How to Set Up a VPN at Home

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.
Checklist
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.
Notepad
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
NordVPN
Starts at
$11.99
/mo

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.

FAQ

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

Brand
Best for
Starting price
Specs
Standout feature
Learn more
Read review
Best parental control Unlimited devicesEmail and social media monitoring
Best antivirus/malware software Protects up to 5 devices Includes VPN and parental controls
Best VPNWorks on 6 devices 5,100 servers

60 countries

Best identity theft protection

$1 million recovery insurance

Two-factor authentication
Best password manager Unlimited devices with Premium plan VPN and dark web monitoring with Premium plan

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. SafeWise uses paid Amazon links.


Disclaimers

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. Safewise.com 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 nine years 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

safewise's best home security systems
10 Best Home Security Systems of 2022
After hundreds of hours of tests and research, plus a combined 50+ years of experience,...
Senior woman hugging dog
8 Best Medical Alert Systems of 2022
See which medical alert system is the best to keep you and your loved one...
couple sitting on floor with moving boxes and a dog
2022 Best Home Security Systems for Renters
These renter-friendly home security systems keep your house or apartment safe and require less commitment...
Neighbourhood homes in the United Kingdom
The Best Home Alarm Systems in the UK
Find the right alarm system to protect your UK home. SafeWise recommends security systems for...