Question Download directly to USB Drive Plugged into Router (With caveats)

Jul 12, 2021

I have an ASUS RT-AC68U Router.

It has a function built into it's software called Download Master which allows you to download files directly to a USB Drive plugged directly into the Router - even while the PC is turned off.

I want to use this or something similar - so I can run it 24/7 just on the Router (as I don't want the PC on 24/7).

This is exactly what I want - except it's got a fatal flaw - so I'm hoping you guys can suggest a better alternative?

The problem is regarding the VPN!

Before I go on: I will mention that I spent a long time talking to Nord but they said it can't be added in to the Download Master GUI cause they need open ports and that there are also no other settings they can use to do this?

I don't know if they're right but that's what they said.

I have NordVPN and I want the VPN to ALWAYS BE ON for the USB Downloads via the Router.

However, If possible - I'd like to have that separate/isolated from the normal WIFI being pumped ouf of the Router for the whole house (Eg rather avoid applying one VPN profile/server to the entire Router and everything that uses it).

That way my family could still use the NordVPN software app on the PC, Android Phones and Android Smart TV to turn the VPN on and off at will, and choose different servers/countries etc?

Is this possible with other software?

I know there are things like DDWRT, OpenVPN and other stuff which I have equally no clue about?
I also know this router has ASUS WRT or something built in if that helps?

If yes - can you please tell me what software I need, and how to do it?

My other question related to this is...

Now assuming in the meantime ONLY - assuming that I can't find a better solution and I just use the ASUS Download Master with the VPN applied to the entire router...

If I choose a server, save it and activate the profile in the Router settings... will that PERMANENTLY stay activated - even after the Router is switched on and off etc - until you manually disable or change the profile?

How can I check this - that the VPN setting/server applied to the whole Router is definitely still on and working ok?

I ask cause I can only access the ASUS Download Master - download list via a limited GUI? Not like I can hop on a browser and check as the pc will be turned off etc?

The other question is... if you guys can find a better solution to use other software - is there way to make the vpn more dynamic?
The main thing I don't like about the idea of setting one server is that over time that could get slower or even dead.

Is there anyway to have it dynamically switch to the latest best server for that country/type of internet function etc?
I know that might be asking too much though for running straight off the Router alone (no pc)

There is an alternative idea - but I really want this as a last resort!

What about plugging the USB Drive into a cheap Android Phone?
I assume I wouldn't need an active sim card to use it with wifi only? (This is for Australia BTW)

So I'm thinking download that way - use the NordVPN software app on the phone as normal, leave the phone on 24/7 with power cable plugged in?

I assume there is software I could use to do the downloading management on the phone to the USB Drive?

If yes - please tell me how? And only Android please - no apple or windows phones.
Can I use a dirt cheap android phone - does it matter how much or little cpu/ram grunt etc it has?

The other alternative as @gggplaya mentioned; was maybe "a single board computer like a Raspberry pi, or similar with very good power efficiency." I had thought about listing this but hesitated as I've never done anything like that?

I basically want something simple to make/setup, cheap, and if it's running 24/7 to use as little power as possible.
I would obviously need to be able to tap into it and do settings and things via a computer somehow whether via wifi (ideal) or cabled temporarily or permanently (not ideal).

I figured a cheap android phone would be a much simpler, cheaper, and safer option due to my lack of experience with raspberry pi and things like that etc?

Can anyone suggest any good forums to ask about any of the ideas above to get more details and help?

So really hoping someone has a much better way to do this that the Router can still pump out normal WIF without VPN applied to it - so they can decide if/when they want to turn it on via their devices/pc?

Thank you for your help.
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You can try Merlin software to see if there are more features that would allow you to do this. I haven't tried.

But if I were you, I would buy yourself a single board computer like a Raspberry pi, or similar with very good power efficiency to do this task.
Jul 12, 2021
You can try Merlin software to see if there are more features that would allow you to do this. I haven't tried.

But if I were you, I would buy yourself a single board computer like a Raspberry pi, or similar with very good power efficiency to do this task.

Can you explain more about what you were thinking with Merlin? Isn't that something like DD WRT type of thing you'd usually use with a real Router?

Ideally I'm just looking for a solution with the items I mentioned?

He's only there for a few days (hopefully won't be extended) so that's not really a solution for this case though a good suggestion :)


Merlin is not like DDRWRT or Tomato or any of those third party firmwares.

Asus uses OpenWRT for it's software and puts their own customizations onto it. As part of licensing an open software, you have to publish your firmware to the public because it's a public license. Merlin takes the published firmware and brings in a few more OpenWRT libraries, so it has more features than the factory firmware. However since it's literally a modified version of the factory firmware, it tends to run much better and more stable than third party firmwares.

It installs exactly the same way you install factory firmware, if you don't like it, then just reinstall the factory firmware. You don't have to do anything special to install it, unlike third party firmwares.

Here's the link:

The alternative I suggest is to use something like a Raspberry Pi and image it with a headless download manager. You can use a VPN on the pi so that's the only device on the VPN. Raspberry pi is an ARM Single Board Computer, it uses very little power.
What you are asking is kinda confusing. Seems you want some traffic to use the vpn and other traffic to not.

Merlin is the best option for using third party firmware on asus. It is not nearly as advanced as say dd-wrt but few people actually use many of the features.

I have not seen stock asus firmware for a while. They work with merlin so they incorporate features into the base code all the time. Kinda the reason merlin first existed was because it had much better vpn support. Asus has taken a lot of the code so they are much closer.

Merlin has the ability to run certain traffic via the vpn and others traffic to go direct. A year or so ago asus did not have that feature.

It is trivial to install and it looks like the factory code for most things so you might as well load it. One of the key feature is stability is high on the list so unless you load the beta versions it tends to be as solid as asus firmware.

I suspect you can do it but I am not sure how you would tell the router to send just its traffic via the vpn and all other traffic to bypass. Since you can put actual route commands in it can be done even if the menus don't have it. I just do not know the details related to traffic coming from the router itself