VPN Troubleshooting Guide: Fix All Your VPN Problems


The best VPN services run smoothly in the background while browsing or streaming, with very little work required. However, unfortunately, sometimes the best VPNs will run into problems. Use this practical VPN troubleshooting guide as a one-stop shop to fix all your VPN problems.

Common VPN Connection Problems

  • VPN server not responding
  • Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is blocking access to the VPN
  • When old VPN packages overlap with new ones
  • The firewall that is set cuts your connection

Most VPN issues result in your VPN disconnecting from the Internet. There are many reasons why your VPN connection might fail, but the end result is the same – your VPN stops working, leaving your browsing session unprotected.

Read on for eight steps you can take to identify and correct the cause of a VPN connection failure.

Step 1: Check your internet connection

Sometimes, the connection failure has nothing to do with your VPN at all. It is simply the result of a failed internet connection.

The best way to check if your internet is down is to look at your router. It should have an indicator – often a glowing green light – to tell you if it’s currently online. Consult the manual that came with your router for where to locate the Internet connection indicator for your model.

If the problem is really with your internet connection, check out our guide on how to troubleshoot your internet connection.

Step 2: Check if the site/service you are accessing allows VPNs

Some websites, especially streaming service providers such as NetflixTake steps to block VPNs from accessing them. The easiest way to test if this is happening to you is to try browsing through several random web pages. If it loads fine, you are likely to be blocked by a certain site. If not, it’s likely a broader connection issue.

Websites that block VPNs usually do this by blocking certain VPN servers. You can try switching servers to solve this problem. If that doesn’t work, you will have to turn off the VPN to access the site or try again with a different VPN provider.

Step 3: Change the server

Surfshark user interface, showing available servers

If you determine that a particular site is not blocking the VPN, and it still won’t connect, there may be a server issue. Some VPNs, especially free ones, suffer from overcrowding. Essentially, too many people are trying to connect to the same server simultaneously, forcing the VPN to block some of them or slow down their internet connection to handle the request.

A particular server may also be down due to technical difficulties. Either way, try switching to a different server, perhaps in a less known location.

Step 4: Disable the Firewall – Temporarily!

If you’ve tried different servers and you’re still having issues with your VPN connection, disable your firewall, then go to a website you know and trust while connected to your VPN. If that works, it’s possible that your VPN is conflicting with your firewall. Don’t keep browsing with the firewall off – a VPN will protect your online privacy, but it won’t protect your computer from viruses and malware.

If you are using a paid firewall, try switching to the free firewall that comes with your computer. You can also try adding your VPN to the firewall whitelist, although this works less well than we would like. If these options do not work, some VPN providers also offer a firewall product that is guaranteed to be compatible with their VPN service. Try any of these solutions, but don’t continue browsing without a firewall.

Step 5: Restart the VPN

Turning it off and on again is a tried and true tech support solution, and it can be applied to VPNs. If you are using a desktop or mobile VPN app, disconnect the VPN server and log out completely, then log back in and reconnect.

If you are using a browser-based extension, log out, clear your browser cache, and close your browser. Then open your browser and log in again. (if I were Microsoft Edge User, see our helpful guide on how to view and delete Microsoft Edge browsing history.)

Step 6: Make sure everything is up to date

Surfshark user interface, showing software version

Internet browsers and VPN service providers update their software regularly, and there is no coordination between the two. If your VPN is still not working, check if you have the latest version from your VPN provider. Some updates are automatic, others are manual. Your VPN may not work because manual update needs to be downloaded from your service provider’s website.

You should also check your web browser to make sure it is up to date. Sometimes, the browser will need to be updated. In other cases, your VPN may not be compatible with the latest version of your browser. If so, downloading a different browser compatible with your VPN is the best solution. Your VPN provider should indicate compatible browsers on their website.

Step 7: Change your VPN tunnel protocol

Surfshark user interface, showing advanced settings

VPNs use a point-to-point tunneling protocol to facilitate a secure and anonymous Internet connection for you. Unless you have major security concerns, you don’t need to know the technical details behind these protocols other than the fact that changing the protocol can sometimes fix connection issues.

Go to your VPN settings and try some different protocols from the list. Some examples of protocols are OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, or IKeV2/IPSec. OpenVPN, in particular, is one of the oldest and most widespread VPN protocols, with little potential for connection issues.

All commonly available VPN protocols are secure and encrypted. You should not worry too much about the security consequences of changing your VPN protocol. If you have concerns, contact your VPN provider’s customer support team before changing your VPN protocol.

Step 8: Contact Support

If you are still unable to connect after trying these steps, your problem may be specific to your VPN provider. It can also be an advanced problem that is beyond the average user’s technical capabilities to solve.

Either way, it is best to contact your VPN provider’s customer support team and open a ticket. VPNs are technically complex, and sometimes the best course of action is to seek help from a professional.

Summary

VPNs have a lot of complex technologies on the back end, but for the most part, they tend to work without a hitch. If you run into a problem, now that you’ve read our eight-step guide, use your newfound knowledge for quick troubleshooting. Switching servers or turning the VPN off and on again is often enough to restore your connection. And if all else fails, contacting support is still a great option.

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