A VPN Troubleshooting Guide: Solve All Your VPN Problems


The best VPN services run smoothly in the background while you browse or stream, with little work required. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best VPNs run into problems. Use this handy VPN troubleshooting guide as a one-stop-shop for solving all your VPN problems.

Common VPN connection issues

  • VPN server not responding
  • Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is blocking VPN access
  • When old VPN packages interfere with new ones
  • The configured firewall interrupts your connection

Most VPN issues cause your VPN to disconnect from the internet. There are many reasons why your VPN might fail to connect, 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 determine and fix the cause of a VPN connection failure.

Here’s why your business needs a VPN.

Step 1: Check your internet connection

Sometimes a connection failure has nothing to do with your VPN. It is simply the result of a failing 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 bright green light – to tell you whether or not it’s currently connected to the internet. Check the manual that came with your router to see where the internet connection indicator is for your model.

If the problem is indeed an internet connection problem, 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 like Netflix, have taken 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 they load correctly, you’re probably blocked by a specific site. If not, it’s probably a broader connection issue.

Websites that block VPNs usually do so by blocking specific VPN servers. You can try changing server to solve this problem. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to disable your VPN to access the site or try again with another VPN provider.

Step 3: Change server

If you have determined that a specific site is not blocking the VPN and it is still not connecting, there may be a problem with the server. Some VPNs, especially free ones, suffer from saturation. Essentially, too many people are trying to connect to the same server at once, causing the VPN to block some of them or slow down their internet connection to keep up with the demand.

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

Step 4: Disable your firewall, temporarily!

If you’ve tried multiple servers and you’re still having VPN connection issues, turn off your firewall, then go to a website you know and trust while connected to your VPN. If it works, your VPN is probably conflicting with your firewall. Do not continue browsing with the firewall disabled. A VPN will protect your privacy online, but it won’t protect your computer from viruses and malware.

If you’re using a paid firewall, try switching to the free firewall that came with your computer. You can also try adding your VPN to the firewall’s whitelist, although this works less often than we’d like. If these options don’t work, some VPN providers also offer a firewall product guaranteed to work with their VPN service. Try one of these solutions, but do not continue browsing without a firewall.

Step 5: Restart the VPN

Turning it off and on again is a proven tech support solution, and it can apply to VPNs. If you are using a desktop or mobile VPN app, disconnect from the VPN server and disconnect completely, then reconnect and reconnect.

If you are using a browser-based extension, log out, clear your browser cache, and close the browser. Then open your browser and log in again.

Step 6: Make sure everything is up to date

Surfshark user interface, showing software version

Internet browsers and VPN service providers regularly update their software, and there is no coordination between the two. If your VPN still isn’t working, check if you have the latest version from your VPN provider. Some updates are automatic, while others are manual. Your VPN may not be working because a manual update needs to be downloaded from your 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 another browser compatible with your VPN is the best solution. Your VPN provider should list compatible browsers on their website.

Step 7: Change your VPN tunneling 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 very serious security concerns, you don’t need to know the technical details behind these protocols, beyond the fact that switching protocols can sometimes resolve connection issues.

Go to your VPN settings and try a few 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 popular VPN protocols with a low likelihood of connection issues.

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

Step 8: Contact Support

If you still can’t connect after trying these steps, your issue may be specific to your particular VPN provider. It could also be an advanced problem that is beyond the technical abilities of the average user to solve.

In either case, it’s best to contact your VPN provider’s customer support team and open a ticket. VPNs are technically complex, and sometimes the best thing to do is to seek professional help.

Summary

VPNs have a lot of complicated tech 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 to fix the problem quickly. Changing servers or turning the VPN off and on is often enough to restore your connection. And if all else fails, contacting support is always a great option.

Need help choosing or switching VPN providers? Check out our articles on the best free VPN in 2022 and the best business VPN in 2022.

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