Massively speed-up your Mac's public VPN

26 May 2017, 07:54

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Update July 2017: I can no longer recommend the application listed below because it has serious DNS leak issues that compromise your privacy. Instead I recommend the use of Viscosity. Alas, this isn’t free, but does not have the DNS leak issues. The original article is still below, and the advice is still good for Viscosity, even if the steps are slightly different.


Recently I underwent a revelatory experience when using the public VPN service I subscribe to. I’d only ever been able to get 1Mbit speeds, at best, and typically the speed yo-yoed between that and just a few kilobits. On a whim I tried a third-party VPN client and, wow, suddenly I was getting near-native DSL speeds – up to 50Mbits, or thereabouts, and staying around that range while downloading.

I had spent a long time thinking the VPN service simply wasn’t very good, when the real story was that their client wasn’t any good (I had updated and reinstalled it several times). I understand from speaking to others that this is sadly not uncommon.

If you’re in a similar position then here are some steps that might help.

OpenVPN config files
We’re going to use the free-of-charge Tunnelblick app, but before downloading and installing it we need to go on a voyage of discovery. Visit the support/help pages of your VPN service and find out if they provide OpenVPN access points. They very likely will, and often they do so specifically for mobile devices, or Linux computers, so it might help to search for something like “Android OpenVPN” or “Linux OpenVPN”. What you’ll probably find will be ready-made OpenVPN configuration file downloads. OpenVPN configuration files come with .ovpn or .conf file extensions. Some VPN services might even offers specific readymade Tunnelblick configuration files.

You’ll probably find many OpenVPN config files available, with one for each end-point city and/or country (that is, there might be ones for California, or London, or Belgium etc). Download the ones for locations you want to use on a regular basis but, crucially, rename each as you download them to make it clear what the location is (that is, something like “California.ovpn”). Ensure you leave the file extension alone, however.

If offered a choice between UDP and TCP OpenVPN config files, select UDP, because this is usually fastest.

Here are links for readymade OpenVPN configs for some popular public VPN services:

Know of others? Add them to the comments below.

Setting up Tunnelblick
Download Tunnelblick, and then double-click its icon to start the installation procedure. It’s best to select the stable release, rather than beta, or at least until you get more experience using Tunnelblick.

When installing Tunnelblick you’ll be prompted to install OpenVPN too. This is a necessity because this open source and hugely popular app unfortunately doesn’t come preinstalled with macOS. However, you’ll have to type your macOS login password when prompted to let installation take place. During setup you’ll also be asked if you want Tunnelblick to periodically check for connection changes while you’re connected to a VPN – the choice is up to you (it’s a good idea) – and you’ll finally be asked if you already have configuration files. You do, of course, so select that option when offered.

When setup has finished, simply double-click the first of the OpenVPN configuration files you downloaded earlier. This will install it, and that file can then be deleted. Repeat for any of the other OpenVPN configuration files you downloaded earlier.

Opening/closing a VPN connection
From this point on opening a VPN connection is simple. Just click the OpenVPN icon on the menu bar (its icon is that of a train tunnel), and then select which connection you want to use. When making the initial connection you’ll be prompted for your VPN username and password, so type them when required, and then put a check in the Save In Keychain boxes so that you won’t have to enter them again in future.

To disconnect the VPN connection, again click the Tunnelblick menu bar icon, but this time select the Disconnect option from the menu. Alternatively, simply quitting Tunnelblick will kill the connection.

Hovering the mouse cursor over the Tunnelblick menubar icon will cause a pop-up window to appear showing connection speed and status.

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Leave a comment...

Great article, VPN is great software for bypassing regional restrictions especially on Netflix, but I’m ONLY using VPN when I’m travelling.

Last year I went to Spain and I couldn’t get access to my favourite movies which I was used to watch in the States.

To by pass this, I used Buffered – so far I’m satisfied.

Andy · Jul 5, 02:10 AM · #

Private Internet Access STRONG authentication tblk config files are located here: https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/openvpn/openvpn-strong-tcp.zip

Unpack the zip, rename the extension to .tblk and you are good to go.

Double click the newly created .tblk file and it should auto config Tunnleblick to use the new strong authentication.

If you prefer to navigate to the site, then Google https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/pages/client-support/#first

In other words, Google PIA Client / Support / Advanced OpenVPN SSL Restrictive Configurations

Enjoy

InTraining · Jul 15, 10:06 PM · #

 
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