Windows is still the world’s most popular brand of desktop operating system, but it never rose to the same level of success on mobile devices. While Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile might be decent operating systems, a late entry into the handheld device market left Microsoft stuck in a catch-22. Consumers don’t buy Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile devices because there aren’t enough apps for them, and app developers don’t bother making apps because consumers aren’t buying Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile devices.
When it comes to VPNs, the story is no different. You’re more likely to find a VPN provider that makes a Linux app than one who invests time and money into developing an app for one of Microsoft’s unpopular mobile operating systems.
OpenVPN, the open-source foundation used by most commercial VPN providers today, doesn’t make an official app for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile. Even third-party apps are scarce.
So, how can one judge which VPNs are best when none of them even bother to make apps for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile? We’ve decided to focus on criteria that aren’t found in apps:
- Speed and reliability
- Security and privacy
- Customer support
- Windows-compatible protocols supported:
- L2TP and IKEv2 on Windows Phone 8.1
- L2TP, IKEv2, and SSTP on Windows 10 Mobile
Without further ado, here are the best VPNs for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile. You can find manual setup instructions further down.
ExpressVPN supports L2TP and SSTP protocols. Servers are fast and among the most reliable we’ve tested. It ranks near the top in our security assessment with a no-logs policy and strong encryption standards. Users get 78 countries to choose from. ExpressVPN’s website publishes detailed instructions on how to set up all possible device and protocol combinations. ExpressVPN has a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free. They are also offering an extra 3 months free here with their 12 month plan.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN supports L2TP, IKEv2, and SSTP protocols. Not all servers are fast, but there are so many to choose from that finding a decent one won’t take long. NordVPN maintains a strict zero-logs policy and uses strong encryption on all connections. The website includes plenty of tutorials, but we found it lacking for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile. We were only able to locate instructions for setting up L2TP on Windows Phone. NordVPN is good value for money with the standard pricing, however they occasionally run promotions with some great discounts.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
VyprVPN supports the L2TP protocol. It’s the only company to own and operate all of its own server equipment, which makes it fast and reliable. The company doesn’t collect traffic logs but does store some questionable metadata logs, such as the user’s source IP address. The website unfortunately doesn’t have any tutorials for manual VPN setup on Windows mobile devices, but live chat support is available.
IPVanish supports the L2TP and IKEv2 protocols. A huge range of servers are available, and they’re fast enough that you should have no trouble streaming high quality video or downloading files. Strong encryption and a no-logs policy are staples of the service. The website publishes some instructions for manual setup, but not for all protocols.
LiquidVPN supports the L2TP and SSTP protocols. It has the strongest security and privacy practices of any VPN on this list. It’s a fairly new service, so its selection of servers is somewhat limited. Despite that, they are blazing fast. Unfortunately, it hasn’t published any setup tutorials for Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile users yet. If you get stuck, you’ll have to submit a support ticket.
VPNs to avoid for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile
Buffered exclusively uses the OpenVPN protocol, which means it’s not compatible with Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile devices.
OneVPN only supports OpenVPN and PPTP protocols. PPTP is insecure and OpenVPN is incompatible with Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone.
Both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile have some built-in support for VPNs. You will have to configure each VPN manually, which admittedly can get a bit tedious. We recommend using the L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2 or SSTP protocols when available, as they are more secure than PPTP.
Before you get started, search your VPN provider’s website for a list of server addresses and a pre-shared key. You’ll also need your username and password.
How to manually set up a VPN on Windows Phone 8.1
- Swipe down on the top notification bar and click Settings.
- Scroll down and tap on VPN.
- Toggle the VPN status to On and then click the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the screen
- Enter a server address from the list given to you by the provider.
- Click the dropdown menu under Type and select your preferred protocol. In this example we’ll use L2TP/IPSec, which is the most common.
- Tap Connect using and choose username+password+preshared key
- Enter your username, password, and the pre-shared key from your provider
- You can opt to connect automatically if you want the VPN on at all times.
- Toggle Send all traffic to On.
- Enter a profile name. Call it whatever you want, probably either the VPN provider name or the location of the server.
- Tap Save
- Back in the VPN menu, tap the name of the VPN to connect to it.
- Rinse and repeat to add more servers.
How to manually set up a VPN on Windows 10 Mobile
- Swipe down on the top notification bar to reveal the settings panel. Tap VPN.
- Tap the ‘+’ sign to add a VPN connection.
- Under VPN provider, choose Windows (built-in)
- Enter a connection name. call it whatever you want, probably either the VPN provider name or the location of the server.
- Enter a server address from the VPN provider’s list.
- Choose your preferred protocol. In this example we will use L2TP/IPSec as it is the most widely supported.
- Enter the pre-shared key from your VPN provider.
- In the Type of sign-in info drop down, choose Username and password
- Enter your username and password.
- Check Remember my sign-in info.
- Tap Save.
- Back on the VPN menu, tap the connection profile you just set up and choose Connect.
Note: Sometimes Windows 10 Mobile encounters an issue in which the pre-shared key is modified and won’t allow the connection to be established. To solve this problem, do the following:
- In the VPN menu, tap the name of the VPN connection you just set up and then tap Properties.
- Tap Edit.
- Enter the pre-shared key again, then tap Save.
- Go back to the VPN menu and attempt the connection again.
OpenVPN for Windows Phone 8.1 and 10 Mobile?
The developers of OpenVPN have not ported an official app to Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. Users of either should not be optimistic. Despite being open source, we’ve yet to see any third party create a reliable and trusted port for Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile.
If you know of a secure and reliable third-party OpenVPN app for Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile, please let us know in the comments.
Best VPN for Microsoft Surface?
The latest Microsoft Surface models are loaded with either Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. These are full operating systems and not just mobile counterparts. If you’re looking for a VPN that you can use with your Surface Pro or Surface RT, we recommend checking out our article on the best VPNs for Windows 10.