Why My VPN Isn’t Working and How Do I Fix That?

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Last Updated on November 22, 2023

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Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are powerful data safeguards, separating your private information from greedy hands — well, that’s what it does when it works…

The sense of safety you feel as you browse with a VPN may be misplaced, as your VPN could be malfunctioning without you realizing it.

Worst yet — where do you even start once you know your VPN isn’t working?

In the following article, you’ll find out how simple it is to check your VPN’s functionality. Afterward, we’ll also discuss nine proven ways you can troubleshoot your VPN at home.

Every unprotected second is a chance for cybercriminals to steal your data, so let’s dive right in…


Is your VPN functioning properly?


First thing first — is your VPN actually malfunctioning? Luckily, it’s not as hard to check as it sounds. Among a handful of tests you could do, the simplest and quickest is to run a test for IP address leaks.

Run an IP address test

You can run a quick test for IP address leaks by:

  1. Make sure to turn your VPN off.
  2. Visit an IP checker or Google: “What is my IP address?”.
  3. You should see your real IP address and general location.
  4. Turn on your VPN and pick your desired country.
  5. Check or search for your IP address a second time.
  6. If your IP and location match your chosen country, your VPN is working perfectly!

If your VPN is switched on and your real location is still exposed, your VPN isn’t pulling its weight. It also means your private data could have been exposed for a while. So, let’s continue to discover how you can easily troubleshoot your VPN today.


9 ways to fix a malfunctioning VPN


Fix 1: Try a different server

VPN servers are still likely to face connection issues, like any servers. It could be that the problem you’re facing isn’t with your VPN but with the particular server you’re trying to connect to. Try another one to remedy the issue.

If this still doesn’t work, try contacting your VPN provider’s customer support team or consider switching to a more consistent provider.


Fix 2: Check your connection

Depending on what location you choose, a weak internet connection can struggle to keep up with a VPN. You can try:

  • Connecting to your router via ethernet cable;
  • Upgrading your data plan;
  • Trying to connect to closer VPN servers.

VPNs can use up to 15% more data than without. If your connection still isn’t strong enough, perhaps you need to move to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with a larger bandwidth.


Fix 3: Change your protocol and ports

Each VPN uses “ports” to connect to different “protocols”. Essentially, ports connect you to your VPN, and protocols govern the manner in which this connection happens. 

Check if you’ve closed any ports or changed a protocol accidentally. If you’re not sure of the original settings or how to set it up correctly, visit your VPN provider’s website.


Fix 4: Update your VPN client

Sometimes a small bug in your VPN client software is enough to stop the whole system from working. It can be as simple as a patch you forgot to install. 

Updating your client not only mitigates bugs and errors but protects you from hackers who target outdated software as well. You can download any and all updates from your VPN provider’s website.


Fix 5: Switch to obfuscated servers

ISPs constantly throttle (intentionally slow down) internet connections when they can see you’re using a VPN. This is usually to save bandwidth for other users.

If your VPN offers it, try an “obfuscated” server. Obfuscation means that your data is made so unclear and jumbled that even your ISP can’t tell you’re using a VPN.


Fix 6: Adjust your cybersecurity software

Due to the ports they use, various firewalls and antivirus programs block VPN traffic. Try turning them off to see if your VPN connects. 

If so, head into the settings of your cybersecurity software. Most offer an “exclusion list”, in which you can place the websites or programs you wish to be excluded from blocking.


Fix 7: Turn it off and on again

It’s a method used by beginners and professionals. Sometimes, all your VPN needs is to reset. Shut off your VPN connection and restart the client. 

Now, the VPN will be forced to reconnect to the internet. It sounds a little too simple, but often, this is all it takes to reset your VPN.


Fix 8: Reinstall your VPN client

Classic, yet effective — a simple reinstall can do wonders if you’re running out of options. Uninstall your VPN completely, and then head over to your VPN provider’s site to download the latest VPN client.

Also, ensure that you download the appropriate client that suits your operating system and microprocessor (32-bit vs. 64-bit).


Fix 9: Contact your VPN provider

If all else fails, your VPN provider has a customer service team for this exact reason! Don’t be shy and reach out via the contact pages of their site or check the pre-installed help guides that come with the software.

Sometimes, a VPN issue is too complicated to solve in a few simple moves. In this scenario, trust your VPN provider’s trained support team to find the solution.


VPN troubleshooting FAQs


What causes a VPN to drop out?

By far, the most likely causes of a VPN crash are outdated software or bandwidth issues. Old software runs into connective issues, as VPN servers are updated with the client software. Additionally, if there are too many users on your VPN server, the bandwidth is stretched thin. This causes major connectivity issues and, sometimes, a complete crash.

How can I test my VPN’s speed?

After playing around with different locations and server types, you should measure your internet speed to find your fastest option. Enable your VPN and check your connection speeds over at Measurement Lab.

Why is my VPN connected but my internet isn’t?

If you’ve used VPNs before, you’ve probably encountered this issue once or twice. If your VPN is connected, but you can’t browse the web, the most likely causes are:

1. Connectivity or bandwidth issues within the chosen VPN server.
2. Interference by previously installed cybersecurity software.
3. Your ISP is blocking you due to the VPN protocol you’re using.


Conclusion


By now, you should be back up and running — feel safe knowing your private data is once again encrypted and hidden from the world. Now switch that VPN back on and safely browse to your heart’s content.


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Rahul Choudhary is a technology and troubleshooting expert. He gives his expert opinion on different technology trends and provides troubleshooting guides for different apps, websites, & consumer hardware products. He graduated in BA English Honours from the University Of Delhi, and later he learned HTML and WordPress. He also did a certificate course in Hardware and Network Troubleshooting , and a certificate course in Computer Architecture.