How to set up a VPN on Apple TV

Want to set up a VPN on your Apple TV and enjoy unrestricted content from any region in the world? It could prove quite tricky, seeing how you cannot install a VPN directly on your streaming device. 

How to set up a VPN on Apple TV

  1. Activate your Smart DNS with your VPN provider.
  2. Open Settings on your Apple TV, then select Network > Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi connection or Ethernet.
  3. Select Configure DNS and switch it to Manual.
  4. When prompted, input the DNS IP address you’ve received earlier.
  5. Click Done.

However, there are ways to work around that and it’s not as difficult as it may initially seem. You can use one of the following three methods to bypass geo-restrictions on Apple TV:

  1. Smart DNS
  2. Setting up a VPN-protected Virtual Router
  3. Setting up your router with a VPN

1. Using a VPN’s Smart DNS for Apple TV

The quickest way to bypass Apple TV restrictions is to use a Smart DNS. Smart DNS, or DNS proxy, is a feature available on Surfshark that allows you to change your displayed DNS request sent from a device without actually installing a VPN on it. This feature allows you to access geo-restricted content of the US region (US Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, etc.)

This method will work with ALL Apple TV products:

  • Apple TV 4K
  • Apple TV HD
  • Apple TV 3rd Gen.
  • Apple TV 2nd Gen.
  • Apple TV 1st Gen.

It’s a fairly simple step-by-step procedure and I’ll use Surfshark to illustrate how to set up Smart DNS function on Apple TV (this method should prove very similar if you’re using a different VPN that offers the Smart DNS feature):

  1. Sign in to your Surfshark account. If you haven’t got one already, you can sign up here!
  2.  Go to the My Account page on Surfshark’s website. Under the VPN menu, you will find an option to turn Smart DNS on. Click Activate Smart DNS.

    Activate Smart DNS on My Account page

  3. When activated, you will see two Smart DNS addresses displayed. Note: pick either one of them.

    Pick Smart DNS address

  4. Now go to Settings (or Settings > General, if you’re using Apple TV 1st, 2nd or 3rd Gen.) on your Apple TV and click Network.
  5. Your Apple TV will be connected to the internet either via Wi-Fi or the Ethernet. Click on whichever tab that comes up.
  6. Click on the name of your Network.
  7. Scroll down and click Configure DNS.
  8. When prompted, choose Manual instead of Automatic.
  9. Enter any of the two DNS IP addresses displayed on your VPN account page.
  10. Restart your Apple TV.

However, as convenient as this method is, there can be a downside to it when it comes to personal preferences.

Using Smart DNS will not provide your Apple TV with full VPN protection. This means that you won’t be able to utilize a VPN’s privacy and security benefits such as encryption and VPN tunneling for Apple TV using this method.

And just to be clear, it is perfectly legal to use Smart DNS and VPN on Apple TV. Otherwise, if you simply enjoy the peace of mind that VPN privacy offers, then I’d recommend you set up Surfshark on your home router to save yourself the headache.

2. Setting up a Virtual Router for Apple TV

If your router isn’t VPN client compatible, or maybe you’re just visiting some friends for a Netflix binge session, you can run your VPN on a PC or a Mac, and set it up as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This will allow you to connect your Apple TV to the internet through your VPN-protected computer device and access unrestricted content in both a secure and private manner.

Setting up a virtual router on Windows 10 

  1. Go to your computer’s Settings, followed by Network and Internet, and Mobile Hotspot.
  2. Turn the Mobile Hotspot “On”.
  3. Scroll down and click Change adapter options under Related settings.
  4. Right-click on your VPN’s internet connection and click Properties.
  5. On the top left corner of the window click on the Sharing tab and tick the Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection box.
  6. In the drop-down menu below, choose your newly created hotspot and click OK.
  7. Connect your Apple TV to your created Wi-Fi hotspot and you’re good to go! (If you want to change the region, just connect to a different server on your VPN app)

Setting up a virtual router on older Windows OS

If you’re using an older Windows OS like Windows 7, then the setup process will be slightly different.

  1. On your desktop, press the Windows + S keys and type in “cmd”.
  2. Right-click on the Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.
  3. Type in “netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=[enter a desired network name here without the brackets] key=[enter your desired password here for the network without the brackets]” and press Enter.
  4. Now press the Windows + R keys and type “ncpa.cpl” in the Run window. Press Enter.
  5. In the Network Connections window, select your VPN’s connection, e.g. Surfshark, Right-click on it and select Properties.
  6. On the top left corner of the window click on the Sharing tab and tick the Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection box.
  7. In the drop-down menu right below, choose your newly created hotspot and click OK.
  8. Connect your Apple TV to your created Wi-Fi hotspot and you’re good to go!

3. Setting up your hardware router with a VPN for Apple TV

Setting up your home router with a VPN has other advantages besides unblocking content on your Apple TV. This will make sure that all devices connected to the internet through your home network are protected by your VPN, even your Wi-Fi-connected fridge.

First and foremost, you’ll have to check if your router is VPN client compatible because some routers are not. But don’t worry if it isn’t, you can still use Apple TV with your VPN by setting up your computer device as a Wi-Fi hotspot (refer to method No. 2) or using Smart DNS (refer to method No. 1).

VPN-compatible router installation:

  1. Download DD-WRT firmware (bin file) for your router. You can check if your router is supported here.
  2. Access your router through your browser using its IP address. You can find your router’s IP address by searching for the Command Prompt in your search window. Open it and type in ‘ipconfig’ and hit Enter. Your router’s IP address will be displayed at the end of the Default Gateway line.
  3. Find the firmware install page, usually found under the Administration tab.
  4. Upload the DD-WRT firmware bin file to the router page. Click Start.
  5. Once the process is finished, the router will ask you for a new username and password, pick whatever you want!
  6. Follow your VPN client’s set up guidelines. See the following Surfshark’s instructions for Asus, DD-WRT, and Tomato routers.
  7. Make sure your Apple TV is connected to the VPN protected router.
  8. Enjoy unrestricted content and privacy any time from the comfort of your couch!

If you’d like a more detailed step-by-step guide, we have a separate blog post dedicated to setting up a VPN on your router.

Do I need a VPN for Apple TV at all?

Due to content rules and regulations, licensing agreements are based on the policies of individual countries. This means that if the US doesn’t have a license for a specific show or movie, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or any other streaming provider isn’t allowed to stream it in the country either. 

The result? You can’t watch The Great British Bake Off (2013) through your Apple TV on Netflix in the UK but you can do so in the US! (And no, that’s not a mistake!)

At the same time, streaming service providers are charging similar subscription fees across regions regardless of differences in available content. I simply believe that’s a bit unfair. That’s why I highly recommend you set up a VPN to work with your Apple TV!

The easiest way to do it? Get Surfshark and use the 5-minute Smart DNS set up guide to unlock the content that you actually pay for.

Want to learn more about getting the most out of Surfshark?

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