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How to setup OpenVPN GUI

What is the OpenVPN GUI 2.4.3

OpenVPN is the go-to Virtual Private Network (VPN) protocol (at least for commercial VPN services). And rightly so. OpenVPN is community-supported, open source software that is primarily developed by OpenVPN Technologies, Inc.

[pros_cons pros="Full DNS leak protection (both IPv4 and IPv6);Full IPv6 routing;WebRTC protection;Open source;Always uses up-to-date OpenVPN" cons="No kill switch;Slightly complicated setup"]

In addition to the OpenVPN protocol itself (backend), the community has developed a standalone open source graphical user interface (GUI) frontend – OpenVPN GUI. Most VPN services these days offer custom OpenVPN clients. These always use the open source OpenVPN backend (the protocol itself), and are almost always based on a modified version of the open source OpenVPN GUI client. Sometimes this is heavily skinned (modified), sometimes only slightly so.

OpenVPN GUI vs Custom OpenVPN Clients

Custom OpenVPN clients offer two main advantages over OpenVPN GUI:

  1. They are slightly easier to set up, as you do not need to separately download and import OpenVPN configuration (.ovpn) files.
  2. They often provide additional features that are not available in OpenVPN GUI.

It should be noted, though, that OpenVPN 2.4.3 GUI now includes the most important features that were once only available via custom software - DNS and WebRTC leak protection. Indeed, OpenVPN GUI fully supports IPv6 routing, which is something that no custom client yet does (with the exception of Mullvad’s). Arguably the most useful feature offered by custom clients, but not OpenVPN GUI, is a kill switch. Other more useful features include Secure Shell (SSH)/Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) tunnelling, obfsproxy support, and VPN over Tor. Easy port selection is also a handy (rather than having to manually edit rather intimidating OpenVPN config files). Custom clients can also be much prettier and more user-friendly than OpenVPN GUI, whose interface can most charitably be described as functional.

Custom Client Update Issues

A big advantage of OpenVPN GUI over custom clients is that it always uses the most up-to-date (and therefore secure) version of OpenVPN. This cannot be said for all custom clients. In addition to this, many custom clients are based on older versions of OpenVPN GUI. Unless added as part of the customization, this means that they may not support more recent OpenVPN GUI features such as DNS and WebRTC leak protection. As providers update their custom clients to incorporate the new open source OpenVPN GUI code, we should see better support for these features (and full IPv6 routing) going forward.

Conclusion

OpenVPN GUI is a great little OpenVPN client. Some smaller and newer VPN services have yet to develop their own custom software and so use OpenVPN GUI instead. This absolutely fine – as I say, OpenVPN GUI is a decent OpenVPN client. If your VPN service does offer a custom OpenVPN client, should you use it or opt for OpenVPN GUI? I would say that it depends whether the custom software offers features not found in OpenVPN GUI that you can’t live without, such as a kill switch. All else being equal, though, OpenVPN GUI is a lean and mean VPN client that always uses the most up-to-date version of OpenVPN.

Written by: Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

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