5 Common VPN Problems and How to Fix Them

Last Updated by Joel Timothy on February 13, 2019

We guide you through the quickest ways to resolve a VPN problem, so you can browse the internet safely and securely.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is essential in a world where ISP and government spying is on the rise, and cybercrime is evolving at a rapid rate. VPNs promise to make our internet usage free, private, and secure, but sometimes they can prove fallible.
ExpressVPN encrypted virtual tunnel VPNs are no exception to failure. And when they fail, you have to look for a solution immediately to continue enjoying your privacy, security, and freedom online. Otherwise you could leave yourself open to hackers and cybercriminals.

To help you get back online quickly and securely, we have highlighted the 5 most common VPN problems and provided solutions for how to solve them.

1 VPN doesn’t connect

Failure to connect is the most common issue among VPN users. The problem can occur due to various reasons, ranging from your device to the VPN provider or their app.

1.1 Recheck your Account Status/Log in Details

Don’t dismiss the simplest mistakes, like inputting wrong details when logging in to your VPN client. It could be that you entered an incorrect username or password, or your VPN account is not active. Most VPN clients allow you to log in with an inactive account, but you won’t be able to connect to a server.

If you find yourself in this situation, then try re-entering your username and password more carefully and if it doesn’t still work; proceed to reset your password, by following the on-screen instructions. Otherwise, you need to renew your account.

1.2 Check your Firewall

If you are running a firewall, you need to check if it’s interfering with your VPN connection. A firewall scans your incoming and outgoing traffic, and if it sees anything weird, it can prevent transmission. To see if your firewall has anything to do with your connection issues, temporarily disable it and try reconnecting.

If it’s the problem, you’ll need to open some outgoing ports, which could change depending on the Firewall and the VPN software. You can also check your VPN’s documentation as most providers recommend their preferred ports for connection.

1.3 Confirm that both your device and the VPN server are online

You need to make sure that you can connect to the internet without the VPN, and that the server you are trying to connect to is online. You can do this by first disconnecting from your VPN, then try accessing a web page on your device’s browser. If it still does not respond, try rebooting your router – the problem could be with your ISP.

You could also look up your VPN’s official website by logging in, then try connecting to the target server to confirm if it is online. Occasionally, a VPN server could be down, due to scheduled/emergency maintenance. If the specific server is offline, connect to another server or wait a while for the specific server to come back online.

1.4 Try the VPN from a different network

If your VPN client isn’t connecting, it could also be an issue with your VPN provider. In this case, try connecting your device to a different network, like the nearest public Wi-Fi – be it in an institution, restaurant or a friend’s hotspot.

If your VPN client responds well, then the problem could be with your home internet. In this case, you can try checking your internet settings to figure out what could be keeping you from accessing the VPN network.

2 VPN Crashes

Before it is a VPN, your VPN client is a software. This means it is prone to occasionally crashing, just like any other software. However, if the crashes persist, you need to take one of these actions:

2.1 Ensure you have an updated client software version

VPN providers are always competing against each other for the best service delivery. They therefore constantly release new updates or more improved software versions to their users. Older versions may have some bugs, and therefore we encourage you to always update your VPN client software.

You can do this by regularly checking your software version, vis-à-vis your provider’s latest release and download from the official site. Optionally, you can update to the current version from your client’s settings.

2.2 Try closing all other running apps

If your VPN client keeps crashing, it could be an issue with the capability of your device to run multiple related apps at a time. In this case, you can try closing all other running apps that you don’t need then check if your VPN client will work seamlessly.

2.3 Try restarting your PC/ Device

Rebooting your device is a magic wand that can solve all your crash and connection issues. Always think of restarting your device, to ensure your computer’s operations are back to normal. This will include allowing for updates to properly install, as well as killing any annoying processes.

2.4 Uninstall/Reinstalling the VPN client

If all the actions above do not bear fruit, go ahead and uninstall the current version of VPN client. Download the latest version from the official website and install it afresh. That should do it.

3 VPN keeps disconnecting

A VPN client that keeps disconnecting after successfully connecting can be bothersome, and a huge privacy/security threat. If this behavior is repetitive, here is what you should do:

3.1 Try connecting to a different VPN server

Every once in a while, your preferred VPN server could be working poorly, and this will make your VPN client disconnect constantly. To check if this is the case, connect to a different server, preferably one near you.

3.2 Consider disabling your device Firewall

We understand firewalls form essential security barriers. However, they can occasionally affect the connectivity of VPN clients. Most of them will tend to slow down your internet connection thus causing your VPN to disconnect.

It is evident that most firewalls cannot handle heavy VPN traffic. Therefore, in this case, you should consider disabling your firewall whenever you want to connect to your VPN client. Most firewalls can be disabled from their settings page.

3.3 Try connecting via an Ethernet

Although it is highly unlikely, your wireless network router could be the main cause of your connection issues. In this case, consider connecting directly to the router using an Ethernet cable.

Additionally, this issue is mostly seen when there is a router getting an uplink from another on the same network – causing a ‘double NAT’ situation. In this case you will need to activate the bridge-mode, allowing the two routers to integrate with each other. To successfully perform this action, you will need to go through the routers’ official documentation.

3.4 Try different DNS server settings

If your VPN client keeps disconnecting, it could also be an issue with the DNS server you are using. Often, VPNs supply their own DNS services when connecting, but that does not mean it cannot mess with your connection. Different VPN providers have varied requirements for altering DNS server settings including the common ‘Only use VPN DNS servers when connected’.

To solve your connectivity issues, you will need to disable this option. While it may leave your network prone to attacks, using your device’s own DNS servers will help you keep a strong connection.

4 Can’t establish Tunnel Connection

There are two known possibilities as to why your VPN client will fail to establish a tunnel connection to the servers. The first is where your router is always performing IP packet filtering.

Mostly, IP packet filtering will make it difficult to establish IP tunnel traffic. In this case you will need to check the VPN client or the server, as well as any other device on the network for IP packet filters. To do this:

  • Go to the advanced settings of your target device’s TCP/IP properties page
  • Choose filtering
  • Tap on the properties button to disable the option

Another possible problem could be an issue with the proxy server found between the VPN client and the server. If the proxy server sends packets to the server directly, rather than from the VPN client, then a NAT translation occurs in the traffic.

This occurrence will occasionally bar tunnel connection from being established. Mostly, if you are connected via OpenVPN, we advise that you consider connecting over L2TP/IPSec. Again if you are already using the L2TP protocol, try using OpenVPN.

Additionally, while it may not be entirely ideal, we also encourage you to try PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) and see if the problem is solved.

5 Acceptance of unauthorized connections

This is not a very common error, but it’s a very serious one if it happens. This is because it greatly compromises your privacy and security. To solve it, check the remote access policy.

The option is found in the Dial-In tab at the user’s properties sheet in the Active Directory Users and Computers console. You can disable this option to prevent unauthorized connections.

Final thought

The above solutions should solve most of your VPN problems. However, some problems are only experienced if you are using a VPN that is not up-to-scratch.

If your problem persists, you can try upgrading to a more stable and reliable VPN. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost VPN are the VPNs known for their excellent functionality, efficiency, and reliability.

Why not try one out, today!

Joel Timothy
Joel is an online privacy advocate, writer, and editor with a special interest in cyber security and internet freedom. He likes helping readers tackle tricky tech and internet issues, as well as maximize the boundless power of the internet.