Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great way to enhance your privacy and security online. However, sometimes VPN connections can encounter issues that prevent them from working properly. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various reasons why your VPN may not be working and provide troubleshooting steps to help you get reconnected.
Overview of Common VPN Issues
There are a few key reasons why your VPN connection may be malfunctioning or not working at all:
- VPN app issues – Problems with the VPN client software on your device, corruption, needing an update, etc.
- Incorrect VPN app settings – The VPN app is not configured properly for your network.
- Internet connectivity problems – Issues with your local network, ISP, router, or modem affecting connectivity.
- VPN server problems – The VPN server you’re connecting to is down, overloaded, or having issues.
- Outdated device software – Old OS software, drivers, etc. that are incompatible with the VPN app.
- Incorrect account credentials – Entering the wrong username, password, or other account details.
- VPN protocol conflicts – The protocol your VPN uses may be blocked on the network.
- Firewall and antivirus software conflicts – Security software blocking the VPN connection.
We’ll cover solutions for all of these common VPN problems in this guide. The key is to methodically troubleshoot and isolate the issue to restore your VPN connection.
Troubleshooting Steps to Fix VPN Issues
Here is a step-by-step guide on troubleshooting and resolving VPN connection problems:
1. Restart Your Device and VPN App
The first basic step is to restart your device and the VPN app to eliminate any software glitches:
- Fully power off your device and leave it off for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then restart it.
- Force quit the VPN app if it’s still running in the background. Launch the app again after rebooting.
Restarting flushes out any corrupt memory usage or temporary software bugs that could be interfering with the VPN client.
2. Update Your VPN App, Drivers, and Device Software
Outdated VPN client apps, device drivers, operating systems, and firmware can all cause conflicts:
- Go to the app store to check for and install any available updates for your VPN app.
- On your device, check for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, or Linux system updates and install them.
- Update device drivers, especially VPN-related drivers like TAP or OpenVPN drivers.
Updating to the latest software eliminates VPN conflicts and ensures compatibility.
3. Toggle Your VPN Connection Off and On
If restarting your device didn’t fix the problem, simply toggling the VPN off and back on can clear up glitches:
- Disconnect from the VPN server on your device.
- Wait 10-15 seconds with the VPN connection disabled.
- Reconnect to your VPN server again.
Toggling the connection forces the VPN client to re-initialize the connection from scratch, often solving issues.
4. Verify Your VPN Account Credentials
One of the most common VPN problems is entering incorrect account information when setting up the VPN:
- Double check that the VPN username and password you entered are 100% accurate.
- Confirm your subscription is active, you’re using the right server name, and any other required account details.
- Reset your account password if you think it may be inaccurate.
- Re-enter your full account credentials into the VPN app to connect again.
With the correct credentials, the VPN will authenticate and connect.
5. Check Your Internet Connection
Connectivity issues with your local network or ISP can affect VPN connections:
- Run a speed test to check your regular internet speeds when the VPN is disconnected.
- If speeds are very slow, there’s likely an internet connection issue at play, not your VPN.
- Try connecting to the internet from another device on the same network to compare.
- Contact your ISP if speeds are consistently slow when the VPN is disconnected.
Rule out internet problems first before further VPN troubleshooting.
6. Test a Different VPN Server Location
The specific VPN server location you’re connecting to may be experiencing problems:
- Log into your VPN account dashboard and choose a different server in another city or country.
- Connect using these alternative server credentials instead to see if the connection succeeds.
- Try switching VPN protocols as well on the servers, like from OpenVPN to IKEv2.
If you can connect to some locations but not others, it indicates a problem with those specific faulty servers.
7. Whitelist Your VPN App in Antivirus and Firewall Software
Security software like antivirus, firewalls, and web filtering can sometimes block VPN connections:
- Add exceptions to your antivirus and firewall so they won’t block your VPN app from running.
- Adjust settings in web filtering software to allow VPN usage specifically.
- You may need to temporarily disable some security software while troubleshooting the VPN.
Whitelisting the VPN client prevents conflicts with overzealous security apps.
8. Flush Your DNS Cache
Outdated DNS cache issues can interfere with VPN connections:
- On Windows, open CMD and run “ipconfig /flushdns”.
- On Mac, open Terminal and enter “sudo dscacheutil -flushcache”.
- On Linux, use “sudo /etc/init.d/nscd restart” on many distros.
- On Android, go to Settings -> WiFi -> Advanced -> DHCP to renew IP.
Flushing DNS forces your device to repopulate its DNS cache, fixing conflicts.
9. Reset Your Network Adapters
Resetting all network adapter settings may help:
- In Windows, open Network Connections settings and right-click your VPN adapter. Select “Disable” then “Enable” to reset it.
- On Mac, reboot your Mac into Recovery Mode and reselect your network interface.
- In Linux, use “sudo ifconfig (adapter name) down” then “sudo ifconfig (adapter name) up”.
Resetting network adapters re-initiates the connection and clears any odd settings.
10. Uninstall and Reinstall the VPN App
If all else fails, completely removing and reinstalling the VPN app often resolves difficult connectivity issues:
- Uninstall your VPN app completely. Restart your device.
- Download a fresh installer for the VPN app and install it cleanly.
- Re-enter your account details from scratch in the newly installed app.
A clean install ensures no corruption carried over from previous installations.
Additional VPN Troubleshooting Checks
If the basic steps above don’t resolve your VPN problems, here are some additional advanced troubleshooting steps to try:
- Disable L2TP/IPsec and enable OpenVPN if your VPN offers both protocols. Some networks block L2TP/IPsec.
- Manually configure the VPN app with specific ports and protocols like TCP vs. UDP if available. Test each setting systematically.
- Turn off VPN kill switches, IPv6 connectivity, and split tunneling to isolate the issue if using those features. Turn them back on after troubleshooting.
- If connecting to home router VPN, check port forwarding rules. Reconfigure the router VPN from scratch if needed.
- For router or firewall based VPN issues, clone MAC addresses across devices or disable MAC filtering.
- Contact your VPN provider’s customer support for troubleshooting assistance or server status updates.
- As a last resort, you may need to switch VPN providers if one in particular is not working for your network.
With enough testing and isolation of the problem, one of these steps should resolve your tricky VPN situation. Be methodical in working through each potential issue.
Key Takeaways and Conclusion
To summarize, here are some key takeaways to remember when troubleshooting and fixing VPN connections:
- Restarting devices, toggling connections off and on, and reinstalling the VPN app can quickly resolve many common issues.
- Keep software up-to-date across devices, VPN clients, drivers, and operating systems.
- Verify account credentials are entered correctly in the VPN app. Reset passwords if unsure.
- Rule out internet problems by testing speeds without the VPN first. Contact your ISP if needed.
- Whitelist and disable security software temporarily if blocking the VPN client.
- Flush DNS and reset network adapters to reinitialize the connection.
- Test different protocols, ports, servers, and settings to isolate the issue.
- As a last resort, uninstall and reinstall VPN client software or switch providers.
With a step-by-step approach focused on isolating the specific point of failure, you can diagnose and resolve why your VPN is not working properly. Patience and persistence is key. Don’t hesitate to contact customer support from your VPN provider or device/software vendors for additional assistance. Over time, you should be able to get your VPN connection up and running smoothly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why does my VPN disconnect randomly?
A: Random VPN disconnects are often caused by internet connectivity problems, VPN server issues, software conflicts, or configuration problems like kill switches. Troubleshoot methodically through restarting devices/VPN, changing servers, updating software, and testing for internet stability.
Q: Why is my VPN slow?
A: Slow VPN speeds usually stem from internet connection problems, congested VPN servers, distance to servers, software conflicts, or using the wrong VPN protocol. Optimize speeds by connecting to closer VPN servers, troubleshooting internet speeds without VPN first, whitelisting VPN in security apps, and using recommended protocols like OpenVPN.
Q: Why does my VPN say “authentication failed”?
A: Authentication failed errors mean you’ve entered incorrect account credentials in the VPN app. Double check your username, password, and other login details against your VPN account and re-enter them accurately to authenticate successfully.
Q: Why does my VPN keep connecting and disconnecting?
A: Constant connecting and disconnecting of your VPN indicates network connectivity problems, VPN app issues, incompatible software/drivers, or protocol conflicts. Update VPN app and operating system software, flush DNS, disable IPv6 and kill switches, and use different protocols to resolve this.
Q: Why does my VPN say “VPN service not responding”?
A: The “not responding” error points to the VPN server you’re connecting to being down or unavailable. Try connecting to different server locations in your VPN account dashboard to single out the problematic server.
Q: How do I allow VPN through firewall?
A: Go to your firewall settings and look for an exceptions, exclusions, or whitelist section. Add the VPN app .exe file or service name to the exclusion list so firewall won’t block it. You may need to temporarily disable firewall to test VPN connectivity.
Q: Why does my VPN say “missing or corrupted content”?
A: This VPN error means some required software components like drivers or libraries are damaged. Uninstall and reinstall the VPN app entirely to replace the corrupted files. Also update operating system and VPN drivers.
Q: How do I configure VPN on my router?
A: Log into your router dashboard interface, go to VPN settings, choose a VPN protocol like PPTP or OpenVPN, enter your VPN provider credentials, set the server IP and port, then enable. Adjust firewall rules if needed and connect devices to the router’s VPN network.
Q: Why won’t my VPN connect on public WiFi?
A: Public WiFi networks often use portal authentication or have firewalls that block VPN protocols. Try using VPN protocols like Open Connect or SOCKS5 that bypass these restrictions. Use an obfuscated VPN server if available. Or use your smartphone’s mobile data instead of public WiFi.
Q: Why does my VPN status say “connecting” forever?
A: If VPN shows connecting indefinitely, it’s likely a protocol conflict, software/driver issue, or problem with the VPN account credentials. Try using different protocols, updating drivers/apps, re-entering VPN credentials, and clearing app data/cache to resolve this stuck status.
Q: What does VPN error 619 mean?
A: Error 619 means the VPN client can’t establish a TCP connection to the VPN server, often due to firewall blocking ports, network issues, or server problems. Adjust port/protocol settings in VPN app, add exclusions to firewall, or contact VPN provider regarding server status.
Q: Why does my VPN slow down my internet?
A: VPNs can sometimes slow general internet speeds due to distance to VPN servers, network congestion, protocol overhead, and app conflicts. Connect to closer VPN servers, use faster protocols like OpenVPN, add VPN exclusion to security software, and disable VPN when speed is needed.
Q: How do I troubleshoot VPN on Windows?
A: For Windows VPN troubleshooting, restart your device, disable/re-enable VPN connection, check for VPN driver updates, flush DNS cache, renew IP and reset network adapter, disable L2TP protocol, and add VPN app to firewall exclusions. Reinstall VPN app if issues persist.
Q: Why does my VPN say “error 800”?
A: VPN error 800 indicates authentication failure, usually due to incorrect account login details entered into the VPN app. Carefully re-check and re-enter your exact VPN username, password, and other required credentials to resolve this authentication error.
Q: Why does my VPN connect but internet doesn’t work?
A: If VPN connects but you have no internet, it’s typically a VPN app configuration issue. Disable settings like kill switches, IPv6, and split tunneling. Also try manually configuring VPN protocols and ports. Restore app defaults or reinstall the VPN app if needed.
Q: How do I troubleshoot VPN on Mac?
A: For Mac VPN troubleshooting, restart your Mac, toggle the VPN connection off and back on, check for updates to macOS and the VPN app, disable L2TP and enable OpenVPN protocol, add exceptions to firewalls, and reinstall the VPN app as a last resort.
Q: Why does my VPN say “TAP adapter not found”?
A: The “TAP adapter not found” error indicates missing or corrupted VPN driver files. Update or reinstall TAP drivers for your VPN platform, and uninstall/reinstall the VPN app itself to replace missing software components.
Troubleshooting VPN connection issues requires methodical diagnosis and isolation of the specific point of failure. Following restart procedures, software updates, protocol changes, and reinstalling as necessary will help identify and resolve the underlying problem – whether it’s VPN app glitches, account problems, internet connectivity, firewall conflicts, VPN server failures, or otherwise. Don’t hesitate to contact customer support from your VPN provider or device/OS vendors for additional assistance if needed. With persistence, you’ll get your VPN working properly again.
So in summary:
- Systematically work through troubleshooting steps to diagnose the issue.
- Keep software updated across all devices.
- Test different protocols, servers, and VPN app settings.
- Whitelist VPN in security tools that may be blocking it.
- Flush DNS cache and reset network adapters.
- Reinstall the VPN client as a last resort.
Using these reliable troubleshooting techniques, you can get to the bottom of any VPN connectivity problems and restore secure access when your VPN isn’t working.