What is OpenVPN & How to Use It?

Updated: October 02, 2020

OpenVPN is a popular SSL-based tunneling protocol used in the implementation of virtual private networks. Offering the perfect combination of security, speed, and compatibility, it is one of the best VPN protocols out there.


What is OpenVPN?

Unlike other IPSec-based tunneling protocols, OpenVPN relies on SSL/TLS for authentication and encryption. It is the standard security technology to create secure, remote site-to-site or point-to-point connections. SSL is widely used for protecting financial transactions, data transfers, email, and more.

OpenVPN is compatible with most major and lesser-known operating systems in use today. It provides powerful encryption standards and is excellent when it comes to circumventing restrictive firewalls and prohibitive geo-blocking.

The open-source VPN protocol can be configured to use either TCP or UDP and supports up to 256-bit encryption. Since it is open-source, security vulnerabilities are usually fixed by the open-source community as soon as they are found.

OpenVPN is often used due to the various benefits it brings to the table. For starters, unlike other protocols, it is compatible with Android and iOS. It also can bypass any blockade that it encounters. Also, it can access many ports for communication.

How Does OpenVPN Work?

To put it simply, OpenVPN establishes a private connection – or tunnel – between your VPN client and the VPN server. The traffic passing through it is fully protected with encryption, keeping your data safe from ISPs, hackers, and other third-parties.

Data packets are encrypted by the OpenVPN client before they leave your device or computer. These are received by the OpenVPN server, which uses a secret cryptographic key for decryption. The decrypted data packets are sent to the intended web server like Disney+, for example.

Upon receiving them, the web server sends your requested data to the OpenVPN server, where it is encrypted once again. The data is then sent back to your device or computer running the OpenVPN client, which decrypts it.

What is UDP?

UDP is the acronym for User Datagram Protocol and does not perform error correction. As a result, the packets are received without any retries or acknowledgments. This makes UDP faster but less reliable than TCP.

What is TCP?

TCP is the acronym for Transmission Control Protocol. Unlike UDP, TCP performs error correction. Additionally, its re-transmission mechanism ensures both ends can receive packets. However, the increased reliability results in increased latency.

Key Features of OpenVPN

Full Anonymity

OpenVPN has support for DHCP and dynamic IP addresses, which can result in better anonymity as you browse the Internet.

Fast Speed

The TCP tunnel transport support on the OpenVPN protocol offers you many benefits. It includes seamless online gaming, video conferencing, audio conferencing, & more.

High Security

All your communications are kept secure by various methods, such as shared keys, HMAC authentication, and 256-bit encryption via OpenSSL

Beats Firewalls

OpenVPN can run on any port between 1 and 65535. This multi-port functionality makes OpenVPN an ideal tunneling protocol for bypassing firewalls.

Perfect Forward Secrecy

The PFS feature in OpenVPN adds an extra layer of security. As a result, you get complete secrecy and data integrity.

More Portable

OpenVPN is more portable than other protocols. After all, it is implemented in the user-space and doesn’t need any kernel components besides the TUN/TAP virtual network driver.

Pros of OpenVPN

Here are some advantages of using OpenVPN:

1. Very Secure
If you want to safeguard your data from interested entities, OpenVPN is a highly recommended protocol. It uses high-end ciphers and 256-bit encryption, making it close to impossible for cybercriminals to intercept or steal your information via man-in-the-middle attacks.

2. Cross-Platform Compatibility
One of the best things about OpenVPN is that it can be installed and used on all popular desktop and mobile platforms, such as Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows. It also supports less popular platforms like Solaris, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD.

3. Difficult to Block
It is not easy to detect and block OpenVPN connections as they can use ports on both TCP as well as UDP. Furthermore, configuring OpenVPN on port 443 will enable you to dodge any firewall as it is the same port used by HTTPS traffic.

4. Full Control over Connections
As opposed to other protocols, OpenVPN gives you the freedom to choose between TCP and UDP for transmitting your data. Having more control over your connections will make it easier to tweak them as per your needs.

5. Perfect Forward Secrecy Support
This incredibly useful security measure reduces the risk of your private data getting compromised considerably. Your VPN connection is resistant to various types of hacks as unique keys are generated for every session.

Cons of OpenVPN

Here are a few disadvantages of using OpenVPN:

1. Complex Manual Setup
If you want to configure OpenVPN manually, the chances are that you’ll run into issues. After all, the instructions are too complicated for the non-tech-savvy. You are better off choosing a VPN service as the OpenVPN setup process is handled in the background.

2. Requires Additional Software
OpenVPN isn’t integrated into any operating system, so you’ll need to install third-party software to use it. This drawback, though, has been mitigated to some extent thanks to the availability of VPN services with easy-to-use user interfaces.

3. Slower Connection Speeds
OpenVPN is widely considered as the most secure tunneling protocol. However, the robust security it offers may lead to a drop in your connection speeds.

OpenVPN Protocol Comparison

OpenVPN vs L2TP vs IKEv2 vs SSTP vs PPTP

The following is an in-depth comparison of OpenVPN against other common VPN protocols.

Encryption 128-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Security PPTP implementation has several known security vulnerabilities Latest VPN protocol which implements IPSec and is highly secure IPSec over L2TP, when properly implemented, has no major known vulnerabilities Can be considered as secure as OpenVPN when used in conjunction with robust cipher and ephemeral keys It can be considered extremely secure when used in conjunction with robust cipher and ephemeral keys
Stability Unstable and may disconnect frequently Highly stable and consistent connection once established Stable Connection Stable, but more so on Windows Stable Connection
Speed Fastest VPN protocol because of basic encryption Faster than other VPN protocols due to MOBIIKE support, which makes it stable and resilient L2TL/IPSec is still fast, despite tunneling overhead, due to high encryption/decryption efficiency. Faster than PPTP and L2TP Great speed across long distances and on connections with high latency
Supported OS All Platforms (Manual) Windows OS iOS Android (Manual) Mac OS X (Manual) BlackBerry (Manual) Windows OS iOS (Manual) Android (Manual) Mac OS X (Manual) And More... Windows OS iOS (Not Supported) Android (Not Supported) MAC OS X And More... Windows OS iOS (Manual) Android Mac OS X (Manual) And More...
Conclusion Highly recommended for bypassing geo- restrictions quickly, but isn’t the best option for security Fast speed, strong security, the only VPN protocol supported by Blackberry Easy-to-setup, stable, and secure Safer and faster than PPTP and L2TP, ideal for Windows OS, can easily bypass firewalls Good speed, strong security, native support for most OS.

PureVPN offers support for all major VPN protocols and platforms.

How to Use OpenVPN

If you want to set up a VPN connection using OpenVPN, there are two ways to go about this. The easiest method is to use a VPN service with OpenVPN support, such as PureVPN. In this scenario, all you have to do is:

1. Subscribe to PureVPN.
2. Download and install the PureVPN app for your device.
3. Log in using your PureVPN credentials.
4. Choose OpenVPN as your desired protocol.
5. Enjoy a secure and speedy VPN connection!

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If you’re a user with technical experience, you might prefer the manual configuration route. You’ll find the required steps to set up OpenVPN manually on different devices below. Before you begin, make sure that you have a:

• Working Internet connection
• Premium PureVPN account

OpenVPN Setup on Different Devices

How to Setup OpenVPN on Windows?

To set up OpenVPN manually on Windows, follow these simple steps:

1. Download PureVPN’s OpenVPN installer and extract it.

2. Download PureVPN’s OpenVPN files and extract it.

3. Right-click the OpenVPN installer and choose Properties.

How to Setup OpenVPN on Windows

4. From the General tab, check the Unblock box. Click Apply and then OK.

Click Apply and then Ok

5. Right-click the OpenVPN installer and choose Run as administrator.

OpenVPN installer

6. Click Yes to initiate the installation process.

installation process

7. Click the Next button.

Click the Next button

8. Now, click I Agree.

Now, click I Agree

9. Click Next and then Install.

Click Next and then Install

10. Check the Always trust software from “GZ Systems Limited” box. Once done, click Install.

GZ Systems Limited

11. After the installation is completed, click Next.

click Next

12. Uncheck the Show Readme box and click Finish.

Show Readme box

13. Right-click the OpenVPN GUI icon and choose Run as administrator.

OpenVPN GUI icon

14. Click Yes to allow the app to run.

allow the app to run

15. Right-click the OpenVPN system tray icon, go to your desired server, and choose Connect.

OpenVPN system tray icon

16. Enter your PureVPN Username and Password. Then, click Ok.

PureVPN Username and Password

17. You’re now connected!

You are now connected

How to Setup OpenVPN on Mac?

To set up OpenVPN manually on a Mac, follow these simple steps:

1. Download Viscosity from here.

2. Download PureVPN’s OpenVPN files from here and extract it.

How to Setup OpenVPN on Mac

3. Open Applications, go to the Viscosity icon, and run it.

Viscosity icon

4. Click Viscosity from the menu bar and choose Preferences.

choose Preferences

5. Click the "+" icon.

6. Select Import Connection and then click From File.

Import Connection

7. Choose your desired server from PureVPN’s OpenVPN files.

PureVPN’s OpenVPN files

8. If you want to add more servers, repeat steps 4-7.

9. Click the OK button.

Click the Ok button

10. Click Viscosity from the menu bar and select any server.

Click Viscosity

11. Enter your PureVPN Username and Password.

12. Check the Remember details in my Keychain box and click OK.

Remember details in my Keychain box

13. You’re now connected!

You are now connected

Note: If you want to setup OpenVPN on a Mac using Tunnelblick instead, follow the instructions mentioned.

How to Setup OpenVPN on iPhone & iPad

To set up OpenVPN manually on iPhone/iPad, follow these simple steps:

1. Download PureVPN’s OpenVPN files for iOS and extract it.

2. Download the OpenVPN Connect app.

3. Now, do the following:

a. Connect the iPhone or iPad to your Mac and open iTunes.

b. Click Apps and select OpenVPN Connect.

How to Setup OpenVPN on iPhone & iPad

c. On your Mac, drag and drop your desired server(s) as well as Client.key, Client.crt, Ca.crt, and WDC.key to OpenVPN Documents from PureVPN’s OpenVPN files.

PureVPN’s OpenVPN files

4. Tap the OpenVPN Connect app.

OpenVPN Connect app

5. Tap the "+" icon and import the available OpenVPN profiles.

OpenVPN profiles

6. Enter your PureVPN Username and Password.

PureVPN Username and Password

7. Tap Save and switch the VPN on.

8. You’re now connected!

switch the VPN

How to Setup OpenVPN on Android

To set up OpenVPN manually on Android, follow these simple steps:

1. Download PureVPN’s OpenVPN files for Android from here and extract it.

2. Download the OpenVPN Connect app from here.

How to Setup OpenVPN on Android

3. Once the installation is complete, tap the Open button.

tap the Open button

4. Tap Import.

Tap Import

5. Tap the Import Profile from SD card option.

SD card option

6. Go to PureVPN’s OpenVPN files and select your desired server(s).

PureVPN’s OpenVPN files

7. Enter your PureVPN Username and Password.

8. Tap Save and then Connect.

PureVPN Username and Password

9. Tap the OK button.

Tap the Ok button

10. Next, tap Continue.

Next, tap Continue

11. You’re now connected!

You are now connected
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