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How to install ExpressVPN on desktop and mobile

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to protecting your identity online, a VPN or Virtual Private Network is one of the best options around. A client creates an encrypted connection between your device and a web server, protecting every website visit, every download, and every stream.

One of the best and most popular clients around is ExpressVPN. For a few dollars a month you can install the client on your laptop, mobile device - even on a home router.

Installing the ExpressVPN app only takes a few minutes and is really easy to do. We’ve explained the basic steps below.

Downloading the ExpressVPN desktop app

To get started, go to and select the Get Started option at the top. 

You have to pick your subscription plan right away and enter your credit card details, PayPal info, Bitcoin, or another alternative payment method. This is an important decision right away. Adding your credit card is easy but also reveals your identity. Your PayPal can also be traced back to you. For Bitcoin or other payment methods, there is no way to trace your identity - at least using the payment method (an ISP can still geolocate your position and track you based on your IP address).

Pick the plan you want, add your email, and enter payment details. Note that ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back satisfaction guarantee. Click Join Now. Next, choose a password or accept the one generated for you. (Be sure your password includes a few extra characters, numbers, and plenty of characters in upper and lowercase.)

You will then receive an activation code. Keep this in a secret place - meaning, not on a sticky note on your desktop. You might even consider sending an encrypted email to yourself (Gmail supports this using a feature called confidential mode).

Installing ExpressVPN on desktop

Installing ExpressVPN is easy on a desktop or laptop - although there are a few extra steps compared to the mobile client.

For the desktop, download the client and install it. The good thing about a client like ExpressVPN is that it is remarkably easy to install and configure. You’ve actually already done the hardest steps - choosing your plan and adding payment details. With the client, sign-in using the account you just created. Enter your activation code. Decide if you want to launch a startup and if you want to send a crash report and other data to improve the product.

Your next step is the most important one of all - selecting the location of the server. In most cases, select the city that pops up closest to you.

If you select a different city, you should think about the legalities of using a VPN that connects to that location. For example, if you are in China and you are prompted to select a VPN in China, you may be liable because using a VPN might not be allowed. The location will also dictate the speed of your connection.

Click the big power icon to connect. This will make your Internet connection secure. Once you connect with ExpressVPN, the app will run in the background and there’s nothing more to do to use the VPN, although you can configure features and change settings.

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Downloading the ExpressVPN mobile app

Like any good service, ExpressVPN is available both on Apple iOS and Android - in fact, it tops our list of the best Android VPN apps - and the client works like any other app.

With the mobile app, you have the choice to start a seven-day trial. You can find it at the App Store or Play Store, or you can simply visit the ExpressVPN website to look for the mobile install. 

Once you find the app, verify that the logo matches what you see on the ExpressVPN site (a V logo with wings). This is important because sometimes fake apps try to mimic the look and name of the client but are not at all the real download and could even compromise your security.

Install the app and then open it. ExpressVPN will prompt you to log in or register. If you are a new user, select the new option and type in your email address and proceed through the process for the mobile app; in most cases, you will have already registered on the ExpressVPN website and your login will work fine. For some devices, you may need the activation key. This will come up if you install ExpressVPN on any other computer or a router.

Here’s a quick tip with the activation key. If you emailed yourself the code using an encrypted message, go ahead and keep that encrypted email handy for any other devices. That way you can paste it into the app after you login. For mobile, it is not needed.

Installing and setting up ExpressVPN on mobile

The first few steps after you log in on your phone are quite easy. You’ll need to agree to some prompts related to adding the VPN to your phone. Then, you’ll agree to receive notifications from the ExpressVPN app. 

You will decide if you want to help improve the ExpressVPN service. Like the desktop client, you will also select the country and city you want to use for the connection. And, you will select the large power icon on the screen to form the connection.

After that, similar to the desktop client, you can adjust features and settings as needed - although that’s not required to use the VPN. If you are connected, you are secure! You can proceed to install the app on any other mobile device you own. 

This could include tablets, other smartphones, and even your home router. You have installed ExpressVPN and you are now secure and protected from anyone seeing what you do online or what you download.