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How to use a VPN?


Learning how to use a VPN doesn’t require extensive IT knowledge. In fact, it only takes a few simple steps from getting a VPN to unblocking geo-restricted content, improving online privacy, and staying safe while torrenting or gaming. But if you still feel like you’d want some support during the process, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll explain how to use a VPN depending on your needs and how to set it up on any device. For that, we’ll use NordVPN which is an all-in-one VPN service provider – reliable, feature-rich, and easy to use.

How to use a VPN
  1. Download a secure and reliable VPN. We recommend NordVPN, now 63% OFF.
  2. Set up the VPN on your device.
  3. Connect to your chosen VPN server and start browsing safely.

Easy-to-use VPN services – our recommendation:

If not sure which VPN to choose, we have a list of top-class providers that offer high quality services and user-friendly apps. Here are the ones that we’ve tested and can definitely recommend for you:

  1. NordVPN – overall best VPN service in 2023
  2. Surfshark VPN – top-class VPN for unlimited devices
  3. PureVPN – secure VPN with affordable subscriptions

Best ways to use a VPN

People use a VPN for different purposes depending on their needs. If you’re not sure whether you need one, here are ways how you can use the best VPNs:

  • Improve privacy and security with a VPN. Protect yourself from untrustworthy networks, hide your browsing activity and much more.
  • Use a VPN for streaming. A VPN is great for unlocking streaming services like Netflix or Hulu and accessing your favorite shows or sports games, like NFL.
  • Use a VPN for torrenting. Mask your IP address and avoid being exposed when downloading copyrighted content.
  • Use a VPN for solid Internet speeds. If you’re using a lot of bandwidth when downloading large files, your ISP might deliberately slow down your Internet speed. A VPN can help you prevent ISP throttling by keeping your activities anonymous.
  • Use a VPN for gaming. It’s a great option to protect yourself against attacks from revengeful competitors as well as improving ping, and unblocking exclusive games.

Using a VPN for privacy and security

A VPN allows you to protect yourself on untrustworthy networks. For example, if you're using a free wifi hotspot, you can never be 100% sure that it's safe. A VPN adds reassurance that the things that you're doing on public networks remain private.

Moreover, VPNs are excellent at hiding your browsing activity. Some governments aren't very respectful of your privacy. The same could be said about some ISPs. A reliable VPN will hide your activity from ISP or the government. No activity logs will be tied to your real identity.

Streaming with a VPN

One of the most common uses of a VPN is streaming. That’s because most streaming platforms offer different content for different regions, while some streaming options are downright unavailable in certain countries. From a user perspective, that’s really unfair.

Luckily, even these problems can be solved with a streaming VPN. By changing your IP address, a VPN service spoofs your true location and tricks the streaming page. As a result, you can access geo-restricted content from anywhere in the world.

However, Netflix and other pages are constantly trying to identify the IP addresses of VPN servers to block the traffic. Thus, it’s becoming more difficult to bypass region-based restrictions with a mediocre VPN.

If you want to get a VPN that actually unblocks a specific streaming platform, we’ve tested at least a dozen of well-known providers. Here’s a list of VPNs that actually work:

Torrenting with a VPN

Even though engaging in P2P file-sharing activities is not illegal, it can pose certain threats. Fortunately, the best VPNs for torrenting can spoof your IP address and help you stay protected.

For example, if you don’t hide your real IP address when downloading copyrighted content, the copyright holders can track it and take legal actions. Thus, using a VPN when torrenting can definitely protect you from unwanted consequences. For that, we have a useful article showing how to torrent safely with a VPN.

Using a VPN to stop bandwidth throttling

It’s expensive for ISPs to supply everyone with the high-speed connectivity if they stream or play games in 4K. Thus, despite the promises of equal bandwidth to everyone, ISPs reduce it if such activity is detected. With a VPN, you can hide your online activities and stop ISP throttling.

All or your data that travels between the server and the receiver will be encrypted with advanced algorithms. This way, the ISP won’t be able to distinguish between HD streaming and simple web browsing. And since it’s illegal for an ISP to slow all of your traffic to all websites, it simply won’t slow any of it.

Using a VPN for gaming

Having one of the best VPNs for gaming can serve you for multiple purposes. Firstly, in-built security features protect your private information and hide your real IP address. This way, you can avoid DDoS attacks from revengeful players you’ve just defeated.

Additionally, some popular games are geo-restricted and available in specific regions only. If you’re not from that country, a VPN can change your virtual location and assign a new IP address – with it, you can bypass location-based restrictions and unblock games from anywhere in the world.

Using a VPN can also positively affect your gaming experience by reducing lag. That’s especially useful when playing time-sensitive games where every second counts. Top-class providers use modern tunneling protocols and provide blazing-fast speeds.

How to set up and use a VPN – full guide:

Even if you have zero knowledge on how to use a VPN, I promise you – there’s nothing to be afraid of. Below, you’ll find our full guide showing how to get a VPN, set it up on your device, and start using.

1. Choose the right VPN

Firstly, you need to choose a VPN service provider. Currently, there are quite a few products that can be categorized as the best VPNs. However, even if they all encrypt your traffic and change your virtual location, they also have activity-specific features. So the big question is – which one’s the most suitable for your needs?

In this case, you have to clearly decide why you need a VPN. Is it streaming, torrenting, gaming, or online privacy?

Once you know the answer, you can easily check the features, speeds, unblocking capabilities, and security measures offered by VPNs and pick the one that’s best for you.

For example, if you need a VPN for streaming, it should have a large server fleet, fast speeds, and be capable of unblocking most of the popular streaming platforms.

nordvpn unblocks netflix library

If your goal is remaining completely private online with a VPN – look for advanced encryption, strict no-logs policy, and top-class security features. The same selection method can be applied when choosing a VPN for gaming, torrenting, and other purposes.

2. Pay for a VPN subscription and sign up

Once you’ve chosen the VPN service provider, you’ll have to purchase a subscription plan before starting to use the services. Most providers offer multiple plans based on the duration of the subscription – 1-month, 1-year, or 2-years.

If you want to get the best pricing, we recommend opting for the longest subscriptions. Usually, 2-year plans offer the biggest savings so you can get top-quality VPN services without spending a fortune.

After selecting a subscription plan, you’ll be directed to the checkout where you can pick your payment method. Paying with a credit card, like VISA, Mastercard, or American Express is always an option.

However, some VPN providers also support alternative payment methods: PayPal, Google Pay, AmazonPay, UnionPay, WebMoney, GiroPay, and others. Others, even accept cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Pro tip

NordVPN offers one of the biggest selection of payment options. If you want to remain completely anonymous, you can even pay for a subscription with cash in Amazon or Walmart retail stores in the US, Canada, and other countries.

Get NordVPN

Once you’ve completed the payment, you’ll need to sign up. The process requires providing a valid email address that will also be used when logging into your VPN account.

3. Download the VPN app

When you’re done with the payment and signup process, you can now download the VPN app on your device.

If you want to use it on your Mac or Windows computer, download the dedicated app from the official VPN website. If it’s your smartphone, then use the Google Play Store on Android or the Apple’s App Store on iOS.

nordvpn downloads page

In addition, some VPN service providers have browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Opera. You can also download the VPN extension from your chosen provider’s official website.

Once you download the VPN app or add an extension, simply open the application and log in by providing your email address and password.

4. Set up and start using the VPN

Before you start using the VPN, it’s essential to check if the app’s parameters are aligned with your needs. So, here’s how to set up a VPN:

  • Select the tunneling protocol. Currently, the fastest and most secure tunneling protocol is WireGuard. We always recommend using it if you want best speeds and strong security. However, if it’s not an option, you can also use OpenVPN. The OpenVPN UDP provides better speeds while the TCP variant ensures better protection.
  • Check the encryption. The majority of VPNs use 256-bit AES encryption by default. While it’s an industry standard and provides top-class security, some providers offer some customization. For example, you can choose between 128 and 256-bit versions and CBC or GCM modes and if security is your priority – AES-256-GCM is an excellent choice.
  • Turn on a kill switch. This feature stops all Internet traffic if your VPN connection drops even for a few seconds. This way, your data is never exposed to third parties. Also, a kill switch keeps your real IP address hidden at all times which is useful when streaming geo-restricted content.
  • Consider using split tunneling. If you want to use a secure VPN connection only with specific apps or websites, then you should use the split tunneling feature. For example, you can set up a VPN to encrypt your traffic when accessing mobile banking apps, but keeping a regular Internet connection when browsing.

Once you’re done with the VPN setup, you can now start using it. Simply select a server in your chosen location and establish a connection. Then, you’ll be assigned a new IP address from that country and protected with strong encryption.

NordVPN server selection to connect

If you have any questions, you can read our article with more details about how to set up a VPN.

Easy-to-use VPN services – comparison:

NordVPNSurfsharkPureVPNAtlasVPN
Brandlogologologologo
ReviewNordVPN reviewSurfshark VPN reviewPureVPN reviewAtlas VPN review
Rating
4.9
4.7
4.4
4.6
Servers5500+ servers in 60 countries3200+ servers in 100 countries6500+ servers in 78 countries750+ servers in 38 countries
LoggingNo logs, independently audited twice by PwCNo logs, independently audited by Cure 53No logs, always-on audit by KPMGNo logs, independently audited by VerSprite (iOS penetration testing)
Supports WireGuard✅, a modern variation known as NordLynx
Simultaneous connections6Unlimited10
Unlimited
StreamingNetflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and moreNetflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and moreNetflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTubeNetflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
CompatibilityWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, FirefoxWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, FirefoxWindows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick
Best forStreaming, torrenting, securityStreaming, torrenting, securityStreaming, securityStreaming, torrenting, security
Price (lowest price per month)3.49/month2.30/month2.08/month2.05/month

Can I use a VPN on any device?

No matter what kind of device you use, you’ll most likely be able to set it up with a VPN. That’s because most VPN services offer dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS operating systems. In other words, a VPN of your choice should perfectly function on both desktop and mobile devices.

In addition, VPNs suitable for multiple devices can also be used with streaming gadgets. That includes Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices, Kodi, Roku, and others.

If you’re thinking about getting a VPN but you’re not sure how to set it up on your device, check out our short guides:

Use a VPN on your computer (Windows, Mac)

Securing your online activities with a VPN on your computer is a simple process. Once you choose a VPN app for Mac or a VPN suitable for Windows, here’s how to start using it:

  1. Download a reliable VPN. We recommend NordVPN, which is super easy to use on both Windows and Mac.
  2. Install the VPN app onto your computer.
  3. Connect to your preferred server.
  4. That's it – now you can start browsing safely.

Use a VPN on your smartphone

You can easily stay safe while browsing on your smartphone with a VPN. For that, simply choose a VPN compatible with Android devices or a VPN for iOS and follow these steps:

  1. Download a VPN that works with mobile devices. We recommend NordVPN as the top choice.
  2. Install the VPN app on your smartphone.
  3. Connect to a server in your chosen location.
  4. Voilà – surf the internet safely while on the go.

Use a VPN on streaming devices

VPNs can be used on streaming devices too, although the setup is different depending on the device. Some have dedicated apps that can be downloaded from stores while the others require an intermediary device, such as a router.

  1. Choose a VPN that works with your router. We recommend NordVPN for this.
  2. Install your VPN and connect it to your Wi-Fi router.
  3. Connect to any server of your choice
  4. Done! Enjoy the privacy and security a VPN brings

Want to know more? We have full guides available on using VPNs alongside various streaming devices:

  • VPN for Roku: the best VPNs to use with your Roku device along with instructions for easy set up
  • VPN for Firestick: learn how to use a VPN with your Firestick
  • VPN for Kodi: check VPN set up instructions tailored for your Kodi device
  • VPN for Apple TV: see how to set up a VPN specifically on your Apple TV

Now, if you tend to use a lot of devices at the same time (or just want to share your subscription with your family members), you should consider getting a VPN that allows for multiple simultaneous connections. Most of the time you’ll get five, however, some VPNs (like Surfshark) don’t limit the number of simultaneous connections at all.

There’s also the possibility to install a VPN directly onto your router. In this way, all the devices connected to the router will use the VPN connection – even those that don’t support VPNs on their own. Some router VPNs make the installation process easier by offering you specialized router firmware.

Finally, some VPN providers help you enhance your streaming experience by allowing you to watch geo-blocked content on smart TVs and gaming consoles. This is done with the help of SmartDNS.

Why I need to use a VPN?

Finding out how to use a VPN can be extremely useful. Here are the most common reasons for getting this service:

  1. Staying safe online. If you’re a freelancer or an avid traveler, working at an airport or a café might be a part of your daily routine. However, most of the time, public wifi is unencrypted, making it a real treasure trove for cyber-criminals who are lurking to steal personal info. By encrypting your data, a secure VPN will protect you from such threats.
  2. Unblocking websites. So, Omegle has blocked your IP address or you simply can’t access your usual social media platforms while at work. Luckily, a VPN will help you deal with these problems and unblock websites by giving you another IP address.
  3. Bypassing censorship. It’s no secret that countries like China, Russia, and Egypt have really strict internet censorship laws. This affects not only their residents but also reporters and travelers. Thanks to obfuscated servers (and, sometimes, the Shadowsocks proxy), some VPN services will be able to bypass this censorship.
  4. Watching geo-blocked content. Have you ever been frustrated that your Netflix library lacks certain movies or shows available in other regions of the world? Don’t worry – you can change your Netflix region with a VPN. By providing you with an IP address from another country, it can help you trick Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube into thinking that your traffic comes from a different country.
  5. Safely accessing the Dark and Deep Web. Contrary to popular belief, browsing the Dark and Deep web doesn’t make you a criminal. It simply means that you’re accessing the content not available on your common browser. However, it’s still a bit risky to do this, and using a VPN for an extra layer of security reduces your chances of getting into trouble.

Free vs paid VPNs

It's always a good idea to enable a kill switch. That way, your Internet will be shut down each time the connection to a VPN server drops. This can protect your online safety from accidental IP address leaks.

Finding a safe free VPN is an art in itself. You see, a huge chunk of free VPN services might pose a threat or two. For example, downloading a free program that you know nothing about can result in the leakage of your personal data. In less severe cases, you might simply get bombarded with annoying (or downright dangerous) ads whenever you go online.

On a more positive note, there are a few trustworthy VPN brands that will keep you anonymous for free. AtlasVPN and ProtonVPN are good examples, as they generously offer unlimited bandwidth. However, you’ll have to subscribe to a paid version to unlock the full list of countries and most of the special features.

Therefore, the best way is to use premium VPNs from the start. They are feature-rich and suitable for many VPN use cases, such as streaming, torrenting, and security. Some of them even have free trials that you can use to get top-quality VPN services free of charge.

Try NordVPN for free
NordVPN offers trustworthy VPN services that are suitable for improving online security, torrenting safely, as well as unblocking geo-restricted and gaming content from anywhere. You can try it out yourself with a free 7-day trial on Android.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

Must watch: 4 real-life examples of NordVPN use cases

If all of this technical stuff goes directly over your head, be sure to check out this video. It should help you to understand better how a VPN can be helpful in everyday situations.

Conclusion

A VPN is a useful tool that can help you improve your online security, access geo-restricted content, and torrent safely, and more. While it can seem that you might need some advanced IT knowledge, learning how to use a VPN and set it up on your device is quite simple.

Top-class VPN service providers offer user-friendly apps that work with most popular operating systems and are very easy to use. You just need to carefully select a VPN that suits your needs, download a dedicated app for your device, and connect to a server in your chosen location.

During our tests, NordVPN was the easiest to set up and use on mobile, desktop, and even streaming devices. Also, it’s very feature-rich and suitable for all types of activities – torrenting, online security, streaming, and gaming included. If you’re not sure which VPN to choose, we definitely recommend it.

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FAQ

Comments

Vicki C
Vicki C
prefix 11 months ago
Hello - I hope you can help please. The one thing I can't find an answer to is if I use a VPN, say one that offers unlimited data, does that mean I use the apps data and not my own i.e. will a VPN help me get around my ISP's monthly data cap? Thanks for your time.
Cybernews Team
Cybernews Team
prefix 10 months ago
Hey, Vicki!

Long story short – no. Your data packets are still your data packets. Your ISP won't be able to see what and where you browse, but its infrastructure is still responsible for sending and receiving data. Therefore, a VPN won't be able to help you get around the monthly data cap.
Roz
Roz
prefix 1 year ago
Thank you for this - I'm very unsavvy with IT stuff - what I would find helpful is how to use VPNs when surfing using normal search engines eg Google & Duck Duck Go - whether it works if your phone line is provided by Sky, Virgin etc - and whether it works where you have signed up for a site like Amazon, eBay and newspaper subscriptions - can you tell me where I can find out? Thanks R
CyberNews Team
CyberNews Team
prefix 1 year ago
Hello - a VPN will work with all the things you mentioned above. Simply connect to a VPN server and continue your activities as usual.
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