This is one of the most common VPN troubleshooting tips. If your connection seems slow, change your VPN protocol. And it’s true: Choose your protocol wisely, and it can double your speed, sometimes more.
But there is more to it than performance. Changing your protocol can provide all kinds of benefits, improving your VPN experience, making app features work better, and other VPN functionality you may not have even known about.
And it’s all so easy to do. Point, click, or tap something, and you’re done. Here we’ll explain some of the reasons why a quick protocol change can improve your VPN life.
1. Your VPN connection is slow
VPN speeds vary greatly depending on the protocol, so it is a good idea to check that you are using the fastest option.
Many VPN apps have an ‘automatic’ protocol setting that claims to choose the best protocol for you, but if your speeds are still slow, it’s worth turning it off and selecting something manually.
If your VPN provider has a custom protocol of its own – Lightwave for ExpressVPN, NordLinks with NordVPN, Catapult Hydra for Hotspot Shield – then that normally delivers the fastest VPN results.
After that try WireGuard, then OpenVPN, IKEv2 or L2TP.
If your VPN supports PPTP, it may be faster, but beware: it’s also so insecure that most providers have abandoned it. Use it only if you don’t absolutely need protection (for example, you’re unblocking Netflix instead of protecting online banking sessions).
Keep in mind that although this command is usually correct, sometimes changing it can help. If your VPN provider messed up some WireGuard update, say, then switching to OpenVPN may be faster, at least until the fix. Try all the main options, see which one works for you.
2. You cannot connect to the VPN server
If you’re in a country that’s more interested in censorship than internet freedom, VPN connections can get connected and blocked – it’s one of the reasons why VPNs from China, the UAE, and Russia have become such a popular tool.
Some VPN-unfriendly networks use similar trickery. End result: You hit connect, but your app hangs at the ‘connecting…’ step and is never ready to use.
Changing your protocol can help you avoid detection and connecting. If your VPN has a protocol specifically designed to bypass VPN blocks — VyprVPN’s Chameleon, say — try that first. But there are no fixed rules here, so if they don’t work, try others as well.
See protocol-specific settings that may help. In some VPN apps choose OpenVPN and you will get a setting like ‘Obfuscation’ for example. Checking that box adds a cryptic extra layer to your traffic, theoretically making it harder to detect.
You may see related options, including the ability to set ports, but these work very differently depending on the provider. See the help site for specific advice.
3. It takes a long time to connect to the VPN server
Choosing a VPN protocol doesn’t just affect connection speed and security. It also changes the rules on how the connection is established; What are the steps your app needs to go through in order to communicate with the VPN server and get your connection up and ready for use.
Selecting the right protocol can make a big difference. We’ve seen WireGuard and IKEv2 connections up and running in under two seconds. A standard OpenVPN connection can easily take 10-20 seconds. When apps don’t get this right, or a service is experiencing problems, the connection may take 40 seconds or more to set up.
If you are unhappy with your VPN connection time, just try other protocols, see which one comes out on top.
Keep in mind that results can also vary by platform, so don’t assume that one that works well with your Windows VPN is a smart choice for your iPhone VPN app as well. Try a few connections with each of the protocols available before making a decision.
4. Your app does not list a supported country
Imagine you need a VPN that offers countries that are not well supported elsewhere, perhaps in South America. You find one, sign up, install and launch the app, and: some or all of the countries you need are not on the list. what’s going on?
VPN servers do not always support every protocol offered by the service. For example, if your provider defaults to WireGuard, its apps will show you countries where WireGuard servers are located. If the country you need only has OpenVPN servers, it will not appear in the list.
The results can be dramatic. For example, select ‘America’ in ExpressVPN’s Windows app, and it typically offers you 16 countries. If you’re using the L2TP protocol, you’ll only see three. There are good reasons for this – L2TP is a Windows-only protocol, it’s not recommended for speed or security, so the company only supports it in a minimal number of places – but it may still surprise you, if you don’t know that. What is going on?
If your location list doesn’t have everything your provider promises on its website, changing the protocol can help. And if it doesn’t, contact support to get an explanation as to why the website is offering something that clearly doesn’t exist, and if there’s no very good answer, ask for your money back – That’s what vpn free trials are for. ,
5. Your VPN Connection Keeps Dropping
Maintaining your VPN connection takes time and effort with some protocols, but almost nothing with others. If you don’t choose the best option, or your app isn’t implemented well, or your provider’s servers are overloaded, you’ll likely see regular connection drops.
If this is a common problem for you, try another protocol. The more modern options are usually the most reliable — WireGuard, ExpressVPN’s Lightwave, NordVPN’s NordLink — so try them out first. But don’t deny anything. WireGuard is a reliable protocol in theory, but if an app isn’t setting it up properly (or there’s just some bug in the latest app version), it can become useless. Try every option, just to be sure.
Some apps allow you to choose a protocol, but then also give you the option to connect using UDP or TCP. Normally it defaults to UDP for best performance, but switching to TCP should improve reliability at the expense of some speed.
6. VPN feature doesn’t work or doesn’t show up
Some VPN apps offer a very long list of clever technical features as they try to win over new customers. In theory, this is good news for the user, but there could be a problem with it. Some features depend on the specific protocol being selected, and if you switch to something else, they may not work as well, or the app may not allow you to use them.
Sign up for NordVPN, for example, and you may want to try out its DoubleVPN feature. It encrypts your traffic once, routes it to a VPN server, encrypts it a second time and re-routes it through another VPN server for maximum possible security.
Sounds great, so you install the app on your Windows laptop, browse the menus, but can’t find any mention of DoubleVPN.
Problem? DoubleVPN is not supported by all protocols, not even NordVPN’s own NordLinks. You will need to switch to OpenVPN UDP or TCP before it appears.
We suspect that most users would never guess that DoubleVPN’s availability depends entirely on their choice of protocol, but this is a perfect example of this problem. If you’re having any weird problems with a VPN app, try switching protocols as a last resort: who knows, it might be just the answer you need.