The Amazon Fire TV sticks have become very popular thanks to their simplicity and the fact that they offer good value for money. With these devices, any TV with a USB port can become an Internet-connected streaming solution to access a wide variety of media content. The downside is that a lot of the content available is subject to geographical restrictions, which means that it can only be accessed from certain locations. You can overcome the restrictions with the help of a VPN, a technology that routes your traffic through an intermediary server in the location of your choice. You can disguise your IP address and appear as if you were in a different location. This will allow you to access the international content that you want. You can stream content from popular streaming services that apply geo-restrictions like Netflix, BBC iPLayer, Hulu and more.
Another advantage of using VPNs on your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV stick, you can hide your online activities from ISPs and other parties. Amazon’s devices run on a fork of Android and while many VPN providers have apps for Android, it is not possible to use the Fire TV to access Google Play to download them. In fact, the first generation of Fire TV doesn’t even support VPN apps. Here we will take a look at the ways in which you can connect your devices to a VPN so that you can protect your streaming activities and your whole traffic from eavesdroppers and other threats, and bypass restrictions to stream content freely at the same time.
Most convenient VPN for Firestick
There are many VPN services available, but in order to be able to enjoy all the advantages that this technology offers, you need to get a good quality solution. A VPN that is fast and reliable is a must-have. Although VPNs will slow down your connection due to the encryption applied, there are services that can offer good speeds. One of the most recognized providers in the industry is IPVanish and apart from being a secure, reliable and fast VPN, it stands out for being the easiest option to set up on Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. This is thanks to the fact that their app is available on the default app store. Once you subscribe to IPVanish, you can set up the service on a second generation Fire TV Stick or later.
- Start from the home screen, go to Apps, then Categories and select Utility
- Choose IPVanish VPN from the list
- Click the yellow button that appears next to Get to download and install the app. After the installation is completed, click the yellow button next to Open on the same page and launch IPVanish.
- Enter your IPVanish account details.
- Click Login. Then you can click the Connect button to connect to the VPN instantly or you can choose a server. That is all you need to do if you opt for IPVanish as your provider. It is the most practical solution at the moment, to get a VPN on your Fire TV or Fire TV Stick.
Using other VPN services
If you already have a VPN that is not IPVanish and that is not listed on the default Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick, you can try alternative solutions. They are not as easy as the process when using IPVanish, but they are also effective. The first step is to allow installation from unknown sources on the Fire TV.
- Boot up your Fire TV and go to Settings, then to System
- Scroll down to Developer Options and then toggle on Apps from unknown sources
- Go to the System menu again and then go to About.
- Select Network
Take note of the IP address of your Fire TV as you will need it for the second method
Once you have enabled installation from unknown sources, you will be able to use apps that are not available on the default app store. The main challenge will be to get the VPN app on the Fire TV since Amazon doesn’r facilitate the download of APK files or access to Google Play. You can try any of the below methods.
Method 1 – Install VPN app APK on Fire TV Stcik 2nd Gen and above using direct download
If your VPN service offers its Android APK file via direct download, the process shouldn’t be too complicated. APK refers to Android application package and it is the installation file format that is used by Android devices. It is advisable that you only download APKs directly from the VPN’s official website. A download URL for the APK file is required for this method and your Fire TV Stcik needs to be at least second generation.
- Boot up your Fire TV and enter “Downloader” into the search bar
- Install the Downloader App, then open it and enter teh direct download URL for the APK file.
- The VPN app should be automatically installed, but if that is not the case, open your downloads in the Downloader app and click the APK file.
- Now the app should be installed and ready to be used. Keep in mind that if you can’t find the APK file on your VPN provider’s website, you can contact the customer support to find out if they can send you a link or the file. The file can be uploaded to a cloud storage like Dropbox and then you can download the file using Downloader from there. Alternatively, you can sideload the APK onto your device by plugging the Fire TV into your computer’s USB port and moving the APK file into a location that is easy to access.
Method 2 – Sideload VPN app on Fire TV Stick second generation and above using another Android device
For this method, you need an additional Android device to be able to access Google Play. First you need to download the apps to the second device and then you can transfer them to the Fire TV with the help of Apps2Fire. If you don’t know what is the generation of the Fire Stick you have, you can look for the model name on the outside. The second generation Fire Sticks have the model name LY73PR.
- On the second Android device, you need to download and install Apps2Fire from Google Play and on the same Android device, download and install the VPN app you want from the Google Play Store.
- Launch the app and select the menu icon (three dots) in the top right corner. Tap Setup
- Under the IP address of your Fire TV, enter the IP address you took note of previously. Tap Save.
- Tap the menu icon (three dots) once more and select “Upload Apps”.
- Tap the VPN app you wish to use on your Fire TV to upload it to your Fire TV. The app should be automatically installed on your Fire TV.
Keep in mind that if you have an APK file for the VPN app on your device, instead that an installed app, you can use Apps2Fire as well.
How to find the VPN app and connect
Once the VPN is installed on your Fire TV, you just have to log in and connect. The steps required will vary depending on the VPN provider you have, but in general, the process doesn’t change. However, you won’t see the app in the top-level Apps menu.
- Go back to the starting menu on the Fire TV
- Go to Settings and then to Applications
- Select Manage installed applications. Then find and choose the VPN app that you pushed into the Fire TV. You will see a sub menu and you can select Launch application.
- Enter your VPN provider’s login credentials. You may need a keyboard or controller.
- Select a location and press the connect button in the VPN app. Once the connection is established, you can continue.
The VPN will stay connected until the device switches off or you disconnect manually. If you get the option, you can set the app automatically and connect again, if the connection drops at any stage.
How to update the VPN app on Fire TV
The issue with sideloaded Google Play app and direct download APKs is that they are not automatically updated. If you have a stable version that works and that is secure, there is no big issue. However, sometimes you may have no choice but to update the app. It is possible to compare versions between the “about” or “information” page in the installed app versus the version number that appears on Google Play. The process is kind of the same as the steps taken in method 1 or 2, but before you start, you need to force stop the existing VPN app.
- Go to Settings from the Fire TV home screen, then select Applications and Manage installed applications
- Find your VPN app, click it and select Force Stop
- You can use method 1 or 1 to push the app into your Fire TV and install it. Now a page will appear, asking you to install an update to the existing application. Choose Yes.
- Once the update is completed, you will need to log back into the app.
What to do if you don’t have an APK file or access to Google Play?
Setting the VPN on a WiFi router is an alternative that you can consider if you don’t have access to the Google Play or can’t use an additional Android device. You can do this by setting up a virtual router on a laptop or setting up yout home WiFi router to use a VPN. Virtual routers can be easily set up, but they need a laptop to route your traffic through it, which is not the most practical choice. You can set up a VPN on a physical router, but this can only be done on routers running certain firmware and the process can be complicated. These two options work with all versions of Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV stick.
Method 3 – Connect Fire TV to a VPN-enabled virtual WiFi router
The majority of laptops available at the moment can create their own WiFi hotspot so that you can connect other devices to it. If the laptop is connected to a VPN, all the internet traffic from the devices is connected to that hotspot and in turn, tunneled through the VPN server. By setting up a virtual WiFi router on Windows and Mac, you can connect your Fire TV and Fire TV stick, even if they are first generation devices. The first step is to download and install the desktop VPN client on your computer.
- Make sure that the computer supports virtual routers. In the Windows search bar, type cmd and then right click Command Prompt and Run as Administrator.
- In the terminal windows that is shown, enter netsh wlan show drivers and press /Enter. Search for the Hosted network supported line. If you see that it says Yes, you can continue. Otherwise, you will have to set up the VPN on the physical router, a process which we will go through afterwards.
- Type netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=(your network) key=(your password), replacing (your network) with the network name and (your password) with the password you prefer, then press Enter.
- If everything went well, you will see a notification letting you know that you successfully created the virtual router. You can enable it by typing netsh wlan start hostednetwork and press Enter. You should see a message saying that the hosted network started. Otherwise, you need to update the network adapter drivers and try again.
- The nest step is to share the virtual router with other devices. To do this, press Windows Key+R, type ncpa.cpl into the Run prompt and press Enter.
- You will see a list of connections where you can look for the one that you just created. It will show the network name that you previously entered. You need to take down the name of this connection as you will need it at a later stage.
- On the same list of connections, search for the one that says TAP-Windows Adapter. Right click on it and select Properties.
- Click the Sharing tab and mark the box that says Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s internet connection.
- Click the dropdown and select the name of the network you just created. Press OK.
- Launch the VPN app, select OpenVPN as the protocol in the settings if required. Connect to a server in the US. OpenVPN activates the TAP Windows Adapter. Now your computer is a VPN-enabled WiFi router.
How to set up a VPN-enabled virtual router on macOS
- Click the Apple icon to get a system menu and choose System Preferences, Then click the Network icon.
- Click on the plus (+) sign at the bottom of the left panel in the Network window, to add a new service. Select the following options in the pop-up window:
Interface: VPN, VPN Type: L2TP over IPSec, Service Name: (select a name for your VPN connection).
- Click Create. For the following steps, you will need your VPN username, password and a server address. You may also need an IPSec key, depending on your VPN provider’s settings. This may also be referred to as a Shared Key or Shared Secret and they can be found under the Manual Configuration section of the VPN provider’s website. The majority of providers will also have a list of servers that you can select. Enter these details: Configuration Default, Server Address: (server address as specific by VPN provider), Account Name (username), Encryption: Automatic (128 bit or 40 bit),
- Mark the box next to Show VPN status in the menu bar to see your VPN connection status in the menu bar.
- Click on Authentication Settings. Enter the User Authentication screen, then enter your password in the box and the IPSec key in the Shared Secret box under Machine Authentication. Click OK.
- Click on Advanced, mark the box for Send all traffic over VPN connection and click OK.
- Click Apply to save all the settings and then connect to your VPN using the Connect button. You should be connected to a VPN server and you just have to set up the VPN for sharing.
- Go back to the System Preferences menu and click on Sharing.
- Choose Internet Sharing from the left panel, you will see the Internet Sharing option on the right side of the screen. Set the following settings: Share your connection from [the VPN L2TP connection that you previously created] To computers using WiFi.
- Select WiFi Options and enter this information: Network Name: [select a network name or SSID], Channel: [set as default], Security: WPA2 Personal, Password: [choose a password], Verify: [enter your password again]. Click OK.
- On the Sharing menu, mark the box next to the Internet Sharing. You’ll see a prompt asking you to enable Internet sharing. Select Start. Once Internet Sharing is active, you will see a green light next to the text: Internet Sharing: On.
- In the menu bar, you will see two new icons. The first icon displays your VPN connection status. There is another icon showing your Internet Sharing status. VPN and WiFi icons show connection and sharing.
- Open the VPN and establish a connection.
- If you click on the WiFi icon, you will see that it is not looking for available WiFi connection, but it is telling you that WiFi internet sharing is on. The name of the WiFi signal that Mac is broadcasting is the SSID and the WiFi channel is the signal that it is using. You can connect your devices to this WiFi router as you would connect to any other WiFi using the SSID and password that you entered into the WiFi settings screen.
Method 4 – Connect Fire TV to a VPN-enabled physical WiFi router
The other option is to set up a VPN on your home WiFi router. However, since there are many models and firmware available, the configuration process is different in every case. You need to start by finding out if your router supports VPN connections. Then you can check the bottom or the back of your router to check the local IP address and default login information. You can also Google the credentials that are relevant to your specific router. In general, you can enter 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 into your browser’s URL bar and the name that is used in most cases for both username and password is Admin.
After logging into your router’s firmware, search information about the VPN configuration. You may need details like username, password and shared secret. If the default firmware in your router doesn’t support VPN connections, you can replace it with an open-source solution such as DD-WRT, OpenWRT or Tomato. This process is known as flashing, but you need to be careful when completing it. Follow the steps careful, otherwise, you may cause permanent damage on your device. A more convenient solution is to purchase a router that has been previously flashed. There are even solutions that have the VPN service already installed.