How to Fix a VPN That's Not Connecting

Get your VPN service up and running in no time

Most of the time, VPN services work without a hitch. So, it can be confusing or frustrating if you suddenly have trouble connecting to your VPN. When 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 solving the problem of a misbehaving VPN is usually a process of elimination. Your VPN might be acting up due to:

  • An overloaded VPN server
  • Running out-of-date VPN software
  • Using the wrong VPN protocol
Security lock on circuit board
D3Damon / Getty Images

Troubleshooting Steps to Reconnect Your VPN

When your VPN won't connect, try these solutions:

  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 whether your device is connected to the correct access point.

  2. Check your login credentials. Not having the correct or up-to-date login credentials is another obvious but often overlooked detail. If you use a free VPN service, check the website to see if the credentials supplied by the VPN service have changed or your password needs to be 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. It may be down temporarily or burdened with too many connections. Try a different server and see if that resolves the problem.

  4. Restart the VPN software or browser plug-in. If changing the VPN server doesn't work, restart the VPN software or browser plug-in. Don't just disconnect from the VPN server; quit and restart the software. In the case of browser plug-ins, fully close down and reopen the browser. You may 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 check for updates under the VPN menu to get the latest update. You can also set your VPN to update automatically in the VPN settings.

  6. Check that your browser is up-to-date. To eliminate common browser-based issues, use a browser that's supported and 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, reinstall the VPN software. To get the latest package, go to the 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 start with a clean slate.

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

    The location of these settings varies 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 networks block traffic on specific ports. Check the VPN's documentation to see if it recommends using a particular port number. If so, using a different port may solve the problem.

  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, check your router and personal firewall settings for these options. You may need admin access to make any changes.

    • VPN Passthrough: There may be an option 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 in the router and 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 the VPN provider. If the VPN is still not connecting, contact your VPN provider. A technician may ask you which workarounds you tried, the kind of setup you have—type of router, internet connection, and operating system—and any error messages you received. As a VPN expert, the provider should be able to help you out.