What is VPN and how to use it

You’ve probably heard of VPN, or at least seen it in your phone settings screen. What does it actually stand for, and why is it useful? Below, we’ll look at what VPN is and how it helps to protect your privacy. In fact, I’ll show you why it’s as essential to your digital hygiene as flossing is to dental!

What is VPN?

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. It creates a private encrypted channel in your current network. Your data passing through a virtual private network can’t be eavesdropped by anyone on the same network.

You probably know that public WiFi is inherently insecure. It’s convenient to connect to the open WiFi in Starbucks, but you’ll never know who is monitoring your internet usage. It’s not just monitoring either. A potential hacker can intercept your passwords and credit card data. All it takes is to be connected to the same network. Nor does he have to be sitting next to you. An attacker can capture your internet traffic by infecting the router or any other device in the network. A computer infected with a virus can monitor all internet traffic in the network. The laptop two tables over might be eavesdropping your data without the owner even knowing.

A VPN shields you from being spied upon. When using VPN, all your data is encrypted and sent to the VPN server through a secure channel. Whoever is monitoring your traffic can only see am encrypted connection to some random server. They won’t be able to see which websites you visit, what applications you use, or who you are chatting with.

VPN has a second “superpower” too. It can hide your location. When connected to VPN, all your requests reach their final destination through their servers. This lets you use geo-restricted services anywhere in the world. The service won’t know you are not actually in USA, UK, or any other country. They will only see the VPN server’s IP address, which is physically located in said country. You’ll be able to access your domestic Netflix content when travelling or view BBC iPlayer outside the United Kingdom. It also works the other way around. You can use a VPN to access the service, if Hulu/Netflix or Amazon Prime Video are unavailable or limited in your country. VPN can do this for every geo-restricted service; it’s not limited to video streaming.

How to get a VPN?

One way to get a VPN is to set it up at your home. This makes all your traffic go through your home server, no matter where you connect. That said, most of us don’t probably have server at home nor the know-how to set up a private VPN service. That’s usually what companies do to protect their sensitive data.

As a private person, the easiest way to get access to a VPN is through a service provider. It’s important to note that a VPN service always comes with a fee. Never trust a free VPN service. I told you that people on your network can’t eavesdrop your communications when using a VPN. While that’s true, the VPN service provider could. A paid VPN service from a trusted vendor comes with a strict privacy policy. You can be sure they’re not stealing your data.

Free VPN services only exist to steal your personal information. VPN servers are not cheap to maintain. The owner has to make back the costs (and make a profit) somehow. With a legit VPN provider, their profit comes from your payment. With a free VPN service, their profit comes for stealing and selling your data. Many service providers have free trials or bandwidth-limited packages. These are not scams, but are set up to convert you into a paying customer. It makes sense to choose an affordable and good VPN service provider to begin with.

We recommend you use PureVPN as your VPN provider. They have years of experience providing VPN service, are affordable, and have great customer support. Furthermore, they have servers in 141 countries, including US, UK, and all EU member states. You can be sure your data is protected with PureVPN. Their packages start at $2.95 a month for a 2-year package, which is the cheapest quality VPN I’m aware of. You can find more information here.

How to use VPN on Windows

The easiest way to connect to the PureVPN virtual private network is through their Windows application. All you have to do is download the application and log in. Then you can choose the country you want to appear to be from.

You can still use VPN if you decide to use another service provider or don’t want to install the application; it’s just a bit harder to set up. All Windows versions, starting from Vista, have a built-in VPN client. You can connect to VPN without having to download anything if you are using Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10.

To connect to a VPN server, you first have to create a VPN profile. You can do that by clicking the start menu and selecting Settings > Network & Internet > VPN > Add a VPN connection.

Complete the form with following values:

VPN provider” – choose “Windows built in”.

Connection name” – choose a name for your VPN connection. For example, “My secure connection”.

Server name or address” – this is the IP address of your VPN server. You will get that from your VPN service provider. If you don’t have a VPN service provider yet, see why we recommend PureVPN above.

VPN type” – choose Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).

You’ll get the “Username” and “Password” from your VPN service provider. Don’t forget to tick “Remember my sign in info”, or you’ll have to insert them every time you log in. Then submit the form.

Next, choose the “My secure connection” (or whatever you decided to name the connection) from the list and click “Connect”. In a few moments you’ll be browsing the internet through your VPN. You can connect to VPN from the same location next time.

How to use VPN on Mac

The easiest way to use PureVPN on Mac is with their application. After logging in, all you have to do is select the country you want to appear from.

You are not limited to PureVPN’s application. You can use any service provider with the OSX built-in VPN client. Configuring the built-in VPN client is a bit more complicated on Mac than Windows. That said, it’s not rocket science. Just follow the steps below and you’ll have no problem whatsoever.

First, you have to open the Preferences application. If you don’t have System Preferences on the dock, press command + space to open Spotlight Search. Type in “System” and it will automatically recommend the System Preferences application. Open it by clicking on it or pressing enter.

Once you are in the Preferences, choose “Internet & Wireless”, subcategory “Network”. You’ll see a list of all networks you’ve connected to or to which you can connect. There is a “+” button at the lower bottom edge of the list. Click it, and a window in a form will open.

Set the value of “Interface” to VPN. A new field, “VPN type”, will appear. Choose “L2TP over IPSec” and set the service name to whatever you like. I recommend “My secure connection”, but it can literally be anything. Then press “Create”.

Another form will appear. Type the IP address of your VPN in the “Server address” field. The address will be given to you by the service provider. You will also get a username and password from the provider. Type the username in the “Account name” field and press “Authenticate Settings”. A new form will appear.

Type your password to the “Password” field. A “Shared secret” is another thing the service provider will give you. For example, the shared secret for PureVPN is “12345678”.

That concludes setting up the VPN connection. All that’s left is to activate it and make your internet experience is secure. For that select “Advanced” and check “Send all traffic over VPN connection”. Then click “Apply”. That’s it! If you inserted everything correctly, you’ve set up a VPN tunnel on your Mac.

How to use VPN on Android

PureVPN also has an application for Android. The easiest way to use VPN on your smartphone or tablet is to download their application from Google Play. Once downloaded, you just have to log in to your PureVPN account. You can use PureVPN on all of your devices.

Modern Androids have a built in VPN client. This lets you use any service provider or even PureVPN without the application. To set up a VPN tunnel, open the Settings application. Choose Wireless and networks” and “VPN”. The VPN option might not be visible by default. If you can’t find it, click “More” to reveal the hidden network options.

Once in the VPN menu, click on the “+” button to create a new profile. Fill the form with the following values:

Name” – Name of your VPN profile, such as “My secure connection”

Type” – PPTP

Server address” – The address of your VPN server. You will get this from the service provider.

Tick the “PPP Encryption” checkbox and click “Save”.

You’ll find the newly created VPN profile in the list. Tap on “My secure connection” or whatever you named the tunnel. A username and password prompt will open. Your service provider will provide you with a username and password. Type them in the correct fields. Don’t forget to check “Save account information”, unless you want to type the username and password every time you connect. If you check “Always-on VPN”, this makes your device always use the VPN, and you won’t need to connect manually, even after restarting.

How to use VPN on iOS

It probably won’t come as a surprise that PureVPN also has an iOS application. This is by far the simplest way to connect to VPN using an iPhone or iPad – all you need to do is type in your username and password. PureVPN will even give you 2 GB of free bandwidth to try the service on iOS. The bandwidth is unlimited on full service.

iOS also has a built in VPN client. You can use it to connect to other VPN providers, or if you don’t like the PureVPN application.

To set up a VPN connection on iOS, open the “Settings” application and select “General”. Then tap on “VPN” and select “Add VPN Configuration”. A form will open. Fill it in as follows:

Set the “Type” to “L2TP”.

Description” is the name of your VPN connection. It can be anything, such as “My secure connection”.

Server” is the address of your VPN server. You’ll get it from your service provider.

Account” is the username provided by the service provider.

Password” is the password, once again given by your service provider.

Secret” is your VPN provider’s shared password. For example, it’s “12345678” in the case of PureVPN.

Check the “Send all traffic” checkbox to have all your internet traffic directed through the newly configured VPN. A new button will appear in the network section of the settings. The button will let you activate and deactivate the VPN tunnel. It works exactly the same as activating and deactivating WiFi or Flight Mode.

Conclusion

You can make practically any internet-connected device use a virtual private network. VPN protects your internet traffic and identity from eavesdropping. A VPN tunnel is essential to using public WiFI networks safely, and it can also help you mask your location. VPN lets you use any geo-restricted service no matter where you are located.

We recommend you use a trustworthy VPN service provider like PureVPN. PureVPN has a server in almost every country of the world, which helps you use any service anywhere. The best part is that it costs less than a cup of coffee a month when you have a 2-year subscription.