Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) come in handy in a wide range of situations and scenarios. If you care enough about your privacy and safety, then you probably know how useful VPNs can be. If you find yourself in a foreign country or if you need to use public WI-FI anywhere, then you can minimize the risks or fallout associated with making connections over an untrusted or unsecured network.
While there are some free VPN service providers, the vast majority of VPN capabilities – without limitations – are generally paid for. We know of numerous firms offering subscription packages or similar plans at decent rates. Nevertheless, you do not necessarily have to pay for a VPN service. You can actually host a VPN server at home – if the conditions are right. In any case, you are probably here to learn how to set up your own VPN server, so we will get on with that.
Why would you want to set up your own VPN server at home?
Typically, after users set up their home VPNs, they get an encrypted tunnel which they can use on public WI-FI. Similarly, they become capable of accessing restricted or country-specific services (when they are outside the country). If the home VPN is configured correctly, they would be able to use the VPN capabilities on any device (regular PCs, Android and IOS smartphones, or even Chromebooks).
In other words, with a home VPN, you get secure access to your home network anywhere (regardless of your location). Furthermore, if you are so benevolent or if the need arises, you can extend access to your virtual private network to other people, which means they get to use the servers hosted on your home network. The proposed setup would allow you and your friends to play PC games – especially those originally designed for a LAN (Local Area Network) – over the internet.
Why might you not want to set up your own VPN server at home?
Before you act to set up your own VPN server at home, you must verify that you can meet certain requirements or demands. For one, if we were to consider internet constraints, then we can infer that your upload bandwidth probably falls short of the required standard. Of course, here, we are assuming your home internet is the same service provided to the average individual.
When it comes to a Virtual Private Network configured at home, the upload speed of the connection really matters. Unfortunately, most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) tend to offer much less upload bandwidth than they do when it comes to download bandwidth. Some ISPs even impose bandwidth limits or caps on the plans they provide.
A fiber connection might get you past most limits. Otherwise – if you decide to continue and configure your VPN server at home on your regular internet connection – you will end up with a slow VPN server in almost every sense of it.
Moreover, since the issue that pushes users to use a VPN in the first place usually has something to do with geographic restrictions (or blocked content due to their locations), a home VPN will not help to alleviate or improve anything. After all, when your home VPN gets configured, you are going to be connecting from the area your house is in.
Well, if in your case, the conditions are not right for a home VPN setup, you are better off going with a real VPN service (from a third-party firm or corporation). At least, this way, you get to enjoy the fastest connection speeds, geo-shifting or similar geographical location manipulation tools, and so on without you having to bother yourself with the configuration and maintenance of a server. The real VPN service might cost you some money, but the fee is sometimes worth it.
How to set up a home VPN server (all the possible methods)
If you are serious about setting up a home VPN server, then we must furnish you with all the known methods users go through to do the job. Depending on what you intend to do with the VPN, one of the options below should suit you.
Get a router with VPN capabilities or functionalities:
Sometimes, people are just better off buying a prebuilt solution instead of bothering themselves to find out how to do stuff and building things from scratch. Some high-end routers designed for home use are equipped with built-in VPN servers, which users can take advantage of to set up a virtual private network easily.
To find out if the router you currently use has support for the required tech, you can check its manual or guide. If you have to purchase a new router, then we advise that you consider only wireless routers that advertise VPN server support as a relevant feature.
While you do your research and check for routers you can buy, you must ensure that your choice router supports the VPN or the server form you intend to use. Anyway – assuming you now have the needed wireless router in hand – you will have to go through the router web interface to activate and configure your VPN server.
Install a new operating system on your router to get VPN capabilities:
You can flash open-source custom router firmware on your router device. This operation more or less corresponds to the installation of a new operating system on your router to replace the one running on it. You can try DD-WRT since it is one of the most popular custom router firmware options out there. You can also check out OpenWrt (as an alternative).
If your router supports the known custom firmware (DD-WRT or OpenWrt) or any other third-party firmware, you can download the necessary tools and support software and flash your router device so that it ends up running the new firmware. The proposed custom firmware come with built-in VPN server support, which means your router becomes capable of hosting a VPN server (a capability it lacked before).
The same recommendations apply here. You will do well to check your current router to find out if it supports the flash processes or if it allows you to install new firmware on it. If you confirm that your router cannot run any of the proposed custom firmware, you have to check for and purchase a supported router. Anyway – assuming you have now gotten your router to run the required custom firmware – you have to enable the VPN server in its configuration or properties menu.
Create your own dedicated VPN server right on your computer:
You can set up a VPN server on your computer using a VPN server application. The major catch here is that the machine you intend to use must be on all the time. For one, it cannot be a desktop computer you are used to turning off when you leave your house.
Microsoft actually embedded a built-in utility in Windows 10 for such VPN server tasks, and you can use it to configure and host your VPN. The same thing applies to other devices running different operating systems. Some built-in utility or tool probably exists for the creation and setting up of VPN servers.
Moreover, you still have the option to download and install third-party VPN server programs. These applications are available for every operating system (regardless of the build, version, or system configuration involved). The most important requirement has to do with users needing to forward the appropriate ports from their router to the machine running the server software.
Nevertheless, if you prefer to roll out your own dedicated VPN device, nothing will stop you. There are other machines (besides regular PCs) on which you can install VPN server software. Typically, such devices get transformed into lightweight or low-energy consuming VPN servers. You can then go a step further to install other relevant VPN applications on them to force them to function as a multipurpose server.
Host your own VPN server somewhere else:
You might not want to pay a VPN firm to provide you with VPN services, but that does not mean you are left with only the option to host your own VPN server at home. There are other cards you can play that more or less fall in between the two standard proposals.
You can get a web hosting provider to host your VPN server and pay for the services rendered. The fees here might be cheaper than the costs you are likely to incur when you go with a dedicated VPN provider. Basically, you will have to pay the web hosting provider for server hosting and then install a VPN server on the issued server.
If you choose the right hosting provider, the processes involved might be as simple as a point-and-click step where you get to add or install the VPN server software and then do some brief work on the control panel to manage it – if you need to. Otherwise – especially if your web hosting provider is not used to handling VPN servers for its clients – you might find yourself having to pull up a command line (or similar interface program) to install and configure everything from scratch.
How to set up a VPN server on Windows 10? How do I set up a VPN on my home network?
There is a VPN functionality in Windows 10 that allows people to instruct their computers to function as a VPN server using the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP). The described option is sometimes hidden deep within the operating system environment. However, with our guide, you will be able to access it and navigate through its processes.
If you wish to be able to connect to your home network at all times (even when you are away) or if you intend to play games over a LAN with someone or if you want to secure your browsing activity when you are connected to a public WI-FI network, then the proposed VPN server setup should prove useful.
If you are sold on the VPN server on your computer being the right choice for you, you must carefully consider the requirements and limitations of the setup and then make a decision. For one, the ability to forward ports is required. You also have to come to terms with Windows being exposed directly to the internet (the same thing goes for the port for the PPTP VPN server).
From a security standpoint, things should not have to be that way. Anyway, you will have to use an incredibly strong password for the setup. You will also do well to use a nondefault port. Besides the security risks and commitments, you might still have to contend with the setup being relatively difficult – especially if you have no plans on using a software program to handle everything.
Anyway, here are the first steps you must follow to create a VPN server on your computer:
- You have to bring up the Network Connections menu in the Control Panel program:
Launch the Run app using the Windows logo button and the letter R key combination. Once you see the text field on the Run app, you must fill it with this code: ncpa.cpl
Tap the Enter button on your PC’s keyboard. Windows will run the code, and the required application window will be displayed.
- Tap the Alt key on your keyboard to force up the full menu on the Network Connections Click on the File menu to see a list and then choose the New incoming connection option.
- At this point, you must select the user accounts that get to connect remotely. Click on the checkboxes beside them.
For security reasons, we advise that you create a new (and limited) user account. You must avoid allowing VPN logins from your primary user account on Windows, especially if it possesses administrative rights.
If you agree with our recommendation, then you must click on the Add someone button and then take up things from there.
- Now, assuming you are done selecting the user accounts that can connect remotely, you must click on the Next button.
- On the following screen, you must click on the box for Through the internet to select this option. Click on the Next button to move on.
While the Through the internet parameter is the only option displayed on the How will people connect? screen, you will still be able to allow incoming connections over a dial-up modem, at least if you have the required hardware and the relevant support.
- At this point, you have to define the networking protocols that Windows must enable for incoming connections.
If you do not intend people connected to your VPN server to get access to the shared files and printers on your LAN (Local Area Network), for example, you must deselect the File and Sharing for Microsoft Networks parameter (by unticking its checkbox).
- If the Incoming IP Properties dialog or window shows up, you must tick the checkbox for the Allow callers to allow my local area parameter – if you are fine with this.
- Under the IP address assignment menu, you can click on the radio button for Assign IP addresses automatically using DHCP – if you want Windows to issue IP addresses to users that connect on its own (without much input from you).
Otherwise, you have to go with the Specify IP address parameter (by clicking on its radio button), which allows you to restrict the address Windows allocates to machines that connect to the VPN server. To avoid conflicts involving IP addresses in the network, you will do well to use a high-order range of IP addresses.
- Click on the OK button to carry on. Once you are satisfied with the parameters or components Windows is allowed to use, you must click on the Allow access button to continue.
At this stage, Windows will now act to configure access for the user accounts you selected earlier. The operation here should not take long. By the time the process reaches completion, your VPN server will be up and running. In other words, it will be ready to take incoming connection requests.
If you later decide to disable the VPN server you just configured now, all you have to do is return to the Network Connections screen in the Control Panel application and then delete the Incoming Connections item from the list displayed there.
- Click on the Close button to dismiss the final window.
Working on your router
If you plan to connect to the VPN server you just configured over the internet, you have to set up port forwarding in advance. This way, your router gets instructions to send traffic in the right form to the correct PC. You will have to log into your router’s setup page and then forward port 1723 to the IP address of the PC where you configured the VPN server in the first place.
For security reasons, you might want to create a forwarding port rule that forces the forwarding of a random external port (for example, 23243) to an internal port (for example, 1723) on your computer. When the proposed rule is put in place, you will be allowed to connect to the VPN server using the first port (23243) and still get protected from the malicious programs known to scan and try to connect to VPN servers operating on the default port.
If you prefer to allow only incoming connections from specific IP addresses, you can integrate a firewall into your setup or instruct your router to filter out links. You might also want to set up a dynamic DNS service to ensure that you are always able to connect to your VPN server.
How to connect to your VPN server on Windows
You can instruct any device (smartphone or computer) to connect to the VPN server you configured earlier. Here, for obvious reasons, we have to assume you are using a Windows 10 PC and intend to connect to the VPN server on it. In that case, here are the instructions you must go through:
- First, you need to know your computer’s public IP address (the same thing as your network IP address on the internet) or its dynamic DNS address (if this applies in your case).
You can find out your public IP address by firing up your web browser and then googling these keywords: What is my IP address.
Take note of the figures displayed. Write them down somewhere or copy and then paste them somewhere accessible.
- Press the Windows logo button on your machine’s keyboard. Once the options and utilities that make up the Windows Start menu become visible, you must type this keyword into the text field (that appears once you begin to type):
Click on the Change Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or VPN (System Settings) entry. You are likely to end up on the VPN screen in the Settings application window.
- Click on the Add button.
The Add a VPN connection window or dialog will be displayed now.
- You have to provide a name for the connection to identify it – which means anything you can recall will do here. You must also fill in the field for Internet address – you can use a domain name or an IP address.
- You have to click on the drop-down menu for VPN type to view the parameters available. Choose Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).
- Once you are done filling the relevant fields and choosing the right parameters, you must click on the Save button.
The VPN is supposed to appear in the network popup menu when you highlight any nearby WI-FI network on the list.
- To connect the VPN server, you have to return to the VPN screen on the Settings app, click on the VPN you added (you should be able to recognize it from its name) to highlight it, and then click on the Connect button. That’s it.
Considering the security limitations and risks associated with setting up a VPN server at home or anywhere else, it is imperative that you come to terms with the need for stronger and enhanced protection stacks or layers. The threat level has increased, after all. You can begin by installing Auslogics Anti-Malware to improve your computer’s overall security (even if you have an antivirus operating as your main protection utility).