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Can’t connect to a VPN when using a portable hotspot? Top 10 tips to try

Can’t connect to a VPN when using a portable hotspot? Top 10 tips to try


There have been a lot of reports online from people not being able to connect to their VPN when using a mobile hotspot. According to our research, people usually encounter issues with hotspots set up on their iPhones. And sure enough, Apple itself has acknowledged similar problems with Personal Hotspots on iOS 13.

Now, there are likely millions of combinations of hardware and software that can cause tethering issues. As such, we will focus on more comprehensive solutions instead of trying to pinpoint the exact app that is causing problems on your end. Feel free to send us a comment with your exact specs on the article, though – we’ll do our best to help you.

Before we get into the more “technical” solutions, let’s move on to the tried and true methods of solving tethering problems. Oh, and if you can, try to test if your VPN is working properly on a Wi-Fi or wired connection before proceeding. This will narrow down the issues currently affecting your mobile hotspot.

#1 Update the OS on your devices

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, many people have had general issues with getting Personal Hotspots working on iOS 13. Before you start blaming your VPN provider, try updating iOS to the latest version and see if that fixes the problem. We haven’t seen reports of any of these issues on Android or other mobile operating systems, but update your system regardless.

The same applies to Windows, macOS, and any other operating system installed on the device(s) you’re using to connect to the hotspot. If you are still using an unsupported operating system (such as Windows 7), it is possible that your VPN provider has not tested its application on the operating system. In this case, it might be time to upgrade or switch to a different VPN provider that still supports older operating systems.

#2 Update your VPN app

Alternatively, you may simply be running an older version of your VPN client. VPN apps usually notify you when updates are available, so don’t miss them. Also try downloading and reinstalling the VPN from the provider’s website, just to be sure.

#3 Connect to a different VPN server

The VPN server that you normally connect to (or a network node that leads to it) may experience technical difficulties. Try to connect to a different area, preferably one away from the area you are currently in. Suppose, a VPN server is in the UK versus a server located in the USA.

#4 Restart your Hotspot

“Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” – This question may have gotten into meme status lately, but sometimes your mobile device just needs a good old reboot to get things working again. Here’s how to do it on iOS and Android.

  • Apple has two guides on how to restart your iPhone, regardless of the model.
  • Most Android devices can be restarted by Hold down the lock button and tapping onRestartoption when prompted.

#5 Reset Network Settings on Your Hotspot

The network settings on your mobile hotspot may interfere with your device’s ability to connect to the VPN. Here’s how to reset network settings:

  • On iOS, head over to Settings. tap on general > Re-Set > Reset network settings. Are you using a USB or Bluetooth hotspot instead? Check out these other procedures on the Apple website.
  • On Android, go to Settings. Next, scroll down and tap Public Administration. Faucet Re-Set > Reset network settings and confirm your choice.

#6 Change your DNS settings

If your network connection is working fine on your mobile hotspot without the VPN activated, the problem may lie with your Domain Name System (DNS) servers. DNS is tasked with translating the website names you type into your browser (such as into an IP address that the server can read. Think of it as searching for a name in your contacts list and your phone automatically pulls out the phone number without having to remember it.

Now, VPN providers usually run their own DNS servers to prevent your ISP from reading your DNS queries and keeping tabs on your browsing habits. Any issues with their DNS resolver may cause your network to appear “down” when using a VPN.

Here are some instructions on how to change your DNS server on most major operating systems. We recommend OpenDNS or Cloudflare so that Google does not collect your DNS data. Maybe they have enough of your data as it is.

#7 Check your firewall settings

Your device’s firewall settings may prevent you from connecting to a VPN when using a portable hotspot. Here is a handy guide to disable the default firewall on Windows Do that and check if the problem persists. If you are using a third-party firewall (eg Bitdefender, Avast, etc.), consult your provider’s website on how to turn it off.

#8 Switch to a different VPN protocol

We’re getting into the old software zone here, but we can also cover it while we’re at it. Some users (here and here) have complained that their VPNs are not working on iOS 10 while using the L2TP/IPSec protocol. This appears to have happened after Apple discontinued support for the unsecured PPTP protocol on its devices – however, how the issues connect remains a mystery.

If, for some reason, you don’t want to upgrade from iOS 10 to a newer version, consider using a different VPN protocol. You can easily change the protocol from within your VPN client settings. We recommend OpenVPN for now (or WireGuard out of beta on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS soon).

#9 Nuclear Option: Factory Reset

This is the last resort if all else has failed so far. The newly reset hotspot device must be free of any apps or firmware updates that might prevent you from connecting to the VPN when using a portable hotspot. Heres how to do it (Don’t forget to backup your data):

#10 Still unable to connect to a VPN when using a portable hotspot? Try a different VPN

If nothing else works, you may just need to cut your losses and go with another provider. We recommend ExpressVPN simply because of its long track record of being a reliable VPN provider, as well as their helpful 24/7 customer support that can help you when the occasional issue arises.

Other than that, feel free to check out our list of the best VPNs for 2021. Whether it’s for security, streaming, or just to satisfy service at a reasonable price, these providers have a lot to offer.

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