Windows 7 VPN Setup

If you want secure access to your network on Windows 7 when away from the office, you can setup a Virtual Private Network (VPN). You can connect via the Internet and securely access your shared files and resources. You don’t have to buy an expensive VPN server if don’t have a lot of users. Windows actually provides VPN server and client functionality. In this tutorial, we’ll set up the Windows 7 or Vista VPN server and connect with Windows XP, Vista, or 7. Now let’s get started!

Virtual Private Network on Windows 7

VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology lets a computer using a public Internet connection join a private network by way of a secure "tunnel" between that machine and the network. The most common case is a business allowing its employees to connect to its work network from home or from the road.

There are two principal ways to configure VPN. The first and more common scenario, called outgoing, is setting up a remote computer to call into the office network. The second scenario, called incoming, occurs on the network side, where a computer allows secure connections from other computers. Windows 7 comes preloaded with the Agile VPN client, which makes setting up either kind of connection relatively easy.

SetUp Outgoing VPN Connection

To configure the Windows VPN server, you do what is described by Microsoft as "creating an incoming connection." This will be the server or host of the VPN. Among other things, you’ll specify the users you want to be able to connect. Follow these steps to create an incoming connection:

  1. Click the Start button. In the search bar, type VPN and then select Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
  2. Enter the IP address or domain name of the server to which you want to connect. If you’re connecting to a work network, your IT administrator can provide the best address.
  3. If you want to set up the connection, but not connnect, select Don’t connect now; otherwise, leave it blank and click Next.
  4. On this next screen, you can either put in your username and password, or leave it blank. You’ll be prompted for it again on the actual connection. Click Connect.
  5. To connect, click on the Windows network logo on the lower-right part of your screen; then select Connect under VPN Connection.
  6. In the Connect VPN Connection box, enter the appropriate domain and your log-in credentials; then click Connect.
  7. If you can’t connect, the problem could be due to the server configuration. There are different types of VPN. Check with your network administrator to see what kind is in use - such as PPTP - then, on the Connect VPN Connection screen, select Properties.
  8. Navigate to the Security tab and select the specific Type of VPN from the drop-down list. You may also have to unselect Include Windows logon domain under the Options tab. Then click OK and Connect.

Building Incoming VPN Connection

Before you can set up the incoming VPN connection, you need to first configure your network router so that it knows which computer it has to forward all VPN traffic to. Log in to the router’s control panel — it’s usually as simple as opening up a Web browser and typing in (or whatever IP address your router has)—but refer to the router’s setup instructions from the manufacturer for more details.

Once you are in the router’s control panel, configure port-forwarding or virtual server settings so that port 1723 has the IP address of the Windows computer you are setting up VPN on. You can always get the IP address of the Windows computer by typing ipconfig at the command prompt. By default, most routers have PPTP or VPN pass-through options enabled in its firewall settings. It’s worth checking to make sure it’s turned on before closing the router settings page.

Once the router is configured, open up the Network and Sharing Center (under Control Panel, Network and Internet) on the Windows 7 computer that will accept incoming VPN connections. Look for the sub-heading "Change adapter Settings" on the left-hand side of the screen. You can also get to this window by typing "Network and sharing" from the search bar under the Start menu.

In the "Change Adapter Settings" windows, you will see adapters showing wireless connections you’ve already configured on the computer, VPN connections, and the regular network adapter that is installed on the computer. Click on the File menu and select "New Incoming Connection". If you don’t see the File menu, hit ALT-F to open the menu.

Select all the user accounts that can access this computer. You can even create new accounts using the "Add someone" option. After selecting the users, you will be asked how people will connect to the computer. Select the "Through the Internet" checkbox.

In the next window asking about network protocols, most people will just need to set up only the TCP/IPv4 connection. If your computer is on an IPv6 network, or if you know users will be coming in via IPv6, then you can enable that as well. You should make it a point to uncheck (turn off) "File and Printer Sharing" as keeping it enabled will allow the remote user to access other resources on the network. If you do want the remote guest to be able to jump from your computer to another, or to use the printer, then keep it turned on, but think carefully before making that decision.

You will see a confirmation message that the incoming VPN connection has been created, with the name of the computer name the remote user will need. The remote user will enter that computer name when creating the outgoing VPN connection on their own computer. If you go back to the adapters list in "Network Connections," you will now see the connection that you just created, and the message "no clients connected." When remote users connect successfully, this message will change.

And that’s it! Now you are able to have remote users connect to your computer securely, and you can create secure VPN connections to other computer as well.