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How to Use VPN on Your Mac

Views: 511
Votes: 1
Posted: 07 Aug, 2017
by: Poh-ek C.
Updated: 07 Aug, 2017
by: Poh-ek C.

How to Use VPN on Your Mac

Set up a VPN Connection

     There are a few things things you need to have before setting up a VPN connection:

VPN Server Address

     This is the IP address that we need of the VPN server. It can also be a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) such as vpn.mycompany.com, depending on how it’s been configured.

Username and Password

    All VPN connections have a username and password. These are usually set up for you by your IT administrator.

Connection Type

     There are two types of VPN connections, L2TP and PPTP. Both allow a secure connection, though L2TP is generally found to be the better of the two. This is because, in addition to a username and password, L2TP connections can require a shared secret. This is like a secret passphrase that any VPN users will need to add to their connection.

How to Connect Your Mac via VPN

To set up a VPN connection on your Mac, you need the following details.

  1. Server IP address or fully qualified domain name
  2. Username and password
  3. Connection type (L2TP or PPTP)

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using dummy information. While there are “free” VPN services out there we could use, I take the safety and security of your Mac (and mine) very seriously! If you would like to know more about commercial VPN services, I’ll be exploring these later.

All VPN settings can be entered into System Preferences, under the Network preference pane.

Step 1: Open System Preferences and then select Network

Step 1 Open System Preferences and then select Network
Step 1: Open System Preferences and then select Network
Network Preferences
Network Preferences

Step 2: Click + and then select VPN under the interface option. Specify either PPTP or L2TP.

Step 2 Click  and then select VPN under the interface option Specify either PPTP or L2TP
Step 2: Click + and then select VPN under the interface option. Specify either PPTP or L2TP

Step 3: Select Configuration and then Add Configuration. Name it “Server 1”.

Step 3 Select Configuration and then Add Configuration Name it
Step 3: Select Configuration and then Add Configuration. Name it "Server 1”

Tip: In the steps above, I asked you to add a configuration named “Server 1”. This step is actually optional and you can in fact just enter it under the default configuration. The reason for adding a configuration is that some users find they have multiple VPN settings. OS X can manage multiple VPN settings using the configuration option. For example, you may have a VPN profile (another name for a your VPN settings) for an office in the US and one in Australia.

Step 4: Enter the VPN server’s IP address (or FQDN) and user name.

Step 4 Enter the VPN servers IP address or FQDN and user name
Step 4: Enter the VPN server’s IP address (or FQDN) and user name.

Step 5: Select Authentication Settings… and then enter the password. Note: If you selected L2TP as the VPN type then this is panel is where you’d also enter the shared secret.

Step 5 Select Authentication Settings and then enter the password
Step 5: Select Authentication Settings and then enter the password.
Note If you selected L2TP as the VPN type then this is panel is where youd also enter the shared secret
Note: If you selected L2TP as the VPN type then this is panel is where you’d also enter the shared secret

Step 6: Make sure Show VPN status in menu bar is selected, then click Apply.

That’s it, you’re ready to go! On your menu bar, you’ll see a new icon that looks like a luggage tag. Click this and then select Connect VPN. Once it’s connected, you’ll see a timer starting.

When a VPN connection is established you will see a timer on the menu bar
When a VPN connection is established, you will see a timer on the menu bar

Now we’ve established a VPN connection, go back to System Preferences and you’ll see some connection information, including your VPN’s IP address.

System Preferences will also display connection details such as IP address and time connected
System Preferences will also display connection details such as IP address and time connected

Sending All Traffic Over VPN

      By default, your Mac will only pass necessary traffic via VPN, such as accessing a file server or other machines or sites that are on the same network as the VPN server. This is because most VPN connections can be quite slow, so your Mac doesn’t want to slow your Internet experience down needlessly. However, we can override this.

Go back in System Preferences and select Advanced….

Go back in System Preferences and select Advanced
Go back in System Preferences and select Advanced.

Straight away, we see an option to Send all traffic over VPN connection. Ticking this and then saving the changes will mean your Mac will pass all network traffic over the VPN. It is generally not recommended since it can make your Internet connection appear very slow and you may also find accessing servers and printers on the network you’re physically on is stopped.

For all the data to be passed over the VPN once the option is enabled, we need to set the service order. This is the order that your Mac passes data over the network. We must have the VPN as the first service in the list. To do this, select the drop down cog menu and select Set Service Order... From here, you can drag the services into the required order, making sure the VPN is at the top.

Set the VPN to be the highest in the list of services
Set the VPN to be the highest in the list of services

However, this is necessary if you need to access a site as we discussed earlier that’s only available in the country where your VPN server is located. Going back to our earlier example, if you were in the UK and you needed to access a US only site, enabling this option will allow you access to that site.

Getting a VPN Account

For many users, you’ll probably have a VPN profile from your employer’s IT department. If you’re wanting a VPN for personal use, there are many services that offer a VPN account for a low monthly cost.

One such company is Strong VPN, which offers VPN accounts from $7 to $30 month, depending on the features you require. They offer VPN accounts in many countries around the world and their price plans vary depending on the service you require and the length of time you pay for (it’s cheaper to pay annually than monthly overall).

Tip: Be careful when selecting a VPN provider. While the traffic is encrypted, make sure you go for a company with a good reputation rather than one that looks a little too good to be true!

Roll Your Own VPN Server

You can use OS X Server, but if you’ve got a spare Mac that can run Leopard or above, you add VPN server functionality to the standard version of OS X using a nifty little app called iVPN (trial available, Ł14.99).

iVPN has an extremely simple setup that you can easily customise and manage accounts on
iVPN has an extremely simple setup that you can easily customise and manage accounts on.

You’ll need to know what your router’s IP address is (known as an external or WAN IP address). If it’s static, then it won’t change and you can use this as the VPN server address. If it’s dynamic (which changes) then I recommend using a service such as Dynamic DNS (DDNS) if your router supports it. You are provided with a generic domain name such as myname.dyndns.org and it is assigned to your external IP address. With Dynamic DNS, your router will automatically update the domain name whenever your IP address changes so you will always be able to connect.

Before using iVPN, make sure the Mac you want to use it on is set up with a static IP address and make sure you set up port forwarding. The ports you need to forward to the Mac is as follows:

  • TCP - 1701 and 1723
  • UDP 500

Now you can connect to your home network via VPN wherever you are. Your Internet access will be secure and if you have a Time Capsule or network storage, you can access them as well!

Wrapping Up

In this guide, we’ve touched on the uses for a VPN, how to establish a connection and even how to set up a new server. Do you use a VPN connection for work or home? Do you use a commercial VPN provider? Let us know in the comments!

Cr. computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-use-vpn-on-your-mac--mac-46053

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