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Cybersecurity is a major concern, and you may be wondering what you can do to increase your overall personal protection further when it pertains to your online activity. Setting up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Android device is one of the best ways to protect yourself online. When connecting to a public Wi-Fi network at locations like a coffee shop or hotel, you are exposing digital activity to anyone watching. A VPN will provide you with a sense of anonymity and overall security while using your Android device on the go.

Depending on your Android version and VPN service of choice, you may need to download and configure a VPN using an application downloaded from your app store. Whichever method you choose, our goal is to help guide you to install and configure your VPN solution onto your Android device successfully.

Reasons to Configure an Android VPN Manually

One of the most important reasons why someone would want to configure a VPN service manually themselves is selecting the details that will benefit you the most. For example, being able to determine which protocol is used will impact your experience significantly, whether you want a protocol that offers the highest security or a protocol that provides minimal protection but blazing fast speeds. The manual configuration will allow you to customize any aspect of your VPN service on your Android device.

What You Need to Get Started

To get started, you must first choose the VPN service that you want to use. You should also have a good understanding of what you ultimately want out of your VPN before selecting one to ensure it can support your goals. Before starting your research on VPN solutions, know the exact operating system version your phone is currently on as well as the model of your phone. This will help you eliminate any compatibility issues from the start. Lastly, it is a good practice to configure your Android VPN setup on a trusted network, if possible, to avoid any unwanted errors or unexpected troubleshooting.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. We will walk you through all steps required to set up your VPN. If you are struggling to decide on a VPN service, we have a list of recommended VPNs for you to consider as a starting point.

Choose an Android VPN App or Service

Choosing a VPN service doesn’t have to be a difficult task. It is essential that you understand fully what you are looking to get from a VPN service and if it is for personal or professional use. If you require a VPN for professional use, you need to speak with your information technology (IT) staff at your workplace and inquire if they have a VPN service already in place that you can utilize. You may also need permission to install any outside VPN service if you are using a company-owned device.

Below are some questions you should ask yourself when considering a VPN for personal use:

  1. What activity do I plan on doing on my Android device (such as banking or social media posting)?
  2. Is streaming, gaming, or watching high-resolution videos a priority?
  3. What type of control do I want over the solution?
  4. What is my budget?
  5. Is my phone mostly on Wi-Fi when in use or cell service (which is important to know to keep track of bandwidth and cellular charges)?

These questions will help narrow down the specifics around what is most important to you in a VPN solution. Once you have your goals laid out, it is time to match them with a VPN provider. If you need assistance, visit this page for a good starting point as this list provides a good overview of some of the industry’s best VPN solutions.

Selecting a VPN Protocol

A VPN protocol is a method of how your connection is made, established, and terminated over the internet. Think of it as wearing protective gloves when cleaning up broken glass. You could clean up the glass faster without putting gloves on, but you risk cutting yourself and infection. Meanwhile, wearing the gloves may take longer to accomplish cleaning the glass, but it provides a layer of protection while doing the job. It is imperative to understand the differences because some protocols will vary in speed, performance, bandwidth, and security.

During setup ― either through an app or manual configuration ― you will have to select which protocol you will be using. For an Android device, you must choose both a VPN solution and a protocol that supports the specific operating system in question.

Below is a list of the top protocols and our pick of which product provides the best quality of that particular protocol in question.

VPN ProtocolBest ForOur Pick
PPTP: Point-to-point tunneling protocolFast transmission speeds; enterprise quick set upExpressVPN
SSTP: Secure Socket Transport ProtocolBest OS support; high encryption rate (2048 bits)NordVPN
L2TP/IPsec: Layer 2 tunneling protocol/internet protocol securityMultiple forms of authentication; best overall speed and SecurityIPVanish
IKEv2 – IKE and IKEv2 – Internet key exchangeFast speeds; strong security (256-bit encryption); low latencyPureVPN

Connect to a VPN on Android: Step-by-Step Guide

The following are steps required to set up and configure a VPN solution on an Android device:

1. Turn on the device and navigate to the Settings application.

2. Under Settings, scroll to the bottom and select More.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android - Step 2

3. Select VPN and click the + sign in the top-right corner.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android - Step 3

4. Lastly, Fill out your VPN credentials and Protocol information, then click Save.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android - Step 4

These are just the manual steps required to set up a VPN on an Android device. Keep in mind that additional steps are needed to configure within your VPN service account. Other settings like “always-on VPN” or “automatic geo-location” may have to be switched on from the VPN solution before it can be utilized fully.

Keep in mind that just because a solution has an application doesn’t mean you can’t set it up manually yourself. Express VPN has an app in the app store, but if you follow these steps, you can set it up manually if required.

  1. First, you will want to log in to your ExpressVPN account and navigate My Account > Set up on More Devices > Manual Config.
  2. Select the PPTP option and copy and save the credentials provided.
  3. Then, move to your Android phone’s setup process as described above.
  4. Once you get to the Edit VPN profile screen, populate it with the credential information provided from the ExpressVPN set up.
  5. Save and connect.

As you can see, most solutions will have a method for you to set up manually and configure on your own if desired. It is important to note, however, that it may be more beneficial to utilize the solution as some VPN providers limit the available protocols or functionality as it pertains to overall speed and security thresholds. Look for disclaimers that follow to see if the manual option is provided only for anonymization.

How to Set Up a VPN on Android - Step 5

Whether you are using a VPN for personal browsing or using one while working from home, having a VPN set up and at your disposal is an excellent security best practice to follow and instill into your everyday life.