A hand putting a card with a checkmark shield into a hole in the middle of an iPhone's screen.

Love your iPhone and iPad? I do, too. That’s why I’m here to add an extra layer to your security against cyberthreats. Let’s see how to set up a VPN on iPhone and iPad and how to access iPhone VPN settings.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) will protect your internet traffic and mask your IP (Internet Protocol) address. In a nutshell, there are two ways to set up a VPN on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Manually. You can set up an IKEv2 or L2TP/IPSec configuration by downloading one from your provider and going to your Settings > General > VPN > Add VPN configuration > Type.
  2. Download a VPN app. This way, a VPN will configure everything automatically.

Table of contents

    Why use a VPN on an iPhone in the first place?

    To keep your privacy and maximize security on the internet, of course. Opening a private window is no longer enough, as private browsing can be tracked.

    Many inconveniences lurk for you on the interwebz. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider), the government, or trackers could be monitoring your activity across different platforms. There’s also the threat of public Wi-Fi — for example, an evil twin attack, a fake hotspot ready to siphon your personal details. A VPN is built to combat such troubles.

    By the way, if you’re an ex-pat who’s feeling homesick and wants to watch home-grown shows — with a VPN, you can change your location on your iPhone, letting you catch the show from your phone.

    How to set up a VPN on iPhone and iPad

    The configuration may vary slightly depending on your chosen VPN provider, but the principle remains the same. Let me walk you through how to set up IKEv2 and OpenVPN on iOS step by step.

    Note: remember, iPad VPN settings are the same as on iPhone. 

    Manual setup (IKEv2)

    As already mentioned, iPhones and iPads come with built-in IKEv2 configurations. This means you won’t need any third-party apps. What you’ll need, though, is an IKEv2 certificate and connection credentials. You can get them from your VPN provider’s website.

    To manually set up a VPN on your iPhone or iPad with an IKEv2 connection, follow these steps:

    1. Download the IKEv2 certificate to your device. You’ll need to purchase Surfshark VPN and follow the VPN guide. If you have Surfshark, log in, go to the VPN tab > Manual Setup > Manual, and go to the locations tab. Then scroll down to Other Configuration Files, and click on the IKEv2 certificate.
    A screenshot of Surfsharks website showing the Manual Setup choice under the VPN tab
    1. Find your manual connection credentials in the Credential tab under Manual setup (you’ll need them later).
      Note: The username and password given here are separate from those used to log into your account.
    A screenshot of Surfsharks website showing where to Generate new credentials for IKEv2 setup
    Two screenshots of Surfsharks website showing the configuration files for your new profile being downloaded
    1. Go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad. At the very top, you’ll see Profile Downloaded. Click on it.
    Two screenshots of iPhone Settings showing where to review the new VPN profile
    1. Install the profile.
    Two screenshots of iPhone Settings showing how to install the new profile
    1. You’ll get a Warning screen about adding the certificate on your iPhone/iPad. Click Install once again.
    2. When the profile is installed, and you see the green Verified checkmark, click Done.
      Note: If you don’t get a pop-up for the IKEv2 certificate installation, scroll down to the end of these instructions and you’ll find the next steps.
    3. Go to your VPN’s Locations tab and choose a server to connect to. For the best connection speed and performance, choose the Recommended server. For example, if you pick a server in Belgium, you’ll have to enter “be-bru.prod.surfshark.com.”
    A screenshot of Surfsharks website showing where to copy the chosen server address
    1. Go to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management > Click on the VPN tab.
    Two screenshots of iPhone Settings showing the VPN settings under the VPN & Device Management tab
    1. Click on Add VPN Configuration.
    2. Fill in the following information:
    A screenshot of iPhone Settings showing how to add a VPN Configuration

    Type: IKEv2.

    Description: Your preferred name of the connection.

    Server: The hostname of the server, as mentioned in step 7.

    Remote ID: Copy the hostname you put in the Server line.

    Local ID: Leave it empty.

    User Authentication: Username.

    Username: Put in the service credentials, as mentioned in step 2.

    Password: Put in the service credentials, as mentioned in step 2.

    Proxy: Off.

    1. Click Done to finish.
    2. Go to Settings > General > VPN; the IKEv2 configuration you just created will be here. Toggle the Status switch on.
    A screenshot of iPhone Settings showing the VPN settings tab
    1. You’re now connected.

    In case you didn’t get a pop-up for the IKEv2 certificate installation:

    1. Go to Settings > General > Profile.
    2. You should see the downloaded profile, e.g., “Surfshark Root CA.”
    A screenshot of iPhone Settings showing the VPN & Device Management tab
    1. Click on it and select Install.


    Asking how to automatically set up a VPN is the same as asking how to get a VPN on an iPhone. Just download a VPN app, and you’re good to go.

    Downloading a VPN app straight to your iOS device is as simple as installing any other app. Here’s the process:

    1. Go to the App Store (or straight to the site’s download iOS VPN — if you do so, you can jump to step 3);
    2. Search for a VPN of your choice, e.g., Surfshark (start with our VPN free trial);
    3. Install the app. The app will ask you to give permission to add a VPN configuration. Allow it;
    4. Create an account or log in if you already have one;
    5. Connect to your preferred server.

    Congratulations! You’ve just installed the app with all of its features. If you’re satisfied, you can leave it at that, but even such VPNs leave enough space for individual configuration.

    Ways to personalize the VPN app you have on your iOS device

    Side note: some of the features below are exclusive to Surfshark. I’m using them as an example of feature variety.

    As you can see, you can tinker with the VPN settings quite a lot. This is one of the biggest benefits of using a VPN app rather than a manual setup.

    How do I know if my iPhone has a VPN?

    To find out if your iPhone has a VPN, go to Settings and type “VPN” into the search bar. Another way to check is by going to Settings, tapping General, and choosing VPN & Device Management. There, you can also add a VPN configuration.

    Why configure the VPN manually at all?

    A manual VPN setup is an option when nothing else works. Having a pre-set VPN is convenient, but there are a couple of reasons you’d want to opt for the manual setup instead:

    1. In countries like Russia or China, you’ll most likely run into trouble trying to use a VPN app. Authoritarian governments there use censorship to control as much of their citizens’ lives as possible. That includes VPN usage. Manually setting up a VPN on your iOS device might help you avoid such VPN bans. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s worth a try.
    2. In any other case, when your VPN app stops working, a manually configured VPN could help substitute it.

    How to manually set up different VPN protocols on iOS

    Here, you’ll find the most popular VPN protocols and how to set them up manually on your iPhone. Remember, not all protocols are supported by iOS, and some differ in functionality, resulting in speed differences. 

    How to set up WireGuard on Apple

    Right now, WireGuard is the fastest protocol in the VPN industry. To set up WireGuard manually, you will need the WireGuard app and a VPN. Since we’re using Surfshark (shocker, I know), I’ll show you how to set it up with us.

    Once you have WireGuard and Surfshark, you’ll need a key pair and a location to which you’d like to connect.

    Remember, if you don’t generate a key pair before downloading the configuration file, the file will be missing your key pair.

    If you don’t have a key pair

    1. Open Safari, type surfshark.com, and log in. Then click on the VPN > Manual Setup > Desktop or Mobile > WireGuard.
    2. I don’t have a key pair > Generate a new key pair.
    3. When the key pair has been generated, save them someplace, and select Choose a Location.
    4. Select and Download the location’s configuration files (it’s the arrow pointing down on the right of the server name).

    If you have a key pair

    1. Go to surfshark.com, log in, then click on the VPN > Manual Setup > Desktop or Mobile > WireGuard.
    2. Click I have a key pair and name it. 
    3. Enter your public key and hit Save.
    4. Hit Choose a Location and select a server to which you’d like to connect.

    Connect to the VPN using WireGuard

    1. Open the app, and select Add a tunnel.
    2. Find the configuration file you downloaded earlier and import it.
    3. A text will pop up saying“WireGuard’ Would Like to Add VPN Configurations’’ — click Allow.
    4. To connect to (or disconnect from) the VPN, toggle the button next to the location.
    5. Voila! It only took us fifty-two years to get here, but we made it.

    How to set up OpenVPN on iOS

    Since the OpenVPN connection isn’t built into Apple mobile devices, you’ll need to download a third-party app from the App Store. 

    Follow the steps to set up an OpenVPN connection on your iOS device:

    1. Purchase a Surfshark VPN subscription and get your VPN service credentials. If you have Surfshark, log in here, go to Devices, scroll down to Manual, and then scroll down to the bottom of the page.
    2. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the service credentials.
      Note: The given username and password are separate from the ones you use to log into your account;
    3. Open the App Store and search for “OpenVPN Connect”.
    4. Download the app.
    5. When you install the app, download one or several OpenVPN configuration files from the manual connection page. Choose the Recommended server for the best performance and speed. 
    6. Download the file by clicking on the gray arrow icon.
    A screenshot of Surfsharks website showing the download of OpenVPN configuration files
    1. Unzip the downloaded compressed configuration files.
    Two screenshots showing how to unzip the downloaded OpenVPN configuration files
    1. Open the OpenVPN Connect app.
    2. Click on OVPN Profile.
    A screenshot of the OpenVPN app on iPhone and showing the Import Profile tab
    1. Click Add to import the .ovpn file.
    2. Fill in the information:
      Username: Put in the service credentials, as mentioned in step 1.
      Password: Put in the service credentials, as mentioned in step 1.
      Optional: Mark the password to be saved, so you don’t have to worry.
    A screenshot of the OpenVPN app on iPhone and showing the Imported Profile tab with new server credentials
    1. Click Add.
    2. Once you’ve added the profile, toggle the connection switch on.
    A screenshot of the OpenVPN app on iPhone and showing the Profiles tab with a Disconnected OpenVPN profile

    You’re now connected.

    How to choose a VPN provider

    If you look into the VPN market, you’ll notice it bursting with the same shades of encryption — all VPNs seem to do the same thing. So here’s the fine print that you should look out for in the sea of sameness:

    • the encryption and protocols used;
    • the features a VPN provides;
    • the number of servers a provider has;
    • the speed and quality of the service;
    • the policies a VPN provider adheres to;
    • the track record of the company.

    An easy VPN setup on iOS

    The manual VPN configuration requires extra steps but can be useful for people in restrictive regions. It can also be an option if a VPN app suddenly stops working.

    However, pre-configured VPN apps offer a simple user interface — notice that the next time you open the Surfshark app on your iPhone or iPad. Installing a VPN client straight to your device gives you quick access to all server locations and features. It takes a couple of clicks to switch from one server to another.

    Meanwhile, when you set up a VPN connection in a specific protocol, you can only connect to one server at a time. That’s why I suggest you always opt for a VPN app rather than a manual configuration and keep all your Apple devices safe.

    Let tech experts do the work for you
    Enjoy the ease of our VPN


    Should I turn on the VPN on my iPhone?

    A VPN encrypts your internet connection, which means you can use it to stay secure online and access public Wi-Fi safely. If you have a limited mobile data plan, remember that a VPN may use more mobile data and drain your battery faster. 

    Should I keep the VPN enabled on my iPhone?

    You should keep the VPN enabled on your iPhone if you want to maintain the privacy of your business, secure yourself, and keep your searches anonymous online.

    Does the iPhone have a built-in VPN?

    No, Apple doesn’t provide its users with a built-in VPN app. However, iCloud+ subscribers have a security alternative called Private Relay.

    Is VPN free on iPhone?

    There are free VPNs for iPhones and iPads, but most limit your data, have a limited server pool, and heavily slow down your speed. The worst free VPN providers even sell your data to third-party buyers.

    When should I use a VPN on my phone?

    You should use a VPN on your phone to stay safe online. A VPN protects your privacy, beats censorship, and lets you stream your favorite content away from home.

    Can I set up a VPN myself?

    Yes, you can set up a VPN by yourself. You can use your old computer as a designated VPN server or install a VPN on your router (if it’s capable). What’s cool about such VPNs is that using them lets you manage your home network and control who sees your online traffic.

    How do I know if my phone is connected to a VPN?

    You’ll see a VPN icon at the top of your screen when you’re connected to a VPN. To manage your VPN connections, open your device’s Settings, tap General, and search for VPN or Device Management tabs.