OpenVPN, L2TP / IPsec, and the newer WireGuard VPN protocols are some of the most secure VPN protocols. We recommend that you avoid PPTP and IKEv2 as the two protocols are less secure.
How to set up a VPN
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Virtual private networks (VPNs) can offer an extra layer of security and privacy. Whether you’re working on a public Wi-Fi network and want to avoid prying eyes, or are generally concerned about privacy, a VPN can offer many benefits.
In short, a VPN establishes a secure, encrypted connection between your device and a private server, hiding your traffic from others. Of course, the VPN itself can still see your traffic, so you should choose a VPN from a trusted company. (It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid free VPNs because if they don’t charge, they might get paid in a less desirable way.) In addition, law enforcement can get your information through a VPN company. For the most part, however, VPNs offer a way to hide your online activity from others.
The best VPN to use to protect your privacy
Remember that getting a VPN is just one of the measures you can take to increase your browsing security. Others include enabling two-factor authentication and using a password manager.
In addition to its security benefits, VPNs can come in handy when you’re trying to access sensitive information or if you’re traveling in Europe and want to stream Netflix or Amazon Prime titles only allowed in the US. They can also allow jumping over firewalls in heavily regulated countries like China, although it becomes difficult.
At home, you can set up a VPN through your router, which takes a bit more steps, but means no devices connected to your router will need to be individually configured; it can also slow down all the traffic that goes through. However, in this article, we will focus on VPN apps that can be loaded onto a laptop or phone so you can safely surf the Internet away from your home base.
Today, most VPN applications support the OpenVPN protocol, making setup a simple matter of accessing the application to configure settings. (Stay tuned to our guide to the best services to try). But whether your device is using macOS, Chrome OS, Windows 10, iOS or Android, if you want a quick overview of what goes into it before choosing a service or prefer to do manual setup, we’ve broken down the steps into simple instructions for you.
Setting up a VPN in Windows 10
The first step is to create a VPN profile that you fill in with the details of your specific VPN service.
- Click the Windows button, then go to Settings> Network and Internet> VPN. Click Add VPN Connection.
- Select Windows (Built-in) for your VPN provider in the boxes on the page. Give your VPN a name in the Connection name field. Enter the server name or address, VPN type, and login information type.
- Add a username and password for extra security (optional but recommended). You can choose to let the computer remember your login details.
- Click Save
- To connect to a VPN, go back to Settings> Network & Internet> VPN. Click your VPN name.
- If you wish, at this point you can select Advanced Options to edit connection properties, clear login credentials, or configure a VPN proxy server.
- Select Connect and enter a password if you have set one.
When the VPN is turned on, traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to a server operated by the VPN company. This means that your internet service provider and anything (or anyone) connected to your router will not be able to see your internet traffic. From the VPN server, your traffic goes to the public internet.
Create a VPN profile
Before you can connect to a VPN, you must have a VPN profile on your computer. You can create a VPN profile yourself or set up a work account to get a VPN profile from your company.
If it’s work, look for VPN settings or VPN apps on the company’s intranet site while you’re at work, or contact the company’s support agent.
If it’s a VPN service you subscribe to for personal use, visit the Microsoft Store to see if there is an app for that service, then go to the VPN service’s website to see if the VPN settings you want to use are listed there.
Select the Start button, and then type in settings. Select Settings> Network and Internet> VPN> Add VPN.
In Add VPN Connection, do the following:
Select Windows (built-in) as your VPN provider).
In the Connection Name field, enter a name you recognize (for example, My Personal VPN). This is the name of the VPN connection you’ll search for when connecting.
In the Server name or address field, enter the address of the VPN server.
Select the type of VPN connection you want to create as the VPN type. You need to know what type of VPN connection your VPN company or service is using.
In the Login Information Type field, select the type of login information (or credentials) that you want to use. It can be a username and password, a one-time password, a certificate, or a smart card if you’re connecting to a VPN at work. Enter your username and password in the appropriate fields (if required).
If you want to edit VPN connection information or define additional settings, such as proxy settings, select the VPN connection and then select Advanced options.
Connect to a VPN
When you have a VPN profile, you can connect.
In Settings, select Network & Internet> VPN.
Next to the VPN connection you want to use, select Connect.
If prompted, enter your username and password or other login details.
Once connected, Connected will be displayed under the name of the VPN connection. To verify that you are connected to a VPN while you are doing activities on your computer, hover over the network icon on the right side of the taskbar, and then check that the VPN connection is showing.
Tip: You can also connect to a VPN using quick settings and the notification area. To add a VPN as a quick setting, select the Network icon on the taskbar, and then select Edit Quick Settings> Add> VPN> Done.
Whether it’s for work or personal use, you can connect to a virtual private network (VPN) on your Windows 10 PC. A VPN connection can help provide a more secure connection and access to your corporate network and the Internet, for example while working in a coffee shop or similar public place.
Look for these features when choosing a VPN service for the best level of online protection as well as the best streaming and gaming experience when your VPN is on.
How to Choose a VPN
When we check a VPN, we look for a few key metrics. First, a VPN service should allow at least five devices to be connected simultaneously. The best services now exceed this requirement with ease. Another question is whether the VPN service allows BitTorrent or P2P traffic on its servers – if you plan on using any of these technologies. Almost VPNs allow them on at least some of their servers, but you don’t want to conflict with the company you pay the monthly fee for.
Speaking of fees, the average cost of the highest rated VPN service is $ 10.21 per month. A VPN service that charges more per month doesn’t necessarily cheat on you, but it should offer something meaningful like a great interface or multiple server locations to sweeten the deal.
You can usually get a discount if you buy long term contracts. For example, the average price for an annual VPN subscription is $ 71.58. However, we recommend that you avoid long commitments until you are sure that you are satisfied with the service. Instead, start with a short-term subscription or, better yet, a free subscription where you can test the VPN in your own home.
It’s also worth knowing where the VPN company is located. Please note that this is not always the physical location of the business, but a legal distinction that determines the jurisdiction in which the business operates. For example, NordVPN is based in Panama and ProtonVPN in Switzerland. Local laws mean that these companies are not required to comply with data retention laws, which would require them to store certain information that could be obtained by law enforcement.
Many readers are concerned about the effect VPNs will have on their internet speeds. At PCMag, we conduct extensive speed tests to determine the fastest VPN. That said, we don’t think speed should be a major factor when choosing a VPN. There are so many differences in performance that the service with the best results today can be very slow tomorrow. We recommend that you test the service on your home network to see how it works – being aware that there will always be a cost of performance that can change overnight.
What About Free VPNs?
Profitable free VPNs are rare, but they do exist. Many VPN services offer a free trial version, but it is usually for a limited time. Others, such as TunnelBear and Hotspot Shield, have completely free versions, but reserve some features for paid users. ProtonVPN is our top choice for free VPNs because it doesn’t place any data restrictions on free users.
Unfortunately, most VPNs are far from being free, but you don’t need to break the bank to protect yourself. After trying the service for a month or two, you can save more by purchasing long-term contracts. Our list of cheap VPNs is a great place to start if you’re short on money.
To get the most out of CyberGhost, sign up for its 2-year plan. This brings the monthly cost down to an almost unbeatable price of 350.25 a month.
Why create your own VPN?
With such a wide variety of VPN services available, setting up your own server can seem like a waste of time. However, the DIY approach has several advantages:
- Less trust points. With a paid VPN service, you delegate all traffic to an external service provider and its cloud or network provider. By setting up your own server, you eliminate the middleman – your data is private between you and the person providing your server.
- Lower cost and fewer restrictions. In exchange for a little bit of setup time and limited to one region, it’s cheap to create your own VPN server. Some cloud service providers even offer full-featured server hosting for free or provide substantial registration credits. If you have a compatible router, it’s free to set up a VPN server on your router.
- Access to the home network. If you set up your VPN server on your home router rather than the cloud, you’ll be able to use your home connection. From printing to your personal printer to accessing files on your NAS, whatever works at home will work when connected to a VPN. You can travel and still have access to your digital assets at home.
- Good learning experience. While you can set up your own VPN with relatively little computer knowledge, the process will introduce you to many of the concepts and technologies that are common in IT.
Are there any disadvantages?
While setting up your own VPN server can be extremely beneficial, there are situations where this idea can be a bad choice:
- If you use a VPN to access region-blocked content around the world. If you’re relying on your VPN provider to have multiple servers available in different countries, your home VPN server is the worse. Commercial VPN operators can pay the cost of running servers in so many places with so many customers.
- If you don’t want to spend time configuring it. While modern tools have made this process easier, there’s no doubt that setting up a VPN isn’t for everyone.
- If you don’t want to be on the hook for safety. Even though today’s automation solutions help, ultimately you are still responsible for securing your server and VPN solution. You need to make informed decisions about security matters.
Setting up your own VPN server
To create your own VPN for personal use, you have a few specific hosting options:
- Run the software on a virtual private cloud server. All cloud service providers, from titans like Amazon Web Services to smaller operations like Vultr, offer cloud-hosted servers called VPS. This approach allows you to select the city from the datacenter where your VPN will be hosted.
- Use the router’s VPN server function. If you have a router with a built-in feature or with the ability to use third-party firmware, all you need is a router. With this approach, you can even access your home network remotely. At the same time, this option is not useful when you are at home.
- Other solutions such as hosting on dedicated physical machines. Enterprises often have dedicated VPN servers on their internal networks to enable employees to work safely from home. For home use, this solution is overkill: your router can do the same. However, you may have a second network that you want to access remotely (for example, remote support at the home of an elderly relative). In that case, you can follow many of the same steps to create a cloud VPN server, but with a spare desktop or single board computer left on 24/7.
In the following sections, you’ll learn how to set up a VPN in the cloud and on your router.
Create your own VPN in the cloud
- Find out which cloud platform you will be using. Since all we need is a Virtual Private Server (VPS), almost any provider will work. We’ll be using the Google Cloud Platform for this guide – it offers $ 300 free trial credit for new customers and some convenient beginner-friendly features. However, almost every step works with AWS, Azure, or any number of smaller vendors.
- Sign up and get the credits you need. For GCP, you will need a valid credit card to certify that you are special, but you will not be charged.
- Open Google Cloud Shell in the top right corner of Cloud Console. You will use Cloud Shell as a remote environment to host your virtual machine.
- Using the Git version control system, download Algo (VPN configuration toolkit) for Cloud Shell. Type “git clone” https://github.com/trailofbits/algo.git and hit Enter. This command takes Algo and unpacks it into a new folder. Use “cd algo” to change the directories where Algo has been downloaded.
- Create a project and service account to accommodate the resources needed for the VPN server by following each of the commands below. Type or paste each of them, then hit Enter:
- PROJECT_ID = $ – algo-vpn
- BILLING_ID = “$ (list of gcloud beta accounts –format =” value (ACCOUNT_ID)”)”