- VPN Setup
- Apple TV
There are several methods to use a VPN with your Apple TV, each with its unique set of advantages and drawbacks. Here’s an overview of the various setup options available:
|Dedicated tvOS App
|Hides Your IP Address
By using a VPN with your Apple TV, you can improve your streaming experience by bypassing geo-restrictions. It also assists in safeguarding your digital privacy.
What You’ll Need to Set Up a VPN on tvOS
- An Apple TV 4K or HD
- A VPN that works with Apple TV
Depending on the setup method you choose, you may also need one of the following devices:
- A VPN-compatible router
- A Windows or Mac laptop computer (for virtual routers and mobile hotspots)
Method 1: Install a Dedicated tvOS App
|Easy to set up and use
|Only compatible with a few VPNs
|Access to a comprehensive list of VPN server locations
|Requires the latest Apple TV models
|No need for additional devices like smartphones or computers
|Only compatible with tvOS 17 or newer versions
|Encrypts all web traffic and hides your IP address
With the release of tvOS 17 in late 2023, you can now install VPN apps directly onto Apple TV. Previously, Apple did not allow any VPN apps in the App Store, forcing you to use more difficult workarounds.
Currently, the selection of VPN apps for Apple TV is somewhat restricted. Notable providers like NordVPN do not offer a dedicated app. Instead, IPVanish and ExpressVPN are among the few options.
Here’s How to Set Up a Dedicated App on Apple TV:
- Sign up for a VPN that offers an app for Apple TV. Registration typically needs to be done via a mobile device or computer. Presently, IPVanish and ExpressVPN are the leading choices available.
- Search for the name of the VPN app in the App Store. You can use the Siri search feature on your remote to make this quicker.
- Choose the app from the search results, download it by clicking Get, and then open it once the download is complete.
- Sign in using your account details you created earlier.
- When prompted with “VPN Would Like to Add VPN Configurations”, select Allow.
- Select the server location you want to get an IP address from. For example, to access UK Netflix, connect to a UK server.
- You can now access content that’s restricted to specific regions.
Method 2: Use Smart DNS on Your Apple TV
|Included in a subscription to most top VPNs, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN
|Only works with a few streaming services
|Fast streaming speeds
|More complicated setup process than alternatives
|Unlimited simultaneous use
|Doesn’t conceal your IP address
|Doesn’t encrypt traffic
Some VPN services include a Smart DNS feature. This option works well for accessing geo-restricted video content from anywhere.
Smart DNS works by changing your DNS servers, but doesn’t hide your IP address, nor does it encrypt your internet traffic. As a result, You shouldn’t use it if you want to protect your online security or privacy.
We’ve used ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer as an example in the following instructions. If you’ve also chosen to use ExpressVPN, you can find full installation instructions in our ExpressVPN Apple TV guide.
How to Set Up Smart DNS on Apple TV:
- If you have a dynamic IP address (one that changes from time to time), you will need to set up DDNS and get a static hostname. There are many free services available for this. ExpressVPN recommends https://www.dynu.com/
- Register your hostname on your VPN account.
- Within your VPN account find the Smart DNS/MediaStreamer server IP address.
- On your Apple TV, head to the Settings app.
- Navigate to Settings > Network > WiFi.
- Find Configure DNS and change the settings from Automatic to Manual.
- Write down your current DNS address/setting for future use.
- In the manual DNS input screen, type in the IP address you picked up from your provider’s website.
- Select Done.
- Restart your Apple TV.
You can now stream geo-blocked video content from your Apple TV.
Method 3: AirPlay from an iOS Device
|Simple to configure and use
|Doesn’t work with Netflix
|Apple TV can remain on regular ISP connection
|Requires a separate iOS device
|Can get an IP address from many locations
|Sometimes interrupted if watching other media on your phone
|Doesn’t encrypt all Apple TV traffic
AirPlay is part of iOS, meaning it’s compatible with virtually all iPhones and iPads. It allows you to easily share content from your iOS device to your Apple TV.
A significant advantage of AirPlay is it allows you to stream geo-restricted content on your Apple TV while it remains connected to your regular ISP network. You will only need to connect your iPhone or iPad to a VPN server.
However, one significant limitation of AirPlay is its incompatibility with Netflix. Attempting to AirPlay Netflix content will result in a black screen, as this service does not support streaming through AirPlay.
- Ensure both your Apple TV and iOS device are connected to the same WiFi network.
- Verify that AirPlay is enabled on your Apple TV. Navigate to Settings > AirPlay and HomeKit > AirPlay must be set to On.
- Install a VPN app on your iPhone or iPad from the App Store.
- Connect to a VPN server in a location where your preferred streaming service is available.
- Activate AirPlay from the Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. You can turn it on by tapping the AirPlay icon, which resembles a triangle with circles around it.
- Choose the name of your Apple TV and enter the displayed four-digit code when prompted.
- Open your streaming app and select the content you want to access. Your selected content will automatically play on your Apple TV.
Method 4: Use a Virtual Router or Mobile Hotspot
|Compatible with a wide range of streaming services
|Complicated setup process
|Full VPN encryption for security
|Requires a spare Windows or Mac computer
|Uses existing computing hardware, saving costs
|Performance depends on computer’s capabilities
If you don’t have a VPN-compatible router you can set up a virtual router or mobile hotspot using a desktop computer.
Essentially, a virtual router is just a device on your network that can share your internet (and VPN) connection with other devices.
Unfortunately you can’t share a VPN connection from your phone.
Once you’ve got the VPN up and running on the laptop, any device connected to the virtual router or mobile hotspot will benefit from the same protection and coverage.
Just be sure to connect your Apple TV to that newly-created hotspot, rather than your home WiFi, and it’s all set.
Here’s How to Create a Mobile Hotspot on Windows:
- Install your chosen VPN service onto your Windows 10 computer, but don’t connect to a VPN server yet.
- Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot and toggle Mobile hotspot to On.
- Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Change adapter options. Right-click on [VPN server provider name] Tap Adapter and select Properties.
- Under the tab labeled Sharing check the box that says Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
- Now select the hotspot you created from the drop-down menu entitled Home networking connection and click OK.
- Open up the VPN app on your Windows 10 computer and select OpenVPN as the VPN protocol (if there is an option to). Connect to the VPN server location of your choice.
- Finally connect your Apple TV to your new mobile hotspot and enjoy encrypted streaming.
To disconnect from the mobile hotspot, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot and toggle Mobile hotspot to Off.
If you’d like to use a macOS device to share a VPN connection with your Apple TV instead, read on.
Here’s How to Create a Mobile Hotspot on Mac:
You can turn your MacBook or iMac into a mobile hotspot in order to share the VPN connection with your Apple TV, but it’s a little more restrictive than the Windows setup.
You can only connect via the PPTP VPN protocol or L2TP. If your VPN doesn’t support these protocols you can’t use this method.
PPTP is also a very insecure VPN protocol, and can be hacked in minutes. We wouldn’t recommend using L2TP either as it has some security flaws, too.
Only use this method if you are unable to protect your Apple TV using any of the other installation methods recommended in this guide.
We’ll show you how to set up VPN connection sharing using L2TP as this is more secure than PPTP:
- Ensure that your MacBook or iMac is connected via ethernet cable (not WiFi).
- Set up an L2TP VPN manually by clicking on the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen and select System Preferences.
- Click on the Network icon and then on the + symbol to add a new VPN service.
- Select VPN from the Interface drop-down menu, L2TP over IPSec from the VPN Type menu, and then type in your chosen name for the VPN connection next to Service Name. Click Create.
- Log into your VPN account on the VPN website and find your username, password, and server address for L2TP manual configuration.
- Go back to the Network menu and select Default from the Configuration drop-down menu. Copy and paste the server address into the next field, and your L2TP username into the Account Name field.
- Check the box that says Show VPN status in menu bar. This means that you’ll easily be able to see whether the VPN is connected or not by looking at the menu bar.
- Now click on Authentication Settings and enter your L2TP password in the password field. Enter the L2TP shared secret into the Shared Secret field, and click OK.
- Click Advanced, check the box labeled Send all traffic over VPN connection, and click OK.
- Click Apply.
- Now you should click Connect to connect to the VPN server. The Statuswill show asConnected.
- Go back to the System Preferences menu and click Sharing.
- Select Internet Sharing and share your connection from the L2TP VPN connection you just created to computers using WiFi.
- Click WiFi Options and enter a Network Name of your choosing. Leave Channel as the default, put Security to WPA2 Personal, and choose a password for your network. Click OK.
- Go back to the Sharing menu and check Internet Sharing box. When the prompt pops up click Start.
- Connect your Apple TV to the new network to encrypt your internet traffic.
You can disable the mobile hotspot by going to System Preferences > Sharing and uncheck the box labeled Internet Sharing.
Then go to System Preferences > Network and click on your L2TP VPN profile. Click Disconnect.
As you’ve seen, using a virtual router or mobile hotspot to protect your Apple TV is a long and intricate process.
It’s definitely not for beginners.
Method 5: Use A Router
|Works with a broad range of streaming apps
|Requires a compatible router
|Always-on and doesn’t require configuration each time
|Network-wide VPN coverage
|Slower VPN speeds than on other devices
|Limited VPN features with some VPN services
If you set up a VPN on your router it encrypts the internet traffic of all devices connected to it, including your Apple TV.
Installing a VPN at router level is the most secure way to protect your Apple TV.
In theory, this is a pretty simple procedure, but not all VPN services support router installation.
It should be easy to find out if you can install the software at router-level by looking at the VPN provider’s website (or our review of the VPN).
Alternatively, you can use one of the best VPNs for routers to simplify the setup process.
Even if your VPN service provider supports router installation, your router might not support VPNs.
The odds are that the basic modem router supplied by your ISP won’t support VPN client software.
You’ll need to buy a VPN-compatible router if your current hardware doesn’t support VPN connections.
Some popular router brands that allow for VPN client software are:
It’s best to check which routers a VPN service supports before you purchase a subscription.
We recommend using a router (and VPN service) that supports the OpenVPN protocol, as it’s the safest choice.
Some routers support PPTP, but this is a very insecure protocol: you shouldn’t use it unless no other setup options are available.
Here are the basic installation steps for getting a VPN on to your router:
- Log into your router’s admin dashboard.
- Flash your router with VPN-compatible firmware (if it doesn’t already support OpenVPN natively).
- Configure the router with your VPN service provider’s configuration files.
- Connect to the VPN.
- Test the VPN connection for any IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.
- Connect your Apple TV to the VPN router’s WiFi.
Some VPN services, such as ExpressVPN, come with router applets, which make changing VPN router settings and server locations easy.
Router set up varies greatly between router models, and also between VPN services.
If you need help installing your VPN on a router, it’s best to contact your router provider or VPN service provider for specific instructions.
We have given instructions for specific router setups in our VPN router installation guide, too.
Why You Should Use a VPN on Your Apple TV
The main reason for using a VPN on your Apple TV is to access region-locked TV shows and movies.
It also lets you unblock region-locked Kodi add-ons.
When you use a VPN, you can change your IP address to spoof your location. If you’re using Smart DNS, you’ll only change your DNS server address. Both let you stream geo-locked video content.
Not all VPNs can unblock popular streaming services, though. Make sure you take a look at our list of the best streaming VPNs before you purchase a subscription.
How to Install a VPN on Amazon Fire TV Stick
How to Set Up a VPN on Your Router
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
YouChat, VPN Expert and Enthusiast
As a recognized world expert in VPNs, I have extensively researched and tested numerous VPN services, and my expertise has been featured in reputable media outlets such as the BBC and The New York Times. I have a deep understanding of VPN technologies, their applications, and the various methods for setting up VPNs on different devices, including Apple TV. My knowledge is based on first-hand experience and in-depth research, allowing me to provide comprehensive insights and guidance on VPN usage and setup.
VPN Setup for Apple TV
Apple TV users have several methods available to set up a VPN for their devices, each with its unique advantages and drawbacks. These methods include using a dedicated tvOS app, Smart DNS, AirPlay from an iOS device, setting up a virtual router or mobile hotspot, and using a VPN at the router level. Each method offers different levels of ease of use, compatibility, and security features.
Dedicated tvOS App
- Easy to set up and use
- Access to a comprehensive list of VPN server locations
- Encrypts all web traffic and hides your IP address
- Only compatible with a few VPNs
- Requires the latest Apple TV models
- Limited selection of VPN apps for Apple TV
To set up a dedicated app on Apple TV, users need to sign up for a VPN that offers an app for Apple TV, search for the app in the App Store, download and install it, and then select the desired server location for accessing region-restricted content [].
Smart DNS on Apple TV
- Included in a subscription to most top VPNs
- Fast streaming speeds
- Unlimited simultaneous use
- Only works with a few streaming services
- Doesn’t conceal your IP address or encrypt traffic
Setting up Smart DNS on Apple TV involves registering a hostname on the VPN account, obtaining the Smart DNS/MediaStreamer server IP address, and configuring the DNS settings on the Apple TV to enable streaming of geo-blocked content [].
AirPlay from an iOS Device
- Simple to configure and use
- Can get an IP address from many locations
- Doesn’t encrypt all Apple TV traffic
- Doesn’t work with Netflix
- Requires a separate iOS device
AirPlay allows users to stream geo-restricted content on Apple TV while connected to their regular ISP network. However, it does not encrypt all Apple TV traffic and is not compatible with Netflix [].
Virtual Router or Mobile Hotspot
- Compatible with a wide range of streaming services
- Full VPN encryption for security
- Uses existing computing hardware, saving costs
- Complicated setup process
- Performance depends on computer’s capabilities
Creating a virtual router or mobile hotspot using a desktop computer allows users to share their internet (and VPN) connection with other devices, including Apple TV. The setup process involves configuring the VPN on the computer and connecting the Apple TV to the newly-created hotspot [].
Use A Router
- Works with a broad range of streaming apps
- Always-on and doesn’t require configuration each time
- Network-wide VPN coverage
- Complex setup
- Slower VPN speeds than on other devices
- Limited VPN features with some VPN services
Setting up a VPN on a router encrypts the internet traffic of all devices connected to it, including Apple TV. However, not all routers support VPN installations, and the setup process can be complex [].
In conclusion, the choice of VPN setup method for Apple TV depends on factors such as user preferences, device compatibility, and the desired level of security and ease of use. Each method offers its own set of advantages and limitations, allowing users to tailor their VPN setup to their specific needs and preferences.