How to set up a VPN

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Virtual private networks (VPNs) give computer users a wide range of capabilities and benefits. For starters, VPNs allow you to securely connect to remote networks through the internet, grant secure connections of multiple networks, and help boost your online security and privacy.

There are multiple methods for setting up a VPN, but the simplest is to the tools provided by your operating system of choice. But take note: You may need to consult your VPN provider for specific settings, and you’ll need to know your username and password to authenticate. In addition, you’ll have to repeat these instructions for each new server you connect to, while your third-party VPN client will make this easier. Most people will just have one or two servers, but business people could potentially spend quite a bit of time building out a robust list of servers. 

With all that all the way, we’ll be leading you through the instructions in both MacOS and Windows 10, step by step.

Setting up a virtual private network in Windows

Confusingly, Windows 10 ships with two different VPN configuration wizards. The newer wizard is found in Windows 10’s Settings menu, while the older way to configure a VPN can be accessed through the Windows Control Panel. If you want to see the newer Windows 10 wizard, just type “VPN” into the Cortana search bar. Although you can begin setting up an IKEv2 connection through the new Windows 10 wizard, you’ll likely still need to complete the configuration through Windows Control Panel. For this reason, and for greater compatibility for users across all versions of Windows, we’ll use the Control Panel method in our instructions below. 

Step 1. Launch “Control Panel.” You can navigate to Control Panel in any number of ways, but the easiest way is to type in Control Panel into the Cortana search bar at the lower left hand corner of your screen.

Step 2. Click on “Network and Internet” and then “Network and Sharing Center.”

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Step 3. Under the “Change your network settings header,” you’ll want to click on “Setup a new connection or network.”

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Step 4. A wizard will appear to guide you through the setup. Click on the last option to “Connect to a workplace,” which will allow you to enter the settings from your VPN provider in the following steps. Then, click “Next” to continue, followed by “Use my internet connection (VPN)” in the next prompt.

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Step 5: In this step, you’ll be able to enter in the VPN settings. In the “Internet address” field, you’ll want to consult with your VPN provider to get the server information. Generally, choose the server in your country or one that’s closest to you to get the fastest connection speeds. Alternatively, if you’re trying to mask your location when trying to access region-restricted content, like a foreign country’s Netflix catalog, you can also choose a server in the country where you want to access. Your VPN provider will have a list of available servers for you to choose from.

In this example, we’re going to choose a US server from NordVPN. NordVPN publishes their list of available servers, and we chose the United States #2093 server. The internet address for this server is located at “us2093.nordvpn.com,” and that’s what we’re going to type into the field.

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In the “Destination name” field, you can name your VPN connection anything you want. This is where the limitation of setting up a VPN through the built-in Windows client comes into play. Whereas NordVPN’s app allows you to jump between servers, you’ll only be able to connect to a single server at a time with Windows. It’s recommended that the Destination name is specific to avoid confusion in the future. I’m calling this connection “NordVPN USA 2093.” If I want to connect to a NordVPN server in Australia or the UK in the future, for example, I’ll have to setup new VPN connections to servers in those countries, and giving the VPN connection a specific name will minimize confusion down the road when choosing which server to connect.

You’ll want to make sure that the box for “Remember my credentials” is checked if you don’t want to enter your login information every time you connect to the VPN. And depending on how you use and share your computer, you can also check the box “Allow other people to use this connection”. Click on the “Create” button when you’re done.

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Step 6: With an IKEv2 connection, you’ll need to install a certificate. If this is supported, your VPN provider will tell you where to go to download and install the certificate. For NordVPN, you’ll want to download the file from its site. Save the certificate and then open it after the download is complete. A security warning will popup, and you’ll click Open.

Step 7: In the first tab of the certificate labeled “General,” you’ll click “Install Certificate” located near the bottom.

Step 8: The certificate wizard will appear asking you where you want to install the certificate. Make sure the bubble next to “Local machine” is selected. Click “Next” and then click “Yes” in the next security popup.

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Step 9: In this step, you’ll want to choose the location where you want your certificate placed. Choose the bubble for “Place all certificates in the following store” and then click “Browse.”

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Step 10: A pop up with a directory will appear. Choose “Trusted Root Certificates Authorities” and click “OK.”

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Step 11: Click “Next” and then click “Finish.” Click “OK” and then click “OK” again to confirm that the certificate has been installed.

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Step 12: Now, you’ll want to go back to the “Network and sharing center” again. Click on “Change adapter settings” on the left-hand column.

Step 13: Right-click on the VPN that you’ve just created and select “Properties.” Then click on the “Security” tab.

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Step 14: Choose “IKEv2″ under the “Type of VPN.” Under “Data encryption,” make sure that “Require encryption (disconnect if server declines)” is chosen. Under “Authentication,” choose “Use Extensive Authentication Protocol (EAP)” and select “Microsoft: Secured password EAP-MSCHAPv2.” Click “OK” when done.

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Step 15: Now, you’re ready to connect. Click on the Wi-Fi symbol on the right-hand side of the Windows taskbar. At the top, you should see your VPN name. Click on it, and then select “Connect.” You’ll be asked for your username and password, and then you’re on your way to a more secure internet experience.

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