Business or pleasure? Streaming entertainment or accessing work files?
No matter the reason you’re online, it’s always a smart idea to take that extra step to ensure you’re browsing securely. In most cases, that extra step looks like setting up a virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN.
A VPN works by creating a secure connection to another network over the internet which allows you to safely send and receive data over shared or public networks, no matter your device. This provides users with enhanced privacy and anonymity as they browse the web.
When you use a VPN, all your internet traffic, like which website you’re using and how you navigate throughout the website, is redirected through a configured remote server. Then, your VPN will hide your IP address and encrypt your data, keeping it safe from hackers or prying eyes. If someone were to try and intercept your data, it would be unreadable.
If a VPN is something you want to start using, instead of something like a proxy server, then you should know how to set up a VPN correctly.
How to set up a VPN
There’s no denying that a VPN is an essential tool to use when you’re looking to keep your personal information secure. But the act of actually setting one up is going to depend on if you use quick connect or you set up a VPN at home manually. And, of course, which device you're using.
Option 1: Set up a VPN through quick connect
Most VPN providers offer a quick connect button when setting up. You’ll want to choose this option if you don’t mind which server it’s connected to. Once that’s selected, give the VPN a minute or two to load, and then you’ll be connected to the fastest server available at that time.
Choosing a server is going to depend on what you’re looking to accomplish. For fast speeds when browsing, you’ll want to choose the server that’s nearby. However, if you’re looking to bypass government censorship, choose a server in a different country.
If the main reason why you’re using a VPN is to appear as if you’re in a different country, then you’ll need to choose a specific server.
To do this, go back to the website of the VPN provider you chose to use and have a look at their list of countries that they have servers in. Then, select the best one for your needs.
You will then be prompted to click the Connect button. Once you do, you’ll see a notification appear that says your VPN has been successfully connected.
Option 2: Set up a VPN manually
If quick connect isn’t how you’d like to go about things, you can manually set up your VPN at home. This option allows you to have more control over specific settings, like which server the VPN connects to. The actual steps in doing so are going to depend on which device you’re using.
Note: The exact steps for finding your VPN server addresses and other information may differ depending on the VPN provider you choose. These basic instructions will be similar for most VPN services and devices.
How to set up a VPN on a Mac
Let’s start with how to set up a VPN on your Mac.
On your Mac, click the Apple menu icon in the top left corner of the taskbar.
Choose System Preferences from the drop-down menu, and then select Network from the third-row.
Click the “add button” (+) on the bottom left side of the screen.
From the Interface dropdown menu, select VPN.
From the VPN type dropdown menu, choose the kind of VPN you will be setting up.
In the box labeled Service Name, give your VPN a name, and then click Create.
Next, enter the server address and account name. This is sometimes referred to as a “username” by the VPN provider.
Next, click on Authentication Settings and enter that information that was provided by the network’s administrator about authentication.
If specified by the network’s administrator, click Advanced to enter other information such as the session options and DNS servers.
Click Apply and then Connect.
Once this is complete, you can select “show VPN status in menu bar”. This allows you to use the VPN status icon to connect to the network and switch between VPN services.
How to set up a VPN on iOS
Whether you’re setting up a VPN on an iPhone or iPad, below are the steps when using Apple products.
Setting up a VPN app
Download and install the VPN app of your choice from the App Store
Open the app and follow any on-screen setup procedures when prompted. For example, you may need to add a configuration file or grant special permissions.
Launch the app. If this is the first time using it, you’ll be prompted to sign up to enter new login credentials.
Select the VPN server you’d like to connect to, or if it’s available, select the quick connect option.
Manually setting up a VPN onto iOS
From the Settings app, scroll and tap General.
Scroll and tap VPN and then choose Add VPN Configuration.
Choose the type and select one of the VPN tunneling protocols.
Go back to the previous screen and fill in the server details. This will include information like a description, the server, account, remote ID, and user authentication.
Tip: The description is the name of the VPN service you’ve chosen. The server will either be an IP address or a domain name. The remote ID will be a hostname.
Tap Done when finished setting up the VPN.
To enable the VPN connection, go back into your Settings app, and tap back into General.
Under VPN make sure the status is toggled to “On”.
How to set up a VPN on Windows 10
If you’re a Windows user, this is for you.
Select the Start button, then navigate to Settings.
From there, choose Network & Internet. Then select VPN and Add a VPN Connection.
In Add a VPN Connection, you’ll enter the following information: a. VPN provider: Choose Windows (built-in). b. Connection name: Enter a name you’ll recognize. For example, I’d name mine Mara’s VPN. c. Server name: Enter the IP address or URL for the VPN server. d. VPN type: Choose the type of VPN connection that your provider suggests, or select Automatic if you’re not sure. e. Type of sign-in info: Select the option required by the VPN service provider. This will either be a username and password, a one-time password, a certificate you received upon your download, or a smart card if you’re using a VPN for work.
Connecting to the VPN on Windows
Once you have the VPN profile setup, you can connect and start browsing safely.
Navigate to the far-right taskbar and select the Network icon.
Choose the VPN connection you’ll be using.
Then, do either of the two: a. If the Connect button displays under the VPN connection, choose Connect. b. If the VPN section in Settings opens, select the VPN to connect, and choose Connect.
If prompted, enter the username and password or other sign-in information to connect.
When the connection is complete, the VPN connection name will display Connected under Network in the taskbar.
How to set up a VPN on Windows 7
If you’re not using Windows 10 yet, here’s how to set up a VPN.
Click the Start button. In the search bar, type VPN and select Set up a virtual private network connection.
Enter the IP address or domain name of the server you’d like to connect to. Click Next.
Enter your username and password. Click Connect.
To connect, click on the Windows network logo in the bottom right of your screen. Then click Connect under VPN Connection.
How to set up a VPN on Android
For those who are privy to Android smartphones, here’s how to make sure they’re secure.
Open Settings and tap on WiFi & Internet (this may also be referred to as Wireless & Networks depending on the device).
Choose VPN. If you don’t see this, select the drop-down titled Advanced.
In the upper right corner, select the plus (+) sign. If you don’t see one, open the Advanced options menu by tapping on the three vertical dots.
Enter the necessary information needed for the VPN profile, like the server address, VPN name, and VPN type. Tap Save.
From the VPN screen, tap the name of the VPN at the top of the screen. Enter your name and password. Click Connect.
Enter the VPN name, type, server address, and password.
How to set up a VPN on Chromebook
When setting up a VPN on your Chromebook, you’ll need to head into the Chrome Web Store to find the extension of your VPN of choice, or go to the Google Play Store and get the app from there.
You can also download one from the VPN provider’s website. You’ll then be prompted to install the VPN.
Click the time in the lower right-hand corner of the screen and then select Settings.
Choose Add connection and then click the name of your VPN.
Enter the necessary information, like service name, provider type, username, and password.
The area is secure
No matter which VPN you decide to use or which device you set it up on, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you were proactive in protecting your data. You can now browse the web without the fear of big brother watching.
If you're primarily working from home for the first time and need more remote work software solutions, check out our guide to help you crush your goals.
Mara is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2. In her spare time, she's typically at the gym polishing off a run, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, going on walks with her rescue dog Zeke, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable. (she/her/hers)