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Published: Jul 20, 2023 14 min read

Using a virtual private network (VPN) can give you a more private and secure online experience. But configuring a VPN can be a challenge. If you need help with VPN configuration for iPhone, Android or a router, you’re in the right place.

Read on to learn about your connection options, configuration settings, common issues and more.

What are VPN configurations?

VPN configuration is another way of saying setting up your VPN. It’s a process that involves choosing the settings and security measures you want to use, so you can achieve different goals like better performance and more private browsing.

For the average user, this means installing an app or inputting basic information into an iPhone or Android device. But there are many ways to customize your VPN connection, some of which can be quite useful and are worth considering.

For example, you could add a killswitch to your VPN that automatically cuts off your internet connection when the VPN drops. This can help you avoid accidentally using a website with your real internet connection.

You could also use split tunneling to push some types of traffic through your virtual private network and others through your standard connection. This could be useful if you have varying privacy needs across different websites.

Types of VPN configurations

Whether you’re still wondering “Do I need a VPN?” or you already have one, it’s worth reviewing the different types of VPN configurations. We cover three of the most common ones below.

Remote access VPN

A remote access VPN connects you to a private network from anywhere in the world. It does so through an application that you can download on any device. Businesses and governments may set up remote access VPNs so their employees can access internal systems without being in the office.

Individual users can also connect to remote access VPNs to conceal their internet traffic. You can download a remote access VPN application on your devices and use it to connect to a server in another part of the country or world. This masks your identity to anyone who may be looking at your web browsing data.

Site-to-site VPN

Site-to-site VPNs connect local area networks (LANs) in multiple locations. This type of VPN may be beneficial to companies with offices in several cities. When employees at each location connect to a site-to-site VPN, they can securely share internal files with one another without having to send them over an open and potentially vulnerable internet connection.

That being said, a site-to-site VPN configuration won’t be your best option if you’re an individual internet user. They are designed to connect two private networks, whereas you’ll want to use a single private network to access an open one (the Internet).

Cloud VPN

Cloud VPNs offer similar benefits to remote access VPNs. They allow individual users to connect to private networks from anywhere in the world. However, the private network that the user connects to with this option is their company’s cloud rather than its internal servers.

This option can make a lot of sense for companies that house their data in the cloud. However, it’s another type of VPN that you probably don’t need to worry about as an individual internet user.

Important VPN configuration settings to know about

Using a remote access VPN makes the most sense for the average internet user, but there are still various settings to consider as you go through the manual VPN configuration process.

VPN protocols

VPN protocols are rulesets. They define the speed, stability and security of data flow between your device and the private network you’re connected to. Your VPN provider will typically choose the protocol that your VPN connection uses, as these can be highly technical and beyond the scope of the average user’s competence.

Some of the most common VPN protocols are:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPsec
  • WireGuard
  • SSTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP

VPN server location

You may be asked to choose a server location when adding VPN configurations. Your selection will determine where it looks like your internet traffic is coming from to outside observers. For instance, if you connect to a VPN server in Cairo, it will appear as if you are an internet user in Egypt.

Server location can play a role in the type of content and websites you’re able to access. For example, streaming platforms like Netflix make different shows and movies available to customers in Austria than they do for those in Canada. Certain websites may also only be accessible to users in specific countries.

If your primary concern is privacy, the server location you choose matters less. Your main objective will be masking your identity; connecting to a server in any part of the world that’s not your own can accomplish that.

DNS server settings

When you want to access a website, you type its address into your search bar and hit enter. The Domain Name System (DNS) is what makes this possible. It translates numeric IP addresses into words that are easier for humans to remember.

VPNs redirect your DNS as part of their privacy-enhancing features. Most commercially available VPNs do this by themselves, but many give you the option of replacing the VPN’s standard DNS with one of your own.

This setting is only worth thinking about if you have a specific reason for doing so. For example, changing your DNS can sometimes increase your browsing speed while using a VPN. A custom DNS may also be better at blocking ads and malware.

Configuring VPN settings on different devices

Now that you know the basics of VPN configuration, you can take that information and use it to set up VPNs on your devices. Below, we take a look at that process for iPhones, Androids and routers.

How to configure a VPN on iPhone

There are two ways to set up a VPN on your iPhone. The easiest option is to pay for a VPN provider with an iPhone app. Once you set up your account, you download the company’s app on your phone, sign in to your account and automatically connect to a VPN without having to input any technical information.

You can also set up an iPhone VPN configuration manually. This is what you will need to do if you want to connect to a private network that’s run by an employer or organization. But before getting started, you will need to know your VPN’s server address and password. Once you have that, use the following instructions.

  1. From your home screen, tap the settings icon. Then tap “General”. Then “VPN & Device Management”.
  2. Tap “VPN”.
  3. Tap on “Add VPN Configuration”.
  4. Tap on the type of VPN you plan on using. Apple lets you choose from IKEv2, IPSec and L2TP. You may need to contact your VPN company if you’re unsure of which protocol it uses.
  5. Tap “Back” to return to the previous screen.
  6. Enter the requested VPN information, including description, server and password.
  7. Configure any additional optional settings you want, such as Proxy or RSA.
  8. Tap “Done” to complete the setup process.

How to configure VPN on Android

Like iPhones, there are also two ways to set up a VPN on an Android device. The first and easiest option is to download your VPN provider’s app from the Google play store and sign in with your credentials.

Configuring a VPN manually may be necessary when you want to connect to an employer’s private network. To do so:

  1. From your home screen, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap “Network & Internet”. Then tap “VPN”.
  3. On the top right-hand corner of the screen, tap “Add (+)”.
  4. Enter the requested information from your administrator.
  5. Tap “Save”.

When you want to connect to the same VPN in the future, you can do so from the same menu. Except, instead of tapping the “Add (+)” button, you will tap on this VPN configuration to reconnect to it.

How to configure VPN on a router

Routers help connect your devices to the internet. Some are VPN-compatible, which means you can connect the router directly to your VPN instead of connecting each individual device you use. You may even be able to find pre-configured VPN routers with minimal setup requirements.

Configuring a VPN on your router will add another layer of security to every device that accesses your local network — even those that don’t support native VPN connections on their own. However, this protection goes away when you’re no longer connected to the VPN-compatible router. That might happen when you use a device away from home or use your phone’s mobile data plan instead of your WiFi connection.

Each VPN router has its own configuration instructions, which makes it difficult to provide detailed instructions here. But the process usually involves logging in to your router’s administrative panel and inputting the information that your VPN provider gives you.

Common VPN configuration issues and how to troubleshoot them

As you go through the configuration process for your VPN, you might run into one (or more) common issues. Read on to learn about some of those issues and how to troubleshoot them.

Dropped internet connection

A good starting point if you’re experiencing VPN connection issues is to verify that your VPN is the source of the problem. To do that, you need to rule out any problems with your regular internet connection.

The easiest way to do this is by accessing the internet without logging into your VPN. If you are able to do so but then can’t connect after logging back into your VPN, you will know that the problem has something to do with your VPN configuration settings.

Inaccurate credentials

You will also run into connection issues if you provide your commercial VPN service with inaccurate login details. It’s worth reviewing that you have entered your username and password correctly before considering more technical VPN troubleshooting solutions.

VPN server downtime

Another possible connection issue is that the VPN server you’re trying to connect to is experiencing downtime. You can check for this problem by attempting to connect to a new server in another location.

For example, instead of using your standard connection in the United Kingdom, try one in Germany or Japan. If you’re able to use your VPN normally after doing so, the problem was likely with the original server.

Firewall or antivirus blocking

Some devices have aggressive firewalls and antivirus programs that may block VPN traffic due to a mistaken belief that it’s dangerous. If you’re running one of these programs, try disabling it temporarily.

If your VPN works afterward, you may need to contact the company behind the program to find a solution. You might also be able to find guides online for using a VPN with your firewall or antivirus.

Outdated VPN app

It’s also worth considering the last time you updated your VPN app. If you can’t remember, there’s a chance that you’re using an older version of the program that is no longer fully supported by the creator. You can try updating your VPN app to resolve this issue.

Contact customer support

If none of these troubleshooting solutions fixed your VPN issue, then it may require a more technical fix. The easiest way to repair these issues is to contact your VPN’s customer support team. They can help you pinpoint the problem and walk you through a solution.

Summary of Money's what is VPN configuration

VPN configuration is the process of setting up a new VPN connection on a device or router. It involves choosing performance and security-related parameters to achieve an optimized private browsing experience with your current internet service provider.

However, the average user doesn’t need to get technical with their VPN configuration. The process can be as simple as paying a VPN provider, downloading its app and logging in with your username and password. More advanced configuration is typically only necessary when you want to connect an employer’s private VPN or are interested in custom VPN settings that aren’t offered by your provider.