Online Security

How To Setup A VPN Step By Step: iPhone, Windows, Mac, Android & More

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Everything you need to know about VPNs, including what they are and how to set them up on various devices.

Are you looking for better methods to secure your online privacy? Have you read about virtual private networks (VPN) — one of the best ways to ensure your confidentiality online? Understanding VPNs, how they work, and how to set them up is confusing, for sure. Here, we’ll give you a rundown of how to set up a VPN step by step, whether you’re using your PC, mobile device, or your home server.

What Is A VPN Connection?

Think of a VPN as an invisible cloak that masks your online location. A VPN connection reroutes your internet traffic through a remote server or computer to hide your traffic from local networks. This makes it much harder for intruders to gain access to your private information. 

Most people use a VPN for security purposes, but some use a VPN to unlock geographically restricted services. For example, if you’re in a country that restricts Netflix, you can use a VPN to reroute your internet connection to a U.S. server to access these restricted sites.

There are several types of VPN protocols, including PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, and most computers and mobile devices support. What do these terms mean? VPN lingo can be confusing, so be sure to refer to our terminology page if you need help understanding terms. And check out the video below to better grasp the VPN concept.

How To Setup A VPN Step By Step

We’ve included information on how to setup a VPN step by step for the following devices. Click on the device type to jump to those specific instructions.

Mac | Windows | Android | iPhone or iPad | Home Server

How To Setup A VPN On Mac in 7 Steps

To connect to a VPN, you must enter VPN configuration settings into your Network preferences. These settings include the VPN server address, account name, and authentication settings, which typically include a password or a certificate you received from the network administrator or VPN service provider. Follow these VPN setup steps from the Apple menu:

  1. Choose System Preferences, then click Network.
  2. Click Add (+) at the bottom of the network connection services list.
  3. Choose VPN from the pop-up menu.
  4. Choose the type of VPN connection you want to set up from the VPN Type pop-up menu and give your VPN service a name.
  5. Enter the server address and the account name.
  6. Click Authentication Settings, and then enter the user authentication information.
  7. Click OK, and then click Connect.

To switch between VPN services, all you have to do is select “Show VPN status in menu bar” to use the VPN status icon. To remove the VPN configuration, simply select the VPN network connection service in the list and click Delete (-).

Screenshot of VPN settings on Mac

How To Setup A VPN On Windows: 2 Ways

The first thing you need to do is create a VPN profile on your Windows PC before you can connect to a VPN. Follow these steps to create a profile. If you already have a VPN profile on your PC, skip to the Connect to a VPN section.

Create A VPN Profile On Windows

Creating a VPN profile in Windows is pretty straightforward:

  1. Click the Start button, then select Settings  > Network & Internet  > VPN > Add a VPN connection.
  2. In Add a VPN connection, do the following:
    • For the VPN provider, choose Windows (built-in) and create a profile name. Then type the address for the VPN server.
    • For VPN type, choose the type of VPN connection you wish to use.
    • For Type of sign-in info, choose the type of sign-in info you’ll be using (typically a username and password or certificate). You can type in your username and password now, but it’s optional.
  3. Click Save.

Tip: To edit the VPN connection information or add additional settings, such as proxy settings, choose the VPN connection and select Advanced options.

Connect To A VPN On Windows

Once you have a VPN profile, you’re all ready to connect.

  1. Click on the Network icon, located on the far right of the taskbar.
  2. Select the VPN connection you wish to use. Depending on what opens, do one of the following:
    • If the Connect button displays under the VPN connection, click Connect.
    • If VPN in Settings opens, select the VPN connection there, then click Connect.
  3. Type your username and password (or other sign-in info) if prompted. You’ll know you’re connected when the VPN connection name displays Connected underneath it.
vpn setup windows png

6 Steps On How To Setup A VPN On Android

Android devices support PPTP, L2TP, and IPsec protocols. To set up your Android device, follow these steps, starting from the Android settings app.

  1. Go to the Wireless & Networks section and select More.
  2. Select VPN.
  3. Tap the + sign in the top-right corner.
  4. Select your desired protocol and enter all the VPN configuration information you’ve received from your network administrator or VPN service provider.
  5. Tap on Save.
  6. Connect by returning to the VPN settings and selecting your VPN. Enter your username and password.

Tip: You can tap the 3-dot menu button to set your VPN to stay connected all the time.

vpn setup android png

11 Steps How To Setup A VPN On iPhone Or iPad

How do you manually set up a VPN configuration on your iPhone or iPad? Apple makes it pretty easy to set up a VPN client that supports L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec. All you need is your login information on hand and to follow these steps.

  1. Choose Settings from your home screen.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on VPN.
  4. Tap Add VPN Configuration.
  5. Tap Type and select the VPN protocol type you wish to use.
  6. Tap Add Configuration in the upper left corner of the screen.
  7. Enter VPN settings information, including description, server, and remote ID.
  8. Enter your username (or certificate) and password.
  9. If you use a proxy, enable it by tapping Manual or Auto.
  10. Tap Done.
  11. Toggle the status switch to “on” under VPN Configurations.
Setup VPN on iphone screenshot

How To Setup A VPN Server At Home

You also have the option of setting up a VPN on your home internet service. First, you need to be aware that your home connection’s upload speed matters. Internet service providers typically offer far less upload bandwidth than they do download bandwidth. So, if your upload bandwidth is limited, you’ll likely want to use a paid VPN service because they will max out what little juice your connection has to offer (whereas a free VPN service may, like a free website host, deliver speeds that are so slow they will choke on a slow connection).

Using a pre-built home router that comes with a built-in VPN server is the best solution compared to setting up a VPN yourself. Look for a wireless router that advertises VPN server support, which allows you to use your router’s web interface to set up a VPN configuration. With that said, you need to research routers that support the VPN protocol you want to use.

Don’t Want To Go It Alone?

Setting up a VPN the native way isn’t easy, and you’re not assured of the highest level of security. We encourage you to invest in a VPN service that automates the process for you, monitors your security, and has your back. Be sure to read our reviews of the best VPN services. Their prices are surprisingly affordable, and these services can make your online privacy easier to manage.

Sally Jones

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance. Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more. Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

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