Entertainment Security

How to Use a VPN With Your Apple TV

Tim Brookes 12-10-2018

You can’t install a VPN natively on your Apple TV, but there are workarounds you can use to enjoy the same functionality. Apple neglected to put VPN functionality in tvOS, the modified version of iOS designed for the big screen.


This is probably down to the fact that many use VPN connections to circumvent the region locks imposed by so many of the content providers that conduct business on the platform. Services like Netflix, free to air catch-up services, and live TV streaming apps abound.

VPNs and DNS Tunnels on Apple TV

An Apple TV box

There are two methods of using a VPN to access region-locked content, and a third less-reliable method that uses DNS tunneling. Neither is guaranteed to work with every service you try, so your mileage may vary. But if you’re already paying for a VPN, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying.

Here we’ll look at the following methods:

  1. Using a router to connect your network directly to a VPN, then accessing services using your Apple TV as normal.
  2. Configuring a virtual router to connect your Apple TV to a computer that’s already configured with VPN access.
  3. Using DNS tunneling to make your Apple TV appear as if it’s in the same country your content is locked to.

Method 1: Using a VPN Router

Netgear Nighthawk X4S D7800


In order to connect your router to a VPN, you’ll need a router or router firmware that supports this ability. If your router was supplied by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), there’s a good chance it won’t include this feature. ISPs tend to provide cheap hardware that does the bare minimum required of the service.

Some routers may lack this feature, but by installing custom firmware this feature can be added. This is a bit risky since you’re removing the manufacturer’s default firmware and replacing it with third party code, so be prepared just in case something goes wrong.

One of the best examples of third party router hardware is DD-WRT. This open source Linux-powered router firmware replacement What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router In this article, I'm going to show you some of the coolest features of DD-WRT which, if you decide to make use of, will allow you to transform your own router into the super-router of... Read More  is compatible with a wide range of network hardware. Check whether your router is compatible on the DD-WRT supported hardware list.

OpenWrt is another open source firmware replacement, also based on Linux What Is OpenWrt And Why Should I Use It For My Router? OpenWrt is a Linux distribution for your router. It can be used for anything an embedded Linux system is used for. But would it suit you? Is your router compatible? Let's take a look. Read More , with a modular package-based approach. It allows you to pick the packages you want, rather than providing features you don’t necessarily need.


If you’re using ExpressVPN, you can use ExpressVPN firmware on your router to make connecting to various VPN connections even easier. If you’ve taken the plunge and upgraded to a modern mesh router system How Mesh Wi-Fi Systems Can Fix Your Wi-Fi Issues and Problems Wondering what a mesh network is and if it's right for you? Here are some benefits of mesh networks, and the best options to try now. Read More , you likely already have VPN client compatibility (and can administer it using your smartphone).

To find out if your router is compatible, check the manual, or login to your router’s control panel and hunt for the “VPN client” feature.

Connecting Your Router to Your VPN

There’s no single method for connecting your router to your chosen VPN. First you need to head to your router’s control panel, the address of which is usually listed on the side of the device. Common addresses include and

Netgear VPN Setup Wizard


Add a new connection for your chosen server. You’ll need to get this information from your VPN provider, and add a new connection for each server you wish to use. Make sure you use a good description so you know where each server is located.

Activate that connection to route all of your network traffic to that server. Every device on your network—including your Apple TV—will now be routed through your chosen VPN connection. You can disable this connection (or switch to another server) whenever you need to using your router’s control panel.

A Good Solution, But Not Perfect

The biggest problem with this solution is that it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Other members of your household can’t watch local content on catch-up TV while you’re trying to stream the contents of another country’s Netflix catalog.

This also slows down your entire network, so playing multiplayer games on your PlayStation 4 while watching international catch-up TV services will result in a dreary gaming experience. You will have to log in to your router and fiddle with the settings each time you want to disable or change your VPN settings.


On the plus side, from a security standpoint the entirety of your network is protected. Add a local server for regular use and you won’t notice a huge drop in speed, nor will you need to set up VPN access on every device in your household.

Method 2: Using a Virtual VPN Router

Mac Internet Sharing

This method is very similar to the last, except instead of using a router connected to a VPN, you’re routing your Apple TV (and any other connected devices) through another device that’s already connected to a VPN.

This means you can route only the devices you want through your VPN of choice, without affecting the whole network. Other members of your household can still stream local live TV services in another room, while you’re watching international content through your Apple TV.

Sharing Your Computer’s VPN Connection

This is pretty easy to do, whether you’re using a Mac or Windows computer. You can also achieve results using Linux (check out our guide to using a VPN on Linux Everything Linux Users Need to Know About Installing a VPN Linux is inherently more secure than Windows. But this doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep an eye on how you access the internet. A firewall is necessary, and increasingly so is a VPN. Read More ), but sharing your connection will require a little more tinkering and work depending on which distro you are using.

Both macOS and Windows 10 include support for connecting to a VPN with no additional software necessary. Some providers provide their own software to make this easy, but you don’t really need it. Check out how to install a VPN on Windows 10 How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 10 Not sure how to set up a VPN on Windows 10? Here's an easy step-by-step guide to setting up an L2TP or IKEv2 connection. Read More .

macOS VPN Setup

On a Mac you can head to System Preferences > Network and click on the plus button to add a new connection, then choose VPN. From here use your provider’s credentials to create the connection and click Connect. You can also grab one of these free third party Mac VPN clients The 5 Best Free Mac VPN Clients (And 2 Bonus Alternatives) Here are the best free VPN clients for Mac, plus some paid options if the free offerings don't suffice. Read More if you want to use another protocol (like OpenVPN). (If you need more help, you can find out more about how to set up a VPN on a Mac The 5 Best Free Mac VPN Clients (And 2 Bonus Alternatives) Here are the best free VPN clients for Mac, plus some paid options if the free offerings don't suffice. Read More .)

The final step is to share your internet connection. You can have one active network type and one shared network type at any time. That means if you connect your computer to your router via Ethernet, you can create a shared Wi-Fi connection. You can’t share the Wi-Fi connection you’re already using as another wireless hotspot, unless you have a spare USB Wi-Fi adapter.

The best method is to connect your computer directly to your router and create a Wi-Fi hotspot, since you can connect multiple devices to one shared Ethernet connection. Check out our guide to creating a Wi-Fi hotspot with Windows Turn Windows Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot and Share Your Internet Connection You've got an Internet connection via a network cable. Can you wirelessly share that connection with other devices? Can you make your Windows computer run like a WiFi router? In short: Yes! Read More , or our tutorial for sharing your Mac’s internet connection How to Share Your Mac's Internet Connection Using OS X Sharing your Mac's Internet connection only takes a few clicks, and you can even set up an improvised WiFi hotspot without installing any third party software. Read More .

A Customizable Approach to Sharing a VPN

This method allows you to restrict your VPN to your Apple TV and any other streaming devices, rather than re-routing all of your network traffic. It’s more of a temporary solution, especially if your network equipment is in an awkward location (for which you’ll need a laptop).

It’s easy enough to set up though, and switching your VPN on or off, or changing the server you’re connected to is pretty straightforward. You can even install your VPN provider’s own software to make this part easy.

For MacBook users in particular this solution will require an investment in a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter, since Apple hasn’t included an Ethernet port on MacBooks for some time now.

Method 3: DNS Tunneling

The final method doesn’t involve a VPN at all. Many VPN services provide DNS tunneling services as part of their VPN packages, whereas others sell this service separately. Some services sell DNS tunneling separately, many services refer to it by a different name like ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer.

Some services like ExpressVPN will require the use of free dynamic DNS (DDNS) providers The 5 Best Free Dynamic DNS Providers A DDNS service can help you connect to your home PC while on the move. Here are the best free dynamic DNS providers to consider. Read More in order to keep your IP address up to date. Others, like UnoTelly, simply require you to login to your control panel to update your address manually.

Once you’ve signed up for an account that supports DNS tunneling and configured DNS where required, head to Settings > Network on your Apple TV and choose either Wi-Fi or Ethernet to configure that particular network. Scroll down to DNS and input the relevant IP address as per your provider’s instructions.

Restart Apple TV

From here simply restart your Apple TV under Settings > System > Restart and region-locked content should (hopefully) now be available to you. Your provider should handle most of the relevant back-end stuff, though it’s often possible to fine-tune your location to unlock specific local services.

Easy to Use, But Easily Defeated

DNS tunneling used to be the best method of accessing region locked content. Unlike VPN connections, you can access content at the maximum speed your internet connection will allow. There’s also no need to connect to different networks for different content, since the provider handles this on a service-by-service basis.

But heavy hitters like Netflix and BBC iPlayer started cracking down on DNS tunneling a few years ago, and introduced better protections against it. Many applications now perform custom DNS lookups to circumvent even OS-level DNS tweaks.

The Best Method for Using a VPN on Apple TV

The use of a VPN means better security, and more reliable access to region locked content. The cost is speed, since your overall speed will be limited by the speed of the VPN connection. By comparison, DNS services are lightning fast but often fall short since content providers can now easily circumvent them.

For many users, the second method (using a virtual router) provides the most flexibility. You won’t lose internet speed across your whole network, and the VPN connection is likely to work a lot better for region-locked content than a DNS server would.

If security is your number one priority, the first method is also ideal. Not having to set up a VPN on every device makes it easy to secure everything in one quick step. Provided the server is relatively close to you, your internet speed hopefully won’t take too much of a hit.

Still looking for a VPN? You may be interested in the best VPNs according to Reddit The Best VPN According to Reddit But with so many VPNs on the market, how do you decide which one to use? We checked Reddit's best subreddits and threads to get the best VPN recommendations. Read More , but we personally recommend ExpressVPN. Use this link to save 49% on ExpressVPN today!

Related topics: Apple TV, Router, VPN.

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  1. Tony
    October 12, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I followed ExpressVPN's guide and it only took a few mins. Pretty painless, actually.