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How to choose a security protocol in the ExpressVPN Windows app

We show you how to pick the best protocol for your needs

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ExpressVPN is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service that prides itself with cutting-edge technologies such as 256-bit AES encryption, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, and split-tunneling, a feature that lets you route some of your device or app traffic through the VPN while other devices or apps maintain direct access to the internet. 

As ever, security is at the forefront of any VPN service and with ExpressVPN, you can choose between OpenVPN (UDP or TCP), L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and SSTP security protocols.

  • OpenVPN UDP (‘User Datagram Protocol’) is mostly used for streaming media. It is the best combination of security and speed, but it may not work on all networks.
  • OpenVPN TCP (‘Transport Control Protocol’) is a bit slower than UDP, but it is likely to function on all types of networks. It is used for transferring most types of data such as files and websites and is ideal for media streaming.
  • L2TP/IPSec or L2TP over IPSec is a combination of two protocols - L2TP (‘Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol’) and IPSec (‘Internet Protocol Security’). This protocol combination comes with a pre-shared key and only a subset of VPN locations might be available for it.
  • PPTP (‘Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol’) is the least secure among the options offered and you should only use it if you have a specific reason for it. Just like with L2TP/IPSec, only a subset of VPN locations might be available for it.
  • SSTP (‘Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol’) runs over TCP port 443 and is likely to work on most networks. Like with the previous two, only a subset of locations might be available for SSTP.

This step-by-step guide will show you how to choose protocols in your ExpressVPN Windows app. Using ExpressVPN is the best way to defend yourself against hackers, government spies, data resellers, and identity thieves. Safe to say that ExpressVPN is the one security app everyone should have.

Icon on windows desktop

1. Start the app

Locate and open your ExpressVPN app.


2. Open the menu

In the app, click the hamburger menu button in the upper left part of the app window.

Menu options

3. Select Options

In the menu that pops up, select Options.


4. Click Protocol

In the upper part of the app options window, select the Protocol option.

5. Select a specific protocol

You will see a list of protocols along with a short explanation for each of them. Select the protocol you want by clicking the radio button (the round option button) next to it. Another option is to just leave it at Automatic, meaning the app will automatically select the protocol most appropriate for your network.

Protocol confirm

6. Click OK

Press the OK button for the changes to take effect.

7. Connect to a server

And that’s it! All you need to do now is connect to a server and you can resume your online activities with ExpressVPN. You can do this by pressing the big round on/off button, or one of the smaller two buttons labeled Smart Location (which automatically chooses a location best suitable for your device) and Choose Location (which allows you to choose a server you want to connect to).

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.