install openvpn

Installing OpenVPN on a Linux system is an excellent choice for those seeking a secure and versatile solution for their networking needs. OpenVPN is a widely-adopted, open-source VPN software that can be set up on various operating systems, including Ubuntu and Debian systems. With its robust security features, it allows users to protect their data and maintain privacy when accessing the internet through public Wi-Fi or while traveling.

Setting up OpenVPN on Linux can be a straightforward process, provided you have some familiarity with command line tools and system administration. During the installation process, you will encounter some essential steps that involve configuring the software, generating security keys, and configuring connections to an OpenVPN server. Moreover, you may need to delve into advanced configurations depending on your specific use cases or network requirements.

Key Takeaways

  • OpenVPN provides a secure and flexible VPN solution for Linux users.
  • The installation process involves configuration, key generation, and connection setup.
  • Familiarity with command line tools is beneficial for successfully setting up OpenVPN on Linux.

Installing OpenVPN on Linux

In this section, we will discuss how to install OpenVPN on various Linux distributions, such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora, OpenSUSE, RedHat, and Gentoo. We will also explore the necessary steps and commands to set up OpenVPN on these systems.

Debian and Ubuntu

On Debian and Ubuntu-based systems, installing OpenVPN can be accomplished via the apt-get command. First, update your package repository by running:

sudo apt update

Next, install OpenVPN with the following command:

sudo apt-get install openvpn

This will install OpenVPN and any required dependencies, such as openssl.

CentOS and Fedora

For CentOS and Fedora, you can use the yum command to install OpenVPN. First, enable the EPEL repository:

sudo yum install epel-release

Afterward, install OpenVPN using:

sudo yum install openvpn

OpenSUSE and RedHat

On OpenSUSE and RedHat systems, the process is similar to CentOS and Fedora. First, add the repository:

sudo zypper addrepo -f

Then, install OpenVPN:

sudo zypper install openvpn


For Gentoo users, utilize the emerge command to install OpenVPN. First, update your package list:

emerge --sync

Then, install OpenVPN:

emerge --ask net-vpn/openvpn

This will take care of the installation process.

In conclusion, installing OpenVPN on various Linux distributions is a straightforward process. However, the commands and package managers differ according to the specific distribution. Ensure you use the appropriate commands for your Linux distribution to install and configure OpenVPN successfully.

Configuration and Setup

This section will guide you through the process of setting up and configuring an OpenVPN server and client on a Linux machine. Make sure to follow the steps carefully to ensure a smooth and secure VPN connection.

Server Configuration

  1. Install OpenVPN and related packages:

    sudo apt-get install openvpn easy-rsa
  2. Set up a Certificate Authority (CA) using easy-rsa, and generate server and client certificates.

  3. Create the OpenVPN configuration file in /etc/openvpn/server.conf:

    port 1194
    proto udp
    dev tun
    ca ca.crt
    cert server.crt
    key server.key
    dh dh.pem
    ifconfig-pool-persist ipp.txt
    push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
    push "dhcp-option DNS"
    push "dhcp-option DNS"
    keepalive 10 120
    cipher AES-256-CBC
    user nobody
    group nogroup
    status openvpn-status.log
    verb 3

    Edit the appropriate lines to match your certificate and key file names.

  4. Enable IP forwarding with the following command:

    sudo sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1
  5. Start the OpenVPN server and enable it at boot:

    sudo systemctl start openvpn@server
    sudo systemctl enable openvpn@server

Client Configuration

  1. Install OpenVPN and related packages on the client machine:

    sudo apt-get install openvpn
  2. Copy the necessary files from the server to the client:

    • CA certificate: ca.crt
    • Client’s certificate: client.crt
    • Client’s key: client.key
    • TA key (optional): ta.key
  3. Create the client configuration file in /etc/openvpn/client.conf:

    dev tun
    proto udp
    remote [server-ip-address] 1194
    resolv-retry infinite
    ca ca.crt
    cert client.crt
    key client.key
    remote-cert-tls server
    cipher AES-256-CBC
    verb 3

    Replace [server-ip-address] with the server’s IP address or URL.

  4. Start the OpenVPN client and enable it at boot:

    sudo systemctl start openvpn@client
    sudo systemctl enable openvpn@client

With these steps completed, your OpenVPN server and client should be properly configured, and the VPN connection should be up and running.

Certificates and PKI

Certificate Authority

A Certificate Authority (CA) is a crucial component in the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) ecosystem. It issues digital certificates to clients and servers, validating their identity and enabling secure communication. Setting up your own CA helps secure OpenVPN connections. You should place your CA on a dedicated machine, separate from the OpenVPN server, as recommended in the official OpenVPN documentation.

To establish a PKI, you’ll need a master CA certificate and key, which will sign the server and client certificates. You can follow the OpenVPN guide on setting up your own Certificate Authority for detailed instructions.

Client Certificates

In a PKI-based OpenVPN implementation, each client requires a unique certificate and private key for secure communication. These certificates are digitally signed by the CA to validate client identity. Client certificates must be generated and signed by your CA, and then distributed to the appropriate clients for use during VPN connection establishment.

You can create client certificates using the easy-rsa tool or other methods outlined in the OpenVPN documentation. Keep the private keys securely stored, as they should not be shared or transferred over insecure channels.


Easy-RSA is a popular toolset used to manage PKI in OpenVPN deployments. It simplifies certificate and key generation for both the server and clients, streamlining the CA setup and administration process. Easy-RSA can be installed directly on your CA machine or as an independent package on your Linux system.

With Easy-RSA, you can create a CA, generate server and client certificates, and manage certificate revocation lists. To effectively use this tool, consult the included documentation and follow the recommended practices to ensure the security and integrity of your PKI.

By employing proper CA setup, client certificates, and using tools like Easy-RSA, you can establish a secure and efficient PKI system for OpenVPN on Linux. This will ensure a reliable and robust VPN connection for both server and clients, protecting communication and data from potential security breaches.

VPN Connection Methods

When setting up an OpenVPN on Linux, there are several connection methods to choose from. Each method has its advantages, depending on the use case and the user’s preferences. In this section, we will discuss the three main ways to connect: Manual Connection, OpenVPN Connect App, and OpenVPN GUI.

Manual Connection

The manual connection method is the most straightforward way to establish a VPN connection. Users start the OpenVPN service by running the OpenVPN command with the configuration file as an argument. This method provides a high level of control over the VPN connection, including the ability to switch between TCP and UDP protocols or change the authentication details. It is ideal for users who are comfortable using the command line and require fine-grained control over their connection.

To manually connect using OpenVPN, run the following command, replacing client.ovpn with your configuration file:

sudo openvpn --config client.ovpn

OpenVPN Connect App

The OpenVPN Connect App is the official client provided by OpenVPN, which aims to simplify the process of connecting to a VPN server. It offers a user-friendly graphical interface to manage VPN connections and supports importing .ovpn configuration files. The app also handles the authentication process, making it easy to switch between different VPN servers or authenticate using various methods.

To use the OpenVPN Connect app, first install it on your Linux system, then import the configuration file, and finally, start the VPN session:

openvpn3 config-import --config client.ovpn
openvpn3 session-start --config client.ovpn


Another option for connecting to a VPN server is the OpenVPN GUI, an open-source graphical client built on top of the OpenVPN core library. It integrates well with the Linux desktop environment, enabling users to start, monitor, and manage their VPN connections from the system tray or using desktop notifications. This method is particularly convenient for users who prefer a graphical interface over using the command line.

To use the OpenVPN GUI, first install it on your Linux system, then copy the configuration file to the appropriate directory, typically /etc/openvpn/client.conf, and finally, start the OpenVPN GUI from your system menu or desktop launcher.

Whichever connection method you choose, ensure you maintain a secure and consistent VPN connection by using the appropriate authentication method and selecting the suitable protocol (TCP or UDP) for your specific use case.

Advanced Configurations

In this section, we will discuss some advanced configurations for OpenVPN on Linux, such as Scripting and Customizations, and Firewall and Networking.

Scripting and Customizations

OpenVPN is highly customizable, and can be tailored to suit the specific needs of your Linux distribution and network environment. One way to achieve this is through the use of scripts. You can create custom scripts to automatically perform certain tasks, such as updating your server configuration or assigning specific IP addresses to VPN clients.

To implement scripting in your OpenVPN setup, you can specify the location of your script in the server configuration file using the script-security 2 and up /path/to/your/ directives. This allows you to execute the script every time your OpenVPN server starts up, ensuring that your customizations are always in place. Make sure that your scripts are executable (e.g., chmod +x /path/to/your/ and adhere to the Linux script guidelines to ensure proper functionality.

Firewall and Networking

Configuring the firewall on your Linux distribution is essential for securing your OpenVPN server and ensuring proper network connectivity. You may need to adjust your firewall settings to allow UDP or TCP traffic on the specific port that OpenVPN is running on, typically port 1194.

Here’s a sample configuration for iptables to allow OpenVPN traffic in both IPv4 and IPv6 networks:

iptables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 1194 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A FORWARD -s -j ACCEPT
ip6tables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 1194 -j ACCEPT
ip6tables -A FORWARD -s fe80::/64 -j ACCEPT

Additionally, you might need to enable IP forwarding for your VPN clients to reach other networks, such as private subnets or local area networks (LANs) behind your VPN server. To enable IP forwarding, edit the /etc/sysctl.conf file and change or add the following lines:

net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1
net.ipv6.conf.all.forwarding = 1

After updating the configuration file, apply the changes with the following command:

sysctl -p

With these advanced configurations, you can further tailor your OpenVPN server on Linux to your specific needs, ensuring optimal performance and security. Remember to always test your configurations and firewall rules before deploying them in a production environment.

Security and Authentication

OpenVPN is a highly secure VPN solution that relies on strong encryption and authentication mechanisms. It employs SSL/TLS for data transport, ensuring that the connection between the client and server is confidential and tamper-proof. This is achieved through the use of strong cryptographic algorithms such as AES, Blowfish, or Camellia.

Authentication in OpenVPN can be accomplished using various methods, including certificates, username/password combinations, or even smart cards. The use of X.509 certificates provides a robust security layer by verifying the identity of both the client and server. This mutual authentication process helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

For additional security, OpenVPN supports the integration with PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules). PAM provides an extra layer of defense by allowing the administrator to enforce different authentication policies based on user or group access levels. For instance, an administrator might require multi-factor authentication for privileged users while allowing regular users to authenticate using just their credentials.

Data compression is another feature offered by OpenVPN, which uses LZO compression to save bandwidth during data transmission. While LZO can improve the VPN connection’s performance, it is important to note that some plaintext leakage might occur if the data being transmitted is already compressed. In such cases, disabling LZO compression is recommended to maintain a higher level of security.

In conclusion, OpenVPN offers a versatile and secure VPN solution that utilizes HTTPS, SSL/TLS, and various authentication mechanisms to safeguard data transmission. By implementing proper security measures, such as mutual authentication with certificates, PAM integration, and appropriate use of LZO compression, OpenVPN can provide a highly secure and private connection for its users.

Troubleshooting and Maintenance

DNS Resolution

In case you encounter issues with DNS resolution while using OpenVPN on Linux, you can use the dig command to test DNS queries. For example:


If the query doesn’t return the desired results, it could indicate a problem in your VPN’s DNS settings. You could try manually configuring the DNS servers within your OpenVPN configuration or modify /etc/resolv.conf to ensure proper DNS resolution.

Updating and Upgrading

To keep your OpenVPN installation up to date and secure, regular updates and upgrades are essential. Use the following commands to update the package index and upgrade the software:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Remember to have administration privileges to execute these commands successfully.

Logs and Debugging

In situations where you face difficulties with your VPN connection, examining logs can provide valuable insights for identifying and resolving issues. By default, OpenVPN logs can be found at /var/log/openvpn. You may need to adjust the log level in the OpenVPN configuration file or run OpenVPN with the --verb option to obtain more detailed logs, depending on the issue:

sudo openvpn --config /path/to/config.ovpn --verb 3

Additionally, OpenVPN offers a systems tray applet that can enable easy access to logs and provide a convenient way to manage your VPN connection. Ensure that the applet has the appropriate chmod and profile permissions to function correctly.

To examine public IPv6 addresses and ensure proper functionality of your VPN, you can utilize tools like curl. For instance, you can check your public IPv6 address with the following command:

curl -6

By following these steps and frequently monitoring your OpenVPN setup on Linux, you can maintain a secure and efficient virtual private network. Remember to use your administration privileges wisely and always be cautious when making changes to system files or configurations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to install OpenVPN on Ubuntu via command line?

To install OpenVPN on Ubuntu via command line, begin by updating the package list and then installing OpenVPN and Easy-RSA package. You can follow these steps:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install openvpn easy-rsa

After the installation, proceed with OpenVPN server configuration and user certificate creation. You can follow a detailed guide here.

What are the steps to install OpenVPN on CentOS?

First, enable the EPEL repository by running:

sudo yum install epel-release

Next, install the OpenVPN package:

sudo yum install openvpn

After the installation, continue with server configuration, management tool installation, and user certificate creation. You can read more about the process in the official documentation.

How to install OpenVPN client on Ubuntu?

OpenVPN client can be installed on Ubuntu with the following command:

sudo apt install openvpn

After installation, download the client configuration files (usually a .ovpn file) from the OpenVPN server or your VPN provider. To start a VPN session, use the command:

sudo openvpn --config /path/to/your/config.ovpn

What is the process for installing OpenVPN 3 on Linux?

For installing OpenVPN 3 on Linux, you need to download and install the OpenVPN 3 client package for your specific distribution. Visit the OpenVPN 3 Linux repository to find the package compatible with your Linux distribution.

How to start OpenVPN from command line on Linux?

Once you have OpenVPN client installed and a configuration file (.ovpn) at hand, you can start a VPN session with the following command:

sudo openvpn --config /path/to/your/config.ovpn

Alternatively, you can use OpenVPN 3 client:

openvpn3 session-start --config /path/to/your/config.ovpn

What is the procedure for installing OpenVPN on CentOS 7?

The procedure for installing OpenVPN on CentOS 7 is similar to other CentOS versions. Begin by enabling the EPEL repository:

sudo yum install epel-release

Next, install the OpenVPN package:

sudo yum install openvpn

After installation, follow the configuration steps as described in the official documentation.

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