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Microsoft VPN Client for Windows Review 2023: What’s the Point?

The Microsoft VPN client built into Windows 10 and 11 may seem like a convenient way to connect to a virtual private network (VPN). But it likely isn’t the best option for most VPN users.

While the Windows VPN client is free and already included in your Windows operating system (OS), it doesn’t function like a full-featured VPN service. You can’t use it to unblock Netflix or other streaming sites, securely browse on public WiFi or hide your IP address from your internet service provider (ISP).

The Windows VPN is more of a basic client that you can use to connect to a third-party VPN service that you subscribe to separately. But by using the Windows client instead of your VPN provider‘s dedicated app, you‘ll miss out on important features like a kill switch, split tunneling and more.

In this Windows VPN client review, we’ll cover how it works, who it‘s best suited for and why a regular VPN service like NordVPN or Surfshark is a better choice for most people.

How the Windows VPN Client Works

The Windows VPN client has been built into Windows for years now, well before many of today‘s popular virtual private network services existed. It allows you to configure and connect VPN tunnels using several protocols:

  • PPTP – Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol
  • L2TP/IPsec – Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with IPsec encryption
  • SSTP – Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol
  • IKEv2 – Internet Key Exchange version 2

To use the Windows VPN, you must first set up a connection profile with the necessary credentials provided by your organization or VPN provider. Once configured, you can connect and disconnect to that profile as needed.

The client itself doesn‘t actually provide any VPN servers or encryption. To access a private network and enjoy the anonymity benefits of a VPN, you‘ll need to connect the Windows client to a third-party service like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, etc.

The Windows VPN is essentially just a tunneling tool while the VPN service handles everything else, like routing your traffic through encrypted servers to mask your IP address.

Who Is the Windows VPN Client Best For?

The built-in VPN client is likely only useful for:

  • Enterprise IT admins – Configuring Windows devices to connect to corporate VPNs and networks. The client works well for managing VPN policies across lots of employee computers.

  • Advanced users – People very experienced with VPNs and networking who want granular control over protocols and tunneling. The Windows client offers more tinkering than consumer VPN apps.

For the average person looking for a VPN to protect their online privacy, access restricted content or torrent safely, third-party services like NordVPN and Surfshark are much better options. They‘re affordable, easy to use and packed with features the Windows client lacks.

Pros of the Windows VPN Client

  • Included for free with Windows 10/11
  • Lets you choose your VPN protocol
  • Useful for enterprise IT management

Cons of the Windows VPN Client

  • No servers – Requires a third-party VPN service
  • Very limited features compared to VPN apps
  • Manual setup and credentials required
  • Unintuitive interface
  • Lacks a kill switch, split tunneling, etc.

Lacking Important VPN Features

Since the Windows client itself doesn‘t include any actual VPN servers, encryption or other underlying technology, it misses out on many of the features you‘d get with a dedicated VPN app.

No kill switch – A kill switch automatically shuts off your internet access if the VPN connection drops to prevent data leaks.

No split tunneling – This allows you to route some traffic through the VPN and other traffic outside the VPN. Useful for excluding certain apps from the VPN.

No CyberSec – Cybersecurity features like ad blocking, tracker blocking and malware protection.

No double VPN – Using two VPN servers for extra anonymization and encryption.

No obfuscation – Obfuscated servers help bypass VPN blocks and censorship.

No SOCKS5 web proxy – Allowing you to proxy your web traffic through the VPN for added privacy.

And much more! For the most robust features, software and security, a third-party VPN like Surfshark or NordVPN is a much better choice.

How to Setup Windows VPN Client

If you do want to use the built-in VPN tool, here‘s how to set it up on both Windows 10 and 11:

Windows 10

  1. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > VPN.
  2. Click Add a VPN Connection.
  3. Enter a name and server address provided by your VPN service.
  4. Select VPN type: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP or IKEv2.
  5. Choose your authentication method and enter credentials.
  6. Click Save to finish setting up the VPN connection profile.

To connect, click the Network icon in your system tray, select the VPN profile and click Connect.

Windows 11

  1. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > VPN.
  2. Click Add a VPN profile.
  3. Fill out name, server, VPN type, sign-in info.
  4. Click Save when finished.

To connect, go back to VPN settings and click the Connect button next to your profile.

Once set up, connecting to your VPN is as simple as clicking the profile and hitting Connect. But again, you won‘t actually benefit from many VPN features without signing up for a paid service.

Windows VPN Client Compatibility

The VPN client is built into Windows 10 and Windows 11. However, it is not included in the special Windows 11 SE edition designed for school laptops and low-cost education devices.

For students and schools seeking an affordable VPN option, check out our recommendations for the best VPNs for school and college. Many top services offer discounts for longer term subscriptions.

Microsoft Provides No VPN Support

Don‘t expect to get any technical support or assistance with the Windows VPN client. Microsoft provides no customer service since it‘s just a basic built-in OS tool.

For troubleshooting the client, you‘ll need to rely on Microsoft‘s Windows VPN documentation and community forums. Contact your VPN provider for any issues connecting to their service.

Should You Pay for Windows Just to Get the VPN?

The Windows 10 or 11 license can cost $100-$200 if you need to buy it new. But paying that much just to get the free VPN client doesn‘t make sense when there are cheap VPN services that work much better.

For example:

All provide way more features, better performance and easier apps than the Windows client.

Windows VPN Client FAQs

Does Windows 10 have a built-in VPN?

Yes, Windows 10 and 11 both have a VPN client built into the operating system. However, it only acts as a connection tool. To actually access a private VPN network, you still need to use a third-party VPN service.

Is the Windows 10 VPN good?

The built-in VPN client is very limited compared to the apps and clients provided by most paid VPN services. It lacks important features like a kill switch, split tunneling, ad blocking and more. The Windows VPN is manual to set up and mainly useful for IT administration, not typical consumer VPN use cases.

What is the best free VPN for Windows 10?

Good free VPN options for Windows 10 include ProtonVPN and Windscribe. Both offer free subscription tiers with unlimited data. Just expect slower speeds and fewer features compared to paid VPNs. See our guide on the best free VPN services.

Can I use the Windows VPN to watch Netflix?

Unfortunately no, the Windows client doesn‘t bypass Netflix geo-restrictions since it doesn‘t provide any VPN servers of its own. You‘ll need to connect it to a paid VPN service that offers servers optimized for Netflix like NordVPN, ExpressVPN or Surfshark.

Conclusion: Just Get a Real VPN Service!

The Windows 10 and Windows 11 VPN client seems handy since it‘s built-in and free. But it‘s too limited, manual and difficult for the average user to bother with.

You‘re better off signing up for a full-featured VPN service like NordVPN or Surfshark. Their apps provide everything the Windows client is missing – servers, encryption, streaming unblocking, kill switches, split tunneling and more.

So skip the subpar built-in client and get a real VPN designed not just for connecting, but also security, privacy and accessing restricted content worldwide. Your best bet is to check out our list of the best VPNs overall to find the right provider for your needs.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.