5 best VPNs for Roku in 2021 (and how to install one quickly)
If you are a Roku media player user, you know how this platform gives you access to many streaming services and apps. And, if you’re not in the US, mainly, you also know that your IP address reveals your physical location to many streaming websites, which, in turn, limits the content catalog they offer you.
So how do you work around this bothersome IP-based geo-restriction? By using a VPN. Choosing the correct VPN provider will allow you to overcome any geoblocking restrictions held by your favorite streaming service, and, hence, you’ll be able to enjoy all the content they offer.
VPNs are becoming fashionable lately, so the market is overflowing with options, and picking the best one for you can be tricky. But don’t worry. That’s our job. ExpressVPN is our #1 choice as the best Roku VPN. It will blast through any geo-restrictions with high-speed connections that support HD videos without any buffering.
Not every VPN in the market is excellent with streaming services. Some VPNs privilege privacy and anonymity to such a high degree that streaming with them is difficult or impossible. The several encryption layers and server connections make it hard, if not impossible, to keep a decent stream going.
Thus, finding a VPN that can optimize your Roku experience is a frustrating trial and error process that consumes plenty of time and energy. But, as we said earlier, we’ve already done that work so that you don’t have to.
We’ve tried and tested many VPNs on the Internet, and we’ve found the ones that not only will work well with Roku but can even improve your user experience.
Top 5 VPNs for Roku – The quick list
If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to go very deep into the details, here we give you our five choices for VPNs that work outstandingly well with Roku:
- ExpressVPN. It is our top choice in VPNs for any tasks needing the services of a premium VPN that always delivers more than it promises.
- Surfshark. It’s the disruptive new kid on the block. Surfshark delivers most of the goods of the best VPNs at a fraction of the cost.
- NordVPN. While it’s not our favorite, NordVPN tends to be everybody else’s preferred VPN because let’s face it, it’s a premium service, and it’s slightly cheaper than the competition.
- PrivateVPN. A solid VPN that makes customer service its main value.
- IPVanish. An excellent VPN with infinite bandwidth for its users.
VPNs and Roku: Why combine them?
The world’s legitimate streaming websites have to respect copyright laws and agreements. Therefore, they can show you a given piece of content only if they hold the license to do so in the country where you are.
That’s why most of the platforms accessible through Roku (BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and others) have some geoblocking policy that controls what content you can see depending on where in the world you are.
In practical terms, this means that if you connect from the US, Netflix will show you the content it can show there; if you are in Australia, you’ll see different content because of that same reason. The most extensive catalog in every service is usually the one for the US, so that’s the place to pretend to be through a VPN.
So how can you circumvent geoblocking locks to enjoy all the content you want? The answer is premium VPNs. A good VPN service will do two things for you. Firstly, it will encrypt all your incoming and outgoing traffic to keep you safe from digital sniffers.
Secondly, and more relevant for our purposes, it will hide your IP address and substitute it with another one that belongs to one of the servers in the VPN network. Since the best VPNs have servers physically installed in many countries around the globe, you can choose a server that’s located in the country from which you want your streaming service to consider you.
There’s an additional benefit to using VPNs. There’s something called throttling. That’s when your ISP limits your bandwidth based on the activities you do on the Internet. If you find that, after streaming a lot of videos, your Internet speeds have gone down without any apparent reason, your ISP could be throttling your account. And a VPN can help you fix that problem too.
The best Roku VPNs for 2021
Our team of expert users has tested dozens of premium VPN providers, and it’s chosen the best options to unblock streaming platforms on Roku.
Before we go into every option in detail, there’s one thing you should keep in mind. If you can’t log into the streaming service you want using a given server on a given service, it could be because the service blocks that server’s IP address. In that case, change the server and try again. If you find the same problem across many servers, then switch to a different vendor.
1. ExpressVPN (the master of geo-block bypassing)
ExpressVPN is our go-to VPN provider for almost any task that needs a VPN. Its network spans 3,000 nodes in 94 countries, the connection speeds are incredible. We’ve seen users connecting to a US server from Australia and not losing a bit of bandwidth in the process.
But the high speeds are just one of the many pros of ExpressVPN. The encryption in this VPN is military-grade AES-256 bits. The infrastructure is based on OpenVPN protocol, which is the open-source project with the best security features for VPNs because it’s been tested and audited to the extreme.
ExpressVPN keeps no logs whatsoever about your online activities, it has a kill switch, and it’s secure against all types of DNS leaking. In plain English, those features mean that the network will never store any of your information. In addition, if you lose your encrypted connection for whatever reason, all your internet activities will stop automatically so that nothing you send becomes exposed outside the encryption tunnel.
One thing that makes ExpressVPN better suited for unblocking streaming services because the network regularly resets its VPN IP addresses. This means the network is always on its toes so that Netflix and similar sites can’t keep up with it and lock it out of the service.
ExpressVPN apps are available for every significant operating system (Linux, Windows, macOS, Android, iOS), so you can use them on every kind of device (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone).
In addition, your account will grant you the right to have five concurrent connections at all times so that several of your devices can be simultaneously protected. And if you configure a router to send all your home traffic through the VPN, then you can have every single one of your many toys protected with ExpressVPN.
Data limits are not an issue in ExpressVPN because your bandwidth will be unlimited at all times.
The customer service keeps its live chat operated at every time of the day and the week, and there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
2. Surfshark (the disruptive new kid on the block)
Surfshark is a premium VPN that is almost new in the industry. But the short time it’s been online doesn’t preclude it from being one of the best VPN providers in the world.
This VPN has not managed to get the attention it deserves from most of the Internet’s reviewers because it’s a relatively young network, but you can hardly go wrong by choosing it.
The privacy features in Surfshark leave nothing to be desired when you compare them with the industry’s top premium providers. The only element in Surfshark that is not outstanding in the market is the connection speed. It’s not bad nor low, but it’s not as fast as you could find at ExpressVPN and some other VPNs. That being said, the speeds are adequate to see streaming videos without problems.
But if the speeds are not the best in the industry, you’ll find that the pricing is, by far. However, the average monthly cost for a good VPN is about 10 USD monthly, so it’s not an expensive service even if you choose one of the best.
Surfshark is even cheaper than that, so it packs the most bang for your buck than any other of the options in this list. The monthly fee for this provider can be as low as 2.49 USD, so the VPN provides an excellent service and offers one hell of a deal.
3. NordVPN (the most robust VPN on the Internet)
While our preferred choice is ExpressVPN, you’ll find that many (maybe most) reviewers on the web just can’t stop singing the praises of NordVPN. And they’re right.
NordVPN’s network includes even more servers, the speeds are also very high, and its privacy features are nothing short of top-notch. Also, NordVPN’s monthly fee is a terrific deal in monetary terms because it’s slightly cheaper than the industry’s average — though not as much as Surfshark.
So NordVPN is a very robust VPN for Roku in every way. It will excel at any task for which a VPN is needed like no other vendor.
4. PrivateVPN (a customer-oriented VPN)
PrivateVPN‘s network includes 100 servers in 83 countries. Thus, it’s much smaller than our previous picks in that regard, but the lower server number does not affect performance adversely because each server has a massive bandwidth.
The speeds and privacy features in PrivateVPN leave nothing to be desired. However, the thing that sets this one apart from the rest is a firm commitment to its customers. The user interface is transparent and very friendly for beginners. But more experienced users who like to tweak things up can choose the advance mode so that they can fiddle with the settings as much as they wish.
If you should need any help during the installation process, the customer service’s live chat is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help you. And if you need even further guidance, a PrivateVPN agent will set up a TeamViewer session so that he can aid you remotely and solve any issues you could have.
Using Roku needs speedy connections, of course, and PrivateVPN lives up to the job in most of its servers. In fact, if you choose servers that are geographically close to you, the chances are that you will have a fast connection that will support your streaming videos perfectly well.
The encryption algorithm in PrivateVPN is AES 256-bit which is the industry standard. It’s not only a tremendous commercial option as this is the encryption method also used in military and intelligence agencies in the US government.
It features a kill switch and a zero-log policy. That means that your data is never out in the open, but always protected by your encrypted connection. As a result, the small amount of information that the network keeps will never be shared with surveillance agencies, hackers, or data-mining commercial partners.
PrivateVPN’s position on logs and privacy is remarkable as it’s based in Sweden, a country in the 14 Eyes Alliance. However, the company takes its no-logging policy seriously, which is precisely what you would want. Your VPN can share any intrusive information about you with any government if it has nothing on you.
It allows up to six simultaneous connections; it offers a free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you can try it without risking any money.
5. IPVanish (you need the bandwidth. IPVanish has it)
IPVanish has 1,600 servers and more than 40,000 available IP addresses for your streaming enjoyment. That translates into a lot of solid, fast connections.
If endlessly watching Roku streams on your phone or your computers is your thing, IPVanish could become one of your favorite things to use. The connections for streaming are consistent, and buggering rarely becomes an issue. In addition, the unlimited bandwidth you can enjoy in IPVanish will allow you to go into every streaming site you want and binge-watch all the movies and TV shows you’d like.
High, infinite bandwidth is all very well, but what about privacy? We’re talking about a VPN, after all. Well, IPVanish protects your anonymity and your privacy like the best in the business. It also has a no-log policy, so your browsing activity and metadata are never stored.
The encryption is AES-256, as in most self-respecting VPNs, and it’s safe against DNS leaks of every type. It also includes an automatic kill switch to keep you inside the encryption tunnel at all times.
If all those things have not convinced you already, then consider the 30-day money-back guarantee and the excellent customer service whose live chat is online on a 24/7 basis.
Installing and setting up your VPN on Roku
There is no built-in VPN configuration capability available in Roku streaming sticks, we’re sorry to tell you. Instead, using a VPN with your Roku device requires you to set up your Roku gadget to a VPN-enabled router or virtual router.
Also, you need a Roku account based on the country whose content you want to see. So if you’re going to unlock the videos meant for US viewers, you need a US Roku account.
Don’t be scared; just keep reading. The process is straightforward, and if you follow a few simple steps, you’ll be settled in no time at all:
Setting up a VPN on your router
- Log in to your VPN account.
- You probably want to stream your videos through a US-based server. Locate and download your provider’s manual OpenVPN configuration files for the servers in that location. You will be provided with a secure username and password. Remember those.
- Go to your router’s control panel. In most cases, you’ll find the default IP address 192.168.1.1, which is the address you give your browser.
- Start a session at your router using the proper credentials. Unless you’ve customized your device, “admin” will be the default password and user name.
- Find “VPN” under “advanced settings” and click it.
- On the VPN client tab, click “add profile.”
- Choose the OpenVPN tab and fill out the needed information. Give your connection a name (ExpressVPN, for instance); type your VPN username and password. Then import the .ovpn file. This would be the file with the manual configuration provided by your vendor.
- Click “accept” and then “activate” to bring your VPN connection online.
Thus your VPN is now installed in your router. This is the trick that empowers you to give your Roku experience a whole new level. First, ensure that you’re connected to a server located in the country you wanted by running a DNS leak test.
We will conclude the setup by establishing the connection between your VPN and your Roku. You’ll need a US account to see US-licensed content, so let’s see how you should go about that.
Signing up for a Roku account to access US content
- Use any device of your choice to connect to a VPN server that is located in the US.
- Launch your browser and point it to your Roku’s configuration (owner.roku.com).
- Regularly create an account; just make sure to choose the US as your country.
- Provide a zip code (it must have five digits).
- Reset your Roku device.
- As your Roku starts a new session, log in with your new US-based account.
We’re almost done! The last step is to connect your Roku to the Internet through your VPN-enabled router.
Connecting a Roku device to a VPN-enabled router
- Open Roku’s main menu, click on Settings, then Network, then Wireless.
- In Choose your network, select your router.
- Enter the password you gave your VPN connection. Click on Connect.
Once the link is online, you have the whole Roku catalog at your feet! Yes, US content included! All available from your remote with just a few clicks!
Roku suitable VPNs: Our selection criteria
Because our main goal in this guide is to provide you with a way to unlock Roku’s content available to US users only, privacy issues were not our top priority – that being said, every single VPN vendor we’ve suggested as the top has excellent privacy features, at the level of the industry’s best.
Instead, streaming high-quality videos needs good connection speeds that remain reliable at all times. And that’s why we chose the providers we did.
The importance of speed in streaming is apparent. Slow connections will have you staring at buffering screens for longer than you’d like. SurfShark is the one with the lowest speeds among our top options, but they are still good enough to give you a good viewing experience, regardless of where you are in the world.
Our other priority was reliability. This is because you want your VPN to bypass geolocation blockages so that you can see all those videos you shouldn’t, according to your location. Our chosen Roku VPN services perform that trick as they can unlock all of the top streaming services (BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Netflix, among others).
Free VPNs: Can I use one with Roku?
So you want to know if you can use a free VPN with Roku. We understand that, but the question you should be asking is if you should use a free VPN with Roku. And no, you shouldn’t. Ever. In this section, we explain to you precisely why.
As we already stated, the answer is a resounding “no,” and there are several reasons for that. First, most free VPNs create security hazards that you don’t need. Second, they won’t work for a variety of reasons. Let’s explore these problems in detail.
It’s not that you shouldn’t use a free VPN to access Roku content only. It’s that you should never use a free VPN at all, period.
VPNs are supposed to protect your privacy and anonymity online. That’s why they hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic. But just as importantly, that’s why good VPN services keep no logs on their users’ activities. Paid VPNs are in the business of providing you with security for your money. Free VPNs are not. Their business model is entirely different.
Keeping an active VPN service needs a lot of servers scattered all over the world. It’s an expensive proposition, so how do free VPN’s pay their bills? They keep a log of your activities and sell them to businesses who know how to mine them and make them profitable. Thus, these services are set up to attract you and give you a mediocre VPN service so that they can use you like the product in their business model. They don’t protect your privacy or anonymity.
On the contrary, they violate it to profit from your online habits. This in itself is sufficient reason to stay away from free VPNs at all times, but if you are still not persuaded, keep reading.
The second reason not to use free VPNs with Roku is that you can’t. As we’ve explained throughout this article, going online on Roku through a VPN needs a router. And you can’t configure routers to connect to free VPNs. But suppose that you could overcome that technical difficulty by finding the one, still unknown, free VPN network that supports routers.
Unfortunately, it would still be useless in terms of using Roku. In this hypothetical scenario, all the connections would be established correctly. Still, you would find that the VPN does not have enough bandwidth to support video streams, so you would get a lot of buffering and very little content.
VPNs you should never use with Roku
VPN Book will provide you with OpenVPN configuration files you can import into your router. The problem with this provider is that nobody knows for sure who’s behind it or what its policies are. In addition, Anonymous, the hacker club, has pointed at this service as a honeypot for governmental agencies. On top of everything, the service is not very good because speeds can be slow. So this is a VPN whose privacy policies are murky at best, and speeds are poor. Avoid it.
HolaVPN sells itself as a revolutionary P2P VPN. It’s a P2P network, for sure, but it has nothing to do with VPNs. Instead, if you look under Hola’s hood, you find a peer-to-peer proxy server service that hijacks your bandwidth on behalf of the network. The parent company’s behavior has been suspect in the past as well, as it turned the whole network into a botnet and used it for denial-of-service attacks on websites.
In any case, you can’t set up a router to work with Hola, so you can’t use it even if you’d want. So when it comes to using HolaVPN, only one word comes to mind: Adios.
Amazon Fire TV Stick: A better alternative
Roku is not a religion. There are options out there, and if your mind is not overly decided on buying a Roku, you could consider Amazon Fire TV or a Fire TV stick instead if it’s available in your country. We refer to Fire sticks of the second generation or later.
Fire TV will give you all the good stuff you want from Roku (channels, functionality), but it’s more flexible in tweaking, configuration, third-party apps, and circumventing geolocation blocks. Here are four things you can do on a Fire TV and not on Roku:
- Install a VPN on Fire TV directly (instead of through a router).
- Install Kodi.
- Set up custom DNS servers.
- Install third-party apps from Android APKs.
So the thing about Amazon Fire TV sticks is that they’re every bit as good as Roku but much better. And they will save you the hassle of configuring your router to connect to your VPN.
Using a VPN to improve your Roku viewing experience is a neat trick that dramatically enhances your enjoyment, especially if you’re not physically within the US but still want to have access to the entire catalog available on every major streaming platform.
The trick is done using a VPN with US-based servers, choosing one of them, and then connecting to the streaming website. In this way, the site will think you’re in the US, thus offering you the content available to all US users. First, of course, it needs a good VPN service (all the good ones are paid), configuring your WiFi router, and a Roku account from the US.
In this guide, we’ve shown you how to configure everything you need to make things work. We’ve also selected five premium VPN services reasonably priced (again, ExpressVPN is our number one recommendation as it is an excellent deal in terms of value for money), are very reliable, and have enough bandwidth to support even HD video streams.
And if you haven’t bought a Roku yet, we also explained why you should consider acquiring an Amazon Fire TV stick instead.
Using a VPN on your router to improve will allow you to have a better Roku viewing experience and protect your online anonymity and privacy.
Last but not least, there are ISPs in this world who don’t like to have their users viewing video streams all that much. Some of them will limit your bandwidth if they figure out what you’re doing with your Internet service. A VPN will prevent your ISP from doing this to you.
The VPN server of your choice will encrypt all your traffic, so your ISP will be none the wiser about your activities. It can’t tell if you’re streaming videos because all your traffic will look like random data. Thus, it won’t put a cap on your transfer speeds.
So now you have all the information you need to set up your VPN service along with your Roku and binge-watch all the movies or tv series you want! Share and enjoy!
About the author
Ali Qamar is the founder of PrivacySavvy, which he started out of the sheer passion for making every internet user privacy savvy. Ali has always been concerned about security and privacy for the general public and is very libertarian. Even before Edward Snowden appeared, he has been a privacy advocate even before Edward Snowden appeared with his revelations about NSA's mass surveillance.
Ali graduated with a computing degree from the leading IT college in Pakistan, so he boasts a background in this area. He has an accountable understanding of the technical sides of encryption, VPNs, and privacy.
Ali is regularly quoted in the privacy and security reports by the local press. His contributions have been featured in SecurityAffairs, HackRead, Ehacking, Livewire, Intego, Business.com, InfosecMagazine, and many more publications online. Ali is naturally attracted to transforming things.