How to Setup a VPN on Apple TV
Updated: February 25, 2016
- Start by getting a VPN account setup
- Setup a VPN-enabled wireless router OR use "Network Sharing"
- Connect to US-based server on VPN
- Sign in to your US iTunes account or signup for new account
- Enjoy VPN-enabled Apple TV
How to setup a VPN on Apple TV in more detail:
Setting up a VPN on Apple TV is a process that we get asked a lot about here at Fried.com. I have personally had to set this up a couple of times on my buddy’s Apple TV in Europe to access the on-demand services offered on Apple TV.
For this reason, I wanted to write a detailed-yet-concise guide on how to do so you can get your VPN connection to your Apple TV setup in just a few minutes. I will go over the entire process start-to-finish, so go through this guide and you will be connected to your VPN through Apple TV before you know it.
How to Access Apple TV Outside the US
It’s important to understand that, as seriously awesome a service as Apple TV is, the reason the on-demand services offered on it are blocked from any user trying to access from outside the US, is because all the media offered on said services has been agreed to be offered under strict copyright and digital distribution agreements between these services and each media owner.
How are these services blocked? Through a process known as “geo-blocking”. Geo-blocking is a process implemented each service that functions as a kind of filter firewall. It works like so: when a user attempts to use any of the on-demand services offered through Apple TV, the service will immediately check the user’s location by referencing the user’s IP address.
Your IP address tells the service (e.g. Netflix or Hulu) on Apple TV what your physical location is. If you are located inside the US, then you will be given access to that service (because your IP will tell them this); if you are located anywhere outside the US, then you will be blocked from accessing the service.
So what you need to do (and what I do) to unblock all the on-demand services offered on Apple TV, is change your IP address. You do this by using what’s called a Virtual Private Network. By using a VPN, you can -- in just a few seconds -- change your IP address to a US-based one.
For the purpose of this guide I will walk you through how to set this up with ExpressVPN, which is the VPN provider I use most. However, there are many great VPN services out there right now, which offer equally as good quality of service and affordability as ExpressVPN. Here’s my top five best VPNs for using on Apple TV:
Setup VPN on Apple TV: Method #1
The main point that makes setting up a VPN on Apple TV a little different from setting up a VPN on, say, your iPhone or laptop, is that unlike these devices -- Apple TV does not carry “internal support” for VPNs. This basically means that you need to do a few more seconds of setup to get the VPN working on Apple TV. There are two methods/approaches you can do to setup a VPN on Apple TV:
Use a VPN Wireless Router
This is the easiest and quickest way to get a VPN setup on Apple TV. To use a VPN router you will of course need to get a VPN account (as mentioned, I recommend just using ExpressVPN since they give the best service for the best value) -- and, importantly, a VPN-enabled router.
There are many routers available today that are VPN-enabled, but the vast majority of routers are not. So be sure to doublecheck that your router is VPN-enabled before getting it. Look for a DD-WRT router like any of these, as these are specifically made to make VPN connection seamless.
Once you have your VPN-friendly router, the next step is to get your VPN account connected to your router. Like I mentioned before, by using any of the above linked-to routers you will be able to get your VPN account connected to it really easily and quickly.
With your VPN account now setup on your router, you will want to connect your Apple TV to the VPN via your router. So the connection chain goes:
Apple TV >>>>> VPN >>>>> Router
To do this, it is simply a process of bringing up the wireless networks your Apple TV finds, then connect to your VPN-enabled wireless router.
The two best advantages to doing this first method of getting a VPN setup on Apple TV, is that you can use your VPN-enabled router to connect to from any device you want (your smartphone, laptop, smartTV, etc.) -- and, as mentioned, the setup is very swift and requires little technical knowledge to do.
Setup VPN on Apple TV: Method #2
Use “Network Sharing”
This approach allows you to save money by not having to purchase a wireless router. However, the tradeoff is that this method does require a bit more technical knowledge and steps to setup than method #1.
Network sharing means using your computer to host the VPN router, rather than an external standalone router. Again, the first step will be to choose and get an account with a VPN provider. Here’s the ExpressVPN link once more, if you wish to check it out:
Just sign up to your chosen VPN provider, setup your account and then download + install the VPN software onto your computer.
Next you need to setup the actual network sharing on your computer. I will detail this process in steps now, first for Windows and then Mac computers:
Network Sharing Setup on Windows
- Go to “Control Panel” > “Network and Internet” to get to the “Network and Sharing Center”.
- Go to “Manage Wireless Networks” > “Wireless Connection” then “Adapter Properties”.
- Click “Change Adapter Settings” and go to the connection properties therein. This can be done with either USB or Ethernet.
- Navigate to the “Sharing” tab the tick the box “Allow Other Network Users to Connect Through This Computer Connection”. Your Windows network sharing is now setup.
- Last step is to, like in method #1, connect to your VPN account via the software you downloaded to your computer, which will allow you to make the connection between your VPN and Apple TV.
To give you an idea of what ExpressVPN will look like when launched and connected on your Windows computer, here’s a snapshot:
Network Sharing Setup on Mac
- Go to “System Preference” then in “Internet & Wireless” section go to “Sharing”.
- Go to “Internet Sharing” > “Share your connection from:” then click “Airport” from the menu dropdown.
- In the “To computers using” option, click “Ethernet”, which will allow your Apple TV to connect to the internet via your Mac’s Ethernet port to your Apple TV box.
- Open and connect to the VPN software you will have, of course, already gotten an account with, downloaded and installed onto your Mac.
- Last step is to simply plug in your Mac to the Apple TV box via an Ethernet cable between the two.
To show you what ExpressVPN looks like when launched and connected on your Mac, here’s a snapshot:
Setup US iTunes Account
One of the final steps in setting up a VPN on Apple TV requires you getting a US iTunes account. This is obviously super straightforward, and you may already have a US iTunes account - so be sure to check.
To do this, connect to your VPN on your Apple TV (be sure to select a US location from your server options in your VPN), then go through the process of signing up for a US iTunes account, which will be automatic, since Apple TV will see your location as within the US, thanks to your VPN!
Important note here is that you should sign up to iTunes via a US email address (in case you use a “.co.uk” email address -- use a “.com” one instead). So simply create a new free Gmail email address if you need to do this.
Enable US iTunes Apps
This should be automatically done for you when you connect to Apple TV through your US IP address (selected in your VPN), however if not then you can do this manually by simply going to “Settings” > “iTunes Store” > “Location” > “United States”.
Setup US Payment Method
Just an additional tip, since if you’re anything like me - you will be using services like Netflix on your Apple TV. To have access to the full US Netflix, you’re required to pay via a US payment method.
This is not difficult to do. Here’s how I got around this by setting up a Credit Card payment:
- I made up a US zip code by taking the numbers from my UK postcode and adding zeros until it was a 5 digit number. So for example, if your postcode is GL4 3TH, then input your zip code as 43000.
- Check if this zip code is a valid US zip code by using this online tool.
- Not a valid zip code? No problem. Just keep increasing the last number and you’ll get a valid zip code eventually, e.g. 43001, 43002, etc.
- Lastly, if you use a valid zip code and for some reason you still can’t get it setup, then you can setup a virtual US credit card with a provider like EntroPay (click here) which will definitely work for you.
There you have it. Two fool-proof approaches to setting up a VPN on Apple TV from both a Windows and Mac device.
I covered a lot of steps in this guide, but rest-assured -- I guarantee that whichever method you use of the two mentioned herein, you will have a fully setup VPN on Apple TV within 30 minutes, start to finish.
If you come into any issues or problems setting up your VPN on Apple TV, then do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I check this section every day and will help you out with a response as soon as I can.
Enjoy using a VPN on Apple TV!