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How To Set Up a VPN on Android (and Why You Might Want To)

A virtual private network (VPN) can provide an extra layer of security and privacy for your Android device. You may want to use a VPN if you connect to public Wi-Fi, access region-restricted content, or want to keep your online activity private.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explain everything you need to know about setting up a VPN on Android.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android Using a VPN App

The easiest way to set up a VPN on Android is by installing a VPN app from a trusted provider. Here‘s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose a reliable VPN service. We recommend ExpressVPN for its excellent security features, fast speeds, and ability to unblock streaming sites. Other top choices include NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost.

  2. Download the VPN provider‘s app from the Google Play Store. Search for the provider name (e.g. "ExpressVPN") to find the official app.

  3. Open the app and log in or sign up for an account. If you already have an account, enter your username and password. Otherwise, choose a subscription plan and create a new account.

  4. Tap the "Connect" button to establish the VPN connection. The app will connect you to the nearest high-speed server based on your location.

Once connected, the VPN app will encrypt all network traffic between your device and the internet. This prevents hackers on public Wi-Fi from snooping on your activity.

The app also lets you choose from thousands of VPN servers worldwide, change protocols, set up a kill switch, and configure other advanced VPN settings.

VPN Android app

What to Look for in a VPN Service

When choosing a VPN for your Android device, consider these factors:

  • Speed – Look for providers that offer fast connection speeds to minimize slowdowns.

  • Server locations – More server locations means you can bypass more geo-restrictions. Top services have 3,000+ servers.

  • Leak protection – Make sure the VPN offers a kill switch and IPv6/DNS leak protection.

  • Logging policy – Choose a no-logs VPN that doesn‘t record your online activity.

  • Security protocols – OpenVPN and WireGuard are highly secure protocols supported on Android.

  • Mobile app – A user-friendly Android app with advanced options is ideal.

  • Customer support – Pick a VPN with 24/7 live chat support in case you need troubleshooting help.

  • Price – VPN subscriptions typically range from $2 to $13 per month. Look for deals on longer plans.

Some of the best Android VPN apps in 2022 based on these criteria are:

  • ExpressVPN – Fast speeds, great unblocking abilities, and intuitive app.

  • NordVPN – 5,500+ servers worldwide and advanced security features.

  • Surfshark – Unlimited device connections and RAM-only servers.

  • ProtonVPN – Secure free version and dedicated streaming servers.

  • CyberGhost – Large server network with 7,000+ servers.

How to Manually Set Up a VPN Connection

You can also set up a VPN connection directly through your Android device‘s network settings instead of using a third-party app. Here are the steps:

  1. Open Settings and go to Network & Internet > Advanced > VPN.

  2. Tap the + icon in the top right corner to add a new VPN profile.

  3. Choose the type of VPN protocol you want to use: L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, or IPSec.

  4. Enter the VPN server hostname/IP address, along with username and password if required.

  5. Tap Save to finish adding the VPN connection details.

  6. Tap the VPN name to connect.

This will establish an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server you specified. Traffic will be routed through the VPN tunnel rather than your default internet connection.

The built-in Android VPN client supports L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec protocols. However, these protocols have known security vulnerabilities. OpenVPN and WireGuard are more secure protocols frequently used by commercial VPN services.

To set up a VPN with OpenVPN or WireGuard on Android, you‘ll need to use a VPN provider‘s app instead of the manual connection method. The app handles configuring the protocols securely.

How to Set Up OpenVPN on Android

OpenVPN is one of the most secure, open-source VPN protocols available today. Here‘s how to set it up on your Android device:

  1. Install OpenVPN for Android from the Google Play store. This is the official OpenVPN client app.

  2. Download the OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN provider‘s website. The files usually have a .ovpn extension.

  3. Transfer the .ovpn files to your Android device. You can upload them to cloud storage like Google Drive and download to your phone.

  4. Open the OpenVPN app, tap Import, and select the .ovpn files you transferred.

  5. Enter your VPN username and password when prompted.

  6. Tap Connect and the VPN will establish an OpenVPN connection.

With the OpenVPN app installed and configured using your provider‘s .ovpn files, you can enjoy a more secure VPN connection than the built-in Android protocols allow.

How to Change VPN Settings

You may want to change your Android VPN settings from time to time. Here are a few common settings you can adjust:

From the VPN app:

  • Server location – Connect to servers in different countries for geo-shifting.

  • Protocol – Select from protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec.

  • Kill switch – Enable this to block internet if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly.

  • Split tunneling – Choose which apps use the VPN tunnel vs. your regular connection.

  • App exclusions – Prevent selected apps from using the VPN.

From Android settings:

  • Always-on VPN – Keep the VPN automatically connected at all times.

  • Block connections without VPN – Prevent internet access if the VPN is disconnected.

  • DNS settings – Use private DNS servers or your provider‘s DNS for additional privacy.

Adjusting these settings helps you customize your VPN connection. Be sure to hit Save after making any changes.

Why You Should Use a VPN on Android

There are many great reasons to use a VPN on your Android smartphone or tablet:

1. Wi-Fi Security

Public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, airports, hotels, and other locations are often not secure. A VPN protects you from man-in-the-middle attacks, snooping, and other threats on public Wi-Fi by encrypting your connection.

2. Hide Traffic from Your ISP

Your internet service provider can view your browsing history, downloads, and other online activity. A VPN hides this information from your ISP, preventing them from monitoring what you do online or selling your data.

3. Bypass Censorship and Restrictions

VPNs allow you to bypass geo-blocking restrictions to access region-locked content. For example, you could watch Netflix from other countries or access news sites blocked by censorship.

4. Torrent Safely and Privately

Downloading torrents can expose your IP address. With a VPN, you can torrent securely and keep your downloads private from prying eyes.

5. Access Blocked Networks and Websites

School, office, or public networks often block certain websites and apps. A VPN allows you to bypass these restrictions so you can access anything on the internet.

6. Enhanced Privacy from Advertisers

Advertisers use your browsing data to target intrusive ads and track your online activities. A VPN hides your traffic and real IP address to stop this personalized tracking.

7. Secure Public Wi-Fi Access

VPNs encrypt all network traffic between your device and the internet. This prevents cybercriminals on public networks from intercepting sensitive information like logins, emails, and financial data.

8. Safeguard Banking and Shopping

Perform secure transactions online without worrying about your payment details or personal info being intercepted on public networks.

9. Remote Access to Local Networks

Connect securely to your home or work network to access local resources like file servers, databases, and internal tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Android have a built-in VPN service?

Yes, Android 4.0+ has native support for VPNs using the L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and IPSec protocols. However, these protocols have vulnerabilities. For best security, use a third-party VPN app with OpenVPN or WireGuard.

What‘s the best free VPN for Android?

Some good free choices include ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, and VPN. Just know free VPNs often have usage limits, fewer features, and slower speeds compared to paid services.

Can I use VPNs on my Chromebook?

Absolutely. Just install the VPN provider‘s Chrome extension from the Chrome Web Store or use the Android app on Chromebooks that support Google Play apps.

Will a VPN reduce my internet speeds?

VPN connections can result in slightly slower speeds due to encryption overhead and the extra distance data travels. However, speed impacts are usually minimal with a well-optimized VPN.

Does a VPN protect against malware and viruses?

VPNs provide online privacy and security against attacks on public Wi-Fi. But VPNs alone don‘t shield you from downloading malware or viruses. Use antivirus software in addition to a VPN for comprehensive protection.

Can I stream Netflix with a VPN?

Yes, most quality paid VPNs can unblock Netflix and allow you to access content from other countries. Be aware that streaming with a VPN violates Netflix‘s terms of service.

Do VPNs keep logs of user activity?

Unfortunately, some free and cheap VPNs do keep connection logs. To ensure complete privacy, only use trusted VPNs with a strict no-logs policy like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Final Thoughts

Installing and using a VPN on your Android device helps keep your browsing activity private, secures public Wi-Fi connections, allows you to bypass geo-blocks, and more.

The easiest way to set up a VPN on Android is by downloading a VPN app such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN. These apps make it fast and simple to connect with just a tap. You can also manually configure a VPN using the built-in Android VPN client.

For maximum security, use the OpenVPN protocol by installing an OpenVPN client app and configuring it with your provider‘s files. Avoid the default Android protocols like PPTP and L2TP/IPSec as they have vulnerabilities.

Secure your Android device today with one of the top VPN services to enjoy safer, private browsing on the go.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.