How to Set Up a VPN on iOS

Apple has done plenty to embrace VPN services on iOS devices. This means that you have several methods of setting up and using a VPN, and we’re going to explain all of them. More precisely, you can install an iOS VPN by using the iOS App Store, as well as by using the OpenVPN Connect app (if you wish to use OpenVPN). And you can also go around any VPN app by configuring your VPN manually on iOS. Even though using the iOS App Store seems to be the most intuitive method, others come with their benefits as well. So, let’s talk about how to set up a VPN on an iPhone or iPad.

To explain how each of the following installation methods should look like, we’re going to use a concrete example. Yes, we’re talking about ExpressVPN, our editorial team’s VPN of choice. No matter if you need complete protection for your privacy or if you wish to unblock websites (and streaming platforms), ExpressVPN should meet your every need. Of course, there are other options around, so you’ll want to check the best VPNs for iOS.

Finally, here are 3 different methods to set up a VPN on iOS devices in 2020.

Method #1: Set Up a VPN via the iOS App Store

By far, the easiest way to set up a VPN on your iOS device is by using the app created by the VPN provider itself. It means that you’ll use the iOS App Store to download your chosen VPN, so let’s see how this is done by using ExpressVPN.

  • Open the App Store on your iPhone or iPad. Tap on “Search,” found in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Then, search for “ExpressVPN.”

ExpressVPN App on iOS App Store
  • Once the App Store shows a list of results, go ahead and click on the VPN’s icon to open its overview. Click on “Get” and download the app on your device. You’ll need to confirm your decision, and the App Store will finish the procedure on its own. Once done, tap on “Open,” and the VPN app will launch.

ExpressVPN Installation Screen iOS
  • Once ExpressVPN launches, you need to log-in to your account. So, provide your email and password and then tap on “Sign In.” The application will ask for your permission, and you can decide whether to enable notifications (you’ll see notifications when you connect and disconnect from servers). Finally, you can also decide whether or not to send anonymous data to ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN UI iOS
  • You’re now able to connect to any of ExpressVPN’s servers. By default, the app will show a server that should provide the speediest performance. However, you can click on the “three dots” icon to select any server manually.

Keep in mind that iOS will let you know if you have a VPN session active in the background. This will be visible in the top-right corner of your screen. Once you no longer need your VPN, simply go back to ExpressVPN and disconnect.

Method #2: Set Up an iOS VPN via OpenVPN Connect

You can also use the OpenVPN Connect app to install a VPN. For this purpose, you need to pick a VPN that comes with OpenVPN protocol supported. So, let’s explain what precisely this procedure entails.

Good to Know: Not every VPN supports the OpenVPN Connect app on iOS. You can’t use ExpressVPN for this purpose. So, we’ll explain how this is done by using NordVPN, another highly reputable and capable VPN for iOS devices.

  • First, you need to download an OVPN file of the server you plan on using. You can do this by opening NordVPN’s website and clicking on “Recommended Server.” Search for a server based on its country and then click on “Show Available Protocols” on the left side of the screen. Finally, click on “Download Config” for OpenVPN UDP or TCP, depending on which one you want to use.

NordVPN OVPN File Download
  • Once you download the OVPN file to your computer, feel free to send it to your iOS device. The best way to do this is by sending yourself an email message with the OVPN file attached.
  • Now, open the App Store on your iOS device and search for “OpenVPN Connect.” The application comes free of charge, and you’ll get to download it in an instant. Feel free to open it, and you’ll see that the app requests an OVPN file.

OpenVPN Connect App iOS
  • You need to open the recently downloaded OVPN file on your iOS device – which will automatically launch the OpenVPN Connect. The easiest way to do this is by using your email account. Open the Mail app on your iPhone/iPad, find the message with the OVPN file, and tap on the file. Then, select “Copy to OpenVPN,” and OpenVPN Connect will import the required profile.

Adding OVPN File to OpenVPN Connect iOS
  • The OVPN file will now be copied to the OpenVPN Connect app. You need to tap “Add” to add the VPN profile. This is when you’ll be asked for your username and password – so go ahead and type in your NordVPN credentials.

Using OpenVPN Connect on iOS
  • You can repeat this process for additional servers that your VPN service offers. And once you’re ready to start using those servers, use the OpenVPN Connect app to connect and disconnect from servers.

It’s interesting to note that some VPN services support the OpenVPN protocol – but they don’t offer this protocol via their official iOS app. The only way to take advantage of OpenVPN is by going through the procedure mentioned above.

Learn More: Which VPN Protocol Should You Use?

Method #3: Set Up a VPN on iOS Devices Manually

Finally, there’s also a third method of setting up and configuring a VPN on your iPhone or iPad. For this purpose, your VPN needs to provide you with certain information, including its server addresses. A VPN that gives you everything you need in a clear and concise way is ExpressVPN. So, let’s see how to use this VPN to set up your VPN connection manually.

  • First, you need to gather certain information from your VPN. This requires you to first log-in to your account on your VPN’s website. ExpressVPN provides an easy way to check your account, so click on “Set Up Other Devices” once you log-in.
  • Then, click on “Manual Configuration” and make sure to select “PPTP & L2TP/IPSec.” Now, this is where you’ll see your custom username and password, as well as a list of individual server addresses. We’ll need all of that information soon, so make sure to keep this Web page open.

ExpressVPN Website User Dashboard
  • On your iOS device, go to Settings > General > VPN > Add VPN Configuration, which will open a new slide-over window. This is when you’ll need to input certain types of information, so we’ll make sure to explain this below.

Manual VPN Configuration on iOS
  • Once you add the required information, tap on “Done” and your iOS device will accept the newly added VPN configuration. This is also where you’ll get to connect to individual servers you’ve added, or disconnect from them once you no longer need them. Also, keep in mind that you can repeat this procedure to add additional servers.

All there’s left is to explain what different fields mean in the “Add VPN Configuration” panel. So, make sure to go with the following settings:

  • Type: Make sure to select “L2TP.”
  • Description: You need to input a recognizable name, as this is how you’ll get to identify your VPN connection later on.
  • Server: This is the server address of the server you want to add. So, return to ExpressVPN’s website (your account dashboard), where you’ll find various server addresses. For example, the current address of ExpressVPN’s NYC server is (don’t copy this address; you need to check if there’s a new one available instead).
  • Remote ID: You can go with “” for this field.
  • Username: Again, go back to ExpressVPN’s website to find your custom username. This is usually a string of numbers and letters.
  • Password: Once again, you’ll find your custom password back on ExpressVPN’s website, so make sure to use that one (and now you “regular” VPN password).

Remember that you need to use the Settings app to control your VPN connection. So, each time you want to connect or disconnect, launch the Settings app and switch the toggle you’ll see next to “VPN.”

That’s it – you’ve read the end of our guide on how to set up a VPN on iOS. Finally, keep in mind that we’re here for all our readers. In case of any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below.


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