When it comes to desktop operating systems, Windows is king. In fact, Windows owns over 90% of the desktop operating system market. And the most popular Windows operating system is Windows 10. Earlier this year, Windows 10 elapsed Windows 7 as the de facto operating system for computers across the globe.
But, there’s a teeny tiny problem. Windows 10 doesn’t have a built-in VPN. This may sound strange given that over 25% of users connect to the internet via a VPN. But given that Windows 10 is more concerned with on-system security, users are left to handle networking security on their own.
Here’s the crazy thing. Despite the fact that Windows 10 is the single most popular desktop operating system on the planet, not all VPNs work with Windows 10. There are plenty that only support iOS or even Android. And even those that do support Windows 10 may not have the features you need to really take advantage of your VPN.
Today, we’re going to look at how VPN works and how to select a feature-rich VPN for Windows computers.
Why Do You Need a VPN for Windows 10?
A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) is a service that encrypts and tunnels your connection to a private (or public) server. So, if you try to connect to the internet with a VPN, your traffic is first encrypted and sent to a VPN server where it is then sent to the open internet. By doing this, all of your traffic appears to come from this VPN server instead of your computer.
There are thousands of reasons to use a VPN. You can bypass region-locks, anonymize your data, and even mask your identity. But, let’s see what Microsoft has to say:
“A VPN connection can help provide a more secure connection to your company’s network and the internet.” — Microsoft’s Guide to Connect to a VPN in Windows 10
That simple definition tells you all you need to know. VPNs help provide a more secure connection to the internet. But not all VPNs are created equally. And not all of them are secure by any means. So, let’s take a look at the features you should look for in a Windows 10 VPN.
8 Features Your Windows VPN Needs
1. Plenty of Server Locations
Remember, a VPN encrypts your traffic and tunnels it to a server. This means that your IP address will display as the sever’s IP address — not your own. So, if you were to connect to a VPN server in the UK. Your traffic would be encrypted, tunneled to that server in the UK, and then sent to the open internet. Every website and service would see your traffic is coming from a UK IP address.
This has plenty of uses. You can bypass regional blocks or even take advantage of locational pricing. But you want options. A good VPN should have tons of servers. This means servers in a bunch of different countries (aim for 50+), and a bunch of servers in each country (aim for 800+). That way, if a server starts lagging, you have plenty of other options.
2. OpenVPN Support
One of the biggest benefits of VPNs is that they encrypt your data. This gives you an extra layer of security when you’re browsing the web or interacting with digital resources. But, not all encryptions are built the same. You want IKEv2 and TLS encryption protocols using OpenVPN. Without nerding out too hard, OpenVPN is the industry standard for encryption.
If the service you’re using doesn’t have OpenVPN, move on.
3. A No-logs Policy
What good is the safety and security of a VPN if they log your information? Many VPN providers keep certain elements of your VPN activity for months. That could be something as simple as session logs or sometimes even entire browsing histories. You should always look for a provider that engages in a “no log” policy.
This means that the VPN doesn’t keep all of these logs. Of course, most VPNs will say “no log.” But some of them still keep your information. So always pick a trustworthy VPN.
4. Mobile Apps
Are you planning on connecting to the VPN on your phone or tablet? If so, pick a VPN provider that has apps. Now, it may seem strange to talk about apps in a Windows 10 post. But here’s the thing — you want to be able to use your VPN across all of your devices. After all, you’re paying for it.
If you want to watch British content on your iPad, you may need your VPN to connect to a British server. Since so many VPN providers readily provide these apps, it only makes sense to pick one of the ones that do. After all, why not get everything you can?
5. A Reasonable Price
This should go without saying, but you shouldn’t be paying $20/month for your VPN. Most of the time, you can score some really low prices if you choose to sign up for 12-month or 24-month deals with your provider. In fact, some VPNs charge as little as $1.99/month on their 24-month plans.
But, if you’re planning on paying month-to-month, try to keep it around $12/month. Anything more is probably a rip-off.
6. A Kill Switch
When you’re using a VPN, all of your traffic is being encrypted and tunneled to that VPN’s servers. So what happens if your connection to the VPN drops? This should be a rare occurrence with reliable VPNs, but it still happens. And when it does, it can endanger your privacy. Suddenly, your connection is coming through your regular IP address and everyone knows who you are.
Luckily, some VPNs offer what’s called a Kill Switch. This switch immediately kills your connection as soon as you drop connectivity to your VPN. This means that you’ll never have to fear accidentally leaking your IP.
7. Windows 10 Support
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way — the VPN needs to have native Windows 10 support. It’s that simple. Remember to read the fine print. Some VPNs offer “Windows support” but haven’t invested in updating their services to work with Windows 10 yet. Make sure that it says Windows 10.
8. Unlimited Devices
The majority of VPN providers try to force you to only have so many devices connected to your VPN. That’s a little silly. Not only do some VPNs offer you unlimited devices, but having limited devices can be a nightmare. Let’s say that you can only have three devices. Once you connect your phone, laptop, and tablet, you’re done. That may not leave room for your friends or family. But it may also cause you to run into an incident where the VPN provider doesn’t allow you to connect.
If your laptop breaks and you get a new one, it will tell you that you’re over your limit. So you have to spend hours getting the previous device cleared off the providers saved list. It’s a pain. Avoid that at all costs.
VPNs help you browse the internet in a safer environment. Luckily, many VPNs work seamlessly within the Microsoft ecosystem. But having a VPN and having a high-quality, feature-rich VPN are two wildly different things. You want to aim for a VPN that gives you an abundance of features without charging you an arm and a leg for them.
Don’t let your IP address leak, and your content slip away; grab a VPN for your Windows 10 computer. Just make sure that you pick the right one. Otherwise, you’re going to be paying $20 a month for a slow VPN that logs all of your activity. Who wants to deal with that?