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How to set up a VPN for Roku

Verified by Amy Reeves

If you’re looking to install a virtual private network (VPN) on your Roku device, it’s possible – if a little trickier than you might expect at first.

Using a VPN is a brilliant way to ensure your privacy and security in your online dealings while gaining access to region-locked content from YouTube and other streaming services. And while most VPN users are found on desktop and mobile devices, increasingly more customers want to get the benefits of a VPN on their streaming devices too.

However, the Roku operating system doesn’t support any VPN apps natively – you can’t find ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark or other VPN providers in the Roku app store as you would when downloading the Netflix or Spotify apps. 

Roku devices also don’t support the Smart DNS functionality offered by some VPN providers, which lets you redirect domain name requests to a server in another region and can be used after installing ExpressVPN on Apple TV or NordVPN on Fire Stick.

But there is a way to get the benefits of a VPN on your Roku streamer – with the right physical or virtual router at your disposal. So whether you’re using a Roku Express, Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Roku Streambar or built-in Roku TV, here’s everything you need to get started on your VPN journey.

Benefits of using a VPN with Roku

So, why would you want a VPN on Roku? The primary function of a VPN is to keep your information safe and secure. It conceals your identity by hiding your Internet Protocol address and encrypting your data so that even your internet service provider (ISP) isn’t sure who or where you are.

Most leading VPN providers use 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256); it would take millions of years for a supercomputer to crack this type of encryption. It uses a multistep encryption process to render data unreadable, locking it up and sending it across the internet securely – ensuring your data stays safe from hackers, trackers or repressive government surveillance.

But another big perk is the ability to connect to a server in another country entirely. Often, VPN providers run hundreds of servers worldwide, meaning you can redirect your internet traffic through another location, bypassing local restrictions on your internet access. So, using a VPN while on holiday means you can access UK-restricted content, such as BBC iPlayer and the specific Netflix library. 

In certain circumstances, VPNs can also increase your streaming speeds. Internet service providers engage in a process known as bandwidth throttling, effectively limiting the bandwidth available for data-hungry activities, such as video streaming. Video streaming accounts for a significant percentage of annual global web traffic downloads, with Netflix and YouTube alone comprising between 20 and 25 per cent. By encrypting your data, your ISP can no longer identify your specific internet usage, meaning you can sidestep bandwidth restrictions altogether.

Setting up a VPN on Roku

Roku isn’t currently home to any native VPN apps, unlike Amazon Fire TV devices, which support several VPN providers. But, even though a Roku device isn’t the go-to choice for VPN enthusiasts, anyone already sporting a Roku Streaming Stick can still use a workaround.

Option 1: Get a VPN router

The best way to get a VPN on Roku is to use a VPN-compatible router. While most standard home routers aren’t set up for VPN usage, you can purchase a router designed for that very purpose. 

For instance, if you’re using ExpressVPN, you may opt for its pre-installed Aircove router (pictured below) or any other ExpressVPN-compatible routers the company website suggests. Most providers share lists of the routers they support  and guides on how to set them up.

Once you have your router, connect it via an Ethernet cable to your existing router’s local area network port or an Ethernet wall port.

While setup instructions will vary depending on which router you’re using, you’ll effectively route your regular wifi through the secondary, VPN-enabled router. Then, you’ll use the latter’s wifi signal to grant internet access to your Roku device and any other home devices you want covered by the VPN.

This option doesn’t require any settings adjustment on the Roku device itself; once you’ve connected to the VPN-protected wifi signal, you can use it with all the security and privacy benefits it entails.

Option 2: Use a virtual VPN router

The other method involves a virtual VPN router, eliminating the need for additional hardware.

To do this, you will get your VPN up and running on another device and then share that device’s wifi signal so the Roku streamer can connect to it. 

It may be simplest to do this on your smartphone – search in your phone’s settings for “personal hotspot” and turn it on, taking note of the name and password for the connection. Keep in mind that this can drain your phone’s battery faster than usual, so it’s best to have it plugged in and charging.

You can also do this on a Windows PC by selecting Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot. Under “Share my internet connection from”, select your PC’s internet source (e.g. Ethernet, wifi) and choose “Wi-Fi” under “Share my internet connection over”. Then, you can toggle the mobile hotspot at the top of the page. It’s a similar process on Mac, but you’ll instead head to “System Preferences” > “Sharing” and input the same details. However, you can also share over a connection if your desktop device is connected in another way, such as an Ethernet connection.

Once that’s done, head to the “Settings” menu on your Roku device, select “Network”, and then “Set up connection”. You’ll see a list of networks to choose from: select the name of your hotspot, input the password and enjoy!

Given you’re running a VPN over a router rather than a native app, you have a lot of freedom regarding which VPN provider to use. Any of the options featured in our best VPN guide will be a good choice, though each varies in the kinds of features, speeds and server locations supported.

ExpressVPN offers its proprietary Aircove router, which comes pre-installed with the VPN and can cover any internet-connected devices in the home. ExpressVPN is a little expensive but a good choice for a first VPN, as it offers the same features and AES-256 encryption standard for every subscriber – though you’ll get more devices covered by the VPN if you commit to a longer subscription plan (five for monthly subscribers, 10 for annual). It has an intuitive app and interface across each platform and leads the pack in server locations, running in 94 different countries – though some other providers offer more servers overall.

We named NordVPN the best VPN overall for its 5,500 server count, broad device and browser support and a host of brilliant features. It supports AES-256 encryption and a Double VPN feature that encrypts data twice for added security. For those interested in using the privacy-focused Tor browser, NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN feature – which connects you to a VPN before routing your traffic through the Tor network – makes this a great choice for a VPN provider. The basic plan is relatively affordable, though its Plus and Complete plans can be slightly pricey.

Surfshark is the VPN for those on a budget, with a much lower monthly cost despite a considerable number of servers and server locations. It also offers the usual secondary features such as split tunnelling, which lets you split your internet traffic into separate VPN-covered and VPN-free streams, though not on iOS devices. Surfshark also lets you run its VPN on an unlimited number of devices, so it’s a good choice for any gadget enthusiast looking to protect all their devices. You’re also getting the same AES-256 encryption standard as the other choices above – and Surfshark and NordVPN are both run by the same company, so you should feel secure with either choice.

Troubleshooting and tips for using a VPN on Roku

When experiencing issues with your Roku VPN, it’s important to check the obvious things first. If you’re experiencing slow internet or your connection drops out entirely, check in your VPN app to examine your connection status. It’s worth disconnecting and reconnecting to a different server location to see if your experience improves – generally, the closer the server is to your actual location, the faster speeds will be.

You may also want to try a different VPN protocol to see if performance improves – you can find these in the settings of your VPN app. Protocols are sets of instructions that determine how the VPN client (your device) connects to the server, and they can vary in security, speed and connection stability. Generally, a provider will choose a protocol by default, but you can pick and choose to see how it affects your VPN experience.

We recommend ensuring any hotspot you’re running has a secure password so only you can access the VPN connection from that device. And as ever, if you’re stumped about an issue, you can contact customer service support for your specific VPN provider.

Using a VPN on Roku Frequently asked questions

The Roku platform doesn’t support VPN apps natively, but there is a workaround. If you’re running a VPN on a compatible router and then connect your Roku device to the router’s signal, you’ll still get the benefits of a VPN.

Technically, you can, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Free VPNs offer limited security features and often profit by processing and selling aspects of your data – which is the opposite of what you want a VPN to do.

Short answer: yes, but usually only a little. The layers of encryption mean that data takes slightly longer to transfer between your device and the VPN server, so you may notice a slight speed reduction. However, VPNs can also prevent ISPs from throttling bandwidth for data-hungry activities (such as video streaming), which could increase your streaming speed.

If you have a VPN up and running, then the app for your VPN will allow you to change the location of your server, say, from the UK to somewhere in the United States – this is usually front and centre when you open the app.

Good question. The primary reason for a streaming device VPN is to circumvent region restrictions on content libraries, and some smart TV platforms prefer to steer clear of directly supporting this. A Roku spokesperson states, “We do not have any VPN-like features in Roku players and Roku TV models, and there is no plan currently to integrate this.”

In summary

Using a VPN on Roku ensures your connection’s security and data privacy while unlocking global content libraries for your favourite streaming services.

While VPN apps aren’t directly supported on the Roku operating system, it’s relatively simple to set up a virtual router or a physical one to get the benefits of a VPN connection on your device.

Of course, a VPN isn’t just for a streaming device either – if you get a VPN subscription for its benefits on Roku, you’ll also be able to enjoy the perks on many other devices, from your phone and laptop to fixed-location desktops and routers.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month
henry st leger

Henry St Leger

Consumer Tech and Software

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former news and features Editor at TechRadar, where he specialised in consumer technology, software, and home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, soundbars, and smart speakers.

He has been writing about technology and related topics for over six years. His work for the Independent Advisor focuses on cyber security and internet-connected software including VPNs.

Henry has written for a wide number of prominent websites including NBC News, Healthline, The Times, Edge, T3, iMore, and GamesRadar.

Amy Reeves

Editor

Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.