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Troubleshooting: Why Isn’t My VPN Connecting on Wi-Fi?

Troubleshooting steps you can take to connect to VPN on Wi-Fi

You’re at an airport, and you need to email confidential, time-sensitive data to your boss. Suddenly, your VPN (Virtual Private Network) won’t allow you to connect to the airport’s Wi-Fi network. Your palms sweat, you feel ice coursing through your veins — you don’t want to get fired, but you can’t send these vital documents without a VPN.

Rather than screaming into the abyss, take a deep breath and relax. There are simple troubleshooting steps you can take that may easily answer the question, “Why isn’t my VPN connecting on Wi-Fi?” 

Understanding the VPN basics

VPNs can provide Wi-Fi users with additional cyber security and are easy to use. For people who need constant connection to the Internet while on the go, VPNs can prove especially vital. They can allow a seamless, protected online experience if you need to use a public network accessed by multiple people.

But what exactly is a VPN, and how does it work? Let’s take a look.    

What is a VPN?     

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, connects your device to a remote server, rather than a local Internet server. It can help you mask your IP address, bypass geoblocks on websites, and encrypt your personal data. 

Essentially, a VPN adds an extra layer of security for your Internet activity that you won’t receive from a basic IP connection through your Internet Service Provider (ISP).  

How does a VPN work?

A VPN encrypts data that prevents your Internet activity from public access. When you use a VPN, only someone with password and encryption key access can view your data. This cybersecurity tool offers a cloak-and-dagger way for you to connect to the Internet.

When should you use a VPN?

If you’re working with highly sensitive data, you should always use a VPN — whether at home, at the office, or when accessing a public, unsecured Wi-Fi network. If you travel overseas, a VPN can help you access websites that block activity from the country you’re visiting.

A VPN can allow you peace of mind if you feel that your Internet connection is in danger of a breach. Although many VPN providers require a paid subscription, there are free VPNs as well. Research popular VPNs to discern which best suits your needs.

Initial troubleshooting steps for your VPN 

At the risk of falling into “did you try turning it off and on again” instruction fodder, there are some basic steps you can take to ensure your VPN is connected to your Wi-Fi network. These steps include: 

  • Checking your Internet connection: Make sure your connection and your router are working properly. Check your device’s Wi-Fi settings to ensure VPN connections aren’t blocked.
  • Confirming your VPN subscription: If you’ve unwittingly let your VPN subscription expire, your connections won’t work properly.
  • Consistent updates: Try turning on “auto updates” for your smart device. If your OS (operating system) or VPN app is out-of-date, you could encounter connectivity and software compatibility issues.
A man connecting to Wi-Fi with a VPN

Common pitfalls in VPN Wi-Fi connections   

Although VPNs provide a lot of additional security when you’re connecting to Wi-Fi, there are some common issues that can arise with connectivity as well. Some of the connection obstacles that you may encounter when using a VPN include:

  • Network Interference: Other devices or networks in the vicinity may cause interference with your connection. Switch to a less congested Wi-Fi channel or move closer to the router.  
  • Firewall Settings: Ensure that your device’s firewall settings don’t prevent your VPN connection. Adjust the settings to allow your VPN app to operate seamlessly.  
  • Router Compatibility: Some routers may have issues with certain VPN protocols. This is especially true if your router is old or outdated. Check to verify that your VPN provider supports the type of connection your router uses.  

A step-by-step guide to troubleshoot your VPN connection  

If you’ve taken the initial steps to troubleshoot your VPN connection to Wi-Fi and the problem persists, you may feel compelled to throw your device against a wall. Refrain from doing so, and follow the following additional steps instead:

  • Restart your device: This is the dreaded “did you try turning it off and on again?” after all. However, you may have software or app updates that can only fully install with a reboot. This could cause glitches in your connectivity.
  • Check your Wi-Fi connection: If your Internet provider is experiencing issues or glitches, this could cause your VPN app to work improperly. Check to make sure your connection is strong, and if it isn’t, try disconnecting and reconnecting to Wi-Fi. 
  • Clear your browser cache: If you haven’t cleared your browser activity and data, you may find you have connectivity issues with your VPN. Ensure that you’re consistently clearing your browser.
  • Change your local server: Your local VPN server may be experiencing issues. Try connecting to another server within your VPN provider’s network.
  • Delete old VPN software: If you change your VPN provider, make sure your previous VPN software is uninstalled.
  • Disconnect your VPN program: If you use a VPN with its own program, sign out, close out the program, restart the program, and then sign back in. Your VPN glitches might disappear. Change your VPN settings back to “default.”
  • Change your protocol connections: If your VPN protocol connections aren’t set to “advanced,” this could be causing your issues. Check your settings to make sure you’ve set them correctly. 
VPNs protect you against cybercriminals  and hackers on the internet

Cybersecurity and VPNs   

Many of us use the Internet without thinking of our exposure to hackers and other cybercriminals. Although we may be on high alert for phishing scams, we might not take any proactive measures to protect ourselves against cyberattacks. That’s where VPNs can help even the least tech savvy among us.

The greatest cybersecurity benefits of VPNs include:

  • Privacy: VPNs encrypt your Internet traffic, prevent unauthorized access to your accounts, and protect sensitive information from potential cyber threats
  • Secure transactions: If you’re using a public Wi-Fi network, a VPN adds a vital extra layer of protection. You can access your bank accounts or sensitive work information, and rest in the assurance that your transactions are safeguarded.
  • Browsing anonymity: Although tracking cookies can be useful, VPNs mask your IP address which makes it harder for online marketing campaigns and websites to track your online activity.    

Protecting your VPN connection

Your device’s operating system and your VPN software are in constant need of updates. You may find that updates are available weekly or even daily. As technology evolves, so do potential issues with VPN connectivity. 

Here are some proactive steps to help enhance your VPN experience:

  • Regularly update your VPN app: Developers regularly release updates to address security vulnerabilities, minor application bugs, and improve overall performance.
  • Stay informed about VPN security: Keep yourself informed about the latest trends and best practices in VPN security. The What Is My IP Address blog is a great space to discover actionable cybersecurity tips. 
  • Research router-based VPN solutions: For a more comprehensive approach to securing your entire home network, consider using a VPN on your router. This ensures all devices connected to your home Wi-Fi are protected without the need for individual installations.

Troubleshooting why your VPN isn’t connecting on Wi-Fi doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding the VPN basics, addressing common pitfalls, and following a step-by-step guide, you can ensure a secure and uninterrupted VPN experience.

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