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How to Set Up a VPN (and Why You Should)

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Think your Internet connection is secure from hackers and spies?

You know your basic online safety tips. You're careful at home, scrutinizing your email for phishing attempts, never giving out personal information, and installing nothing unknown on your computer. When you're out and about, connecting to public Wi-fi, you verify you're on the right network and watch your address bar for that "https." You've got your 2-factor authentication, your firewalls, your antivirus software.

But is that enough?

How to Set Up a VPN (and Why You Should)

Hackers Get More Creative All the Time

With every passing year, hackers come up with more and more ingenious ways to get at your data. You may be able to spot Nigerian princes with the best of them, but there are many more insidious tactics you may not even notice until your identity is stolen or your bank account is hit.

There is one method you can use to keep you safer that isn't commonly found in lists of Internet safety tips: a VPN.

Set Up a VPN

Setting up a Virtual Private Network is one of the best ways to keep you and your private data safe.

When you use a VPN to go online, all your data is encrypted, leaving you and your identity secure from hackers. A VPN makes it harder to track your activities online, see what files you're downloading, read the data you enter into online forms, read your email, and trace any online data back to you.

It's Easier Than You Think

And implementing a VPN isn't as technical or difficult as it may sound: you can easily use a third-party service.

Listed below are some of the most popular VPN services you can use to keep safe and secure online. But keep in mind that not all VPNs are the same. There are pros and cons to each service, and not all of them may fit your needs.

Check out the graphic below to compare VPN services and find the one that will best protect your privacy and keep you safe from hackers and spies.


How to Set Up a VPN (and Why You Should)

No matter how secure you believe your internet connection is, hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated in the ways they access people's personal information.

Only through encryption, hiding your traffic and obfuscating your IP address can you stop those trying to sneak on to your network. That's why many users are using VPNs to protect their privacy.

What's a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a network service that creates a secure network connection over a public or private network. This private network connection is owned by a group or an individual and made inaccessible to other users. You can use this network to connect your computer with others anonymously over the internet.

What Does a VPN Do?

  • When you connect to a VPN service, your computer exchanges trusted keys with a server.
  • Once both computers have been authenticated, all your internet communication is securely encrypted
  • Simply put, a VPN secures your computer's internet connection so any data you send or receive is protected from anyone trying to access it.

Why Should You Get One?

  • It means you can remain anonymous online, keeping your browsing habits and data away from prying eyes.
  • You can watch videos and stream content from countries where access is usually limited.
  • It allows 'geoblocking' - i.e. you can stop websites collecting location data.

Which VPN Should You Use?

Here are some examples of third-party VPNs to try:

VPNPrice per month ($)Price per annum ($)CountryCompatible PlatformsPayment Methods
Private Internet Access6.9539.95USAWindows, iOS, Mac OS, AndroidDebit/credit cards, PayPal, brand-name gift cards, Bitcoin
Norton Hotspot Privacy19.9949.99USA/UKWindows, iOS, Mac OSDebit/credit cards
Hotspot Shield Elite£3.00 (*Paid by phone)29.95USAWindows, iOS, Mac OS, AndroidDebit/credit cards, Paypal, Google Wallet, iTunes, mobile phone.
Hotspot Shield (Basic)FreeFreeUSAWindows, iOS, Mac OS, AndroidN/A
proXPN (Premium)Free (Basic)USAWindows, Mac OS, iOS, AndroidPaypal, Google Wallet and Amazon Payments
CyberGhost6.99 (Premium)39.99RomaniaWindows, Mac OS, iOS, AndroidBitcoin and cash (Germany, Austria and Switzerland)
HideMyAss11.5299.98UKWindows, Mac OS, iOS, AndroidDebit/credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, mobile phone, bamk wire transfer, WebMoney, iDEAL Banking

Remember - not all VPN services are created equal.

When choosing a VPN, it's important to consider the price, connectivity protocols, features, the number of servers and their location before making a decision.

A VPN is only as secure as the provider that you choose.

How to Get Started

  • Step 1:Select a VPN from the list.
  • Step 2:Sign up to the VPN, either through subscription or free sign-up.
  • Step 3: Set it up following the steps below.

How to Set Up a Third-party VPN

  • Step 1: Download the VPN installer.
  • Step 2: Right-click the downloaded installer file and select "Run as administrator" to start the installation.
  • Step 3: The Windows User Account Control (UAC) prompt may ask for the administrator password. Type in the password and select "Yes" to continue.
  • Step 4: Once the installation has completed, you'll be asked to log in with your VPN details.
  • Step 5: Tinker with the options if desired, and then press save.

How to Connect to a VPN Manually

Windows 7

  • Step 1: Find a VPN address to connect to—sites like vpngate.net offer a host of IP addresses to connect to.
  • Step 2: Go to Start button.
  • Step 3: In the search bar, type VPN.
  • Step 4: Select Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
  • Step 4: Enter IP address or domain name of your chosen VPN server.
  • Step 5: Click Next.
  • Step 6: Type in user name and password.
  • Step 7: Click on Connect.


  • Step 1: Go to Settings, General and then VPN.
  • Step 2: Click on Add VPN Configuration.
  • Step 3: Enter the server address and the account name for the VPN connection.

OS X Mountain Lion

  • Step 1: Find a VPN address to connect to—sites like vpngate.net offer a host of IP addresses to connect to.
  • Step 2: In the Apple menu, go to System Preferences and click Network.
  • Step 3: Click Add (+) at the bottom of the list and choose VPN from the pop-up menu.
  • Step 4: In the VPN Type pop-up menu, click on what kind of VPN connection you're setting up.
  • Step 5: Enter IP address or domain name of your chosen VPN server.
  • Step 6: Choose Authentication Settings.
  • Step 7: Enter the username and password given by the VPN administrator.
  • Step 8: Click Ok and then click Connect.

In the time it takes a hacker to infiltrate your network and take data from your personal computer, you could set up your own VPN. It's that simple!


KeriLynn Engel

About KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn has worked as a freelance writer for various websites. She is an advocate for domestic abuse victims and has way too many hobbies.


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April 18, 2015

You can also buy a cheap VPS and host your own VPN server. Just be careful, because not all VPS providers allow to do that.



February 26, 2020

I am currently using AtlasVPN and I have no issues with it. But I am not sure on what is the difference between free VPN providers. I like my current provider, should I stick to the same one, or are there any better alternatives?