How to turn off a VPN on most devices

Your VPN is one of your first lines of defense against predatory services and bad actors, but sometimes you might need to temporarily shut it down. When that time occurs, you'll be glad you know how.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
VPN on Android
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

VPNs are all about security. They protect your privacy online and mask your IP address. For example, when your phone is connected to a public network, such as in a coffee shop, and you need to log in to your bank account or some other service that carries sensitive data, you'll want as much privacy and security as possible. That's where a VPN comes in.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a VPN is not a guaranteed way of protecting your privacy. Even though your real IP address is spoofed, there are other ways of tracking you, such as web browser fingerprinting. Any tracking service that doesn't rely on location can still track you.

Also: The best VPN routers you can buy in 2024

However, and this is the important part, most good VPNs encrypt your network traffic, making it harder for ne'er do wells to read your data. If you transmit unencrypted data, anyone with the right skills can intercept that information without jumping through many hoops. The 'hoops' put up by a VPN are crucial for your data privacy and security.

But when you use a VPN, there might be times when you need to turn it off. VPNs can make your IP address look like it originates from another country. You might attempt to connect to a site or service limited to certain regions. When that happens, you'll have to switch off the VPN so your IP address/location match. Speaking of which, there are certain countries where VPNs are prohibited, such as Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, and Russia. 

Also: The best travel VPNs of 2024

Another reason why you might need to act is when you experience networking issues. If that's the case, the first thing you should do is shut down the VPN so you can troubleshoot. You might also visit a website or service that doesn't function properly. If this happens to you, temporarily shut down your VPN and see if the service runs as expected.

But how do you temporarily switch off your VPN? Each VPN service is different and the steps may vary. Sometimes the VPN is enabled/disabled from within the VPN app itself. But not all VPNs are created equal. On the off-chance you use a VPN service that doesn't allow you to enable/disable within the app, let me show you the general steps for shutting down a VPN on most operating systems.


Most likely, your VPN app on Android allows you to turn it on/off quickly within the app. But if that's not the case, the steps for disabling a VPN on Android go like this:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Tap Network & Internet
  3. Tap VPN
  4. Select the VPN service in use
  5. Tap the On/Off slider until it's in the Off position


iOS is similar to Android, with some apps allowing you to shut off the VPN in-app. If that's not the case, here's how you can do it:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to General
  3. Locate VPN & Device Management
  4. Toggle VPN Status to Not Connected


Turning off a VPN in Linux will vary, depending on which distribution you use and what desktop environment is installed. The general gist is:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Network
  3. Select VPN Connections
  4. Click the active VPN connection to disable it


With MacOS, chances are pretty good the VPN is turned off within the app itself. If not, here are the steps:

  1. Open System Settings
  2. Go to Network
  3. Select the VPN connection
  4. Click Disconnect


Windows is similar to MacOS. You'll first want to open your VPN app to see if it can be disabled there. If not, here are the steps:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Network & Internet
  3. Select VPN
  4. Select the VPN service you use
  5. Click Disconnect

When you turn off your VPN, your IP address and location will no longer be masked. That change means your online activity will become visible to any site or service. Remember to re-enable your VPN connection when you finish dealing with your issue.

And that's how you can shut down a VPN connection on most devices. 

Also: The best mobile VPNs of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed  

Again, only disable your VPN when there's a specific need for you to do so -- otherwise your data might not be encrypted and your location could be easily discovered.

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