How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

Earlier we told you how to configure custom DNS and Apple Safari in iOS. Continuing with our security focused tutorials, we are going to teach you how to set up a VPN in iOS manually.

Normally, when you buy a VPN subscription, you will use the app provided by the service. These VPN apps are designed for simplicity, and employ a login-and-use method. While that is the easiest way to get a VPN working on your device, it isn’t the only way.

Depending on the app in question, it may also not be the best way if you experience stability or performance issues when you use an application to connect to a VPN server.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

Say, if you want to use a VPN connection in a specific protocol (IKEv2, IPSec, L2TP) or to connect to your workplace’s VPN, you will need to configure the settings manually on your iPhone or iPad.

It can enhance your security greatly but at a cost, you will only be able to connect to a particular server that you select.  To change the server, you’ll need to edit the VPN configuration again, as opposed to merely tapping a button in the app to select a different server location.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to the “General” section and scroll down till you see the “VPN” option. Note: If you have already used a VPN before, you may have a “VPN” toggle in the side bar of the Settings screen. That’s literally just a switch, and cannot be used to configure the VPN. You will need to follow step 2, to set up the connection.
  3. Tap on “Add VPN Configuration”.
  4. Select the VPN type: IKEv2 or IPSec or L2TP.
  5. Enter the following details in the VPN configuration screen.

For IKEv2

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2

  • Description – Give it a name
  • Server – The IP address of the VPN server you want to connect to.
  • Remote ID – Enter the same IP address.
  • Local ID – Not required. Leave it blank.
  • User Authentication – Username/Certificate
  • Username – Your VPN account’s username.
  • Password – The password for the account.
  • Proxy – Off

Note: Username is the easier option of the two, but some VPNs may not support it. In that case, you will be asked to install a security certificate on your device, to communicate with the VPN’s servers.

6. Hit Done in the top right corner of the screen.

7. Enable the VPN from the toggle on the side bar, or from the VPN settings page.

How to set up a VPN in iOS manually IKEv2 ready

You will need to visit the support portal of your VPN service to get the manual configuration details (also called native protocols) which you need to enter in the VPN set up screen.

This method is common across all recent versions of iOS. I tested this on iOS 13 beta and it works flawlessly on both IPSec and IKEv2. In case the VPN connection failed, you don’t have to start from scratch. Just go back to the VPN section in iOS’ settings, and use the “Edit” option to modify the fields.

Please be aware that some VPN services use a different authentication method for manual settings. Using your regular account username and password will not authenticate the connection. You may be required to use your account’s dashboard to create a new configuration. This will generate a random username and password to authenticate your account for the specific protocol.

Just FYI, there is a new protocol called WireGuard, which promises faster encryption and better speeds. It isn’t available for use yet, but is expected to be supported by all major services and operating systems.

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