How to Set up VPN on iPhone

Keep your data encrypted as you use the internet

Photo of iPhone, with VPN enabled visible, but other options and handle blurred

A virtual private network (VPN) connection secures and sends your network data through a service (or server) of your choice. This makes it difficult for anyone in between you and your destination site to intercept your data. When you connect to Wi-Fi, for example, network traffic typically travels from your device to your router, to an internet service provider (ISP), then across the internet to your requested destination. Without encryption, your network data may be open to inspection by anyone once it leaves your device.

Many sites take steps to secure communication. For example, when you visit http://Google.com, Google automatically redirects you to https://Google.com. The “s” that follows the “http” indicates that the site has secured communication to your device with encryption.

A VPN connection encrypts all data from your device to the VPN provider. Even communication from your device to sites that support http: will be routed through your selected VPN service, which makes it difficult for an ISP or Wi-Fi router administrator to see your data. (See “What a VPN Can Do for You” to learn more.)

To configure a VPN connection on an iPhone or iPad, you can either use an app or enter settings manually.

How to Configure a VPN on iOS With an App

Most people will want to use an app to manage VPN connections on an iOS device. You’ll need to install an app, sign in, and allow it to create and manage VPN settings on your device. But once you do, the app handles VPN configuration details.

  1. Sign up for a VPN service.

    Three well-known VPN providers that offer highly-rated iOS apps include NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and ProtonVPN. You should expect to pay somewhere between $4 to $12 per month for an account. While free VPN alternatives are available, these free services typically also place limits on speeds, data usage, or number of devices. (See “The Best VPN Service Providers of 2018” to explore the details of many other VPN service providers.)

  2. Install the iOS app.

    Next, install the iOS app for the VPN service you selected. NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and ProtonVPN all offer apps that work on both an iPhone or iPad.

  3. Sign in with your account.

    Tap the installed VPN app to open it, then sign in with your account user name and password. Note that sometimes your app sign in may differ from your VPN account sign in. Your account sign in may allow you to manage your subscription, for example, while your app sign in allows you to connect to the VPN service’s servers.

    Screenshot of Private Internet Access sign in screen, which requires username and password
  4. Grant the App the Permissions it Needs.

    Allow your app to "Add VPN Configurations". This enables the app to configure and manage the connection details.

    Screenshot of VPN app requesting you to
  5. Turn on the VPN.

    Each of these three services lets you activate a connection to your VPN service’s servers after you open the app with either a tap or a slider. That means it takes two taps to turn on your VPN: A tap on the app and a tap (or slide) to turn on the service.

    In most cases, that’s all you need to do. You’ll see the letters “VPN” at the top of your device’s screen when your VPN is active. That’s the indicator that your network data is now securely routed from your device to your VPN provider.

    Screenshot of VPN app with connection enabled.
  6. OPTIONAL: Customize settings.

    VPN providers typically also offer additional controls you can customize, such as server location, protocol, or enhanced security options. For example, many VPN apps auto-detect and route your traffic to a set of servers that may be nearby and that offer a fast connection. However, sometimes, you might prefer to route your traffic to more remote, slower servers located in another country. This may allow you to access sites and services not available in your current location.

    Additional configuration options may improve security. A “kill-switch” option typically disables network data access if the VPN is turned off for any reason. In most cases, if this sort of option is available, you should select it. Many VPN providers also allow you to select a specific type of VPN protocol to use, such as OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, or PPTP. Not all VPN providers default to the most secure options by default, so the ability to specify a more secure protocol may improve the security of your connection.

    Screenshot of Private Internet Access app configuration settings
  7. That's it! Now, use your app to control your VPN whenever you need a secure connection.

How to Manually Configure a VPN on iOS

Alternatively, you may also configure a VPN connection on your iPhone or iPad manually. You’ll need to know more technical details to do so, however. These options may include the VPN connection protocol type, server details, and access to a VPN certificate, in addition to your VPN username and password.

  1. Add a VPN configuration.

    To add a new VPN configuration manually, tap Settings > General > VPN > Add VPN Configuration. This will bring you to a screen with several configuration options.

    Screenshot of
  2. Tap Type.

    Select from IKEv2, IPsec, or L2TP. Then tap Add Configuration to return to the settings screen. (See “VPN Tunnels Tutorial” to learn more about each of these protocols.)

    VPN Configuration details screen, shows Type, server, remote ID, authentication fields, and proxy configuration
  3. Fill in server details.

    Fill in the Description, Server, Remote ID, and optionally, the Local ID. The description is typically the name of the VPN service. The server, generally, will either be an IP address or a domain name, while the remote ID may be a hostname. You will sometimes leave the Local ID empty.

  4. Add authentication details.

    Tap User Authentication to adjust the sign in type to None, Username (most common), or Certificate. Tap Back to return to the configuration screen. Add Username and Password details.

  5. If needed, configure Proxy options.

    You may configure a proxy option, if needed. Manual options allow you to specify Server, Port, and Authentication settings. Auto options allow you to add a URL.

  6. When complete, tap Done.

  7. Slide to enable VPN.

    After the configuration is complete, whenever you want to enable the VPN, tap Settings. You’ll see a VPN option below your Bluetooth and Cellular settings. Enable the slider to turn on the VPN connection. If your settings are valid and accepted, you’ll see the letters “VPN” at the top of your screen to indicate an active VPN connection.

    Screenshot of Settings > VPN, with slider enabled (VPN active)
  8. Enjoy your secure VPN connection!