Five Best VPN Tools

VPN software makes it possible to bring the security of a private network to large and insecure networks like the greater Internet. This week we look at the five most popular tools for building your own virtual private network.

Photo by Noah Sussman.

If you're new to the idea of virtual private networks, you can read up on the technical nitty-gritty at the Wikipedia entry for VPNs. Note: This Hive Five contains both VPN server applications and VPN client applications. In many instances companies produce VPN servers, VPN clients, VPN servers with accompanying clients, or VPN clients that are designed to work with a variety of servers.

Cisco VPN (Windows/Mac/Linux, Variable Cost)

Cisco has a high market saturation in corporate and educational environments and many of you have had your entire experience of virtual private networks through such exposure. The price to run a Cisco VPN is highly variable—and you can't even get a concrete number without a quote from the company—but you can, as an end user, download the free Cisco VPN client for Windows and Mac. Many readers complained about the lack of 64-bit support in the free Cisco client.

OpenVPN (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)

OpenVPN is an open source VPN server designed to be easy to set up for use with open source VPN clients. You can easily export configuration files from OpenVPN to import into a variety of open source and commercial clients. OpenVPN is also integrated into several router firmware packages including popular DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato. The OpenVPN system isn't compatible with popular commercial VPN providers but it provides an open source and free alternative to expensive and closed commercial models.

LogMeIn Hamachi (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)

Hamachi's strongest attribute is its ease of use. If you've read some of the other entries in the Hive Five and realised that you don't want a contract for a corporate VPN or the hassle of configuring a bunch of routers with open-source firmware packages, you just want to set up a simple virtual network between you and your friend, your phone, or your office, Hamachi is offers nearly instant deployment. Install the Hamachi client on all the machines and devices you want to connect into your network and add them to your Hamachi VPN and you're done. The downside, if you're concerned about it, is that your VPN isn't locally managed — it's centrally managed by Hamachi through their servers.

Shrew Soft (Windows/Linux, Free)

Shrew Soft offers a VPN that while popular in it's own right, received quite a boost when people started adopting Windows 7 64-bit in droves and found that Cisco wasn't in any hurry to release a 64-bit client to accommodate them. Shrew Soft works with a variety of VPN server protocols including IPsec, OpenSWAN, freeSWAN, and strongSWAN.

Windows VPN Client (Windows/Linux, Free)

Windows has a built-in VPN client—surprised? Many people are, it's not a heavily advertised feature—which covers many people's needs. Before exploring other client solutions it's worth pulling up the quick launch box in the Windows start menu and typing "VPN" to start the configuration process. In Windows versions prior to Windows Vista, the built-in VPN client received a fair amount of criticism for lacking features and supported protocols. Since Vista and especially in the Windows 7 implementation it has grown significantly and unless you need a feature or standard that isn't implemented you may not need to install anything at all.

An honorable mention goes out to the Mac OS X built-in VPN client. Have a VPN tip, trick or application to share? Let's hear about it in the comments.


    Lots of people may not like Microsoft, but can you correct the VPN title for Microsoft's VPN? LOL

      Something weird in the US copy there! Fixed now.

      Just signed up to HideMyAss VPN and it's faster than my previously VPN. Hence jumped to this one, so far it seems really quick and easy to use their secure connection app. I took their current 1 year for $4.99/m

      Last edited 13/06/16 11:45 pm

    Windows VPN Client (Windows/Linux, Free)

    You can run the 'Windows' VPN Client, on Linux now?
    Major development in Microsoft supporting other rival operating systems!!

    Cisco has a new VPN client that is compatible with 64 bit operating systems. It is called Cisco anyconnect vpn client.

    Hamachi doesn't support Mac clients. is also pretty good

    Gbridge is a free software that lets you remotely control PCs, sync folders, share files, and chat securely and easily. An extention of Google's gtalk service, Gbridge automatically forms a collaborative, encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network) that connects your computers and your friends' computers directly and securely using your google account. Gbridge has many unique features including built in VNC and Google App support.

    I'm having trouble understanding VPN. I thought there had to be a VPN server somewhere that we had to log into? I must be missing something because your article said that if I run Himachi and then install Privoxy, then my personal computer will become the VPN server?? If that's the case, why does the Windows VPN client ask for the destination computer that you want to log into?? Is there a way for me to set this destination computer to be my own computer?

    All I have is a laptop...will this work?
      I suggest following the instructions on this site. They are very helpful.

    Hey, you forgot to mention one more alternative: RHUB remote support servers. It works well.

    Best VPN service provider on Windows 7 and 8 to bypass country censorship and open all blocked websites through encrypted and secure tunnels

    I'm using Wasel Pro one of the best VPN service providers. It's very effective to overcome all restrictions via the standard app or using the L2TP VPN setting. It's suitable for all operating systems.

    there is a lot of vpn services on the internet marketlike hotspot and othere vpn's but after using waselpro i can open all of my favorite websites like facebook ,twitter , youtube and i even can download with no limites .

    Last edited 05/07/14 7:46 am

    it's more easy to find a vpn server for security.

    I use Cactus VPN, their Windows client is much more easier than Hamatchi's.

    Well if you are not tech person you can easily setup any reliable 3rd party VPN on your computer but make sure that VPN offering highly encrypted data and protocol service for your security. At you can read reviews of all best VPN and choose the best one for yourself.

    Last edited 01/08/15 12:04 am

    I'm using BVPN one of the best VPN service providers. It's very effective to overcome all restrictions via the standard app or using the L2TP VPN setting and also sheilding my activity while using Wi-Fi. It's suitable for all operating systems and also portable devices. or

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