How to set up a VPN
Nowadays, the VPN service providers made sure that setting up a VPN would be quick and simple. You can easily get it on any device via the dedicated app and enjoy a secure connection. Alternatively, there’s even a way how you can set up a VPN manually. Even though it’s a relatively longer process, it’s still easy if you know all the right steps.
For this reason, we’ve prepared detailed instructions showing how to set up a VPN connection on any device. You will find step-by-step guides for all popular operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
Different ways you can set up a VPN
You can get a VPN on almost any device you have, including smartphones, computers, and even routers. The setup is quite simple as there are also multiple ways you can set it up on your device.
If you’re looking for the quickest way to get a VPN, we recommend installing it via the app. This is the easiest method. However, tech-savvy users can also configure a VPN connection manually or even protect the whole home network.
Here are simple guides showing how to set up a VPN in different ways:
- Set up a VPN via app
- Set up a VPN on Windows
- Set up a VPN on macOS
- Set up a VPN on Android
- Set up a VPN on iPhone
- Create your own home VPN network
Set up a VPN via app
The safest and easiest way to set up a VPN on your device is to use the dedicated apps. Premium providers support all major operating systems, so you can secure your connection within a few clicks. Here’s how to set up a VPN via the app on any device:
- Download and install a VPN. Our top pick is NordVPN
- Open the app and sign in or register an account
- Connect to a server of your choice
- You’re all set!
Set up a VPN on Windows
Suppose you're planning to set up a manual connection for Windows 10 or Windows 11. In that case, you should know that using their built-in client might pose an additional security risk. The third-party clients natively support OpenVPN and Wireguard. These won't work out of the box with a built-in client. Windows built-in client only supports IKEv2, L2TP, PPTP, and SSTP, so it's much easier (and safer) to install the app.
However, if you're still wondering how to go about doing it, here are the steps that you should take.
1.You'll have to find an outside server to use for your connection. You can set it up yourself, or you can use a third-party VPN service provider.
2.Click on the Windows taskbar, type in Control panel, and open it.
3.Click Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center.
4.Under change your network settings section, click Set up a new connection or network.
5.From the list, select Connect to a workplace, then Use my Internet connection (VPN).
6.Enter your credentials. When you're finished, click Create. Mind that specific data encryption measures will significantly depend on your setup.
7.If you want to access your VPN, you'll have to open your Network settings. Then, go to a VPN tab, and select Advanced options.
8.In this newly opened window, fill in your credentials and click Save.
9.Now, click on your wifi connectivity icon, select your connection from the list, and click Connect.
Set up a VPN on Mac
If you'd instead use a built-in client that's included on all macOS versions, your route might take you a bit longer. Plus, you may have to forfeit the bonus features that many VPN providers offer to their clients.
However, here's how to do it.
1. Just like with any other manual set up, you'll have to find the server that will make your VPN connections possible.
2. Once you have credentials and server address, head to System Preferences and click Network.
3. Once you're there, click on the + icon. There, choose VPN and select the tunneling protocol.
4. Come up with a name and click Create.
5. Fill in the data supplied by your VPN service provider.
6. Click Authentication Settings and enter your credentials used to log in to your service.
7. After it's done, you can click Connect to enjoy your new VPN service.
Setting up a VPN on Android
Getting a VPN to work on your smartphone works pretty much the same way as with the other apps. The quickest way to get a VPN on Android is to install it via the app:
- Open the Google Play Store and find your chosen VPN provider's app. We recommend NordVPN
- Press the Install button and wait for the installation to finish
- Open the VPN app and sign or log in
- Connect to a server and you’re all set!
TIP: If you're using a smartphone that got cut off from the Play Store (Huawei), you can likely find the .apk files on your VPN provider's page. Then, you'll have to install it from the downloaded files.
You can also set up a VPN on Android manually:
- Open the Settings menu on your Android phone or tablet
- Go to network settings (Wi-Fi & Internet or Wireless & Networks)
- Select VPN and press on the plus (+) button
- Enter your VPN provider’s information and pick a protocol
- Hit Save and you’re done!
Setting up a VPN on iPhone
Whether you're using an iPad or iPhone, your route of getting a VPN will be identical. The easiest way is to install a VPN on iOS via the app:
- Open Apple’s App Store and search for a VPN provider's app. Our top pick is NordVPN
- Tap Get and wait until the installation is complete
- Then, go to the app and log in or register an account
- Connect to a server and you’re all set!
Alternatively, you can set up a VPN on iOS manually:
- Go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad
- Navigate to the General > VPN & Device Management
- Select VPN > Add VPN Configuration
- Pick the tunneling protocol and enter the VPN provider’s information
- Click Done
How to set up your own VPN
If you're tech-savvy, hosting your VPN servers might also be a good option. There are many ways to do it, you can set it up on a cloud as a virtual private server, set it up on your router, or use a separate dedicated physical machine.
You can read our detailed guide explaining how to set up your own VPN server.
Setting up a VPN on a router
Before you start setting up a VPN, you first have to make sure that your router supports VPNs. Some of them can only act as a VPN server themselves, other's can be VPN client compatible. You can configure the latter with the best router VPN.
Even if your router isn't VPN compatible from the get-go, you may still force it. For example, you can install custom firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato that adds VPN support. The whole setup is somewhat technical. You'll have to rely on the detailed guides available on your VPN website - they will differ depending on the make of your router.
Set up a virtual private server
To make it work, you'll have to subscribe to some service that allows cloud hosting for a monthly fee. After you get your subscription, you'll need to install and configure the software that your VPN server will be using. Once you go through all of that, you can just connect and enjoy your private VPN server. Just make sure that your cloud-hosting company isn't logging your data.
Use dedicated physical machine
You could start from something as small as Raspberry Pi or as extreme as a fully-fledged server. That way, you're skipping all the middlemen and are the direct owner of the devices that will route your connection. Still, you'll need to install and configure all the necessary software, which can be challenging if you have never done it.
For starters, you can check out our guide on best VPNs for Raspberry Pi.
How to choose a VPN?
Before you can set up a VPN, you need to pick a service provider. How to know which is the best one? That depends on several factors.
- Security measures. Look for military-grade AES-256 encryption and secure tunneling protocols like WireGuard, OpenVPN, or IKEv2. It's a good way to make sure that your connection remains private. Also, features like a kill switch can ensure your IP address and identity don't accidentally leak.
- Jurisdiction. Your VPN is as privacy-friendly as the government it functions under. For example, if the VPN operates out of one of the 14-Eyes countries, there's a good chance the NSA could get your data. When choosing a provider, select a country that is off limits from these influences.
- Features. VPNs aren't made equal. If one can unblock Netflix and the BBC, that doesn't mean a different one will. You'll have to read up on what the service is capable of in advance. Double-check the community forums and read independent reviews to verify if the service actually does what it promises.
When should you use a VPN?
VPN creates an encrypted tunnel from your device to a remote server in order to access the Internet via an intermediary. The connection is encrypted and your ISP can only see you connecting to the VPN server, so no one can know what you're doing online. It makes a much safer web experience that doesn't leave any digital footprints that could be traced back to you. Like you would be wearing a mask.
For this reason, VPNs are popular in high-censorship or high-surveillance countries. When you're connected to an intermediary server, you get a different IP, so the restrictions that apply to the Internet service providers in your region no longer apply to you. That's why with a VPN, you can unblock banned websites or protect your privacy and anonymity. The point is, when you set up a VPN at home, you can enjoy everything the Internet has to offer.
If you need more information on how to use a VPN, feel free to read our guide.
Free vs. paid VPNs
There are many VPN services that you can use without spending a dime. In all of these cases, you should ask yourself, why is that? Most often, it means that the service is kept afloat by selling your data or feeding you ads. In other words, you're just switching the surveillance of your ISP into the surveillance of your VPN provider. That's the worst trade deal in the history of deals.
The only case when a free VPN is acceptable is when it's a restricted version of a premium VPN (freemium). That way, it acts as a demo version that creates an incentive to switch to paid. In most cases, your privacy is safe, and you get a decent service. However, these services are limited in various ways. For this reason, if you want the best possible service, this will be paid VPN providers.
Paid VPNs will give you unrestricted access to their vast server networks. You'll be able to surf the web anonymously with the ability to also set up a VPN on your other devices. Most providers will let you connect multiple devices with one subscription, so you'll be able to protect the whole household against a garden variety of cybersecurity threats.
Read more: Is a VPN worth it?
More on VPNs
Best VPN providers are useful with streaming services. If a service is unavailable in your region, like Hulu is in Europe, you can unblock it with a reputable VPN. Connect to the server located in a country where the service is available and go to the streaming service's website. If you have a subscription, you will now be able to use it.
If you already have a Netflix account, it's very easy to switch your region with a VPN. With it, you can unblock entire libraries intended for other regions. It dramatically expands the total number of shows if you've run out of things to watch during the quarantine. You don't even need a separate subscription. If you already have a Netflix account in your country, it will work with the one you connected via a VPN. That way, you can jump around the regions by simply connecting to VPN servers in different countries. Be sure to check out our in-depth guide with best VPNs for Netflix.
Also, you may be interested in: How to change Netflix region
If you're using Kodi for all your entertainment needs, it doesn't have VPN addons. Its derivatives LibreELEC or OpenELEC can indeed support VPNs with configurations, but it's hardly a walk in the park. Plus, it might not be the Kodi version that you had in mind. The easiest way to set up an unmodified Kodi with a VPN is installing and enabling it on the device itself. If you need a reliable VPN, check our list of the best VPNs for Kodi.
Hulu is the only place where you can watch The Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock. Yet, it's only available to US users. To watch these series anywhere else, you'll need a VPN. There's no way around it. Be sure to check our best VPNs for Hulu list.
How much does it cost to set up a VPN?
Setting up a VPN can cost anywhere from $2 to $8 per month if you get a long-term subscription. Usually, the price depends on your chosen provider and the subscription duration. Monthly subscriptions are typically more expensive than 1-year or 2-year plans.
Is it hard to set up a VPN?
If you're sticking to VPN apps, installing them is all it takes to set up a VPN. Just click install, log in to the service, and you're good to go. There's no need for complicated manual configurations. They don't add any additional safety.
Is it illegal to use a VPN?
VPNs are perfectly legal in the vast majority of countries. However, if you're using a VPN and committing a cybercrime, it still counts as an illegal act. You can find the full list of countries where VPNs are illegal here.
Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
No. If you use a good VPN (like NordVPN) your original IP address can’t be tracked by anybody. However, search engines and certain websites might know that you use a VPN but can’t actually track you.
What country should I set my VPN to?
Usually, the best countries to pick for your VPN locations are those with no data retention laws or are otherwise unaffiliated with Eyes surveillance alliances.
How do I know VPN is working?
Many websites allow you to check your IP address. If you're connected to a VPN server, you should go there and check what address it displays. If it's different from the one displayed when you're not using a VPN, this means that it's working.