Setting up VPN on a macOS computer

The Northwestern VPN allows you to connect to the Northwestern network when you're off campus. There are two VPN clients you can use: (1) the native VPN client that comes with your operating system, and (2) the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client.

Due to a number of factors, VPN clients may experience difficulties establishing or maintaining a connection in some situations or locations. Common examples include public wireless networks at cafes and bookstores, restricted networks at hotels and conference centers, and countries with restricted Internet access policies. In most situations where one of the VPN clients won't work properly, the other one will.

We recommend you configure both clients to give you flexibility, and the ability to connect to the Northwestern VPN regardless of your location.

Northwestern IT is aware of VPN access issues from China. We tried implementing workarounds by changing our VPN public IP. However, within a few days of these workarounds Northwestern VPN was blocked again by the Chinese telecommunications agency. At the present time, we cannot provide a solution to using Northwestern VPN in China because the Chinese telecommunications agency continually searches for and blocks Northwestern VPN servers. We have heard anecdotally from some people that using a third party VPN service has worked for them, but we cannot confirm which, if any services, will work.

Native VPN

  1. Click Apple > System Preferences > Network
  2. Click the + button at the bottom left of the screen to add a new connection. (Note: You may need to click the LOCK icon to enable editing of Network Settings.)
  3. Complete the following, then click Create:
    • Interface: VPN
    • VPN Type: L2TP over IPsec
    • Service Name: Northwestern VPN
  4. In the Network window complete the following, then click OK:
    • Server Address:
    • Account Name: your NetID
    • Authentication Settings
      • Leave Password blank
      • Shared Secret: northwesternvpn
      • Click OK
    • Check Show VPN status in menu bar
    • Click Advanced.... Check Send all traffic over VPN connection and click OK.
    • Click Apply.

Cisco AnyConnect

Note for members of Feinberg School of Medicine: Cisco AnyConnect VPN will not work on Feinberg-managed computers due to increased HIPAA security standards. If you find yourself in a place where you can't use the native VPN client, contact Feinberg IT at

  1. If you have not installed Cisco AnyConnect before, open a web browser and go to
  2. In the appropriate fields enter your NetID and NetID password and click Login.
  3. At the welcome screen that appears, click Continue.
  4. If Java needs permission to run, click Run this time or Run. If prompted to allow the applet to run, click Allow.
  5. If prompted to do so, provide your computer's administrator credentials to allow installation of the AnyConnect client.
  6. If the connection was unsuccessful, you will need to do manual installation. Click the installation link provided and open the .dmg file downloaded, then open the vpn.pkg file and follow the installation prompts.
  7. Once installed, if it does not open automatically, open your Applications folder and open the Cisco folder, then double-click Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client.
  8. If the software does not automatically connect, enter into the bar in the Cisco client then click Connect.

For additional assistance please contact the IT Support Center at 847-491-4357 (1-HELP) or via email at

Keywords:cisco "any connect" anyconnect, macvpn, macos, macbook Mac   Doc ID:62249
Owner:IT Support Center .Group:Northwestern
Created:2016-03-27 11:39 CSTUpdated:2019-08-22 13:23 CST
Feedback:  21   8