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Users of Windows Vista, 7 and 8 will have different experiences when setting up VPNs and connecting. If you’ve just upgraded to a newer Windows version, you may have to make a few adjustments. Don’t give up and stop using your VPN if it doesn’t work properly at first. Having your VPN protect you is very important.
Many VPN users routinely connect to the Internet on WiFi hotspots and other unsecure networks. The VPN protects you from hackers and snoopers. If you are setting up VPN access to connect to the office network remotely, you really can’t give it up. And you should be setting up VPN access for personal use as well, since personal data security is also essential. Make sure both connections are working properly on your new OS.
Setting up VPNs on Windows XP, Vista and 7
For personal use, there are several VPN providers that offer simple apps that are very easy to install and use. They use the built-in Windows VPN solutions and OpenVPN client that works well for XP, Vista, and Windows 7. These are the easiest solutions to setting up VPNs, especially for people on the go who can’t be bothered with manual setups.
Some providers offer OpenVPN as a default, and users might want to switch to SSTP. This is necessary if you don’t have administrator permissions on Windows Vista and Windows 7. After downloading and extracting the file from your VPN provider, a pop-up will appear for server and connection options on setting up VPN connections. You can set it to work for your profile, or for any user. Once these settings are adjusted, the VPN should connect when the application is opened.
For Windows XP users, you used to be able to connect via L2TP. You can now use OpenVPN as well, but here’s how to use L2TP if you prefer it. Open up the Properties on the Network Connection and click the Settings button on the Security tab. See that the Microsoft CHAP Version 2 (MS-CHAP v2) box is checked and click “OK”. Then open IPSec Settings and enter your key. When prompted for a username and password, enter them and your connection will start. The next time you open the VPN app, it should start automatically. If you don’t need to bypass Internet restrictions, the PPTP setup is much simpler. Just open the app and check that PPTP is selected and you’re good to go. In some cases you might need to reenter the key and user credentials, then it’s done.
Setting up VPNs on Windows 8
Windows 8 is a slightly different animal. It has basically the same architecture as Windows 7, but causes some problems for setting up VPNs. For now, most providers don’t support Windows 8 because they are still making adjustments for the new touch based ‘Modern’ interface. You can wait for the app upgrade, or you can get an OpenVPN client until they have the app for you. Some manual configuration is necessary here for setting up VPN connections, though.
For those who aren’t keen on going through a lot of manual steps for setting up VPNs, you can set up PPTP for a work connection on Windows 8 fairly easily. PPTP is not as secure as other protocols, but it should work as a stop-gap measure. This is the easiest way of setting up VPN on Windows 8. In the Control Panel, click on “View Network Status and tasks”. Then click on “Set up a new connection or Network” and “Connect to a workplace”. Choose “Use my Internet connection (VPN)” and enter the Internet address given by your VPN provider. Check that your credentials are properly entered and check the ‘Remember my credentials’ box. This will make setting up VPNs a one-time process and allow you to connect immediately the next time you open the app. Click ‘Create’ and you’re done and can connect through the Network Icon in the Task Bar. After entering your username and password, you can connect.
If you need tighter security, you can opt for L2TP/IPSec on Windows 8. L2TP/IPSec is also standard for setting up VPNs on Windows, but has a few additional steps. When you click on the Network Icon in the Task Bar, right click on the newly created connection and open the Properties. On the Security tab, open the “Type of VPN” dropdown menu and select L2TP/IPSec. Click on “Advanced Settings”, check the “Use pre-shared key for authentication” box, and enter your key. Click OK and double check the security settings. If your VPN provider does not have settings for Windows 8, you can try the ones given for Windows 7. On the Networking tab, disable everything except TCP/IPv6 and File Printer and Sharing if prompted. Click OK and you can enter your username and password to connect.
As always, if you are still having trouble setting up VPN connections, contact IT for support on a work VPN or contact your VPN provider to help you work out the Windows 8 connection kinks. Windows 8 is still very new and not without its quirks, so there may still also be some server configuration that needs to be done. Your feedback is important to get the settings right, so don’t give up until you’ve worked with them on it.