Plex aggregates all your media so you can access it anywhere you go. Like Kodi, another popular open source media player with origins in the XBMC project, Plex’s streaming capabilities can be expanded through the use of add-ons, or “channels” in Plex parlance. These include big names like BBC iPlayer, Pandora, Comedy Central, Crackle, and Crunchyroll. Check out our big list of favorite Plex channels, official and unofficial.
Unfortunately, a lot of the content in those channels is region-locked, meaning you must access it from a certain country or countries. If you want to unblock geo-locked Plex channels, a VPN offers the most effective means.
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of your choosing. By connecting to a VPN in the UK, for example, you would be assigned a British IP address and be able to stream BBC iPlayer on Plex.
In addition to unblocking streams, a VPN has additional privacy benefits. Your internet service provider will no longer be able to snoop on your activity, nor will hackers or government agencies.
We go into detail on each of the VPNs in this list below, but in case you only have time for a quick glance, here is our list of the best VPNs for Plex:
- ExpressVPN Our top choice for Plex. Blazingly fast servers are great for streaming in HD quality. Servers in over 90-countries unblock most geo-restricted content. Secure and private and 30-day money back guarantee has your back.
- NordVPN Budget VPN provider with a vast array of servers dotted around the globe. Unblocks most geo-restricted content with good streaming quality.
- CyberGhost Easy to use apps are great for beginners. Great value and some of the fastest streaming servers that we have tested.
- IPVanish Solid performer, good speeds and very private. Unblocks most content but can struggle with Netflix.
- SaferVPN Fast streaming with simple apps that are easy to use but not as feature rich as other providers.
Best VPNs for Plex
We’ve curated a list of the five best VPNs for Plex based on the following criteria:
- Fast and reliable servers for high quality streaming
- Large, global network of servers so you can unblock anything
- Responsive and competent customer service
- Compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN has something for almost every type of device you can install Plex on. Easy-to-use and well-designed apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. The company also sells pre-configured routers with a custom VPN-enabled firmware, so you can even connect devices that don’t natively support VPNs. If you already have a compatible wifi router, the firmware is free to download and install for existing customers.
3,000 servers are available from 94 different countries, and ExpressVPN has consistently outperformed the competition when it comes to unblocking geo-locked content. Unlimited bandwidth and no data caps ensure you’ll be able to stream HD video from anywhere.
Only the best security standards are used, including military-grade encryption and perfect forward secrecy. Live chat support is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Finally, every ExpressVPN subscription comes with the MediaStreamer DNS service. Any time you use an ExpressVPN app, this service is used by default. But you can also use MediaStreamer separately from the VPN, which offers less protection but faster speeds. By entering the MediaStreamer DNS server addresses into your device’s network settings, you can easily unblock geo-locked videos. This is especially useful for devices that don’t support native VPNs but do have adjustable DNS settings, including game consoles.
- High speeds for downloading and video streaming
- Best-in-class encryption makes for solid security and privacy
- Over 3,000 super-fast servers operating in 94 countries
- Well-designed mobile and desktop apps
- Complete privacy – no logs of personal data kept
- 24/7 live chat customer support
- Can only connect 3 devices at once
#1 CHOICE FOR PLEX:ExpressVPN is our top choice. A fast and reliable choice for Plex and other devices. Unblocks all major streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Great privacy features and keeps no logs. Try it risk-free with the 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is Panama-based and offers a great all-around service that won’t disappoint the most frequent streamers or the most security-conscious privacy buffs. And it does so at a great value – a single subscription can be used to connect up to six devices at the same time. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. The company also sells pre-flashed Tomato and DD-WRT routers if you want to connect a device that doesn’t natively support VPNs.
Every connection uses un-crackable encryption to keep your activity private, and the company keeps zero logs about its customer’s activity or identity. Speeds are consistent with other top performers.
Over 5,100 servers are littered across more than 60 countries, so you should have no problem finding one to unblock a geo-locked channel. NordVPN is one of the most adept VPNs for unblocking that we’ve ever tested.
Live chat, email, and a ticket submission form are all available throughout the day to offer up support.
- Budget provider with fast and reliable servers for HD streaming
- Unlimited bandwidth and no data caps
- Strong encryption and no logs make for top security and privacy
- Operates 5,210 servers in 60 countries
- Round-the-clock chat support
- Desktop app can be awkward to use, needs updating
BEST BUDGET VPN :NordVPN is a great value choice. A good all-rounder that works well with unblocking major streaming sites. Strong security features and allows up to 6 devices to be used simultaneously from one account. Includes a 30-day money back guarantee.
Read our full NordVPN review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost is the premium tier of the free CyberGhost VPN. CyberGhost Pro is a quick and reliable option that’s also beginner-friendly. Paid users get access to 3,700 servers in 60 countries. A single subscription allows you to simultaneously connect up to five devices. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
CyberGhost doesn’t sell pre-flashed routers like the above options, but it can be configured with both Tomato and DD-WRT firmware that supports VPN connections. It can also be used with Synology NAS, which happens to be a storage device that also supports Kodi Plex servers. CyberGhost’s website includes instructions on how to set this up with the PPTP VPN protocol.
The company has a zero logs policy, although it is worth mentioning that it recently exchanged hands and is under new ownership, so that policy is subject to change. Default OpenVPN connections are protected with 256-bit encryption.
Live chat is available 16 hours per day, and during off-hours, you can use the ticket submission system.
- Budget priced provider with impressive streaming speeds
- Apps are easy to install and use – a good option for beginners
- Solid privacy features including kill-switch
- Seven devices simultaneous connection allowance
- Not suitable for those that need control of advanced features
Great Value:CyberGhost is great for beginners. A budget choice that is configurable with Plex. Good on privacy. Streams HD video reliably. 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish is a veteran VPN service that owns and operates its own network of 1,300 servers from more than 75 worldwide locations. That means it can ensure you’re getting the highest speed possible out of your connection. There are no data caps or bandwidth limits, so HD streaming from your Plex server or a third-party channel should be no problem.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. The company also sells pre-flashed routers that are already set up with all of the IPVanish servers if you don’t want to configure them manually.
IPVanish has a true zero logs policy, meaning it doesn’t record any activity or identifying information about its customers when they use the VPN. Combine that with some of the best encryption standards on the market, and you’ve got a pretty impenetrable service.
IPVanish has no live chat support, but there is staff available 24/7 to answer questions submitted via email or its website form.
- Impressive speeds and reliable connections
- Operates a network of more than 1,300 servers from 75 city locations around the globe
- Keeps no logs whatsoever
- Best performer for Android-based Kodi devices in our testing
- Doesn’t reliably unblock Netflix, Hulu
- Customer support is sometimes a little slow
Great Family Choice:IPVanish works with up to 10 Connected devices. We recommend IPVanish to Plex users, and they’re great with privacy, but keep shopping if you need live support or want to unblock Netflix. 7-day money back guarantee.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
SaferVPN is one of the faster VPNs we’ve tested, so it should be suitable for HD streaming with Plex. 700 servers in 34 countries make up the SaferVPN network. That includes dedicated streaming servers in the US and UK that are optimized for unblocking geo-locked content. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
SaferVPN also sells pre-flashed routers via FlashRouters that come already configured with all of the provider’s servers. You can also consult the website if you prefer to set this up yourself on a DD-WRT or Tomato router.
SaferVPN does log some diagnostic metadata, but nothing that could identify the user and certainly not the user’s activity while connected to the VPN. By default, connections are guarded by top-notch encryption.
Live chat support is available via the website.
- Operates over 700 servers in 34 countries
- Above average streaming and downloading speeds
- Stores no logs or identifying information
- Even though they operate their own DNS server, some servers use public DNS like Google
- iOS and Android apps couldn’t unblock Netflix during our tests
- Does not work in China
Simple Interface:SaferVPN achieves great speeds. Reliable with Plex and has great privacy credentials. Lacks some popular features. Includes a 30 day money back guarantee.
Read our full SaferVPN review.
Can I use a free VPN with Plex?
We strongly advise readers not to use free VPNs for a number of reasons. First, most free VPNs have a limit on how much data you can download and upload, or a bandwidth cap on your maximum speed. Either way, it won’t be enough to stream from your Plex server or a third-party channel.
Second, free VPNs often capitalize on their users’ trust by mining their browsing traffic for data and selling it to third parties. Many insert tracking cookies into users’ browser and some even inject advertisements right onto web pages.
Finally, using free VPNs carries a high risk of contracting malware.
VPNs to avoid using with Plex
There are many bad VPN services out there, but a few will pop up more frequently in Google results and message boards. Here are three VPNs you should definitely avoid:
If you’re trying to set up a Plex VPN on your wifi router, you might be tempted by VPN Book. The provider offers OpenVPN configurations for its free network of servers. However, very little is known about the people behind VPN Book. Hacker collective anonymous even once accused the service of being a honeypot for law enforcement. There’s no real way to be certain what happens to your data after it passes through a VPN Book server, so we recommend against using it.
Hotspot Shield has both free and paid tiers of its VPN service, but the former is far more popular. Unfortunately, the company uses some shifty practices to make money that sacrifices user privacy. Tracking cookies are inserted into users’ browsers, for example. A recent FTC complaint accuses Hotspot Shield of hijacking users’ HTTP requests and redirecting them to affiliate pages instead.
UK-based HideMyAss has gotten into hot water on at least two occasions when the supposedly “no logs” service handed over logs that led to the arrests of its users. One was a LulzSec hacker who attempted to hack Sony Pictures. The provider’s relationship with law enforcement is only likely to get more amiable since the UK passed one of the most intrusive mass surveillance laws in the developing world, known as the Snooper’s Charter. HMA says it doesn’t record the contents of any users’ internet traffic, but it does store detailed metadata logs that include users’ real IP addresses. It was enough evidence for law enforcement to charge HMA users with crimes.
Using a VPN with your Plex Server
Plex requires both a server and a client for streaming and watching the video on that server. The server can be set up on a Windows, MacOS, Linux, or FreeBSD computer, or on a network-attached storage (NAS) device. That server is connected to the internet so other devices with the Plex client app can stream video and other media from it. Plex apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Windows Mobile, Android, game consoles (PS4, Xbox One and 360), streaming media boxes (Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast), and more.
A VPN can be used both with Plex client apps and with Plex servers, although the latter is a bit more complicated. You can read our tutorial on how to selectively route Plex through a VPN LINK. Note that due to the secure tunnel used by a VPN, if you try to run a VPN on your Plex server without selectively routing it, no other devices will be able to access your Plex server.
Setting up a VPN on your router
Some devices that you run Plex on might not support VPNs. In that case, you’ll have to set up the VPN on another device, then connect your Plex device to that. You have two main options: create a virtual router on a spare laptop, or configure the VPN on your wifi router’s firmware.
Using Plex with a VPN-enabled virtual router
This is the easier option of the two and it carries much less risk, but you will require a laptop or wifi-capable desktop. Essentially you will create a wifi hotspot on your laptop, connect the laptop to the VPN, and then connect your Plex device to the laptop’s wireless network. This will in turn route all of the Plex traffic through the VPN server.
Many people don’t realize that their everyday computers are quite capable of broadcasting their own wifi networks. We’ve got tutorials to show you how to set up VPN-enabled virtual routers on MacOS and Windows.
Using Plex with a VPN-enabled wifi router
Configuring a VPN on a physical router is quite a bit more complex and, if not done properly, can permanently damage the router. So tread forth with caution.
You’ll need a router firmware that’s VPN-compatible. Log into your router dashboard by typing in 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 into your URL bar and enter your credentials. If you’re not sure what your username and password are, consult your ISP, the owner’s manual, or Google. Once logged into the dashboard, look around for VPN settings.
If it turns out your router doesn’t support VPNs, don’t give up just yet. It’s possible that you can replace the stock firmware with either DD-WRT or Tomato. These are free and open-source firmware that are compatible with a huge range of wifi routers, and they support VPNs. Make sure you get the correct build for your router model.
If you don’t feel comfortable flashing new firmware onto your router or your router isn’t compatible with DD-WRT or Tomato, you can always purchase a pre-flashed router from your VPN provider. We’ve made mention in the list above for each VPN that offers pre-configured routers that you can buy with everything you need to connect already set up.
Read more: Best VPNs for DD-WRT routers in 2017
Plex DNS proxy
A DNS proxy, or smart DNS, is another technology used to circumvent geographic restrictions on streaming content. Unlike a VPN, which encrypts and tunnels all the traffic from your device through a remote server, a DNS proxy only does this with DNS requests.
The Domain Name System is like a phone book where domain names (like “comparitech.com”) are matched up with the IP addresses of the servers the site is actually hosted on. Usually, DNS requests are sent to your internet service provider’s DNS servers, which figures out where to send the rest of your internet traffic. Websites and streaming video providers can approximate your location based on where your DNS requests go to.
A DNS proxy replaces your ISP’s DNS servers with private ones. Many streaming devices, including Apple TV and game consoles, don’t support full VPNs, but they do support DNS proxies. You won’t get the same level of privacy and encryption that you would with a VPN, but a DNS proxy is a solid option if all you want to do is unblock a video. ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer service, which comes with a standard VPN subscription, is an example of a DNS proxy. If your device supports smart DNS, you can usually enter in your choice of DNS servers somewhere in the network settings.