Setting up a VPN: The Ultimate Guide

Last updated: December 2, 2020

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If you want to secure your web browsing, torrenting, emails, or streaming activities, setting up a VPN is a great idea. But there are numerous ways to install VPN capabilities that differ depending on the system or devices you’re using. This can pose a problem for new users. That’s why we’re here to help you set up a VPN on every device.

Whether you’re a Fire TV Stick or a Mac user, you don’t need to ask how to set up a Virtual Private Network any longer. Read on to discover the best ways to do so.

Set up a VPN on Windows 10

Set up a VPN on Linux

Set up a VPN on Mac

Set up a VPN on iPhone and iPad

Set up a VPN on Android

Set up a VPN on a router

Set up a VPN on PS4

Set up a VPN on Smart TV

Set up a VPN on Amazon Fire TV Stick

How to set up a VPN on Windows 10

Windows 10 computer

Setting up a VPN on Windows 10 is quite easy. All of the modern VPNs have dedicated apps that you can use. You can follow the process as detailed above and have a VPN set up and ready in a few minutes.

If you do not want to use the dedicated app, you can use the OpenVPN protocol. Simply download the OpenVPN app from the website and complete the setup wizard. After that, download the configuration files for OpenVPN from the company that you bought the VPN from and load them into your OpenVPN client.

You can only import one configuration at a time through the client. If you want to import them in bulk, find the config folder in your OpenVPN directory and paste all of the configurations there. Once the import is complete, right-click the OpenVPN icon in the system tray and connect to the server you want (it will ask for a username and password which you already have).

If you still can’t connect to a VPN on Windows 10

Check if your PC displays the correct date and time. Sometimes, incorrect date and time settings may block your VPN connection. This is easily resolvable by manually setting up the correct time zone and region.)

Manually configure a VPN connection. For this, you’ll need a working Internet connection and active VPN subscription.

  1. Right-click Start > Settings> Click Network and Internet > Click VPN
  2. Click Add a VPN connection and then click the dropdown menu
  3. Check Windows (built-in), and after you click Connection, type a name for your VPN connection
  4. In the Server name or address field and enter the server’s address (you will get it from your provider)
  5. Under the VPN type, select the connection protocol supported by your VPN provider
  6. Click the dropdown menu below Type of sign-in info, select a sign-in method and Save
  7. Click on the VPN you just set up and press Connect

Make an exception in your antivirus settings. Your antivirus may interfere with your VPN connections, This can be resolved by adding an exception in your antivirus protection settings.) Here’s how to do it in Windows Defender, a built-in antivirus tool that comes with every Windows 10 installation.

  1. Right-click Start > Settings > Click Update & Security > Windows Security
  2. Click Virus & Threat protection settings
  3. Select Exclusions
  4. Select Add or remove exclusions
  5. Select Add an exclusion, then find and select your VPN client executable file

Add an exception in Windows Firewall. Most of the time, the culprit could be your Windows Firewall settings. The solution for this is to enable a VPN in Windows Firewall. Sometimes VPN clients use 4500, 500 UDP, and 1723 for TCP. If the problem persists, you should enable them in Advanced Windows Firewall settings.

  1. Go to Control Panel > Click System and Security
  2. In Windows Defender Firewall click Allowed apps
  3. Select the VPN software that you want to allow
  4. Check if the problem is resolved

Wrong DNS entries. DNS entries from your ISP may be incorrect. To fix this, you need to flush DNS.

  1. Right-click Start > select Windows PowerShell (Admin)
  2. Type ipconfig /flushDNS and press Enter

Uninstall other VPN clients. Sometimes when you have multiple VPNs installed in your system, Windows is prone to TAP driver errors. The easiest solution to this is to uninstall all VPN tools installed, and reinstall only the one that you’ll be using.

How to set up a VPN on Linux

Linux

Those who wish to try out Linux usually go with the Debian-based Linux systems, Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Using Linux systems is fun, but it requires a little knowledge to start. One operation you will undoubtedly be repeating over your time with Linux is installing software on the system. Installing standard software like web browsers, music players, and Skype is quite easy. However, if you want to do something like setting up a VPN on Linux, you may encounter some issues.

In this text, we are going to show you various methods to set up a VPN on Linux. We will focus on the VPN installation on Linux Ubuntu. Still, virtually the same guidelines will work for Linux Mint, Kali (based on Debian), and Debian. The instructions will also provide some useful guidelines for those who use other Linux distros.

OpenVPN for Linux Using NetworkManager

Besides the dedicated clients, the simplest way to set up and run OpenVPN on Linux systems is through the NetworkManager daemon. It’s worth noting that many argue against using NetworkManager due to various issues. However, the extent of these issues is not clear since most VPNs work well with NetworkManager.

Installing OpenVPN (Ubuntu GNOME)

Choose a VPN provider and register an account. After that, download the provider’s .ovpn config files for the servers you want to connect to. In most cases, you can download the files in a zip. You will then need to unzip the file you’ve downloaded before using it.

Note that previously the NetworkManager did not allow inline certificates and keys. Hence, most VPNs recommend downloading the keys and certificates separately. It is no longer necessary to do so.

  1. Now download and install Ubuntu OpenVPN packages for the NetworkManager by opening the Terminal window and typing sudo apt-get install network-manager-openvpn-gnome
  2. Confirm that OpenVPN is installed correctly by clicking the NetworkManager icon shown in the notification bar
  3. After that, go to VPN Off >VPN Settings >VPN and click on the + The Add VPN box will show up with an OpenVPN option. In case you don’t see OpenVPN, restart your PC.
  4. Click on “Import from file…” and navigate to where you saved the .ovpn files and open one of them.
  5. An Add VPN box will appear showing the server VPN settings. Key in your unique username and password then hit Add, and the VPN will be set up.
  6. To start the VPN, go to NetworkManager, then VPN and select a server to connect to.

OpenVPN directly Through the Linux Terminal

According to some, using OpenVPN through the Linux Terminal is more secure than using the NetworkManager. There is usually no general set up guide for using the Linux Terminal since the details vary by VPN and the type of Linux system you choose to use. Most reliable providers, however, provide users with guides.

Note that if you use OpenVPN directly, the DNS requests won’t be pushed to your VPN provider’s DNS servers. You can resolve IP leaks by changing the resolvconf to push the DNS to the VPN’s DNS servers.

Alternatively, you can manually set up the iptables firewall to make sure all traffic (including the DNS requests) go through the VPN server. At least, this will ensure that your VPN proxies all the DNS requests and also serve as a kill switch. The VPN website may provide documentation that can give you further help on these issues.

Manual Configuration of VPN for Linux with PPTP through the NetworkManager

PPTP is not a safe VPN protocol. We, therefore, recommend that you avoid using it. The NetworkManager comes with PPTP support and can make PPTP a useful solution when security isn’t a high priority. To use it:

  1. Go to Network Manager, then VPN Settings. Click on the + icon then choose the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
  2. Fill in the PPTP settings that your VPN provider has given you. Note that the settings provided are not strictly for Linux. Hence, you are free to use settings for another platform or generic settings.

Installation and manual configuration of VPN for Linux with L2TP/IPsec

L2TP is a tunneling protocol that does not provide the user with any encryption for the traffic that goes through it. Therefore, it is implemented with the IPsec authentication suite (L2TP/IPsec).

How to install L2TP/IPsec for NetworkManager

NetworkManager-l2tp is the plugin for NetworkManager 1.2+ that supports L2TP/IPsec. To install it, fire up the Terminal and type in the following commands:

  1. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nm-l2tp/network-manager-l2tp
  2. sudo apt-get update
  3. sudo apt-get install network-manager-l2tp

You may be asked to install additional binaries (for example, for GNOME), in which case install the binaries for the specific Linux system you are using. Restart your computer, and L2TP should be enabled in NetworkManager. The setup is similar to using PPTP, except that you have to enter additional IPsec authentication details. Once more, use details provided by your VPN.

Currently, there is a bug in xl2tpd. The bug may interfere with using the IPsec protocol. The problem is already resolved in Fedora, so we can expect the fix to be patched in Debian and Ubuntu. You can check online for details and updates.

Installation and manual configuration of VPN for Linux with IKEv2

IKEv2 is supported in Linux through strongSwan. strongSwan has packages for most Linux versions, but you can still compile it yourself.

Installing IKEv2 protocol for the NetworkManager

You can create this from the source, or Ubuntu/Debian users can open the Terminal and enter sudo apt-get install network-manager-strongswan. The plugin works like the previously-described L2PT NetworkManager plugin. You only need to enter the IKEv2 settings given by your VPN (that is, if it supports IKEv2).

How to test the Linux VPN client connection

If you are using NetworkManager, you can check the small network icon shown in the notification bar to confirm that you are connected. If you need further confirmation, you need to do an IP leak test to determine if the VPN client is connected and working well.

How to set up a VPN on Mac using native macOS VPN settings

mac laptops

You can choose to install the OpenVPN app. Setting it up can be a hassle since it is by no means a robust and user-friendly method. For everyone else using a dedicated app is much easier.

Let’s go ahead and look at two programs that can help make setting up OpenVPN an easy task on the Mac.

Manual installation of VPN using Tunnelblick

Tunnelblick is an OpenVPN client that can help set up your VPN. Tunnelblick is very easy to set up. Once you have downloaded it, install it and mention that you have Configuration files.

Here, you will need to add either a Tunnelblick VPN file or an OpenVPN configuration file. These files can be downloaded from your VPN provider along with all other necessary data such as the username and password. Once Tunnelblick has been loaded up, click add VPN from the application on your Home Screen.

Remember that once the program is installed, there is a folder called Config Files on your home screen, where you need to drop the important configuration files. Then, navigate to the respected configuration file and double-click to add it. You will be prompted to enter your username and password.

After that, click on the Connect button on Tunnelblick and then enter the username and password given to you by your VPN provider. This will connect you to your new VPN.

Manual setup of a VPN using Viscosity

For Viscosity, simply download and install the app. After that, you will be asked to enter your username and password to begin the configuration. Once the software is set up, you can connect to any VPN which supports the OpenVPN protocol.

If you have an OpenVPN configuration file, then it is as simple as double-clicking that OpenVPN file and loading it into Viscosity. For an alternate method, go to preferences in Viscosity and then import a connection from file. Now, simply select the file that you want to use and then connect to it (you will need to enter your username and password).

If you want to create a manual connection, go to preferences, and select New Connection. Here, you will see a number of boxes that you need to fill with details that will be provided to you by your VPN provider. Fill in all of the details and click Save before connecting to your new VPN through the Viscosity app.

How to use a VPN on iPhone or iPad?

iPhone and iPad

If you want to set up a VPN on iPhone devices, things are also pretty easy to handle:

  1. Firstly, find a VPN provider who caters for iPhone users, set up an account with them, and download their clients from the Apple App Store.
  2. When the installation has finished, you’ll need to enter your VPN login details and choose both a protocol and a server.

When that’s done, your phone should automatically recognize the VPN connection, and you can set your mind at rest.

How to set up a VPN on iPhone or iPad

Once you have set up your account, you can go to the App Store and download the NordVPN app. Once the app has finished downloading, it is as simple as starting it on your iPhone and logging in.

After you log in, you can click Quick Connect to use the most optimal server in terms of latency and speed for you.

You can also choose a server either by clicking on any of the country pins or from the list. To access the list, just swipe up from the bottom part of the screen. This way, you can spoof your location to appear from exactly where you want.

Once you are connected, a green bar will appear on top of the application. You can disconnect whenever you want by clicking the Disconnect button.

How to configure a VPN on iPhone or iPad

If you do not want to use a VPN app, then you can manually set up a VPN too. Head to the Settings tab, tap on General, and then tap onto VPN (it should be showing as ‘Not Connected’ right now). Here, you will be able to add a brand new VPN configuration.

Your VPN provider has all of the settings that you need to input. You will be required to enter a server IP, username, and password. Once the VPN has been added, it will show up underneath the VPN settings tab in General.

One of the disadvantages of this method is that you need to add each server yourself, and switching to a brand new server will require you first to enter its details before you can use it. However, this method is entirely secure as it does not use the App Store, and it gives you the most control over your connection.

How to set up a VPN on Android?

Android phone

What about if you have to set up a VPN on an Android phone? In this case, you shouldn’t have any problems if you choose a service from the best Android VPNs list. Smartphone browsing can be protected just as adequately by these VPNs as desktop data.

  1. To begin with, head to your phone’s Settings menu. Head to the Wireless and networks section and press the More button. Click the VPN option and then the + sign in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Now you’ll have to enter some network information, such as the IP address and domain name of your VPN. As we noted earlier, this is freely available from reputable VPNs, and you should be able to find it fairly quickly.
  3. Enter the information requested and choose a protocol, then Save the connection. After that, it’s a good idea to use the menu to set your VPN to Always-on, as manually connecting every time you use the net can be pretty clunky.

In other cases, you should just download an app from Google Play Store. This is the easiest way to set up a VPN software on Android.

How to set up a VPN on a router?

Router

If you have multiple computers to protect, you might want to install a VPN on a router, so how is this done?

In that case, you might want to purchase routers made specifically for VPNs. But if you don’t, many popular brands can be reconfigured (especially if they support DD-WRT software).

  1. Now, head to your router’s support software and head to the settings menu. Ensure that WAN, NAT, and UPnP are enabled, automatic IP is selected, DHCP query frequency is set to “aggressive,” and auto connection to DNS servers is disabled.
  2. Now go to the VPN menu of the router front-end and choose VPN client. Add a new profile and select OpenVPN on the protocol menu. Then add the address of your VPN provider and your login details.
  3. You may also need to import an OpenVPN file to add to the profile, and your VPN will provide this.
  4. When that’s done, press OK then Activate and your VPN should be ready to go.

For more information read our page How to setup a VPN on router.

How to use a VPN on PS4?

PS4

There are many benefits of getting a VPN for PlayStation 4. When you connect a VPN to your PS4, you have access to geo-restricted content from Netflix, Spotify, and other services. A PS4 VPN also enables your PS4 console to access a secure, faster, and more stable server connection.

A VPN on PS4 encrypts your data so you can play with other players in different countries without the risk of being compromised by hackers, malware, and spyware software.

How to connect VPN on PS4

Prior to installing a VPN for PS4, you must set up a VPN router. You may either buy a Wi-Fi router with a built-in VPN access or get a VPN subscription that requires you manually input the VPN data.
There are many VPN providers that are popular among gamers worldwide and support various Wi-Fi router brands. Once you have the router installed, learning how to use a VPN on PlayStation 4 is a matter of steps.

You can connect your PS4 to VPN in three ways:

  • VPN for PS4 via a Wi-Fi router
  • VPN PS4 via Windows
  • VPN PS4 via a MAC

Setting up a PS4 VPN via a Wi-Fi router

  1. Go to the XMB PS4 menu, select Settings and click on Network Settings.
  2. Click on Set Up Internet Connection located under the Network Settings tab.
  3. When prompted, select the Use Wi-Fi setting.
  4. Select Easy under method and wait until your PS4 is done scanning your connection.
  5. Click on your Wi-Fi connection and when prompted, select Do Not Use a Proxy Server.
  6. Once you review and accept all your settings, click on Test Connection.

How to connect VPN on PS4 via Windows

  1. Install the VPN software on your PC.
  2. Connect your PC and PS4 via an Ethernet cable.
  3. Select the Control Panel, chose Network and Sharing Center, and click on Change Adaptor Settings.
  4. Right-click on your VPN name and select the Properties menu.
  5. Under Properties, open the Sharing tab and select Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection.
  6. Click on Home Networking Connection and choose the internet connection you’d like to share with your PS4 from the dropdown menu.
  7. Choose Settings from your PS4 console. Click on Network Settings, Set Up Internet Connection, then select Use a LAN Cable. Click on Easy for the connection method; wait until the PC finishes scanning and setting up your Ethernet connection.
  8. Choose Do Not Use a Proxy Server when prompted.

How to connect VPN on PS4 via a MAC

  1. Install the VPN software on your MAC.
  2. Connect an Ethernet cable to your PS4 and MAC.
  3. From the System Preferences, select Sharing and click on Internet Sharing from the dropdown menu.
  4. Chose Wi-Fi from the Share your connection menu list.
  5. Select Ethernet from the To Computers using list.
  6. To the left of the Internet Sharing button, check the box on the list that enables internet sharing between your PS4 and MAC. A green light will pop up, indicating the connection is successful.
  7. Open the VPN software on your MAC and connect it to your server.
  8. Choose Settings from your PS4 console. Click on Network Settings, Set Up Internet Connection“, then select Use a LAN Cable. Select Easy for the connection method and wait until the PC finishes scanning and setting up your Ethernet connection.
  9. Choose Do Not Use a Proxy Server when prompted.

How to setup a VPN on Smart TV?

set up a vpn n smart tv

If you’re keen to go online without compromising your privacy, get a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It allows you to do so by providing a “tunnel” of protection, along with encryption layers to keep you completely secure and anonymous. Many people choose to use VPN services with their Smart TVs because this allows them to hide their geography and to access TV programming from other countries, without the irritation of a geographic block.

You can also use a VPN on Smart TV systems, and in this guide, we will tell you how to add a VPN to your Smart TV for a completely safe streaming experience.

Can I install a VPN on my Smart TV directly?

Some Smart TVs do offer the ability to install VPN software directly, but that’s not always the case. However, don’t worry. If your Smart TV doesn’t allow the direct installation route, it just needs to be able to link to the Google Play Store. From here, you can choose your VPN provider app and then install it onto your TV. Typically, this is the best way to install a VPN on Smart TV models, so choose it if you can. In some instances, however, VPN for Smart TV services won’t work across all models, so check with the manufacturer if necessary.

Setting up a VPN on Smart TV systems

If your SmartTV OS is Android, you can set up a VPN in a few simple steps. To do this:

  1. Choose your VPN for Smart TV, such as the NordVPN service. This provider also offers pre-flashed routers, which we will touch on in more detail shortly.
  2. Once you’ve selected your VPN for Smart TV, download the software. Then install the .APK file.
  3. Use your original log-in credentials to log into your account.
  4. Run the VPN for Smart TV app on your TV and then connect to one of the servers on offer.

That’s all it takes! From here, you can appear to be in any country that you please and access any kind of TV and entertainment content that you wish. Thanks to the encryption VPN gives, you can also remain completely anonymous and private. This takes away the worry of your data being accessed or compromised by anyone with interest in seeing what you’re doing.

Connecting your TV with a laptop or PC

You may want to use an ethernet cable to connect your computer or laptop to your Smart TV. This will mean that you can share your internet connection and use your VPN to unlock any restricted programming content, ready for viewing on the TV. If your Smart TV doesn’t allow apps to be directly installed, this is the method to use. Alternatively, you can opt for a VPN Smart TV router.

To share your connection in Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Check that your laptop or PC is connected to your Smart TV VPN. If you don’t have one, try ExpressVPN.
  2. Use an ethernet cable to pair the two.
  3. On your PC or laptop, find the network and sharing center in the control panel, and select Change Adapter Settings.
  4. Look for your VPN connection, which should have a description that looks like TAP-Win33 Adapter. Right-click it and choose Properties from the dropdown menu.
  5. Then, choose the Sharing tab and tick where it asks if you want to Allow network users to connect to your internet connection. Choose the Local Area Connection from the next menu and select OK.
  6. Restart your laptop or PC and your Smart TV, and you should find that the VPN is working.

Connecting your TV with an OSX device

This is a bit more complicated, but mainly, once you have signed up for your VPN service and set it up:

  1. Switch your Smart TV off, and connect it to your Mac USB port using the adapter and Ethernet cable
  2. Go to your System Preferences and choose Sharing
  3. Pull down the menu, which allows you to Share your connection from and pick your VPN connection. Check the box where it says USB Ethernet for “to computers using” and then allow Internet Sharing. When the pop-up box shows, select Start and then Internet Sharing. If this shows as being green, you’ll know that you’ve done it right!
  4. Reboot your TV!

Using a VPN router

You can also use a VPN on Smart TV via a flashed router. This means that every device in your home will benefit from your VPN connection. Flashing a router is actually pretty complicated, so unless you are tech-minded, choose a service that offers a pre-flashed (and prepaid router.) These then only need basic “plug and play” steps to set up.

The majority of VPN routers can be bought pre-flashed onto routers, with two main types available. These are Tomato and DD-WRT. The latter is the most popular as it can be customized rather easily.

Why choose a flashed router?

This will automatically select the VPN service regardless of the device you are using to connect to your Wi-Fi. It can also free up space by minimizing the number of network cables that you need to use, and it also takes away the need to fiddle with network settings! Finally, you don’t need to have your computer or laptop physically located close to your Smart TV to use the VPN.

It’s well worth using a VPN on your Smart TV to remain private and to access the content that you want to see from anywhere in the world. You can get up and running quickly with our guide!

How to set up a VPN on Amazon Fire TV Stick?

Amazon fire TV stick

VPNs can also be used to secure devices beyond smartphones and computers. For instance, it’s relatively easy to install a VPN on Firestick devices as well. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. First off, load up the Amazon Fire front end and go to the Apps section, and bring up the apps menu by pressing the center button on the Amazon Remote.
  2. Choose Categories, then Utility before scrolling down until you see one of the VPNs working with Firestick, for example, NordVPN, IPVanish, PureVPN, or else. That’s the option you need, so go ahead and click.
  3. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to log onto your VPN website to create an account before continuing. When that’s done, download the VPN app and press Open when it’s finished.
  4. Now type in your VPN user details, choose a server to log onto, and you should be online with an Amazon Firestick VPN.

Keep in mind that 1st generation Fire Stick doesn’t support VPNs, so this guide will likely work only on 2nd+ gen devices.

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7 comments
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  1. Rae_Dixon789

    With the increasing threat to cybersecurity, it is necessary to protect our online activities with the VPN. I use Windows device and setting up a VPN wasn’t any huge task. It’s that simple! Do u think I am a specialist? No! I am new to using a VPN


  2. Jake Y

    Thanks for the guide ! I wasn’t sure on how to install my VPN on Windows 10 (I thought it would be the easiest device to install it on, but I guess not). That was really helpful !


  3. William Lawson

    It feels good to come across an article of this sort at this moment. Installing and setting up a VPN on my windows10 device has been a bit technical and fast becoming stressful. With the help of your article, I am glad to state that the process is so easy.


  4. JulianE

    Thanks a lot for that guide, it’s very complete and clear, I wanted to install my VPN on all my devices but I wasn’t sure how to do it on each, mostly for the firestick. Great content!


  5. nataliejm1972

    Thank you for the guide. Especially about installing a VPN on Firestick; had no clue on how to proceed :). For some reason I was scared of doing this but it is quite straightforward (thankfully) and I’m happy I managed to set things out on my own.


    1. Julie Cole Author

      Hey, I am really happy to hear that this guide helped you to properly install a VPN service. The installation process might look like a hard thing to do, but once you tried and proceed it is not hard at all! I hope you will like and use a VPN service successfully!


  6. Patrick J. Burt

    These are all nice vpn setup guides it will be good that i say it all in one setup guide for vpn here. I am using PureVPN and they also got these guides on their support page but these are more easy to understand. Thumbs up!

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