Do you want to check out the Netflix catalog in other countries, see what the Kodi hype is all about, or watch BBC iPlayer while you’re on vacation? You can do all of these things and more by installing a VPN on your Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Provided you’ve got a second generation Fire Stick, it’s easy to do. But where exactly do you get started? Let’s take a look.
Why You Need a VPN
There are numerous reasons why might want to use a VPN on a Fire Stick. Safeguarding your data privacy is one, especially if you’re using a lot of third-party apps. Bypassing content blocks in your country is another, as is encrypting your internet connection so that it cannot be snooped on.
More likely, you’ll want to use a VPN so you can access TV streaming apps that are normally blocked where you are. If you’re doing this, you need to make sure you choose a VPN that still works with those services.
Netflix and BBC iPlayer are among those that are now actively blocking VPN users. It is still possible to find VPNs that work with those services, although it’s likely that more will continue to be blocked in future.
Install a VPN on a Fire Stick
You can only use a VPN on a second generation (or later) Fire TV Stick. To use one on a first generation device, it would need to be rooted. Unfortunately, software updates have rendered the original Fire Stick unrootable.
Still, for $40, a Fire TV Stick is one of the cheapest tech upgrades you can get, and it’s well worth it. The newer model brings you much more powerful hardware (better for things like Kodi or gaming), and has Alexa support for voice controlled operation.
Once you have a compatible device, there are three ways to get a VPN up and running on a Fire TV Stick.
1. Install From the App Store
The first and easiest way is to install a dedicated VPN app from the built-in app store. There’s only a very limited choice but IPVanish is among them, and that’s a service we rate very highly.
When you install and run the IPVanish app, it launches straight into the login screen, with no option to create an account in the app itself. If you don’t have an account already, you’ll need to switch over to a desktop computer to make one. It’s a paid service.
Once you’ve done that, simply log in and you’re ready to go.
You can set IPVanish to connect automatically every time you start your Fire Stick or to remain switched off until you connect manually. The latter option might be the best bet, as it will ensure the VPN doesn’t interfere with any other region-dependent apps you’re using (like local TV apps that don’t work in other countries).
Choosing which country you want to connect from is as simple as delving into the settings and picking one from the list. Unless you need to connect from a specific country, you should always choose a nearby location to guarantee the best speeds.
2. Sideload a VPN App
The next method is to sideload the dedicated app for your VPN service of choice. Most VPNs offer their own Android apps, and sideloading massively increases your options. This includes the chance to use free services as well, although we don’t generally recommend using a free VPN.
There are a couple of different ways to sideload apps. The quickest and most convenient is to install the app you want onto your Android phone and copy it across using Apps2Fire, another free app from the Play Store. For full instructions, check out our guide to sideloading apps to a Fire Stick.
If your chosen app is available through the developer’s website, you can also download it direct to the Fire Stick.
To do this, install Downloader from the Fire Stick’s app store. Type in the address from where you can download the app, and the page will open in Downloader’s built-in browser. Complete the download and install when prompted. Access your sideloaded apps by long pressing the Home button on your remote and selecting Apps.
The downside to sideloading VPN apps is that not all of them will work. Some may simply be incompatible, and others may be forced into portrait mode (which won’t look great on a TV). If this happens, install the app Set Orientation from the Play Store (it’s free). This enables you to force apps to run in landscape mode.
And because these apps are not designed for the Fire Stick, they may not be compatible with the device’s remote. In this case, you’ll need an app like Mouse Toggle for Fire TV (paid, from the Play Store) to bypass the problem. This shows a mouse cursor on screen which can be controlled using the d-pad on the remote.
3. Configure a VPN Manually
If you want to use a service that does not have its own app, or if the app doesn’t work on a Fire Stick, you’ll need the third method — installing OpenVPN and configuring it yourself. VPNs that support OpenVPN, including many of the most popular ones, offer .OVPN files that contain all the configuration information you need.
To start, sideload OpenVPN using the methods outlined above. Apps2Fire is the best option, as you’ll need that app for the next step. You also need Mouse Toggle for Fire TV to control the app, as it doesn’t work well with the Fire Stick remote otherwise.
Download the OVPN file from your VPN provider to your phone. Now open Apps2Fire and swipe across to the Fire TV SD Card tab. Tap the Upload icon and locate the OVPN file stored on your phone. Tap on it and select Upload to copy it over to the Fire Stick.
Launch OpenVPN on the Stick and press the Menu button on your remote. From the options that are displayed, select Import, followed by Import Profile from SD card. Your VPN server will now be configured.
You can now connect and may be prompted to log in. Each OVPN file corresponds to a single VPN server. You don’t switch servers using in-app settings, you do so by importing another OVPN file corresponding to the new server you want to use.
Downsides to a VPN
VPNs don’t come without potential downsides, and many of those still apply when using one on a Fire Stick.
- A number of streaming services are blocking VPN users, so you may lose access to them — even if you’re a legitimate user of that service.
- You may lose access to location specific services, as your VPN may show you as connecting from another country.
- You will experience much slower download speeds than you would without the VPN, although they may still be fast enough to stream HD video.
- Free VPNs are usually the worst performing, or have usage limits, and can have a questionable approach to privacy.
As such, its probably a good idea to pay for a reputable VPN, and to only connect when you need it, rather than all the time. This should give you the best of both worlds — the benefits of using a VPN with a Fire Stick, without any of the potential problems.
Do you use a VPN for streaming? Tell us your experiences and give us your recommendations in the comments below.