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How to Set Up and Use a VPN

Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Fact-checked by JP Jones

In this guide, we explain how to set up and use a VPN on popular platforms including Android, Windows, iOS, and macOS devices. We’ll show you the easiest VPN setup method for each platform, and some additional approaches you can try if they don’t work.

VPN Setup

VPN services can help to protect your online privacy and security, escape censorship, and unblock geo-restricted streaming services.

You can use a VPN on almost every popular device, but the setup process may differ between them.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to set up a VPN on every popular device. We’ll talk you through how to register for a subscription and install a VPN application, as well as some alternative setup methods you can use if that’s not possible on your chosen device.

Summary: How to Set Up and Use a VPN

The easiest way to set up a VPN on almost any device is simply to download the native application from the VPN provider. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Choose a VPN service that meets your needs. Consider its trustworthiness, device compatibility, and server coverage before making a decision.
  2. Visit the VPN service’s website. Here, you can register for an account, choose a subscription plan, and subscribe to the VPN.
  3. Download and install the native VPN application for your chosen device. If you’re using a Windows or macOS device, you can download the correct app from your VPN provider’s website. If you’re on Android or iOS, you can download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
  4. Open the VPN application and sign in using your account credentials.
  5. In the app’s settings menu, ensure the VPN kill switch is turned on and you’re using the OpenVPN or WireGuard connection protocol.
  6. To use the VPN, open the server menu and choose a server in the country you’d like to connect to. The closer you are to that country geographically, the faster your connection speeds will be.
  7. Press ‘Connect’.
  8. You’ve now successfully installed the VPN and connected to a server. As long as you remain connected, the websites you visit will see the IP address of the VPN server and your browsing activity will be encrypted.

Here’s a video demonstrating how to set up and use a VPN from start to finish:

How to set up and use a VPN from start to finish.

We’ve macOS in the example above, but the process is almost identical for other devices. If you’re using a phone, simply download the VPN application from your App Store instead.

Use the table below to find the easiest setup method for your preferred device. You can also click the name of each device to jump to our detailed VPN setup instructions.

If you’ve already installed a VPN, you can read our instructions on using a VPN.

Device/OS Easiest VPN Setup Method Difficulty Level Top Alternative
Windows Native VPN application Easy If you can’t install software, try manual VPN connection setup.
macOS Native VPN application Easy If you can’t install software, try manually configuring a VPN.
iPhone/iOS Native VPN application Easy If you can’t install a VPN app, try using the iOS built-in VPN client.
Android Native VPN application Easy If you can’t access the Google Play Store, try installing an APK.
Smart TV, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox Smart DNS

Medium If you need encryption and privacy, run a VPN on your computer and share its connection.

EXPERT TIP: This guide explains how to install and use a VPN where a VPN service provides you a remote server to connect to. If you want to set up your own VPN so you can access your local network while abroad, read our guide to creating your own VPN server at home.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android Phones

There are several different ways to set up a VPN on Android, most of which are very simple.

What You’ll Need to Set Up a VPN on Android

  • An Android smartphone
  • A VPN subscription

NOTE: Android does offer a built-in VPN client, but we don’t recommend using it. Android’s built-in VPN uses insecure VPN protocols such as PPTP, which can be hacked in minutes. L2TP/IPSec uses pre-shared keys, which are publicly available on VPN websites and open the door to man-in-the-middle attacks.

1. Install a Native VPN Client for Android (Easiest Method)

Installing a native VPN application directly onto your Android smartphone is the easiest way to set up a VPN on Android. It will take you less than five minutes.

We’ve used ExpressVPN in the example below because it has one of the best VPN apps for Android. Most other Android VPNs involve a very similar setup process.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Before you sign up for a VPN subscription, check that the VPN service has a native Android app.
  2. Find your VPN provider’s Android app on the Google Play Store, install it, and launch it. If you live in a country where you can’t access the Google Play Store, see how to install an APK file below.
  3. In the ExpressVPN app, tap Sign In. Enter your VPN subscription email address and password, then tap Sign In again.
  4. Tap OK to start the VPN connection set up process.
  5. Tap OK to accept the VPN connection request, as shown below.
    ExpressVPN requests permisson to set up a VPN connection on Android
  6. ExpressVPN asks new users to share anonymous diagnostic information. Tap OK or No Thanks to continue.
  7. Your VPN is now ready to use – simply connect to a server to begin browsing anonymously.

2. Use Third-Party Software (Use a VPN Without an App)

If you don’t want to use the native VPN app from your VPN service provider, or if it doesn’t come with one, you can still set up a VPN on Android using a third-party VPN app.

This is a bit more complicated than downloading a VPN app from the Google Play Store, but it doesn’t take long.

Third-party apps are sometimes more configurable than the VPN service’s own application. They even allow you to use multiple VPNs within a single app.

Ask your VPN service provider which app it recommends. ExpressVPN recommends OpenVPN for Android as it works better with its configuration files, while NordVPN recommends OpenVPN Connect.

Follow these steps:

  1. Go to your VPN service provider’s website on your mobile browser and log in to your account.
  2. The next steps will vary depending on the VPN service you’re using. We’re using ExpressVPN. Go to the section of the VPN account page where you can set up the VPN on various devices. Tap Show other devices.
  3. Scroll through the list of devices and tap Manual Configuration.
  4. Tap OpenVPN. Here you will see your unique username and password for OpenVPN manual configuration. You will need these later.
    Login credentials for manually configuring OpenVPN on ExpressVPN
  5. You can download as many configuration files as you’d like – each one will allow you to connect to a different VPN server location. However, we recommend starting with one until you know how to do the whole installation process.Tap the server location you wish to connect to, and it will automatically download the configuration file to your phone’s storage. We chose the file for USA – New York.
  6. Find OpenVPN for Android on the Google Play Store. Install it and open it
  7. This is the main screen of the OpenVPN for Android app. Tap the folder download symbol at the top right-hand corner of the app (in between the plus symbol and the three vertical dots).
    Screenshot of OpenVPN for Android app with no VPN profiles
  8. Find the VPN configuration file in your Downloads folder. Some users will have to go to Internal storage before navigating to the Downloads folder in order to select the file. When you’ve found the file, tap on it
  9. Tap on the tick symbol in the top right to finish the config file download.
  10. Tap the Edit symbol to the right of the configuration file name.
  11. Under the Basic tab enter your username and password for OpenVPN manual configuration from your VPN service, which you noted above. These are not the same as the account credentials you use for the VPN app or website. Then tap on the Back icon.
    Screenshot of editing ExpressVPN config file in OpenVPN for Android
  12. Tap on the profile you’ve just created. It has the same name as the configuration file you used.
  13. Tap OK to accept the connection request.
    Screenshot of VPN connection request in OpenVPN for Android app
  14. You will see a connection notification once the VPN has successfully connected. A key icon will remain in the top-left corner of your screen for the duration of the VPN connection.
  15. To disconnect from the VPN, tap the OpenVPN profile in the OpenVPN for Android app and tap DISCONNECT.

3. Set Up a VPN Using an APK File

If you can’t access the Google Play Store, you can install the VPN provider’s app onto your Android device if the service provides an APK file. It’s not as smooth as using the Google Play store, but it won’t take you long.

Always download APK files from the VPN provider’s official website, to avoid the risk of installing files that have been tampered with.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. First, you’ll need to change your phone’s permissions to allow the downloading of files from outside of the Google Play Store. Go to your phone’s Settings menu, then to Security. Now tap Install unknown apps and tap on the web browser you want to use for downloading APK files. Toggle on Allow from this source.
    Screenshot of Install Unknown Apps settings on Android phone
  2. Go to your VPN provider’s website and log in to your account using your credentials.
  3. The next steps will vary depending on the VPN service you’re using. We’re using ExpressVPN. Tap Show other devices under the device setup section.
  4. Tap Download APK.
  5. You’ll see a warning that the file may harm your device. If you’re downloading the APK file from the official website of a VPN provider you trust, tap Download anyway.
    A popup warning against downloading an APK file onto your Android
  6. Tap Install to finish the installation process.
  7. The app has now been installed. Tap Open to open the VPN’s app for Android.

How to Set Up a VPN on Windows 10, 11, & Older

There are several ways to set up a VPN on your Windows device, but the easiest method is to install a native VPN application. If that doesn’t work for you, we’ll walk you through some alternative methods in this section.

What You’ll Need to Set up a VPN on Windows

  • A Windows laptop, desktop, or tablet
  • An account with a VPN service

Does Windows Have a Built-In VPN?

Windows 10 and 11 include VPN software that can be used to connect to your workplace, for example. You can use this software to connect to a VPN service, so that you can do things like protect your privacy and unblock Netflix. However, the software alone can’t do this for you.

1. Install a Native VPN Client for Windows (Easiest Method)

For most users, the easiest way to install a VPN on Windows is to download a dedicated app from your VPN service provider.

We’ve used ExpressVPN in the example below, as it’s currently the best VPN for Windows devices. The process will be almost identical for most premium VPN services.

  1. Go to the ExpressVPN website and download the Windows app.
  2. A .exe file downloads – run it.
  3. When prompted, select Yes to allow ExpressVPN to make changes to the hard drive on your computer.
  4. Click Sign In and choose to Sign In with an Email Sign-In Link.
  5. Enter your email address and click Email Sign-In link.
  6. When the email arrives, click the link to sign in to ExpressVPN. Your app will be activated automatically.
  7. We recommend you choose to launch ExpressVPN on startup.
  8. Choose whether you want to share diagnostic information with ExpressVPN.
  9. Your VPN is now ready to use on your Windows device.

2. Manual VPN Connection Setup (Without an App)

There is software built-in to Windows 10 and 11 that you can use to manually set up a VPN connection without downloading VPN software. However, you still need an active VPN subscription.

Windows lets you use the PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP or IKEv2 protocols. Make sure your VPN provider supports one of these protocols before you subscribe. Do not use PPTP, though – it’s no longer considered secure.

This method is a bit more complicated and less flexible than just installing a VPN app. You can’t easily change your VPN server location, for example.

Using Windscribe with the IKEv2 protocol, here is how you set up a manual VPN connection in Windows:

  1. Log in to your Windscribe account. You’ll need a ‘Pro’ account to set up the VPN in this way.
  2. Go to Windscribe’s download page.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select IKEv2, under Config Generators.
  4. From the dropdown menu, select the server location you want to connect to, then click Get Profile Details.
  5. Make a note of the hostname, username, and password.
  6. Open the search box in the bottom-left-hand corner of your computer, bottom-centre on Windows 11, and search for VPN Settings. Open them.
  7. Click Add a VPN connection or Add VPN.
  8. In the VPN provider dropdown menu, select Windows (built-in).
    Manually setting up Windscribe VPN on Windows
  9. Under Connection name you can enter anything, then copy the hostname from before into the Server name or address field.
  10. Under VPN type select IKEv2, then under Type of sign-in info, select Username and password.
  11. Enter the Username and Password from before, then click Save. Note that the username and password need to be the ones you saw in step 5, not your Windscribe account login details.
  12. Your VPN should have appeared back in VPN Settings. Click on it, then click Connect.
  13. You are now connected.

3. Use An OpenVPN Config File (Hardest Method)

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol that most VPN services use. The OpenVPN Project – which built the protocol – also maintains open-source VPN clients for Windows operating systems newer than Windows 7.

By using these clients, you can benefit from the OpenVPN protocol’s security credentials.

This method is less flexible than installing your VPN service’s app because you can’t easily change the server you’re connected to.

Follow the steps below to set up a VPN on Windows using the OpenVPN configuration file. We’ve used IPVanish in this example.

  1. Go to
  2. Select the correct installer for your version of Windows (we’re using Windows 10).
  3. An .exe file will download – open it.
  4. Select Customize.
  5. Click on the icons to customize the features, we recommend enabling OpenSSL utilities. Then click Browse.OpenVPN custom installation on Windows
  6. Choose your Destination Folder (the default is fine), then click OK.
  7. Click Install Now.
  8. Click Close to complete installation.
  9. Log in to your IPVanish account.
  10. Navigate to the Server List tab.
    IPVanish server list config files on Windows
  11. Under Configuration Files select OpenVPN.
  12. Click on, a .zip file will begin to download.
  13. Open the .zip file and extract the security certificate and the OpenVPN config files for your desired servers. Then, cut and paste them into C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config.If you saved OpenVPN in a different location earlier, then this location will be different.
  14. From the Start menu, run OpenVPN GUI.
  15. In the bottom right corner of your desktop click the ^ icon to reveal an icon of a computer screen with a padlock.
    Using OpenVPN Cofig Files on Windows
  16. Right click on this icon to display the servers you pasted into C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config.
  17. Hover over your desired server and click Connect.
  18. You will need to enter your IPVanish Username and Password, then click OK.
  19. You are now connected! You can manage your connection from the computer screen and padlock icon – which should now be green.
    OpenVPN icon on Windows

How to Set Up a VPN on iPhone & iPad

In this section, we’ll walk you through three methods to install and use a VPN on your iPhone or iPad. The easiest way is to install a native iOS VPN application.

What You’ll Need to Set Up a VPN on Your iPhone or iPad:

  • An active VPN subscription with a trustworthy service provider.
  • An up-to-date device:
    • On iPhone, you need to be running iOS 10 or above.
    • On iPad, you need to be running iPadOS 13.1 or above.
    • To manually configure OpenVPN, you’ll need a desktop or laptop computer.

1. Install a Native VPN App for iOS (Easiest Method)

The simplest and safest way to install a VPN on your iPhone or iPad is to download a native VPN application from the Apple App Store.

We use Windscribe Free in the example below, as it’s one of our recommended VPNs for iPhone. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Search for your VPN service in the Apple App Store and tap Get to download the app. We’re using Windscribe Free as an example.
  2. Open the app and log in using your VPN subscription username and password.
  3. Read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, and tap Continue.
  4. Your iPhone/iPad requires you to authorize all new VPN configurations. Tap Allow on the overlay that asks for permission to add VPN configurations. This step may come later depending on the VPN you’re using.Windscribe Free VPN configurations on iPhone
  5. Enter your iPhone or iPad passcode to add the configuration.
  6. Tap through the rest of the installation prompts and permissions – some VPN services include more than others. Ensure you read the terms before you agree to them.
  7. Your VPN is now ready to use on iOS.

2. Add a VPN Configuration Using the Built-In VPN Client

If you can’t (or don’t want to) install a native VPN app from the App Store, your iOS and iPadOS devices allow you to manually configure VPN server files within the device’s settings menu.

This allows you to set up a VPN on iPhone without using the App Store.

This method saves space on your device, but the built-in VPN feature lacks extra settings like a VPN kill switch and IP leak blocking. Therefore, it’s not as secure as the other setup methods we cover.

You will still need a VPN subscription to use this setup method.

Our preferred protocol of OpenVPN isn’t available, so we recommend IKEv2/IPSec. L2TP setup may require you to enter a ‘Secret’ in addition to a username and password. This ‘secret’ is a pre-shared key supplied by your VPN provider. The use of pre-shared keys poses a security risk, though.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. On your device go to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management > VPN
  2. Tap Add VPN Configuration.
  3. Fill in the fields with the information provided by your VPN service provider. You should be able to find this information from within your account or on the VPN server status page. Here’s an example using PrivateVPN:
    • Type: IKEv2
    • Description: Type in a name for the configuration, e.g., PrivateVPN – Sydney
    • Server: Type in the server address here
    • Remote ID: Type in the server address again
    • Local ID: Leave this field empty
    • User Authentication: Select Username
    • Username: Type in your VPN account username
    • Password: Type in your VPN account password
    • Proxy: Off
  4. Tap Done in the top right.
  5. Use the Status slider to connect and disconnect from the VPN server. When connected you should see the word ‘VPN’ in your iPhone’s status bar.
    Screenshot of iOS builtin VPN client connected to PrivateVPN server
  6. You can now add more server configurations and easily toggle between locations.

3. Manually Configure OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol that most VPN services use. You can use its open-source VPN client on iOS to manually configure a VPN connection.

You can add multiple .ovpn files for different server locations, and can use Seamless Tunnel to prevent data leaks.

To manually configure OpenVPN on your iPhone/iPad, you’ll need a Windows, macOS, or Linux computer. We’re using a Windows PC in the example below.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find OpenVPN Connect (by OpenVPN Technologies) in the Apple App Store and install the application.
  2. Visit your VPN provider’s website on your computer and log in. (Don’t use your iOS device). You’ll need to be a registered subscriber.
  3. Find the VPN provider’s OpenVPN config files and download them. You may need to extract a .zip file.
    Screenshot of unzipped PrivateVPN OpenVPN config files
  4. Find the file for the server location you wish to connect to on your iPhone and email the .ovpn file to yourself.
  5. Open the email on your iPhone and tap the download button. You should choose to open the file in OpenVPN Connect by tapping Copy to OpenVPN.
    Screenshot of opening .ovpn file in OpenVPN Connect
  6. Tap Add to add the configuration file to OpenVPN Connect.
  7. Enter your VPN account username and then Add again.
  8. Tap Allow to authorize the VPN connection.
    Screenshot of VPN configuration authorization on OpenVPN Connect
  9. Enter your iPhone passcode.
  10. Enter your VPN account password and tap OK.
  11. Slide the slider to switch the VPN on and off. When connected, the slider will turn green, and you’ll see the word ‘VPN’ in your iPhone’s status bar.
    Screenshot of OpenVPN Connect connected to PrivateVPN server
  12. Go into the OpenVPN Connect settings menu (burger menu > Settings) and enable the Seamless Tunnel, which acts a bit like a VPN kill switch. It helps to stop your data leaking.

How to Set Up a VPN on macOS

There are three main methods to set up a virtual private network on your macOS computer. The easiest way is to install a native VPN application directly onto your Mac.

What You’ll Need to Set Up a VPN on a Mac:

  • A subscription to a trusted VPN for Mac.
  • A macOS computer, ideally with the latest macOS version (for security reasons). We’re using macOS Ventura version 13.5.

1. Install a Native VPN App for macOS (Easiest Method)

By far the most common way to set up a VPN on an iMac or MacBook is to install a VPN service’s Mac app. The stages to this process are almost identical with every VPN.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Subscribe to your chosen VPN service. We’ve used Surfshark in this example.
  2. Go to the VPN provider’s website and find the page to download the macOS software.
  3. The file will download into the Downloads folder as a .dmg file. Click and run this file – it is the Surfshark Installer.
  4. Drag the Surfshark application icon to your Applications folder so it’s easy to find and select. Open a new Finder window and navigate to the Applications folder on your Mac and you’ll now see Surfshark there.
  5. Double-click the Surfshark app to run it. The service will open and ask for the permission it needs. Note: some VPNs may require you to enter your Mac login details, or login details provided by the VPN service provider.
    Mac permission requests to use Surfshark
  6. Now Surfshark VPN is installed on your macOS device. You can find it in your Applications folder or via Launchpad. To use it, simply open the Surfshark application, choose a VPN server, and click ‘Connect’.
    Surfshark VPN home screen

2. Use OpenVPN Software on Mac

Using OpenVPN’s open-source software allows you to set up a VPN on Mac without downloading a VPN provider’s native app. However, it’s not as easy as the method above. You’ll also still need a subscription with a VPN service provider.

We recommend Tunnelblick, a free, open-source application for macOS. You use it to control VPNs using the OpenVPN protocol, which is our recommended protocol for speed and security.

Here’s how you set it up:

  1. Head to the Tunnelblick website and download the latest release of the software.
  2. A .dmg file will download onto your computer. Open and run the software.
  3. You will be presented with a window. Double-click the Tunnelblick icon to install the software.
    Tunnelblick installation icon
  4. Follow the installation prompts until you’re asked if you’d like to add a configuration.
  5. In your Mac’s Applications folder, you’ll see Tunnelblick has been added. Double-click on it and go down to VPN Detail.
  6. At this point, you’ll need to log in to your VPN’s website to get some information. We’re going to use ExpressVPN as an example. Head to the ExpressVPN website and log in to your account.
  7. Among the options for setup, you’ll see Manual Configuration in the right-hand column. Click this.
  8. You’ll now see your OpenVPN connection information. Scroll down to the list of locations.
  9. Select whichever server locations you’d like to establish a secure VPN connection with. When you click your choice, it will automatically download as a .ovpn file.
  10. Keep this browser window open, and switch back to Tunnelblick. Select I have configuration files. After that you’ll get a notice. Click OK.
    How to add a configuration on Tunnelblick
  11. Find the .ovpn file you downloaded from ExpressVPN and drag it into the left-hand pane in Tunnelblick under Configurations. Tunnelblick homepage on Windows
  12. Click Only Me if you’d like to be the only person that can use this VPN or click All Users if you’d like it to be available on other accounts on your Mac. Type the password if prompted.
  13. You’ll see some information pop up in the Tunnelblick log window. Select the configuration you’ve just imported on the left and click Connect. Tunnelblick manual configuration
  14. Now you’re presented with a window asking for a username and password. These are not the login details for ExpressVPN or your Mac device. Instead, you have to find the username and password for OpenVPN on the ExpressVPN website. Go back to the open ExpressVPN website. You’ll find these just above the list of servers that you’ve just used. Copy and paste them in and choose whether you’d like to save these details.
  15. Click OK to connect. Tunnelblick comes alive with the diagnostic output as the application connects to the server. Once you’re connected, you’ll see the Disconnect button become active, and the appearance of the menu bar icon will also change to a solid black color.

3. Manually Configure a VPN (Without a VPN App)

Since macOS El Capitan (released in 2015), all Macs include a feature that allows you to manually configure a VPN without the need for an app. It’s useful if you’re on a device that prevents any app installations — like a work computer, for example.

It uses IKEv2. This is a flexible, relatively secure VPN protocol with very fast speeds. However, IKEv2 is a closed-source protocol so there is no guarantee that it has not been compromised.
We always recommend using OpenVPN whenever possible.

  1. NordVPN and Surfshark are the only recommended Mac VPNs that allow you to manually configure an IKEv2 connection on your Mac. Download an IKEv2 certificate from the website of the VPN provider you choose.
  2. Open the certificate and select Add in Mac Keychain.
    Install IKEv2 VPN on MacOS
  3. Open your Mac’s System Settings and click Network. Then click the plus symbol to add a new network connection.
  4. Select VPN in the Interface dropdown menu, and choose IKEv2 from the list of protocol options. After naming your connection, click create.
  5. Locate your desired server ID from the VPN provider. These are located here for NordVPN, for example. Paste these ID addresses into the Server Address and Remote ID fields in System Settings.
  6. Click Authentication Details and input the username and password you used when signing up for the VPN service. Click Apply to save your changes.
  7. Click Connect and enable Show VPN status in menu bar. You are now connected to your chosen VPN server location and can connect and disconnect straight from the menu bar. The menu bar widget shows your connection status, along with your time connected to the server.

How to Set Up a VPN on a Smart TV, PlayStation, or Xbox

You can install a VPN on your smart TV or games console to unblock geo-restricted movies and hide your IP address when gaming.

Aside from Amazon Fire TV Stick, however, these devices cannot usually install VPN apps directly.

You can find detailed VPN setup instructions for these devices in the articles below:

Otherwise, you’ll need to use the following workaround methods to safely use a VPN with these devices.

1. Use Smart DNS (Easiest Method)

Smart DNS isn’t the same as using a VPN. It’s a premium feature of some VPN services that spoofs your location via DNS, unblocking some streaming services in the process.

This makes it the best option for streaming restricted Netflix libraries on smart TVs or games consoles. However, it doesn’t encrypt your traffic or hide your IP address like a VPN does.

If that’s what you’re looking for, skip to our instructions on connecting your device to your computer.

Here’s how to set up Smart DNS on Smart TVs or games consoles:

  1. First, you’ll need a subscription to a trusted VPN provider that includes Smart DNS. We recommend ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer.
  2. You need to give your VPN provider your IP address, so it knows to allow your traffic. If your IP address changes from time to time, you need to set up a static hostname. We recommend Dynu, which gives you a static hostname for free.
  3. Log in to your VPN account and give your VPN provider your hostname. In ExpressVPN, go to the settings for Dynamic DNS registration.
    ExpressVPN's dynamic DNS registration
  4. In your VPN account, find the Smart DNS server IP address. In ExpressVPN, it’s called the MediaStreamer server IP address.
  5. Go into your device’s Settings menu. Here, you need to configure the DNS with your Smart DNS server IP address.
    • On Apple TV, go to Settings > Network > WiFi > Configure DNS. Change from Automatic to Manual. Enter your Smart DNS IP address.
    • On PS4, go to Settings > Network > Set up internet connection > Custom. Enter these details for NordVPN:
      • Choose WiFi or LAN, depending on whether you have a wireless (WiFi) or wired (LAN) connection.
      • Choose ‘automatic’ for your IP address.
      • Choose ‘do not specify’ for the DHCP Host Name.
      • Choose ‘manual’ for the DNS settings.
      • Set the primary DNS to
      • Set the secondary DNS to
    • On PS5, go to Settings > Network > Set up internet connection. Click your existing connection. Choose Advanced Settings > DNS Settings > Manual. Set the primary DNS for NordVPN to Set the secondary DNS to
    • On Xbox, go to Settings > General > Network Settings > Advanced Settings > DNS Settings. Choose Manual for the IPv4 DNS settings. Add your DNS server in both the Primary IPv4 DNS and Secondary IPv4 DNS fields.
  6. Your device will now be configured to use your VPN provider’s DNS servers.

EXPERT TIP: Take note of your old DNS settings before you change them, in case you need to restore them later.

2. Connect Your Device to Your Computer

If you can’t install a VPN on your smart TV or games console, you can install it on your computer and then share your internet connection.

This gives you the benefit of a VPN connection without having to install a VPN directly onto your device.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Install VPN client software on your computer using the instructions in this article.
  2. Share your internet connection from your computer, so it can be used with your smart TV or console.
  3. Update the network settings in your smart TV or console to connect to your computer, instead of connecting directly to your router.

See our detailed instructions for your device here:

  1. Connect your Xbox to the internet through your computer
  2. Connect your PlayStation to the internet through your computer
  3. Connect your Apple TV to the internet through your computer

3. Install a VPN on Your Router

If you install a VPN on your router, every device that connects through the router will be protected by the VPN. That includes smart TVs and games consoles that cannot run VPN software themselves.

Running a VPN on your router doesn’t have the flexibility of running a VPN on your computer, though. You can’t easily change server location or turn the VPN off.

Installing a VPN on a router is far from straightforward. There are three approaches you can take that we outline in the article below:

  1. Buy a router with the VPN software already on it. This is straightforward, but expensive. The router will be ready to use, you simply visit the router app and enter your VPN subscription details.
  2. Install a router app from your VPN service provider. ExpressVPN provides a VPN app you can install on your router, as long as it’s compatible. These apps help you to switch location and change the router settings.
  3. Manually install a VPN on your router. Some ASUS routers support the OpenVPN protocol, but other routers will need new firmware installed, which is a risky process.

How to Configure Your VPN Settings for Privacy & Security

Once you’ve installed a VPN service on your device, it’s recommended to change the app’s settings for optimal privacy, security, and performance.

The best VPNs have safe defaults, but it’s always worth checking them. Go into your VPN’s settings to verify:

  1. Your VPN is set to automatically start. If possible, it’s best to run your VPN as soon as your device starts. This ensures your web traffic is always protected.
  2. The kill switch is enabled. A VPN kill switch stops your real IP address leaking if the VPN connection drops. You can check yours is working properly using our VPN kill switch test.
  3. You’re using the OpenVPN or WireGuard protocol. OpenVPN and WireGuard are the two fastest and most secure connection protocols available. If your VPN uses PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, or IKEv2/IPSec by default, we recommend switching protocols.
  4. Leak protection is enabled. Once you’ve enabled any leak protection settings, try our VPN leak test to verify that your true IP address and other identifying information is not leaking through the VPN.

How to Choose the Right VPN Server

There are three rules of thumb when choosing the right VPN server to connect to:

  1. If your VPN provider has servers optimized for your chosen activity – such as torrenting – use one of these optimized servers.
  2. If you’re using a VPN to unblock geographically restricted content, connect to a server in the same country as the region you want to unblock. To stream US Netflix, for example, connect to a US server.
  3. Otherwise, connect to the server closest to you for the fastest performance. If you experience congestion on the server, try connecting to a different server.

What to Do If Your VPN Isn’t Working

If you’ve installed a VPN on your device and it isn’t working properly, try following these steps:

  1. Check for any network problems. If your connection isn’t working without the VPN, your VPN won’t connect.
  2. Try restarting your router.
  3. Check the VPN is turned on.
  4. Try a different VPN server. Sometimes servers get congested or are blocked by streaming providers.
  5. Try a different VPN protocol. Using OpenVPN with TCP can tolerate network errors better than OpenVPN with UDP.
  6. Make sure your firewall isn’t blocking the VPN.
  7. Make sure your power settings (especially on mobile) aren’t starving the VPN app of resources.

If you’re still having issues, see our advice on what to do if your VPN keeps disconnecting or if Netflix isn’t working with your VPN.


Can you set up a VPN for free?

You can set up a VPN for free, and the setup process is almost identical to setting up a paid VPN service. However, most free VPNs are slow, insecure, and don’t unblock streaming services like Netflix.

It’s worth paying for a good VPN, but if you’re on a tight budget, we’ve reviewed the best free VPNs here.

Do I need to install a VPN on all my devices?

If you’re using a VPN to protect your online privacy and security, it makes sense to install it on all of the devices you use to browse the internet. This might typically include your laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

However, if you’re using a VPN to unblock geo-restricted streaming content or other services that aren’t available in your region, it may only be worth installing a VPN on the device you use to access that content or service.

It’s worth keeping in mind that most VPN services have simultaneous connection restrictions, which can limit the number of devices you can use the VPN with at one time.

You can install a VPN on your router to protect all of your connected devices without surpassing this limit, but it’s harder to install and manage a VPN on your router.

Do I have to set up my VPN manually?

Most of the time, the easiest way to set up a VPN is to install a dedicated VPN app, which doesn’t require any manual configuration.

However, devices that can’t run VPN apps directly – like games consoles and smart TVs – are a bit trickier. In this case, Smart DNS provides an easy way to unblock streaming services on those platforms.

You will need to set up your VPN manually if you don’t have permission to install software on your device, or if you don’t want to install a VPN application using the traditional method.