If you’ve ever used a VPN service on desktop then you’ve probably come across the term TAP Adapter. Unfortunately, you’re most likely to have seen it in some unhelpful error message.
Whether it’s ‘All Windows TAP adapters in use’, ‘No TAP adapter available’, or ‘An error occurred installing the TAP device driver’, there’s often a TAP problem somewhere with your name on it!
And the messages usually give you little or no advice on how to figure out the problem, either, so the best you can do is pop them into a search engine and see what comes up.
But this isn’t quite as bad as it seems. In this article, we’ll explain what TAP adapters are, what they’re for and why they matter when you’re running a Windows 10 VPN on PC. And once you understand just some of the background, you’ll find you can fix most TAP issues very quickly.
A TAP adapter is a software-based network device which allows a VPN to securely communicate with its servers. It’s such a fundamental component that if the TAP adapter isn’t installed or working then some VPNs won’t work at all, resulting in all those pesky error messages you know so well.
TAP adapters come in many different flavors, which can make life confusing. Some VPNs install a plain, ordinary, generic TAP adapter, but others have specially patched ones which only work with their own service. You might even have two or more versions installed at the same time.
To check your setup, click start, type DEVMGMT.MSC and press Enter to launch Device Manager.
Click the arrowhead to the left of Network Adapters to expand the tree, and look down the list of adapters. If you see ‘TAP-Windows Adapter V9’ then you have the generic TAP adapter installed.
But custom versions often have the VPN name included, too, like ‘TAP-NordVPN Windows Adapter V9.’ if you’re a NordVPN user. If you’re unsure, double-click a driver, click the Driver tab, then Driver Details: if the Provider or Copyright mentions OpenVPN then it’s probably a TAP adapter.
Having two or more TAP adapters installed can sometimes cause problems, especially if you’ve also installed more than one VPN. One VPN app might try to use an adapter belonging to another VPN, for instance, leaving the second app to complain that there are no adapters available.