When you are using a VPN to encrypt your Internet connection, the service will always connect you to a server whenever you start or resume your Internet session. This behavior can be a little cumbersome if you are using the VPN on a daily basis, as it requires you to always monitor the connection status in your VPN app.
While using a VPN is generally a good idea for security, there are some situations when you might not want the service to connect you to a server automatically. This is especially the case if you need to keep your Internet connection private (like if you’re using a VPN to keep your personal browsing history private), or if you don’t want to connect to a specific VPN server (like if you’re using a VPN to connect to a US server during primetime, but would rather use a server in Canada during midnight).
In these situations, you will want to tell the VPN service that you’re using to connect to it that you don’t want it to automatically connect every time you use it. To do this, you will need to edit the VPN’s configuration file and insert a couple of lines in it.
How to Configure NordVPN to Not Auto-Connect
Since NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services available, most of its users will have already gone through the process of configuring the app to work the way they want it to. To avoid unnecessary complications, you can just jump to the app’s Preferences screen and look for the Auto Connect section. From here, you can choose to have the VPN service connect to a specific server or range of servers (known as VPN selectivity), or you can uncheck the Automatically connect to this VPN whenever it’s opened checkbox and manually connect to it whenever you want.
If you are using the OpenVPN protocol to connect to your VPN, then you will also need to open the OpenVPN client’s configuration file (instructions for which are available here) and make corresponding changes. For instance, if you are using the openvpn protocol and you don’t want to connect to the United States server because you don’t want to give the U.S. government any info on your activity (especially since they already have enough evidence against you without getting this info from your network), then you would need to comment out the U.S.A. entry in the configuration file.
You might also need to change the OpenVPN protocol’s default port if the United States server is blocked by your network’s firewall. In most cases, you will need to set this port to something other than the standard 1194.
Why Is the VPN Selectivity Option Important?
Besides the fact that configuring your VPN to not automatically connect whenever it’s started might make it easier for you to use it when you don’t want it to, the VPN selectivity option is also important for security. This option allows you to connect to only a subset of the VPN’s servers (a server farm containing a couple of physically separate servers acting as a single system).
When you are using a more limited subset of servers, especially ones in different countries, then the server will have a harder time identifying you. This is because, even if a server knows who you are (based on the IP address that’s connected to it), it doesn’t necessarily know which country you are coming from (though this is usually determined by the VPN app’s configuration files). In this case, the VPN app might not even know that you are a local user, and instead will consider you to be a foreign user connecting from a different country (making it harder for the server to identify you).
With a VPN app configured with VPN selectivity, even if a server does know that you are a local user, it can’t necessarily connect you to the same country because it might not have access to all of the servers in the VPN’s server pool.
Manual Configuration vs. Automatically Configured VPN
One of the best things about NordVPN is that it gives you the option of manually connecting to a VPN server or using the service’s default settings to connect to a server whenever you start or resume your Internet session. In almost all cases, using the default settings is the best option.
This is because, for most users, manually configuring your VPN is a more efficient and effective way of using the service. If you don’t want to manually connect to a server every time you start or resume your Internet session, then you can either choose to use the default settings or set up your VPN to automatically connect to a specific server or range of servers whenever it’s opened (again, more on this later).
In rare cases, manually configuring your VPN can be a better option. For example, if you are behind a hardware firewall or are using VPN software that doesn’t handle network traffic well, then configuring the app to only allow certain servers to pass through might be the only way to ensure that your Internet connection is still secure. In this case, you will need to set up your VPN app to manually connect to a particular server or servers, and then remove this server from the list when you are done using it.
Setting Up Your VPN to Auto-Connect To a Specific Server
If you are using the native Windows version of the VPN app and would like to have it automatically connect to a particular server/VPN range whenever it’s started or resumed, then you will need to do the following:
1. Open the VPN’s Preferences screen.
2. Navigate to the Networks tab.
3. In the Automatically connect to this VPN section, you will need to either choose Use Default Settings or use the dropdown menu to select a specific option from the list of available VPN servers (you can also add more servers if you aren’t satisfied with the options provided).
4. After making the desired changes, click Apply to save them.
Configuring Your VPN To Not Auto-Connect When it’s Opened
You can use a VPN to prevent malicious software (like viruses, spyware, or hackers) from accessing your computer. To do this, you will need to repeat the steps listed above, but instead of choosing Use Default Settings, you will need to click the Automatically connect to this VPN whenever it’s opened checkbox and choose Disconnected. Doing this will prevent the VPN app from automatically connecting to the server whenever it’s opened. You will still need to manually connect to the service whenever you want to use it, but at least the process will be a little less tedious.
More on VPN Server Pools
A VPN server pool is a group of VPN servers that are available for connection. As described above, configuring your VPN app to connect to a specific server or range of servers whenever it’s started or resumed is usually the best option, but in some situations (like if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network and don’t want to connect to a specific server based on its location or if you need to connect to a different server when using the VPN app on a mobile device), it might be better to connect to the pool’s default server. This can help you keep track of which server you are connected to, since the native Windows version of the app doesn’t always show you which one is currently in use (it switches between them automatically).
To ensure that your Internet connection is still secure even when using the default server, you will need to manually connect to another server whenever you are about to start or resume your Internet session. Doing this can sometimes be a cumbersome process, especially if you are connecting to a range of servers that is not locally available. In these cases, it would be better to connect to a nearby server in the server pool because this will ensure that your connection is still encrypted even when using a server that isn’t within your VPN’s network range.
Using A VPN to Improve Your Internet Connection Security
Since VPN services like NordVPN encrypt your Internet connection while you are using them, it is a good idea to use them for this purpose. Doing this will help protect you from malware and hackers that may be trying to gain access to your PC. In some situations, it may also be beneficial to use a VPN while you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network to prevent your personal data from being accessed by malicious actors.