With so much of our lives online these days, many people are understandably concerned about protecting their privacy while using the internet. Cybercrime has increased significantly in recent years, and there’s technically nothing stopping the government or your internet service provider (ISP) from snooping on the sites you visit.
The solution for most people? A reliable VPN. This encrypts the connection between your device and a server on the internet, making it undetectable to someone on the outside. It does mean trusting your data with one of the VPN companies, but most have strict no-logs policies. This means they don’t collect any information shared while a connection is active, and don’t have access to any data that can be used to identify individual users.
Many people also use a VPN to access content that’s usually restricted to specific countries, like local versions of Netflix or BBC iPlayer from outside the UK.
Does Windows 10 have a built-in VPN?
Technically, yes, but there are some big caveats here. You may have seen ‘VPN’ listed under the ‘Network & Internet’, but this only offers the option to ‘Add a VPN connection’. That’s because it’s only a VPN client, so you’ll still need to sign up for a third-party service for it to work properly.
Even after that’s taken care of, you’ll still need to jump through a few more hoops to get it working. The Windows 10 VPN client requires you to set up individual connection profiles, with only one server address and one protocol for each. That’s fine if you connect to the same couple of locations every time, but it’s a real hassle if you want to quickly switch between lots of places.
How to create a connection profile on Windows 10
To help illustrate this, here’s how to set up a new connection profile within Settings. For this to work, you’ll need to have the server address information handy. This is usually available within your chosen VPN service’s account settings, but it’s not always easy to access:
- Head to Settings > Network & Internet
- Choose ‘VPN’ from the left pane
- Click ‘Add a VPN connection’ from the screen that appears
- In the new window, select ‘Windows (built-in)’ as the VPN provider
- Type any name for the connection in the ‘Connection name’ field
- Enter the server address in the next box
- Under ‘VPN type’, choose a protocol that matches the one you’re planning to use (WireGuard isn’t supported)
- From the next drop-down, choose how you sign-in to the VPN service (Username and password is the most common)
- Enter a password if necessary and click ‘Save’
- You should now see the profile you’ve created appear under the ‘VPN’ section. Click it and choose ‘Connect’
To disconnect from the VPN, it’s a simple case of clicking the profile and choosing ‘Disconnect’. Once that’s done, following the same step will allow you to remove it altogether.
Our recommendation: Use a third-party VPN service
This process might not seem too complicated, but remember you’ll have to do it for every new server you want to connect to. The VPN client doesn’t offer a kill switch, split tunneling or any of the premium features we’ve come to associate with third-party services. There’s also no easy way to replicate this experience on other devices, aside from downloading the provider’s regular app.
With that in mind, there’s no good reason for most people to persist with Windows 10’s clunky built-in VPN client. The key exception here is if you’re running Windows 10 in S mode, which limits downloadable apps to those available from the Microsoft Store. No third-party VPN services can be installed, so this is a decent workaround.
Which VPN should I use instead?
If you’re running Windows 10 Home or Pro, we’d suggest using a different VPN service. There's a wealth of choice these days, with many great options remaining relatively affordable. Our best VPN chart has 10 options we can easily recommend, with NordVPN our current top pick.
A combination of lots of servers, fast speeds (including the new WireGuard protocol) and an app that’s extremely easy to use make its the VPN to beat. However, all the services in the chart offer the same core experience, as well as significant discounts if you’re willing to commit to a two-year subscription upfront.
What if I don’t want to pay?
The good news is that there are still plenty of great free VPN services. However, all are limited in some way, whether it’s a lack of servers, slower speeds or limited data allowance.
That means we’d recommend a paid service for long-term usage, but free VPNs can be useful for occasional access. Our best free VPN chart runs through the six most reliable, with each offering a premium service if you’d rather remove the limits.