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VPN Troubleshooting

Rob Mardisalu

Rob Mardisalu

In this article, I’ll list out some of the common issues with VPNs and ways to fix them. Fortunately, identifying and fixing a VPN connection is quite simple. 

21 ways to speed up vpnVirtual private networks (VPNs) have a vast array of benefits, but they can also suffer from some very annoying problems. A non-functional VPN is infuriating, and a semi-functional one isn’t much better.

When your VPN is slow, won’t connect, keeps disconnecting, or crashes, there are some things you can do to fix the problem. Let’s take a look.

Jump links / Table of contents:


Fixing a VPN That Slows Your Internet Speed

VPNs will always make your connection slower, but they shouldn’t cause a huge drop in speed. If your connection is so slow that it’s making it difficult to browse, it’s time to take action.

1. Use a Fast, Premium VPN

If you’re on a free VPN, you’re almost certain to get pretty slow speeds on your connection. Understandably, VPN providers prioritize their paying customers. Even if they say their free VPN is as fast as their paid option, you might find that you disagree.

There are plenty of affordable VPNs with respectively high speeds, and if you haven’t upgraded to one, we highly recommend it. You may see your speeds increase immediately.

One of the most reliable VPN providers, we’ve found (out of 78 we tested) is NordVPN. You can read our full review of them here.

2. Change Servers

Consider changing serversThe server you use for your VPN connection can make a big difference to the connection speeds you get. The closer you are to the server you’re connecting to, the better speeds you’ll get (in almost every case). You may also get improved speeds from servers that aren’t being used as much.

Most VPN clients make it easy to change servers. Just open the client, select a new server, and confirm your selection. You can then run a speed test or continue browsing to see if the new server is running faster.

If you run a VPN through your router, the process may be more complicated, and it may differ depending on your specific VPN provider. If you remember the process you went through to set up your router VPN, you can likely access your router settings to change the server you access. If you don’t remember the process, or anything has changed, consult the user manuals for your router firmware and your VPN.

3. Change Ports

The connection between your computer and the VPN server uses a networking port on your computer. You can think of this port like you would a physical port; your computer routes traffic from the VPN server to a specific port, and traffic from other places to other ports. It helps keep traffic from various sources separated.

While you might think that every port is as fast as every other, you might be surprised to find out that occasionally changing the port your VPN is connected to will help. Some ISPs slow traffic on specific ports, and sometimes you’ll find that some ports are faster than others for no apparent reason. Try switching your VPN connection through different ports to see if any are faster.

4. Change IP Protocols

Most VPNs allow you to connect via Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) or User Datagram Protocol (UDP). TCP is more commonly used across the internet, as it includes error correction, so if there’s a connection problem or some of the data is corrupted, the transmission is still successful, and the sending computer knows to resend anything that didn’t arrive correctly.

UDP, while not as common, is notably faster than TCP. It doesn’t provide error correction, so if something is lost in transit, it won’t resend the information. This cuts down on the time it takes to transfer information, but may also create a less-reliable connection.

Changing between these two protocols might help you achieve higher speeds, especially if you’re going from TCP to UDP. Keep an eye out for poor connection quality, though.

5. Change VPN Tunneling Protocols

change VPN protocolsWhile OpenVPN is generally considered to be the best protocol for VPN traffic, there are sometimes when you may want to use L2TP/IPSec. While it doesn’t provide as much security and doesn’t have as many features, it’s also possible that it will slip by filters that slow down OpenVPN traffic.

If you’re using the VPN for security or privacy, we don’t recommend using L2TP/IPSec if you can help it. If you’re just trying to get past region restrictions, it will work. But it won’t be as secure.

6. Disable Local Security Software

Again, this isn’t something we recommend lightly, and if you can avoid it, you should. But if your antivirus program is scanning all of the outbound packets you send, it could be slowing down your connection. Disable it temporarily to see if it speeds up your connection.


Fixing a VPN That Won’t Connect

When all you want to do is get on the internet without being vulnerable to surveillance, censorship, or region blocking, a VPN that won’t connect is a big pain. Here’s what you can do to fix the problem.

1. Make Sure You (and the Server) Are Online

The simplest things are the easiest to overlook. If your VPN client isn’t connecting, try opening a website without connecting through a VPN to see if your internet connection is working. If it’s not, restart your router by unplugging it for 30 seconds and plugging it back in. If your internet is still down, it may be a problem at your ISP’s end.

Check your VPN provider’s website, too, to make sure that the server you’re trying to connect to isn’t down. Every once in a while a VPN server will go offline for maintenance—or just because servers aren’t 100% reliable—and you’ll need to connect to another one or wait a while.

2. Make Sure Your Username and Password Are Correct

In many cases, your inability to connect comes from a very simple problem: you typed your password wrong. Or you entered your email address instead of your username. If you’re getting an authentication error, it’s likely related to one of these two issues.

Retype your username and password, and if that doesn’t work, try resetting your password and attempting to connect again.

3. Change Ports

Again, try connecting to the VPN through a different port. Some ISPs and networks block traffic on specific ports, and that can deny your VPN connection request.

Check your VPN’s documentation to see if it suggests or requires connections on specific ports.

4. Try Connecting on a Different Network

Sometimes the problem isn’t with you, it’s with the VPN. One of the best ways to check this is to join a different network. You can try a nearby public wifi spot, like a coffee shop or a grocery store, a friend’s wireless network, or a public hotspot.

If you find that you can connect on the other network, you’ll know that it’s something about your own that’s causing the problem. Check your wifi and internet settings to see if you can find what’s keeping you from signing in.


Fixing a VPN That Keeps Disconnecting

Possibly even more irritating than not being able to connect to your VPN is successfully connecting and then dropping out. Especially if it happens over and over. Here’s what to do.

1. Temporarily Disable Your Firewall

How to Turn Firewall on in Windows 10While firewalls are important security measures, they can also cause some problem with VPNs. They’ll likely slow down your connection, and if it gets slow enough, the VPN connection may simply shut down.

Firewalls, in short, scan the data going in and out of your private network where it connects to the wider internet. And if it sees something that shouldn’t be there, it’ll prevent the transmission. Some firewalls have difficulty keeping up with VPN traffic.

2. Connect to a Nearby Server

Sometimes the problem that causes you to disconnect isn’t with you, but with your VPN provider. If a server isn’t behaving normally, you might be disconnected. Try connecting to another server, preferably one close by, to see if you get a better connection.

3. Change Protocols

Sometimes certain VPN protocols will have difficulty keeping a strong connection. If you’re using OpenVPN (which we generally recommend), try connecting over L2TP/IPSec; if you’re already on L2TP, try OpenVPN. You could also try PPTP, though that’s less ideal.

Again, we recommend sticking with OpenVPN whenever you can, because it’s the most secure of these three common connection protocols. If you can only use your VPN on L2TP, that’s not a big issue, but when at all possible, use OpenVPN.

Changing from UDP to TCP (or vice versa), as discussed above, can also help.

4. Connect via Ethernet

While it’s not common, it’s possible that something at the router level of your network could be causing connection difficulties that will kick you off of the VPN. Plugging directly into the cable jack with an ethernet cable may solve the problem.

The issues often lies in a situation called “double NAT,” which can happen when you have one router behind another. This can happen if you have different routers for different devices or another router connected to your ISP-provided one.

In short, you’ll need to enable bridge mode to make two routers work together. How you make this happen will depend on your router, so you’ll need to dig into the documentation. For a quick explanation of wifi bridging, check out this introduction from Lifewire.

5. Change DNS Servers

Change DNSOccasionally, using a DNS server other than the default supplied by your VPN can help you stay connected. Many VPNs provide their own DNS services for additional privacy, but that can sometimes mess with your connection.

Each VPN will have different steps required for changing DNS servers. Many of them include options that say something like “Only use VPN DNS servers while connected.” You’ll need to turn this option off.

Using other DNS servers might make you slightly more vulnerable to DNS leaks, but if you can’t stay connected long enough to get anything done, that’s probably a tradeoff you’re willing to make.


Fixing VPN Software Crashes

Like any other software, your VPN client might crash. If this happens every once in a great while, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if you’re getting crashes often, and it’s disrupting your browsing experience, you’ll want to take action.

1. Make Sure You Have the Latest Software Version

VPN providers work with developers to make sure that their software is as stable and effective as possible. If you’re not running the most current version, you might have some stability issues.

If at all possible, allow automatic updates to your VPN software. Dig into your VPN client’s settings to see if this is possible. If it’s not, be sure to check for updates regularly.

2. Close Other Apps

If you have a lot of other apps open, they can cause problems with your VPN client, especially if you’re using an older computer. Close anything that you don’t need.

3. Restart Your Computer

Sometimes turning it off and back on again actually does solve the problem. Restart your computer to make sure all updates have been applied and that erroneous processes have been killed off.

4. Reinstall the VPN Client

If worse comes to worst, delete and reinstall your VPN client.


Solve Problems with Your VPN Fast

If your VPN isn’t working, it’s in your best interest to solve the problem fast. It’s easy to get out of the habit of starting up your VPN every time you want to get on the internet.

But that exposes you to more surveillance and security issues. If your VPN isn’t working, troubleshoot it immediately—you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re still unable to fix your VPN connection, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and we’ll try to help!

30 thoughts on “VPN Troubleshooting

  1. My VPN got connected to my client network but I am not able to open any links there.
    What should I do?

    1. I use NordVPN. It takes a long time to connect but eventually it does. Today it’s telling me that it crashed. I’ve restarted my computer several times but it hasn’t helped. Should I delete the app and reinstall it? I have a desktop PC and I don’t know how to un-install an app! Please help!

      1. Try to reinstall and tell us if that helped, probably others in the future will benefit from it as well. P.S. If it doesn’t work, have you used other VPNs at the same time while using Nord? TAP drivers might cause an issue from time to time.

  2. hi. I have no problem connecting the VPN, I use Windscribe, but it will not connect up to some sites eg Facebook, some news sites and some estate agency sites. I know these are working as I can access them using a different laptop not connected to vpn. The stranger thing is when I disconnect the vpn I still cannot connect to those same sites (again I have checked, using the other laptop, that they are still online. The error message I am getting is one of two, either “The site may be down…..facebook” or “no data sent…most of others”

    I can connect to those sites if I restart my laptop

    I am guessing that the vpn is either changing some settings or there is some “memory” in a temporary file that is still effective and overriding normal protocols

    Any ideas?


  3. my VPN is always telling me “trying to establish a connection” then it disconnects shortly afterwards.
    how can I correct?

  4. Hi, internet disconnects when I am connected to VPN and streaming another app while I have ethernet cable connecting my isp router to my android tv box…this doesn’t happen when I connect via wifi…why is this please?

  5. “unable to connect to vpn client service operating on local computer. make sure the VPN client service has started and is running normally.”

    I use Trust Zone VPN, Windows 10 This is the error message that pops up. This never showed up until i recently updated the software. i uninstalled and reinstalled the software multiple times as well as restarting my computer, i went into ‘services’ and made sure it was running (it was), i tried restarting it as well as setting it to manual (which after looking at the description of the service might not have been a good idea but the problem persisted prior to regardless). Sometimes the Client actually opens, but as soon as i try connecting to a server, it crashes.

    What should i do?

    1. Have you tried another VPN or contacted Trust.Zone support? I think you may have out-dated version of their VPN. We recommend changing it.

  6. I finally found the solution to my vpn connection problems. I have both Windscribe and VPN Unlimited. Both worked well while I was at home and using my Asus wi-fi but when I was sitting at McD’s or my favorite coffee shop, neither vpn would work on the unsecured wi-fi provided. Then I decided to disconnect from their wi-fi and turn on my cellular. Bingo! Both worked well and no disconnection. I have had to do this every time and have no problems with either. By the way, I tested both my FREE Windscribe and my premium VPN Unlimited and found that my upload and download speeds are both faster with my paid-up VPN Unlimited. Yes, I recommend having two VPN’s.

  7. I can connect to VPN but when I connect to VPN, my internet doesn’t work. I see the VPN key top of my screen but can’t reach any website. This problem occurs for last 2-3 days. I tried 3 different services but results were same.

    1. What VPN are you using? Perhaps you can disconnect your VPN and contact the customer support of the VPN you’re using at the moment?

    1. Hey DJ,

      You will always get a slower connection while using a VPN. You will hop to another location and use the servers there. The connection speed normally shouldn’t drop more than 30% unless you’re on like a 1GBit/s connection. There are a lot of factors to think of when you see a speed drop while using a VPN. It might be your connection, VPN service provider might have a slow server, their server might be full of people. Try different servers and contacting the support and asking which server is faster might help you out as well.

  8. Hi, I’m using CyberGhost and IPVanish and I’m getting the same error message when trying to make an email account on gmx.com. Is there anything that I can do to fix this? It was working when I first started but I need to make multiple accounts and so I use different servers, still get the same error message. It’s called an abuse hard lock error.

    1. Hey Samantha,

      From the top of my head the error: “abuse hard lock” should be about trying to do something too many times in a row. As I understand you changed servers and the same thing still happened, so I think there might be something wrong with your VPN. I advise you to contact your VPN service provider and they will most likely help you out.

  9. I don’t get it. I was using ZenMate, and its been good. But now it won’t connect. I reinstalled the software, but i got a problem logging in, saying network error. I can use my wi-fi still but can’t use VPN. I tried other VPN’s I can’t seem to get past the login or sign up screen. Anyone else having the same problem?

    1. Hey!

      Do you have different VPN providers installed? Sometimes the TAP server scripts overrun eachother and that causes an issue between them. When I tested around 70 providers with VPNs, I had the same issue. You can send me an email and I’ll try to help you out.

  10. I connected to Nord VPN on my phone and iPad but when I try to connect with my laptop, I get a message asking for my password which I enter and it doesn’t work. I used the same password on my other devices without a problem.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hey Beth,

      Have you connected the customer support? I don’t see why it shouldn’t work and not having much to go on I can’t really help you on this one. Jump on their customer support and ask that same question there.


  11. At home my PPTP client work on my laptop , but when I try to connect the same PPTP config on the same OS (Ubuntu) which is inside a VM (Proxmox) this one don’t connect, event if the internet works for that VM. Any idea ?

  12. My VPN won’t connect to my home wifi so we use my hotspot as an alternative. Friday it kicked me off and never let me back on. Still won’t connect to my hotspot but other devices work fine. They tried to do a breakfix and no luck. Any ideas?

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