As a VPN review website we are primarily concerned with outgoing VPN, which is when you connect from your computer to a third party VPN server (which then goes on to connect to the internet, providing a great deal of privacy, the ability to spoof your geo-location, secure WiFi connections, etc.).
It is however possible to set up your PC as a VPN server. Known as ‘incoming VPN’, this allows you to connect securely to it from another computer, ideal for accessing files when away from home, or (its most common use) for allowing staff to access files and resources stored on an office computer. As usual with VPN, data passing between the VPN server and connected computers (including mobile devices) passes through an encrypted tunnel, and should therefore be secure.
Setting up incoming VPN in Windows 7 (PPTP)
PPTP is not, to be honest, a very secure protocol, but it is relatively easy to setup, can be used by just about every VPN client ever made, and is built into Windows.
1. Open the Network and Sharing Centre (Start -> Control Panel -> Network and Sharing Centre), and click on ‘Change adapter settings’ (‘Manage network connections’ in Vista).
2. Press the ‘Alt’ key to show the File Menu, then File -> New
3. Choose who you want to give access to, or ‘Add someone’. When you are done, click ‘Next’.
4. Select ‘Through the Internet’ and click ‘Next’.
5. Select the kind of incoming connection you want to allow. You will likely want to allow at least ‘Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)’ so that remote users can access the internet and LAN network, and probably ‘File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks’ so they access files and shared printers on the network. When you are done, click ‘Allow Access’. On the next window, click ‘Close’.
6. Open the ‘Network Connections’ widow again (see step 1) and ensure that the ‘Incoming Connections icon has appeared (you may need to refresh the window to this). Close the window.
7. Click ‘Start’, and type ‘cmd <enter>’ into the search box. At the command prompt type ‘ipconfig <enter>’. Look for your internet connection, and make a note of your IPv4 Address and Default Gateway.
8. The next bit is tricky to explain as you need to configure your router’s firewall to allow incoming PPTP connections, and the way to do this differs for each router. To access your router’s settings, enter the Default Gateway address (which you made a note of above) into your browser’s address bar. The key thing is to ensure that port 1723 is open.
On this Netgear router, Port Forwarding has a PPTP preset (port 1723 of course). If asked (as you are here), you should enter the Local IP address (your IPv4 Address you noted in Step 7) so that packets can be properly forwarded.
You should now be able to connect to your computer using any PPTP VPN client, using your PC’s outfacing internet IP address, and the user details you setup in Step 3.
If you use VPN regularly then you will need to setup a static IP address, or use a service such as No-IP, which will provide you with a hostname (e.g. yourname.no-ip.org) to enter into your VPN client, and will keep track of your dynamic IP so it forward your assigned hostname to it.
To access shard folders you will need to manually enter the share address e.g. network_ip//:computer_name/folder/.
If you have problems then Microsoft’s documentation on the subject, available here, may be able to help further.