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Setting up a WireGuard VPN (28. September 2021)

In this post I want to give a quick rundown of the few steps required to use WireGuard as a VPN. My setup uses a Raspberry Pi running Arch Linux ARM as the main gateway into my home network. I’ll configure another peer such that it can connect to the Pi and thus other devices in my network. The setup is IPv4-only at the moment because my ISP sucks. Also you should have some prior knowledge in networking.

First steps

As ArchLinux ARM (in its default configuration) ships with a Linux kernel with WireGuard support enabled, the first step is to install WireGuard’s userland tools.

$ pacman -S wireguard-tools

Naturally the package is not called wireguard-tools on every platform. A complete list of packages for different operating systems can be found here. This gives you access to the wg utility, which can perform several management tasks and the wg-quick utility, which can load and apply configurations from files. I’ll not be making much use of in-place configuration and instead jump directly into writing configuration files, as they are pretty straightforward regardless. All configuration files live in /etc/wireguard. They could be located anywhere but this path allows shorthand notation in wg-quick arguments.


First let’s set up the server (i.e. the Raspberry Pi), which the client can then connect with in order to have a tunneled connection into my home network. Create a configuration file in /etc/wireguard/ called wg0.conf. Set its mode to 0600 because it will contain a private key and therefore shouldn’t be world-readable. The configuration syntax is somewhat similar to Windows’ INI files. The server’s interface is configured like this:

Address =
ListenPort = 50040
PrivateKey = RG9udCB1c2UgdGhpcyB2YWx1ZSB5b3UgZHVtYmFzcyE=
MTU = 1420

Address refers to the server’s address within the WireGuard tunnel. In my setup I wanted to have the WireGuard “network” live under the netmask Having the main gateway be makes things simple to understand. ListenPort is 50040 but can be anything of course (I’m not even sure there is a definite default yet). Setting MTU to 1420 is the default and should work pretty much everywhere. Most interesting is the PrivateKey field. WireGuard uses Ed25519 keys for authentication and this is simply the server’s identity. The value can be generated via wg genkey.

And that’s is on the server side for now. You can call wg-quick up wg0 to enable this interface right now and verify its existence via the output of ip link and ip address commands.


Now for the same on the client.

Address =
ListenPort = 50041
PrivateKey = TmV2ZXIgZXZlciBjb3B5IGtleXMgZnJvbSBndWlkZXM=
MTU = 1420

No surprises here. The client also has a private key and its IP is to be The ListenPort should be different to the server’s port, as WireGuard should be able to establish connections in both directions.


Now we’ll connect client and server. To make this work we’ll need to exchange keys, as the server needs to know the client’s public key and vice versa. The command wg pubkey can be used to derive the public key from the private key. For example, to get the server’s public key:

$ echo "RG9udCB1c2UgdGhpcyB2YWx1ZSB5b3UgZHVtYmFzcyE=" | wg pubkey

(Sidenote: This will write the private key into your shell history. So you may want to write the key into a file instead and cat it’s contents into wg pubkey)

While not strictly required, you may also generate and exchange a pre-shared key between the peers, such that you also benefit from a layer of symmetric cryptography in case you want to harden against quantum cryptanalysis. Such a key can be generated via wg genpsk:

$ wg genpsk

Both the client’s and the server’s configuration needs an additional [Peer] section now.

For the server this section needs to look like this:

PublicKey = a2V5c21hc2hrZXlzbWFzaGtleXNtYXNoa2V5c21hc2g=
PresharedKey = eW91IGNvdWxkIGFjdHVhbGx5IHVzZSB0aGlzIG9uZSA=
AllowedIPs =

And for the client like this:

PublicKey = QXJlIHlvdSByZWFkaW5nIHRoaXM/IEZvciByZWFsPyA=
PresharedKey = eW91IGNvdWxkIGFjdHVhbGx5IHVzZSB0aGlzIG9uZSA=
AllowedIPs =
Endpoint = vpn-host.example:50040

Notice the additional Endpoint value in the client. This is because the client obviously needs to know where the server is located such that a WireGuard tunnel can be established. This does not need to be a domain name and could instead just be a raw IP address. Of course, in a VPN setup there is no way we could know an Endpoint value for the client. The server will learn the client’s endpoint after each handshake, which is implicitly performed whenever the client starts to send data to the server.

…aaand that’s it! Do wg-quick up wg0 on both devices and try to perform a ping over the WireGuard tunnel. You can inspect the state of the tunnel via:

$ wg


Our devices can now talk to each other over WireGuard. But that is not enough, as the aim is to allow routing traffic into my home network. I don’t care about routing connections to the internet over WireGuard and simply want my client to be able to access devices on the network (i.e. my home network).

We’re way more than halfway there. The last two puzzle pieces are: IP forwarding, routing and having traffic from the client to move through WireGuard.

IP Forwarding

On Linux, routing can be enabled through sysctl:

$ sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1

To make this setting stick at boot, write this setting into a file in the directory /etc/sysctl.d:

$ echo "net.ipv4.ip_forward=1" > /etc/sysctl.d/ip-forwarding.conf


Routing, or to be more precise masquerading, can be enabled via iptables:

$ iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

eth0 needs to be replaced with the canonical name of your server’s network interface.

This can also be automated via WireGuard’s configuration manager, which is able to execute commands when an interface is enabled and disabled. Add the command into the PostUp option in the [Interface] section:

PostUp = iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
PostDown = iptables -t nat -D POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

PostDown removes this when the WireGuard interface is disabled.

Traffic to

This is added to the client’s configuration. Remember the AllowedIPs key in the [Peer] section? You can simply add the whole network like this:

AllowedIPs =,

That’s it. wg-quick will set up the routes accordingly.


That’s it. You’re done. Enjoy your VPN :)

Persistent Keepalive

This is a small update after a few months of very successfully using WireGuard. You might find yourself in the following situation: Consider that you have two devices, A and B, on your network. A has the address and B has the address Your router and gateway is at wg-quick sets routing up for you, simply sending all traffic towards over your router. Sure you could configure a direct connection between each and every peer manually, but this would get super annoying super fast.

Device A might be… whatever. And device B might be some gizmo that you only boot up sporadically via Wake-on-LAN. You’ll find that, once B is booted up, A has no idea how to talk to B. The router doesn’t know that B is awake yet. And B never had any reason to communicate with the router. So the router won’t have any clue how to route A’s traffic to B. Remember how WireGuard is advertised as not being a talky protocol by default? This is exactly that principle in action and in most cases its perfectly fine. However here it falls flat on its face. What we need to do here, is make sure that the router always knows how to talk to B and that it maintains a route.

For this end, we can simply add the following line to B’s wg.conf:

PersistentKeepalive = 30

Now B will say “hello” to the router every 30 seconds, thus allowing the router to know of B’s existence. You can, of course, also choose a higher interval. Most important is the initial handshake from B to the router right after B has finished booting up.

And this concludes one of the few cases in which you should add PersistentKeepalive to your WireGuard configurations. Seriously, if you don’t encounter any issues just leave it out.