Internet users all over the world are increasingly relying on virtual private networks (VPNs) to browse safely, anonymously, and to get around content restrictions in certain countries. All the leading VPN providers offer separate applications for the main operating systems, including Windows and Mac. If your computer runs on Windows 10, Windows 7, or any other Windows version, you’ll need to choose a VPN download for Windows to ensure your virtual network runs smoothly on your device.
Why Do I Need a VPN for Windows?
Whether your device runs on Windows or any other operating system, there are a number of reasons to use a VPN. These include:
Security. VPNs provide a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the internet, meaning nobody can see your personal IP address, place malware on your computer, or steal your data. This is a particularly important consideration when using public Wi-Fi, where your security can easily be compromised.
Bypassing geographic restrictions. Many websites block or restrict content to certain locations. If you find yourself posted abroad for work, you can still access restricted content with a VPN. Traveling outside the US, but don’t want to miss your favorite Netflix show? Just use your VPN to connect to a US IP address, and problem solved.
Surfing without worry. These days, even citizens of the free world have a hard time knowing whether someone’s snooping on their internet usage. But with a VPN, you can browse safely, knowing that nobody – not governments, not corporations, not even the owners of the website you last visited – can find out your real IP address or identity.
H2: The Best VPNs for Windows
ExpressVPN is among the most popular VPNs for Windows, with more than 2,000 servers located around the world. It offers a single Windows download for Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows RT. Its Windows app includes a smart locations feature, which automatically chooses the fastest server possible from your location. ExpressVPN runs on the OpenVPN security protocol and promises 99.99% uptime and unlimited bandwidth.
NordVPN is another really popular provider with a dedicated Windows VPN app. Subscribers can use their account to run NordVPN simultaneously across up to 6 devices – which is great news for users who might run Windows on their desktop but another operating system on their phone and tablet. It offers all the usual security features that can be expected of a top VPN service provider, including a no-logs policy which makes it extra-difficult for anyone to snoop on your browsing history in future.
CyberGhost’s Windows app works with Windows 10, 8, 7 and other versions. Users can choose from 6 one-click settings. “Surf Anonymously” starts your VPN session, with the option of either connecting automatically to the fastest server or choosing the location yourself. “Unblocking Streaming” is for unblocking content from popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and the BBC. “Protect Wi-Fi” is designed for when you’re using a new or public Wi-Fi connection. “Torrent Anonymously” launches your preferred torrent client and a secure VPN connection with one click. “Unblock Basic Websites” is for people who live in countries that restrict access to websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. “Choose my VPN Server” is for advanced users who want to choose their own server from the more than 1,250 on offer.
PureVPN’s dedicated Windows VPN app has a sleek design and gives one-click access to all its usual features, including kill switch and split tunnelling. More than 12 million Windows users have downloaded the app for its super-fast speeds in more than 750 server locations. For those who can commit to a 2-year subscription, PureVPN offers one of the cheapest deals on the market – at $2.87/month.
Avast’s VPN service is brought to you by the same people behind the popular Avast Antivirus software, so you can be confident of its security credentials. Although it only offers servers in 33 countries, it makes up for this by offering competitive subscription prices (of as low as $4/month for a one-year plan), super-fast speeds, and no bandwidth limits. Avast’s PC application is compatible with Windows 10 and other versions.
How to Setup a VPN on Windows 10 - Step-By-Step
There are 2 ways to set up a VPN on Windows 10. For new users who prefer to connect in seconds and to not mess around with the security settings, the best way is to download the Windows app from your VPN provider’s website. For users who don’t mind spending an extra minute connecting manually and choosing their own security settings, just follow these steps:
Right-click the Lan/Wi-Fi icon on the bottom-right of your screen, and select Network & Internet Settings.
Select VPN from the menu on the left.
Click the plus symbol next to the words “Add a VPN connection.”
Choose Windows (built-in) as your VPN provider. Type in your connection name and server name or address. You can find these names from your VPN provider’s list of servers. You’ll also need the name and password you use for your VPN service to proceed. Don’t forget to click “Remember my sign-in info” if you wish to log in automatically the next time. When you’re done filling in all these details, click “Save.”
Now you’ll see your chosen VPN connection on the list of VPN options. Just click on it to connect.
How to Set up a VPN on Windows 7 - Step-By-Step
Windows 7 users can also connect in seconds with their VPN provider’s Windows app. To set up manually, just follow these steps:
Right-click the Lan/Wi-Fi icon from the system tray on the bottom right of your screen, then select “Open Network and Sharing Center.”
Click “Select a new connection or network.”
Select “Connect to workplace” and click Next.
Select “Use my Internet connection (VPN).”
Insert your preferred server address and destination name (from the list of servers given by your VPN provider), your destination name. Choose whether to “allow other people to use this connect.” And choose whether to connect now or just set up the VPN so you can connect later. Once you’re done, click Next.
On the next screen, enter the username and password you use for your VPN account. Tick “Remember this password” if you wish to do so, and then click Create.
To choose your own security settings, click on Network and Sharing Center > Change adapter settings. Right click your newly created VPN connection and select Properties. Click on the Security tab (third from left) and choose your preferred type of security protocol and data encryption.
Your VPN connection will now appear in your control panel under Network and Internet > Network Connections. Simply right-click on the VPN and select Connect.
How to Test Your Windows VPN
To test the speed of your Windows VPN connection, simply connect to a server and begin browsing. Most paid services offer a 7-day or 30-day money-back guarantee, to protect you if you’re not satisfied with the speed or with any other features.
Another thing to be aware of is WebRTC IP leaks. WebRTC is a free, open project that provides browsers and mobile applications with Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities, but it can open you up to having your real IP address leaked. All the top VPN providers have tools in place to prevent this from happening. If you wish to check for yourself, most providers have a page on their website where you can conduct a leak test. Simply disconnect from your VPN and open the page in a new tab or window. Take note of any public IP addresses you see. Close the page. Connect to your VPN and re-open the page. If you still see any of the public IPs you saw earlier, you have suffered a privacy leak. You can also conduct this test using a free IP address check from the likes of whatismyipaddress or whatismyip.
Most VPN providers also offer instructions on how to turn off WebRTC and block out even the smallest risk of an IP leak.
Can I Get a Free Windows VPN?
Some VPN companies offer free or trial subscriptions, but remember that you get what you pay for. Free VPN services are usually slower, less reliable, and limited to a small amount of bandwidth that last just a few hours or days. If you’re away from home for a couple of days and just need a temporary fix for your Windows device, then you might find a free VPN a suitable option. But if you’re looking for a permanent solution, then we recommend paying a few dollars a month for a subscription from a secure and reliable VPN service.
VPN for Windows Server
Windows includes a built-in option to function as a VPN server using PPTP, the point-to-point tunnelling protocol. This is a useful option for people who wish to connect to their home network on the road, play video games on the same network as friends in other locations, or secure their browser while on a public connection. This option is best for advanced users, as it can open your computer up to potential security risks when not done properly.
To create your VPN server in Windows 10, just follow these steps:
Open Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center and click “Change adapter settings.” For a shortcut, just hit the Windows icon (on Windows 10) or Start, and type“ncpa.cpl.”
Open the File menu (by pressing Alt on Windows 10, or by looking at the tabs at the top of the Control Panel on Windows 7). Select “New Incoming Connection.”
Tick all the users who you want to establish VPN access for on this computer. Click Next.
Tick “Through the Internet” and click Next.
On the next page, you’ll be given a choice of networking software. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click “Allow access.” Windows will configure your VPN server access within a few seconds.
Open a Window of Opportunity
Now that you know what to look for when choosing a VPN for Windows, it's up to you to select the right one for your needs. To read more about any of these companies or other top VPNs, read our in-depth reviews.