN connection. 
ExpressVPN Installation Settings on pfSense

8. Take a look at the "User Authentication Settings" group. Provide your OpenVPN username and password. Then, fill out the "Cryptographic Settings" fields based on the following. 

  • TLS Configuration: Make sure to check this box. 
  • Automatically Generate a TLS Key: Make sure this box is unchecked. 
  • TLS: Once again, you need to use your OVPN file. This time around, copy everything you see between the <tls-auth> and </tls-auth> tags. 
  • TLS Key Usage mode: Select "TLS Authentication" here. 
  • Peer Certificate Authority: Pick the entry you created earlier. 
  • Client Certificate: Pick the certificate you created moments ago. 
  • Encryption Algorithm: Once you open the OVPN file in a text editor, look for the word "cipher." Select the algorithm shown after "cipher" in the dropdown menu. For example, this could be AES-256-CBC. 
  • Enable NCP: Don't use this option (uncheck this box). 
  • NCP Algorithms: Feel free to leave blank. 
  • Auth Digest Algorithm: Open the OVPN file again and look for the word "auth." Select the algorithm shown after "auth" in the dropdown menu. For example, SHA512. 
  • Hardware Crypto: Select based on the capability of your pfSense hardware. If this option isn’t available on your device, select "No Hardware Crypto Acceleration."
Cryptographic Settings ExpressVPN on pfSense

9. Then, take a look at the "Tunnel Settings" group of fields. Fill them out based on the following information. 

  • IPv4 Tunnel Network: Leave blank. 
  • IPv6 Tunnel Network: Leave this one blank as well. 
  • IPv4 Remote Network: Leave as it is. 
  • IPv6 Remote Network: Leave as it is. 
  • Limit Outgoing Bandwidth: Leave blank for unlimited. 
  • Compression: Select "Adaptive LZO Compression [Legacy]."
  • Topology: Don’t change anything for this field. 
  • Type-of-Service: Make sure this item is unchecked. 
  • Don’t Pull Routes: Check this box. 
  • Don’t Add/Remove Routes: Leave this field unchecked. 

10. Now, you should see looking at the "Advanced Configuration" group of fields. Make sure to take a look at the "Custom Options" field.  Then, copy the following code:

fast-io;persist-key;persist-tun;remote-random;pull;comp-lzo;tls-client;verify-x509-name Server name-prefix;remote-cert-tls server;key-direction 1;route-method exe;route-delay 2;tun-mtu 1500;fragment 1300;mssfix 1450;verb 3;sndbuf 524288;rcvbuf 524288

11. Now, fill out the rest of the fields based on the following instructions. 

  • UDP Fast I/O: Feel free to check this box.
  • Send/Receive Buffer: Pick "512 KiB" here. 
  • Gateway Creation: Make sure to select "IPv4 Only."
  • Verbosity Level: Go with "3 (Recommended)."
Verbosity Level ExpressVPN pfSense

12. You now need to route your WAN traffic through your VPN tunnel. Using the top navigation bar, go to Interfaces > Interface Assignments. Click on "+ Add," and a new interface will be created. 

13. For "OPT 1," make sure to select "ovpnc1" and then go ahead with "Save."

Interface Assignments ExpressVPN pfSense

14. Using the top navigation bar, go to Interfaces > OPT1. Then, enter the required information based on the following. 

  • Enable: Check this box. 
  • Description: Enter any name (something like 'ExpressVPN').
  • MAC Address, MTU & MSS: Leave all three of those blank. 
  • Block Private Networks and Loopback Addresses: Leave unchecked. 
  • Block Bogon Networks: Leave unchecked as well. 
Reserved Networks Settings on pfSense

15. Now, use the "Save" button and then click "Apply Changes."

16. Using the top navigation bar, go to Firewall > Aliases. Once again, click "+ Add," and come up with a name for your network alias. Then, enter the following information. 

  • Name: Enter a meaningful name (easy to recognize). 
  • Description: Come up with a meaningful description. 
  • Type: Go with "Network(s)."
  • Network or FQDN: Enter "192.168.1.0." Then, select "24."
Saving Network Properties on pfSense

17. Save your changes and then go to Firewall > NAT > Outbound

18. For "Mode," select "Manual Outbound NAT Rule Generation."

NAT Configuration on pfSense

19. Once again, save your changes by using the Save > Apply Changes route.

20. Scroll down to "Mappings," where you should see your existing WAN connections. For the first WAN connection entry, click on the Copy icon (below "Actions"). 

Copying WAN Tunnels on pfSense

21. For 'Interface,' make sure to select 'EXPRESSVPN.'

Selecting ExpressVPN Interface on pfSense

22. Don’t forget to save your changes. Then, repeat that same process for any other WAN entries you might have. 

23. Lastly, you need to create a rule for your local traffic. Go to Firewall > Rules. Select "LAN," and then click "Add" on the far left. Fill out the required information based on the following. 

Edit Firewall Rule

  • Action: Select "Pass'"
  • Disabled: Leave this unchecked. 
  • Interface: Make sure to select "LAN" here. 
  • Address: Go with "IPv4'"
  • Protocol: Go with "Any."

Source & Destination

  • Source: Select "Single Host or Alias." Then, enter the name of the alias you created earlier (you’ve done this in Firewall > Aliases). 
  • Destination: Feel free to pick "Any."

Extra Options

  • Log: Feel free to leave this unchecked. 
  • Description: Enter a meaningful description. Something like 'LAN to ExpressVPN.'
  • Then, make sure to click on "Display Advanced."

Advanced Options

  • Gateway: Select "EXPRESSVPN" here. 
Adjusting Gateways on pfSense

24. Finally, save and apply all your changes by going to Save > Apply Changes

25. One more thing. You need to check whether your VPN connection works. Go to Status > OpenVPN. Then, check for "Up" in the "Status" column. 

Checking ExpressVPN Status on pfSense

Final Thoughts

In the end, we'll say that ExpressVPN is our #1 pick for pfSense because it brings high-end data protection, letting you safeguard any incoming or outgoing data channel. That said, if you'd like to use this VPN on the go as well, check our central guide on how to set up ExpressVPN on all its supported devices (with more than 60 devices covered in total).

Also, our guide to the best VPN for pfSense will help you discover more solid picks - but know that ExpressVPN is the best VPN money buy today.

FAQ

Does ExpressVPN Work on pfSense?

Yes, ExpressVPN works on pfSense routers that support VPN connections. More precisely, you can set up OpenVPN connections on pfSense using ExpressVPN.

How Do I Connect to ExpressVPN on pfSense?

Once you subscribe to ExpressVPN and configure the VPN on your pfSense router, you need to go to Status > OpenVPN. If you're connected to ExpressVPN, it should say "Up" in the "Status" column.

For more detailed steps on how to connect to ExpressVPN on pfSense, scroll up.

What Protocols Does ExpressVPN Support on pfSense?

ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec on pfSense. That said, you should always go for OpenVPN first, as it's much more secure than L2TP/IPsec.

That would be all on how to set up ExpressVPN on pfSense. We understand that this is a highly complex procedure. So, in case you have any questions or doubts, make sure to let us know via the comments section below. Lastly, thank you for reading!

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