Learn all about port forwarding, how to do it and the VPN services that support it.
What is VPN port forwarding? How does it work? And is it safe?
Here’s a quick and easy guide to answer all of your port forwarding questions – and to teach you how to use it.
What is Port Forwarding?
When “networking” – whether it’s connecting to the Internet or communicating with another computer via LAN – your computer uses things called ports to direct traffic. It has certain ports which are dedicated to specific functions, but there are plenty of other non-dedicated ports that you can assign to other tasks.
However, when you’re connected to a VPN, it uses an NAT firewall to block outside connections that don’t use its port. This is a good thing for your safety: it stops your computer from sending unprotected data, and it also prevents people from using a network you’re connected to (like public WiFi) to get access to your system.
But in some situations, this blanket block on outside connections can prevent you from doing certain things – like seeding torrents, for example. Fortunately, there’s a way around this: port forwarding.
Port forwarding allows you to redirect traffic from one port to another, as well as open closed ports.
What Can I Use Port Forwarding For?
There are a variety of reasons people set up port forwarding. Here are some of the most popular uses:
- Improve torrent download speeds and seeding
- Connect to your home server while away
- Access a security camera, baby monitor, etc. remotely
- Set up and allow access to a private game server
- Give a friend remote access to your network or device
Is Port Forwarding Safe?
The short answer? Kinda.
You can think of port forwarding like adding a “doggie door” to your back door. On one hand, it makes it more convenient for your family pet to come and go. On the other hand, it’s possible for other things to sneak in too through the door, whether it’s a raccoon or an intruder.
In other words, by opening a port, you are creating a vulnerability in your system. However, it’s a small one, and it shouldn’t be a problem as long as you are careful – and you close the port when you’re not using it.
VPNs with Port Forwarding
Unfortunately, not all VPN services offer port forwarding. Here are our picks for the best port forwarding VPNs around, along with instructions on how to set up port forwarding on each service.
Private Internet Access
Here’s our full Mullvad VPN review and here you can read about how to set up port forwarding with Mullvad.
Update: Mullvad has removed their support for port forwarding. You can read more here.
Forwarding ports using a VPN is one of those things that is easier to learn by doing than reading about.
We recommend you try the port forwarding instructions for one (or more) of the VPN services listed above. They all come with risk-free full money-back guarantees, so you can sign up, fiddle around and stick with the one that works best for your needs.