How to Fix a VPN That's Not Connecting

Get your VPN service up and running in no time

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Most of the time VPN services work without a hitch. So, it can be confusing or frustrating if you're suddenly having trouble connecting to your VPN. If your VPN is acting a little cranky and refusing to connect, this step-by-step troubleshooting guide can help you get up and running again.

Causes of VPN Connection Problems

VPN connection issues are often software or browser-related, so getting to the bottom of a VPN not connecting is usually just a process of elimination. For example, your VPN might be acting up due to:

  • An overloaded VPN server
  • Running out-of-date VPN software
  • Using the wrong VPN protocol

Troubleshooting Steps to Get Your VPN Reconnected

  1. Check your internet connection. In may seem obvious, but make sure your network connection is working. In particular, if your Wi-Fi connection isn't working, check if your device is actually connected to the correct access point.

  2. Check your login credentials. Another obvious, but often overlooked, detail is not having the correct or up-to-date login credentials. If you're using a free VPN service, check the website to see if the credentials supplied by the VPN service have changed. Passwords are often updated.

  3. Change the VPN server connection. VPNs generally offer a selection of servers you can connect to. However, sometimes the server you're trying to connect to is having issues. For example, it may be down temporarily or burdened with too many connections. Instead, try a different server and see if that resolves the problem.

  4. Restart your VPN software or browser plug-in. If changing the VPN server doesn't work, try restarting the VPN software or browser plug-in. Make sure to quit and restart the software (not just disconnect from the VPN server). In the case of browser plug-ins, be sure to fully close down and reopen your browser. You may even need to clear your browser cache to get the plug-in working again.

  5. Check that your VPN software is up-to-date. VPN software is frequently updated. To eliminate the possibility of bugs and to maximize performance, be sure you're running the latest software available. In most cases, you can simply check for updates under your VPN's menu to get the latest update. You can also set your VPN to update automatically under your VPN's settings.

  6. Check that your browser is up-to-date. To eliminate common browser-based issues, it's important to use a browser that's supported, and ideally, endorsed by your VPN provider. Also, make sure that you have the latest browser updates installed.

  7. Reinstall the latest VPN software package. If nothing else has worked to this point, you should consider reinstalling your VPN software. To get the latest package, head over to your VPN provider's site to find and reinstall the latest software package for your operating system or device. You may want to uninstall any old packages first to make sure you're starting with a clean slate.

  8. Change the VPN tunneling protocol. If you’re still struggling to connect, the problem could with the VPN's tunneling protocol. Go into your VPN or network settings and try using different protocols, for example: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, or IKeV2/IPSec.

    The location of these settings will vary by the VPN product, device, or operating system. If you have questions, contact your VPN provider. Whenever possible, avoid using the PPTP protocol, as it's not considered secure.

  9. Change the connection port. Some ISPs and and networks block traffic on specific ports. Check your VPN's documentation to see if they recommend using a particular port number. If so, see if using a different port solves the problem.

    The location of these settings will vary by the VPN product, device, or operating system. If you have questions, contact your VPN provider.

  10. Check your router settings. Some routers don't support VPN passthrough (a feature on a router that allows traffic to pass freely to the internet). On your home network, you can check your router and personal firewall settings for these options (you may need admin access to make these changes):

    • VPN Passthrough: There may be an option (usually in the security settings) to enable IPSec or PPTP (two common types of VPN protocols) Passthrough. Note that not all routers have this setting.
    • Port Forwarding & Protocols: Your firewall (within the router and in any installed firewall programs) may need to have specific ports forwarded and protocols opened. In particular, IPSec VPNs need to have UDP port 500 (IKE) forwarded, and protocols 50 (ESP) and 51 (AH) opened.

    Check your router's manual or website documentation for anything that says VPN and you should be able to find the information you need. If in doubt, contact your VPN provider.

  11. Talk to your VPN provider. If your VPN is still not connecting, contact your VPN provider. They may ask you which workarounds you tried, the kind of set up you have (the type of router, internet connection, operating system, etc), and any error messages received. As the VPN experts, they should be able to help you out!