In this tutorial, you’ll learn step-by-step how to create a VPN server in Windows 7 with a built-in tool, which will do a great job if you are the kind of person that is always traveling to different locations, e.g., coffee shop, hotel or any other public places and you need remote access to personal files or programs.
If you ever wanted to get access to your computer content (e.g., documents, music and even videos) while away without the need of storing them in the Cloud or connect to your home computer securely, there are different ways to do this, such as, using your Windows Home Server or using a Windows Live Mesh account, and many others solutions. But there is a great way to also do this with a really handy tool built into Windows 7 Home Premium or higher that not many people know about.
You can set up the Windows 7 VPN server (Virtual Private Network) in different ways: you could, for example, use an old computer where you can install Windows and have it always running as a dedicated server or you can set this up in your main PC. Whatever the way you choose, for this to work properly, you’ll need to do the following:
First you need to figure out which is your public IP address (the address assigned to you by your ISP — Internet Service Provider), you can easily know this by going to http://whatismyip.com.
Because most users have a public IP address that changes dynamically and often, you’ll also need to configure DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System) in your home router; that way you don’t have to keep track of a changing IP address. To configure DDNS here is a previous article that explains in details how to do this process.
For this step you need to configure Port Forwarding in your home router and the port that you want to forward is 1723 — this is the Point to Point Tunneling Protocol or PPTP that it will allow the VPN communication. To configure Port Forwarding here is a previous article that explains in details how to do this process.
You just completed two important steps by configuring DDNS in your router, you can use a friendly name (e.g., something.com instead of 188.8.131.52) to contact your home network remotely and also you don’t have to keep track of a changing IP address, and by enabling Port Forwarding now it is possible to contact the computer that will serve the VPN functionality. Now in this third step, we’ll configure the actual VPN service in your Windows 7 PC.
How to create a VPN server
Open Start, in the search box type network and sharing center and press Enter.
Click Change adapter settings link from the left pane. There you will find your different network adapters.
Press the Alt key on your keyboard to bring the file menu, then go to File and select New incoming connection.
What you do here is to tell your computer which users are allowed to connect. Select the Windows user account that you want to allow to connect via VPN or click the Add someone to create a VPN user account.
Then you can additionally, click Account Properties to change some properties, such as full name, set a different password for VPN and Callback settings. Click the Next button to continue.
In the next step, How will people connect? check the box Through the Internet and click the Next button.
Next leave the default settings as they are, select Internet Connection Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click Properties.
There, make sure that the setting Allow callers to access my local area network is checked. In the IP address assignment section, select Specify IP addresses — basically here you are telling Windows 7 what IP address to hand over to the computer that connects to the VPN server –, choose a high-order IP address range to give out to the computers allowed to connect to avoid possible IP address conflict in the future (see image below for reference). Click OK and then click the Allow Access button, and let Windows finish the process.Note: The built-in VPN server in Windows 7 only allows one connection at a time, which for most situations is more than enough.
When you click the Close button in the Allow connections to the computer wizard and if everything was completed successfully, you will see a new item appeared in the Network Connections page called Incoming Connections. Now the server portion is completed.
You are now ready to easily contact your home network and to connect to the PC serving VPN access. In this fourth and last step, you need to configure the computer that is going to connect to the VPN server; to do this follow the step-by-step guide from this previous article How to set up a VPN connection in Windows 7.
Remember to write your DDNS, this is your Domain Name to contact your VPN server and the username and password for the account that is allow to connect. You will need this information when configuring the VPN connection.
After you have completed setting up the VPN connection from the article I just mentioned above, go back to Network Connections:
- Right-click the VPN connection and select Properties.
- Navigate to the Security tab and make sure that Type of VPN is set to Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) option and Data encryption is set to Maximum strength encryption (disconnect if server declines).
- Click the OK button to save the settings.
I would recommend you to configure and test the VPN connection to make sure everything is working correctly, before trying to connect from a remote location.
Like I said at the beginning, there are many ways and different solutions that can accomplish the same thing, but the nice thing about having this built-in tool in Windows 7 is that you don’t have to download and install any additional software, and it works well. Plus compared to some Cloud services that may restricted you on how much data you can upload, with this method you are not restricted on the amount of data that can be uploaded. And you are not using someone else service to store your files; they are securely stored in your home computer.
Update, May 25, 2016: While setting up a VPN server on Windows 10 remains virtually the same, connecting a client using the new operating system is a little different. Check out this updated guide on how to set up a Windows 10 VPN server.