Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to Install OpenVPN on Windows 10

What is VPN?


VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It allows the employees of an organization to access their company's private network securely over internet while working from another location. If effectively creates a tunnel that extends from your computer to your company's private network. Thus, no one can see from outside what exactly is going through that tunnel. This way the employee can access the resources which are only available on the internal private network.

The image depicts a virtual private network. Two regional offices and roaming users are securely connected to their head office using internet as a transportation medium
VPN site to site and roaming users
Image by Ludovic.ferre/Wikimedia Commons

VPN is also being used for other purposes like,

  1. Unblocking blocked websites
  2. Hiding your real IP address from other websites you visit online
  3. Bypassing geographical restrictions imposed by internet companies like Netflix

When using the VPN for purposes listed above, you connect to a web server provided by a VPN service provider. The requests made by your web browser software such as Google Chrome are first encrypted and then forwarded to your VPN service provider. Your VPN service provider fetches the requested data (webpages, files etc.), encrypts it and then sends it back to you. The websites you visit see the IP of the web server of VPN service provider, not your real IP address. Thus, the websites are tricked into thinking that you are from US where actually you could be from Germany.

What is OpenVPN?


OpenVPN is an open source software written by James Yonan first released in May 2001. The OpenVPN software application takes care of tasks such as connecting your computer to your VPN service provider, encryption, authentication, security and so on. OpenVPN supports many platforms and can run on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android and more.

VPN Service Providers


To connect to your VPN service provider using OpenVPN, you would need OpenVPN configuration files, and username/password from your VPN service provider. ExpressVPN, CactusVPN are some big VPN service providers that have web servers in many countries around the world. These VPN service providers charge around $5 to $15 per month.

How to Install OpenVPN?


Let us now look at installing OpenVPN on Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. The process of installing OpenVPN on other versions of Windows is similar.

Follow the following steps to get OpenVPN installed and running on your Windows 10 PC.

Installing OpenVPN on Windows 10 – A Step-by-Step Guide


1) Click here to Download OpenVPN from openvpn.net As of writing this, the latest version of OpenVPN is 2.3.10. You can choose either 32-bit or 64-bit installer depending on whether you have 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 10 installed. For this step-by-step guide I chose 32-bit installer of OpenVPN.

The image shows a snapshot of OpenVPN Community Downloads webpage. There are links to various installers of OpenVPN for various operating systems.
Figure 1: Downloading OpenVPN from www.openvpn.net

2) Launch the OpenVPN installer from This PC > Downloads or This PC > Downloads > Programs

The image shows a snapshot of Programs sub-directory of Downloads directory.
Figure 2: Launching the OpenVPN installer

3) OpenVPN Setup Wizard will open. Click on "Next"

OpenVPN Setup Wizard
Figure 3 : OpenVPN Setup Wizard

4) Review the license terms and click on "I Agree"

OpenVPN License Agreement
Figure 4: OpenVPN License Agreement

5) No change need to be made on "Choose Components" screen. Click on "Next"

OpenVPN Choose Components
Figure 5: Choose Components

6) If you wish to change the location at which OpenVPN will be installed, you can do it now. Click on "Install". The setup wizard will begin installing OpenVPN.

OpenVPN Choose Install Location
Figure 6: Choose Install Location

7) During the installation the OpenVPN setup wizard would check if "TAP Windows Adapter" is installed. If "TAP Windows Adapter" is not installed then Windows will ask your permission to install this device software. Click on "Install"

TAP Windows Adapter
Figure 7: Installing TAP Windows Adapter

8) If all went well then OpenVPN will be installed on your computer. Click on "Finish"

OpenVPN has been installed on your computer
Figure 8: OpenVPN has been installed on your computer

9) An OpenVPN GUI icon will appear on the desktop. Double click on OpenVPN GUI icon. Select Yes on User Account Control dialog box that appears next.

A small icon of OpenVPN GUI will appear in "Notification Area" at right side of the taskbar.

OpenVPN icons on Windows desktop and notification area
Figure 9: OpenVPN icons on Windows desktop and notification area

10) Right click on the OpenVPN GUI icon in notification area. A menu will appear.

OpenVPN GUI Icon in Notification Area
Figure 10: OpenVPN GUI Icon in Notification Area

There are only two options in the menu, Settings and Exit. Now you need configuration files from your VPN service provider. When you have them, copy them in the config folder at C:\Program Files (x86)\OpenVPN\config

Conclusion


In this article we looked at the process of installing OpenVPN GUI on Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. Additionally, I wrote a bit about what is a VPN, what is openvpn and VPN service providers. In the next article, I will write about obtaining OpenVPN configuration files from some VPN service providers that are either completely free or offer free trial.

Have some questions, comments? Drop them in comments box below. And don't forget to share with your friends.

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