What’s the difference between PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SOCKS when talking about VPNs?

Deciding on the type of “protocol” to use for your VPN is like choosing the best tasting ice cream: there are many choices, and some people prefer one choice over another.

For VPNs, the 3 main choices are PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN. We also include SOCKS, but that is not really a VPN protocol. Some people also use SSTP too, but that is not being used so much these days (yet!). Then you also hear of “IPSec”, but that is really a marketing brand used by Cisco and other companies and really refers to L2TP.

Did we confuse you yet?

Yes, it can be a little confusing. So we will only concentrate on the differences between PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SOCKS. There is a good comparison chart on Kovurt.com, but here is our own chart too:


VPN Protocols





Ease of Setup Fast Fast Moderate Moderate
VPN Speed Fast Fast Moderate Moderate
Security Moderate Very Good Very Good Best
Stability Good Good Better Best
Suggested Systems iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac Mac, Ubuntu Mac, Windows 7

PPTP and L2TP do not require any software for you to install! So many people like to use them because you only need to enter your username and password once on your computer or phone, and in the future you can connect with a click of a button

OpenVPN is a little more cumbersome because you must download software first to use it. Then you must install the software and maintain the software when there are upgrades. OpenVPN is a little more stable, but most people agree that PPTP and L2TP are just so much easier to use. Plus, PPTP and L2TP can be used on iPads, iPhones, and Android mobile phones, but OpenVPN can not be used on those devices (unless you “crack” them).

So those are our thoughts on the differences. Please leave your comments below to let us know what you think.

How to setup PPTP VPN on Linux

For our instructions and tutorial, we are using the VPN services from Kovurt.com. You can use any service you like, but we prefer Kovurt. We are also using Ubuntu as an example for Linux.

Install the Network Manager PPTP plug-in
1) Go to the System menu in the taskbar on Ubuntu, expand the Administration menu and click on Synaptic Package Manager.

2) In the search box, enter “pptp” and hit enter.

3) Click the box next to “network-manager-pptp” and select Mark for installation. If the network-manager-pptp is already installed (the check box will be grey), exit the Synaptic Package Manager and proceed to VPN setup instructions below.

4) The system may prompt you to install additional necessary components. Click on the Mark button to select the additional components.
a) Click the green check mark in the toolbar to apply all selected changes and install the PPTP plug in.
b) When prompted to apply the changes, click the Apply button.
c) Close the Synaptic Package Manager

Setup the PPTP connection
1) Expand the System menu and click on Network Connections to open the Network Connections control panel

2) Click on the VPN tab. If the Add button on the VPN tab is grayed out, follow the instructions above to install the PPTP plug-in.

3) Click the Add button to add a new VPN configuration.

4) When prompted to choose a VPN connection type, choose Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and click the Create button.

5) In the Connection name: textbox, enter “KOVURT VPN”

a) In the Gateway field enter the “server” name that Kovurt or your service provider sent you. That should something like vpnserver-usa.vpn.com or something like that.

b) In the Username field, enter your VPN username.
c) In the Password field, enter your VPN password.
d) Click the Advanced button to bring up an additional settings dialog.
e) Check the Use Point-to-Point encryption (MPPE) box.
f) Click the OK button
g) Click the Apply button (you may be prompted to enter your password to store the configuration securely)
h) Restart Network Manager (The best way we have found to restart Network Manager is to open a terminal and type “sudo /etc/init.d/network-manager restart”. This will disconnect all of your network connections)

6) In the taskbar, click on the Network Manager applet to bring up the connection menu. Then expand VPN Connections and select “KOVURT VPN”.