If you have two VPNs installed on your computer, chances are you’ll have some trouble getting them to work at the same time. We don’t recommend using two VPNs, but there are situations where you may need two simultaneously—like if you want to connect to a corporate VPN over a personal VPN.
Thankfully, setting up a double connection like this isn’t too bad on Windows as long as you’re willing to set up a virtual machine to do the heavy lifting. The same trick will work on macOS and Linux. However, it isn’t easily possible on mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
How to Have Two VPNs on the Same Device
First, though, let’s go over one misconception: there’s usually no issue having two or more VPNs installed on a single device, the issue is with having both switched on at the same time. If you switch on a second one after engaging the first, your connection attempt will usually hang, going nowhere.
On the other hand, if you have two VPNs installed—one for when you’re working from home that gets you into the corporate intranet and another personal one for watching Netflix—but never have them on at the same time, there shouldn’t be any problem. Just remember to switch one off before turning on the other and you should be fine.
The only exception seems to be NordVPN, which may occasionally stop connecting to servers if it’s the second VPN installed. We’re not sure why this is, just that it can usually be fixed by uninstalling it and any other VPN on your computer. Once you’re working with a blank slate, just reinstall both VPNs, making sure NordVPN goes first.
Why Use Two VPNs At the Same Time?
As we explain in our article on what VPNs are, a VPN connects you from your ISP’s server to the VPN server, and from there to the server of the site you want to visit. The connection between the VPN and the site is encrypted in the process, creating something called a “secure tunnel.” This tunnel makes it so your ISP can’t see what you’re up to, nor can the site you’re connected to trace back to your location.
Simultaneous VPN connections—also called “double-hop,” “multi-hop” or “double VPN”—is when you connect to a VPN server and then connect to another one. This effectively creates a double-encrypted connection which should be doubly safe, or at least that’s how it’s advertised by the VPN providers that offer them—NordVPN is one that springs to mind.
However, a double-encrypted connection might sound like it’s safer, but there’s really no reason to think that. After all, if one connection can be tracked, why not another? There is a case to be made that a double connection could keep a VPN service from logging your data when you double up, but if you trust a service so little, you may ask yourself why you’re even using it.
That said, there’s a case to be made for people on a corporate VPN that don’t want their employer to track their logs, but even in this case you may want to think twice about setting up a double VPN. The main reason for this is speed, or rather lack of it. Even the best VPN will slow down your connection, but having two working at the same time is a huge hit to performance.
When using a double- VPN connection, be it one you make yourself or one offered by a VPN provider, expect speeds to slow to a crawl.
Why Can’t You Have Simultaneous VPN Connections?
Even setting these considerations aside, there’s another issue: using two different VPNs at the same time doesn’t work. Almost always, the first connection will work fine, but the second one gets stuck while connecting. This is due to the way VPNs work.
When you install a VPN on a Windows machine, it also installs something called a TAP adapter. This is a piece of software that interacts with your network devices—the hardware that regulates how your computer talks to other devices and to the internet—and makes the VPN connection override the regular connection; it’s a lot more technical than that, but that’s how it works in short.
Since it’s more or less built-in to your TAP adapter to take over, having two switched on at the same time creates a conflict. Thankfully, the conflict isn’t too serious and will just cause the second VPN to crash, maybe the first one, too, if you’re unlucky. There’s no lasting damage to your computer or anything like that—it’s just annoying.
How to Set Up Two Simultaneous VPN Connections
There are, however, two ways to get around this issue when using Windows. The first is pretty technical and involves setting up a subnet with its own port. You then assign each VPN its own subnet and port in its config file—assuming your VPN is rocking a VPN protocol like OpenVPN that allows that—and that should allow you to create a double VPN connection all your own.
Use a Virtual Machine
Of course, there is a simple workaround that has you avoid all that nastiness, namely running your second VPN over a virtual machine (VM), which is a second, fake computer running on your desktop or laptop. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Here’s how to set up a virtual machine.
By running one VPN over your “real” computer and the second over the virtual one—or even both over a virtual connection—you skip the issue with conflicting TAP adapters. As they are essentially separate machines, you can first run one VPN, then the other on the VM without any conflicts arising. Another upside is that this method will work equally well on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
However, running your double VPN via a virtual machine will slow down your connection even further. All in all, considering that using a second VPN is of no real benefit in the first place, these extremely slow speeds aren’t worth it. Instead of using two VPNs at the same time, we recommend that you find one of the best VPNs out there and stick with that.