Manually set up a VPN with no third-party applications
Trying to hide your online presence and protect your privacy? VPNs too expensive or banned in your country? Guess what? You can use a VPN without so much downloading an application to your device!
With more than 59% of the world's population using the internet, the need to have a secure channel while using the internet is of paramount importance. It is precisely where a VPN step in, and with more than 30% of the global internet users using a VPN, it is slowly becoming more relevant in today's world.
In this article, I shall be detailing the various steps involved in manually setting up a VPN on your internet-enabled device so that you can securely browse the internet. All methods explained in this article are free to use and wouldn't require you to download any software.
Table of Contents
In their paper "What is a VPN?", Paul Ferguson and Geoff Huston describe a VPN in the following way:
A VPN is a communications environment where access is controlled to permit peer connections only within a defined community of interest. It is constructed through some form of partitioning a common underlying communications medium, where this underlying communications medium provides services to the network on a non-exclusive basis.
Or in simpler terms as:
A VPN is a private network constructed within a public network infrastructure, such as the global Internet.
Both these explanations point to the private nature of a VPN that provides a secure channel built within a publicly accessible communications channel.
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In modern implementations, besides the standard segmentation of the communication channels, VPN also provides inbuilt encryption for all data of the secure channel/network users.
Furthermore, while traditional VPNs focused on connectivity between various network entities through dedicated circuits and links, the modern ones focus on the security of the data being transmitted over such private networks.
While VPNs might seem like just another security measure recommended to internet users worldwide, their importance is often overlooked. While using a VPN has n number of benefits, at its core, a VPN offers three main benefits:
- Data security
- Bypassing local government regulations
- Protecting your privacy
These are also the three fundamental rights expected to be available to every user on the internet to enjoy their experience on it. Below, let us look at these benefits in a bit more detail.
With over 4.66 billion internet users worldwide, making up 59.5% of the global population, the security of data transmitted over the internet is of paramount importance.
The data might include personal information, business contracts, or even government secrets.
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Malicious actors or hackers can easily breach an internet-connected system to extract such essential data without even breaking a sweat.
The presence of a VPN makes it difficult for an attacker to breach a system since a VPN creates a secure channel within the internet-connected network. The hacker wouldn't be able to detect this secure channel; hence they wouldn't access communication taking place through this channel.
Some governments enforce strict regulations on a citizen's freedom to access various resources on the internet. For example, most western media services are banned in China, and no citizen can access these websites.
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Such restrictions deny internet users various fundamental human rights and prevent them from speaking up against the government.
Using a VPN, such restricted users can easily bypass the local government regulations on internet activity. It is possible since a VPN can change the user's IP address, thereby creating a mock location for themselves.
As technology improved with the internet, so did the problems. One of the main problems was personal privacy. With more and more companies offering media services on the internet, the need for them to gather consumer information also rises.
This gathered information could be used in various methods, from tailoring the user experience to make better recommendations to selling this data to third-party companies for targeted advertising.
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For gathering such private information, many companies go as far as IP tracking, activity history tracking, and creating a digital "signature" for individual users. While all of this invades user privacy, its legality is still in a grey area, making it impossible to prosecute.
Hence, using a VPN prevents all the above from happening. A changed IP address hides your private information, location, and digital "signature" from the internet and anyone trying to track you.
Furthermore, an encrypted connection also ensures that any data you work with isn't read by such conglomerates or anyone trying to breach your communications on the internet.
Now that we have discussed the need for a VPN, it's time to get to the central part of how you can manually configure a VPN on your device. I shall be exploring four different types of systems, namely – Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
These are some of the most popular operating systems used in various internet enable devices around the globe.
Globally, counting all internet-enabled devices, Android has a market share of 40.66%, Windows has 32.3%, iOS with 15.97%, and finally macOS with 6.82%.
Taking only computers into account, the Windows market share changes to 75.4%, and macOS changes to 15.93%. It is why I shall be looking at setting up a VPN for Windows and macOS, the most popular desktop operating systems.
Like quite a few operating systems, Windows allows a user to manually set up a Virtual Private Network or VPN to maintain their data security while using the internet. In this section, I describe a step-by-step method on just how you can do this.
- First, you need to sign up for a VPN service to set up a VPN. There are plenty of free services on the internet that offer you the addresses of free-to-use VPN servers
- Next, open the windows settings on your computer and navigate to the 'Network & Internet section
- Now, click on the VPN tab and then click on the 'Add a VPN connection button
- On the newly opened window to create a new VPN connection, select the option 'Windows (built-in)' under the VPN Provider field
- Under the connection name field, enter a name for your VPN connection
- Next, under the server name or address field, enter the IP address of a free-to-use VPN server that you picked from the free to use VPN servers list
- Set the VPN type field as 'Automatic' or 'Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP)' and the Type of sign-in info field to 'Username and password
- Finally, use the Username and password (if any) as provided by the free VPN service to fill the corresponding fields
- Click on 'Save' to save the new VPN settings
- Now, navigate to the original VPN tab in the Network & Internet section, click on the new VPN option and click on 'Connect'
- The message under the name of the VPN will change to 'Connected' upon successful connection
- You can disconnect the VPN the same way, by simply clicking 'Disconnect'
Like Windows, the macOS also requires you to find and sign up for a VPN service that can either be free or involve a subscription. Once you have access to such a VPN service, we can go ahead and follow the below steps to configure the macOS built-in VPN.
- First, click on the apple logo in the top left corner and select 'System Preferences'
- Next, click on the 'Network' option
- In the Network settings, in the bottom left corner, click the plus sign to add a new network interface
- A dialog box opens up to add a new interface and in the 'Interface' field, select the option VPN
- In the field for 'VPN Type', select the option PPTP or 'Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol'
- Finally, choose a Service Name of your liking and click on 'Create'
- The new VPN will now appear in the list of networks, and you can now add a server address (picked from the VPN service), account name as well as an encryption type for the new VPN
- You can now click on the 'Authentication Settings' option to add a password and shared secret and click OK
- Finally, click on the 'Connect' button in the network section under the new VPN to connect to the newly set up Virtual Private Network and then click 'Apply'
- Similarly, you can click on 'Disconnect' in the same place and then 'Apply' to disconnect from the VPN
There are over 6.37 billion smartphones in use globally, and 80.76% of the world's population uses smartphones. Their usage being at an all-time high, it doesn't come as a surprise that smartphones too require added privacy while using the internet through a VPN.
Below we look at how you can set up a VPN for Android and iOS, the two most popular smartphone operating systems. In the last 12 months alone, Android has accounted for almost 72% of the global market share, and iOS covers 26%.
Now, setting a VPN interface on an Android device without using any third-party apps is quite simple. While there might be a few changes from Android phone brand to brand, the core process remains the same.
- Open Settings on your Android smartphone
- In the search bar, enter 'VPN' and open the first result
- In case you don't have a search option, you can find this under the 'More' option in the 'Wireless & Networks' section in your settings
- Now click on the plus sign or the 'Add VPN' button in the VPN settings
- On the 'Add VPN' page, enter a name for your VPN, and under the 'VPN Type' field, select 'Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol' or PPTP
- Next, from the VPN service that you signed up for, use a server address for the new VPN and also keep the PPP encryption enabled
- Finally, add the Username & password as given by your VPN service and tap on save
- You can now select this newly created network and then tap the toggle switch to connect as well as disconnect from the VPN
Finally, it's time to look at iOS, and while it does not have as much market share as Android, it is still widely used by most people in western countries. Let us look at how we can set up a VPN on an iOS device without using other apps.
- On your iOS device, open settings and then go into the 'General' section
- Now, tap the VPN option in the general section and then tap on 'Add VPN Configuration'
- For VPN type, choose the option 'L2TP', which is a Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol
- Next, add a VPN description of your choosing to identify the network better
- In the 'Server' field, add a server address from any VPN service that you use
- Under the 'Account' field, enter the Username and under the 'Password' field, add the password as given by the VPN service whose address you used
- Furthermore, you can also add a proxy to the VPN if you use one by choosing manual or automatic
- Finally, tap Done to return to the VPN page
- Here you can connect/disconnect the VPN by toggling the switch on/off
To help you better understand the topic and give you a bit more insight into the topic at hand, I have prepared the following infographic.
VPNs are highly significant in today's world with all the advancements in internet connectivity and technology. VPNs help users combat threats, protect their privacy and even break regulations on internet activity set by local authorities.
In this article, we looked at VPNs, what they are and why they are essential in the modern world of the internet. We went on to look at how you, as a user, could manually set up a VPN with no third-party applications on your internet-enabled device.
If you liked this article and want more articles about VPNs, make sure to check CoolTechZone's dedicated VPN section. Also, leave a comment below if you'd like to see similar guides for other operating systems.