How to set up a WireGuard VPN for personal use

VPNs are a great way to level up your privacy online. Here’s how to set one up from scratch.

Step 1: spin up and connect to your cloud server

Using your cloud provider of choice, provision a new server instance. Since the VPN will be for personal use only, inexpensive instances will work fine. Select any operating system that WireGuard supports; we’ll assume Ubuntu for this tutorial.

Connect to your server via SSH as the root user.

Root user

Heads up, all commands outlined in this tutorial assume the root user, so you won't see any commands prefixed with sudo.

Step 2: install WireGuard

If you picked Ubuntu for your server’s OS, you can install WireGuard with one command:

apt install wireguard
Working directory

For the remaining steps, change your working directory to /etc/wireguard.

Step 3: generate a key pair for your VPN server

First, generate a private key:

wg genkey > private.key

Then, use the private key to derive a public key:

wg pubkey < private.key > public.key

These are the keys your VPN server will use when encrypting traffic with your client VPN peers.

Step 4: create your server configuration file

With WireGuard installed and keys generated, we’re ready to create our VPN configuration.

First, find the name of the public network interface:

ip route list default

The output might look something like this: default via ... dev eth0 proto static—the eth0 part is what we’re after.

Create a file called wg0.conf with the following contents, being sure to include the private key where required, and replacing eth0 with the name of the network interface:

SaveConfig = true
PostUp = ufw route allow in on wg0 out on eth0
PostUp = iptables -t nat -I POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
PreDown = ufw route delete allow in on wg0 out on eth0
PreDown = iptables -t nat -D POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
ListenPort = 51820
PrivateKey = <the contents of private.key>

Step 5: configure IP forwarding

Add the following line at the bottom of /etc/sysctl.conf:


Then run sysctl -p to load the new configuration.

Step 6: allow UDP traffic

Update the operating system firewall to allow traffic on the port specified in the WireGuard configuration:

ufw allow 51820/udp

Restart UFW to pick up the new configuration:

ufw disable
ufw enable

Step 7: configure the WireGuard server to start on boot

systemctl enable wg-quick@wg0.service

Step 8: generate keys for clients

Now we’ll generate keys for the devices that will be connecting to the server. Follow this process for as many clients as you need:

  1. Output the private key with wg genkey
  2. Output the corresponding public key with echo -n '<the private key>' | wg pubkey
  3. Mark the public key as allowed with wg set wg0 peer <the public key> allowed-ips; for each client increment the last digit of the IP address

Verify that the public keys have been added as peers by running the wg command with no arguments. If you’ve configured three clients, the output should look something like this:

interface: wg0
  public key: <the server's public key>
  private key: (hidden)
  listening port: 51820

peer: <first client's public key>
  allowed ips:

peer: <second client's public key>
  allowed ips:

peer: <third client's public key>
  allowed ips:

Step 9: configure clients

Finally, configure your client devices to connect to your WireGuard VPN server. This process will be a little different depending on whether you are using the iOS app, Android app, or another Linux installation of WireGuard. Generally, though, your client configuration should look something like this:

PrivateKey = <the client private key>
Address = <the client IP address>/24
DNS = <the DNS resolvers you wish to use (optional)>

PublicKey = <the server public key>
Endpoint = <the server IP address>:51820
AllowedIPs =

The configuration value indicates that all internet traffic should be tunnelled through the VPN connection.

Happy tunneling!