How to Setup a VPN Tunnel in Windows 8

obrBy Joel Tope — Last Updated: 12 Oct'16 2016-10-06T14:46:51+00:00

One of the things I like about VPN service providers is their custom software.

But, how do you connect to a VPN tunnel that lies outside of your VPN service provider’s network?

VPN service providers code proprietary lists of servers into their software, making it simple for users to find the nearest one.

Conversely, home-brewed and corporate-hosted VPN servers, first require a user to make a few configurations in Windows 8.

I’m going to explain how to setup a VPN tunnel in Windows 8, to help alleviate configuration hassles, for the few people left still using this version of Windows.

Trust me; I know how irritating it can be trying to make a configuration for the first time.

There are essentially three main steps:

Firstly, we gather all the prerequisites

Secondly, we go through the process of configuring a VPN tunnel

Thirdly, we go through the steps to connect to your new VPN tunnel

After all three major steps have been completed, you’ll be able to send data to a VPN server in an encrypted format, thus preventing hackers and thieves from reading private data.

Step 1: Gathering The Prerequisites

Before diving into the individual steps, we need to take a closer look at all of the prerequisites.

To connect a Windows 8 computer to a VPN tunnel, make sure the following items are in order.

To create a VPN tunnel, you first must know the server’s IP address or its fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

If you’re connecting to a home-brewed VPN server, it might be necessary to use DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System) to assign a static domain name to a frequently changing IP address.

Best Backup for Windows 8

Servers with a static IP address don’t require DDNS, but it’s much easier to remember a domain name than numeric addresses, so DDNS is still a better option

In addition to knowing the server’s name, users will be required to known authentication credentials such as a username and password.

If you can’t remember your login credentials or have never seen them, a good place to start is by calling the help desk.

And let’s not forget, you’ll need a working Internet connection.

You must have the authorization to connect to the VPN server if it’s hosted by a third-party.

Don’t try to connect to servers with other users’ credentials.

The network currently connected to your device needs to permit VPN connections.

Sometimes, organizations block VPN tunnels (typically with a firewall) for special security and productivity circumstances.

Windows Firewall must also allow VPN tunnels on a Windows 8 computer.

Step 2: Configuring the VPN Connection

In Windows, there are often many different ways to access the same configuration interface.

For example, sometimes right-clicking on an application will pull up the same menu found in Control Panel.

However, today we’re going to be starting from the simplest place possible – the Desktop.

Locate the taskbar in the lower-right hand corner, and right-click on the network icon.

Select the Open Network and Sharing Center option.

Locate the next option, which is labeled as Change your networking settings.

Then, opt to Setup a new connection or network.

Doing so will launch the configuration wizard.

On the first screen of the wizard, select Choose a connection option, and then select Connect to a workplace – even if you’re connecting to a homemade VPN server.

Find the option that states How do you want to connect, and then select the option that reads Use my Internet Connection (VPN)

Next, find the field labeled Type the Internet address to connect to.

This will either be the server’s IP address (for instance, 15.109.254.234) or its domain name (vpn1.example.com).

Feel free to add a “nickname” for this connection in the Destination name field.

For instance, if connecting to a VPN server at the office, you might want to give it an obvious name like Office-VPN.

Lastly, click the Create button.

After completion, the networks sidebar will open from the right, displaying the newly created VPN connection.

Step 3: Using the New VPN Connection

Now that you’ve configured a new VPN connection, it’s time to connect the server and encrypt your connection.

The easiest method is to access it from the  desktop’s system tray.

Make sure your Internet connection is up and running.

Now that you’ve configured a new VPN connection, it’s time to connect the server and encrypt your connection.

The easiest way to do so is via the desktop’s system tray menu.

Click on the VPN connection (we named it Office-VPN in our example), and then simply click the Connect button

Within the Network Authentication field, enter your login credentials using the following format: Domain\username.

For instance, I would type: VPN1.example.com\user1.

Next, enter the password to connect.

Enjoy secured and encrypted Internet transmissions.


Caveats, Issues, and Troubleshooting

Setting up a VPN connection is pretty simple.

But there are two problems that non-technical users frequently encounter.

First of all, most users don’t know the domain name or IP address of the VPN they want to use.

In most corporate environments, you can get this information from the I.T. department.

I’ve even seen businesses send out memos with the VPN server’s URL (which I highly advise against doing, because this a massive security malpractice).

On the other hand, if you’re creating a personal VPN server and hosting it at home, you’ll need to setup a custom domain name with DDNS.

If you’re using the server’s IP address for a connection, then simply Google “what is my IP address” on the VPN’s server.

As a word of caution, note that most ISPs don’t give users static IP addresses for free.

So, without DDNS, you’ll need to continually check and make sure your home network’s IP address hasn’t changed.

The second issue people tend to run into is typos.

Take special note the slash is a backslash, as opposed to a forward slash.

This small detail gives people endless headaches, as they try to figure out why the bloody VPN won’t connect.

If you’re having trouble getting the connection up and running, start by checking for typos and errors with the domain name, or IP address.

In the event you have access to the VPN’s server, check if it can ping to other devices on the Internet, and double check its IP and domain.

On the other hand, if you don’t have access to the VPN server, you’ll need to call up an administrator to verify settings.

A useful way to test if a server’s domain got spelled correctly, is by opening up a command prompt, type a ping command, then copy and paste the server’s domain name before running the syntax.

Some VPN servers are setup to ignore ping requests for security purposes, but chances are, you’ll be able to get a response, provided the domain is spelled correctly.


In Summary…

Average users are often befuddled when presented with the task of configuring a VPN server.

Fortunately, it’s neither a long nor hard process and only takes a few minutes to accomplish.

On a final note, consider that there are many different types of VPN protocols, like:

PPTP

L2TP

IPSec

Windows has a relatively limited number of connection protocols.

To create VPN tunnels using alternative protocols,  you’ll need to subscribe to a service like:

ExpressVPN

PIA VPN

 OpenVPN

The kind of tunneling protocol used will depend on how your VPN server gets configured.

Without access to the server, someone from customer support or a help desk is going to be needed, to offer guidance.

It’s also worth mentioning that when connecting to a corporate VPN, your employer will likely provide I.T. technicians to help troubleshoot the process, should problems arise.

The three top steps to configuring a VPN tunnel aren’t too complicated, but they can be a real nuisance without the correct configuration settings.

Feel free to voice any:

Questions

Comments

Concerns

Below and share the article if you liked it.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that there are plenty of great VPN services that eliminate the hassle of building a secret DIY tunnel.

Some of them are as cheap as $3.33 per month, and we’ve put them through their paces, in our reviews, to help people make an informed decision.

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