How to Set Up a VPN on Android

Don’t want your ISP seeing what you do online? You can set up a VPN on your Android in minutes.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Jul 1, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Jul 1, 2021

We use our phones for everything, from looking up directions to stalking people on social media. VPNs can help keep our web activity private, but how do you set them up on Androids? Lucky for you, the process is incredibly simple, and we’ve got it covered below.

Activating Always-on VPN if supported
Activating Always-on VPN if supported

How to Set Up a VPN on Android

The most straightforward way to set up a VPN on Android is to use a third-party app, which we’ll explain first. But we also include directions on how to set up a VPN manually or through OpenVPN.

You’ll be browsing online privately in minutes by performing the following steps:

VPN App

  1. Install a VPN for Android from the Google Play Store.
  2. Once the VPN app is installed, sign in.
  3. Choose a server.
  4. Click Connect.
Downloading a VPN app from the Play Store
Downloading a VPN app from the Play Store

Manually (built-in)

  1. Go into your Android settings.
  2. Click Network & Internet.
  3. Click Advanced.
  4. Select VPN.
  5. Click the plus sign.
  6. Enter in your administrator’s information.
  7. Click Save.

Many people aren’t aware that Androids have a built-in VPN client for the protocols PTTP, L2TP, and IPsec.

Setting up a VPN from the Android settings
Setting up a VPN from the Android settings

Note: To set up a VPN manually, you’ll need Android 4.0 or later.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is an open-source and completely free VPN. However, Android doesn’t integrate OpenVPN’s servers with its operating system, so you’ll need to use a third-party app to connect, like OpenVPN Connect.

  1. Download the OpenVPN Connect app or something similar.
  2. Click the Connect to a Server button and you’ll be private online.

Connecting to an Android VPN

Here are the steps to either connect to your VPN in the app itself or in your Android’s settings:

  1. Click on Network & Internet.
  2. Click on Advanced.
  3. Hit VPN.
  4. Type in the VPN’s name.
  5. Enter your username and password.
  6. Click Connect.

Disconnecting From an Android VPN

To disconnect from an Android VPN, you can either turn off your connection in the VPN app or, again, in Android’s settings:

  1. Go to Network & Internet.
  2. Click on Advanced.
  3. Click on VPN.
  4. In the Settings next to the VPN, turn off the toggle.
  5. Or click Forget for it to completely forget the network.
Disconnecting a VPN from the Android settings
Disconnecting a VPN from the Android settings

Changing Android VPN Settings

Setting up a VPN is truly as easy as installing it, signing in, and connecting. However, once you’re in, you might want to play around with the settings. You can find the following settings on the Android’s main settings page, then Network & Internet, Advanced, VPN, and Settings.

  • Have VPN always on:
    1. Turn the toggle to Always On.
    2. Click Save.
  • Clear notifications:
    1. Turn the Always On toggle off.
    2. Click Save.1
  • Set up a work profile: The steps to set up a work profile differ based on whether you use G Suite, Cloud Identity, Microsoft Office 365, Exchange ActiveSync, or another platform. Read Google’s support page2 to learn more.
Advanced options when setting up a VPN from settings
Advanced options when setting up a VPN from settings

Why You Need a VPN for Android

Our most recent VPN consumer report found that people use VPNs for a variety of reasons, regardless of their device type. For Androids specifically, you might want to use a VPN for one or more of the following reasons:

  • General security and privacy: VPNs encrypt your web activity and device IP addresses, hiding what you do online.
  • Less risk on public Wi-Fi networks: While connecting to public Wi-Fi networks is convenient, it can leave you susceptible to hacking, as your private IP addresses will be visible. However, that’s not the case if you’re connected to an Android VPN, keeping you safe online.
  • Access to private school or work networks: Many schools or organizations have private networks, but if you’re at home, you’ll need a VPN to access them. The best Android VPNs have split tunneling, so you can be on a private network and your Wi-Fi at the same time.
  • Ability to bypass restrictions: Internet censorship is rampant in countries like China and Russia, along with schools and workplaces around the world. VPNs can help you bypass these restrictions so you can surf the web freely. Learn more about the best VPNs for Hong Kong.
  • Secure VoIP calls: Having a secret conversation? VPNs can secure Voice over Internet Protocol calls, a technology that lets users make calls over broadband internet rather than a landline.3
  • Torrent: Using VPNs for torrenting means that you can download anything you want without your internet service provider knowing.

Pro Tip: Even though your ISP won’t be able to see what you torrent, downloading copyrighted content without first paying for it is illegal.

Example of a VPN profile as it appears in the settings
Example of a VPN profile as it appears in the settings

How to Choose an Android VPN

Of course, you don’t want to use just any Android VPN that you come across. The truth is that not all Android VPNs are safe. VPNs for Android can get viruses, after all, and 75 percent of Android VPN apps use third-party tracking libraries. Another 82 percent request permissions to access user accounts or texts, and 18 percent have unencrypted tunneling protocols. Convinced yet?

VPN apps on Android home screen
VPN apps on Android home screen

Android VPNs to Avoid

According to Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, you should avoid the VPNs SurfEasy, IP-Shield, OKVPN, and EasyVPN. While the first two monetize their apps with targeted advertising, the second two have adware in their source codes.4 We also recommend avoiding free VPNs. While using a VPN for free certainly has its appeal, free VPNs often have limits on data usage, time, servers, speeds, and more. What’s worse is that some VPNs collect user data and sell it to third parties for marketing purposes. Even though we hate spending money as much as the next person, it’s worth it to pay under $10 a month for an Android VPN.

What to Look For

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re shopping for an Android VPN. Obviously, you want an app with a high rating in the Google Play Store, ideally at least four stars. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Privacy: If privacy is the main reason you want an Android VPN in the first place, choose one that’s based in a country that’s not a member of the surveillance alliance Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or 14 Eyes. Also, look for a VPN that doesn’t log your web activity or IP addresses and encrypts them with AES-256.
  • Features: We prefer VPNs with dynamic IP addresses, Netflix and torrenting capabilities, kill switches, and split tunneling, to name a few.
  • Speed: Especially if you’re using a VPN to stream or game, look for one that won’t slow down your connection too much in terms of upload/download speed and latency.
  • Pricing: Most VPNs cost around $5 to $10 a month, with discounts if you sign up for longer contracts. Again, we don’t recommend using a free VPN, but you can use a VPN with a free trial to test it out risk-free.
Surfshark No log Policy
Surfshark No log Policy

Recap

We weren’t lying when we said you can surf the web privately on your Android in just a few minutes. Again, the most straightforward option is to go into the Google Play Store, create an account, sign in, and click Connect. But if you still have questions, keep reading below, or read more about what a VPN app does, the difference between VPNs and proxies, or how to check if a VPN is working.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many of our readers have asked us questions about Android VPNs, so we’re going to answer them all here.

  • Does Android have a built-in VPN?

    Yes, Android has a built-in VPN client for PTTP, L2TP, and IPsec. However, users will still need information from their administrator to connect to a virtual network.

  • Is there a free VPN for Android?

    There are free VPNs for Android, such as Surfshark, TunnelBear, Windscribe, Hotspot Shield, and ProtonVPN.

  • How do I set up a VPN on my Samsung phone?

    To set up a VPN on your Samsung phone:

    1. Download a VPN app from the Google Play Store.
    2. Create an account.
    3. Sign in.
    4. Connect to the server of your choice.

    You can also connect to a VPN manually. On your Samsung phone’s home screen:

    1. Choose Apps.
    2. Click on Settings.
    3. Click on More Connection Settings / More Networks / Connections (depending on your device).
    4. Hit VPN.
    5. Either click the plus sign or More.
    6. Click Add VPN.
    7. Enter in your VPN’s name and type.
    8. Click Save.
  • How do I turn on a VPN on Android?

    To turn on a VPN in Android:

    1. Go to the VPN app.
    2. Connect to a server.

    You can also go into Android’s settings:

    1. Click Network & Internet.
    2. Click Advanced.
    3. Click VPN.
    4. Type in the name of your VPN.
    5. Fill in your username and password.
    6. Click Connect.
Citations
  1. Google Android Help. (2021). Connect to a virtual private network (VPN) on Android.
    support.google.com/android/answer/9089766?hl=en#zippy=%2Cadd%2Cconnect

  2. Google Android Enterprise Help. (2021). Step 3. Set up Android devices.
    support.google.com/work/android/topic/9419741?visit_id=637497118563149295-1275767500&rd=1

  3. FCC. (2021). Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
    fcc.gov/general/voice-over-internet-protocol-voip

  4. Csiro. (2016). An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of
    Android VPN Permission-enabled Apps
    .
    research.csiro.au/isp/wp-content/uploads/sites/106/2016/08/paper-1.pdf