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VPN 101: How to Set up a VPN Step by Step

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Two ethernet cords with lockAre you looking for better methods to secure your online privacy? Have you read about virtual private networks (VPN) — one of the best ways to ensure your confidentiality online? Understanding VPNs, how they work and how to set them up is confusing, for sure. Here, we’ll give you a rundown of how to setup a VPN step by step, whether you’re using your PC, mobile device or your home server.

What Is a VPN Connection?

Think of a VPN as an invisible cloak that masks your online location. A VPN connection reroutes your internet traffic through a remote server or computer to hide your traffic from local networks. This makes it much harder for intruders to gain access to your private information. Most people use a VPN for security purposes, but some use a VPN to unlock geographically restricted services. For example, if you’re in a country that restricts Netflix, you can use a VPN to reroute your internet connection to a U.S. server to access these restricted sites.

There are several types of VPN protocols, including PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, and that most computers and mobile devices support. What do these terms mean? VPN lingo can be confusing, so be sure to refer to our terminology page if you need help understanding terms. And check out the video below to better grasp the VPN concept.

How to Setup a VPN Step by Step

We’ve included information on how to setup a VPN step by step for the following devices. Click on the device type to jump to those specific instructions.

Mac | Windows | Android | iPhone or iPad | Home Server

How to Setup a VPN on Mac

To connect to a VPN, you must enter VPN configuration settings into your Network preferences. These settings include the VPN server address, account name, and authentication settings, which typically include a password or a certificate you received from the network administrator or VPN service provider. Follow these VPN setup steps from the Apple menu:

  1. Choose System Preferences, then click Network.
  2. Click Add (+) at the bottom of the network connection services list.
  3. Choose VPN from the pop-up menu.
  4. Choose the type of VPN connection you want to set up from the VPN Type pop-up menu and give your VPN service a name.
  5. Enter the server address and the account name.
  6. Click Authentication Settings, and then enter the user authentication information.
  7. Click OK, and then click Connect.

To switch between VPN services, all you have to do is select “Show VPN status in menu bar” to use the VPN status icon. To remove the VPN configuration, simply select the VPN network connection service in the list and click Delete (-).

Screenshot of VPN settings on Mac

How to Setup a VPN on Windows

The first thing you need to do is create a VPN profile on your Windows PC before you can connect to a VPN. Follow these steps to create a profile. If you already have a VPN profile on your PC, skip to the Connect to a VPN section.

Create a VPN Profile on Windows

Creating a VPN profile in Windows is pretty straightforward:

  1. Click the Start button, then select Settings  > Network & Internet  > VPN > Add a VPN connection.
  2. In Add a VPN connection, do the following:
    • For VPN provider, choose Windows (built-in) and create a profile name. Then type the address for the VPN server.
    • For VPN type, choose the type of VPN connection you wish to use.
    • For Type of sign-in info, choose the type of sign-in info you’ll be using (typically a user name and password or certificate). You can type in your user name and password now, but it’s optional.
  3. Click Save.

Tip: To edit the VPN connection information or add additional settings, such as proxy settings, choose the VPN connection and select Advanced options.

Connect to a VPN on Windows

Once you have a VPN profile, you’re all ready to connect.

  1. Click on the Network icon, located on the far right of the taskbar.
  2. Select the VPN connection you wish to use. Depending on what opens, do one of the following:
    • If the Connect button displays under the VPN connection, click Connect.
    • If VPN in Settings opens, select the VPN connection there, then click Connect.
  3. Type your user name and password (or other sign-in info) if prompted. You’ll know you’re connected when the VPN connection name displays Connected underneath it.

Screenshot of setting up a VPN in Windows

How to Setup A VPN On Android

Android devices support PPTP, L2TP and IPsec protocols. To set up your Android device, follow these steps, starting from the Android settings app.

  1. Go to the Wireless & Networks section and select More.
  2. Select VPN.
  3. Tap the + sign in the top-right corner.
  4. Select your desired protocol and enter all the VPN configuration information you’ve received from your network administrator or VPN service provider.
  5. Tap on Save.
  6. Connect by returning to the VPN settings and selecting your VPN. Enter your username and password.

Tip: You can tap the 3-dot menu button to set your VPN to stay connected all the time.

Screenshot of setting up a VPN on Android

How to Setup A VPN On iPhone or iPad

How do you manually setup a VPN configuration on your iPhone or iPad? Apple makes it pretty easy to set up a VPN client that supports L2TP, PPTP, and IPSec. All you need is your login information on-hand and to follow these steps.

  1. Choose Settings from your home screen.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on VPN.
  4. Tap Add VPN Configuration.
  5. Tap Type and select the VPN protocol type you wish to use.
  6. Tap Add Configuration in the upper left corner of the screen.
  7. Enter VPN settings information, including description, server, and remote ID.
  8. Enter your username (or certificate), and password.
  9. If you use a proxy, enable it by tapping Manual or Auto.
  10. Tap Done.
  11. Toggle the status switch to “on” under VPN Configurations.

Screenshot of VPN settings on iOS

How to Setup A VPN Server at Home

You also have the option of setting up a VPN on your home internet server. First, you need to be aware that your home connection’s upload speed matters. Internet service providers typically offer far less upload bandwidth than they do download bandwidth. So, if your upload bandwidth is limited, you’ll likely want to use a paid VPN service because they will max out what little juice your connection has to offer (whereas a free VPN service, may, like a free website host, deliver speeds that are so slow they will choke on a slow connection).

Using a pre-built home router that comes with a built-in VPN server is the best solution, compared to setting up a VPN yourself. Look for a wireless router that advertises VPN server support, which allows you to use your router’s web interface to setup a VPN configuration. With that said, you need to research routers that support the VPN protocol you want to use.

Don’t Want to Go It Alone?

Setting up a VPN the native way isn’t easy, and you’re not assured of the highest level of security. We encourage you to invest in a VPN service that automates the process for you, monitors your security and has your back. Be sure to read our reviews of the best VPN services. Their prices are surprisingly affordable, and these services can make your online privacy easier to manage.

What VPN services would you recommend and why?

Sally is a passionate writer but her interests do not stop there. She spends a lot of time daydreaming about the beach, however, she spends most of her time taking advantage of all the activities her town has to offer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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3 Comments on "VPN 101: How to Set up a VPN Step by Step"

avatar
Benji
Benji

You mention setting up a VPN at home but why would I need this? I think I can trust my own family, right?

Sadie Cornelius
Admin
Sadie Cornelius

Benji, hopefully you can trust your family, it’s the rest of the world who we have less faith in. Some internet service providers want to your browsing data to sell to advertisers and until there are laws that prohibit that, you might want to consider masking your online whereabouts.

Pete
Pete

Very useful thank yoU!

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