How to Set Up a VPN Manually

VPNs must be set up properly before you can use them. Most of the time, this is done for you behind the scenes, you just have to log in to the provider's app. If the company doesn't make an app for your device, you'll need to set it up manually.

The best VPNs have a dedicated app available for most platforms (like Windows, Android, etc.) that makes it easy to choose a server and customize how the program works. All you have to do is log in to your account through the app.

Unfortunately, that's not always possible. Your favorite VPN might not make a cross-platform app; maybe it runs on iOS but not Android, or only on Windows. In those circumstances, the alternative is to set up the VPN manually, which is possible if the provider offers manual setup details.

Let's be clear: you should download the VPN maker's app if you can. It often provides more protocols to pick from, additional features, and fewer chances to misconfigure something or wind up without encryption.

When Manual Setup Makes Sense

There are only a few reasons to configure a VPN yourself:

  • The provider doesn't offer an app
  • You want to run the VPN from a router to give all your devices access
  • You're only interested in connecting to a select few servers
  • You're avoiding running software that could negatively impact the device's performance

How It Works

There are two primary methods: download a configuration file, such as one for OpenVPN, and import it into an app that can accept those kinds of files. Or use your device's built-in VPN settings to connect to the server you want to use.

Either way, you first need the appropriate server details provided by the VPN. This looks different for each company, but most of them include instructions on their website. You'll need the details of the server that you want to connect to (either its address or the OpenVPN file), the VPN type (like IKEv2, L2TP, or PPTP), and a username and password.

There are a few reasons to pick one server over another, but if it doesn't matter to you, select one from a city or country that's closest to your real location. It will most likely offer the best speeds. Some providers even have a speed test available on their website to help you pick the fastest server.

One or all of those protocols might be available depending on what the VPN offers; some only include OpenVPN files, for example. It's also important to determine what your device supports so that you know which set of login information to get from your provider.

Choose your platform for all the details:

Windows | Mac | Linux | Android | iOS | Router