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VPNs and Device Compatibility – Everything You Need to Know

VPNs and Device Compatibility

VPN cross-platform compatibility is more important than ever nowadays, when the average digital consumer owns around 3 connected devices. It’s just no longer enough to run a VPN only on your home computer if you want to enjoy a truly secure and unrestricted online experience.

If you don’t know much about VPN cross-platform compatibility, don’t worry – that’s exactly the topic we aim to cover with this thorough guide.

We’ll be discussing why VPN compatibility is necessary, how widespread VPN usage is on different devices, and which devices and operating systems can or cannot support VPN software.

What Is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it’s a service you can use to secure your online connections by encrypting them, and hide your online identity (while also unblocking geo-restricted and firewall-restricted content) by hiding your IP address.

Why Is VPN Cross-Platform Compatibility Important?

Let’s face it – you don’t just need a VPN on your computer and laptop nowadays. You probably own at least 2-3 other devices that you can use to browse the web – both inside your home and when you’re away.

Securing them with a VPN is as important as securing your computer or laptop. There’s really no point in using a VPN to mask your digital footprint on your laptop if you’re not going to do the same thing on your mobile device. Your ISP (and anyone else, for that matter) will definitely exploit that.

Overall, a cross-platform compatible VPN ensures that your personal data and online identity is never in danger when you’re on the web.

Here are a few examples to illustrate how cross-platform compatibility comes in handy:

  • A VPN that runs on your mobile devices ensures you can safely connect to public WiFi networks (even unsecured networks) to perform sensitive activities, like online banking, when you’re not at home.
  • A VPN that can be configured on your router allows all the connected devices in your house to benefit from the VPN’s security when they access the web.
  • A VPN that can run on a media streamer (like Amazon Fire TV, for instance) helps you unblock geo-restricted content to enjoy more variety with the device.

How Widespread Is VPN Usage Across Devices?

Unfortunately, there are no statistics that showcase which specifical devices are used to run VPN connections worldwide. However, there is data that shows us which percentages of the quarter of all Internet users that use VPNs correspond to mobile devices, desktops, and tablets:

  • Desktop – 17%
  • Mobile devices – 15%
  • Tablets – 7%

While desktop devices are the main source of VPN traffic for now, things are soon to change with mobile devices catching up. In fact, according to the same statistics, 42% of users use a mobile device to run a VPN connection every day as opposed to just 35% of users who use a desktop.

What Devices / Operating Systems Do VPNs Work on?

Most devices and OSs support VPN clients, or at the very least offer support for VPN protocols so that you can configure a VPN connection on them.

We’re going to be covering the most popular devices/OSs in this section, and showcase which VPN protocols work on them, along with some comments if necessary.

If you feel like a device or OS should be present on the list, feel free to get in touch with us and let us know about it. We’ll research the device/OS to see what we can find out about running VPNs on it.

Now, please keep in mind that just because a VPN protocol works on a certain device/OS that doesn’t mean a third-party VPN client will. For example, you can set up an OpenVPN connection on both Windows 7 and Windows XP, but there’s a chance some VPN clients won’t work on Windows XP due to outdated drivers.

Also, we need to make a clear distinction between third-party VPN clients and built-in VPN clients:

  • Third-party VPN clients are offered by a VPN provider (either for free or for a price). They are software you can set up on your device/OS after you download an installer. If a VPN client isn’t available for a device/OS, some VPN providers might offer configuration files instead.
  • A built-in VPN client is software or a feature that are already present in a device/OS. You will have to manually set up the connection (like having it use a specific VPN protocol).

Windows

Pretty much all Windows versions (in use today) have a built-in VPN client you can use. Yes, even Windows XP has built-in features that help you manually set up a VPN connection. Similarly, Windows XP and newer usually have no problem running a third-party VPN client.

Windows VPN Compatibility

Before we start, we should mention that we’re not including Windows Vista in the list mostly because it has the same support for VPN protocols as Windows XP and Windows 7, but also because it’s barely used at all (it doesn’t even account for 1% of the market share).

Windows XP

At the moment of writing of this article, these are the VPN protocols that are supported on Windows XP:

  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • SoftEther

It is worth noting that there’s a chance you might encounter a connectivity issue when using a VPN client that runs the PPTP protocol. Apparently, some users have complained the connection drops after a few seconds. The solution for that problem involves downloading the latest service pack for Windows XP. Alternatively, you can turn off “Internet Connection Sharing.”

Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10

Windows 7 built up on the initial VPN protocol support that Windows XP offered, and added 2 more protocols to the list that are also supported on Windows 8 and 10:

  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • SoftEther

We’ve seen some users complaining about VPNs not working correctly on Windows 7, and we came across this list of helpful actions you can take if you’re in that situation. Generally, though, VPNs work smoothly on this OS.

Windows 10 also features the UWP (Universal Windows Platform) VPN plugin that offers more VPN connection types:

  • Pulse Secure
  • Cisco AnyConnect
  • F5 Access
  • Sonicwall Mobile Connect
  • Check Point Capsule

Basically, you can customize your VPN connection with these applications if the third-party VPN provider you are working with allows it.

Regarding issues on Windows 10, there’s a chance VPN connections might act up and not work properly after an OS update (Windows 10 updates are pretty notorious for “breaking” things). If you encounter that problem, check out this guide.

Windows Phone

Compared to its desktop versions, Windows Phone’s selection of VPN protocols is more limited:

  • PPTP
  • LT2P/IPSec
  • IKEv2

VPN connections have to be manually configured since VPN providers don’t usually offer clients for this platform. Luckily, the process isn’t too difficult thanks to the built-in VPN feature.

We should also mention that Windows Phone was officially replaced by Windows 10 Mobile back in 2015. Despite the numerous improvements, VPN connections still have to be set up manually. Regarding VPN protocols, Windows 10 Mobile supports the same ones as its predecessor.

macOS

macOS has multiple versions, and third-party VPN clients tend to work pretty smoothly with newer macOS X versions (Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, etc.).

macOS VPN Compatibility

Some clients might work with older versions (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Panther, Tiger, etc.), but you still might experience incompatibility issues. Luckily, you should be able to set up manual connections on older versions using data and configuration files from your VPN provider to bypass that problem.

Regarding built-in VPN clients and features, pretty much all macOS X versions have them – accessible either through applications or Terminal commands.

Some users might encounter VPN connectivity issues on macOS, but most problems are easily solved by posting them on the Apple Support forums, or contacting Apple Support directly.

With all that out of the way, here are the VPN protocols most macOS X versions support:

  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • SoftEther
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • Cisco IPSec

While PPTP used to be supported on macOS X, that hasn’t been the case since macOS Sierra (it still likely works on older versions, though). The built-in VPN client no longer features this VPN protocol, though some third-party VPN applications can still run it on the newer macOS X versions.

Basically, it seems like there’s still some support for PPTP connections on newer macOS X versions, just not an an interface level. However, you should be prepared to see support disappear for good in future versions since Apple will likely cut it out completely.

iOS

iOS devices (iPhones, iPod Touch, and iPads) generally offer support for third-party VPN clients – both installers and configuration files. Other VPN connections can also be set up on iOS devices thanks to their built-in network configuration tools.

iOS VPN Compatibility

There is a chance you might encounter certain connectivity or other VPN-related problems on iOS devices, though it doesn’t happen often. If you encounter any issues, check out this article cause it offers plenty of solutions to the most common problems.

Now, here’s the list of the VPN protocols that works on iOS devices:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec

Like post-macOS Sierra versions, iOS has stopped offering support for PPTP starting with iOS 10. Still, while iOS 10 (and newer versions) might not support PPTP connections, there still are ways to set them up manually. Of course, you should be prepared for such workarounds to not be available in future versions anymore.

Android

Most Android devices already include a built-in VPN client, and they also offer decent support for third-party VPN applications. If a third-party client isn’t available, you should be able to download configuration files to set up the connection manually.

Android VPN Compatibility

In terms of connectivity issues, it’s the same case as it is for iOS devices. If you’re unlucky, you might experience connection drops and slow speeds (among other problems). The tips found in the article we linked above were aimed to iOS users, but they can be used to fix similar problems on Android devices too.

As for VPN protocol support, here are the ones you can choose from on Android:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • SSTP

Android TV

If you’re running the Android TV OS on a digital media player or smart TV, you can actually install a third-party VPN client on the device since the OS offers support for it. You just need to get it from the app store, and follow the VPN provider’s instructions. Like Amazon Fire TV, you’ll only be able to use the OpenVPN protocol (TCP or UDP).

If no third-party VPN app is available, you can just download the OpenVPN application instead and set up the connection yourself with the appropriate configuration files. The process can be difficult, but if the VPN provider offers a helpful, visual tutorial, you should be good.

Amazon Fire TV & Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon Fire TV and newer generations of Amazon Fire TV Stick run a OS (Fire OS) that actually offers support for third-party VPN clients. Usually, you just have to download the appropriate app from the app store using the Fire TV, and install it according to the VPN provider’s instructions.

Normally, you will only be able to use one VPN protocol. Luckily, it’s a really decent and reliable one – OpenVPN. You’ll even be able to choose if you want to use OpenVPN TCP or OpenVPN UDP (ideal for online streaming).

Linux

Developing a third-party VPN client for Linux is especially difficult because of the numerous Linux distributions (different OS versions, basically) that exist.

Luckily, you can still configure and set up a VPN service on a Linux distribution. Because there are so many distributions to cover, we decided to use one of the most popular ones as an example – namely Ubuntu.

Ubuntu VPN Compatibility

Setting up a VPN on Ubuntu requires entering various commands in the Terminal, and potentially downloading some VPN protocol plugins too. Decent VPN providers usually offer a visual step-by-step tutorial to show you exactly what you need to do.

As for VPN protocol support, Ubuntu (like pretty much all distributions) can handle:

  • PPTP
  • OpenVPN
  • SoftEther
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenConnect
  • VPNC (Cisco Compatible VPN)
  • Cisco VPN

FreeBSD

FreeBSD is considered the successor to BSD, and while it’s not a very widespread operating system nowadays, some people do use it. If you’re one of them, you might be a bit bummed out since you likely won’t find any third-party VPN clients for this platform.

However, you can still set up some manual VPN connections on the OS since it offers support for:

  • OpenVPN (also works on OpenBSD and NetBSD)
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • SoftEther
  • PPTP

Solaris

Like FreeBSD, Solaris isn’t that popular. If you happen to use it, you’ll be once again faced with some sad news – third-party VPN clients aren’t usually developed for this platform.

Luckily, you can still configure manual VPN connections since the operating system supports the following VPN protocols:

  • OpenVPN
  • SoftEther
  • PPTP
  • IPSec

Chromebook

Chromebook does offer support for third-party VPN clients, but you’re pretty limited in that regard:

  • You can use Chrome VPN extensions, but the problem with them is that they only secure your browser’s traffic, not your whole web traffic.
  • You can run Android VPN apps on your Chromebook, though it doesn’t sound very convenient given that you’re running a mobile app on a laptop. It’s worth noting that some online users have voiced their concerns about Android VPN apps not securing all of Chromebook’s traffic. Still, Google apparently says they do. Overall, just something to consider.
  • The last, more convenient option is using a Chrome OS VPN app. The only problem with this would be the fact that few VPN providers offer them. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning you’ll still be tweaking the VPN from the built-in network menu, not the application itself.

If you can’t find a Chrome OS app from your provider, don’t worry – Chromebook supports manual VPN configuration too, so you can set up a connection if you follow the VPN provider’s instructions.

Chromebook VPN Compatibility

Regarding VPN protocol support, you can choose between OpenVPN and L2TP on Chromebook.

Boxee Box

Those of you who love this nifty little set-top box will be happy to know that you can actually configure a VPN connection on it to enjoy more content variety. Sadly, you can’t just install third-party VPN clients on the device – you’ll have to manually set up the VPN instead.

Luckily, the process isn’t too complicated. Most VPN providers offer instructions, so just stick to them.

As for VPN protocols, your only option is PPTP with Boxee Box. It’s not a secure VPN protocol, but it’s pretty fast, so it’s still decent if you only want to access and stream more movies, shows, and videos.

e-readers (Kindle Fire, Nook HD)

Some e-readers – like the ones we listed above – support both VPN connections and third-party VPN clients. So, if you’d like to unblock more content on your e-readers, you can try searching for a VPN provider’s client in the app store (if there is one), or manually set up a VPN connection using the VPN account credentials and the configuration files offered by the VPN provider.

In the case of Kindle Fire and Nook HD, you shouldn’t really encounter any issues. Kindle Fire runs the Fire OS, and Nook HD runs the Android OS but with a customized interface, so VPN compatibility is ensured. If you do encounter problems, get in touch with the VPN provider and/or the e-reader’s manufacturer.

Regarding VPN protocols, most connections on Kindle Fire and Nook HD are done with PPTP, but some online users claim VPN connections can also be set up with OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec.

BlackBerry

BlackBerry phones offer support for both third-party VPN clients and manually-configured connections. Most applications are provided through the Google Play store since some BlackBerries run the Android OS.

Even if your VPN provider doesn’t offer a client for your BlackBerry device, you’ll still have a relatively easy time setting up a manual VPN connection since BlackBerries have built-in VPNs.

However, VPN protocol support is quite different between BlackBerries that run Android OS and Blackberries that run their own OS (BlackBerry 10).

Android-based Blackberries

Here are the protocols that work on Android-based Blackberries:

  • IKEv2
  • OpenVPN
  • IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • BlackBerry Secure Connection Plus (if managed by UEM)

BlackBerries powered by Android also offer support for VPN clients from suppliers like:

  • Cisco
  • Fortinet
  • Juniper
  • Palo Alto Networks
  • Check Point Software

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 offers similar support for IPsec and IKEv2, but there is also added support for SSL and many types of Cisco VPN connections:

  • Check Point VPN-1
  • Cisco VPN 3000 Series Concentrator
  • Cisco Secure PIX Firewall
  • Cisco IOS Easy VPN
  • Cisco ASA Series
  • Cisco AnyConnect

Synology NAS

Yes, Synology NAS (Network-Attached Storage – a computer data storage server, essentially) offers support to VPN connections. Not only can you connect to a VPN server, but you can even set up your very own VPN server on a Synology NAS if you want.

In case you’re looking to connect to a VPN server, keep in mind there aren’t any third-party applications you can install on Synology NAS appliances. Still, manually configuring a VPN connection is pretty straightforward thanks to Synology’s user-friendly interface.

As for VPN protocol support, Synology NAS appliances can handle the following protocols:

  • OpenVPN
  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec

Routers

Most routers support VPN connections. But we need to mention that router firmware doesn’t really support VPN clients, so the VPN has to be manually configured.

However, if your router’s firmware has 0 support for VPN tech, you will have to “flash” it – essentially, replace it with new firmware that supports VPNs, usually DD-WRT, OpenWRT and Tomato.

Alternatively, you could just buy a flashed router directly, but keep in mind they aren’t really cheap (they start somewhere around $200 and can go up to $500 or more).

Routers VPN Compatibility

As for what VPN protocols routers support, it depends on the router and its firmware. Generally, most routers and router firmware will support:

  • OpenVPN
  • PPTP
  • SSTP
  • L2TP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • SoftEther

What About Devices/Operating Systems Without Native Support?

Unfortunately, some platforms don’t feature native support for VPNs at all, meaning you won’t be able to install or manually set up a VPN on them. Here is a list of the most popular devices that don’t support VPNs:

  • PlayStation
  • Xbox
  • Roku TV
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • LG Smart TVs
  • NOW TV Box
  • Apple TV

Please keep in mind that smart TVs that run the Android OS can run third-party VPN clients built for that OS.

Luckily, there are 2 workarounds to this problem.

  1. The first solution is sharing a VPN connection through your desktop or laptop. Basically, the device in question is connected to a desktop or laptop with an ethernet cable. Once that’s done, it will share the Internet connection with said desktop or laptop – including the VPN connection. Of course, this doesn’t work all the time, since you can’t connect all smart devices (like smart thermostats, smart locks, smart cameras, etc.) to your laptop or desktop.
  2. The second, more popular option is setting up a VPN on a router. This way, any device that connects to your router will be able to use the VPN’s features automatically. While the setup process isn’t exactly simple, most VPN providers offer easy-to-follow tutorials that are of huge help.

Looking for a VPN That Works on Multiple Devices & OSs?

We’ve got you covered – we here at SmartyDNS know how important cross-platform compatibility is nowadays, so we made sure our VPN service works across multiple platforms.

SmartyDNS App

For starters, we offer user-friendly VPN apps on the following devices and OSs:

  • Windows (XP, 7, 8, and 10)
  • macOS (macOS 10.10 and newer)
  • Android
  • Android TV
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  • Amazon Fire TV & Fire TV Stick

Our VPN clients feature a neat, smooth design, and are very customizable – you can choose which VPN protocol to use, how the client starts up, and if servers are grouped by country when you sort them by speed.

That’s not all, though – we also made sure our service works on many other devices and OSs. You just have to manually configure it. Don’t worry – the process is extremely simple since we offer helpful, easy-to-follow tutorials for:

  • Windows (7, 8, and 10)
  • macOS
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod)
  • Android (Oreo, Nougat, Marshmallow, Lollipop, and KitKat)
  • Routers (DD-WRT, Asus, and Mikrotik)
  • Ubuntu
  • Chromebook (in case you don’t want to set up the VPN on a router to use it on Chromebook)

Everything You Need to Truly Enjoy the Web

Our VPN service features high-end AES encryption to keep your online traffic and data safe and sound, and it also offers access to high-speed 1Gbps servers with unlimited bandwidth.

Plus, you get to choose between 6 VPN protocols when connecting to our servers:

  • OpenVPN
  • STTP
  • SoftEther
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IKEv2
  • PPTP

On top of that, SmartyDNS’ VPN service offers DNS Leak protection to further protect your online identity, and we enforce a strict no-log policy at our company. That pretty much means we don’t log any of your data.

Give Our Services a Test-Drive!

You don’t need to make a commitment straight away – you can try out our VPN service free of charge for 3 days. No credit card details are required, and you get to enjoy all the features we offer – no restrictions!

And once you choose a subscription plan, we’ll still have your back with our 30-day money-back guarantee if the service doesn’t work as advertised, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Conclusion

Nowadays, most people use more than one device when they access the web. That’s why VPN cross-platform compatibility is important – so that you can keep your connections and personal data secure no matter what device or operating system you use.

Now, while VPN usage can be linked to desktop, mobile, and tablet devices, there’s not enough data to link it to specific platforms – in case you’re interested on what devices/OSs you can use a VPN.

As a general rule of thumb, the most popular devices and OSs offer support for third-party VPN clients and manually-configured VPN connections. Luckily, even the platforms with no native support can be configured to run VPN connections – either by sharing the web connection with a laptop or desktop, or by setting up a VPN on a router.

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