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(Pocket-lint) - You’re probably aware that VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) can protect your privacy and keep your browsing secure. And you might also think that actually setting one up is going to be a pain, because networking stuff often is. We thought so too.

But VPN apps are so simple they make falling off a log seem like a lot of effort, so we thought we’d take you step by step through the process. As we’ll discover it isn’t just easy. It’s really quick too.

In this example we’re going to use NordVPN and we’re going to install it on a Mac. We’ve chosen NordVPN because we know it and trust it, and because in addition to the Mac app it works on Windows, Linux, iOS and Android and supports all the major browsers too.

1. Get the app

First of all, you’ll need to create an account on NordVPN.com so you can connect it to the app. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of installing NordVPN. On a Mac, you can get and install the NordVPN app from the Mac App Store; for Windows and Linux you can download the app directly from the NordVPN website. Never install a security app that doesn’t come from a legitimate, trustworthy source.

2. Sign in to your VPN account

When you run the app for the first time you’ll see this screen. If you haven’t signed in yet – and if this is your first time running the app, you won’t have – you’ll see a sign-in button at the top right of the window. Enter your account details to continue. NordVPN uses a simple colour code here: at the top of the window you’ll see UNPROTECTED in red text.

3. Get protected

To enable your VPN, just click on Quick Connect at the top right of the window. You’ll see the status information in the top centre change: it’s green to show that you’re now protected and it shows you where you’re connected to. The icon in the Menu Bar changes too: the logo is filled in when you’re protected and a line drawing when you’re not. If you want to connect to servers in a particular country, select it from the sidebar at the left.

4. Make it automatic

Go into Preferences and you’ll be able to make NordVPN launch automatically whenever your computer starts. You can also enable CyberSec, which is NordVPN’s service for blocking access to known malware and phishing sites. It does a pretty good job of getting rid of ads on most platforms too; the exception is Android, where its ad blocking falls foul of Play Store app policies.

5. Trust no-one

You’ll find our favourite NordVPN feature in the Auto-connect part of Preferences. This enables you to automatically connect via NordVPN whenever you log in to a Wi-Fi network that isn’t in your list of trusted networks, so there’s never any danger of unsafe browsing when you’re on public Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi that you don’t necessarily trust. You can add the current network, in this case our home network, to the trusted network list by clicking the plus sign next to it. We really like this feature because it means we can make our computer as paranoid as we are.

6. Get there faster

If you don’t disable the Menu Bar icon on the Mac, NordVPN provides one-click access to its connect/disconnect options, its preferences and its list of servers. Once again this is colour-coded so if you aren’t currently connected then you’ll see the red UNPROTECTED text at the top of the menu.

Writing by Carrie Marshall. Editing by Dan Grabham. Originally published on 2 March 2010.