How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 11 – PCMag

With a VPN, you can blind your ISP from monitoring your online activities, hide your public IP address, and even make it appear as if you’re browsing the web from another country. Typically, you’d use a VPN client application to do all this, but maybe you want to configure Windows 11 to connect directly to a VPN. We break down how to do it—and why you generally shouldn’t. 

PSA: Just Use a VPN App

This article focuses on commercial VPNs, not the VPNs provided and managed by corporate IT. If you’re using a corporate VPN, manual configuration absolutely makes sense but it will probably be handled by your company. Be sure to consult with your IT team before trying to do it yourself.

When it comes to commercial VPNs, the easiest way to use a VPN in Windows 11 is to install the client application provided by the VPN company of your choice. And in this case, the easiest option is also the best.

When you use a VPN’s client app, you interact through a graphical interface that’s much simpler than any alternative DIY method. Plus, the app will update with all the necessary configuration information to connect to any of the VPN’s servers. As you’ll see below, manual configuration means you have to keep those updated yourself, and you can only connect to the servers you have configuration information for. For some companies, that’s thousands of servers. Trust me, you want the app handling all that.

Most importantly, VPN apps give you access to all the features VPN companies provide as part of their offerings. VPN client apps let you use split tunneling to route specific app traffic in or out of the VPN connection, for example. That’s not really possible with a manual configuration for commercial VPNs, but is for corporate VPNs. 

So, before you go further, consider just installing your VPN of choice’s client app. Unless you have a compelling reason, the official VPN app is going to be the better, easier choice every time.

Getting Started With Manual VPN Setup in Windows 11

If you’ve read this far, you either have a complicated technical reason for seeking to manually configure a VPN or you’re filled with hubris. Either way, the first thing to do is decide what kind of VPN connection you’re seeking to create and which VPN servers you want to use.

For the first question, it comes down to VPN protocol. This is the underlying technology that creates an encrypted connection between your device and the VPN server. There are a few standard options:

  • WireGuard

  • OpenVPN

  • IKEv2/IPSec

  • L2TP/IPSec

  • PPTP

Most VPN companies no longer support PPTP or L2TP because they are older and less secure. You probably shouldn’t use these protocols unless you absolutely have to.

The IKEv2 protocol is supported on most devices by default, and it is a good choice for creating a secure VPN connection. However, using it requires the installation of special certificates on your device to authorize the connection. This adds some effort and will definitely take you to some of Windows’ lesser used areas.

OpenVPN and WireGuard are both open-source VPN protocols, which means that they’ve been picked over for any potential vulnerabilities. To use either of these protocols with Windows 11, you …….


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