iPhone VPN Setup

Modern iPhones and iPads have excellent VPN support. The PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and Cisco IPSec protocols are all integrated. iOS devices work with VPN servers that support these protocols and authentication methods. You can connect to OpenVPN networks and other types of VPNs with third-party apps.

Prior to iOS 8, iPhones automatically disconnected from VPNs when they went into sleep mode. Now, iOS devices will stay connected to the VPN even when their screen turns off. You won’t have to constantly reconnect.

Connect to PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and Cisco IPSec VPNs

To set up a VPN, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad, tap the General category, and tap VPN near the bottom of the list. Tap “Add VPN Configuration” to add your first VPN settings to the phone or tablet. If you need to configure multiple VPNs, you can add them from this screen, too.

Select the L2TP option for L2TP/IPSec, PPTP for PPTP, or IPSec for Cisco IPSec. Enter your VPN’s connection details on this screen to connect. If your VPN is provided by your workplace, they should provide you with these details. If you have an OpenVPN server you want to connect to, skip this entire section and scroll down to the last part of an article. OpenVPN networks are handled in a different way.

Setup a VPN on iPhone

If you need to use certificate files to connect to the VPN, you’ll have to import those before you set up the VPN. If you’re sent the certificate files via email, you can access them in the Mail app, tap the certificate file attachments, and import them. You could also locate them on a website in the Safari browser and tap them to import them.

iPhones and iPads support certificate files in the PKCS#1 (.cer, .crt, .der) and PKCS#12 formats (.p12, .pfx). If you need such certificate files to connect, the organization that provides the VPN server to you should give you them and mention them in instructions on setting up the VPN. If you want to remove certificates you installed, you’ll find them under Settings > General > Profiles.

Organizations centrally managing their iOS devices can also use a mobile device management server to push the certificates and related VPN settings to their devices.

Setup iPhone VPN

Connect to and Disconnect From Your VPN

After you’ve set up a VPN, you can open the Settings window and toggle the VPN slider near the top of the screen to connect to or disconnect from the VPN. When you’re connected to the VPN, a “VPN” icon will on the top of the screen in the status bar.

If you’ve set up multiple VPNs on your iPhone or iPad, you can switch between them by heading to Settings > General > VPN — the same screen where you added those VPNs.

Connect to VPN on iPhone

Connect to an OpenVPN VPN

While Apple hasn’t added OpenVPN support to iOS directly, that’s okay. Like Android, iOS includes a way for third-party apps to implement and function as VPNs. This means you can connect ot absolutely any type of VPN from your iPhone or iPad, assuming there’s a third-party app in the app store that can connect to it.

In the case of OpenVPN, there’s a an official OpenVPN Connect app you can install. Install the app, launch it, and use it to connect to an OpenVPN VPN.

To configure your VPN server in the OpenVPN Connect app, you’ll have to import a profile — that’s the .ovpn file. If you want to do this by hand, you can connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer, open iTunes, and select the connected device. Under the Apps section, you’ll be able to copy the .ovpn file and related certificate and key files to the OpenVPN app. you can then connect to the VPN from the app.

The OpenVPN Connect app and similar apps aren’t “just an app” you use. They provide a VPN connection at the system level, so all the apps on your device will connect through the VPN — just like VPNs you connect to the normal way from the built-in Settings app.

Connect to an OpenVPN VPN

Connect to a TunnelBear VPN

If you want a great VPN product for any operating system, we really like TunnelBear because of the ease of use and great applications. The iPhone application is no exception, and it’s super easy to configure and setup — no need to mess around with VPN settings at all.

The setup process is extremely simple, you’ll just open up the app, create a free account, and then when prompted, you’ll need to install the VPN configuration. No manual setup required.

Once you’ve configured it, you can connect and disconnect it just like the examples above, or you can use the app to connect to a specific region.

Connect to a TunnelBear VPN

Enjoy Internet via VPN relaying

While VPN is established, all communications towards the Internet will be relayed via the VPN Server. You can visit the VPN Gate Top Page to see your current global IP address. You can see your source country or region has been changed to other if you are connecting to a VPN server which is located on oversea country.

iOS displays the "VPN" indicator on the top bar of the screen while VPN is established.

iPhone VPN connection

Enjoy YouTube, Facebook or Twitter while your VPN connection is established. Facebook, Twitter and Gmail uses HTTPS (SSL) encrypted communication protocols. Regardless of VPN or non-VPN, no one can tap these encrypted communications.

That’s it for the home user. Large organizations centrally managing iPhone or iPad deployments will want to avoid per-device setup and specify a VPN server via configuration profiles or a mobile device management server. Provide a configuration profile file with all the VPN settings listed in it, and users can download and install that configuration profile to instantly get the appropriate VPN settings configured on their devices.