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VPNs are a great tool for internet users today, and especially reassuring for those working away from their company's offices, especially on public wifi networks. When you have VPN issues, however, it can leave you without the comfort of online anonymity, and unable to access the sites and services you'd like to.
The good news is that many VPN problems can be fixed in minutes, and you don't need to be an IT expert to get back up and running. In this article, we discuss some of the most common VPN troubleshooting issues, and how to fix them.
VPN not working? Why not just try another one? Check out our VPN comparison table to see which VPNs we recommend most highly. If you'd like to stick with what you have, here are 10 fixes to resolve your VPN issues:
- 1. Test Your Internet Connection
- 2. Restart the VPN Software
- 3. Clear your Device of Old VPN Software
- 4. Make Use of the VPN’s Help Function
- 5. Make Sure Your VPN is Up To Date
- 6. Change the VPN Server
- 7. Connect Using a Different VPN Protocol
- 8. Check Your Firewall
- 9. Try the OpenVPN Client Instead
- 10. Make Sure Your VPN is Compatible with the Site or Service
- 11. Flush Your DNS Cache (Computer Only)
VPN Connection Problems
Common VPN issues include your VPN not connecting, your IP address still being visible despite the VPN saying it's connected, and your VPN continuously disconnecting. It's usually possible to overcome these issues by resetting your internet, restarting your VPN software, or changing your VPN server/protocol.
Even with such issues occurring, using a VPN is a great way to enhance your privacy and open up parts of the internet you might not normally be able to access – but VPN problems can arise when you reroute your internet connection through a VPN server. Here are all of the most common VPN issues users are often faced with:
- Your VPN server not responding
- The internet service you are trying to access blocking your VPN
- Old VPN packages interfering with new ones
- Your VPN Keeps disconnecting
- Your VPN says it is connected, but your IP address isn't hidden
- Over-protective firewalls halting your connection
Here are some of the most effective ways that you can resolve VPN problems like the ones listed above:
1. Test Your Internet Connection
Of course, the problem may not be a VPN issue at all – it might actually be your internet connection that's the thing stopping your VPN from connecting.
Although your VPN is rerouting your internet connection through a private server and masking your IP address in the meantime, it still requires your internet connection to be active for it to work. Without this, it won't work.
Your internet and VPN may actually be both working, but sometimes switching between cellular data and a Wifi connection can mean your VPN will struggle to forge a connection to one of its servers.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is too slow/Your VPN isn't connecting to a server.
2. Restart the VPN Software
Yes, it’s a cliche, but closing down your software can get things running smoothly again, and will fix a surprising proportion of VPN issues. If your VPN has its own program, close it down (all the way, make sure it’s not just minimized on your computer), and restart it.
If the VPN is a browser plug-in, close your browser down and restart it.
If restarting doesn't help, try reinstalling the VPN as an additional measure: This has been known to help if a VPN is slow to connect, if it crashes frequently, or if the VPN connects to the client network but does not allow the user to perform actions like opening links.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is too slow/Your VPN is not responding at all/Your VPN won't connect.
3. Clear your Device of Old VPN Software
We know how it is – you want to make sure you have picked the right VPN software, so you may have downloaded several packages to try out. If you want to get the very best one the first time around, then just check our guide to the best VPN services, but if you’ve already trialed a handful, they may well be stopping your new chosen software from working correctly.
Try disabling, or even better, uninstalling any previous VPN software packages that you might have used, and see if this resolves your issue.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is not responding at all/Your VPN Won't Connect.
4. Make Use of the VPN’s Help Function
VPN software providers know that at some point or other, you might get stuck. That’s why they try and ensure that there’s a built-in help function. Make sure you use it! Most are user-friendly and don’t assume you have an expert level of knowledge.
However, if you’re really confused, then do contact the VPN provider directly. How to do this will vary depending on why you go with it, with some offering phone or chat support, and others relying on email. If you’re particularly nervous about using a VPN, then it’s worth opting for one that can answer quickly.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is not connecting/Your VPN won't let you log in.
5. Make Sure Your VPN is Up To Date
VPN software is regularly updated. Some of these take the form of quality-of-life tweaks to make the program easier to use, but others will be essential for the day to day functionality of the VPN, so it’s important to make sure that you don’t ignore update requests.
The easiest way to find out if your software is up to date is by checking the version you’re running against the version number on the provider’s site. You can usually find this information in the About section of your VPN software, as demonstrated here in ExpressVPN.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is not connecting/Your VPN is too slow.
6. Change the VPN Server
VPNs offer literally hundreds of servers to connect to, but they might not all be functioning correctly. There can be several reasons for this – they could be overloaded with traffic, temporarily down, or even blacklisted by the service you’re trying to use.
Luckily VPN troubleshooting is made easy by the fact that almost all VPN providers will let you choose to connect to different servers, so give another one a go. Don’t worry if you’re using a certain country’s location to access content – any VPN worth its salt will offer a multitude of servers in the same country, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding another.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is too slow/Your VPN says it isn't connected, but your IP address isn't hidden/the internet service your are trying to access is blocking your VPN.
7. Connect Using a Different VPN Protocol
If you’re struggling to connect, the VPN problem could be its protocol. A protocol is essentially a network that is used to exchange data – the most common example of this is HTTP, which you’ll be familiar with, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol – and precedes every website you look at in your browser.
If there are issues with your connection, playing with the protocol settings can be the solution. Experiment with changing the protocol in the settings to see if this resolves your issue. It could even lead to a faster connection.
Needless to say, it’s the premium, paid-for services which will offer the best help options.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is too slow/Your VPN says it isn't connected, but your IP address isn't hidden.
8. Check Your Firewall
Firewalls check the data that comes in out of your connection, and they can be very protective of what traffic makes it to your computer (and rightly so – it’s their job, after all).
Some firewalls create VPN issues, so as an experiment, try temporarily disabling your firewall to see if this has a positive effect on your VPN connection – don’t forget to turn it back on when you’re finished checking though!
Try This Fix If: If there's no obvious VPN problem, but your VPN is not Responding.
9. Try the OpenVPN Client Instead
One of the protocols that you may want to try is OpenVPN. As the name suggests it’s an open-source protocol, and it’s free to use. It’s secure and has been around for over 15 years.
It’s very popular in the VPN community, thanks to its native compatibility with a large range of platforms, including iOS and Android, as well as macOS, Windows, and Linux. It works with most of the big-name VPNs, so could well be the answer to your woes.
You can download the OpenVPN client from its website. Check out our review of OpenVPN for more detail.
Try This Fix If: Your VPN is too slow/Your VPN is not responding.
- Free, open-source VPN
- Boosted privacy and secure browsing
- Supported by a developer community
- Can lead to poor speeds when in use
- Too technical and complex for first-timers
- Can be blocked by business proxies
10. Make Sure Your VPN is Compatible with the Site or Service
Make sure your VPN is able to access the service you’re trying to use. Although VPNs are incredibly sophisticated at circumventing geographically blocked sites, the sites themselves can be just as clever.
One of the hardest to crack is Netflix, which is ironic, as it’s also one of the main reasons people install a VPN. Why? Well, using a VPN, you can, in theory, access Netflix content from each corner of the globe, meaning movies, documentaries, and TV shows before they’re available in your country.
Not all VPNs play nice with Netflix, so it’s worth checking the provider's website first. If it’s not compatible, there is no fix – you’ll just have to pick the best VPN for Netflix instead.
Try This Fix If: The service you are trying to access is blocking your VPN.
11. Flush Your DNS Cache (Computer Only fix)
If nothing has worked yet on your quest to solve your VPN issues, you may want to try flushing your DNS cache. Why might you need to flush your DNS cache? Well, VPNs allow you to bypass your ISP's DNS, but your operating system may inadvertently be using cached DNS settings from when you weren't using your VPN, which can cause a VPN problem.
To flush your cache on a Windows computer, type “cmd” into the system search box in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen. Next, right-click on “command prompt” and select “Run as Administrator”. After a new window opens, enter “ipconfig/flushdns” (without quotation marks) and press “Enter” on your keyboard.
For devices running macOS, click the Spotlight search button and type in “Terminal”. When the Terminal application appears, double-click it. When the terminal is open, enter this command “sudo dscacheutil -flushcache; sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder” (without quotation marks). After that, you just have to enter your Mac's password when prompted, which will clear the DNS.
As you can probably tell, this is a relatively advanced VPN troubleshooting tactic compared to the others, so we'd recommend trying our previous suggestions first.
Try This Fix If: All the above options have failed.
VPN Troubleshooting: Why is my Netflix VPN not Working?
One of the most common VPN use cases is unblocking Netflix content only available in certain countries. Netflix geo-restricts a lot of its movies and films for a variety of reasons. Certain releases may be banned in some countries, or Nextlif simply might not have the rights to show a given film in a specific territory yet.
If your Netflix VPN is not working, then we'd recommend attempting all of the VPN troubleshooting techniques listed in this article to see if your software or your internet connection is the problem. If you've eliminated those possibilities, unfortunately, the reason your Nextlix VPN is not working is probably that Netflix has banned the VPN IP address you're using to attempt to connect to the site.
Don't worry, that's pretty normal; Netflix is in the business of tracking down IP addresses it can tell belong to VPNs and banning them. If you think this might be the reason behind your Netflix VPN not working, then follow these steps:
- Connect to a different VPN server based in the same region/country.
- If that fails, Connect to a VPN server based in another region where the movie/film you'd like to watch is available.
- If that fails, you will need to look into switching to a streaming-optimized VPN.
VPN Troubleshooting: Why is my VPN so Slow?
Remember, because you're funneling all of your requests and data through an encrypted tunnel and into a private VPN server before it reaches the internet, you're asking it to make a longer journey – so, it's natural that a VPN will affect your internet speed. However, if it's a decent VPN, the difference should be almost negligible. Reasons your VPN might be slow include:
- Poor internet connection
- Routing too much of your data through the VPN
- Too many people connecting to the same server
- Poorly configured VPN settings
If your VPN is slower than you'd expect, here are a couple of things you can do to try and speed it up:
- Connect to a different server provided by your VPN provider
- Connect to a server nearer to your physical location
- Switch from cellular data to a nearby Wi-fi connection
- Review your VPN settings
If your VPN provides a split-tunneling function, you'll be able to route some of your application traffic through your VPN client and some through your normal network. If your VPN is slow, you could explore using this function to speed up your experience on specific apps.
VPN Troubleshooting: Do VPNs Work on iPhones?
Right now, it's difficult to say. Although many VPNs have clients you can download and use on your iPhone, recently a vulnerability that leaks VPN traffics on iPhones was found to still be present in iOS 16 in 2022, meaning it's likely a VPN problem for all iPhones.
Apple has been aware of this VPN issue for several years. Proton VPN notified the company that unencrypted traffic was leaking out of users' VPN tunnels, two years ago. This issue was brought to the attention of Apple by Mullvad VPN again in 2020, while in 2022, security researcher Michael Horowitz found the vulnerability alive and well in iOS version 15.6.1.
Now, some researchers claim the vulnerability still exists in iOS 16, the latest iteration of iOS. Researchers at Mysk, for instance, have shown that “iOS 16 does communicate with apple services outside of the VPN tunnel.”
Apple is yet to comment on this and, all in all, the jury is still out. Although millions of people are still using VPNs on their phones despite this news, if you can use it on a different device, in light of this news, we'd recommend doing so.
Next Steps for VPNs
Now that you've sorted out your VPN connection problems, it's worth considering that maybe you don't have the right VPN for your particular needs. With a wide range of options on the market, taking a look at your alternatives could save you a lot of time in the troubleshooting department down the line.
Tech.co has done extensive research on the best cheap VPNs on the market, so you can get an honest look at some of the features, pros, and cons of each. Then you can decide whether or not your current VPN is getting the job done.
Click to find the latest offers, deals and discounts from the VPN provider
Fast, effective, low-cost and simple – the best VPN we've tested, with risk-free money-back guarantee
Powerful features and security, but a bit technical. Some massive savings currently available.
A safe, simple, outstanding VPN
Outstanding value, with an advanced VPN app
Good VPN privacy at good speeds
A good, well-priced VPN
A decent option for expert users
A user-friendly VPN, let down by some speed loss
Superb features, but at a higher cost
A powerful tool for expert users
VPN Troubleshooting: Frequently Asked Questions
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