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VPN not connecting: the biggest problems and how to fix them

An important and confidential call. An online exchange of sensitive data. In these tense and stressful situations, you want everything to be safe and secure, so you use a VPN. And then a “VPN not working” error hits you. Sounds terrible? It could be even worse if you’re connecting from a country with internet restrictions and low internet freedom index.

Paul Black

Paul Black

Oct 17, 2021 · 6 min read

VPN not connecting: the biggest problems and how to fix them

But luckily, there are measures on how to manage such situations. Learn how to fix various “VPN not connecting” problems below.

Why is my VPN not working and how should I fix it?

If your VPN software is not working properly, you can do several things: check your network settings, change your server, make sure the right ports are opened, disable the firewall, and reinstall your VPN software. If none of the below methods are working, it's time to contact your VPN provider.

Let’s dive into the details and discuss how you can fix your VPN client. These VPN troubleshooting tips also apply if you use Android or iPhone devices.

Your VPN could have connectivity issues for many reasons. Before getting annoyed or disappointed by your service provider, try these methods:

Why is a VPN not connecting?

  1. Check whether your internet connection is alright

    First of all, check your internet connection. Try loading up a few pages without a VPN connection and see whether they are still working. If you have NordVPN, don't worry too much if your internet connection is shoddy. As soon as the NordVPN app recognizes a flaw in the VPN connection, the built-in kill switch will cut the link to the internet.

    If it’s not, try the following:

    • Disconnect and reconnect to your Wi-Fi network;
    • Restart your router;
    • Check your router’s ethernet cable to see if it’s connected;
    • Contact your ISP if you still need help to restore your internet connection.

    We’ve also got tips on how to increase your Wi-Fi bandwidth.

  2. Check your credentials

    If you run VPN software on your router, make sure you have the right credentials entered for it as they are separate from your VPN account. If they are incorrect, you won’t be able to connect to a VPN server.

    If you use NordVPN, you can easily check them via the user control panel, which can be accessed from our webpage. Choose NordVPN under Dashboard on the left. Then scroll down to Advanced configuration and see your username and password in the Service credentials (manual setup) section. Make sure you check to see if the website you downloaded the VPN from is legitimate, too. Have a look at this checklist to check the authenticity of a site.

    • Double check the URL to make sure it's spelled correctly;
    • Look for a padlock in the address bar. Most browsers will inform you if the site isn't secured;
    • Enter the URL on this site.

    Also, make sure you use complex passwords for your VPN account and change them often to stay safe. You can use our secure NordPass tool to store them.

  3. Check whether your preferred VPN server is working

    The problem might be with the VPN provider’s infrastructure, specifically the VPN server. Firstly, check if your VPN is working. Next is the servers. Some servers can reject new connections if they’re overloaded. If you're using a premium VPN you should have access to tons of servers; for example, if you're struggling to connect to a VPN for UK browsing, just try disconnecting and then selecting the UK again. You'll be sent to a different VPN server, and that may solve the problem.

  4. Check if you have the right ports opened

    Your provider can block traffic on a specific port, so try changing your default port settings to see if the right ports are open for a VPN.

    For NordVPN to work, the 443 TCP and 1194 UDP ports need to be open. Your firewall or router must also allow passthrough for VPN. Just note that NordVPN does not offer port forwarding. The app blocks all ports except the ones your VPN software needs to operate. This makes you safer, as open ports creates lots of security risks for your internet connection.

  5. VPN software issues

    VPN software, much like other software, can crash or experience glitches and bugs from time to time. Always make sure you have the most up-to-date version of your app (premium providers like NordVPN perform constant testing to catch and fix bugs ASAP). Also, try resetting or reinstalling your software in case the problem persists. Consider closing some background programs and cleaning up your disk space. Don't forget to check your internet connection, too.

    There also could be issues in your VPN settings. You can easily reset them to default if you suspect there is something wrong.

  6. Firewall blocking

    Also, make sure your firewall does not block VPN connections. Add VPN software to the list of exceptions in your firewall settings.

  7. Contact customer service

    If none of these methods help, contact your provider's customer service and inform them of your concerns. NordVPN support is available 24/7, so you can reach us anywhere, anytime.

    VPN not connecting

Why is my VPN connection so slow?

Even though premium VPN services do not slow down your internet significantly, you may sometimes experience speed drops, especially with poorly configured VPNs. Below are some tips on how to fix it.

  1. Run a speed test

    First, we recommend you run a speed test to whether the problem lies with your VPN provider or your ISP. Check the differences between the speeds with and without VPN software. Find out more about VPN speed tests here.

  2. Switch server

    As mentioned above, server performance might differ depending on user proximity and server load. Try connecting to a VPN server that is closer to your physical location and is less busy.

  3. Switch VPN tunneling protocol

    Not all VPN protocols are equal, so switching them might be a good idea. NordVPN offers you a few protocols to use. Our Nordlynx VPN protocol is ultra-fast and secure and will not significantly slow down your internet speed. Its lightweight nature gives you the best speeds and tight security.

  4. Change your port or IP protocol

    If you can’t connect to a VPN or your connection is slow, it might not be the VPN server, or the VPN provider. Try changing your IP protocol from TCP to UDP. While they both have their pros and cons, UDP is usually faster than TCP. However, this comes at the cost of stability.

    You can also adjust your ports. VPN clients use recommended and specific VPN protocol ports to route their traffic. Ports separate traffic from various sources to keep them organized. However, not all ports can communicate equally well with your VPN. Also, your ISP may slow down some ports, so switching them might be a good idea. Check out this link to see what else you can do to boost VPN speed.

  5. Configure your security software

    Your security software might interfere with VPN connections. Adding NordVPN to its whitelist should allow it to function as intended. Once you do so, you'll have no issues connecting to a VPN server.

  6. Change your VPN provider

    If you are using a free VPN, you will probably experience connectivity and speed disruptions more frequently. Unreliable or underfunded VPN providers usually lack sufficient VPN servers and customer service to guarantee the best experience. Moreover, they frequently collect your data and do not provide you with the privacy you expect. Be wary of any VPN provider that offers a free service — it's often too good to be true.

How do I stop a VPN from disconnecting?

If your VPN frequently stops working, your traffic can be exposed and you may not get the privacy you expect from your service. The good thing is that there are a few ways to mitigate such VPN problems. Try these before resorting to contacting your VPN provider.

  1. Change your firewall settings

    Your firewall inspects and blocks incoming packets, so naturally, it can also slow down your network. If it gets very slow, you can get disconnected from your VPN service. Some firewalls do not work well with VPNs, so ensure that yours does not disrupt your VPN traffic. Add your VPN software to exceptions so that you won't need to disable your firewall entirely and lose a layer of protection.

  2. Use a different DNS server

    Sometimes, your service provider's DNS server might not work properly, so it is worth changing to a different one. In NordVPN’s app, you can easily do that in the preferences section. Just keep in mind that custom DNS servers expose you to higher DNS leak risks. Fortunately, NordVPN offers DNS leak protection to make your experience safer.

  3. Change VPN protocols

    Again, that might help in case your system interferes with a VPN protocol. Try shifting from TCP to UDP or choose one of the many protocols offered by NordVPN.

    Just note that if you use premium VPN services, the probability of experiencing serious issues with your internet or VPN connection is low. The best VPNs offer both speed and security. So download a VPN for a smooth and safe online experience.

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