Don't be surprised if you have to turn your VPN off at some point.
Zachary McAuliffeStaff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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A virtual private network, or VPN, is a privacy tool that can help protect you and your information online by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address. That might sound like something you'd want to leave on all the time, but sometimes you might have to turn your VPN off.
If you want to protect some of your internet traffic with your VPN but not all of it, you could try split tunneling. However, if split tunneling isn't viable, or you're getting frustrated with the split tunneling process, you might need to simply turn your VPN off altogether for a period of time.
Here's why you might need to disable your VPN and how to do it.
Some reasons you might turn your VPN off
There are a lot of situations where you might want to pause your VPN. Most are because sites actively block, or have policies against, VPNs. Turning off your VPN could also help diagnose some network issues. And if you're traveling to a country where VPN use is illegal or regulated, turning your VPN off could help keep you out of trouble.
You might encounter such a block when you connect to your bank or other online financial institution. Some banks might block traffic from other countries, so turning off your VPN would let you access your institution. And always remember to be on a secure network when accessing your financial information -- so no banking at public Wi-Fi hotspots like Starbucks or McDonald's.
Work or school
Turning your VPN off could also be required by your workplace or school. Some of these institutions have rules or policies against using VPNs, and it's best to follow these guidelines so you don't get in trouble.
You might also turn your VPN off because a site or service might block your access because you're using a VPN. Some streaming sites, like Netflix and Hulu, have policies against VPN usage. To comply with these policies, you should turn off your VPN just in case, so you aren't punished by the service. And if you want to speed up your internet to stream high-quality videos, you should disconnect your VPN, as well.
If you're having network issues, disconnecting from your VPN could also help you identify what's wrong with your internet access. You might experience occasional network issues when using a VPN -- you are routing to another region, sometimes on the other side of the world, after all -- so turning off your VPN could help resolve your issue.
And you might also need to turn your VPN off if you're traveling to a region where VPN usage is illegal or could result in legal repercussions. According to Surfshark, VPNs aren't illegal in China, for example, but there are rules in place concerning how VPNs are used. If you don't want to get in trouble, you should turn your VPN off when traveling, just in case.
How to turn your VPN off
Turning off your VPN is straightforward. In some apps and programs, open your VPN app or program, and you should see a button that lets you know you're Connected to your VPN. Tap or click that button and it should now read Disconnected.
In other apps and programs, you might see a button that says Disconnect. If you click or tap this button you will be disconnected from the VPN.
In some VPN apps, like NordVPN and Surfshark, you also have the option to pause your VPN connection for a set amount of time, like five or 30 minutes. That way you don't forget to turn your VPN back on if you're dealing with something like a network connectivity issue.
And as a reminder we advise reading through a site or service's user agreement before using a VPN. It's also important to remember that illegal activity is still illegal, even if you're masking your location with a VPN.