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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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).
At the moment of writing of this article, these are the VPN protocols that are supported on Windows XP:
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 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:
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:
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.
Compared to its desktop versions, Windows Phone’s selection of VPN protocols is more limited:
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 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.).
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:
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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).
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.
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:
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:
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:
Chromebook does offer support for third-party VPN clients, but you’re pretty limited in that regard:
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.
Regarding VPN protocol support, you can choose between OpenVPN and L2TP on Chromebook.
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.
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 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).
Here are the protocols that work on Android-based Blackberries:
BlackBerries powered by Android also offer support for VPN clients from suppliers like:
BlackBerry 10 offers similar support for IPsec and IKEv2, but there is also added support for SSL and many types of Cisco VPN connections:
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:
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.
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).
As for what VPN protocols routers support, it depends on the router and its firmware. Generally, most routers and router firmware will 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:
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.
We here at SmartyDNS offer high-speed VPN servers with military-grade 256 bit AES encryption and highly-secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther and IKEv2) and we adhere to a strict no-log policy.
Our VPN servers double as proxy servers and we also offer a Smart DNS service that lets you unblock 300+ worldwide geo-restricted websites.
We offer user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Fire TV/Stick and browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Oh, and we’ll also have your back with our 30-day money-back guarantee.
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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