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How to set up a VPN for free

Verified by Nick Jones

A VPN is generally used for security, privacy and access to restricted content. Why would someone opt for a free VPN? Well, there are several reasons, and we will discuss some of them in this guide. 

You can enjoy many benefits by using the free version of a VPN; however, it does not provide complete protection like a paid version. Some advantages of using a free VPN are basic privacy and security, cost savings and wifi protection in public areas. 

Considering the limitations and drawbacks of using a free VPN is essential. Some providers sell your information to third-party organisations to generate revenue, jeopardising your security. Free VPNs also have certain limitations, such as slower speeds, data caps and connection interruptions. Additionally, there may be some privacy concerns because not all free VPN services provide strong encryption. 

Despite the drawbacks, there are a few benefits of using a free VPN, and you can even create your own VPN in Windows and the cloud. In this article, we will discuss how to set up a native VPN for free, as well as how to download a VPN and set it up on different devices at work or at home.

How to set up your own VPN for free on Windows 10 and 11

There are many ways to use a VPN for free. You can either use a free VPN service or set up your own VPN. 

If you would like to set up a free VPN yourself, you can install it on a Windows or macOS virtual machine in the cloud or set it up on Windows 10 or 11 by using the built-in Windows tool to create your own VPN. 

Windows uses the Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP), which is not entirely safe and can put your security at risk. However, if you are still interested in setting up your own VPN on a Windows device, you can follow the steps below to complete this task.

The steps for setting up the VPN for Windows 11 and 10 are similar: 

  • Go to your desktop 
  • Click the search icon and type “network connections” 
  • Click on “View network connections”
    Set up a free VPN on Windows view connections
  • Press “ALT+F” to open the file menu, then click on “New network connections”, which will show you all the user accounts on your computer 
  • Select the user you want to allow permission to access your computer via the internet 
  • Click “Add someone” to create a new userSet up a free VPN on Windows enter password
  • Type in the username and create a strong password – a strong password is mandatory, as it is a key factor in eliminating any risk of a security breach 
  • Click “OK” 
  • Select “Through the internet” and then select “Next” 
  • Select the type of networking software that will be used to allow access to these connectionsSet up a free VPN on Windows networking software
  • Click “Allow access”, and a notification will appear to confirm your actions
  • Check your external IP address and take note of your IPv4 address; you’ll require this to connect devices to your VPN 
  • Now your VPN is good to go

Follow these steps to connect a device to your Windows VPN: 

  • Go to your desktop 
  • Type “VPN settings” in the search barHow to set up a free VPN on Windows settings
  • Select “VPN settings” 
  • Click “Add VPN”
    How to set up a free VPN on Windows Add VPN
  • In the VPN provider field, choose “Windows (built-in)” 
  • Type any name in the connection window 
  • Enter your IPv4, which you can find on whatismyipaddress.com, in the server name or address window 
  • For your VPN type, select “PPTP” 
  • In “Type of sign-in info”, select “Username and password” 
  • Enter the same username and password you created earlier 
  • Click “Save”How to set up a free VPN on Windows add VPN connection
  • Connect to the server 

Remember that most routers support PPTP protocol, but you can try different protocols to see if they work.

PPTP protocol is not very safe, as it’s almost 30 years old. PPTP protocol can be hacked by cybercriminals relatively easily. It’s best if you opt for a safer solution, such as our best overall provider, NordVPN, which offers some of the most advanced and best-in-market VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and the WireGuard-based NordLynx.

How to set up your own VPN for free on macOS

Creating your own VPN server on macOS is no longer possible because Apple has discontinued this feature. One way around this is to create a VPN in the cloud, which we’ll cover later. 

However, you can follow the guidelines below to set up a free VPN service manually on macOS. 

  • Open the Apple menu and visit “System preferences” 
  • Select “Network” 
  • Click on the “+” button at the bottom left, then add a new network connection 
  • Select “VPN” in the interface drop-down menu 
  • Choose the VPN type; two common types are “IKEv2” or “L2TP over IPSec”, but accessibility of VPN types might depend on the free VPN service you are using 
  • In the service name field, provide a name for the VPN connection 
  • Click “Create” 
  • Enter the server address or hostname provided by your VPN service in the “Server address” field 
  • Fill in the account username and password provided by your VPN service (note that some services may not require your credentials)
  • Select “Authentication settings” and add all the required information regarding your VPN service requirements 
  • Click “OK” to save the authentication settings 

Additional settings: 

  • L2TP over IPSec: you can enter settings for TCP, IP, Options, DNS and proxies 
  • Cisco IPSec or IKEv2: you can enter settings for proxies and DNS 
  • Click “Create”

How to set up your own VPN for free in the cloud

Below is the step-by-step process for setting up your own VPN for free in the cloud. As mentioned earlier, this is one way to create your own VPN for macOS since you can no longer do so natively.

  • First, you will need a Google Cloud account, for which you can use a pre-existing Gmail account or create a new one; you will get free credit if you are a new user of Google Cloud 
  • Visit the Google Cloud Marketplace and search for OpenVPN 
  • Select the OpenVPN option and create a name for your server deployment 
  • Select a zone or a location for your VPN
    How to set up a VPN in the cloud server zone

  • Select the type of machine that is ideal for you and deploy it
  • To make your IP address static, go to the computer engine and select “VM instances”How to set up a free VPN in the cloud VM instances
  • Select the instance of the virtual machine (VM) you have created
    How to set up a VPN in the cloud select instance
  • To go to its interface page, click “Edit”, go to the external IPv4 address section, select “Ephemeral”, and then click “Create IP address”
    How to set up a free VPN in the cloud edit
    How to set up a free VPN in the cloud edit vm instances
  • Type in the name of the IP address, then click “Reserve”, “Done”, and “Save”
    How to set ap a free VPN in the cloud reserve IP
  • Navigate to the Deployment Manager and select “Deployments” 
  • Choose the server deployment you just created and select “SSH”

This will open a terminal window, for which there are some specific steps you must follow:

  • Type in “Sudo password root”, create a password of your choice, retype it for confirmation and press the “Enter” key, after which a confirmation message will appear
    How to set up a free VPN in the cloud terminal
     
  • Log in to the VPN by typing “su root”, where you will need to enter your password 
  • To change your VPN password, type “passwd —vpn” and enter your current password, which should be 16 characters minimum and consist of numbers, symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters
  • After completing the above steps, exit the terminal and return to the deployment manager
  • From “Deployments”, select the Admin URL link
    How to set up a free VPN in the cloud OpenVPN deployment
  • After reading and understanding the prompted license agreement, click “Agree”
    How to set up a VPN in the cloud OpenVPN agreement
  • Go to “Configuration” and then “VPN Settings”
    How to set up a VPN in the cloud configuration

  • Select “Yes” on the option that says: “Should client Internet traffic be routed through the VPN?” 
  • Save the settings and select “Update running server”
    How to set up a free VPN check server settings

  • Go to “Configuration” in the network settings and make sure the value of the Hostname or IP address is similar to the IP address in the address bar 
  • If the value of the Hostname or IP address is different, change it and select “Save setting”, then “Update running server” 
  • Restart the VPN by clicking on “Status”, “Status overview” and “Stop VPN services”
  • Click “Start VPN services” to restart the VPN

To test your cloud-hosted VPN, you’ll first need to install OpenVPN on your device. Then, follow this step-by-step guide:

  • Visit Google Cloud’s Deployment Manager 
  • Log in with your VPN credentials
  • Download and install OpenVPN installer for your designated platform
    How to set up a free VPN in the cloud OpenVPN installer

Here is the guide for Windows and macOS:

  • Click on the installer file and follow the instructions
  • Click “OpenVPN”, connect and read the data collection policy, go through the onboarding process and read the use and retention policy
  • Click “Agree”
    How to set up a VPN in the cloud enter password
  • Turn on the toggle and log in
  • A self-sign certificate will appear; click “Accept”Set up a free VPN on the cloud certificate
  • Now you have connected to your VPN safely
  • Visit Google and search for your IP address; you will now have a new IP address

The easy way to get a VPN

Setting up your own VPN has many advantages, but it also comes with some drawbacks. The following are a few common disadvantages of using your own VPN or a free version:

Need for expert technical skills: Setting up your own VPN requires specialised information and an understanding of IT concepts. It involves arranging servers, installing and maintaining VPN software, overseeing security concerns and troubleshooting potential issues. 

Upkeep and upgrades: Operating your own VPN requires customer support and upgrades to guarantee long-term security. This can be time-consuming and requires a lot of attention.

Restricted server locations: When setting up your own VPN, the server areas will be restricted to the physical or virtual servers you set up. It could limit your ability to bypass geographical restrictions or access content particular to specific locations.

Network steadiness and speed: The robustness and speed of your VPN depend on the quality of your network. If you do not have a secure and dependable network, it may result in slower speeds, increased latency, or network issues.

Support and reliability: After you create your own VPN, you become responsible for its upkeep, troubleshooting and support.

You can easily download paid VPN services, which are convenient, safe and easy to install. Here are instructions for installing a paid VPN:

  • Search for a VPN provider that provides the features you need
  • Visit the provider’s website 
  • Select a suitable subscription plan
  • Create an account
  • Select your payment method
  • Complete the payment process
  • Download the VPN software
  • Install the software
  • Launch the application
  • Connect to your desired server and location
  • Customise any settings you want

Our researchers recommend using a paid VPN service because it offers several advantages you miss out on by creating a free VPN on your own. These advantages include:

Upgraded security: Paid VPN services generally offer grounded encryption protocols and more secure VPN tunnelling strategies, guaranteeing your online activity and information stay private.

Robust performance: Paid VPNs often have a more extensive network, with servers in different nations and districts. This allows for quicker connection speeds and improved stability, as well as greater geo-unblocking capabilities.

Extra features: Paid-for, and even the best cheap, VPNs frequently have additional benefits and functionalities, such as ad blocking, malware detection, split tunnelling and multi-device compatibility.

Protection and logging policies: Legitimate paid VPN suppliers have clear security policies and verified no-log approaches, meaning they don’t store or track your online activities.

Committed client support: Paid VPN services provide dedicated customer support, allowing you to seek help whenever you experience issues or have questions about the service.

Here is an example of the features provided by a paid VPN subscription: 

  • Most advanced and secure protocols (OpenVPN and WireGuard) 
  • Military-grade AES-256 encryption 
  • Cost-efficient
  • Fast speed and connections
  • Strict no-logs policy 
  • User-friendly interface 

All these features are standard among the top-rated VPN service providers, so you can choose whichever you like.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.79 /Month
£6.79 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.26 /Month
£4.26 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.60 /Month
£4.60 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £2.92 /Month
£2.92 /Month

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.