How to install a VPN on Nvidia Shield

Published by on October 12, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

nvidia shield w remote

Whether you’re gaming or streaming video, the Nvidia Shield is a great Android-powered media console for accessing all kinds of content from around the world. You can access even more content while improving your security and privacy with a VPN, or virtual private network.

In this article, we’ll show you how to set up a VPN app on Nvidia Shield using two methods. One of them should work for you.

What is a VPN and why should you use one?

A VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through a server in an intermediary location of your choosing. This has two useful effects: first, your IP address is masked by that of the VPN server. IP address are unique device identifiers used by many sites and services to determine your location. By using the VPN to effectively change your IP address, you can access content that’s normally only available in certain countries. This includes streaming video channels like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, and BBC iPlayer.

Second, a VPN vastly improves your security and privacy. The encryption stops hackers and your internet service provider from snooping on your internet activity. Some ISPs might frown on the use of Kodi or Plex, for instance, and choke your bandwidth when you use them. Using a VPN means your ISP cannot distinguish streaming video from any other type of traffic, allowing the free flow of data. And because VPN IP addresses are typically shared between dozens or even hundreds of users, tracing online activity back to a single user is almost impossible.

Our top recommendation is IPVanish. It’s fast, secure, private, and an Android TV app is available on Google Play. IPVanish is a favorite among Kodi and Plex users thanks to its gamepad- and remote control-friendly interface, plus the fact that it works with any add-on or channel you can throw at it.

DEAL ALERT: Save up to 60% on IPVanish plans

Unfortunately, IPVanish doesn’t unblock some geo-restricted streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. If you use a streaming service that IPVanish can’t unblock, we recommend ExpressVPN instead. ExpressVPN always has a few servers that can bypass the Netflix proxy error and Hulu VPN block, along with most other VPN bans on streaming sites. ExpressVPN doesn’t have an Android TV app, but we’ll show you a simple workaround to get it installed on Nvidia Shield.

DEAL ALERT: 3 months free with ExpressVPN annual plan

ExpressVPN includes a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free and cancel if you are not happy.

How to install a VPN on Nvidia Shield

Which method you use to set up a VPN on Nvidia Shield depends on your VPN provider. While Nvidia Shield has access to Google Play, it can only access apps specifically made for Android TV–a special version of Android for media consoles and set-top boxes. The selection of apps is far more limited than what’s available for Android smartphones and tablets.

So if your VPN provider has made its app available for Android TV, that’s great. This will be easy for you. If your provider doesn’t have an Android TV app yet, don’t fret. You can still get the app on your Nvidia Shield, but it will take a bit more work.

Method #1: Google Play (preferred)

If your VPN provider makes an Android TV app, this process should be pretty familiar to anyone who has used an Android device with Google Services before. The IPVanish app comes in Android TV flavor, so we’ll use it as an example in this tutorial.

  1. Head over to IPVanish (or the VPN provider of your choice) and sign up for an account. Comparitech readers can get an exclusive discount of up to 60% on IPVanish plans by using this link.
  2. Turn on your Nvidia Shield and head to the Google Play Store.
  3. Run a search for IPVanish and the app should be the first option to appear.nvidia shield vpn 11
  4. Click the Install button to download and install the app. Accept the terms and permissions.nvidia shield vpn 9
  5. Launch the VPN app either by clicking the Open button on Google Play or by clicking on the app icon in the Nvidia Shield home page.
  6. Enter the login credentials that you created when signing up for the VPN.fire tv stick vpn ipvanish 2
  7. Select a server in a location of your choosing and hit Connect.
  8. Once the connection is established, you can leave the VPN app running in the background while you use other apps, play games, and stream video.

That’s all there is to it! You should receive app updates as they are published through the Google Play store.

Method #2: Sideloading

If your VPN provider makes an Android app but it’s not specifically for Android TV, you’ll have to use a workaround to get it installed. This workaround is called “sideloading.” There are many ways to sideload an app on Android, but we’ll show you what we think is the simplest method. For this tutorial, we’ll use ExpressVPN as an example.

  1. Head over to ExpressVPN (or the VPN provider of your choice) and sign up for an account. Comparitech readers can use this link to get an additional 3 months free with the ExpressVPN annual plan for a total of 15 months. The deal includes a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee, so you’ll receive a full refund if you’re unsatisfied.
  2. Using a desktop or laptop computer, go to the VPN provider’s website and look for the option to directly download the app APK. An APK is a Android package file that contains everything needed to install the app. Download it onto your hard drive.nvidia shield vpn 10
  3. Once finished downloading, move the APK file onto a USB drive. VPN app APK files are usually small so just a simple thumb drive should do fine. Safely eject the drive when finished.
  4. Turn on your Nvidia Shield and open the Settings menu. Then go to Security and Restrictions.nvidia shield vpn 3
  5. Toggle on Unknown sources, which allows the installation of apps from outside Google Play. Press OK when the warning appears.
  6. Go back to the home screen and open the Google Play Store.
  7. Run a search for ES File Explorer File Manager and select the app of the same name.nvidia shield vpn 1
  8. Click Install to download and install ES File Explorer. Accept the terms and permissions.nvidia shield vpn 2
  9. Once ES File Explorer is installed, plug the USB drive with the APK file on it into your Nvidia Shield’s USB slot.
  10. A pop-up should appear asking if you’d like to open the USB drive using ES File Explorer. You can check the box to use the app by default any time you plug in this device if you want to, but for our purposes we’ll only need to use the USB drive once. Click OK.nvidia shield vpn 5
  11. ES File Explorer will launch. In the left sidebar, click Local, then scroll down to select your USB drive from the drop down list.nvidia shield vpn 6
  12. Navigate to where you saved the APK file on your jump drive and select it. Click Install, then Install again to accept the permissions.nvidia shield vpn 7
  13. When the installation finishes, select Open to launch the VPN app. The app should be accessible from the home page as well.nvidia shield vpn 8
  14. Log in to your VPN app using the credentials you created in step #1.
  15. Select a server in the location of your choice and click Connect.
  16. Once the connection is established, you can leave the VPN app running in the background while you use other apps, play games, and stream video.

Now that you’re all set up, it’s fine to safely remove the USB drive from the Nvidia Shield. Be warned, however, that apps installed using this method will probably not receive updates, so that’s up to you. To update a sideloaded app, simply go through this process again to replace the old version with the new one.

You can also download the APK file directly onto your Nvidia Shield using the web browser that comes built into ES File Explorer, but unless you have a keyboard and mouse set up, we found the USB drive option to be easier. Navigating web pages and typing is a pain with the default controller. If you don’t have a USB drive or laptop handy, however, this works too.

What about third-party app stores?

If an Android TV version of your preferred VPN app is not available on Google Play, we recommend method #2, sideloading, as laid out above. You may be tempted to simply download the app from a third-party app store, but we advise against it.

Third-party app stores often do not have a stringent vetting process for the apps that make it onto their marketplaces. They may not be up to date, or they might have been modified to contain malicious code like adware and malware.

Whenever possible, always use Google Play or get the APK file directly from the app publisher. In this case, that’s the VPN provider.

NVIDIA Shield Tablet with Wireless Controller” by Maurizio Pesce licensed under CC BY 2.0

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