7 Tips on How to Use a VPN Like a Boss

Christian Cawley 18-12-2017

Everyone should be using a VPN these days. It doesn’t matter whether you’re concerned about the longevity of the technology 7 Reasons Why VPNs Might Die Out by 2020 VPNs keep you secure at all times, right? Wrong! Here are 7 worrying reasons VPNs might die out before 2020 -- taking your privacy with them. Read More or don’t understand how to use a VPN (here’s the answer to that What Is The Definition Of A Virtual Private Network Virtual private networks are more important now than ever before. But do you know what they are? Here's what you need to know. Read More ).


Basically, you NEED a VPN 4 Reasons to Always Use a VPN When You're Online VPNs (virtual private networks) are becoming more popular. It's not always clear exactly why you should be using one though. Here's why you should use one whenever you go online. Read More as a basic privacy precaution for any online activity on wireless networks. MakeUseOf provides a list of top VPN providers The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More that you should check out if you’re considering signing up to a VPN service.

Once you’ve subscribed, and you’re set up with your virtual private network, you probably think “that’s it, all sorted.” But you’d be wrong. You’ve only just made your first baby steps into the world of VPNs.

Here are seven ways you can enhance your use of a VPN, and use it like a boss.

1. Set Up Your VPN on a Router

One of the most important things you can do with a VPN account is to set it up on your home router. The reason for this is simple: once set up, no other devices on your network need VPN software installing (unless you use public Wi-Fi).

However, there is a problem: not all routers support VPN accounts. As such, you may need to purchase a new router specifically for this task. While this may seem an unnecessary expense, the privacy benefits are considerable. Specific VPN routers are now available online, such as at Amazon.


TP-Link Safestream Multi WAN VPN Router | 1 Gigabit WAN+3 Gigabit WAN/LAN+1 Gigabit LAN Port | IPsec/L2TP/PPTP VPN Supported| SPI Firewall | DoS Defense | Lightning Protection(TL-R600VPN) TP-Link Safestream Multi WAN VPN Router | 1 Gigabit WAN+3 Gigabit WAN/LAN+1 Gigabit LAN Port | IPsec/L2TP/PPTP VPN Supported| SPI Firewall | DoS Defense | Lightning Protection(TL-R600VPN) Buy Now On Amazon $59.84

If this isn’t practical, there are other solutions. For instance, it’s possible to set up a computer as a dedicated VPN between your modem and your router (or, if they’re the same device, between your router and your devices). Probably the best solution for this is a Raspberry Pi — if you don’t already own one, however, buying a VPN router isn’t much more expensive.

There’s also DD-WRT. This is an open source firmware for routers What Is DD-WRT And How It Can Make Your Router Into A Super-Router In this article, I'm going to show you some of the coolest features of DD-WRT which, if you decide to make use of, will allow you to transform your own router into the super-router of... Read More that can be installed on several popular models. If you own a DD-WRT compatible device, installing this will enable support for your VPN subscription How to Set Up Your Own VPN Server Using DD-WRT Whether you want to crank up home network security or connect to your home network remotely, you'll need your own VPN. Here's how to set one up for free using DD-WRT. Read More via the OpenVPN protocol.

2. Avoid Free VPNs

Free VPNs are great, right? Well, actually, no, they’re not. Free VPNs may seem like an excellent alternative to paid solutions, but in truth, you’re still paying.


While there are some good free VPNs 8 Totally Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy Free unlimited data VPNs don't exist unless they're scams. Here are the best actually free VPNs around that you can try safely. Read More for all platforms (including macOS The 5 Best Free Mac VPN Clients (And 2 Bonus Alternatives) Here are the best free VPN clients for Mac, plus some paid options if the free offerings don't suffice. Read More and mobile devices The 5 Best Free Mobile VPN Solutions Many people use a VPN at home and at work. But what about mobile devices? Let's look at some of the best free mobile VPN solutions on offer for Android and iOS. Read More ), overall, they should be avoided.

In every single way, a paid VPN is better than a free one 4 Reasons a Paid VPN Is Better Than Free Ones I used to be big fan of free VPNs. Why pay when free alternatives exist, right? But it turns out they're selling you short. So here's why paid VPNs always beat free VPNs. Read More . Functionally, a free VPN does not cut it 5 Reasons Why Free VPNs Just Don't Cut It VPNs are all the rage, but if you're thinking of going the free route, please reconsider. Free VPN services come with risks that may not be worth taking... Read More alongside a subscription. They’re slower, less versatile (for instance, free VPNs don’t support torrenting), and more often than not display adverts based on the information you’ve used to sign up.


3. Pay Annually for Better Value

You can subscribe to a decent VPN service with almost any budget. Almost all services let you pay monthly, but if you really want to keep your costs down, pay annually!


Pricing for VPN with good long-term deals

This may need a bit of fiddling around with your account settings, but if annual payment is available, you’ll find your VPN offers at least a 10-percent saving. It’s definitely worth paying that fee in advance to make the saving.

While we’re on the matter of paying for your VPN, several options are usually available. For instance, major credit cards and debit cards can all be used to subscribe. Similarly, you might pay by PayPal, or one of its many alternatives The 8 Best PayPal Alternatives for Making Online Payments PayPal is the biggest online payment provider, but it's not the only one. Here are the best alternatives to PayPal you can try. Read More .

Some VPNs, meanwhile, accept Bitcoin as a payment option. If you own a sizable amount of Bitcoin, this represents a minor fraction of the cryptocurrency’s value.


4. Use the Mobile VPN Client

Sadly, not every VPN service offers a mobile client. But if you’re subscribing to one that does, you should take advantage of it. It’s all very well extolling the dangers of using public Wi-Fi without a VPN, but people tend to view this purely as a laptop problem.

Laptop computer displaying a lock
Image Credit: Mike MacKenzie via Flickr

The issue here is that many shopping malls are mobile internet blackspots either intentionally, or by design. Your only option, therefore, is to access the public Wi-Fi on offer in these places. Stores are increasingly offering free Wi-Fi to potential customers in order to learn more about them. Remember that advert on your phone when you signed into public Wi-Fi in your favorite fashion store?

As you should know by now, public Wi-Fi presents many security issues 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi You've heard that you shouldn't open PayPal, your bank account and possibly even your email while using public WiFi. But what are the actual risks? Read More , as it can be easily hacked. Man-in-the-Middle attacks What Is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained If you've heard of "man-in-the-middle" attacks but aren't quite sure what that means, this is the article for you. Read More are particularly common. Simply activating your VPN’s mobile client and connecting to Wi-Fi will protect you from these threats.

5. Don’t Let VPN Encryption Drain Your Laptop Battery

You probably know that a virtual private network uses encryption. And that the encrypted data travels from your device (or router) to the VPN server, then onto the destination website unencrypted (unless you’re using a HTTPS service).

Encryption can be heavy going on your computer. It can certainly impact the performance of your laptop battery, and if you run a VPN client on your mobile device, the battery of your smartphone or tablet. You don’t want your device battery to empty faster than usual, do you?

Child removing laptop battery
Image Credit: Intel Free Press via Flickr

The solution to this is rather basic. You’ll need to employ a portable battery solution to recharge your device during or after VPN use. Regular charging is not ideal for batteries, but it’s a tradeoff between privacy and convenience. We’ve looked at several rechargeable battery packs The 6 Best Backup Battery Packs for Extending Your Phone's Uptime A battery pack is one of the best ways to charge your phone in an emergency. Here are a few portable power banks that might be just what you need. Read More at MakeUseOf over the years. My own favorite is the RAVPower 27000mAh Portable Charger RAVPower 27000mAh Portable Charger Review Today we're taking a look at the RAVPower portable AC-capable battery pack, with a humongous 27,000mAh charge capacity. Read More , which will recharge a laptop, and is available from Amazon.

RAVPower FBA_RP-PB055(B) AC Portable Charger, 27000mAh 100W(Max.) Built in 110V AC Outlet Universal Power Bank Travel Charger (Type-C Port, Dual USB iSmart Ports, 19V/1.6A DC Input) for MacBook, Laptops, Smartphone, Black RAVPower FBA_RP-PB055(B) AC Portable Charger, 27000mAh 100W(Max.) Built in 110V AC Outlet Universal Power Bank Travel Charger (Type-C Port, Dual USB iSmart Ports, 19V/1.6A DC Input) for MacBook, Laptops, Smartphone, Black Buy Now On Amazon

However, smaller alternatives are available, ideal for smartphones and tablets.

6. Learn How to Use Your VPN Software

There’s little point subscribing to a VPN service, installing the client software, and then leaving it to run. Accessing your virtual private network delivers so many advantages 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More , from beating government censorship to keeping your torrent activity private. VPNs can even deliver benefits to online gaming 7 Reasons Why Gamers Need a Gaming-Friendly VPN You've got the best mouse and a stunning monitor. But have you ever thought about how a good VPN can enhance your gaming experience? Here are seven reasons to try one. Read More .

In many cases, these advantages are gained by switching to a particular server. For instance, to watch region-blocked streaming media Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is cracking down on VPNs, but there are a few that still work. Here are the best VPNs to use with Netflix. Read More , you would need to use a server based in the appropriate country.

CyberGhost interface

While some VPN clients make it easy to perform particular private tasks (such as CyberGhost), others offer less explicit features. The result is that you will need to gain familiarity with your VPN client; doing so will enable you to appreciate the full range of features on offer.

7. Book Cheaper Air Travel

We’ve briefly touched on the costs of subscribing to a VPN service. But do you know how to use a VPN to save money? With a VPN enabled, you’ll be able to deal a blow against tracking cookies. Unfortunately, online marketing services have developed other ways to identify you. Going forward, this particular advantage may die out, but for now, switching servers to different locations around the globe to book holidays can yield notable savings.

For instance, agencies selling air travel will offer prices based on your location (if not your previous buying patterns). Many people using VPNs have reported making savings by switching to an overseas server to purchase air tickets. Others still have made similar savings from arranging hotels, day trips, theme parks and other excursions.

Could your VPN pay for itself? There’s only one way to find out!

Be the Boss of Your VPN!

These seven tips should illustrate the importance of fully getting to grips with how to use your VPN. Here’s a reminder:

  • Set up your router with your VPN account
  • Avoid “free” VPN services
  • Save money by paying annually
  • Use a mobile VPN client wherever possible
  • Don’t let your VPN drain your mobile device
  • Understand how to use the VPN client and service
  • Save money when booking air travel and hotels

In short: a VPN isn’t simply a privacy tool. It can save you money, and generally improve your life. Don’t just subscribe, install, and click “Connect”. Get the full benefit, understand what your VPN can and cannot do, and be the boss!

Are you getting the most out of your VPN? Feel like switching to a different VPN provider? Tell us below.

Image Credit: Wavebreakmedia/Depositphotos

Related topics: Hardware Tips, VPN.

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  1. twainer
    December 21, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Nice article, but you leave one pretty important detail in the woods. Most users at home have some sort of streaming service, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon video or Absolutely none of these video streams will work over a VPN. One needs some way to quickly and easily switch on/off the VPN so your favorite show can be streamed. Using the home router to encrypt the whole house over the VPN won't allow for this.
    What's needed is a by-pass route that can be programmed into the system so the VPN can be avoided when necessary.

  2. Jules
    December 20, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Superstar! Thanks for this.

  3. Shesk
    December 19, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Can you explain the first one in a little more detail? Why would I need a VPN on my home router for internal devices? Internal devices is implied because you say no other device on your network need VPN software installed.

    If my home is setup with a strong WPA2 passphrase and/wired only connection, what benefit would a VPN provide?

    • SamIam
      December 21, 2017 at 5:52 am

      B/C a VPN can essentially encrypt every device connected to your router, i.e., your smart TV, thermostat, Alexa service, etc. Not every VPN is compatible with routers though. I know for a fact ExpressVPN is (because I use them), but that's all off the top of my head.

    December 19, 2017 at 3:48 pm


    • Stuart
      December 19, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      It looks good, but I'm a bit concerned about it affecting the Caps-Lock key...

  5. T Green
    December 19, 2017 at 4:12 am

    The cheaper air travel tip actually works. i used Express VPN to save $45 on my flight to DC last year. You have to remember to clear your cookies after each search though.