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How to check if your VPN is working

Not sure if your VPN is working? The easiest way to tell if your VPN connection is working as expected is to check your IP address before and immediately after connecting to the VPN. In this post, we’ll explain how to do that so you can ensure you’re properly connected.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

How to check if your VPN is working

How to tell if a VPN is working

The quickest way to check if your VPN is working is to take note of your current IP address, connect to a VPN server, and to check the IP address again. If it’s different from the one you originally noted, your VPN is working.

Here’s the best way to check if your VPN is working.

  1. Turn off your VPN.
  2. Type “what is my IP address” into Google and make note of it. Alternatively, you could also use NordVPN’s IP checker tool.
  3. Turn on your VPN by selecting “Connect.”
  4. Check your IP address on your VPN. You can also use NordVPN’s IP checker tool again.
  5. Compare the two IP addresses.

How to do a VPN test: check for IP or DNS leaks

To check if your VPN is working, follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Check your original IP addresses. Make sure that your VPN is turned off and head to our “What is my IP address?” page, which will show your actual IP.
  2. Check your real IP
  3. Turn on your VPN and connect to a server. Now, your IP address should change to one of the VPN provider’s.
  4. Turn on a VPN
  5. Compare your virtual IP address against your actual IP. Head to the test page again and see if your IP is different now. If the results show your original IP address with a VPN enabled, unfortunately, your VPN is leaking.
  6. Check your IP again

IP address leaks

Your IP address says a lot about you, like your location or the websites you visit. A VPN protects you from snoopers trying to access this information, so if your original IP leaks it defeats the purpose of using a VPN. This usually happens due to two internet protocols, IPv4 and IPv6 and their incompatibility. Once someone has your IP address, it will allow them to monitor your online behavior.

How to check if your IP address is leaked

Sometimes IPLeak tests fail to detect DNS leaks, which can also reveal your identity. So it’s advisable to check it on DNSLeakTest.

  1. If your VPN is on, DNSLeakTest should show the location you’ve chosen and your new IP.
  2. Select Extended Test to dig even deeper. This test might take a few minutes.
  3. If the results now show your new IP address and your chosen country, you are safe. Your VPN isn’t leaking. If it’s the opposite, you have a VPN leak.

DNS leaks

Sometimes your IP might stay hidden while your DNS address secretly reveals your location. The DNS server changes plain text URLs into numerical IP addresses. If you’re not using a VPN, this process is handled by your ISP and their servers, which can see who visited what websites. If your DNS leaks, then anyone snooping on your traffic will be able to access this information too. It could even lead to a DNS hijacking attack.

NordVPN prevents DNS leaks by sending all your DNS queries through a secure VPN tunnel to keep them private at all times. When you’re connected to NordVPN, your device will only use DNS servers operated by us.

How to check if your DNS has leaked

The easiest way is to change your VPN provider to one that has dedicated DNS servers or offers DNS leak protection, like NordVPN. Or you could manually turn IPv6 off on your device. However, this might require some technical know-how.

How to check for WebRTC leaks

Web Real-time Communication (WebRTC) allows a website or app to provide video and audio communications, and can even provide some file-sharing services without the need of extra software. A WebRTC leak is when your browser will inadvertently reveal your IP address when using the WebRTC services. A strong and robust VPN with up-to-date security protocols typically prevents WebRTC leaks, although not all VPNs have that capability.

  1. If you haven’t already, find out your original IP address on the IPLeak website. Make a note of it.
  2. Connect to your VPN and refresh the webpage (or go to its alternative dedicated to WebRTC Testing). It should now show your new IP address and new location based on the country you’ve chosen.
  3. Under ‘Your IP addresses – WebRTC detection’ you should see a private IP that should be different from your original public IP address. Note that the website showing your private IP (usually begins with 10.xxx or 192.xxx or sometimes an alpha-numeric IPv6) doesn’t mean that your WebRTC is leaking.

How to fix a WebRTC leak

This time, changing your VPN or tinkering with your settings won’t help. However, you can:

  • Use a browser that doesn’t have WebRTC. You can find the full list of browsers that exclude it on Wikipedia.
  • Disable WebRTC by following these tips.
  • Install browser extensions:
    • Chrome: Install WebRTC Network Limiter.

Online security starts with a click.

With NordVPN, you won’t have to worry about DNS or IP leaks.

The most common VPN leaks

There are many reasons why your VPN software might not be providing 100% security and exposing your private information. Here are the most common ways that your VPN could be leaking:

IP leak

Your IP address says a lot about you, like your location or the websites you visit. A VPN protects you from snoopers trying to access this information, so if your original IP leaks it defeats the purpose of using a VPN. This usually happens due to two internet protocols, IPv4 and IPv6 and their incompatibility.

DNS leak

Sometimes your IP might stay hidden while your DNS address secretly reveals your location. The DNS server changes plain text URLs into numerical IP addresses. If you’re not using a VPN, this process is handled by your ISP and their servers, which can see who visited what websites. If your DNS leaks, then anyone snooping on your traffic will be able to access this information too. It could even lead to a DNS hijacking attack.

WebRTC leak

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is built into most popular browsers (i.e., Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Brave). It enables real-time communications such as voice and video chat, but it also presents another vulnerability for VPN users.

Some websites can take advantage of WebRTC by inserting a few lines of code to see past your VPN and discover your original IP. This is very useful for websites that provide or block content based on your geo-location.

PRO TIP: It’s possible to prevent these leaks, but first, you have to identify them. You can do so by running some basic VPN tests that anyone can do.
Infographic the most common VPN leaks

Why is my VPN connected but not working?

If you've performed all of these VPN tests and there's still an issue, there may be other reasons why it might seem that your VPN isn’t working:

  • Your browsing speed has dropped. A slower browser speed is a sign of connecting to a server on the other side of the world, the server is overloaded, or your ISP is throttling bandwidth. However, you can check your VPN speed and increase it .
  • Your ISP or your country is blocking VPN usage. In some countries, especially with online censorship, VPN usage can be blocked or considered illegal. In China, for example, only government-approved VPNs are legal.
  • VPN malware. Technology experts would never recommend using a free VPN. Not only do most contain invasive ads, some contain malware. If using a free VPN, you might already be exposing more personal information than you wanted to.
  • You’ve been hacked. It’s quite difficult to break into someone’s secure online account, and requires a suitable amount of know-how. It’s more likely that you’ve visited a malicious website or fell for a phishing attack. Unfortunately, if someone hacks you, a VPN can’t do much to protect you.

How to fix your VPN connection

Sometimes your VPN connection might drop for no discernable reason, or your VPN speed might be slow. Here’s a few tips for solving your VPN issues:

  • Reset your VPN app. This is probably the most obvious advice, but resetting your VPN can do miracles. Switch off the app, using the Force Stop function on your phone if necessary, and restart.
  • Change a VPN protocol. If you’re experiencing connectivity issues, try changing from UDP to TCP protocol in your VPN app.
  • Hop between servers. A slow VPN connection might suggest that something’s wrong with the server you’ve connected to. Change to another server and see if your VPN works better.
  • Check your internet connection. Unstable Wi-Fi might also be the reason that your VPN service is not working. You can try to connect your device directly to a router to get more speed or contact your internet service provider.
  • Update your VPN software. This can not only help you to fix VPN issues, but also provides you with the latest security and privacy features. We recommend that you always update your software whenever possible.
  • Check your firewall settings. Your firewall might be blocking your VPN traffic, preventing you from connecting to the server. Try disabling your firewall temporarily to see if this is the problem.
  • Talk to technical support. If you’re still struggling to understand what’s wrong with your VPN, contact NordVPN technical support, available 24/7, and they will help you to solve any issues.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.