Virtual private networks (VPNs) can provide an extra layer of security and privacy for your online activities. Whether you’re on a public Wi-Fi network and want to avoid prying eyes, or you’re concerned about privacy in general, a VPN can provide many benefits.
In a nutshell, 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, 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 don’t charge you, they can generate revenue in a less desirable way.) In addition, law enforcement can get their hands on your information through the VPN company. For the most part, however, a VPN provides you with a way to hide your online activity from others.
Keep in mind that getting a VPN is just one of the steps you can take to make your web browsing more secure. Others include enabling two-factor authentication and using a password manager.
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. Some even claim they can allow you to jump over firewalls in heavily regulated countries like china.
At home, you can set up your VPN through your router, which takes a few more steps, but then all the devices connected to your router don’t have to be configured individually; this can also slow down all the traffic going through it. For this article, however, we’re going to focus on VPN apps that you can load on your laptop or phone so you can browse the web safely while away from your home base.
Most VPN apps these days support the OpenVPN protocol, making setup easy by giving the app access to configure the settings for you. But whether your device is running macOS, Chrome OS, Windows 10, iOS, or Android, if you want a quick overview of what’s involved before selecting a service, or if you’d rather do a manual setup, we’ve got the steps in clear. instructions for you.
Set up a VPN in Windows 10
The first step is to create a VPN profile, which you fill in with details of your specific VPN service.
- Click the Windows button and then go to “Settings” > “Network & Internet” > “VPN”. Click on “Add a VPN connection”.
- In the fields in the menu, select “Windows (built-in)” for your VPN provider. Name your VPN under ‘Connection Name’. Enter the server name or address, VPN type, and type of login information, such as a username and password.
- Click on ‘Save’.
- To connect to your VPN, go back to “Settings” > “Network & Internet” > “VPN”. Click on your VPN name.
- If you prefer, you can select ‘Advanced options’ to edit connection properties, clear your login information, or set up a VPN proxy. You can also add a username and password in this section for extra security (optional, but recommended).
- Select “Connect” and enter a password if you have one set up.
Set up a VPN in Chrome OS
While using a VPN with a Chromebook used to be a problem, today there are several (such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN) that have versions specific to Chrome OS. To get started, you can go to the Google Play Store and download the VPN app there, or download one from the VPN website. Whichever you choose, after opening your VPN app, it should give you instructions on how to set it up completely.
If you have to do it manually, you can. Chrome has native support for L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. Install a VPN that works with one of these formats:
- Click the time in the lower right corner of your screen, then click “Settings.”
- Click “Add Connection” and then “OpenVPN / L2TP”. (You may also find the name of your VPN in the “Add Connection” list, which makes things easier.)
- Add all necessary information, including server hostname, service name, provider type, pre-shared key, username, and password. You can save your identity and password if you wish. When you’re done, click “Connect”.
Some VPNs, especially those issued from a workplace, require a certificate, which you must import first. As needed:
- Enter chrome://settings/certificates in the address bar.
- 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.
Set up a VPN in macOS
As with the other formats here, there are apps that will automatically guide you through the installation process, but you can also do it manually yourself.
- To get started, go to “System Preferences” and then choose “Network”.
- From there, the process is simple. Click the plus button at the bottom left and use the Interface drop-down menu to choose your VPN. You need the details of your VPN of choice to enter ‘VPN type’ and ‘Service name’.
- Click “Create”. Enter the server address, remote ID, and local ID in the appropriate fields. Then click on ‘Authentication Settings’.
- Enter the username and password for your VPN, which you can set through your VPN app.
- Click “OK” and then “Connect”.
Set up a VPN in iOS
Setting up a VPN on an iOS device is quite simple. Again, if you’re downloading an app from the App Store, select it and it should walk you through the setup. However, you can do it manually as follows:
- Just go to “Settings” and tap “General”.
- Scroll down to select “VPN”. (The iPhone will indicate whether you are currently connected to it or not.)
- Tap “Add VPN Configuration” and then “Type” to select a security protocol. (Follow the instructions of your chosen app.)
- Go back to the “Add config” screen where you add the VPN description, server, remote ID, and local ID.
- Enter your username and password. You can also use a proxy if you want.
- Tap Done. You will then be taken back to the VPN screen. Turn on the “Status” switch.
Set up a VPN in Android
As with iOS, setting up a VPN on an Android device shouldn’t be too difficult. Here’s the manual process if you don’t let an app configure things for you automatically. (Note that because some vendors like Samsung customize their Android versions, your process may vary slightly.)
- Go to “Settings” > “Network & Internet” > “Advanced” > “VPN”. If you don’t see “Network & Internet” in the Settings menu (this may depend on your Android overlay), search VPN Settings. Press the “Add” button.
- If you happen to set this up on a new phone, or if you haven’t set a screen lock or password yet, Google will ask you to set one up for your phone first. To do.
- Create your VPN profile now. Add the VPN name, type, and server address. Click on “Save”.
- You will be returned to the VPN screen, where you should now see the name of your VPN. Tap it and enter your name and password for the VPN. You can also choose to save your account information and you can optionally set the VPN to be always on. When you’re done, tap Connect.
- Enter the VPN name, type, server address, username and password.
- Then tap ‘save’. You are done!
Once you get your VPN up and running, you may notice that 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 can slow down to snail speed, and your League of Legends screen lag can be absurd. But those aren’t major issues compared to the security you’ve added.
Anyway, now that you know how to set up a VPN, it’s comparatively easy to disable it. You just have to think about doing it.
Update June 1, 2021, 10:20 AM ET: This article was originally published on March 1, 2019 and now includes a few updates regarding changes to the Windows 10 interface.