How to Set Up a VPN at Home

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review

Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) at home is a breeze since the best VPN services automatically handle the setup process after downloading their apps. But it's good to know what to expect if you're still deciding if a VPN's the right fit for your home.

Thwart hackers with the best internet security tips!
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

1. Install the VPN app

The download page on NordVPN's website

NordVPN's download page includes links to every version of the app.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

Once you choose a VPN service, it's effortless to set up your connection by downloading the VPN app:

  1. Go to the website for your chosen VPN service.
  2. Look for the download page in the main menu.
  3. Choose your operating system and start the download from there.
    • You may be directed to a third-party app store for the download, especially if you use a smartphone. Mobile apps install automatically—so you can skip the next step.
  4. Run the installer on your PC or Mac computer and follow the prompts until it finishes. You should see the app on your desktop, Start Menu, or Launchpad.
  5. Run your VPN app and sign in using your VPN account. Make sure to grant any security permissions the app requests.
    • If you don't have an account, the app will prompt you to create one and may direct you to a payment page to activate your subscription. This won't be a problem if you sign up beforehand.
Manual setup

It's possible to manually add a VPN through your Windows Control Panel, Mac Preferences, or mobile settings menus. You'll likely encounter manual installation when connecting to your employer's custom VPN. Your IT department will have more details. We recommend using an app-based VPN service for your personal devices since it's easier to set up.

Browser extensions on desktop computers

While installing a VPN app is the best way to protect all internet traffic on your device, you can also use a browser extension. Browser extensions are great for creating different settings for different browsers, but you won't have full access to every feature of the VPN app.

2. Select a server

NordVPN's screen for choosing a server

You can choose a server from the main screen of the NordVPN app.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

After logging in, your VPN will show the status and location of your VPN connection. You can tap or click on the location to change your server. Choosing a different server location can help bypass content censors in your home region, allowing access to websites as other countries see them.

VPN server tips

  • If you're using a free VPN provider, you'll have access to a handful of servers, which might not be in the country of your choice.
  • A server that works for one website today might not work tomorrow, so you'll need to try a different one if that fails.
  • Servers that are far from your current location may affect connection speeds. Consider choosing a closer server or turning off your VPN connection if your download speeds are too slow.
When to turn off your free VPN

We recommend turning off free VPN clients when not in use so you don't use up your data allowance—most data caps on free VPNs reset daily.

3. Advanced VPN settings

Bitdefender VPN's advanced settings menu

The Bitdefender VPN app includes advanced settings like a kill switch, split tunneling, and auto-connect.
Screenshot: John Carlsen, SafeWise

Your VPN configuration should work fine after choosing your preferred server, but you can adjust advanced VPN settings for additional security or better download performance.

  • Auto-connect: You can set your VPN to activate when you use a public or unsecured Wi-Fi connection while leaving the VPN off when you're at home.
  • Kill switch: The VPN's kill switch stops all internet traffic if your VPN fails. It's a way to prevent your personal information from leaking online without VPN encryption.
  • Split tunneling: You can tell the VPN how to treat specific apps and websites. This is great for turning off the VPN during online gaming sessions or activating it for online shopping.
  • Server presets: Use presets to make for easy switching between different VPN protocol and network settings. For example, NordVPN's default presets are Speed, Browsing, and Downloads.

Need help choosing a VPN?

Best VPN service
Nord VPN
Starts at

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

For many folks, choosing a VPN is the hardest part. If you have no experience with VPNs, it can be understandably overwhelming to select the best one for you. We recommend checking out our list of the best VPNs for in-depth advice—and to see why NordVPN is our top pick.


Anyone can set up a VPN because it's as easy as signing up for a VPN service and running an app.

Check with your VPN service to see which router models they support since not all routers are compatible with VPNs. Your VPN's website will provide step-by-step instructions for downloading server credentials and logging in to the VPN from your router.

Here are the router setup instructions for our top VPNs:

Compare the best internet security products

Best for
Starting price
Standout feature
Learn more
Best identity theft protection

$1 million recovery insurance

Two-factor authentication
Best VPNWorks on 6 devices 5,100 servers

60 countries

Best parental control Unlimited devicesEmail and social media monitoring, powerful parental controls
Best antivirus/malware software Protects up to 10 devices Includes VPN and password manager
Best password manager Unlimited devices with Premium plan VPN and dark web monitoring with Premium plan price as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. Read full disclaimer.
*First year only. Regular price $99.48/yr.
**First year only. Regular price $59.99/yr.


Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided "as is" and is subject to change or removal at any time.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over a decade of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

Recent Articles

woman adjusting thermostat in bright home
The Best Home Security Systems of 2024
After thousands of hours of tests and research, we picked Vivint and SimpliSafe as the...
Man and woman couple wife husband set up surveillance security camera
Best Apartment Security Systems
These renter-friendly apartment security systems help keep you safe and require less commitment than your...
Best DIY Home Security Systems of 2024
SimpliSafe is the best DIY home security system because it's cost-efficient, effective, and easy to...
happy older women sitting together
Best Medical Alert Necklaces
If you find yourself in an emergency, a medical alert necklace can contact trained professionals...