VPN Gate Review

VPN Gate is a free, non-commercial VPN ‘Academic Experiment Project’ developed by the University of Tsukuba, Japan. It was designed to research ‘a good distributed VPN system’, and is a side-project of SoftEther VPN- free and open source multiprotocol software, also developed by the University of Tsukuba. There are issues with the project but overall we were very pleased with it.
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SoftEther VPN

SoftEther VPN was designed as a free and open source alternative VPN platform that fully supports the SSL-VPN, OpenVPN, L2TP, EtherIP, L2TPv3 and IPsec protocols within a single piece of software (which the developers claim is faster than OpenVPN).

Windows computers can run the client and connect to SoftEther VPN servers using the SoftEther VPN protocol (SSL-VPN), while other platforms and devices can connect to SoftEther VPN servers using OpenVPN or L2TP/IPsec. The SoftEther VPN server software has an OpenVPN clone function, so legacy OpenVPN clients are fully supported.

The SoftEther VPN server software can run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris Operating Systems.

softether1Full comparisons of SoftEther with OpenVPN, plus details about its architecture, ect., are available from


We liked

  • It’s free!
  • It’s open source
  • It works well, and connection speeds are fine (depending on server selection)
  • No usage logs (but lots of connection logs).
  • Mirror sites and daily email update for evading government firewalls

We weren’t so sure about

  • P2P downloading is probably ok if you use a server in a country where P2P is legal
  • Very limited number of European servers (and much slower than Asian and US options)
  • Servers go offline quite often

We hated

  • Will hand over IP and connection details to authorities if requested


As part of their anti-abuse policy, the devs at the University of Tsukuba in Japan make it clear they keep connection logs (not usage logs) for ‘three or more months’ (transmitted to them from every VPN Gate server). In the event of criminal wrongdoing, these logs will be handed over to the authorities.

In addition to this, each server volunteer can choose how long they want to keep logs (in practice every server we saw chose 2 weeks). There is of course no way of guaranteeing the identity of a server volunteer, or that they will dispose of logs when they promise to (so the possibility of honeypots exists).

VPN Gate is therefore best seen as an anti-censorship and anti-public WiFi hacking tool, and is not suitable for those requiring a high level of privacy or anonymity (in which case something like Tor is much more appropriate).

Whether P2P torrent downloading is permissible seems something of a grey area (judging from the website’s forums). The system allows it, but tech-savvy node operators can block it using third party software. Torrenting using servers where VP2P downloading is illegal could get the operators in trouble, and therefore seems very rude (and the operators would likely pass on offending IP addresses to copyright enforcement bodies if served DMCA or similar notices). Downloading using servers in countries where it is legal to do so may be fine however.

On a technical level, the SoftEther VPN system is highly secure, using 256-bit AES encryption with RSA 4096-bit key encryption, and SHA-1 hashing (other ciphers can be selected by server operators). As far we can tell, this applies to all methods of connecting to SoftEther VPN servers. Full details are available here.

Using the Windows Client

The easiest way for Windows users to connect to the VPN Gate network is using the SoftEther VPN client + VPN Gate Plugin, which provides ‘a better throughput than L2TP, OpenVPN or SSTP.’ The client is available in English, Japanese, and Chinese (as is the website).

Setup is a simple matter of downloading the software, unzipping and installing it.

se2To use a VPN Gate server, simply double-click ‘VPN Gate VPN Relay Servers’…

VPN Gate SoftEther Client

… And pick a server. A great deal of information is provided to help you choose which one to pick, including ping, line speed, and Total Score (a composite figure derived from all the other variables). It is worth remembering, however, that geographic distance between your location and that of a server will introduce lag.

VPN Gate Relay Servers

A server list is also available on the main website (with links to the relevant OpenVPN config files).

ws1A taskbar icon flashes to let you know that you are connected using the SoftEther VPN client, and if right-clicked provides easy access to some of the client’s more advanced features.

UntitledOther Platforms

As noted earlier, OSX, iOS, and Android devices can connect to the VPN Gate network with the OpenVPN and L2TP/IPsec protocols using standard ‘legacy’ clients. Although not mentioned on the website, we assume that any device capable of using these protocols can connect to the VPN Gate network too. Windows users also have the option of connecting via OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and SSTP.

Connecting using Android

Since we had an Android device to hand, we connected with it using OpenVPN. The process is standard for setting up OpenVPN Connect on an Android device (basically just download and import an .ovpn OpenVPN configuration file from the server list into the app – a very similar process no matter what platform is used).


One of the best uses of VPN Gate is as an anti-censorship tool. Because some governments’ firewalls (such as those in China, North Korea, Iran, and Syria) block access to the VPN Gate website, a number of mirror sites are available (see also here).

mirrorsChina in particular regularly blocks the IP addresses of known VPN Gate servers (apparently any server that has been online for more than an hours or so will likely be blocked), so users in China are advised to sign up for daily email notices containing the mirror URL list (using an international email service).


This review is focused on using the VPN service, but volunteers to run server relays are encouraged to contribute. We haven’t tried it (yet), but the process seems fairly simple, and will give you that warm fuzzy feeling of helping others evade censorship…

se relay1Performance & reliability

Almost 4000 servers were online when we tested, but most of them (and the fastest) were located in Japan, South Korea, and the United States – all a long way from the UK. European servers were quite thin on the ground, but there was a UK one available (12.92 Mbps)…
We tested using’s HTML5 speed test, using their Netherlands server.


Without VPN (SoftEther VPN client)

With VPN to UK server (SoftEther VPN client)

That result isn’t too bad (given the server’s 12.92 Mbps limitations). Just out of interest we tried connecting to a fast server in Japan (57.67 Mbps)…

With VPN to Japan server (SoftEther VPN client)

The distance completely negated any advantage using a faster server brings. We also connected to the UK server we used earlier using OpenVPN…

With VPN to UK (OpenVPN)

This a great result (faster than the SoftEther VPN one in fact).

More even than with regular VPN services, performance between servers is likely to vary, as each is run by a volunteer. This also means that servers go offline fairly regularly (looking at the ‘uptime’ figure when choosing a server can help give an idea how often this might occur for a given server).


We liked

  • It’s free!
  • It’s open source
  • It works well, and connection speeds are fine (depending on server selection)
  • No usage logs (but lots of connection logs).
  • Mirror sites and daily email update for evading government firewalls

We weren’t so sure about

  • P2P downloading is probably ok if you use a server in a country where P2P is legal
  • Very limited number of European servers (and much slower than Asian and US options)
  • Servers go offline quite often

We hated

  • Will hand over IP and connection details to authorities if requested

If you are a criminal or Edward Snowden then VPN Gate is not for you (but then why should the volunteers and devs of a free service put themselves at risk?) The fact that it is volunteer-run also makes the project somewhat unreliable, as operators are likely to turn their computers off on regular basis. Based in the UK we found a limited number of suitable servers available (and they tended to be quite slow), but users in Asia are spoilt for a choice, and will likely enjoy some very fast speeds.

For a free service that is perfect for evading censorship, VPN Gate is very good (as long as you don’t mind the hassle of selecting servers and re-connection now and again). Internet users in the East Asia, in particular, should definitely give it a go.

By Douglas Crawford.

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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22 responses to “VPN Gate Review

  1. Mr. Crawford,

    Sorry, I’m late to the game.

    Thanks for the review. I liked SoftEther/VPN Gate until I read and watched the video there in which the reviewer tested CyberGhost using I tested SoftEther/VPN Gate using the dnsleaktest site and all the IPs, Hostnames, and ISPs returned belonged to my ISP, even though my IP assidned by SoftEther was from Japan. I was very disappointed and uninstalled SoftEther/VPN Gate and installed the free version of CyberGhost and tested with it and it returned only the following.
    IP Hostname ISP Cogent Communications
    And I was happy.

    So, is my assumption that SoftEther/VPN Gate has a significant DNS leak and therefore a security issue correct?

    Thanks again!

        1. Hi Micheal,

          May I first direct you towards my Complete Guide to IP Leaks. Unlike a regular VPN service which will always operate its own DNS servers, VPN Gate is run by volunteers who do not have this ability. A similar problem exists for anyone who rolls their own VPN server. Remember that with VPN Gate you are trusting random strangers with your data, so if security is what you are after, then you should avoid VPN Gate like the plague. On the other hand, VPN Gate is a fantastic anti-censorship system, and precisely because each node is run by volunteers, it is almost impossible to block or shut down. Note that when using VPN Gate you should connect only to HTTPS websites in order to ensure that your data is safe.

  2. Since this is a volunteer based vpn, if i were to log into my email using their vpn would it be possible from them to see my username and password?

    1. Hi Charles,

      Your email is almost certainly protected by HTTPS encryption, so no. If you enter passwords on a non-HTTPS encrypted website, however, it is possible a volunteer could read them. Please be aware, though, that just about all websites that require sensitive information use HTTPS.

    You’re a technology enthusiast yet you use Google+?? Please explain

    1. Hi Alrington,

      In addition to working for BestVPN, I work as a freelance writer, for which I find it useful as clients often request that I have a G+ page. I share only professional information, and you may notice that the last time I posted anything of there was February 2014.

    Hi there Douglas, nice detailed article.
    Yet I still have some doubts about the reliability of this vpn.

    So im a student in erasmus in germany, and for what’s known, germany has very severe rules about copyrighting, torrenting, p2p, etc.. yet as you said they still have that law that makes you free to ‘stream copyrighted materia’ under the ‘temporary data’ thing.

    Well i do not even pretend to use torrents for media download, yet i could use with some series and movies on Popcorn Time. So my question is, would this torrent provider be good enough for me to do so, with ofc, choosing a VPN server location of a country that is legal/grey ??

    And btw, do you have any idea if German laws do punish as severe as torrenting, the downloads of media (most of the times copyrighted) from sharing sites (e.g zippyshare,, etc…) and/or the site’s own link ?

    Thank you in advance, looking forward to hear you!

    1. Hi João,

      Disclaimer: please note that I am not an expert on German law! As far as I understand the situation, streaming is legal in Germany, but downloading is not. Using Popcorn Time is therefore technically legal, but as Popcorn Time uses the BitTorrent protocol, steaming using the app looks exactly like downloading to an outside observer… Have fun arguing that one in court!

      To the best of my knowledge no criminal cases have yet been brought against copyright infringing downloaders in Germany, but copyright holders have been very aggressive in demanding civil damages. See are article on 5 Best VPNs in Germany for a discussion on this.

      For P2P downloading you would be much better off choosing servers in somewhere such as Switzerland, where downloading for personal use is legal. That said, there are very few VPN Gate servers in Europe, and you would be much better off paying a few dollars a month for a good commercial VPN service that allows P2P (there is also a good argument that clogging up VPN Gate volunteers’ servers with illegal downloads is bad netiquette).

    hello every one 1st this is very easy thank you author. next i want know how i can i know the people who using my free vpn . is not doing some crime using my vpn please help

    thank you

    1. Hi tariq,

      As I note in the article,

      ‘As part of their anti-abuse policy, the devs at the University of Tsukuba in Japan make it clear they keep connection logs (not usage logs) for ‘three or more months’ (transmitted to them from every VPN Gate server). In the event of criminal wrongdoing, these logs will be handed over to the authorities.’

      Server volunteers can also keep logs if they wish. This all makes VPN Gate a poor choice for criminals.

    I downloaded this about 2 months ago. It works great. Free. I wouldn’t advise using it for torrenting because its like sucking a bowling ball through a straw, UNBELIEVABLY SLOW, the people who provide the servers can see what you’re doing. In fact I KNOW they snoop on the activity because while I was trying it out I checked my Reverbnation page several times and somebody from Japan added me as a friend which NEVER happens. You tell me, I start using the client, I connect to Japanese servers and the next day I get a request from a Japanese musician. Keep in mind ANYONE can provide their computer to be a VPN server.

    This morning around 4 a.m Malwarebytes blocked an incoming connection via Softether VPN Client which I thought was weird since it wasn’t even running. Plus its a mysterious VPN project in Japan I have always wondered about. It has been a couple days since I even used it. I use it mostly for uploading to Baidu cloud so I can back up files, some of those Japanese/Korean connections are insane, speeds things up like you wouldn’t believe.

    Anyway I checked the Malwarebytes log and ran the IP =

    Its a DoD information center in Ohio.

    I’m no computer wiz but why is the DoD trying to connect with me via Softether VPN? Also, if the DoD is USING the client to connect with me then shouldn’t the IP be different lol? Softether VPN Gate mainly appeals to hackers and people who want to download torrents, etc. The language they use to get you use it says it all.

    How do you know if the DoD or NSA doesn’t provide servers on Softether VPN Gate?

    Use at your own risk, there is something “off” about all this.

    1. The DoD isn’t interested in you, just don’t start that terrorist net back up and you”ll PROBABLY be left free (for awhile,maybe…..)……..Just keep your computer off most of the time AND AVOID ALL EMAIL USE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Where are AES-256 encryptions? All VPNgate windows client connections use RC4-MD5. I often use VPNgate.

    Simplified Chinese, sir, you know what I mean.
    Warning, RC4-MD5 is only 160-bit encrypted. However, we do not use VPN to commit crimes, so we do not have to worry that our traffic might be spied by any “national security agency”.

  3. My daughter just got to Shanghai and we would like to see her been able to use her social networking, we live in Spain, any idea how to set it up for her there? The process please, she has a very low computer skill.


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