Most Smart TVs come with a wide range of apps pre-installed, but due to regional restrictions, you might not be able to use them all. Additionally, you may find that some of the apps you’d like to install aren’t available in your country’s app store. Luckily, you can change your location in a matter of minutes by connecting to a VPN.
The problem is that every Smart TV is different. While some allow unrestricted access to popular app stores, others only come with a handful of pre-approved apps and make it difficult to install anything new, including VPNs. Don’t worry, though: we’ll walk you through the process of installing a VPN on your Smart TV step-by-step so that you can stream safely and use geo-blocked apps from anywhere.
How to install a VPN on most Smart TVs
Newer Smart TVs tend to use Android, which makes installing a VPN very simple. In fact, the process is essentially the same as installing an app on your phone or tablet.
Here’s how to set-up a VPN for a Smart TV:
- First of all, sign up for a suitable VPN. We particularly recommend NordVPN but Surfshark and ExpressVPN are two high-quality alternatives.
- Next, search for your VPN in the Google Play Store and install its app.
- Log in and connect to a server in the required country. You’ll need an American server to unblock Netflix US, for instance, or a British server for BBC iPlayer.
- Finally, open the region-locked app you’d like to use and play a video. It should begin almost instantly, but if not, we’d recommend clearing the app’s stored data or trying a different server.
How to set up a VPN on TVs without access to the Google Play Store
If you have an older Smart TV or one from a lesser-known brand like HiSense, Magnavox, or Westinghouse, you’re unlikely to have access to the Google Play Store. Below, we’ll explore a few ways to install a VPN on your Smart TV, regardless of its brand or the available app store:
Method 1: How to share a VPN connection over Ethernet
The quickest and easiest way to share your VPN connection is to run an Ethernet cable from one device to another. This isn’t the most practical method, but if you only use region-locked apps occasionally, it’s likely the best option. If you’d prefer, you could also store a smaller device like a Raspberry Pi behind your TV, which would remove the need for long, trailing cables.
VPN over Ethernet on Windows 10
- Right-click on the network icon in the bottom-right of your screen and click Open Network & Internet settings.
- Select Change adapter options.
- You’ll see a list of all of your connections. First, find one that mentions your VPN and the word “TAP.” For instance, if you use NordVPN, you need to use the “NordVPN TAP adapter.” but if you’re a NordVPN customer, you’d use “TAP-NordVPN Windows Adapter” instead.
- Right-click this connection and choose Properties.
- Move over to the Sharing tab and check the box marked Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
- Select Ethernet from the dropdown list and click the OK button.
- Connect to your VPN (any server will work for testing purposes).
- Finally, connect your two devices with an Ethernet cable. Your secondary device should now automatically connect to the VPN.
VPN over Ethernet on MacOS
- Start by clicking on the Apple icon and choosing System Preferences. Now, click Sharing.
- Check the box labeled Internet Sharing on the left.
- If the device running a VPN is connected to the internet via Ethernet, choose Ethernet in the Share your connection from the dropdown menu. Otherwise, choose Wi-Fi.
- In the To computers using box, check Ethernet
- Close this menu and connect to your VPN.
- Connect your devices using an Ethernet cable. The second device will now connect to the VPN automatically.
Method 2: How to share a VPN connection wirelessly
If you stream frequently, you probably won’t want to run long cables from one device to another whenever you’d like to watch something. The good news is that you don’t have to since you can share a VPN connection over wifi.
VPN over wifi on Windows 10
In older versions of Windows, you had to manually create a virtual router to share your connection over wifi. In Windows 10, however, things are much simpler:
- Right-click the network icon in the bottom-right and select Open Network & Internet settings.
- Choose Mobile hotspot from the list on the left-hand side.
- Toggle the Mobile hotspot button on and choose WiFi in the Share my Internet connection from the dropdown.
- If you’d like to change the SSID (the network’s name) or password, click Edit and enter your preferred details.
- Scroll down and click on Change adapter options.
- Right-click the adapter that mentions your VPN and the word “TAP” (“NordVPN TAP adapter,” for example).
- Select Properties, then the Sharing tab, and enable Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection.
- In the dropdown menu, select the network you just created and click OK.
- Connect to the VPN, and on your secondary device, connect to the new network. You should now be connected to the VPN on both devices.
VPN over wifi on MacOS
- Click the Apple icon and select System Preferences, then Sharing.
- Check the Internet Sharing box on the left-hand side.
- Select your VPN adapter in the Share your connection from list.
- In the box on the right marked To computers using, choose Wi-Fi.
- Connect your main device to the VPN, and on your secondary device, connect to the hotspot you’ve just created. Both devices should now be connected to the VPN.
Method 3: How to install a VPN on your home router
If you’d prefer, you can install a VPN on your router to automatically protect all of your devices. However, you should note that this can be a fairly involved process unless your router already has compatible firmware. Further, incorrectly upgrading your firmware can effectively break your router.
For this reason, it’s vital that you follow the setup instructions exactly. Most major VPN providers provide detailed walkthroughs for the most common router types, and we’ve linked a few of these below:
- NordVPN: Manual router configuration instructions
- ExpressVPN: Manual installation instructions, router app guide
- Surfshark: How to set up VPN on routers
It’s also possible to buy a pre-configured VPN router which provides you with a plug-and-play solution. These come with the VPN already installed on the router, so all you have to do is select a server to connect. Companies like FlashRouters will happily sell you routers that are already set up to work with just about any major VPN service. Also, ExpressVPN provides custom firmware that makes it very easy to install on your router.
Mistakes to avoid when installing a VPN on your Smart TV
If you follow the steps above, you shouldn’t have any problems getting your VPN to work with a Smart TV. However, if you’d rather figure things out for yourself, there are a couple of potential pitfalls to look out for:
1. Don’t try and install Android apps on a non-Android system
If you’ve read our guides to installing VPNs on Amazon Fire TV, you might be tempted to download your VPN’s .APK file and install it manually. However, we don’t recommend this approach for Smart TVs.
In the best-case scenario, your TV uses a supported version of Android and everything works as intended. Newer TVs usually let you access the Google Play Store, though, making manual installation unnecessary.
But what if your TV uses a different operating system? Most likely, you won’t be able to install the .APK file, so it’ll just be taking up space. It’s also possible that attempting to install an unsupported app could “brick” your TV, leaving it inoperable. Worse, as you’ve tried to modify it, it might not even be covered under its warranty anymore.
2. Don’t rely entirely on Smart DNS services
Some providers (including NordVPN) let you use Smart DNS services to bypass regional restrictions simply by changing your device’s DNS settings. There are a couple of problems with these, though. First, they don’t encrypt your traffic, meaning your ISP can still tell if you’re streaming. Considering some ISPs throttle your network speeds if you stream frequently, this is a real problem.
Further, most Smart DNS services only allow you to connect to one location (usually the US). In contrast, the corresponding VPN apps often let you use servers in dozens of countries, greatly increasing their ability to unblock geo-restricted services.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re having problems
We get it: it’s frustrating to start a project and realize you’re in over your head. That said, would you rather spend several days trying to work out what has gone wrong, or ask your VPN’s customer support team for help and have an answer within a few minutes?
Many major VPNs offer 24/7 live chat, and their support representatives deal with router configuration and other networking problems every single day. If you’re struggling, we strongly recommend contacting them.
Can I use a free VPN on my Smart TV?
While you can technically install a free VPN on your Smart TV, we advise against it. To begin with, these services often have very limited networks and high numbers of users. This means they’re unlikely to be able to provide the high speeds required for HD streaming. Further, free VPNs are usually the first to be blacklisted by major services like Netflix, and as such, you might not be able to watch anything even if you find a reasonably fast free VPN.
You should also consider the security implications of using a free VPN. A recent survey of over 280 such apps for Android (the platform most newer Smart TVs run on) found that more than 80% were vulnerable to IPv6 leaks, almost 20% used no encryption at all, and 37% contained malware.
Which Smart TV apps can a VPN unblock?
With the right VPN, you’ll be able to access geo-restricted services from all over the world. Here are a few of the most popular apps you can unblock with a VPN on your Smart TV: