Your internet service provider (ISP) knows you’re reading this right now. It’s selling that information and a million other data points to third-party marketers so they can build a profile on you. They’re going to use that eerily detailed profile to try to sell you things. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing targeted ads for VPNs in the near future.

Kind of creepy, right? That’s not the half of it.

If you’re connected to the unsecured internet, there’s no telling who’s watching what you’re doing. Overreaching government agencies who want to track your activity and shady hackers looking to get their hands on your sensitive information aren’t uncommon. To get them off your back and out of your business, you need to invest in a virtual private network (VPN).

FYI: The first VPN was built in the 1990s by engineers at Microsoft who were trying to keep data private on public networks. For more information, check out our 2021 VPN buyer’s guide.

As a Windows user, you obviously value systems that work well. You want to customize your experience, and you want to be comprehensively protected. Before we talk about how to set up a VPN, let’s discuss what they are and why you need one.

How Does a VPN Work?

You can check out our guide to how VPNs work if you’re interested in the inner workings of a VPN, but for our purposes I’ll give you a quick 30,000-foot overview.

Connected in Germany using NordVPN

Connected in Germany using NordVPN

VPNs essentially work in two ways: They establish a private connection between your computer and its destination, and they encrypt your traffic so it would be indecipherable even if it were to be intercepted.

Think of it this way: If you take your dog for a walk, your neighbors can glean a lot of information. They know what kind of dog you have, what time you’re not home, and what color shirt you’re wearing. Your snooping ISP does the same thing with your internet activity.

Now let’s say your backyard has a private tunnel where you can walk your dog. Suddenly, no neighbors can gather information on your activity. VPNs work in a similar fashion, but they also add additional layers of protection.

There’s a lot of technical jargon we could get lost in, of course, but that’s generally how VPNs work.

FYI: There are lots of reasons people use VPNs, but the two big ones are privacy and security. There are a few added benefits, such as being able to stream Netflix from anywhere in the world or torrent in anonymity, but VPN users generally are concerned with how vulnerable they are online.

Surfshark's UI and server list

Surfshark’s UI and server list

How to Set Up a VPN on Windows 10

This may go without saying, but the first step is selecting the VPN provider that’s right for you, which means considering factors such as speed, privacy, and additional features. If you want some guidance, then the best place to start is our list of the top 10 best VPNs of 2021. If you want to cut to the chase, then you can read our comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN — two of our favorite services.

Once you’ve selected your service, head to the company’s website and make your purchase. It will require you to select a username and password and enter your payment information. Once that’s done, you’ll download the .exe file and run the program.

Seriously, that’s all there is to it. No need to mess with network options or open a configuration window. This is really simple stuff.

Pro Tip: Once your VPN is up and running, give it a quick speed test to make sure you’re connected to a server that will give you the least latency.

If, for some reason, you’re operating in S mode on Windows 10 and you can’t install apps from outside the Store, then you can still configure your VPN manually. To do that, open the Network and Internet configuration from the Settings option in the Start menu. Click Add VPN Connection.

Windows logo

Windows logo

Click the drop-down menu below the VPN provider, and click Windows (Built-In). Click the Connection field, and type in the name of the VPN connection. After that, click the Server Name or Address field and type the server’s address (you’ll find it in the VPN account itself). Click the drop-down below VPN Type to select your connection protocol, and then click the menu for Type of Sign-In Info to select your method. This will depend wholly on your VPN provider. Click Save, and you’re all set.

And there you have it! You’ve purchased and set up a VPN on your Windows 10 machine, and now you’re surfing in digital anonymity.

The Final Word on Windows 10 VPNs

Our online privacy is eroding. The internet as we know it is a fraught and fragile thing, and, unless we’re proactive in protecting it, it won’t be a place to freely exchange information forever. One of the best ways to push back and reclaim your privacy online is by using a VPN. I’d encourage you to look at our guide to the best VPNs for Windows and take back your digital security.

Windows 10 VPN FAQs

Will a VPN work with Windows 10?

Yes, most modern VPNs work well with Windows 10.

Do I need a VPN with Windows 10?

You don’t need a VPN for day-to-day functionality, but it will certainly go a long way toward increasing your privacy and security online.

Are VPNs hard to set up on Windows 10?

No, setting up a VPN on Windows 10 is as easy as downloading a file and executing it.

How much are VPNs?

It depends on the service you select, but VPN service typically costs between $3 and $15 per month.

Are VPNs hard to use?

No. Modern VPNs are designed to be extremely user friendly. If you have basic competency with computers, using a VPN should be no problem.