ExpressVPN Beginner’s Guide: What You Need to Know – How-To Geek | Hot Mobile Press

Ralf Liebhold/

ExpressVPN is a solid virtual private network and we picked it as the best VPN overall. One of the reasons we like it is that it is so easy to use for beginners. However, if you are trembling for the first time, we will show you how to get on with this excellent VPN service.

Sign up for ExpressVPN

To get started with ExpressVPN, you must first sign up for it. On the ExpressVPN website, click the center button that says “Get ExpressVPN” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can choose from the service’s three plans.

ExpressVPN pricing plans

As much as we like ExpressVPN, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s quite expensive, so your only real choice is the one-year plan, as that’s where most of the sting comes from. Still, $100 is a lot of money for a VPN. Read our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison to see how it compares to another industry leader.

Under the plan selection, you need to enter your email address and select a payment method. Unfortunately, there is no way to log into ExpressVPN anonymously. Once everything is done, all you have to do is choose a client to download. ExpressVPN seems to have a client for every operating system imaginable, from Windows and Mac to iPhone and Android to Fire TV and Android TV.

ExpressVPN's many clients

Download the one you need and let the installation wizard do its job. For this guide, we used the Windows 10 version, although ExpressVPN works the same way regardless of the operating system – even the user interface is the same on mobile and desktop systems. The only exception is the Linux version, which relies on the command line.

How to use ExpressVPN

Assuming you don’t encounter any problems during setup, the client should start. You’ll be asked to enter your activation code every time you open ExpressVPN on a new system; You can find the code in the dashboard section of your account on the ExpressVPN website. Look under “Connect your devices” and you should find it (we’ve hidden part of the device in the screenshot for obvious reasons).

How to Find ExpressVPN Activation Code

Next, you’ll see ExpressVPN’s main interface, which we like because it’s so simple. Essentially, it’s just two buttons: the big one in the middle that toggles the VPN on and off, and another button below that lets you choose a server location.

ExpressVPN main screen

Turn on VPN

To turn on the VPN, just press the big button and the VPN will connect in a few seconds. The button changes color and the word “connected” appears. To turn it off, just click the button again.

Screen connected to ExpressVPN

The default setting connects to what’s called “smart location,” whichever server ExpressVPN thinks is the best choice for you at the time. You can also use the left of the two smaller buttons below the main buttons to always find the smart location, for us it’s Barcelona now. ExpressVPN also remembers your second to last location, the right button, which is pretty nifty.

ExpressVPN's smart location hotkey

However, if you want to connect to a specific location because you want to stream that country’s Netflix library or visit a site based there, you’ll need to select a new location. To do this, click the Selected Location button and a menu will appear.

The locations recommended by ExpressVPN

In this new screen, you can choose between either the Featured or All Locations tab. Recommended is best used for finding alternatives to your smart location, while the other is great for showing all your options. The list is divided into three global regions, with Asia divided into normal Asia and the Middle East, to which Africa has also been added. Weird way of mixing things up, but here we go.

All ExpressVPN locations

You can also use the search bar to find a server in a specific country or city, which saves you from scrolling.

ExpressVPN location search

Whichever location you choose, a simple click will connect you to it. All of ExpressVPN’s servers are good for whatever you do, from browsing safely or torrenting files. However, if you want to crack Netflix, it may take a few tries as not all servers work. To reconnect to a new server, all you have to do is select a new one and you will be automatically disconnected from your current one and connected to the new one.

ExpressVPN settings

ExpressVPN’s basics are pretty solid, and we also like how easy it is to tweak the settings. To do this, simply click on the three lines at the top left of the interface (also called the hamburger menu) and select “Options”. Also of interest here is the “Help” menu, which you can use if you encounter any issues with ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN settings menu

The options menu is divided into six sections. “Account” helps you manage your account, while “Shortcuts” lets you select apps to launch from the ExpressVPN app – we’re honestly not sure how useful that is. The Browser tab allows you to install browser extensions that may come in handy.

ExpressVPN browser extension

The interesting settings start under “General”. Here you can decide whether or not you want to use a kill switch (the first heading under “Network Lock” do Not off) and whether or not to turn on ExpressVPN at device startup. This is a personal choice, but do it if it makes you feel safer.

General ExpressVPN settings

This is also the screen where you configure split tunneling, the ability to run some apps under the VPN and not others. If you’re not sure you need it, it’s best not to tinker with it.

The next two screens of interest are Advanced and Log. In general, we recommend that you don’t mess with any of this, especially the options in the Advanced tab, as turning them off could be a bit finicky.

ExpressVPN's advanced options

This also applies to protocols: ExpressVPN uses the best VPN protocols by default, so you hardly have to change this. However, if you are having trouble, you can try switching to OpenVPN UDP as it is secure and always works pretty well. Never use IKEv2!

Available VPN protocols for ExpressVPN

Using ExpressVPN

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started with ExpressVPN. If you encounter any problems, you can always use the app’s built-in help function. Have fun and stay safe!

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