Roku VPN – The Ultimate Guide (2021)

‘If you have ever tried to set up a VPN on a Roku device, we feel your pain. That’s why we created this guide to walk you through installation, setup and cover everything you need to know so you’ll be up and running in no time. 

Your Roku device is at best a dependable streaming companion, it’s been there with you through the good times and the bad times. 

But, it falls down when asked to stream content outside of your home country. However, with the introduction of VPNs, we can, with a few steps, make streaming content a breeze

We’ll go through everything you need to know, leave no stone unturned, and arm you with the knowledge needed to easily set up the correct VPN on your Roku device. 

Unfortunately, (brace yourselves) Roku doesn’t support VPN or Smart DNS software directly, which let’s face it, is what we were all hoping for, and effectively means there’s no silver bullet to accessing that juicy US Netflix content, awesome anime or great British TV shows.  

However, there a few different steps you can take from manually setting up your router (it’s definitely less scary than it sounds), setting up a VPN hotspot, or buying a pre-configured router.  

So, fear not, depending on your level of confidence, expertise and streaming set up, after a few steps you’ll be up and running in no time.  

We’ll cover all of the ways you can install a VPN on your Roku device and you just choose whichever one suits your situation, budget, or streaming device.  

But before we dive into the ways you can install a VPN on your Roku device, it’s important to note that while a VPNs ability to access streaming services is great, in fact, it’s awesome, but, it’s imperative any VPN you use should be secure 

We always remind people that a VPN is a security device first and foremost and should be treated as such.  

Too often we see reports of ‘free’ VPNs being subject to hacking because of their subpar security measures and lax regard for people’s most private and sensitive data.  What you do, stream, watch, and play is no one’s business but yours, and a VPN should help you keep it as such.  

Because of this, we always ensure the VPNs we recommend show outstanding quality in the following areas:  

  • Security – 256-AES encryption levels at a minimum to ensure the highest possible privacy and security available in order to keep you and your family safe. 
  • Speeds – Although speeds can differ greatly depending on where you are in the world, our selections have all shown consistent speeds for streaming, gaming, and everyday use.
  • Apps – functional, easy-to-use apps are essential. 

How to connect a VPN to your router:

There are effectively four ways you can connect a VPN to your Roku device and enjoy the spoils of geo-restricted content. Each method has its own merits and drawbacks and should be considered fully before making any changes to your home set up: 

  1. Set up a VPN on your wi-fi router, then connect the VPN to it
  2. Set up a VPN-protected wi-fi hotspot on a laptop, then connect the Roku to it
  3. Connect an Android smartphone or tablet to the VPN, then screencast to the Roku 
  4. Purchase an alternative streaming device or VPN-compatible wi-fi router 

Let’s not waste any time and get right into the ways to connect: 

Set up a VPN on your WIFI router

Setting up a VPN on your home wifi router is one of the best and easiest ways to connect your Roku device if you don’t have a laptop handy. Not only will you have access to geo-blocked content but you’ll also protect each device connected to the router (even that fancy new futuristic over-the-top fridge some people have). 

You simply set up a VPN on your wifi router and connect your Roku to that router’s wifi network. 

As long as your router is compatible (which we’ll get into in a second) it really doesn’t take any advanced tech know-how so anyone can be up and running in no time.  

You’ve got two options: a physical router or a virtual router. We’ll cover a physical router first as this will be applicable to more people. 

To set up a VPN on your physical home wifi router, you’ll have to check whether or not it actually supports a VPN and for that it will need to have a type of firmware that supports VPN connections.  

Here’s a quick guide on how to find out.  

For quickness, you can usually access your router firmware dashboard by typing “192.168.0.1” or “192.168.1.1” into your web browser’s URL bar while connected to wifi, then entering your login credentials. 

It’s also worth noting that any routers provided by your IP (TalkTalk, Sky, Virgin Media) won’t have the firmware support needed so you’ll need to choose one of the other options.  

If you don’t know your pesky login details or it’s your first time accessing the dashboard, you can either check the user manual or perform a quick Google search to find out the defaults (admin is a common username and password).  

Ninja Tip – If this is the first time using your router login credentials then this would be a great time to change your password from the default option.

Now, once you have logged into the dashboard, look for the option to set up a VPN connection. On a Linksys router for example this is option is called ‘connectivity’.   

The number of options and settings may seem daunting for new users but your VPN provider (we recommend ExpressVPN) should have either a guide on their blog page on how to set up a router or a live chat team that can walk you through any queries or questions you may have at the time.  

If a VPN connection option doesn’t exist, it is possible to install new firmware onto the router which is known as “flashing” and differs from one router to another.  

However, if done incorrectly, you risk damaging your router permanently, so be cautious.  

The two most popular free and open-source router firmware are Tomato and DD-WRT. Each link will take you to their respective router database pages so you can quickly see if yours is compatible.  

Now the correct firmware is installed, the next step is to consult your VPN provider’s website or live chat for instructions and configuration steps on how to connect to their servers. 

Any decent VPN provider worth their salt will happily walk you through the steps needed and each of the VPN options we included below, comes with fantastic customer services departments.   

‘What do I do if my router isn’t compatible?’  

If your router isn’t compatible with either firmware options we mentioned earlier, or, if you don’t want to leave anything to chance, you can always opt for a pre-configured router which takes the stress out of this setup.  

ExpressVPN is our go-to recommendation. It builds its own custom firmware that comes pre-loaded with all the setup and configuration done for you. It’s much easier to set up and use than the open-source alternatives.  

Convenience is never free and if we’re being honest, the pre-configured routers offered by ExpressVPN are more expensive than the standard routers available. So, it’s up to you whether you want to go through the process of manually configuring your router or buying a pre-configured one.  

ExpressVPN isn’t the only VPN that offers pre-configured routers and many other providers offer similar alternatives. However, we’ve found the ones from ExpressVPN to be a lot more user-friendly, practical and secure 

Set up a VPN-protected wi-fi hotspot on a laptop, then connect the Roku to it

Compared to setting up a VPN on a physical router, a VPN-enabled virtual router has a few more steps but you are less likely to inadvertently damage something (we’ve all been there), but you will need a laptop to use as a wifi hotspot.  

Unless you have a laptop from 1999, you should be able to broadcast a virtual network on your Windows or Macbook device.  

How to set up a VPN for Roku on a virtual wifi Router: 

Choose a VPN from our list below depending on your circumstances, again, we recommend ExpressVPN. 

  • Set up a VPN connection and click connect. 
  • Broadcast a wifi hotspot to nearby devices 
  • Connect your Roku to the wifi hotspot 
  • All traffic from the Roku is routed through the VPN 

ExpressVPN themselves have a great video on how to set up a virtual router on Windows: 

And here’s a great guide for macOS.  

Connect an Android smartphone or tablet to the VPN, then screencast to the Roku

Another option for Roku users is to screencast or mirror one of your devices to your TV. Most modern Roku devices have this capability but a lot of the older models don’t.  

Always Google your model number beforehand so you can check yours will allow screencasting so you don’t throw it out of the window when it won’t connect…  

Before we get into the steps, you’ll need a few things to get up and running.  

  1. Download the Roku app from the App Store if you haven’t already.  
  2. Download a VPN which you’ll need to access geo-restricted content, again we recommend ExpressVPN.  
  3. Ensure your android smartphone, device, and Roku player is fully up to date.  

Here’s how to do it: 

Access the settings menu

(Image credit: Future)

If you haven’t accessed the settings screen before you can find it by simply scrolling down on the home screen menu and the settings option will be available. 

Select the System option

(Image credit: Future)

The System sub-menu is where you can toy around with any Roku settings that aren’t tied to specific functionality (audio or video quality, payment options, etc). Again, if you haven’t accessed this section yet, have a play around and see if there’s something you want to change before you set up the screencasting. 

Access the Screen Mirroring section

(Image credit: Future)

This step is pretty self-explanatory.  It’s also worth noting that the ‘system update’ option is also just beneath the screen mirroring section so if your Roku doesn’t automatically update, you can manually do it here. 

Set up your Screen Mirroring preferences

(Image credit: Future)

Here, Roku gives you three options for screen mirroring.  “Prompt” means that the Roku will notify you each time a device attempts to use the Roku as a screen-mirroring receiver. This is the best option and one we always use as it allows you to screencast but also prevents unauthorized access. 

“Always allow” might be good if you live by yourself (and far from neighbours), and “never allow” might be good if you know for a fact that you’ll never want to use the screen mirroring feature. 

Connect your device

(Image credit: Future)

This is where we’re unable to give exact instructions as each smartphone and PC works slightly differently when it comes to screen mirroring. As a general rule of thumb, Android devices usually have a “cast” option in the display menu and Windows PCs always have the “connect to a wireless display” option in Display Settings. 
 
A quick Google search for “[your device name] screen mirroring,” will bring up any instructions on how to proceed if you’re a little stuck. From there, simply activate your device’s screen mirroring, then watch what happens on the TV. 

Accept the screen mirroring request (if necessary)

(Image credit: Future)

If you set your screen mirroring preferences to “Always allow,” you can skip this step. Otherwise, you’ll have to accept your device’s pairing request. The options here are all straightforward: “Always allow,” “Allow,” “Block” and “Always Block.” 

Use your device normally

(Image credit: Future)

Once your Roku accepts the screen mirroring request, you’re good to go. You can use your tablet, smartphone, or PC normally, with every action you take mirrored on your TV screen. 

All that’s left to do is connect your VPN to whichever device you are using, open Netflix, and binge away. 

Bear in mind that your source device might have a different resolution to your TV, which could lead to some picture oddities. Most newer mobile devices will give you the option to change resolutions automatically; otherwise, you can often change resolutions manually either on your device or on your TV. This is another situation in which you’ll need to check how your device reacts to the mirroring.  Google (as always) is your friend if you run into trouble. 

Purchase an alternative streaming device or VPN-compatible wi-fi router

If for whatever reason none of the above options will work for you then you can either use an alternative streaming device or buy a VPN-compatible wifi router. Neither are very convenient options as you’ll have to shell out more money but we’ll briefly cover them.  

For an alternative streaming device, your best option will be an Amazon FireStick. It really is a no-brainer as you can download a VPN app directly from the FireStick store giving your pretty instant access to geo-restricted content and, it comes at a decent price point as well.  

For routers, we’ll be following up with a separate article about the best VPN routers available today at a later date, but for now, 95% of you will only need one of the two devices listed below which covers up to 9 devices: 

Which is the best VPN for Roku?

Now, while ExpressVPN and NordVPN are like 2 tigers trapped in a phone box, battling it out for the grand title of ‘best overall VPN’, there is a clear winner when it comes to Roku – ExpressVPN. This isn’t to say NordVPN isn’t a suitable option, it certainly is, but we’ll dive into the details on what makes ExpressVPN the best option. 

expressvpn
  • Connect up to 5 devices on one account  
  • Smart DNS Proxy service (MediaStreamer)  
  • OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSEC, IKEV2 support 
  • Best-in-class browser extension support 
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments  
  • 24/7 live chat customer service 
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

ExpressVPN boasts one of the, if not, the most powerful VPNs on the market with incredible speeds and a massive list of features to play with 

Unblocking geo-restricted content, however, is where ExpressVPN really shines. It makes quick work of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, Disney +, and pretty much anything else you can think of. 

Fantastic router support which also includes their DNS Proxy service – MediaStreamer. This allows you to change your DNS settings on your router if it isn’t compatible with a VPN and stream this way.  

It’s not technically a VPN so you don’t get the same levels of security and encryption but it’s a great alternative that only a handful of VPNs offer.  

Streaming all the content in the world is worthless if the speeds aren’t up to scratch. Luckily, ExpressVPN has shown great speeds for 4K streaming and gaming and is consistently ranked in the top 3 VPNs for speed tests 

It’s worth noting that any speed tests are a very personal thing and depend on a number of factors including distance to server, server location, and server performance among other things.  

We try to regularly include VPNs that have at least a 30-day money-back guarantee so if you’re not experiencing the speeds expected then you always have the option to change provider to one that is more suited to your own needs.  

With a host of other killer features like a best-in-class browser extension, advanced protocols including their own Lightway, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around VPN for Roku. 

  • Smart DNS Proxy service (SmartPlay) 
  • Connect up to 6 devices on one account 
  • Incredible speeds for streaming and gaming 
  • Unblocks streaming content worldwide (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer) 
  • Built-in kill switch
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments  
  • 24/7 live chat customer service and knowledge centre  
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

NordVPNs proficiency with unblocking content around the globe is exceptional which is why it’s our second choice for Roku. With NordVPN, you can easily all of your favourite streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, and Disney+.  

With a wide and varied server spread, you can be sure you’ll have excellent speeds from wherever you are in the world. Unless you’re trying to use your Roku device in the middle of the artic where you might run into some problems…  

NordVPN also offers their DNS proxy service feature – SmartPlay, which is almost identical to ExpressVPNs MediaStremer service. Both are excellent and not much separates the two but if we had to choose, we’d say ExpressVPNs MediaStreamer just edges it as some streaming services are restricted with SmartPlay.  

Similar to ExpressVPNNordVPN also sells pre-flashed DD-WRT routers, and although they aren’t quite as good as the aforementioned ExpressVPN, they are still a viable alternative. There are also detailed tutorials in the NordVPN knowledge base if you want to have a go yourself. 

Outside of Roku, NordVPN has compatibility with almost every operating system you could want including Windows, Android, Linux, macOS, and iOS devices, and kill switches included as standard for each one.   

These apps are backed by powerful military-grade AES-256-bit encryption levels so you can be sure you and your data will be secure.  

Outside of speeds, advanced security, and app compatibility, you also get a host of other monster features including built-in adblockers, malware-scanning, double VPN, DNS leak protection, server favourites, and the option to pay via Bitcoin.  

To round it all off, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you are traveling, staying for a short period of time, or are simply on a budget then you always have the option of a refund.  

  • Smart DNS Proxy service (SmartPlay) 
  • Connect up to 6 devices on one account 
  • Incredible speeds for streaming and gaming 
  • Unblocks streaming content worldwide (Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer) 
  • Built-in kill switch
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments  
  • 24/7 live chat customer service and knowledge centre  
  • Confirmed no-log policy 
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 

CyberGhost is a great budget alternative for Roku with its massive server list comprising of over 6800+ servers with hundreds of locations where you would want to stream content from. With so many servers including their streaming-optimized options, you’re almost guaranteed great speeds for uninterrupted 4K streaming.  

While CyberGhost doesn’t offer their own routers, they do have a partnership with FlashRouters so you can get a discounted price via their website and each router available comes with CyberGhost pre-loaded to save you the hassle which is always nice.  

As with ExpressVPN and NordVPNCyberGhosts security is exceptional with 256-bit encryption to keep you secure at an affordable price.  

FAQs

Can I use a free VPN for Roku?

The elephant in the room.  

The issue with a lot of ‘free VPN’s is that the majority of them aren’t secure, have terrible speeds for 4k streaming (or any streaming for that matter), and have a history of being laden with malware.  

Of the ‘free VPNs’ available, we only recommend a handful and even they are just free versions of already established premium VPNs which include the likes of ProtonVPNTunnelBear, and Windscribe 

These come with their own limitations such as location availability, ProtonVPN for example, which is our top free VPN, only has Japan, the US, and the Netherlands to choose from. Other providers such as TunnelBear and Windscribe are limited by bandwidth so you’ll be able to watch about 7 minutes of the US Office before you’re done for the day.  

If you’re on a budget, want to make sure your speeds are up to speed, or are just unsure if it’s something you want to try then all of the above options have 30-day money-back guarantees.  

Is using a VPN against Roku’s terms of service?

We read terms of service so you don’t have to. But the answer is… no! Using a VPN isn’t against Roku’s terms of service and you’re free to access any content you wish in geo-restricted countries.  

Check the juicy oh-so juicy TOS out for yourself if you have nothing else to do.