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When it comes to staying safe online, nothing does it better than a VPN. While not flawless, VPNs help keep you protected by routing your traffic anonymously through servers around the world, so your fingerprints disappear. Whether you're just trying to avoid being tracked by advertisers or want to change your location in order to stream out-of-region Netflix movies, using a VPN while browsing online is a no-brainer.
Of course, a VPN is no use to you if you leave breadcrumbs that lead straight to your doorstep. This is exactly what could happen if you use a Chromecast without proper VPN coverage. You might have your VPN running on your mobile device, but the minute you switch to your TV for movie night, you risk being tracked again. Is there a way to use your VPN with Chromecast, or are you doomed to be caught no matter what?
How to connect a Chromecast to your VPN
This section will show how to connect your Chromecast to a VPN. First, it's important to understand that you'll need to set up your router or a virtual network on a PC or Mac to do this. We will explain how to do this later.
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You will also need to download and set up the Google Home app on an iOS or Android device. Once set up, you need to plug your Chromecast into a wall outlet and the display you'll be using it with. Then you can follow these steps to connect your Chromecast to your VPN.
Notes: We use a virtual network to connect our Chromecast to our VPN.
- Open the Google Home app and select the Chromecast device you're working with.
- Then under Connect Chromecast to your Wi-Fi, select the VPN network you configured.
Use a VPN with Standard Chromecasts
Obviously, your Chromecast requires an internet connection to work properly, working directly on your home network to allow movies, shows, and music to be streamed from your phone. Unlike devices like Amazon's Fire Stick or Apple TV, Google's Chromecast doesn't run dedicated apps (or at least it wasn't used to – more on that at the end of this article). article), so there is no way to install a VPN app on your device.
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Likewise, there's no way to dive into your Chromecast's settings to change its network settings as if it were a smartphone, which means you might be out of luck.
Or at least you would be, if VPNs weren't flexible. While you can't install a VPN directly on your device, you can configure your VPN to work natively with your router, moving all traffic on your home network through your VPN. It's not as simple as installing a VPN on your computer or smartphone, but if you have the time, it can be really worthwhile to secure your entire network.
You can set up a virtual router on a Windows or Mac computer, but if you have a VPN-enabled router, it's safer and easier to use. Routing all your internet traffic through the default router means no configuration on computers, phones or IoT devices in your home. You don't need to install VPN software and you don't need to remember to activate it.
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If you don't have a VPN-capable router (and you probably do, since setting up a VPN is mostly software-based), you can potentially upgrade the firmware to DD-WRT or Tomate. Either works with a range of router brands and models. If you have a compatible router, you can upgrade your firmware to one of these and turn your $100 router into something that would normally cost over $1000.
How to Set Up ExpressVPN Using a Virtual Router Using a Mac
ExpressVPN is compatible with a wide variety of routers. You can see if yours is on the list on this site. Assuming you have a compatible router, you can follow these steps to use your VPN with your Chromecast:
- Register your router's IP address with ExpressVPN on this site.
- Log in and click DNS settings bottom left
- Click on Register my IP address next to your router's IP address.
- Your IP address is automatically saved when you complete these steps.
Next, we will configure your VPN on your Mac. Here's how:
- Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac and click System Preferences. Then click on Network.
- Click on the '+' symbol in the lower left corner.
- Name your connection (ExpressVPN in this example), select Defect next to Configuration.
- Taper 12345678 in the Server Address box.
- And finally, paste the username you got from the ExpressVPN website into the instructions above.
- Check the box for Show VPN status in menu bar and click Authentication settings.
- Enter the password we copied from the instructions above. Then enter 12345678 beside the Share the secret box.
- Click on Okay in the pop-up window. Then, from the Network page, click Advanced.
- Check the box for Send all traffic through a VPN connection. Then click Okay.
- Finally, click Apply in the lower right corner.
After saving your IP address, it's time to set up sharing on your Mac. Don't worry, this process is easy. Here's what to do:
- Open the System Preferences just like we did above. Then click on Share.
- Check the box next to Internet sharing bottom left
- Beside Share your connection from: select the VPN network you configured.
- Finally, check the Wi-Fi side box To computer using:
Now you can access the Google Home app on your smartphone and connect it to the network you just created. When the connection is established, you can cast content to your Chromecast under the guise of a VPN.
How to Set Up ExpressVPN Using a Virtual Router Using a PC
A PC is not much different from a Mac because it can also act as a virtual router for your VPN. You will need to get some information directly from your VPN provider. Once you have collected the data, follow these steps:
- Install your VPN on your PC. Then log in to your account and launch your VPN.
- Open Parameters And click Network & Internet.
- Then click Mobile access point, it's in the menu on the left side of the screen.
- Then click on the Share my internet connection with other devices toggle button to turn it on.
- From there click on Change adapter options in the menu on the right side of the screen.
- Now right click on your VPN adapter and select Properties.
- Then click on the Follow us! tab at the top of the new window.
- Then click the checkbox to Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection then select your newly created hotspot from the list of connections.
- Select Okay when you are done.
You have now configured a virtual router on Windows 10.
Set up a VPN on your router
Setting up a VPN on your router will require you to know your provider's VPN settings. You will need the VPN server URL or IP address, your username, password, and any security settings used by the provider. This is usually all found in the account section of the provider's website.
Most good providers will offer guides and step-by-step procedures for setting up their services on your router. It makes sense to follow them if they have any. Some router vendors provide their own firmware that you can install on your router, but I would suggest using configuration instead as it retains control over what your router does.
A typical router configuration would look like this:
- Add the DNS and DHCP settings provided by your VPN provider to the router.
- deactivate IPv6 if necessary.
- Select a VPN server address from those available from your provider.
- Select TCP ou UDP as a tunnel protocol.
- Select an encryption method (AES).
- Add your VPN username and password.
You'll want to look at your VPN of choice to see specific instructions for setting up your router. Our top pick for VPNs, ExpressVPN, has its instructions here.
Block Google DNS
Next, you need to block Google DNS for Chromecast to work properly over a VPN. It's more of a router setup, but it's very simple. You are essentially creating a static route that bypasses Google DNS. This won't work if you're already using Google DNS on your router. If you want to use a Chromecast over VPN, you will need to change your DNS first.
Again, it's hard to be specific as the router setup differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but on my Linksys router I had to do this:
- Log in to the router and select Connectivity, then Advanced Routing.
- Select Add Static Route and give it a name.
- Add the destination IP address as 126.96.36.199 (Google DNS address).
- Add the subnet mask as 255.255.255.255.
- Add the gateway address as your router's IP address.
- Select Save.
- Repeat for the other Google DNS address 188.8.131.52
After saving this configuration, you should be able to stream using your Chromecast without issue. You will also benefit from enhanced security with all your internet traffic. Your ISP, the government, and anyone else interested in what you do online will no longer be able to see what you're doing, and you've taken a giant leap forward in improving your online privacy.
Chromecast with Google TV
It's been a while since we've had a new Chromecast, but we finally saw the launch of Google's new streaming stick last fall. Although it's still called Chromecast and retains the classic puck shape we know and love, it's a new device through and through. In fact, it's the biggest change to the Chromecast we've ever seen, combining the utility of Google Cast with a remote control and an all-new interface called "Google TV," based on Android TV.
If you're unfamiliar with Android TV, no problem, here's what matters to you. Owners of this new Chromecast (which costs $49 and supports 4K and HDR, marking a price drop from the older Chromecast Ultra) can access the Play Store, which allows downloading a number of VPNs for Google TV, including but not limited to:
This means that instead of having to configure your VPN through external means, you can rely on basic apps through Android as you would on most other smart devices. It's a notable addition and makes upgrading to Google's new Chromecast a much more tempting proposition.
Things to keep in mind when using a VPN
The downside to VPNs is that all of your traffic will go through the VPN unless you disable the VPN at the router. In most cases this should be no problem, but if you select a VPN endpoint in another country or somewhere not near you, any location-aware website will become confused and require manual intervention . Again, this may not be a problem for you, but it's worth being aware of the consequences. For example, if you shop online, you may receive different listings and prices than you would in your home country. It's a small issue – and if you're setting up your VPN to run in your home country, it won't matter to you at all – but something to keep in mind depending on how you use Internet.
The other main disadvantage of VPNs comes from the location of your endpoints. VPN endpoints are where your secure tunnel ends and returns to a standard internet connection. Most VPN providers distribute hundreds of endpoints across the country, but it's always a good idea to make sure you have a stable connection. Look for a VPN provider that has endpoints in your city or region, in addition…