You took the plunge and purchased a subscription to a virtual private network (VPN) service, you have the desktop client downloaded, and you’re logged into your VPN. But you notice that nothing has changed as far as your performance or the content that’s accessible to you.
At this point, you are stuck on how to tell if your VPN is working and doing its job. In this article, we cover some different checks that you can perform to test your VPNs abilities and some solutions for troubleshooting if it doesn’t appear to be working.
How To Ensure Your VPN Is Working
- Check for IP and DNA leaks
- Watch for WebRTC leak
Ultimately, there’s one major test that you can perform to confirm if your VPN is enabled and doing its job. That’s to test that your internet protocol (IP) address is masked and routed elsewhere.
Three major leaks can occur with a VPN solution; an IP address leak, a Domain Name System (DNS) leak, and a Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leak. Let’s dig into each and explore alternative reasons if your VPN fails this test.
Check for IP and DNS Leaks
Your VPN’s main job is to protect you from IP and DNS leaks. This is where your actual IP address or DNS address isn’t filtered correctly, thus exposing you to specific attacks like DNS hijacking.
One way to test for IP/DNS leaking is to use a free online IP checking site with the VPN off to confirm your actual public IP. Write down this IP, then enable your VPN and run the same check.
The original IP should be different from the one displayed during the second check.
Watch for WebRTC Leaks
WebRTC is the technology that allows you to take web video calls over the internet and provides routing from your PC to the corresponding participants of the call. There are several ways hackers can exploit your WebRTC address if not filtered adequately.
The method for testing WebRTC is very similar to the IP/DNS leaks but requires you to reference a third-party site like BrowserLeaks to confirm your IP address. The following is how to perform a WebRTC test:
- Confirm your IP with the VPN off and make a note of it.
- Connect your VPN and visit BrowserLeaks.
- The advertised IP on this site should differ from the one you wrote down in Step 1.
What To Do If Your VPN Isn’t Working
- Check you VPN settings
- Use a different browser
- Disable WebRTC or use limiters
So, you have determined that your VPN solution isn’t working, and you need to get it working immediately. The following are some things to test first to try and get your VPN operational.
Check Your VPN Settings
It may seem silly, but some VPNs come with all their settings disabled by default, so if you don’t enable them explicitly, you may be missing out on some crucial protections. One of these settings that you should look for is “DNS leak protection” or “IP masking.” You should be aware that your VPN solution can’t filter your IP address if the setting isn’t enabled.
Use a Different Browser
You may be surprised, but in regard to WebRTC, some browsers don’t support it. It could be beneficial for you to switch which browser you’re using to one that doesn’t actively support WebRTC if you find that it’s indeed leaking your IP address information.
Disable WebRTC or Use Limiters
Another approach for WebRTC is to disable it entirely from being used or use a limiter to restrict its ability. For example, Google Chrome offers a WebRTC limiter extension that’s very effective against limiting or disabling WebRTC altogether.
9 Remedies To Try If Your VPN Isn’t Working
- Reset the VPN
- Change the protocol you’re using
- Change the server you’re using
- Run a virus scan
- Check for updates
- Check your internet connection
- Check your firewalls
- Contact your ISP to verify your VPN isn’t being blocked
- Contact customer support to ensure your vpn service is operational
OK, you have tried all the obvious options, and your VPN solution still doesn’t seem to be working, so what should you do next? Here is a list of 9 additional actions that you can take to ensure better the underlying technology surrounding your VPN is working correctly. Remember, there could be other issues outside the VPN preventing it from connecting successfully, such as the following nine possibilities.
1. Reset the VPN
It may seem obvious but, sometimes, all it takes is a quick reset to get things in working order. This may also apply to your PC; if you just installed the VPN software, some computers require a full restart to complete the install process.
2. Change the Protocol You’re Using
Within a VPN solution, many different protocols can communicate over the internet. Try to switch between those protocol profiles and see if connectivity is resumed as it could be an issue with the VPN provider’s support of a particular protocol.
3. Change the Server You’re Using
Most VPN providers have thousands of servers to manage and provide you with to connect. If you’re always connecting to the same server, it isn’t uncommon for a server to be down for some time. The provider could be performing routine maintenance on the server, or something could have gone wrong with it. Try switching to a different server in a different location to see if that helps.
4. Run a Virus Scan
By running a virus scan, you can rule out the possibility that you downloaded a malicious copy of a VPN solution or your computer has contracted a virus from elsewhere that’s messing with your ability to launch your VPN. Run a quick malware or virus scan to check this box.
5. Check for Updates
Ensure that both your PC and the VPN software are updated and running the latest versions of required software. You may also want to check that your computer’s firmware packages are also up to date, especially if you are using hardware-based Wi-Fi USB devices as your primary source of connection to the internet.
6. Check Your Internet Connection
Sometimes, if you can’t get through the door, you might want to check that it’s indeed open. Check to ensure that your PC or router is connected to the internet.
7. Check Your Firewalls
Your local firewall could be preventing inbound/outbound responses from your VPN service. This is more common if this is the first time you have used this VPN solution. Check your VPN documentation to ensure both your local and network firewalls have open rules for VPN connectivity.
8. Contact Your ISP To Verify Your VPN Isn’t Being Blocked
Give your ISP a ring and inquire if it’s actively blocking your VPN solution. Sometimes, it does this proactively to help thwart malicious actors attempting to use free or open-source VPN solutions. Also, some ISPs may think something malicious is happening if they see that a VPN is filtering your home network constantly.
9. Contact Customer Support To Ensure Your VPN Service Is Operational
At this point, it may be time to reach out to your VPN provider and ask for assistance. Remember, there could also be a bug within its software that’s causing your issues or even a regional outage on its end that it can inform you about once you reach out or create a support ticket. Each VPN solution has its own way of handling communication due to outages. Many of the providers listed on our best VPN solutions list will reach out to you on their own to ensure you are informed.
What To Do Next
If you feel your current VPN cannot accommodate your needs you should consider switching to a more reliable solution. Visit our list of the best VPNs available and check out their reviews.