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    Choose from different VPN protocols for the best speed and security.

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    Use NordVPN on multiple devices at the same time.

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    Install the NordVPN app to establish secure VPN connections.

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What is a VPN client?

At the most basic level, a VPN client is an application that encrypts your connection and reroutes your online traffic through a secure VPN server. Most VPN providers have their own VPN client software, designed to allow easy access to the provider’s VPN servers and offering advanced security features (like NordVPN’s Threat Protection.)

How does a VPN client work?

Your VPN client uses VPN protocols to create an encrypted “tunnel” between your device and your chosen VPN server. From that point on, all online traffic between you and the VPN server is encrypted and shielded from prying eyes. The VPN server decrypts the received data and safely passes it on to its final destination (such as a website.)

A diagram showing how a VPN client works to secure the user’s connection against outside threats.

Why use a VPN client?


Installing dedicated VPN software can let you easily manage the extra perks that come with your VPN subscription. For example, the NordVPN app has advanced options such as Threat Protection, Dark Web Monitor, Meshnet, and other handy features.


A VPN client provides an intuitive interface for you to configure the VPN service to your beat. Customize your Kill Switch settings, set up Auto-connect for an easy start, select your preferred protocol (such as the NordLynx VPN protocol for top speed) — and that’s just the start.


Want to hop from Berlin to New York with the click of a button? You can do that with a VPN client. No need to manually type out commands and look up VPN server addresses — with the NordVPN app, you simply tap a pin on the map.


How many VPN servers are available in France? How busy are they? Without a VPN client, you would have to hunt down this information on the web or by using cumbersome text commands. A VPN client gives you everything you need to know.


VPN clients let users easily sign in to their VPN service — it’s just like logging in to any other app. Thanks to the app’s graphical user interface, you don’t need to navigate the command prompt to access what you paid for or switch accounts.

Split tunneling

Split tunneling lets specific apps access the internet directly without turning off your VPN — but it can be very tricky to set up without visual cues. A VPN client can easily pick and choose apps to exclude from the secure VPN tunnel.

Types of VPN clients

There are three main types of VPN clients: system-based, protocol-based, and service-based.

System-based (native)

Some operating systems offer native VPN clients, letting users establish a VPN connection without having to download any third party software. This option is available on many Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android systems.


Several VPN protocol developers (such as OpenVPN and SoftEther) have created their own VPN clients. These clients are not tied to any single VPN provider — but they also typically only support VPN connections using the developer’s own VPN protocol.


Most VPN providers have their own VPN client apps. These VPN clients are configured to connect to the provider’s servers, let you freely choose between multiple VPN protocols, and usually offer extra security features (such as NordVPN’s Threat Protection or Meshnet.)

Technical specifications for VPN clients

Check out what your devices need to run NordVPN smoothly.

The NordVPN VPN client active on a Windows device, showing that the user’s connection is encrypted.

Requirements for the Windows VPN client

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    Application: Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (version 1607+), Windows 11

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    OpenVPN manual (the latest version): Windows 7, Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (version 1507+), Windows 11

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    IKEv2 manual: Windows 10 (version 1507+)

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    Not supported: Anything older than Windows 7

The NordVPN VPN client active on a macOS device, showing that the user’s connection is encrypted.

Requirements for the macOS VPN client

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    macOS 10.15+

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    IKEv2 manual: macOS 10.11+

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    OpenVPN manual: macOS 10.4+

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    Not supported: anything older than macOS 10.4

The NordVPN VPN client active on a Linux device, showing that the user’s connection is encrypted.

Requirements for Linux VPN client

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    Supported architectures: aarch64, armv5, armv7, i386, and x86_64

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    Minimal kernel version: 3.7.0 for aarch64, 3.2.0 for other architectures

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    Required dependencies: procps, iproute2/iproute, iptables, xsltproc, systemd

The NordVPN VPN client active on an iOS smartphone, showing that the user’s connection is encrypted.

Requirements for iOS VPN client

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    Application: iOS 14.2+

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    OpenVPN manual: iOS 11+

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    IKEv2 manual: iOS 9+

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    Not supported: Anything older than iOS 9

The NordVPN VPN client active on an Android smartphone, showing that the connection is encrypted.

Requirements for Android VPN client

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    Application: Android 7+

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    OpenVPN client manual: Android 4.4+

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    IKEv2 manual: Android 4.0.3+

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    Not supported: Anything older than Android 4.0.3

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Free vs. paid VPN client

There are plenty of free VPNs out there — so why choose a paid VPN instead of a free one?

If you’re using a free VPN to improve your online privacy, you might in fact be doing the opposite.

Remember — free VPN providers have to pay their bills just like everyone else. Free VPNs may try to cut costs by supporting only a few servers, forced to operate under heavy loads and being unable to provide a stable connection. In rare cases, free VPNs have even resorted to selling their clients’ data or using their devices as exit nodes for paying VPN users.

Paid VPN providers like NordVPN offer both speed and security. With thousands of servers in all corners of the world, you’re bound to find one close by for the best possible VPN speed. And with bulletproof VPN encryption algorithms and useful extra features (like Threat Protection and Dark Web Monitor), the NordVPN app stands out among the best VPN clients.

A woman configuring the VPN client manually on her laptop.

Should you configure your VPN manually?

Setting up an OpenVPN connection on your device manually can let you access the most advanced VPN connection settings. These settings may be hidden by the developers of VPN clients to prevent inexperienced users from compromising their own security.

So where should you start? Download the OpenVPN configuration files and follow our guides on how to set up OpenVPN on your devices. If you’re having trouble with the manual setup, simply contact our support for help.

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VPN solutions for business

Looking for a VPN for your organization? Look no further. The world’s fastest VPN service offers optimized VPN solutions for business and teams.

Check out NordLayer — an easy-to-use cybersecurity tool providing safe remote network access for everyone in your team.

Best value for your money

Pick the best NordVPN subscription to suit your digital security needs.

Frequently asked questions