How to Set Up a VPN on Android for Free
Updated: March 30,2022
Using a VPN is key to keeping your online activity safe and private. While most people have learned about the importance of implementing VPNs on their computers and browsers, many leave their phones woefully unprotected. For users looking to patch up this hole in their cyber defenses, we’ve prepared a guide on how to set up a VPN on Android for free. Here, we’ll lay out each step you need to take in detail, helping you secure your mobile internet connection without burning a hole in your pocket.
What Is a VPN and Why Do I Need One?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that lets you create a secure, private connection to another network. VPNs create an encrypted tunnel for your online connection, masking your location and IP, preventing third parties from spying on your internet activity or identifying you.
VPNs are a crucial tool for accessing geo-locked content and streaming region-specific libraries. They also keep sensitive data secure, let users access censored content, and help journalists and activists in countries where freedom of speech is endangered.
Setting up a VPN on Android or any other operating system is essential in protecting your connection on all Internet-ready devices. Next to antiviruses, VPNs are some of the most important elements of our phone’s cyber defense. Since we use our smartphones to communicate and access sensitive data on a regular basis, it is imperative to keep them safe from hackers.
Android VPN Readiness
The great thing about Android is that it comes with pre-built VPN support. You can manually connect to a VPN server straight through your Android phone’s settings. However, setting up a VPN like this requires you to type in VPN configuration information by yourself. This can be problematic for inexperienced users.
How to set up a free VPN on Android without having to do everything manually, then? By downloading one of the dedicated free VPN for Android applications, which takes care of the whole configuration process for you. Both options work, so let’s take a look at each in more detail.
Setting up Android VPN Manually
In case you’ve decided to connect to a VPN server on Android manually, there are some things you should know before you delve into the process.
First of all, you’ll need to have VPN login and server config data at hand to establish a manual connection. This data can be obtained from your system administrator if you’re connecting to a business network or from one of many Android VPN providers on the market if not.
Many VPN providers provide guides on how to set up a VPN on Android for free on their website. In most cases, you’ll just need to log on to your account on the provider’s website and find the Set up on More devices or Connect Manually buttons, which then reveal the server information you need. Once you grab all the VPN settings, you’re ready to connect manually.
The other thing to keep in mind is that manually connecting to a VPN server limits the choice of VPN protocols at your disposal. The three supported protocols are PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec. All of them are somewhat outdated and less secure than newer ones like OpenVPN, which are utilized via dedicated apps.
So, how to connect to a VPN on Android, then? Here is a step-by-step guide:
Step 1 – Go to Your Android Phone’s Settings > Network Settings
The first step involves navigating to your smartphone’s Settings panel. There, you need to find the option for accessing your network settings. The exact name can vary by your device and Android version. It might be called Network and Internet, ‘Network Settings, Connection & Sharing, or something along those lines.
Step 2 – Tap the VPN Button and Click Add VPN
Once you’ve accessed the network settings, you’ll need to locate the cell phone VPN section. In most cases, it will be called simply VPN. Click that button, and you’ll be greeted with a near-empty screen, with a small plus sign that has Add VPN written above it.
Click that, and you’ll ready the VPN login and server data that you’ve previously acquired. This is crucial for the next step in our guide on how to set up a VPN on an Android phone for free.
Step 3 - Type in VPN Information
Now, you need to type in all the information you’ve acquired from your VPN provider or network administrator. The information includes the name of the VPN server, username, password, and the VPN protocol to use. Under the Advanced Options tab, you’ll find DNS-related options. In most cases, you won’t have to fiddle with them at all.
As we’ve previously mentioned, pay special attention to which protocol you’ll choose. Most VPN providers will limit you to a specific one if you’re connecting manually. The one to avoid is PPTP, as it is outdated and suffers from several security vulnerabilities. Once you’ve typed in all the data, click on the Save button. Congratulations: you’re done with the penultimate step in our how to set up VPN on Android guide for manual connections.
Step 4 - Tap the Saved VPN Profile To Connect
Now, the VPN connection profile will be saved on your phone, allowing you to connect on demand easily. Wondering how to use the VPN? Easy, just tap the saved profile from your VPN selection screen, and it will connect. That’s it; you’ve successfully established a VPN connection on your Android phone manually.
Using the OpenVPN Protocol
Before we move on, there’s one more important thing to mention. As previously stated, Android does not support manual OpenVPN protocol connections by default. If you’re wondering how to use a VPN on Android with an OpenVPN protocol, you can circumvent the limitations of the OS by downloading a dedicated app such as OpenVPN for Android.
We recommend going for the OpenVPN protocol (if you don’t want to use a dedicated VPN app), as it’s much safer than the one that Android supports by default.
Connecting to a VPN on Android With a Dedicated App
Utilizing a dedicated VPN app is a much easier and quicker alternative to manually setting up a VPN connection. There’s a wide selection of Android VPN providers to choose from. While the free versions are often feature-limited, they should mostly get the job done.
So, how to set up a VPN on Android for free through a dedicated VPN application? There are multiple ways to go about it. First, you’ll need to find a good free VPN online. Once you’ve chosen your preferred provider, the next step involves downloading the application itself.
You can download the app through Google Play. If you cannot access the store for some reason, you can find APK installation files online by doing a quick Google search. Simply download them and initiate the installation manually. Be careful if you’re downloading the APK files from a non-official site, as they could potentially be infected with malware.
After you initiate the installation, the process is mostly automatic, with the installer handling most VPN settings for Android by itself. Another thing to keep in mind is that many free VPNs out there actually do not encrypt your connection and just serve to spoof your location instead. Hence, we recommend that you stick to proven and reputable providers such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN. They not only make connecting to a VPN easier but safer, too.
After reading this guide, you should be fully equipped to get a VPN up and running on your Android phone. As we’ve already said in this “how to use VPN in Android” guide, try to stick to trusted VPN providers, and always use their dedicated apps if possible. Remember: avoid the PPTP protocol and go for OpenVPN whenever possible. Finally, consider using a paid VPN for ultimate protection. Free versions are often very limited in scope, having far less available bandwidth and server choices than their paid counterparts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can set up a VPN on Android without paying. Most well-known VPN providers offer a free tier of services that works on Android phones. Either connect manually by typing in the VPN configuration data or through the VPN apps you can download from the Play Store.
TunnelBear, Kaspersky, and HotSpot Shield are some of the most popular free Android VPNs available. You cannot go wrong with any of them.
Yes, there are numerous free VPN applications for Android. Just make sure you stick to trusted ones that actually encrypt your connection and don’t just mask it.
As we’ve shown in our ‘How to set up a VPN on Android for free’ guide above, you can set up a VPN on Android by yourself easily. There are for steps to take:
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While Damjan started his career in humanities, his interests quickly moved on to the tech and IT world. VPNs, antiviruses, firewalls, password managers - cybersecurity is what he knows best. When Damjan’s not losing hair over the dwindling of our collective sense of tech safety, you’ll find him looking for solace in 100-hour-long RPGs and rage-inducing MOBAs.