Setting up a WireGuard VPN Server

27 Aug 2018

I’ve been using OpenVPN for a while on my home server just to keep my portable devices safe while roaming, but I’ve never quite liked its unstable nature, slow reconnection speeds and hosts of options making it harder to keep up with in terms of best practices.

I recently found out about WireGuard, and was intrigued considering the praise it got from none other than Linus Torvalds!

It boasts simple configuration, strong encryption, great performance and a codebase so small it can be audited in under a day. It’s created by Jason A. Donenfeld, also known as ZX2C4, author of popular open source projects such as pass and cgit.

Now, this is mostly for evaluation purposes, the project is still quite young and is considered a work in progress, so please make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. I will not be doing benchmarks as there’s loads out there already, this is merely a how-to for installing it yourself. If you want to know more about the project, read the whitepaper and/or watch presentations about the project.

With the warnings out of the way, I wanted to test this out on my environment consisting of the following:

The server will act as the VPN host, with the laptop and phone as clients connecting into its virtual network.


I will be doing this on my server running Debian, but WireGuard supports most (if not all) major distributions, even other OSes! Following the steps on the official installation page, I added the sources and preferences and installed WireGuard like so:

apt install wireguard

One thing that the installation page doesn’t mention is that we’ll also need the linux headers to create new links, so install that too:

apt install linux-headers-$(uname -r)


WireGuard is relatively simple to get set up, but can get confusing if its your first time.
A lot of the work is simplified with the wg-quick tool, which we’ll be using.

First we’ll need to generate some keys, and we’ll store them in /etc/wireguard/keys so we’ll have to make that directory too.

mkdir /etc/wireguard/keys
chmod 700 /etc/wireguard/keys
touch /etc/wireguard/keys/server
chmod 600 /etc/wireguard/keys/server
wg genkey > /etc/wireguard/keys/server
wg pubkey < /etc/wireguard/keys/server > /etc/wireguard/keys/

And there we have it, our private and public keys. Let’s proceed with the configuration file:

touch /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
nano /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf

In here we’ll need to add an “interface”, namely the server:

Address    =
PrivateKey = GAfZYrZqYd1YSoKs7Zd136hyQ8hJzZsariabybuuXG4
ListenPort = 51820

The Address field signifies the virtual network that the server will be on, /24 signifies the CIDR.
The PrivateKey is the key we generated earlier, copy-pasted from /etc/wireguard/keys/server.
The ListenPort is the external port we’re accepting traffic on, this needs to be opened on your firewall/router!

Now we just have to start it, which we’ll use systemd for to also add persistency:

systemctl enable wp-quick@wg0.service --now
# wg0 must match the configuration file; wg0.conf

That’s it, now you have your WireGuard server up and running!
You can verify this by running wg to see WireGuard status, or ip addr to see the network interface status.

Connecting the laptop

Now that WireGuard is running on the server, I want to connect my laptop to it. With Arch Linux, I install the packages:

pacman -S wireguard-tools linux-headers

I create the keys like before:

mkdir /etc/wireguard/keys
chmod 700 /etc/wireguard/keys
touch /etc/wireguard/keys/laptop
chmod 600 /etc/wireguard/keys/laptop
wg genkey > /etc/wireguard/keys/laptop
wg pubkey < /etc/wireguard/keys/laptop > /etc/wireguard/keys/

Then we need to create the config, much like before:

touch /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
nano /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf

Now we’ll need to add both an “interface” (for the laptop), and a “peer” (the server we’re connecting to):

Address    =
PrivateKey = 8J1AJiIUOZZaIi4X58v3cGc3yHJg+96bW+6lD6q9q1E=

PublicKey  = 4MlvhLDMs53kHKPRpsfvQ5jIz8eajY7IbcIUbvfISXY=
AllowedIPs = ::0/0
EndPoint   =

The interface Address is, as this will be the laptop’s address on the virtual network on the server.
The interface PrivateKey is what we generated into /etc/wireguard/keys/laptop.
The peer PublicKey is what we generated on the server in /etc/wireguard/keys/
The peer AllowedIPs just says that we’ll accept any traffic coming from the VPN server, both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic.
The peer Endpoint is the public-facing address for the server, which could just as well be an IP address if you don’t have a domain for it.

We also need to whitelist the laptop on the server, so let’s add to the /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf there:

Address    =
PrivateKey = GAfZYrZqYd1YSoKs7Zd136hyQ8hJzZsariabybuuXG4
ListenPort = 51820

PublicKey  = lNq6ckxoW5N+l8Sg11M2U5z5VGp/B0bR+kAhYsU9Vyc=
AllowedIPs =

The only thing we changed here was adding the “peer” for the laptop,
PublicKey being the key we made on the laptop in /etc/wireguard/keys/,
AllowedIPs is a whitelist of the laptop’s Address field, with a CIDR of /32 to only allow 1 IP.

Lastly, on the server we’ll need to restart the tunnel:

systemctl restart wp-quick@wg0.service

And on the laptop we just need to start it, same as we did on the server:

systemctl enable wp-quick@wg0.service --now

I also suggest enabling this networkd service to make sure the network is up:

systemctl enable systemd-networkd-wait-online.service

Connecting the phone

This is the most experimental part. One of the reasons WireGuard is so performant is because it’s entirely running in the kernel, but the kernels on Android phones are notorious for being outdated. Unless you’re running a custom ROM or know the inner workings of them, you’ll lose out on this benefit. I’m OK with that, so let’s get started!

First we’ll need to install the preview of the WireGuard client, found on Google Play only at the moment:
(Sidenote: they plan on having it available on F-Droid too)

Open up the app, and you’ll be presented with a blank slate. Hit the “+” button in the bottom-right and select “Create from scratch”.

Choose any name you want, hit the “Generate” button on the right side, and fill in the “Addresses” field.
Again, we’re using the 10.0.0.x/24 format, this time the last number is 3.
Lastly, add some DNS servers, I like to use, but you can pick any you want (comma-separated).

Hit the big “Add Peer” button and fill in the fields for the server like we did for the laptop.

That’s pretty much it for the phone setup, just hit the save button in the top-right to finish.
We’ll need the “Public key” from the phone, I suggest using some form for copy-pasting it since it’s a bit tedious to type out manually.

Back to the server, we’ll need to whitelist the phone like we did with the laptop, so let’s modify /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf again:

Address    =
PrivateKey = GAfZYrZqYd1YSoKs7Zd136hyQ8hJzZsariabybuuXG4
ListenPort = 51820

PublicKey  = lNq6ckxoW5N+l8Sg11M2U5z5VGp/B0bR+kAhYsU9Vyc=
AllowedIPs =

PublicKey  = lXjYOk+11EB6JrRyw0z/3dVewvfoCuvdC6XwQALQKXM=
AllowedIPs =

The only thing to change is adding the 2nd peer, for the phone.
And like before, we’ll need to restart the tunnel on the server:

systemctl restart wp-quick@wg0.service

Finally, just flip the switch in the app and you should be connected!

You can now see all peers by running wg on the server.

Tedious to add new clients?

Instead of having to modify the file for every client you want to add to the server you could also use the wg tool instead:

# add peer
wg set wg0 peer <client_pubkey> allowed-ips 10.0.0.x/32

# verify connection

# save to config
wg-quick save wg0

That last line can be omitted if you add SaveConfig = true under the [Interface] on the server’s config.

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