Since its launch in 2014, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, also known as the Firestick, has been making waves in the media streaming community. Where before users were forced to squint at their laptop screens or navigate the cumbersome UI of a set-top boxes or smart TV, the Firestick offered a more user-friendly experience overall. Its small form factor allows it to be used with any HDMI-compatible screen, while its OS allows users to download apps for just about any streaming service imaginable.
Kodi is by far the most popular of these applications, and is single-handedly responsible for a large part of the Firestick’s popularity. Thanks to its myriad third-party add-ons, Kodi users have access to an astonishing array of streaming content. Not all of this content is strictly legal, however. Both copyright holders and ISPs have taken a dim view of the service and its users, who may get hit with notices, fines and interrupted service reactively or even preemptively. A virtual private network, or VPN, is an effective tool to protect yourself against liability. Today we will show you how to install NordVPN onto Firestick, in a step-by-step guide that also covers this excellent VPN provider’s stand-out features.
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Why Use a VPN with Firestick?
The potential legal risks that come with streaming content on Kodi makes it clear why a VPN is a good idea for that player. The encryption and anonymity a VPN can provide both help to protect users from these legal threats. But we are often asked why other Firestick users should bother with a VPN and whether they will slow your internet connection down. The fact is, with most top-of-the-range VPN providers, any impact on connection speeds is absolutely minimal. And there are a number of compelling reasons why using a VPN with a Firestick is a good idea:
- Security: Firesticks run on an operating system called Fire OS, which is based on the Android operating system. Android devices make up the overwhelming majority of market share which means they are a big target for hackers. But the Android software itself is notoriously insecure in comparison to rival OS’s such as iOS. This means any Android device, including a Firestick, is potentially vulnerable to being hacked or put under surveillance. But a VPN offers protections from such threats by encrypting all of your online traffic and so helping to ensure that your Firestick and all the personal data it contains is safe.
- Safer Public Wi-Fi: The Firestick is small and easy to take around with you, but when connecting on the go, you are likely to have to use public Wi-Fi networks. But public Wi-Fi is incredibly insecure, and it is not recommended to expose any personal data when using it. With a VPN, all your data is encrypted, which means you can make use of public Wi-Fi with confidence, knowing your private data is protected.
- Accessing content abroad: The portability of a Firestick makes it the ideal device to travel with and, in theory, you should be able to watch your favourite movies and shows wherever you are. But the reality is, most streaming services are restricted to only be used in specific countries. But with a Firestick, it is possible to get around this geo-restriction and by connecting to a server in your home country (or anywhere else!) So, with a VPN, it is indeed possible to watch you want, when you want, wherever you are!
Why Choose NordVPN?
NordVPN is, without a doubt, one of the top-performing VPN providers around right now. Their privacy settings are about as good as it gets, with a comprehensive zero-logging policy that covers everything from bandwidth to traffic, time stamps, and even IP addresses. Their 256-bit AES encryption is nigh unbreakable, and they also offer a number of extra security features including an automatic kill switch and DNS leak protection. NordVPN even offers special, dedicated servers for those who want to stream using P2P files.
In the past, their speeds have been criticised, but they have been working on this and now the large majority of their servers are ultra-fast. And it is their server network which is perhaps their biggest feature, with more than 1,090 servers in 61 different countries. For those who want to take their Firestick around the world and keep watching, NordVPN are therefore a perfect fit and their pricing also makes them a lot more reasonable than many of their rivals too. Overall, NordVPN is a great bet for Firestick users.
How to Install NordVPN on Firestick
There are a handful of VPN providers which offer official Amazon apps and can, therefore, be downloaded onto a Firestick quickly and easily. Unfortunately, NordVPN is not one of them. But don’t let that put you off! Their Android app can still be downloaded and the process is not nearly as difficult as you might fear. All you have to do is follow this simple step-by-step guide to get NordVPN up and running on your device:
- Switch on your Firestick and on the menu along the top of the Home Page, click on Settings.
- Scroll along the menu until you see the tab for Device. Click on it.
- You will see an option called Developer Options. Click on this and ensure that the tab entitled “Apps from Unknown Sources“ is set to On.
- Go back to the home page and this time click on the Search button, which looks like a magnifying glass.
- Enter Downloader into the search section. Then click on the same word when it is listed below the keypad.
- Select the Downloader app icon, which is bright orange with a down arrow on it from the following screen. Then click to install the app. Once it has been installed, launch the Downloader app.
- The Downloader app main menu will be prompting you to enter a URL. Enter the following URL exactly: https://downloads.nordcdn.com/apps/android/generic/nordvpn-sideload/latest/NordVPN.apk. If that looks like it will take too long, you can also try http://bit.ly/2y9IVxq
- Click ‘Go’ and this will download the NordVPN.apk installation file. The download may take a while so be patient. Also, don’t worry if it says Connecting rather than downloading. It is doing the job.
- Once the NordVPN app download process is complete, click Install.
- Once the installation process is complete, click on Open to launch the NordVPN app.
- On the NordVPN app homepage, you will see an option to Create Account. If you don’t already have a NordVPN you can do that through the app by clicking here. But it is a tricky process on the Firestick, so we would suggest you create an account on their website using the links above and then click on the head-shaped icon in the top left of the screen. Then click on Sign In and enter your NordVPN login details to begin.
Before you do commit to purchasing a NordVPN account, it is important to check which generation of Firestick device you are using. This is because some do not support VPNs. If you have one of the newer 2nd generation Firesticks, you will be able to get NordVPN working without a problem. But, if you have a 1st generation device, you will find that you can download the NordVPN app, but cannot get it to connect.
If you are unsure what generation your Fire TV Stick is, there is an easy way to check. Switch on your Firestick and go to Settings, System, and then About. Here you will be able to see which version of the FireOS operating system your device is running.
A 1st generation Fire TV Stick can only update to Fire OS 126.96.36.199, but a 2nd generation device will be running Fire OS 5.2.2 or later. If you find you are using a 1st generation device, we would recommend you consider an upgrade for security and privacy reasons–not least to be able to run a VPN. A 2nd Generation Firestick currently costs $39.99 on Amazon, a small price to pay for the extra protection you will be afforded.
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How to Use the NordVPN App on Firestick
Once you open the NordVPN app on your Firestick and have logged in, you will find it functions exactly as the Android app on a smartphone or tablet does. And this is largely the same as their other apps on different devices too. The Homepage consists of a map of the world with pins marking the approximate location of NordVPN’s extensive range of servers. There is a Quick Connect button at the bottom of the page, which you can click on if you just want to connect to the best NordVPN for your location. This process should only take a few moments and then you can simply leave the app running in the background and get on with streaming content on your Firestick.
If you want to choose a server in a specific location, you can navigate around the map and click on the pin for the country you want to connect to. The button in the centre of the screen will now read Connect and if you click this, you will be connected to the best server in that country for you based on your connection. If you want to choose specific servers, you can also do that by clicking on Servers. That is all you really need to know to get connected to NordVPN, but of course, there are various additional features you might also want to explore.
As well as conventional Server connections, NordVPN also offers a selection of servers which have been individually tailored to optimise them for a specific purpose. These include:
- Anti-DDoS – Offer great protection from Distributed Denial of Server (DD0S) attacks.
- Dedicated IP Servers – Allow users to order a private IP Address for an additional charge.
- Double VPN – Reroutes your traffic through two servers for extra privacy protection, but they will impact more on connection speeds.
- Onion over VPN – Links you via a VPN server and the TOR Network for extra security, but again with the compromise of slower connection speeds.
- P2P – Optimised for users who want to stream or download BitTorrent or other P2P files.
There are also a few features in the Settings Menu which may be useful for Firestick users. Here you can setup NordVPN to Autoconnect to a specific server and also instruct it to open automatically when you start using your Firestick. You can also set up your kill switch to stop any applications (such as Kodi) automatically should your VPN connection fail. You can also check out or amend your account details and connect customer support.
For most Firestick users, however, it is NordVPN’s simple and quick connections to a huge range of servers which will prove most useful. And although the app itself has to be sideloaded, once it is up and running it is one of the most user-friendly around. Use this step-by-step guide to help you get up and running, and if you have any problems, please reach out to us in the comments section below!