How to use Chromecast with a VPN

Published by on September 13, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

Nothing’s more important than security and privacy when you’re streaming movies or downloading shows. All it takes is a few extra steps and you can lock down your Chromecast and stream whatever you want, regardless of where you live and without having to worry about your ISP snooping on your activity. Our Chromecast VPN set up guide will take you through how to get started and which VPN is best for Chromecast.

Chromecast VPN 

Pick a VPN

If you’re going to be downloading movies, shows, and music to stream on your Chromecast, you really should have a VPN. Chances are you’ve already made up your mind to use Chromecast over VPN, but you’ll need to make a choice about your VPN client and provider.

Using IPVanish

Comparitech recommends that you use IPVanish as your VPN provider. I’ve been running it for a few months now and I couldn’t agree more. The interface is easy to use. All of its servers are fast and seem to have plenty of capacity, unlike many VPNs which can ruin your streaming with slow speeds.

The main reason that I personally recommend IPVanish is simplicity. You don’t need to install a special network connection, and it works well right out of the box. Even if you don’t have a background in network engineering, you can easily secure your connection with IPVanish. That counts for a lot.

Chromecast IPVanish

IPVanish keeps no logs of your activity so there  are no privacy worries for those concerned their ISP or others are snooping on their browsing habits. It’s popular with Kodi users too and can even prevent Kodi buffering.

Reader deal: If you’d like to give IPVanish a try, Comparitech readers can save up to 60% here.

After you’ve created an account, click here to download the IPVanish client. Since Chromecast doesn’t offer any native support for apps, you’ll need to do this on your computer.

Once you’ve downloaded IPVanish, run the installation. You can safely click next through the whole process, there’s no need for any special configuration.

When IPVanish is installed, login with your username and password.

Then you can select a server and connect to the VPN. As long as IPVanish is connected, all of your browsing and downloads will be secure.

Using the OpenVPN client with a free server

OpenVPN offers a client that works as a free alternative to the IPVanish app. Although it won’t cost you anything, it does have a few drawbacks. As I see it, free VPN servers are usually:

  • Less reliable – The biggest problem free VPN clients have is the lack of good servers. It costs money to maintain a VPN server, and while bandwidth and hardware is cheaper than ever, it’s hard to find a good VPN server that stays online for more than a couple months at a time without becoming overloaded with users.
  • Harder to configure – A lot of VPN clients are based on the OpenVPN libraries, but they make major improvements. The biggest one is a nice graphical interface, which open-source clients lack. You need to be comfortable editing and understanding configuration files to use OpenVPN long-term, which makes it harder to configure for most users.
  • Much slower – Even if you manage to find a server that stays up for more than a month or two, it won’t be as fast. Everyone who uses free servers is always searching for the best option, so when a new one comes around it gets overloaded in a hurry. That means your ping skyrockets to 300ms or more, slowing your browsing and making you less likely to use a secure connection.
  • Not as secure – OpenVPN has the capability to be incredibly secure, but locking down a free VPN server makes it much harder for users to connect. If you’re editing configuration files manually, you might not even know how to connect through SSL, or understand which crypto options need to be enabled. That all adds up to a connection that’s usually not as secure unless you’re willing to put in some serious time tailoring your config files.
  • Logging – IPVanish promises to never log any activity or metadata that users send through its servers. Free VPNs don’t usually make such claims and even if they do, it’s not wise to trust them.

I’ll do my best to cover the installation and setup process, but don’t assume that any of the free VPN servers I use will work for you. The biggest challenge with using the OpenVPN client with free servers is finding fast and reliable connections that stay online for more than a month or two.  

To get started, download the latest version of the OpenVPN client. Make sure you get the installer package, and not the source code.

After the installer is downloaded, run it and begin installing the OpenVPN client. I’d recommend checking the box to install EasyRSA 2 certificate management scripts and reading about how to use them here.

Once OpenVPN has been installed, you’ll need to manually edit the config file to add VPN servers and paste in the appropriate certificates. It’s a long process, and you’ll need to be extra careful not to introduce any typos in the config file as you work on it. You can read OpenVPN’s documentation here.

When you’ve added servers to your OpenVPN config file, you can right-click the icon in your system tray and try connecting. If you have everything correctly configured, you’ll connect to a free VPN server.

Once the OpenVPN client is connected successfully, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Configure a VPN-enabled hotspot

Chromecast doesn’t have native support for VPN clients, so it order to use Chromecast over VPN you’ll need to configure a VPN-enabled wireless network. There are two ways to do it, either with a VPN-enabled router or by creating a VPN-enabled hotspot. Here’s how to set it up.

Using a VPN-enabled router

In order to use IPVanish or OpenVPN on a physical router, you’ll need to install custom firmware. The process it pretty easy, and if your router is compatible with either DD-WRT or Tomato firmware, this is the most reliable way to run Chromecast over VPN. Both Tomato and DD-WRT are free to download and use.

My personal opinion is that Tomato offers a few more features, but DD-WRT is compatible with many more routers, including older models and some with extremely cheap chipsets. For that reason, I’ve chosen to walk you through a DD-WRT installation, but the process with Tomato is similar.

Start by clicking here to see if your router is compatible with DD-WRT’s custom firmware. If it’s not, skip to the next step and use Windows to install a virtual router.

If your router is compatible, download the OpenVPN-enabled DD-WRT firmware installer from the list. Since IPVanish is built on OpenVPN, you’ll need the OpenVPN firmware regardless of your VPN provider.

Then open your router’s web interface in your browser. On most standard configurations, you can click here to open the web interface. You may need to login with the username and password set for your router.

Now click on the appropriate menu item to flash your router’s firmware. On the Linksys router that I use, it’s in Connectivity. Your router will likely be different.

Then I click the Choose file button to select my DD-WRT firmware image and click Start to flash the new firmware.

It’s perfectly normal to see a warning message before you install the new firmware. On my Linksys EA6350 router I had to click the Yes button to start flashing the firmware.

Most routers will show a screen with a progress bar as the new firmware is flashed to ROM. The device should reboot by itself when the new firmware has finished installing. After your router restarts, you can connect to the ‘dd-wrt’ open access point created by default to begin setting up your VPN connection.

It should go without saying, but make sure you set a secure password after you install DD-WRT. It’s typical to set the username to ‘admin’ but you can change it to whatever you like. You’ll also want to find time to set your wireless network up again, with the SSID that you prefer and a secure password.

You can access the VPN settings in DD-WRT by clicking on the Services tab, then the VPN tab.

Once you’re in the right place, click Enable on the Start OpenVPN client setting. You’ll see new options drop down and your screen will look like mine above.

If you’re using a free OpenVPN server, or want to really dig into every setting and lock down your DNS lookups and other advanced security settings, take a look at our step-by-step guide to setting up a VPN-enabled router with DD-WRT.

Using a virtual router

If your router doesn’t support custom firmware, it’s possible to use your computer to create a VPN-enabled hotspot. Keep in mind that this may slow down streaming unless you have a fast computer with a very good wireless adapter.

If you have a choice, I’d recommend using a physical router. But if you need to run a virtual hotspot, take a look at our guide to setting up a VPN-enabled virtual hotspot in Windows. You can also find instructions for Macbooks here, which use the L2TP protocol instead of OpenVPN.

To confirm that your hotspot is running, by right-clicking the Network icon on your desktop, and selecting the Properties menu item.

You should see your new network connection listed in active networks. Now when you connect to your desktop VPN client, the hotspot will automatically route all traffic through the VPN-enabled internet connection. Note that this will only work while your VPN client is connected.

Set up Chromecast over VPN

This is the easiest step. All you have left to do is connect your Chromecast device to your router. Note that this step is the same for all generations of Chromecast.

Start by opening the Google Home app on your tablet or smartphone, or navigate to chrome://cast on your computer if you’re using Google’s Chrome browser. Click the link to begin setting up your Chromecast.

Then click the Settings icon to get started. You’ll see a progress spinner appear on the page for a few moments before moving on to the next step.

All that’s left to do is change your Chromecast over to the VPN-enabled network you set up earlier, and everything you stream will run through a secure connection. You can cast as usual, and seamlessly enjoy the privacy of an encrypted connection.

Chromecast over VPN is the right choice

If you value your freedom and security, running Chromecast over VPN is the right choice. Not only will your ISP be unable to monitor what you watch, you’ll never receive cease and desist letters because you decided to stream the wrong show at the wrong time.

With cable TV more expensive than ever, and providers slow to put all of their shows online for streaming, running Chromecast over VPN is the smart and affordable choice for cord cutters.

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