Virtual private networks (VPNs) can offer an additional layer of security and privacy. Whether you’re working on a public Wi-Fi network and want to escape prying eyes, or you’re worried about privacy in general, a VPN can offer a lot of benefits.
In a nutshell, a VPN establishes a secure, encrypted connection between your device and a private server, hiding your traffic from being seen by others. Of course, the VPN itself can still see your traffic, which is why you should choose a VPN from a company you trust. (A good rule of thumb is to avoid free VPNs, because if they’re not charging you a fee, they may be monetizing in some less desirable way.) In addition, law enforcement can get its hands on your information through the VPN company. However, for the most part, a VPN offers you a way to hide your online activity from others.
In addition to their 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 possibly allow you to jump firewalls in heavily regulated countries such as China, although that is becoming difficult.
In addition to their security benefits, VPNs can come in handy when you’re trying to access sensitive information
At home, you can set up your VPN through your router, which takes slightly more steps but means that any devices connected to your router won’t need individual configuration; it can also slow down all traffic that goes through. However, for this article, we’re going to concentrate on VPN apps that you can load on your laptop or phone, so that you can use the internet safely away from your home base.
Most VPN apps these days support the OpenVPN protocol, making setup a simple matter of allowing the app access to configure the settings for you. (Stay tuned for our guide to the best services to try out.) But whether your device uses MacOS, Chrome OS, Windows 10, iOS, or Android, if you’d like to get a quick overview of what’s involved before selecting a service, or prefer to do a manual setup, we’ve broken down the steps into straightforward instructions for you.
Setting up a VPN in Windows 10
The first step is to create a VPN profile which you’ll fill this out with details from your particular VPN service.
- Click on the Windows button, then head into Settings > Network & Internet > VPN. Click on Add a VPN connection.
- In the fields on the page, select Windows (built-in) for your VPN provider. Give your VPN a name under Connection name. Enter the server name or address, the VPN type, and the type of sign-in info.
- Add a user name and password for extra security (this is optional, but recommended). You can choose to have the computer remember your sign-in info.
- Click Save
- To connect to your VPN, go back to Settings > Network & Internet > VPN. Click on your VPN name.
- If you want, at this point you can select Advanced Options to edit the connection properties, clear your sign-in info, or set up a VPN proxy.
- Select Connect and enter a password if you’ve set one.
Setting up a VPN in Chrome OS
To get set up with a VPN in Chrome OS, you can head into the Chrome Web Store to find a extension for your VPN of choice, go to Google Play store (if your Chromebook is set up for it) and get a VPN app from there, or download one from a VPN’s site. Either way, your VPN app should prompt you with instructions on how to fully set it up.
If you need to do it manually, you can. Chrome has native support for L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. To install a VPN that works with one of these formats:
- Click on the time in the lower right corner of your screen, and click on Settings.
- Click on Add connection and then on OpenVPN / L2TP
- Add all the information necessary, which may include server hostname, service name, provider type, pre-shared key, username and password. You can save your identity and password if you want. Click on Connect.
Some VPNs, especially those issued from a workplace, demand a certificate, which you will need to import first. If that’s something that’s required:
- Head into chrome://settings/certificates
- Go to the Authorities tab. Find the correct certificate in the list and click Import.
- Then follow the above instructions for setting up the VPN.
Setting up a VPN in macOS
As with the other formats here, there are apps that help you through the setup process automatically, but you can also do it yourself manually.
- To start, head into System Preferences and then dive into Network.
- From there, the process is straightforward. Click the Plus symbol button on the bottom left, and use the Interface drop-down menu to choose VPN. You’ll need the details from your VPN of choice to fill out the VPN Type and Service Name.
- Click on the Create button. Fill out the server address, remote ID and local ID in the appropriate fields. Click on Authentication Settings.
- Enter the username and password for your VPN, which you can set through your VPN app.
- Click OK and Connect.
Setting up a VPN in iOS
Setting up a VPN on an iOS device is fairly simple. Again, if you download an app from the App Store, it should automatically configure settings for you. Here’s how to do it manually, though:
- Just head into Settings and tap on General.
- Scroll down to select VPN (the iPhone will say whether you are currently connected to one or not).
- Tap on Add VPN Configuration and then on Type to select a security protocol. (Follow the instructions provided by your chosen app).
- Go back to the Add Configuration screen, where you will add the VPN’s description, server, remote ID and local ID.
- Enter your username and password. You can also use a proxy if you want to.
- Tap Done You will then be brought back to the VPN screen. Toggle the Status switch to on.
Setting up a VPN in Android
Like iOS, setting up a VPN on an Android device shouldn’t be too difficult. Here’s the manual process if you’re not letting an app automatically configure things for you. (Keep in mind that, because some vendors tweak their Android versions, your process may vary slightly.)
- Head into Settings > Network & Internet > Advanced > VPN (you should see a little key icon). If you don’t see Network & Internet in the Settings menu (which may happen depending on your Android overlay), then do a search within Settings for VPN. Press the Add button.
- If you happen to be setting this up on a new phone, or if you haven’t yet set a screen lock or password, Google will prompt you to first set one for your phone. Do so.
- Now create your VPN profile. Add the VPN name, type, and Server address. Click on Save.
- You’ll be taken back to the VPN screen, where you should now see the name of your VPN. Tap on it, and put in your name and password. You can also choose to save your account information, and you can make the VPN always on. Click on Connect.
- Enter the VPN name, type, server address, username, and password.
- Then, save. You’re done!
Once you’ve got your VPN up and running, you might notice web browsing isn’t as fast as it used to be, especially if you’ve configured traffic to go through another country. Stronger encryption, or more users connected to one VPN, can also slow down your internet speeds. Downloads might slow to snail speed and your League of Legends screen lag might be absurd. But that’s not a big problem compared to the security that you’ve added.
And anyway, now that you know how to set up a VPN, toggling it off is easy in comparison. You just have to remember to do it.
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