How To Install

How to Install a VPN on Apple TV

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated

This guide will get you up and running with your VPN on your Apple TV. There are two different methods for installation, and once it’s complete you’ll be able to stream securely and privately.

Graphic of VPN connected to Apple TV

From a rocky launch all the way back in 2007, Apple TV is now one of the slickest, best-equipped, and most popular ways to stream content to your TV.

Yet the vast majority of Apple TV users don’t think to pair it with a VPN – that’s a mistake.

Using a VPN on your Apple TV opens up access to more services from around the world, while protecting your online privacy and security.

VPNs encrypt internet traffic and mask your true IP address, which ensures that your ISP can’t snoop on what you’re doing or pass your details onto third parties.

Apple is notoriously cagey about the apps it’ll allow on its devices so, as yet, there are no bespoke Apple TV VPN apps (like the kind you might find for your Amazon Fire TV Stick).

This makes setting up a VPN on your Apple TV is a little more tricky than most other devices like desktop computers and smartphones.

No need to worry, though – we’ll break it down for you in easy-to-follow steps.

What You'll Need

As you may well expect, there are two basic things you’ll need no matter what solution you opt for:

  • An Apple TV 4th generation or 5th generation. That’s any Apple TV manufactured from 2015 onwards, plus the model more commonly known as the Apple TV 4K.
  • A verified VPN account. You should pick a trusted, safe VPN service, like one of the ones we’ve outlined in our guide ‘The Best VPNs of 2019‘. All of those VPNs can be used with Apple TV.

You will also need one of the following devices – which one depends on the installation method you choose:

  • A VPN-compatible router
  • A Windows or MacOS laptop computer (for virtual routers and mobile hotspots)

There are two ways to set up a VPN on your Apple TV:

  • Installing the software at router level
  • Creating a virtual router or mobile hotspot with another VPN compatible device

Method 1: Using Your Router

Illustration of a router on a green background

If you set up a VPN on your router it encrypts the internet traffic on all devices connected to it.

That includes your Apple TV.

Installing a VPN at router level is the most secure way to protect your Apple TV.

This is, in theory, a pretty simple procedure, but not all VPN services support router installation.

It should be easy to find out if you can install the software at router level by looking at the VPN provider’s website (or our review of it).

Screenshot of router set up on IPVanish's website

Even if your VPN service provider supports router installation, your router might not support VPNs.

The odds are that the basic modem router supplied by your ISP won’t support VPN client software.

You’ll need to buy a different model if your current hardware doesn’t support VPN connections.

Some popular router brands that allow for VPN client software are:

  • ASUS
  • Linksys
  • Netgear

It’s best to check which routers a VPN service supports before you purchase a subscription.

We recommend using a router (and VPN service) that supports the OpenVPN protocol, as it’s the safest choice.

Some routers support PPTP, but this is a very insecure protocol: you shouldn’t use it unless no other setup options are available.

Here are the basic installation steps for getting a VPN on to your router:

  1. Log into your router’s admin dashboard.
  2. Flash your router with VPN-compatible firmware (if it doesn’t already support OpenVPN natively).
  3. Configure the router with your VPN service provider’s configuration files.
  4. Connect to the VPN.
  5. Test the VPN connection for any IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
  6. Connect your Apple TV to the VPN router’s WiFi.

Some VPN services, such as ExpressVPN, come with router applets, which make changing VPN router settings and server locations easy.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN router applet

Router set up varies greatly between router models, and also between VPN services.

If you need help installing your VPN on a router, it’s best to contact your router provider or VPN service provider for specific instructions.

We have given instructions for specific router setups in our router installation guide, too.

Method 2: Using a Virtual Router or Mobile Hotspot

Illustration of a laptop computer on an orange background

If you don’t have a VPN-compatible router you can set up a virtual router or mobile hotspot using a desktop computer.

A virtual router sounds fancy, but essentially it’s just a device on your network that can share your internet (and VPN) connection with other devices.

Virtual routers can be made using Windows devices only, but you can set up a mobile hotspot with a Mac computer, which will do the same job.

Unfortunately you can’t share a VPN connection from your phone.

Once you’ve got the VPN up and running on the laptop, any device connected to the virtual router or mobile hotspot will benefit from the same protection and coverage.

Just be sure to connect your Apple TV to that newly-created hotspot, rather than your home WiFi, and it’s all set.

We’ll show you how to create a virtual router first.

Before you start, you’ll need to check that your Windows computer can support creating a virtual router, as not all can.

To do this type cmd in the Windows search bar to bring up Command Prompt. Right-click and select Run as administrator.

In the command prompt, type:

netsh wlan show drivers

Screenshot of command prompt

Hit Enter.

If your Windows computer supports the creation of virtual routers you will see “Hosted network supported: Yes.”

If it says “no” you can try updating your adaptor driver or try using a different wireless card.

If this doesn’t work you won’t be able to use that device to create a virtual router or a mobile hotspot.

For supported Windows 10 devices, skip to the Windows 10 Mobile Hotspot Setup instructions below.

Here are step-by-step instructions for creating a virtual router with a supported Windows laptop or PC:

  1. Ensure that your Windows computer is connected to your network by WiFi or ethernet cable.
  2. Install your chosen VPN onto the computer, but don’t connect to a VPN server just yet. You can check out the following guide for VPN setup instructions: How to Install a VPN on Windows.
  3. In the Windows search bar type cmd to bring up Command Prompt and type in the following:
    netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=NETWORKNAME key=PASSWORD
    Name your virtual router by setting the following values:
    ssid=[choose a name for your network]
    key=[choose a password for your network]
    Screenshot of command prompt
  4. Type: netsh wlan start hostednetwork
    Hit Enter and you’ll see a message saying: “The hosted network started.”
  5. Now you need to share your virtual router. Press the Windows key + R and type ncpa.cpl. Hit Enter and then click OK.
    Screenshot of Windows Run box
  6. Find your new WiFi connection in the Network Connections window and take a note of the name of the connection, which will appear in bold above the SSID name you chose for your network.
  7. Look for a network connection labeled “[VPN service provider name] Tap Adapter” and right-click on it. Select Properties.
  8. Click on the tab labeled Sharing and check the box that says Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
    Screenshot of network sharing panel on Windows
  9. Use the drop-down box entitled Home networking connection select your new virtual router (the name you took note of in step #6). Click OK.
  10. Now open up the VPN Windows app and change the VPN protocol to OpenVPN (if there is an option to). Select the VPN server of your choice and click the connect button.
  11. Finally connect your Apple TV to the new virtual router and all internet traffic from it will be encrypted.

If you would like to disable the virtual router type the following into the command prompt of your virtual router device:

netsh wlan stop hostednetwork

Windows 10 Mobile Hotspot Setup

If you have a Windows 10 device that supports hosted networks you can create a mobile hotspot instead of a virtual router in order to share your VPN connection.

It’s much easier than creating a virtual router.

Here’s how:

  1. Install your chosen VPN service onto your Windows 10 computer, but don’t connect to a VPN server yet.
  2. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot and toggle Mobile hotspot to On.
    Screenshot on mobile hotspot toggle on Windows 10
  3. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Change adapter options. Right-click on [VPN server provider name] Tap Adapter and select Properties.
  4. Under the tab labeled Sharing check the box that says Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
    Screenshot of network sharing panel on Windows
  5. Now select the hotspot you created from the drop-down menu entitled Home networking connection and click OK.
  6. Open up the VPN app on your Windows 10 computer and select OpenVPN as the VPN protocol (if there is an option to). Connect to the VPN server location of your choice.
  7. Finally connect your Apple TV to your new mobile hotspot and enjoy encrypted streaming.

To disconnect from the mobile hotspot, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot and toggle Mobile hotspot to Off.

If you’d like to use a MacOS device to share a VPN connection with your Apple TV instead, read on.

MacOS Mobile Hotspot Installation

You can turn your MacBook or iMac into a mobile hotspot in order to share the VPN connection with your Apple TV, but it’s a little more restrictive than the Windows setup.

You can only connect via the PPTP VPN protocol or L2TP. If your VPN doesn’t support these protocols you can’t use this method.

PPTP is also a very insecure VPN protocol, and can be hacked in minutes. We wouldn’t recommend using L2TP either as it has some security flaws, too.

Only use this method if you are unable to protect your Apple TV using any of the other installation methods recommended in this guide.

We’ll show you how to set up VPN connection sharing using L2TP as this is more secure than PPTP:

  1. Ensure that your MacBook or iMac is connected via ethernet cable (not WiFi).
  2. Set up an L2TP VPN manually by clicking on the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen and select System Preferences.
    Screenshot of MacOS settings menu
  3. Click on the Network icon and then on the + symbol to add a new VPN service.
  4. Select VPN from the Interface drop-down menu, L2TP over IPSec from the VPN Type menu, and then type in your chosen name for the VPN connection next to Service Name. Click Create.
    Screenshot of MacOS L2TP VPN setup
  5. Log into your VPN account on the VPN website and find your username, password, and server address for L2TP manual configuration.
    Screenshot of ExpressVPN L2TP manual config username and password
  6. Go back to the Network menu and select Default from the Configuration drop-down menu. Copy and paste the server address into the next field, and your L2TP username into the Account Name field.
    Screenshot of MacOS L2TP VPN server address
  7. Check the box that says Show VPN status in menu bar. This means that you’ll easily be able to see whether the VPN is connected or not by looking at the menu bar.
  8. Now click on Authentication Settings and enter your L2TP password in the password field. Enter the L2TP shared secret into the Shared Secret field, and click OK.
    Screenshot of MacOS L2TP setup password
  9. Click Advanced, check the box labeled Send all traffic over VPN connection, and click OK.
  10. Click Apply.
  11. Now you should click Connect to connect to the VPN server. The Status will show as Connected.
    Screenshot of MacOS L2TP VPN connected
  12. Go back to the System Preferences menu and click Sharing.
    Screenshot of MacOS settings menu
  13. Select Internet Sharing and share your connection from the L2TP VPN connection you just created to computers using WiFi.
  14. Click WiFi Options and enter a Network Name of your choosing. Leave Channel as the default, put Security to WPA2 Personal, and choose a password for your network. Click OK.
  15. Go back to the Sharing menu and check Internet Sharing box. When the prompt pops up click Start.
  16. Connect your Apple TV to the new network to encrypt your internet traffic.

You can disable the mobile hotspot by going to System Preferences > Sharing and uncheck the box labeled Internet Sharing.

Then go to System Preferences > Network and click on your L2TP VPN profile. Click Disconnect.

As you’ve seen, using a virtual router or mobile hotspot to protect your Apple TV is a long and intricate process.

It’s definitely not for beginners.

Mirroring with AirPlay

It’s possible to install a VPN on your iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or iMac and use the AirPlay feature to share media to your Apple TV.

Some VPN services say that they don’t officially support this as a way to use a VPN on your Apple TV, though.

The internet traffic on your mobile device will be safe and encrypted, but it will not protect all the traffic on the Apple TV itself.

Here’s how to mirror using AirPlay:

  1. Install the VPN software on your chosen iOS or MacOS device. We have our own set-up guides for iPhone and Mac that you can use.
  2. Ensure that both your iOS or MacOS device and the Apple TV are connected to the same WiFi network
  3. For iOS, open the pull-up menu from the bottom of your page and tap Screen Mirroring and select your Apple TV from the list of available devices. You may also click the AirPlay icon directly on the video you’re streaming on Netflix, YouTube, or the likes.
    First select screen mirroring, then select your Apple TV from the list of devices
  4. For MacOS devices, select the AirPlay icon at the top of your screen and select Apple TV from the list of available devices.
    On Mac you need to select the AirPlay icon from the top of your screen

Using Smart DNS on Your Apple TV

Some VPN services, like ExpressVPN, offer a separate solution for streaming on Apple TV.

But this solution is geared towards unlocking geo-restricted content rather than protecting your privacy.

This technology is called Smart DNS.

Smart DNS changes your DNS servers but doesn’t hide your IP address, nor does it encrypt your internet traffic.

You shouldn’t use it if you want to protect your online security or privacy.

Using Smart DNS involves changing settings on the Apple TV device itself.

This looks daunting, but it’s actually very straightforward.

Before you start, go to your VPN provider’s website. Log in and look for the IP address of the DNS server you need to use and make a note of it for later.

How to Set Up Smart DNS (or ExpressVPN MediaStreamer):

  1. If you have a dynamic IP address (one that changes from time to time), you will need to set up DDNS and get a static hostname. There are many free services available for this. ExpressVPN recommends https://www.dynu.com/
  2. Register your hostname on your VPN account.
    Screenshot of registering DDNS hostname with ExpressVPN
  3. Within your VPN account find the Smart DNS/MediaStreamer server IP address.
  4. On your Apple TV, head to the Settings app.
    Screenshot of Apple TV main menu
  5. Navigate to Settings > Network > WiFi.
    Screenshot of Apple TV settings menu
  6. Find Configure DNS and change the settings from Automatic to Manual.
    Screenshot of configuring DNS settings in Apple TV
  7. Write down your current DNS address/setting for future use.
  8. In the manual DNS input screen, type in the IP address you picked up from your provider’s website.
    Screenshot of Apple TV entering new DNS IP address
  9. Select Done.
  10. Restart your Apple TV.

You can now stream content on loads of global platforms – but remember that your personal data and IP address remain vulnerable to snooping third parties.

Why Should You Install a VPN on Your Apple TV?

It’s important to use a VPN on all the internet-connected devices you use.

Why?

If you don’t, your ISP, the government, or any snooping third parties will be able to access your online activities.

If you are using your Apple TV on an insecure WiFi network (e.g. in shared accommodation), hackers may be able to intercept your internet traffic and steal your personal data, such as account passwords.

VPN services encrypt your internet traffic so that your personal data stays safe.

Aside from the essential online privacy and security that a VPN grants you, using one with your Apple TV can unlock loads of streaming content that you usually wouldn’t be able to access because of where you live.

Did you know that Netflix libraries vary greatly from country to country?

US Netflix boasts a huge number of movies and TV shows – over 5,500, in fact.

When you use a VPN you can change your IP address to appear to be in any country where the VPN has servers and access content usually restricted to those in the country.

Not all VPNs work with Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer, though.

Be sure to take a look at our guide to the best VPNs for streaming before you purchase a subscription.

What’s the Best VPN for Apple TV?

The best VPN for Apple TV is ExpressVPN, no doubt about it.

Not only does ExpressVPN support router installation and the creation of virtual routers and mobile hotspots, but it’s fast, reliable, and, above all, safe to use.

ExpressVPN works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and a range of other popular streaming services, too.

If you want to know which other VPNs are good for Apple TV you can see our top five VPN services for Apple TV by following this link.

Can I Get a Free VPN for Apple TV?

Illustration of a credit card with a line through it and some coins

It is possible to use a free VPN with Apple TV but free VPNs are restrictive at best and dangerous at worst.

Many free VPNs are not safe to use.

Some log all of your online activities – such as Hola VPN – while others have links to mainland China.

If you want to use a VPN for free, you can take a look at our top free VPN recommendations here.

All of the free VPNs that we recommend are safe to use.

However, these free VPN services do come with restrictions, such as limited VPN server locations, data caps, and a lack of streaming compatibility.

This means that free VPNs generally aren’t ideal for use with Apple TVs.

You likely won’t be able to stream on Netflix or other popular platforms, and even if you could the VPN data cap would restrict you to watching a couple of hours of TV a month.

If you’re serious about using a VPN with your Apple TV, you should choose a high quality, premium VPN service.

Can I Use NordVPN on My Apple TV?

Yes, you can use NordVPN on your Apple TV.

You can install a VPN at router-level in order to secure your Apple TV with NordVPN, or use a Windows computer as a virtual router or mobile hotspot.

You can use the instructions provided in this guide to set up your Apple TV with NordVPN.

Alternatively, NordVPN provides set-up guides on its website, and its customer support team is available 24/7 via live chat to answer any questions you may have about the service.

Bear in mind that NordVPN doesn’t support PPTP or L2TP/IPSec protocols for security reasons, so you can’t use a Mac computer as a mobile hotspot to protect your Apple TV.

While NordVPN is a great VPN service – it’s fast, secure, and safe – it’s not the best option for streaming on your Apple TV.

If you want to watch Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or Hulu on your Apple TV NordVPN won’t work – although it does if you use the VPN directly on a desktop or mobile device. Here’s a list of the best VPN services for Apple TV.

You can read our full, independent review of NordVPN by following this link.

How Do You Change Location on Apple TV?

The best way to change your location on Apple is to use a trusted VPN service.

VPNs hide your true IP address and replace it with one of their own – you can choose the country it’s associated with – and they also encrypt your internet traffic, making your streaming private.

Using a smart DNS service, like ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer, allows you to access streaming content restricted to other countries and locations by changing your DNS settings.

Unlike a VPN, smart DNS does not mask your IP address or encrypt your traffic, so it shouldn’t be considered a privacy tool.

You shouldn’t need to change the Location settings within the Apple TV to stream foreign content but if you are struggling to access it, this measure is worth trying.

To change your Apple TV’s location go to Settings > General > Apple TV Language. Then go to General > Region Format and select the correct region.

If you want to download apps not available in country associated with your Apple ID you’ll need to create a separate iTunes account with a payment method and billing information associated with the country you want to download apps from.

Here are Apple’s official instructions for changing your Apple ID country or region.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio