How to Set Up VPN on iPhone

Keep your data encrypted as you use the internet on your iOS device

VPN concept
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Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection on your iPhone to tunnel all the traffic through a secure path. There are lots of things a VPN can do, like enable access to location-based restricted content, prevent your ISP from seeing your web traffic, use torrent sites anonymously, mitigate government spying, and more. Setup is easy if you use a VPN app, but you can also configure a VPN manually on your iPhone.

The VPN app directions in this article apply to all versions of iOS, while the manual VPN configuration setup applies to iOS 12, iOS 11, and iOS 10.

Use an iOS VPN App

Setting up a VPN on an iPhone using a VPN app is easy. Install the app, log in with your account information, and the app handles all the VPN configuration details.

Most VPN apps also support features like server switching and a failsafe to shut down data usage if the VPN connection drops.

  1. Sign up for a VPN service that includes the features you want, but make sure it also includes a mobile app. Some well-known VPN providers that offer highly-rated iOS apps include NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and ProtonVPN.

    While free VPN alternatives are available, paid VPN services usually don't limit things like speed or data usage.

  2. Install the VPN app on your iPhone, then log in with the username and password you used to create the account.

    The app login information may differ from the VPN account information. For example, the VPN account information might be used to manage your VPN subscription but different credentials may be required to connect to the VPN's servers.

  3. Turn on the VPN. Each app works differently. For example, you may need to tap the OFF button to enable the VPN, or choose a location to connect to that specific VPN.

    TunnelBear VPN iPhone app
  4. Follow any on-screen setup procedures that are specific to the VPN app you chose. For example, you may need to add VPN configuration files to the phone or allow special permissions.

You may also have the opportunity to configure some advanced settings. Though optional, VPN providers offer additional controls that can be customized, such as the protocol used or enhanced security options.

For example, many VPN apps auto-detect your location and route traffic to a set of servers that are nearby to favor speed over location preference. However, you may prefer to use a more remote, slower server located in another country. This might allow you to access sites and services not available in your current location, such as a particular movie streaming website or P2P service.

Manually Configure a VPN on iOS

Another way to set up a VPN on an iPhone is to configure the server details manually. Before you begin, collect some technical details like the VPN connection protocol type, certificates, server details, and proxy settings.

  1. To add a new VPN configuration, open the Settings app and select General > VPN > Add VPN Configuration.

    General, VPN, Add VPN Configuration buttons in iOS Settings app
  2. Choose Type and select one of the VPN tunneling protocols: IKEv2, IPsec, or L2TP. Then, tap Back to return to the previous screen.

  3. Fill in the server details. Depending on the tunnel protocol you chose in the previous step, enter a Description, Server, Account, Secret, Remote ID, User Authentication, and Local ID.

    iPhone VPN protocol configuration screens

    The Description field is the name of the VPN service. Server is either an IP address or a domain name. Remote ID is a hostname. Local ID is sometimes left empty.

  4. If needed, configure proxy details at the bottom of the VPN configuration screen. Use the Manual proxy options to specify server, port, and authentication settings. Use Auto to enter a URL.

  5. Tap Done when you're finished with the iPhone VPN setup.

  6. To enable VPN connections on your iPhone, go to Settings > General > VPN and turn on the Status toggle switch.

    VPN options in iOS Settings
  7. Select the VPN configuration you want to use on your iPhone. If you set up only one VPN, it is chosen by default.

After the configuration is complete, whenever you want to enable the VPN, open the Settings app and tap VPN, which is located under other network connection types like Bluetooth and Cellular.

To change the VPN to a different configuration that you've already set up, return to the screen mentioned in Step 6 and tap the preferred VPN server.

If the connection details are valid, a VPN indicator appears at the top of the screen next to other icons like Wi-Fi and your mobile carrier. This tells you that the VPN connection has been established.