Most VPN providers supply their customers with custom VPN clients to connect to their network. This software ranges from inoffensive to non-functional, and it can be a point of frustration for users.
Fortunately, you probably don’t have to use it. Most providers also support OpenVPN, which is an open-source VPN standard that runs through a separate software client. The best-known OpenVPN client for the Mac is Tunnelblick, and it’s excellent. Tunnelblick is built specifically for the Mac, and its sleek icon lives quietly in your menu bar, ready to connect to a VPN whenever you’d like.
To get up and running you’ll need to install Tunnelblick from the developer’s website and install the necessary OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN service provider.
1. Download the most recent stable version from Tunnelblick’s website, and install it on your Mac.
2. The first time you open Tunnelblick it will pop up a message saying that you’ll need VPN configuration files. Click on “I have configuration files.”
3. The next window explains how to install VPN configuration files. Click “OK.”
4. The above-mentioned configuration files should be available from your VPN provider in the form of a list of files with the .ovpn extension. These files include all the data about your VPN services that Tunnelblick will need to get the connection functioning. You may need to contact customer service or do some Googling to find them.
5. After you’ve downloaded the files, open Tunnelblick’s configuration screen by clicking on its icon in the menubar and selecting “VPN Details…”
6. To add configuration files to Tunnelblick, drag and drop the .ovpn files into the left-side menu pane from Finder. Do not drag over any other files, like .crt or .pem files.
7. Tick “Apply to All” and click “Only Me” in the next window.
8. The configurations will automatically be added to the system and available for connection.
Connecting & Disconnecting
1. To open a new VPN connection, click on the Tunnelblick menubar icon to and select a configuration.
2. Enter your username and password for your VPN provider and click “OK.”
3. A small Growl window will pop up in the upper-right of your monitor showing your connection status. Once the connection is complete, the notification window will go away.
4. If Tunnelblick’s icon is now black instead of light grey, you’ve connected successfully.
5. To see your connection status and outside IP address, click the Tunnelblick icon and look at the first line. To disconnect, click that same menu item.
Sharing Credentials Across Configurations
If your VPN provider has multiple exit points, you can set up Tunnelblick to use the same login credentials for all of them. Otherwise it will ask for your login information once per configuration, which can be annoying. If you can, set this up before you connect to the VPN for the first time as it will cut down on potential errors.
1. Click on the Tunnelblick icon.
2. Select “VPN Details…” to open the configuration menu.
3. In the resulting menu screen, click on the “Settings” tab, then click the button labelled “Advanced…”
4. Under the “VPN Credentials” tab, tick “All configurations use Common credentials.” This will set all your VPN connections to use the same username and password.
5. To set the username and password that the credentials will use, log in to a VPN connection that doesn’t already have saved credentials.
6. Type in your username and password and make sure to tick “Save in Keychain” under both the username and password.
7. After you log in the app will save those credentials and apply them to any other VPN connections you initiate.
Tunnelblick is a strong OpenVPN client for macOS that can handle multiple configurations at one time. If you can get OpenVPN configuration files from your VPN provider, you’ll be good to go.