After you download expressvpn and run the installer, you’ll find the installation process is unusual. In fact, you cannot even choose the directory to install. ExpressVPN is designed for fools. You’ll see later that the UI of expressVPN is also simple for no-brain use. The uninstall and repair of ExpressVPN is done by the same .exe program as the installer.
This strange installer, although may be useful for non-experts, may cause some problem in some cases. I found a problem in which the installation was interrupted in the middle, then the program cannot install ExpressVPN in any way. You cannot even uninstall or repair it by running the installer again. Rebooting computer does not help. I finally solved this problem by deleting all the registry entries that are related to ExpressVPN.
At the first time you run ExpressVPN, you will need an activation code to sign in. This is unlike other VPN programs that use email/password to login.
After inputting a valid activation code, click the “sign in” button. The sign in process may halt if the ExpressVPN login server is blocked. Although this probability of login server being blocked is less than the probability of vpn server being blocked, it can still happen. Then, you can not even login expressvpn, not to say connect to the VPN servers it provides. So I suggest you not to logout frequently if already log in. If you’ve logged in, you can use the VPN servers even the login server is blocked later. After you sign in, the client itself does not login or check the status of the activation code frequently when it quits and restarts again, if it fails to connect the login server.
If you are able to successfully sign in, you will not be asked to input the activation code again next time you run the software unless the activation code is expired. You will see the following UI:
You can see a big button in the center of the window. Click it, expressvpn will connect to the vpn server located in the country displayed below. The country is automatically chosen for you. The system recommend the country based on its measurements you do not need to know. All you need to do is clicking the connect button. This is why I call expressvpn is designed for fools. After a while, if connected successfully, the big button will become green, and then you will begin to use the vpn server to surf the internet. All your traffic will go through the express vpn server, thus your real ip address will be hidden. You can visit whatismyip.com to check your new ip, the ip of the vpn server. This way, your privacy is protected. Note that expressvpn only shows the country of the vpn servers, not the particular vpn server in that country. Every time you connect to a country, it may pick a different server/ip address in that country, which means you cannot select a particular ip address. This may cause problem in some cases. Another thing to notice is that after the express vpn client starts to connect a vpn server, your internet connection will be cut off immediately until the connection is finished successfully. The same applies when the vpn connection is cut off accidentally, and you will lose the internet connection because expressvpn wants to protect you from exposing your real ip. If expressvpn did not do so, the applications that are sending traffic would continue to send traffic using your real ip, and your efforts of hiding your real ip would go down to the drain. But if you disconnect the vpn connection manually, the internet connection will switch to the original one.
Now let’s explore the menu of expressvpn client.
Click the “VPN Locations” menu item, you will see the window below:
Click the down arrow near the area/continent, you’ll see the countries in the area/continent:
You can see expressvpn supports a number of countries. Click the left arrow at the right of a country, you’ll see the cities in that country.
Double-clicking a city will connect to a vpn server in that city. You should be aware of the fact that each city may have multiple servers and each time you double-click a city, it may connect to a random server in that city. The recent locations you selected and the recommended locations will be listed in the Recommended column.
Clicking the Options menu item will bring up a window with 5 tabs:
- Launch ExpressVPN on Windows startup
- Start ExpressVPN minimized
- Connect to the last used location when ExpressVPN is launched
Network Lock Option
- Stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly
- Allow access to devices on the local network(such as printers and file servers)
Splitting tunneling Option
- Manage connection on a per-app basis
Click Settings to choose which apps use ExpressVPN when connected.
On the account tab, you can see the account status, the next renew date. You can manage your account by clicking the “Manage account” button. It will bring up the browser to navigate to the expressvpn official website, where you can login with your email/password to manage your account. If you click the “Sign Out” button, you will log out immediately(you need to disconnec the VPN connectin before doing that), and you will need to input the activation code in order to use expressvpn again. Here you can refer a friend to earn free days. Click the “Refer Friends” button, you’ll be led to an expressvpn webpage, where you can fill in your friend’s email address. ExpressVPN will send invite email to your friend, and if your friend signs up, both you and your friend earn 30 free days of using ExpressVPN.
- Automatic(recommended). ExpressVPN will automatically pick the protocal most approprite for your network.
- UDP-OpenVPN. Best combination of speed and security, but may not work on all networks.
- TCP-OpenVPN. Likely to function on all types of networks, but might be slower than UDP.
- L2TP-IPsec(weak security). Useful for anonymization and changing locations when other protocols do not work.
- PPTP(weak security).
The ExpressVPN browser extension lets you control your VPN connection directly from your browser. ExpressVPN has google chrome extension and firefox extension.
- Help improve ExpressVPN. Sahre crash reports, speed tests, and whether VPN connection attempts succeed. These reports never contain personal identifable information.
- IPV6 leak protection. Prevent IPV6 address detection while connected. Only disable if you need ipv6 connectivity.
- DNS. Only use expressvpn dns servers while connected. Check it if you do not want your ISP to know what websites you visit.
- Network settings. Optimize Windows networking to maximize VPN speed. Only disable if your internet is slower than usual.
- Language. You can choose one from quite a few languages.
The other menu items are basically links to useful webpages.
You can see the settings are a little complicated. Fortunately, you do not need to touch it as the default settings work well in most cases.
Pros and Cons
You may have noticed this VPN service provider for a long time because their ads appear everywhere on the Internet. Its price is almost the highest one among VPN providers. The benefits of ExpressVPN is its massive VPN servers/locations, its easy-to-use UI, and the traffic speed it can provide. There’s no problem using ExpressVPN to watch HD videos. The speed can reach above 1MB/s in some locations. But can it unblock the internet in some restricted areas as it advocates? No! It is still at the mercy of some powerful firewalls on the planet. It’s lack of novel technology to work around the block of the firewalls. On some days, you’ll find all their VPN servers are out of reach. You can not even connect to their support website. They change the domain names(the domain names take the form of xxx.xyz, where xxx is a weird random string) of their support website constantly to escape from the block. But their supportive spirit is worthy of praise. They may set up a special webpage to comfort those customers who are restricted from their service. On those days, they may add a few extra new ip addresses for you to connect and pray the new ip addresses can live a little bit long before being traced and blocked again. This is all they can do at present. What an expensive and miserable VPN provider!