There have been plenty of reports online from people who can’t connect to their VPN when using a mobile hotspot. According to our research, people typically have issues with hotspots set up on iPhone devices. And sure enough, Apple themselves have acknowledged similar problems with personal hotspots on iOS 13.
Now, there are potentially millions of hardware and software combinations that could cause tethering issues. As such, we’ll focus on more broad solutions rather than try to pinpoint the exact app that’s causing trouble on your end. Feel free to shoot us a comment with your exact specs on the article, though – we’ll do our best to help you out.
Before we get into the more “technical” solutions, let’s go through the tried and true methods of solving tethering issues. Oh, and if you can, try to test if your VPN works properly on Wi-Fi or a wired connection before moving on. This will narrow down which issues are currently affecting your mobile hotspot.
#1 Update the OS on Your Devices
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, many people have had general problems running personal hotspots on iOS 13. Before you start blaming your VPN provider, try updating iOS to the latest version and see if that fixes the issue. We haven’t seen reports of any such issues happening on Android or other mobile OSs, but update your system regardless.
The same goes for Windows, macOS, and any other OS installed on the device(s) you’re using to connect to the hotspot. If you’re still using an unsupported operating system (such as Windows 7), it could be that your VPN provider hasn’t tested their app on the OS. In that case, it might be time to upgrade or switch to a different VPN provider that still supports old operating systems.
#2 Update Your VPN App
Alternatively, you may simply be running an out-of-date version of your VPN client. VPN apps usually notify you when updates are available, so don’t skip out on those. Try downloading and reinstalling the VPN from the provider’s website as well, just to be sure.
#3 Connect to a Different VPN Server
The VPN server you usually connect to (or a network node leading to it) may be experiencing technical difficulties. Try connecting to a different region, preferably further away from the one you’re currently on. Say, a UK VPN server versus one based in the USA.
#4 Restart the Hotspot Device
“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” – this question may have achieved meme status as of late, but sometimes your mobile device just needs a good old restart to get things working again. Here’s how to do so on iOS and Android.
- Apple has a couple of guides on how to restart your iPhone, regardless of the model.
- Most Android devices can be restarted by holding down the lock button and tapping the “Restart” option when prompted.
#5 Reset the Network Settings on Your Hotspot Device
The network settings on your mobile hotspot may interfere with your device’s ability to connect to VPN. Here’s how to reset your network settings:
- On iOS, head over to Settings. Tap on General > Reset > Reset Network Settings. Using USB or Bluetooth hotspot instead? Check out these other procedures on Apple’s website.
- On Android, go to Settings. Next, scroll down and tap on General management. Tap Reset > Reset Network Settings and confirm your selection.
#6 Change Your DNS Settings
If your network connection works fine on your mobile hotspot without the VPN active, the issue could lie with their Domain Name System (DNS) servers. The DNS is tasked with translating website names you type into your browser (like google.com) into an IP address readable by a server. Think of it as looking up a name in your contacts list and your phone automatically pulling up the phone number without you having to remember it.
Now, VPN providers usually run their own DNS servers to prevent your ISP from reading your DNS queries and keeping tabs on your browsing habits. Any issues with their DNS resolver could cause your network to appear “down” when using the VPN.
Here are a few guides on how to change your DNS server on most major operating systems. We recommend OpenDNS or Cloudflare’s services so that your DNS data isn’t collected by Google. They probably have enough of your data as it is.
#7 Check Your Firewall Settings
Your device’s firewall settings may be preventing you from connecting to a VPN when using a mobile hotspot. Here’s a useful guide to disable the default firewall on Windows – do so and see if the issue persists. If you’re using a third-party firewall (such as Bitdefender, Avast, etc.), consult your provider’s website on how to turn it off.
#8 Switch to a Different VPN Protocol
We’re getting into legacy software territory here, but we might as well cover it while we’re at it. Some users (here and here) have complained about their VPNs not running on iOS 10 while using the L2TP/IPSec protocol. This appears to have happened right after Apple stopped supporting the unsecure PPTP protocol on their devices – though, how the issues are connected remains a mystery.
If, for some reason, you don’t want to upgrade from iOS 10 to a later version, consider using a different VPN protocol. You can easily change the protocol from within your VPN client settings. We recommend using OpenVPN for the moment while (or WireGuard after it exits its beta stage on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS soon).
#9 The Nuclear Option: Reset to Factory Settings
This is a last resort solution in case everything else has failed thus far. A freshly reset hotspot device should be clear of any apps or firmware updates that could be preventing you from connecting to a VPN when using a mobile hotspot. Here’s how to do it (don’t forget to create a backup of your data):
- We have a guide on how to factory reset your iPhone right here on our website. Three different methods, no passcode needed. Apple has one too.
- Google has kindly provided instructions on how to factory reset your Android device as well.
#10 Still Can’t Connect to VPN When Using Mobile Hotspot? Try a Different VPN
If nothing else has worked, you may just need to cut your losses and go with a different provider. We recommend using ExpressVPN simply because of their long track record of being a reliable VPN provider, as well as their helpful 24/7 customer support that can help you out when the occasional issue does pop up.
Otherwise, feel free to check out our list of the best VPNs for 2021. Whether it’s for security, streaming, or simply satisfying service at a reasonable price, these providers have plenty to offer.