Let us start our Hide My Ass review, one of the largest VPN providers on the market today by saying that they have been providing VPN services since 2005. The company was started by Jack Cator in Norfolk, England. He originally started the service as a way for him and some friends to bypass their school’s firewall restrictions. In 2009 he introduced HMA as a subscription service and it expanded rapidly and has never looked back. In May of 2015, Privax, the parent company of HMA was acquired by online security giant AVG Technologies. Privax is based in London, England and AVG Technologies is in The Netherlands. Currently HMA has over 930 VPN servers in 350+ locations. These are spread between over 220 countries around the world. This means they can offer their subscribers a choice of over 120000 IP addresses in geographically diverse locations to help them surf the Internet more securely with greater privacy.
Pricing and Special Offers
HMA is a little bit on the pricier side of the best VPNs that we have reviewed but, size-wise they have the largest network of any VPN provider. They market their VPN service as a single package. In keeping with their tongue-in-cheek website, they divide this package into three term length plans: Kick-Ass, a monthly plan; Half-Ass, a six months plan, and Smart-Ass, a twelve month plan. Like most top providers, they offer increasing discounts on their longer term plans. Due to these discounts, you can currently sign up for their VPN service for $11.52 a month, $8.33 for 6 months, or $6.55 for 12 months. This means you can save 28% off the regular monthly price if you subscribe for 6 months and if you sign up for 12 months you will save a whopping 43% off.
So, what do you get for your $6.55 per month? HMA provides the following benefits for all of their subscribers regardless of their chosen plan:
Free custom VPN Software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android
2 Simultaneous connections
Unlimited VPN bandwidth and usage
Worldwide virtual IPs from more than 900 servers in 220+ different countries
Dynamic IP addressing with a choice of over 120000 IP addresses in geographically diverse locations
Choice of VPN protocols: OpenVPN, IPsec, and PPTP
The ability to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions
Wi-Fi hotspot protection against hackers and identity theft
VoIP support to save on long distance costs
30-day money back guarantee
HMA offers a few different ways to pay for their VPN service. They accept the following credit cards: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, JBC, Discover/Novus, Diners, Solo, Carte Bleue and others. You can also pay using PayPal if you prefer to pay all of your online payments from one place. WebMoney is available in: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ghana, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivore, and Egypt. Bank and wire transfers are only available for account renewals. Bitcoin is no longer supported.
Risk-Free Trial Period
HMA Pro VPN does not offer a free trial. However, they know that you would like to try out their service for yourself before you decide to buy it so they offer new subscribers a 30-day, 100% money back guarantee.
New orders are covered by the HMA money back guarantee, except for orders made via OneBip or through the Apple iTunes Store, which they are unable to refund. You are entitled to a full refund if all of the following apply:
It is the first order made on your account (e.g. renewals do not qualify);
You claim your refund within 30 days of your order date;
You have complied fully with the HMA TOS;
You send an email to email@example.com stating your VPN user name and the reason for your cancelling the service;
You have used less than 10GB of bandwidth (including upload and download);
You have not exceeded 100 sessions;
You have not previously claimed a refund from HMA under this policy using another account.
If you have exceeded the 10GB bandwidth limit but your original order is for more than one month, they may issue you a partial refund based on your usage. Such partial refunds are made at their sole discretion. Thirty days should be enough time for you to completely test out their VPN service and support. If for any reason, you are not completely satisfied with it and you meet the other criteria, they will refund your full purchase price. No refunds will be given after thirty days from the purchase date.
HMA Network and Server Locations
HMA has the largest network geographically with servers in over 220 countries throughout the world. It has grown in size and performance over the years as technology has advanced. They currently have 930 VPN servers in 350+ locations in 220+ countries around the world. This allows them to offer faster connections to a wider range of restricted sites around the world than many VPN providers. HMA has over 120000+ IP addresses to dynamically allocate to their subscribers across the world. They have servers on nearly every major continent including Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America. The Google Map below shows the scope of the HMA VPN Pro network.
The best coverage is in the United States (64 cities – 380 servers), United Kingdom (8 cities – 93 servers), Canada (3 cities – 29 servers), The Netherlands (7 cities – 27 servers), France (6 cities – 36 servers) and Germany (5 cities – 28 servers). Here is a list of the cities in each region, sorted by country:
Africa – 53 servers
Algeria, Annaba; Angola, Luanda; Benin, Cotonou; Botswana, Gaborone; Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou; Burundi, Bujumbura; Cameroon, Yaounde; Cape Verde, Cidade Velha; Central African Republic, Bangassou; Chad, N’Djamena; Comoros, Ouani; Congo, Kinshasa; Cote d`Ivoire, Yamoussoukro; Republic of Djibouti, Djibouti; Egypt, Cairo; Equatorial Guinea, Malabo; Eritrea, Asmara; Ethiopia, Gondar; Gabon, Libreville; Gambia, Serekunda; Ghana, Accra; Guinea-Bissau, Bissau; Kenya, Nairobi; Lesotho, Peka; Liberia, Monrovia; Libya, Ghadames; Madagascar, Antsiranana; Malawi, Lilongwe; Mali, Bamako; Mauritania, Nouakchott; Mauritius, Port Louis; Morocco, Fes; Mozambique, Pemba; Namibia, Windhoek; Niger, Niamey; Nigeria, Lagos; Republic of the Congo, Brazzaville; Rwanda, Kigali; Saint Helena, Tristan Da Cunha; Sao Tome and Principe, Sao Tome; Senegal, Dakar; Seychelles, Seychelles; Sierra Leone, Freetown; Somalia, Afgooye; South Africa, Johannesburg; Sudan, Khartoum; Swaziland, Manzini; Tanzania, Arusha; Togo, Lome; Tunisia, Mahdia; Uganda, Kampala; Zambia, Lusaka; Zimbabwe, Harare
Asia – 70 servers
Afghanistan, Kabul; Armenia, Tsaghkadzor; Azerbaijan, Qusar; Bahrain, Manama; Bangladesh, Dhaka; Bhutan, Thimphu; Brunei, Jerudong; Cambodia, Phnom Penh; China: Beijing, Guangdong, Shenzhen, Hebei, Renqiu, Sichuan Sheng, Chengdu; Cocos Islands, West Island; Hong Kong: Kowloon, Shatin, Wan Chai; India: Maharashtra, Mumbai; Indonesia, Jakarta; Iran, Isfahan; Iraq, Baghdad; Israel: Petah Tikva, Rosh Haain; Jordan, Amman; Japan: Okinawa, Onna, Tokyo; Kazakhstan, Shymkent; Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek; Kuwait, Kuwait City; Laos, Thakhek; Lebanon, Beirut; Macau, Macau; Malaysia, Johor, Johor Bahru; Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur; Maldives, Male; Mongolia, Suhbaatar; Myanmar, Yangon; Nepal, Janakpur; North Korea, Manpo; Oman, Salalah; Pakistan, Karachi; Palestine, Bethlehem; Philippines, Baguio; Qatar, Doha; Saudi Arabia, Riyadh; Republic of Singapore, Singapore; South Korea, Seoul; Sri Lanka, Moratuwa; Syria, Ad Darah; Taiwan, Taipei; Tajikistan, Dushanbe Thailand, Bangkok; Turkmenistan, Ashgabat; United Arab Emirates, Dubai; Uzbekistan, Samarkand; Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City; Yemen, Sanaa
Central America – 6 servers
Belize, Belize City; Costa Rica, San Jose; El Salvador, San Miguel; Guatemala, Guatemala City; Honduras, Tegucigalpa; Panama, Panama City
Europe – 318 servers
United Kingdom (Virtual): Australia, Sydney – Virtual UK; France, Paris – Virtual UK; Germany, Frankfurt – Virtual UK; USA, New York, Virtual UK; United Kingdom: Berkshire, Maidenhead; Hampshire, Gosport; Kent, Maidstone, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Nottingham; Scotland, Glasgow
Netherlands: Alblasserdam, Amsterdam, Dronten, Hague, Rotterdam, Schiedam, Spijkenisse
Aland Islands, Mariehamn; Albania, Tirana; Andorra, Andorra la Vella; Austria: Carinthia, Klagenfurt, Vienna; Belarus, Minsk; Belgium: Antwerp, Brussels; Bosnia, Sarajevo; Bulgaria, Sofia; Croatia, Zagreb; Cyprus: Limassol, Nicosia; Czech Republic, Prague; Denmark, Copenhagen; Georgia, Tbilisi; Germany: Bavaria, Munich, Bavaria, Nuremberg, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hesse, Frankfurt; USA, Georgia, Atlanta – Virtual Germany; Gibraltar, Catalan; Greece: Athens, Patras, Thessaloniki; Estonia, Tallinn; Faroe Islands, Torshavn; Finland, Helsinki; France: Gravelines, Lyon, Paris, Aubervilliers, Paris, Clichy-Levallois, Paris, Courbevoie, Paris, Nanterre, Paris, Saint-Denis, Roubaix, Strasbourg, Toulouse; Hungary, Budapest; Ireland, Dublin; Iceland, Reykjavik; Italy: Lombardy, Milan, Pordenone, Porcia; Latvia, Riga; Liechtenstein, Vaduz; Lithuania, Siauliai; Luxembourg, Luxembourg; Macedonia, Skopje; Malta, Cospicua; Moldova, Chisinau; Monaco, Monaco; Montenegro, Becici; Norway, Oslo; Poland: Pomerania, Gdansk, Warsaw; Portugal: Leiria, Lisbon;UK, London, Virtual Portugal; Romania: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca; Russia: Moscow, Saint Petersburg; San Marino, San Marino; Serbia, Belgrade; Slovakia, Bratislava; Slovenia, Vrhnika; Spain: Alicante, Barcelona, Gipuzkoa, San Sebastian, Madrid, Valencia; Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Longyearbyen; Sweden, Stockholm, Nacka; Switzerland: Jona, Zurich; Turkey, Istanbul; Ukraine, Odessa; Vatican, Vatican City
Oceania – 33 servers
American Samoa, Pago Pago; Australia: New South Wales, Sydne, Queensland, Brisbane, Victoria, Melbourne; Christmas Island, Flying Fish Cove; Cook Islands, Avarua; Fiji, Nadi; Guam, Tamuning; Kiribati, Umwa Village; Nauru, Anabar; New Caledonia, Noumea; New Zealand, Auckland; Niue, Alofi; Norfolk Island, Kingston; Palau, Melekeok; Papua New Guinea, Alotau; Pitcairn Islands, Adamstown; Samoa, Matatufu; Solomon Islands, Honiara; Tokelau, Atafu; Tonga, Nukualofa; Tuvalu, Vaitupu; Vanuatu, Loltong
North America – 436 servers
United States of America (Virtual): Australia, Sydney – Virtual USA; Canada, Toronto – Virtual USA; France, Paris – Virtual USA; Germany, Frankfurt – Virtual USA; Netherlands, Amsterdam – Virtual USA; Republic of Singapore, Virtual USA; South Africa, Virtual USA; South Korea, Virtual USA; UK, London, Virtual USA;
United States of America (Physical): Alabama, Montgomery; Alaska, Anchorage; Arizona, Phoenix; Arkansas, Magnolia; California, Los Angeles; California, Orange County; California, San Diego; California, San Francisco; California, San Jose; Colorado, Denver; Connecticut, Trumbull; Delaware, Wilmington; Florida, Jacksonville; Florida, Miami; Florida, Orlando; Georgia, Atlanta; Hawaii, Honolulu; Idaho, Idaho Falls; Illinois, Chicago; Indiana, South Bend; Iowa, Des Moines; Kansas, Wichita; Kentucky, Louisville; Louisiana, New Orleans; Maine, Bath; Maryland, Baltimore; Massachusetts, Boston; Minnesota, Saint Paul; Mississippi, Louisville; Missouri, Kansas City; Missouri, St. Louis; Montana, Billings; Nebraska, Omaha; Nevada, Las Vegas; New Hampshire, Bedford; New Jersey, Clifton New Jersey, Newark; New Mexico, Albuquerque; New York, Albany; New York, Buffalo; New York, Manhattan; North Carolina, Asheville; North Dakota, Grand Forks; Ohio, Columbus; Oklahoma, Oklahoma City; Oregon, Portland; Pennsylvania, Scranton; Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre; Rhode Island, Providence; South Carolina, Columbia; South Dakota, Sioux Falls; Tennessee, Nashville Texas, Austin; Texas, Round Rock; Utah, Salt Lake City; Vermont, Rutland; Virginia, Ashburn; Washington DC; Washington, Seattle; West Virginia, Philippi; Wisconsin, Madison; Wyoming, Cheyenne
Canada: British Columbia, Vancouver, Ontario, Toronto, Quebec, Montreal; USA, New York, Virtual Canada
Anguilla, The Valley; Antigua and Barbuda, Saint John’s; Aruba, Palm Beach; Bahamas, Freeport; Barbados, Worthing; Bermuda, Hamilton; British Virgin Islands, Tortola; Cayman Islands, Spot Bay; Cuba, Havana; Dominica, Marigot; Dominican Republic, Punta Cana; Greenland, Ilulissat; Grenada, Saint George; Guadeloupe, Le Gosier; Haiti, Cap-Haitien; Jamaica, Montego Bay; Mexico: Guadalajara, Sinaloa, Mazatlan; Montserrat, Plymouth; Nicaragua, Managua; Puerto Rico, San Juan; Saint Kitts and Nevis, Basseterre; Saint Lucia, Gros Islet; Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Pierre; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingstown; Trinidad and Tobago, San Fernando; Turks and Caicos Islands, Balfour Town
South America – 15 servers
Argentina, Buenos Aires; Bolivia, Santa Cruz; Brasil: Joao Pessoa, Sao Paulo; Chile, Santiago; Colombia, San Andres, Ecuador, Quito; Falkland Islands, Stanley; Guyana, Barima-Waini, Paraguay, Boqueron; Peru, Cusco; Suriname, Paramaribo, Uruguay, Montevideo, Venezuela, Caracas
It addition to having more server locations than any other provider, HMA is well represented in popular countries like the United States, Canada, the UK, The Netherlands, France and others. Their network defaults primarily to the OpenVPN UDP protocol but also supports L2TP/IPsec, IPsec and PPTP.
Privacy and Security
Unlike most of the providers we review, HMA does log some traffic of their VPN users. What is more when requested by the proper authorities, they will hand over that information as they have done in the past. In September 2011, they were instrumental in catching 23 year-old college student Cody Kretsinger, purportedly to be a member of the hacking group LulzSec which hacked into Sony Pictures Entertainment. Under a UK court order, they passed on logs of the suspected LulzSec member, alias “recursion”, to the FBI. According to HMA, their TOS states that they do not condone illegal use of their VPN service. It further states that should such illegal activity be brought to their attention by mean of a UK court order they will turn over all logs they have of the users activity.
Specifically, here are a few excerpts of what VPN activity HMA logs directly from their VPN Logging Policy:
When you use our VPN service the only data we collect is as follows:
a time stamp when you connect and disconnect to our VPN service;
the amount data transmitted (upload and download) during your session;
the IP address used by you to connect to our VPN; and
the IP address of the individual VPN server used by you.
We DO NOT store details of, or monitor, the websites you connect to or any of the data sent over our network, when using our VPN service.
This VPN data is stored for between 2 and 3 months on our secure servers, after which time it is deleted, except in certain very limited circumstances (see below).
If we are notified or detect that your VPN account has been used in breach of our terms of service, e.g. for spamming, file sharing or other illicit activity, then we may store your VPN data for an extended period of time beyond the normal 3 month maximum.
If your account is identified by us following a notification that it has been used in breach of our terms of service, we reserve the right to suspend your account to prevent further abuse, however, in such circumstances we will never voluntarily hand over your personal data to a third party unless we are legally compelled to do so in accordance with English law.
HMA assigns all of its IP addresses dynamically and they are randomly attributed to their users when they connect to their VPN service. Each IP address is only assigned to one user at a time. This means they know who has what IP address and the time they have it from the logs they generate.
This pretty much spells out their logging policy. They do log and store the information for up to three months. If HMA suspects illegal activity violating their TOS, they will retain the logs longer and turn over the logs when compelled by English law.
We leave it for the user to decide if this policy is suitable for their individual VPN purposes. It should be noted that we think that if privacy, even from your trusted VPN is a real concern to you, then HMA is probably not going to be your best choice. Those who like to use P2P services may also want to check out other VPN providers.
What kind of encryption does HMA offer to users of their VPN service? They implement OpenVPN as their primary default protocol in their Windows, Mac OS X, and Android clients. TLSv1.2 is used for server authentication and control. By default, it uses 1024 bit key exchange and 1024 bit preshared key for verification that the key actually came from a HMA server.
Their PPTP protocol implementation uses MPPE protocol for encryption, with an RSA RC4 algorithm and 128-bit keys. L2TP is implemented using IPsec with a 256-bit key for encryption and uses 3DES/AES algorithms. Finally, HMA implents their OpenVPN using OpenSSL with algorithms from 3DES, AES, RC5, and Blowfish. It uses 128-bit encryption with 1024-bit keys, 256 bit encryption for control channel (e.g. password, authentication, etc). Initial authentication is made using preshared 1024-bit keys. The protocol you use determines the strength of the encryption. For most users the OpenVPN (UDP) default will be their best choice because it has the best balance of speed and security.
HMA is one of the few services that has a 24/7 live chat to answer any technical, sales, order, or billing questions you might have. In our dealings with the staff behind the live chat, we found them friendly, fast, and professional. The answers they provided to our questions were on point. The image below shows a couple typical online chat sessions. The first screenshot shows the response we got for a question regarding protocols and encryption.
Additionally, as shown in the second screenshot in the image above they provided links to their support FAQs that they thought would help us as well. Their support page has many useful answers to more common questions that users have asked as well as setup guides for other devices. For more lengthy technical problems, they provide a 365/24/7 email ticketing support system that you can instigate through chat, as well as, through their support page. Below is the support request page from the HMA website.
Once you choose a reason for your request from this page you will then be presented with a form to fill out which requires varying information dependent on the request you chose. The basic information necessary for most forms includes your email address, subject, description of the problem, and attachments, such as screenshots or files.
Hands-On Testing of the HMA Network
HMA has custom software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. Additionally, they just released new beta software for both Windows and Mac OS X. You can download these custom clients from the HMA customer page by logging into their website. Once you have logged into your customer page, scroll down and then click on the “Software and Help” button. This will take you to the download page where you will then click on the “Download” button to the right of your chosen operating system. This will begin the download of the installation file to your computer for Windows and Mac OS X or transfer you to to iTunes to download the iOS app or Google Play for the Android app.
Connecting with the Windows VPN Client
As we said before, you can download the Hide My Ass Windows software from the HMA customer page by logging into their website. Once you have logged into your customer page, scroll down and then click on the “Software and Help” button (shown inset top-left). This will take you to the download page where you will then click on the “Download” button to the right of HMA! Pro VPN for Windows (Vista, 7, 8.1, 10). This will start the download of the client installation file to your computer.
Once the client is downloaded to your computer, right-click on the file and choose “Run as Administrator”. This will initiate the installation of the Windows client. The process is illustrated by the images below. The first screenshot shows the welcoming screen. This is the first screen you will see in the installation process. Clicking on the “Next” button will continue the setup process.
The next screen you will see is the Terms of Service (TOS) screen. You must agree to the HMA TOS to use HMA Pro VPN so click on the “I Agree” button to continue the setup. Next choose a directory for installation or accept the default one and click on the “Install” button. The file installation to you computer will then commence. After it finishes you will see a screen similar to the right one above. Click the “Finish” button on this screen and the Windows client will launch. This will result in a screen like the one shown below.
This is the Windows client dashboard in its disconnected state. It consists of the following elements. In the upper right is a horizontal menu of support links which are as follows:
Encircled question Mark Icon – This will open and send you to the HMA help center page of their website.
Knowledge base – This will open and send you to the HMA help center page of their website where you can then open the Knowledge base by clicking on its icon.
Email support – This will open and send you to the submit a request page that we looked at earlier in this review.
Live chat – This will open and send you to a page where you can select to open a live chat session for your problem.
Forums – This will open and send you to the HMA forums page.
Below this is the status. The status currently shows “Not Connected!” with a disconnected icon beside it represented by a big red square with a white “x” in it.
Along the left-hand side of the window is the selection menu which consist of the following:
Dashboard – This is the main screen of the client and it has three tabs.
Dashboard – This is the main connection screen for the HMA client and the one shown in the above screenshot.
Diagnostics – This is a log of the procedural steps used in the connection.
Settings – This has connection settings for the client behavior.
Country selection – This is where you select your destination VPN server location. It contains two tabs.
Country selection – This let’s you choose server by location, by country, or by city.
Map overview – This is a graphical representation of the HMA network.
IP address settings – This lets you modify IP address settings and check your current IP address for leaks.
Secure IP bind – This acts as a VPN kill switch for individual applications.
Speed guide – This will let you run various performance test on the VPN servers to find the fastest one for you to connect to from your current location.
Proxy settings – This will allow you to set a socks or https proxy to pass through.
Billing and packages – This shows your current account information and displays current plan pricing to purchase new plans.
The aforementioned components are static to window changes. We will start our examination of the HMA Windows Pro VPN client with the Dashboard screen which as we previously said has three tabs. The first tab of the Dashboard menu is called “Dashboard” and it has three different states: disconnected, connecting, and connected. A truncated screen of its disconnected state is shown below. We have already described its static components so now lets look at the rest.
As you can see, the above screen is divided into the following sections:
VPN connection status – This shows your current connection status. The status currently shows “Disconnected” with a disconnected icon to the left of it. To the right of this is the “Connect to VPN” button (the text in green with a gold key icon in front).
Login – This is where you enter in your “Username” and “Password” (these have been redacted from the above image). Check the box to remember them or you will have to reenter them each time you launch the HMA client.
Protocol – This will let you choose your connection protocol. There are two protocols to select between.
OpenVPN – This is the default protocol and the best one to use for most of your VPN connections. It will provide you with the best balance of speed and security.
PPTP – This should be used if OpenVPN cannot be used to make your connection and for purposes where speed and not security is your goal such as streaming media.
Quick VPN location change – This will allow you to quickly choose a location to connect to from the drop down box. Clicking on the “Full view” button to the right of this drop down box will open the Country selection menu.
Connection log – This is a short log of the last connection’s procedural steps.
Selecting the OpenVPN protocol, choosing the USA, North Carolina, Ashville location, and clicking on the “Connect to VPN” button results in a screen like the one shown in the image below which has been truncated in the interest of space.
Notice, the VPN connection status now shows an animated working icon and the word “Connecting…” The “Connect to VPN” button has now been replaced by a “Cancel” button with the text now in red. The gold key from the connect button has been replaced by a stop icon (red circle with a white dash in the center of it).
Once the connection has completed, you will see a screen like the one shown below.
The connected dashboard screen has some marked changes from its predecessors. The first of which is the status under the horizontal support menu in the upper right now says “Connected!” and the disconnected icon (red square containing the white “x”) has been replaced by a connected icon (a green square containing a white check mark).
The VPN connection status displays the same connected icon in place of its counterpoint disconnected one with the word “Connected”. The connection duration is now displayed in Hours:Minutes:Seconds format. The button now shows the disconnected icon with the words “Disconnect VPN” in red.
The login section has now been replaced by a new “IP and Country Overview” section. This new section shows your old IP address and ISP location. It also shows the new virtual IP address assigned by the VPN server and its new ISP location. The quick VPN location now shows the USA, North Carolina, Asheville location.
The Connection log section has been replaced by the Quick IP address management section which contains the following three buttons:
Change IP address – This will temporarily disconnect you from your current location and then reconnect you with a new IP address.
Schedule IP address change – This will let you schedule a regular IP address change.
Verify new IP address – This will take you to a website that will verify that your new virtual IP address is where you think it is.
These are similar to the options found under the IP address settings menu that we will look at later in this review.
The second tab of the Dashboard menu is the “Diagnostics” tab. This tab is a running log of the connection process in procedural steps. It also has a button that runs a series of diagnostic tests on your system and logs the results to a file. This log file is used by the HMA support staff to help them identify reasons for any connection difficulties you may be having. Always include a copy of this file when you create a connection ticket.
The last tab on the Dashboard menu is the “Settings” tab. A screenshot of this tab is shown in the image below.
The above image of the HMA Pro VPN Windows client settings shows that they are divided up into sections which include the following:
Launch options – These control the startup behavior of the HMA Pro VPN client.
Auto-connect after launch – This will auto-connect to your last location when the client starts up.
You must save your username and password by checking the box in the login section of the dashboard.
Launch on operating system startup – Launch the client as soon as you log into Windows.
Start minimized – Start with the client minimized to the task bar.
Load balancing – Enabling load balancing will cause the client to warn and recommend a lower load server if the load balancing threshold on a server has been met and other servers are available in the city, state, country, or location.
You can choose the region you want to load balance within from among the city, state, country, or location from the drop down box.
The load balance threshold can be set to 20, 30, 50, or 60% load.
Auto-Path – If this is enabled, it allows the client software to detect connection issues and automatically route around them if it can.
Notifications – If set, this allows HMA to send you notifications of special offers.
The next menu item is Country selection. This menu item has two tabs associated with it “Country selection” and “Map overview”. The first of these, Country selection is depicted by the image below. The top of the window has been truncated in the interest of scroll space.
Because the HMA network is so large, the country selection process has been placed in different categories to make selection of a server easier. There are some common categories that can help in this process. They are as follows:
Random – This has three settings
No random – Do not use a random server.
Connect to a random server (custom) – The client will let you select servers, cities, and locations with the check box beside them to create your own list of VPN servers to randomly choose one from. This is the way this function is meant to operate. This sort of mimics choosing favorites and then randomizing them when connecting.
Connect to a random server – This could connect you anywhere and is not recommended because you could be connected to a low performance server far from your location.
Ten closest servers – This is based on the geographic distance from your current location. Theoretically, these should be the fastest servers for you.
Servers with the fastest ping – This will show you the ten fastest servers to you based on the last ping test ran. The accuracy of this depends on how long ago the ping test was run. It could be affected by server load as well.
Servers with the highest speed test score – This will show you the ten fastest servers from your location based on the speed test.
The rest of the countries have their own category in this form: region – country. These include North America – United States of America, North America – Canada, Europe – United Kingdom, Europe – Netherlands, and so on. This is illustrated in the above image. Each category can be easily compacted and expanded once you find the one you want by selecting the expansion/compaction icon to the left of it (solid arrow to the left of the category). The servers under each category are listed alphabetically by city, then location, and finally server number. They are displayed in two columns from left to right.
To explain this a little more, look at the following practical example of how to use the country selection tab. The country selection tab allows you to list the servers by: all servers, location, and city. This setting is global and will change how the servers are displayed throughout the client. It will also affect how the servers are displayed in the “Map overview” tab, the “Dashboard”, and the “Speed Guide”. You can also do a quick server search by name. This example will use these features and explain how they can help you narrow your VPN server search. First type “tex” in the search box without the quotes and select list by all servers in the drop down box. This will result in the following screen.
This is a list of all the HMA VPN servers in USA, Texas in alphabetical order by city, then increasing location number, then increasing server number. The list is displayed in two columns from left to right. Notice Austin and Round Rock have no locations or servers associated with them. Dallas has three locations with multiple servers at each. Houston has only one location with multiple servers. This list will let you select any server or bank of servers at any location (server host) in Texas.
Now let us modify our example by changing to list servers by location. This results in the country selection screen shown below.
Notice your choices have been reduced as the list only contains the locations that are available to choose from in Texas, not the individual servers or banks of servers. You can only choose a location in Texas to connect to. The client will then select the best server at that location performance-wise and connect you to it.
Now let us modify our example again. This time change list servers by to cities. This will result in a country selection like the one shown below.
Notice that you can now only choose your city in Texas that you want to connect to. Locations within the city are no longer shown. Once you select a city, the software will then select the best server at that city performance-wise and connect you to it. Taking this one step further, you would think if you chose North America – United States of America, the software will connect you to what it thinks is the fastest server in the United States from your current location. In this case, it instead connects you to a random server in the United States. The same is true if you choose any other region to connect to.
Now let us take a look at the second tab of the Country selection menu, “Map overview”. The image below shows a screenshot of this tab that has been zoomed in to illustrate how this tab can help you switch HMA VPN servers just from clicking on a map location.
The above image shows that you are currently connected to Moscow, Russia. The yellow-orange pin with the red line directed to your true location indicates that this is your current connection location. All that is necessary to change to the Austria, Vienna location is to hover the mouse over the blue circle containing five server location and selecting Austria, Vienna from the list that appears as shown in the above image. This will temporarily disconnect you and then reconnect you to the new Austria, Vienna location. This is shown in the image below which shows the Dashboard screen after selecting Austria, Vienna from the map.
The Dashboard image below shows that you have indeed switched servers to the one at Vienna. It also shows that the new server has provided you with a new IP address for your new location and that you have been connected for over seven minutes. You may encounter a load balance warning like the one shown below when changing server locations if this feature has been enabled in your settings.
This warning was displayed when we tried to connect to a server in Netherlands, Amsterdam. These warning can help you to choose less loaded and thus theoretically faster servers. You can check the box to automatically connect to the least-loaded server to forgo this warning in the future.
The next menu item that we want to look at is the “IP address settings”. This menu item has two tabs which include “Settings” and “IP History”. The tab for “Settings” is shown in the image below.
This “Settings” tab is divided in to three sections which are as follows:
Current IP address – This shows your currently assigned IP address and allows you to change it whenever you want.
Pressing the “Change IP” button will temporarily disconnect you and then reconnect you with a new IP address.
Schedule IP address change – This will allow you to schedule regular IP address changes.
You can choose a range of time interval for the IP address to be changed from 30 seconds to 9999 minutes and 59 seconds.
Each time your address is changed, you will be disconnected from the VPN for a short period of time so do not set this if your goal is to remain connected to the VPN service.
IP address check – This will let you verify that your IP address is indeed from the area you are connected to.
Select an IP address checker url from the drop down list and click on the “Verify IP address” button. This will open your selected url so that you can see where it thinks you are at.
The second tab, “IP History”, on the IP address settings menu will let you keep a log of all your IP address changes if enabled. It will also let you export and clear this list.
The next menu item that we will examine is “Secure IP bind”. This has only one screen which is shown truncated in the image below. Enabling this feature will allow you to select individual applications that will be killed should the VPN connection drop.
Once enabled the app will ask if you want to look for browsers and automatically include them in the list as was done above. The tab consist of the following components:
“Uninstall IP Binding” – This is activated once you enable the feature. This will remove IP binding from your machine.
IP Binding Control – This is a global “Disable” button which allows you to suspend binding for all current apps in your list.
IP Binding Settings – This contains the apps that have been entered and lets you select them so they can be enabled or disabled individually for the kill switch.
Add New Application Button – This lets you add other executable files to the list to be bound to the kill switch.
Buttons to “Enable”, “Disable”, or “Remove” applications from being bound to the kill switch.
Placing browsers on a kill switch can keep them from leaking your true IP address if the VPN connection drops. Tor programs and tools like it are also good kill switch candidates.
The next menu item that we are going to discuss is “Speed guide”. This menu has two tabs: “Speed Guide” and History. The “Speed Guide” tab allows you to run ping, express upload/download, and full upload/download performance test on the servers that you choose. It is shown in the image below.
This guide lists all of the servers using the current setting list servers by city, along with their geographical distance from your current location. You can select any servers from the list and run a test to see which will give you the best performance. Let us say that you have decided to find the fastest server for you in the UK so you have checked the UK cities and Ireland and decide to run an express test. The results of this test are shown below.
Note that although the list you selected from was by city, the test was conducted as if the client was in “by all server mode”. Selecting the one it recommends from the test UK, Nottinghanshire, Nottingham (LOC1 S1) will bring up the following message.
Clicking ok will change the quick location on the dashboard to this location since you are not currently connected and return you to the dashboard where you can then connect to the new VPN server. Note: You cannot be connected while running any of the speed test.
Each time you run a speed test, a log file with the date it was run is created. The second tab on this menu, “History”, will allow you view and compare these log files. It will also let you export them to a comma delimited text file so that you could import them into other applications like a spreadsheet. Finally it will allow you to clear the history.
The next menu item, “Proxy settings” has a single tab as is shown below. It will allow you to pass the VPN encrypted connection through a proxy if you have one at your location as many worksites and universities do.
The tab has three options for proxy settings which are as follows:
Direct connection to Internet – This is the default and recommended setting if you do not have a proxy at your location that you want to pass through.
HTTPS proxy connection – This will open a HTTPS proxy configuration section as is shown in the image above where you can put in the following:
Port number used by the proxy
If it uses authentication you can put in the username and password and save the information.
SOCKS proxy connection – This will open a SOCKS proxy configuration section where you can put in the following:
Port number used by the proxy
If it uses authentication you can put in the username and password and save the information.
Only one option can be chosen and if you choose a proxy option, you have to enter the information for it before the proxy settings will save and allow you to close it.
The last menu item, “Billing and packages” just displays your account information with a button that will let you manage it. It also shows specials and current VPN pricing.
The HMA client will let you choose a quick location to connect to from the dashboard dropdown box. Then just click the connect to VPN button. This makes it easy for less technical users to use the HMA service. With just a couple of clicks, you can be connected to the location of their choice. For those who want more control over how your VPN connection works, it will let you change between the OpenVPN and PPTP protocols. It will let you run performance test to determine the fastest server for the location you want to connect to. You can choose servers through a list or graphically on the map interface. It also has features to schedule and change your IP address on a regular basis. Their is also an app kill switch so that lets you can choose individual applications that will not run if the VPN connection drops and it can be configured to pass through a Https or Socks proxy. This makes it appealing to those users who have more technical knowledge. So no matter your expertise, you should be happy with the HMA Pro VPN Windows client.
Connecting with the Beta Windows VPN Client
HMA has a new Windows beta client that you can download and test as well as the current production one. You can download the HMA! Pro VPN Beta version 3 from their website in the support area. Once you get on the support page, scroll down to find the link to help you install and use the new beta client. This page contains information on the new beta client and the link to download its setup to your computer. After this file has been downloaded to your computer, you will need to right-click on it and “Install as Administrator”. After the installation finishes, (which could take a while if it has to load the Microsoft .net Framework) you should see a screen like the one shown in the image below.
This is the account authentication screen. Simply enter in your username and password for your HMA account. Tap on the remember me toggle so that the client will remember your credentials and you will not have to enter them every time you log in. If you have forgotten your password, then tap on forgot password to start the process to reset it. If you do not yet have an account, tap on the create an account button to go to the HMA website and subscribe. Once your credentials have been properly entered, click on the “Enter” button to start using the client.
The next screen you will see is called the dashboard. This is the main screen for the new slimmed down client. The dashboard has three different connection states: disconnected, connecting, and connected. These are shown in the image below. The image below-left shows a screenshot of it in its disconnected state. Notice the background of the dashboard is white. The main components of the dashboard are as follows
HMA donkey image – This is for branding and in the disconnected state it looks like it is bored and waiting.
The connection switch – In its disconnected state the background for the switch is light gray.
Connection status – This says “Disconnected” in this case.
Server location – This contains the name of the location of the server you have chosen or the last server that you connected to. The location shown in this example is Netherlands.
IP address – In the disconnected state this will show your true IP address.
Account – This contains information about your account.
To connect to the server location shown, simply click on the switch and the connection process will begin. This will result in a screen like that shown in the middle above. The dashboard screen status now say “Connecting…” and the only other control on the dashboard is a “Cancel” button so you can stop the connection process if you change your mind. The last screen image above shows the dashboard in its connected state. Changes to the dashboard in its connected state include the following:
The donkey image – The donkey is giving you a thumbs up indicating that you are good to go and carrying a mini flag of the country you are connected to, The Netherlands.
The connection switch – It is in its on state and its background is bright yellow.
IP address – The IP address shown is the virtual one assigned by the VPN server in The Netherlands.
The final thing to notice about the connected dashboard is that the background is now teal. These cues make it easy to tell when you are connected to the VPN and thus protected.
Clicking on the server location section of the dashboard will bring up the Servers screen where you can ch