6 Things You Need to Know When Using a VPN on Windows

Getting a VPN for Windows is the best privacy-oriented decision you could make in 2020. Not only that, but if you regularly watch shows on your PC or laptop then a VPN will help you make the most out of your streaming subscription by unlocking shows you couldn’t watch before. Still, there are a few things you can do to boost your experience, both in terms of privacy and entertainment.


For starters, let’s take a look at some ways to improve your browsing and streaming quality. If you’re not happy with your current Internet speeds, check out this list of the fastest Windows VPNs and read on for some easy enhancements.

VPN

Increase Your Windows VPN Speeds

An unfortunate side-effect of VPNs is a slight decrease in speeds. For one, your network data doesn’t travel straight to its destination and vice-versa. It needs to go through the VPN server you’ve connected to. The more your data has to travel, the slower the connection. This shouldn’t be noticeable if you use a quality VPN with fast servers, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Next, there’s VPN encryption to think about. Your PC’s CPU handles the complex mathematics involved in encrypting your data against hackers and anyone snooping in. The less powerful it is, the longer it takes to encrypt your data. Don’t worry, though; follow these next few tips and you should notice major improvements. If you’re thinking of sending large files, you should take note of these.

1. Choose a Location Close to You

You’ve already seen why server location is important. If you notice websites load unusually slow, try connecting to a server closer to your location. Unless you need to connect to a specific server (such as a US-based one to unblock Netflix US), that is. In that case, try some of these other tips.

2. Pick a Weaker Encryption Protocol

Give your CPU a break by switching to a protocol like PPTP, if your provider supports it. It offers pretty flimsy encryption, so it should never be used for privacy or security purposes. However, hackers probably don’t care that you’re re-watching The Office for the tenth time. It should be a solid pick for safe online activities that don’t involve payments, sensitive logins, and so on.

3. Switch from TCP to UDP

TCP and UDP are two data transmission protocols that influence how reliable a connection is. Say you’re trying to send some important work files online. Obviously, you want them to end up in one piece – no missing data or anything. In that case, you’d want to use TCP, which tests for any missing data lost in transit. That process of checking the integrity of your files will inevitably cause things to slow down.

In a situation where data integrity isn’t as important (such as watching Netflix), UDP is the better option. When data loss occurs for video streams, you may notice some dips in video quality. Nothing that affects the overall experience too much. Your episode will keep running instead of stopping to buffer every few seconds, and recover in quality over time.

Of course, if your connection is unreliable even without using a VPN, then you should stick with TCP. Test them both out for different scenarios. You can do so risk-free, since all Windows VPNs linked in the beginning have handy 30-day money-back guarantees.

4. Use Split Tunneling

Speaking of unreliable connections, split tunneling is great for singling out which apps you want using your VPN. Let’s say you just want to watch a show on Netflix US right now. You have an instant messaging app running in the background (Skype, Discord, etc.) and some other app just decided to auto-update (looking at you, Steam).

Split tunneling allows you to route just your browser traffic through the VPN, while letting your ISP’s servers handle the rest of the work. Needless to say, you can expect better speeds and loading times, no matter which app you choose to “whitelist.”

With these speed enhancements out of the way, it’s time to talk about the privacy side of things. Two key Windows features could put your privacy on the line, and may even affect whether your VPN works with your favorite streaming platform.

Privacy Boosts for Your Windows VPN

5. Turn Off Teredo Tunneling

The world is currently in the process of upgrading from IPv4 to IPv6, the newest standard for IP addresses. While that’s happening, we needed a feature to bridge communications between the two standards, as they aren’t compatible by default. That’s what Teredo tunneling does for Windows, Xbox, and so on.

Now, VPNs also use a tunneling protocol to encrypt your data, which can clash with Teredo. This may cause a DNS leak – revealing your ISP’s true location and IP address to anyone viewing your connection. Your VPN’s ability to bypass geo-restrictions may also be affected, not to mention that this is an obvious threat to your privacy overall.

Do yourself a favor and disable Teredo. Here’s how to do it:

1. Open a command window by pressing the Windows Key and R, then typing “cmd

2. Type “netsh interface teredo set state disabled” and press Enter.

That’s about it. Note that you don’t need to include the quotation marks when you type in any of the above commands.

6. Disable Smart Multi-homed Name Resolution (SMHNR)

Yet another feature that would be excellent if it didn’t interfere with how your VPN works. SMHNR sends out DNS requests to all available servers and uses the one with the fastest response. Unfortunately, this often means that those requests will go through your ISP rather than your VPN’s DNS servers – causing a DNS leak. Luckily, all you need to do is disable the feature to prevent the issue. Here’s what you need to do to disable SMHNR on Windows 8 and 10.

You could also skip all the hassle and try one of the VPNs recommended above, which come with built-in leak protection.

I hope that you found this information useful, feel free to comment below.

Watch this space for updates in the Technology category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Staff Writer

Running Wolf's Rant's correspondent who chooses to remain anonymous...

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