My VPN Doesn’t Work: How to Fix the Most Common VPN Issues

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Fixing the Most Common VPN Issues: a Short Summary

Most common VPN issues can be resolved with little time and effort. Sometimes the VPN simply needs to be properly configured before it’s ready to use, and sometimes the problem lies in the website you’re attempting to access. Whatever your issue might be, there is always a workaround.

No Internet

If your VPN isn’t working or won’t let you connect to the internet, try one of the following solutions:

  • Make sure you’re connected to the internet.
  • Reset your router and/or your device.
  • Add your VPN to your firewall’s whitelist.
  • Update your VPN software.
  • Restore your VPN to its default settings.
  • Open the ports your VPN needs.

Slow Connection

If your VPN significantly slows down your connection, try one of these tips:

  • Connect to a server with fewer users.
  • Connect to a closer server location.
  • Use a faster VPN (like Surfshark) or network protocol (UDP).

Netflix Doesn’t Work

If your VPN doesn’t work with streaming platforms like Netflix due to VPN blocks, try the following:

  • Choose a VPN that supports Netflix (like CyberGhost).
  • Clear your cache and cookies OR use incognito mode.
  • Connect to a different VPN server.
  • Use a specialized streaming server.
  • Contact your VPN’s customer support.

Email Doesn’t Work

If you can’t send or receive emails with your VPN, try one of these solutions:

  • Switch to a different VPN server.
  • Switch to more secure ports for email (port 587 or 465).
  • Use split tunneling to exempt your email app from the VPN connection (unsafe).

Need more tips? Read on to learn more about the most common VPN issues and how to fix them.

There are several reasons why your virtual private network (VPN) might not be working properly, but most of them boil down to a few common issues. Perhaps you can’t connect to the internet while using a VPN service, or at least not for long until the connection drops. Maybe you’re confronted with a proxy error message when you try to watch Netflix, or maybe you can’t send any emails. Whatever the case might be, there are plenty of technical problems you might encounter while using a VPN — but there are just as many solutions.

Quick Solutions to Your VPN Problems

This article will walk you through some of the most common VPN problems and their solutions. We’ll go into greater detail later on, but for now, here’s a quick overview with possible causes and solutions.

VPN IssuePossible CauseSolution
Unable to connect to the internetFailure to connect to the internet with a VPN is often caused by firewalls, blocked ports, outdated VPN software, or simply a failure of your router.Make sure that your firewall allows for use of the VPN, that your VPN software is updated, and that the right ports aren’t blocked.
Slow speedSlow VPN connections may be the result of a busy server, your distance to the server, or your network or VPN protocol.Connect to a faster server or a server that’s physically closer to your location, or use a faster network or VPN protocol.
Netflix VPN/proxy banThe main reason why VPN users can’t access Netflix is that Netflix blocks VPN servers.Connect to a different server, use a streaming-dedicated server, use incognito mode, or clear your cache and cookies.
Emails won’t sendYour email provider might be blocking your VPN, or your VPN might be blocking an insecure email port.Switch to a different VPN server, use a different port for emailing, or activate split-tunneling.

No Internet: Why Does My Connection Not Work with a VPN?

You may have had this problem before: you launch your VPN software and suddenly webpages return error messages, emails don’t get sent, and streaming is impossible. For whatever reason, your VPN won’t let you connect to the internet.

There are many possible explanations for your VPN connection failure, but let’s start with the basics. Here are some general troubleshooting tips:

  1. Check your internet connection to make sure it’s connected.
  2. If you’re using your home’s Wi-Fi network, try disconnecting and reconnecting to the network and open a page without the VPN.
  3. If that doesn’t work, reset your router and your device. You may need to contact your internet service provider if your internet connection is at fault and nothing fixes it.

Reasons your VPN software might be interfering with your internet connection

If your connection is up and running and you still can’t use the internet with a VPN, you may be up against a different kind of problem. Here’s a quick rundown of common VPN-related reasons for connection failure, error messages, and other network difficulties:

  • Your firewall might be blocking the VPN. Connection problems are often caused by firewalls. To solve this, open your firewall settings, add the VPN app to its list of allowed apps, and try again.
  • The VPN software might be outdated. Check your VPN updates to make sure you have the most recent version of the software installed, as old software may be riddled with vulnerabilities and glitches.
  • Your VPN settings might have been misconfigured. Restore the VPN to its default settings and see if this solves the problem.
  • The ports you need to run your VPN might be blocked. Ports are virtual locations where information is sent. Each port is assigned to a certain type of traffic, so emails go through one port while web pages go through another. There are many ports used by many different protocols and providers, but VPNs usually work with port 1194 TCP/UDP and port 443 TCP. You can change your system to one of these ports manually, but this process is quite advanced and can cause all sorts of problems. Instead, we advise you to contact your internet provider or your VPN’s customer support and ask them to help fix the issue.

Bad Connection Speeds: Why is My Internet So Slow?

Some barriers to using a VPN are a matter of speed rather than connectivity. There isn’t much point in subscribing to a VPN provider if it makes your connection too slow to perform simple tasks like browsing the web. VPNs will typically slow down your connection slightly since all data traveling to and from your device is encrypted. Even so, the reduced speeds should be negligible or unnoticeable with a high-quality VPN service — assuming you already have a fast internet connection.

Get a fast VPN

The best way to avoid bad connection speeds is to invest in a fast VPN. We recommend using Surfshark to keep your communications secure and private without sacrificing speed. Surfshark is the service that consistently has the best results, both in daily use and in our extensive speed tests.

If you don’t have a VPN yet or are looking to switch providers, you might want to give Surfshark a try. One big plus of this VPN service is that it’s relatively cheap, so you’ll get high quality for just a few dollars a month.

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Choosing VPNs of lower quality could worsen any speed problems you have, especially when you’re using a free VPN with low data limits or a limited amount of servers.

However, even if you’ve subscribed to the best VPN in the market, you might still find your connection slower than you’d like it. A few possible scenarios could explain this:

Reason for VPN Speed ProblemDescriptionSolution
Busy serverToo many users on a single VPN server will slow down your VPN connection speed.Connect to a VPN server with fewer users.
DistanceThe further away you are from your chosen VPN server, the slower your speed will be.Connect to a VPN server closer to your location.
Network protocolDifferent VPN protocols send and receive packages of data at different speeds, affecting your connection.Use UDP as the standard VPN protocol.
Slow internet connectionA slow internet connection without a VPN will often only become slower with a VPN.Close off devices and processes or reboot the system.

We’ll dive deeper into each of these issues and their solutions below.

Busy server

It’s possible the slow VPN server you’re connected to is dealing with too many users at once, which is called server congestion. Simply connecting to a few other servers will give you an idea of each server’s traffic volume. If your VPN has thousands of servers to choose from, you have a higher chance of finding a faster VPN server with fewer users.

Server congestion is an especially common problem with free VPNs. The companies that produce these VPN services usually lack the resources to operate more than a handful of VPN servers at one time, leaving users no choice but to share the same crowded server at once. Keep in mind that server congestion can afflict even the best VPN services, especially during peak traffic hours.

Distance

The distance between you and the server has a major effect on speed as well. It takes less time for a nearby server to transmit data to and from your device than a server located on the other side of the world.

However, sometimes it’s necessary to choose a distant server, for example when you’re using a VPN to access geo-restricted content. When you’re in Japan but would like to watch the British BBC iPlayer, you’ll have to use a VPN server in the United Kingdom. In these cases, it’s critical to find a relatively unoccupied server.

Network protocol

The speed of your VPN connection is also determined by your network protocol, so make sure you’re using the right network protocol for your activities.

All of your internet communications are made possible by one of two data transfer protocols: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). Both protocols transfer data over the internet and bundle your data into smaller units called data packets, but they differ in their methods.

Network ProtocolDescription
TCPTCP sends each data packet in a sequence. It’s slower than UDP, but delivers data accurately and completely, making it more reliable. This protocol is better suited for file transfer, sending emails, and web browsing.
UDPUDP sends a large volume of data packets at once in no particular order. UDP is faster than TCP, but more likely to corrupt files. It’s especially useful for real-time communications like VoIP calls and data-heavy tasks like streaming and gaming.

If your VPN is too slow to serve your purposes, try using a protocol that works with UDP.

You can usually change your VPN protocols by adjusting your VPN app’s settings. Not all VPNs offer the same protocols and sometimes you won’t have a wide range of options. Some of the most popular protocols are:

  • OpenVPN (TCP or UDP): This most widely used VPN protocol is open-source.
  • Wireguard (UDP): This new protocol is gaining a reputation for being faster than OpenVPN.
  • IKEv2 (UDP): This protocol is popular among mobile users for its speed and efficiency.
  • Provider-specific protocols: Some providers create their own proprietary protocols instead of opting for open source solutions, such as NordVPN’s NordLynx and ExpressVPN’s Lightway.

For more detail on protocols and how they compare, check out our breakdown of the most commonly used VPN protocols here.

How to speed up your slow internet connection

If you’ve tried adjusting your VPN software and your device in every possible way and yet the speed of your connection is still slow, there’s a good chance your internet connection was already slow without the VPN. Fortunately, there are several ways to resolve a slow internet connection:

  • Stop the internet use of other devices using your network. The more devices use your internet connection, the slower your speed will be. If your kid is watching Frozen on Disney Plus in the living room and your wife is downloading torrents in the kitchen, it’s going to take the computer in your home office a lot longer to load your job’s online environment.
  • Close all unnecessary tabs, windows, and processes. If you have too many websites open at once or are downloading and streaming at the same time, this can slow your connection down as well.
  • Reboot your modem and router. Sometimes these pieces of hardware can malfunction and fail to support a fast transfer of data. A simple reboot is often enough to solve the problem.
  • Use a different DNS server. Your ISP’s DNS servers might be congested with too much traffic at once. In this case, a VPN actually is part of the solution. Some VPN software encrypts and routes your DNS translation requests through the VPN provider’s own DNS servers. ExpressVPN is one such VPN, offering a private and encrypted domain name system that keeps your translation requests hidden from your ISP and other third parties.
  • Upgrade your internet service plan. It’s possible you simply don’t have a fast enough data plan from your ISP to carry out your desired activities, so an upgrade may be in order. However, make sure to try the above methods before spending any money.
  • Contact your ISP. If all else fails, the problem may be on your ISP’s end. In this case, the only thing you can do is contact them and ask them to solve it for you.

VPN Not Working with Netflix: Why do Streaming Services Block My VPN?

Like all streaming platforms, Netflix restricts the viewership of copyrighted content to those regions where it has the right to broadcast. On top of that, Netflix uses proxy detection technology to screen out the use of proxies and VPNs to keep viewers from unlicensed regions from watching copyrighted content. This means you might see this infamous m7111-5059 error message if you try to watch Netflix with a VPN:

Netflix Error

Although other streaming services, including Disney Plus, HULU, and Amazon Prime, also use these VPN blocks, Netflix has the toughest proxy detection systems out of all of them. The company works around the clock to block the IP addresses of VPN servers.

Even VPNs of the highest quality sometimes have difficulty bypassing Netflix’s geographic restrictions, but a good Netflix VPN provider is equally persistent in finding workarounds. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to watch Netflix and other streaming services without restrictions.

1. Use a VPN that works with Netflix

From the very start, it’s best to pick a service that works with Netflix and other streaming platforms. Many VPN services have already given up the fight against Netflix, and their servers won’t allow you to watch geo-blocked content on the platform. Some high-quality VPNs, however, do make an effort to constantly work with Netflix and other streaming services.

One great example of a Netflix VPN is CyberGhost VPN. This relatively cheap VPN provider has a great reputation when it comes to Netflix: it works perfectly almost every time. If you’re looking for a VPN to watch, for example, US Netflix with, we recommend CyberGhost.

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If you already have a different VPN, you might be out of luck: while there are many providers that aim to have their servers work with Netflix, there are at least as many that simply don’t. A good VPN for unblocking is the first step towards solving your Netflix issues.

2. Clear your cache and cookies or use incognito mode

When confronted with a Netflix proxy error, you should first either use incognito mode and try again, or clear your cache and cookies. This will rid your device of any lingering location identifiers and cookies.

It’s a common practice for websites to place tracking cookies into your device’s memory, so they can learn more about your browsing behavior. Not only are third-party tracking cookies a security hazard in their own right, but they can also reveal your location to every website you visit, even if your true IP address is hidden by a VPN. This means Netflix will be able to tell that your location doesn’t match your IP, resulting in a block. Luckily, there’s an easy way around this.

How to clear your cookies

Follow the steps below to clear your cache and cookies in Google Chrome. Each browser’s interface looks a little different, but most modern browsers work in a similar way.

  1. Click on the three dots in the top right corner of your browser. This button will open up a drop-down menu.
  2. Google Chrome Settings drop-down menu open screenshot
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. In the Settings menu, click on Clear browsing data.
  5. Google Chrome settings Privacy and security section Screenshot
  6. You will have the option to clear your history, cookies, passwords, and other cached data. Select Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files.
  7. Google Chrome clear browsing Data section Screenshot
  8. Click the drop-down menu next to Time range and select All Time.
  9. Click Clear data.

Once this is done, you can open up a new screen and go to Netflix. Make sure your VPN is activated while you do this. With a bit of luck, you can now watch series and movies to your heart’s desire. If not, keep reading for more fixes.

3. Try a different VPN server

If clearing your cache didn’t help, connect to a different server. You can do this easily in your VPN client software:

  1. Close down your Netflix window.
  2. Open your VPN client.
  3. Click on a different server location. If you want to unblock US Netflix, you might, for example, choose “Denver” instead of “New York”. If your VPN only offers one location in the country you wish to unblock Netflix for, simply reconnect with that same location. Usually, you’ll be given a different IP. If possible, choose a specialized streaming server. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
  4. Clear your browser’s cache or use incognito mode.
  5. Open Netflix, log in, and enjoy!

Most services at the higher end of the market, like CyberGhost, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN, have thousands of servers in their networks. This means there are more than enough options to choose from if you happen to run into a blacklisted server.

4. Use a specialized streaming server

Some VPN providers offer specialized streaming servers that have been specifically set up to work with different platforms. You might find a server optimized for US Netflix, Disney Plus, or Fox Sports. Try to use those as much as possible, as they are most continuously updated and have a higher success rate.

CyberGhost VPN Streaming Servers Screenshot

CyberGhost VPN has a lot of specialized streaming services you can use. Those will also give you access to more local platforms, like Servus TV in Austria.

To use a specialized streaming server, simply find the “For streaming” section under CyberGhost’s server locations and click on the optimized server you wish to connect to. The connection will be established automatically and you’ll be good to go. Just make sure to clear your cache before you dive back into Netflix!

5. Contact your VPN service’s customer support

If none of the above tips work to get around the Netflix VPN ban, it’s time to contact your VPN’s customer support team. We recommend using a VPN service that includes 24/7 live chat support, so a representative can direct you to a working server right away.

Streaming companies work around the clock to blacklist VPN servers while VPN providers tirelessly discover new ways to bypass the VPN ban, so any lists of working servers you might find online could be outdated. A customer support representative will likely know which servers are currently working with Netflix or any other streaming service you’re trying to reach.

VPN Not Working with Email: Why Can’t I Send Emails While Using My VPN?

Some users turn on their VPN to discover that they are unable to send or receive emails. This can be caused by two different things: either your email service is blocking your VPN’s IP, or your VPN is blocking the port used by your email service.

Your email service blocks your VPN

Email providers might choose to block a VPN’s IP address. Usually, this is a security measure: if someone tries to access your inbox with an IP that is completely unfamiliar, chances are this person is a hacker or cybercriminal trying to get their hands on your information.

That’s why email providers might only allow certain IPs access to your email, depending on the country or ISP tied to those IPs. As a result, you might find yourself locked out of your inbox if you use a VPN server from a wholly different country. Some email services even block known VPN servers by default.

The solution here is to switch to a different VPN server. VPN providers regularly search for workarounds to bypass VPN bans, so you should be able to find a working server if you’re using a VPN service with a wide selection. Another sure way to solve this problem, is to get a dedicated IP address with your VPN provider.

Your VPN blocks your email service’s port

Sometimes the problem is with the VPN itself. Some providers block insecure ports in order to protect you from spam and abuse. NordVPN and ExpressVPN block TCP port 25. If you want to access your email with these providers, you need to switch to more secure ports commonly used for email, such as port 587 or 465. Contact your email provider or VPN provider’s customer service for help.

Another, less secure solution to this problem is to send emails through an unencrypted internet connection. You can do this by using split tunneling as a last resort. Split tunneling is a feature included in many VPNs that allows you to choose which apps are protected by the VPN’s encryption tunnel, and which aren’t. If you exempt your email app to make sure it isn’t VPN-protected, you’ll be able to use it as normal — although this does make your connection less safe.

What Do I Do if I Have a Different VPN Issue?

The issues mentioned above are the most common problems people run into when they use their VPN.  However, there may come a day when you encounter a technical problem that doesn’t fit in any of the above categories. That would be a good time to turn to your VPN provider’s customer support team.

My VPN Isn't Working: Frequently Asked Questions

You aren’t the only one who’s had trouble getting a VPN to work. Below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions regarding common VPN problems.

Some common reasons why your VPN might not work include:

  • A faulty internet connection (check your connection without a VPN)
  • Strict firewalls (add your VPN app to your firewall’s allowed connections)
  • A blocked port (contact customer support)
  • A busy server (choose a different server)
  • Outdated VPN software (update your system)

Your chosen VPN server was most likely blocked by Netflix’s proxy detection systems. Try one of these fixes to enjoy your favorite shows and movies once more:

  1. Clear your cache and cookies or use incognito mode.
  2. Connect to other VPN servers until you find one that works. Dedicated streaming servers will give you a higher chance of success.
  3. Contact your VPN’s customer support service for advice.
  4. Get a VPN that is known to work with Netflix, like one from our list of best Netflix VPNs.

Yes, some services will detect and block VPN connections, including most streaming platforms and Google. VPN providers design their products to bypass online restrictions, so a high-quality VPN has a high probability of evading VPN blocks. If you still run into VPN block issues, have a look at our solutions to the most common VPN issues.

Network administrators at most schools block the use of VPNs and proxies. Schools usually implement filtering methods such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) in order to detect and block encryption tools. To get around this, you need to sign up for a VPN service capable of either obfuscating your traffic or disguising it as normal TLS web traffic. NordVPN is a good choice.

Tech journalist
Max first started writing about IT-related topics for a university's internal cybersecurity publication and has since gone on to write about cybersecurity, cybercrime, and VPN services for both public and private organizations.