In the last few years, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have become extremely popular. What is a VPN?
A VPN is a private network that you connect to using either a PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol) or L2TP (Layer Two Tunneling Protocol) connection. When you connect to a VPN, you are able to access resources on the internet that are otherwise restricted to visible networks.
There are many advantages to connecting to a VPN, including the following:
- Full privacy and security
- Access to region restricted content
- Improved speed and reliability
- More convenient when traveling
- Protection against hackers and other intruders
- Ability to create your own private networks
- Some networks offer integrated VPNs – offering both VPN and L2TP/PPTP connections in one place
The most widely-used and simplest to set up VPNs are those offered by OpenVPN and Hotspot Shield. In this article, we will discuss how to configure one of these two VPNs in Windows XP.
What is PPTP and L2TP?
These two protocols are the most commonly used for VPNs and are pretty easy to understand. If you’re looking to learn more, you can read our in-depth PPTP vs. L2TP comparison or dive into the Tunneling Protocols wikipedia page for more information.
PPTP uses Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocols to set up a virtual private network between two devices. PPTP is fairly secure and fast, but does not offer the advanced features that some people may want. For example, PPTP does not allow for a dynamic IP address, and only offers a limited number of VPN protocols (OpenVPN and L2TP are two of them)
L2TP, also known as Layer Two Tunneling Protocol, is a VPN protocol that was designed to be simple and easy to use. L2TP was designed with efficiency in mind and offers several advanced features that some people may find useful. For example, L2TP can be configured to establish a tunnel with a single click, and does not require users to log in or register beforehand.
Other features that may interest you include the following:
- Tunnel setup through either web interfaces or command line
- IPv6 support
- PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy)
- ECDH (Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman)
- AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)
- SHA (Secure Hashing Algorithm)
- SHA-256 (Secure Hashing Algorithm – 256-bit version)
Step by Step Guide to Configure a VPN in Windows XP
Let’s get started configuring your VPN in Windows XP.
First, you will need to download and install the OpenVPN client software. You can download the client software from the OpenVPN website. Once the file is downloaded, you will need to unzip the file so that you can install it. Depending on your settings, you may be prompted to install the accompanying service or run file once you click on the installer. If you are prompted to do either of these things, follow the instructions. You must install the OpenVPN client software before continuing with these steps.
After the OpenVPN client is installed, you will need to visit the program’s documentation page. There, you will find a step-by-step tutorial on configuring your VPN. You can access the tutorial from either the start menu, or by clicking on the Help button inside of the client application.
You must complete this step before continuing on to the next one.
Next, you will want to visit the Network and Sharing Center from the Control Panel. Here, you will see all of the VPNs that were previously installed on your system. Right-click on the VPN you plan to use and select Properties. This will bring up the VPN’s properties dialog where you can configure a few things about the VPN. Most notably, you can change the VPN Protocol to either OpenVPN or L2TP.
If you have chosen OpenVPN, then you will need to download and install the OpenVPN Server software. Again, you can download this software from the OpenVPN website. While the OpenVPN client is only available for Windows, the OpenVPN server can be set up to run on almost any operating system. Just make sure that your server is capable of running the chosen software (Windows for example, does not allow Hyper-V, which is needed to run Linux servers).
Once the server is installed and started, you can test out the VPN by connecting to it through the OpenVPN client. The easiest way to do this is by visiting https://test.openvpn.net/, which is the built-in OpenVPN test server. You can access this server through either the OpenVPN client or by using the command line. For example, if you are using the OpenVPN client, you can click on the Test button to connect to the test server.
If everything is working correctly, you will see the following displayed in your browser:
“The OpenVPN service is now connected to your system.”
You can close the test server by clicking on the X in the top right hand corner of the window, or by pressing the Esc key on your keyboard.
In the event that you are getting a different error message, double check that you have followed the steps correctly. If you still cannot connect, please contact the technical support for assistance.
From this point onwards, you can follow the instructions in the documentation for the OpenVPN client to setup your VPN. Just make sure that you complete all of the steps correctly and that you do not skip any steps. Ensure that you have a clear and concise idea of what each step is doing, and that you follow the instructions precisely. If you are using the OpenVPN client, then you will need to visit the documentation page and start from the beginning to set up your first VPN connection. When you create a new connection, you will be prompted for a password, and then given the choice of a username to connect as. Enter in the password and click on Create.
Point-to-Point vs. Campus vs. Community
Once you have your initial VPN connection set up successfully, you can choose to either use that exact same connection on every device or configure different connections for each one. If you connect your personal computer (PC) to the internet through your home network, then that same home network will be accessible through every device that is connected to it. This is called Point-to-Point Tunneling and is the most basic type of VPN connection. To utilize Point-to-Point VPN, simply connect your PC to the internet through your home network and then open the OpenVPN client. In the event that you are on the move, you can take your PC with you and set it up on each new network that you connect to (Wireless and/or Wired). This is the simplest type of VPN connection to setup and use, but also the least secure and the most susceptible to eavesdropping.