What Is SoftEther? (Complete Guide)

What is SoftEther?
Even though SoftEther is a relatively new VPN protocol, it has become popular quite fast among VPN users. So popular, in fact, that it’s often compared to OpenVPN in terms of quality.

But what is SoftEther, actually? And what makes it so special compared to other protocols?

Well, here’s everything you need to know:

What Is SoftEther?

SoftEther is free open-source VPN software that was developed as part of a master’s thesis research at the University of Tsukuba. SoftEther was fully released back in 2014, making it one of the newest protocols around.

When talking about SoftEther, it’s important to make the distinction between the SoftEther protocol and the SoftEther VPN server:

  • The SoftEther VPN Protocol – The protocol is used for secure client-to-server communications. It’s relatively fast and secure.
  • The SoftEther VPN Server – The server software supports the use of multiple VPN protocols, such as SoftEther, OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP/IPSec, and SSTP.

How Does the SoftEther VPN Protocol Work?

The SoftEther VPN protocol is responsible for securing communications between the VPN client and the VPN server. It basically establishes an encrypted tunnel between the two, ensuring that any information that passes through said tunnel can’t be monitored by anyone.

General Technical Details About SoftEther

  • SoftEther supports both client-to-server and site-to-site communications (through the SoftEther Bridge).
  • SoftEther has support for the Deep-inspect packet logging function.
  • The protocol uses SSL-VPN Tunneling through HTTPS to bypass firewalls.
  • SoftEther doesn’t require any static or fixed IP address since it has embedded dynamic-DNS and NAT-traversal functions.
  • SoftEther supports powerful encryption like AES-256 and RSA-4096.
  • The SoftEther VPN protocol’s throughput is measured at around 1 Gbps-class high-speed.
  • SoftEther can also support legacy OpenVPN clients thanks to its OpenVPN clone function.
  • All settings can be configured through the GUI.
  • SoftEther supports RSA certificate authentication and IPv4/IPv6 dual-stacking.

How to Use SoftEther

The SoftEther VPN protocol is pretty simple to use, but since it’s a software-based solution, you’ll need to first install the SoftEther VPN client on your device. This is usually the case even if you already have a VPN service subscription.

We’ll be taking a look at how to use SoftEther on Windows, but the setup process is pretty similar on other platforms too.

So, here are the main things you need to know about using SoftEther:

First, You Install the Client

To get the SoftEther VPN client, just head over to the Downloads page on the SoftEther website. Once the installer is downloaded, just run it and follow the onscreen instructions.

When asked to choose between “SoftEther VPN Client” and “SoftEther VPN Client Manager (Admin Tools Only),” pick the first option. You should also know that the full name of “SoftEther VPN Client” is “SoftEther VPN Client Manager.”

You can choose a different install directory when prompted to do so, or just go with the default one. Once the program has been installed, you can launch the SoftEther VPN Client Manager.

Next, You Set Up the Connection

To do that, just click on “Add VPN Connection” in the SoftEther VPN Client Manager. You’ll notice that you’ll be asked if you want a Virtual Network Adapter to be configured. The adapter is necessary for the VPN connection, so click on “Yes” to proceed with the process.

Once the adapter is in place, click on “Add VPN Connection” again. At this point, you’ll be greeted by a table of properties you’ll need to fill out with information provided to you by your VPN provider:

  • Host Name – The IP address of the server you want to connect to.
  • Port Number – The port you’ll be using. For SoftEther, it’s normally 443, but your VPN provider might offer you other options too.
  • Virtual Hub Name – It’s usually the VPN provider’s service name or so, but the field isn’t always mandatory.
  • Auth Type – The type of authentication that’s used for the connection. Your provider will normally recommend which option to choose.
  • Username – The username you use for your VPN account.
  • Password – The password you use for your VPN account.

Regarding the “Setting Name” field, that’s basically the name for the VPN connection. Feel free to type in whatever you want. Also, when it comes to the “Proxy Type” option, it’s best to just go with the default setting – Direct TCP/IP Connection (No Proxy). As for the “Advanced Settings,” there’s quite a lot to be discussed, and it’s easier if you just check out the info on the official SoftEther website regarding those options.

Once everything is done, just click on “OK,” and the new VPN connection will be added to the SoftEther VPN Client Manager list. To run it, just right-click on the connection, and choose “Connect.” When you want to disconnect, do the same thing and click “Disconnect.”

Additional Functions You Can Use

The SoftEther VPN Client Manager has quite a lot of functions you can use to tweak your experience:

  • Simple Mode/Normal Mode – The SoftEther VPN Client Manager works in the Normal Mode by default, but you can switch to Simple Mode if you’re new to everything or just want the interface to be simplified even more.
  • Translucent Window Function – This option lets you choose the level of transparency you want on the VPN client windows. Keep in mind the transparency level can’t be set below 20%, though.
  • Internet Connection Maintenance Function – This is a useful function if you want the SoftEther client to maintain a VPN connection that’s similar to the SoftEther VPN Server connection.
  • Voice Guide Function – A nifty little tool that can either explain the process by voice guide or read a message. To enable it, select “Normal Voice Guide” when you open “Voice” in the client manager.

Testing the Connection Throughput

SoftEther has a Network Traffic Speed Test Tool you can use to monitor how well your VPN connection is doing. To use it on the SoftEther VPN Client Manager, click on the “Tool” menu within the client, and then select “Network Traffic Speed Test Tool.”

In case you’d like more information on how to test a VPN connection, feel free to check out our guide on the subject. And if you’d like to know more about the SoftEther speed test tool (further configurations and precautions), follow this link.

Other Useful Information

In case you’d like more in-depth information about the SoftEther VPN client and how connection works, check out this link. Also, there’s a manual available if you’d like to learn even more about the SoftEther VPN protocol.

Is SoftEther VPN Safe to Use?

Short answer – yes, definitely.

SoftEther encryption and security is very reliable, and it’s an excellent protocol to use whenever you need to secure your online data and traffic.

Here are just some things that make SoftEther such a secure VPN protocol:

  • The protocol is programmed in such a way that it can prevent Man-in-the-Middle attacks.
  • The encryption, decryption, and authentication processes of SoftEther VPN are based on OpenSSL – a well-known open-source software library.
  • SoftEther offers support for a ton of encryption ciphers like AES, RC4, DES, Triple-DES, SHA and MDS.
  • SoftEther offers numerous options for user authentication as an extra layer of security.
  • The SoftEther VPN protocol offers users access to packet filtering and security policy options to keep harmful packets at bay.

Still, we should let you know that – at the beginning of 2018 – there was an 80-hour security audit of SoftEther which claimed that the protocol suffered from 11 security vulnerabilities. However, the information isn’t very in-depth and clear on what security issues users might face, and it’s pretty safe to assume that those problems have long been patched. Here’s the link if you want to take a look.

Is the SoftEther VPN Protocol Fast?

Yes, SoftEther offers fast online speeds. According to the people behind the protocol, it was programmed with high performance and throughput in mind. According to these results, SoftEther is faster than both OpenVPN and PPTP, and is capable of a throughput of up to 900 Mbps.

It seems that SoftEther’s high speeds were also achieved because the developers focused on reducing the number of memory copies for every cycle of processing VPN packets (since a high number can decrease speeds).

Also, SoftEther uses a streaming tunneling mechanism to avoid dealing with the “MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) Problem,” which you can read more about on the page we linked above.

SoftEther VPN Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

  • SoftEther connections are extremely secure.
  • SoftEther works across multiple platforms, and is fairly easy to set up.
  • Despite the high level of SoftEther security, the protocol is surprisingly fast.
  • SoftEther is open-source (making it very trustworthy) and free to use as well.
  • Since SoftEther uses port 443, it can’t be easily blocked with a firewall.

Disadvantages

  • Not many VPN providers offer access to this protocol.
  • Even though it came out back in 2014, it’s still considered a relatively new protocol.
  • SoftEther isn’t natively supported on operating systems and devices. Also, you might have to install additional software even when using the protocol from a VPN provider.

What Is a SoftEther VPN?

A SoftEther VPN is a service offered by third-party VPN providers. It’s basically a VPN service that uses the SoftEther protocol. With some providers, you need to install additional software from SoftEther, while other providers integrate the protocol into their clients, meaning you don’t need to do anything else.

There aren’t many VPN providers who offer access to the SoftEther VPN protocol at the moment. In case you’re interested in such a provider, though, we should mention that SoftEther is available on our VPN servers – alongside many other protocols too.

The SoftEther VPN Protocol Compared to Other VPN Protocols

Want to know how SoftEther compares to the other VPN protocols that are available to online users? Here’s an overview of everything you need to know:

SoftEther vs. OpenVPN

SoftEther is often compared to OpenVPN when it comes to security – and for good reason. The protocol is able to offer users the same level of encryption and data protection OpenVPN can provide (256-bit security, AES cipher, OpenSSL, SSL 3.0). What’s more, OpenVPN is open-source just like SoftEther, making both of them very trustworthy. The only way OpenVPN is better in that regard is the fact that it’s older than SoftEther, so it has “more experience under its belt,” so to say.

When it comes to speed, SoftEther has the upper hand, though. According to the people behind SoftEther, the protocol is 13 times faster than OpenVPN. SoftEther actually has a throughput of up to 900 Mbps, while OpenVPN’s throughput hovers around 100 Mbps or less.  What’s more, SoftEther offers features which are not found in OpenVPN, such as:

  • Packet filtering
  • Virtual DHCP function
  • Multi-tenants support
  • NAT traversal functionality
  • Config file handwriting
  • Support for smart cards and USB tokens

Also, it’s worth mentioning that while both SoftEther and OpenVPN allow users to run their own servers, only the SoftEther VPN server has support for multiple protocols like SoftEther, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, IPSec, and OpenVPN itself. The OpenVPN server, on the other hand, can only run the OpenVPN custom protocol.

As for cross-platform compatibility, both SoftEther and OpenVPN can be configured on the same platforms in general. However, SoftEther will often require you to install additional software – even when using it on a VPN provider’s servers. But SoftEther is also relatively easier to set up than OpenVPN. And while we’re on the topic, not many VPN providers offer the SoftEther VPN protocol (likely due to how “young” it is), while you can easily find tons of providers who offer access to OpenVPN connections.

Overall, both VPN protocols are very decent, but if you’d like to enjoy all the security OpenVPN has to offer (and more) alongside fast speeds, we recommend choosing SoftEther. In case you’d like to find out more about the OpenVPN protocol, follow this link.

SoftEther vs. PPTP

In terms of security, SoftEther is the clear winner. Not only does it have support for 256-bit encryption and multiple ciphers, but PPTP’s own encryption (MPPE) isn’t reliable at all since it’s vulnerable to many exploits.

What’s more, PPTP can be easily blocked with a firewall (especially a NAT firewall). SoftEther, on the other hand, uses port 443 (the HTTPS traffic port), making it near impossible to block. Also, SoftEther is able to carry any kind of packets, while PPTP is restricted to just IPv4 packets. And there’s also the problem that PPTP is closed-source and was apparently cracked by the NSA.

Now, one of the main things that makes PPTP so popular despite its security flaws is how fast the protocol is. Well, surprisingly enough, SoftEther is actually faster than PPTP (four times faster, to be exact) even though it offers such strong levels of encryption.

Pretty much the only way PPTP is better than SoftEther is when it comes to the setup process and cross-platform availability. That’s not to say that SoftEther doesn’t work on as many platforms as PPTP, but the protocol isn’t natively built into them. For instance, you can easily configure a PPTP connection on Windows 7 with just a few clicks, while setting up SoftEther connection requires a bit more work.

However, you should know that PPTP might no longer be natively supported by newer operating systems and devices in the future. macOS and iOS have already dropped native support for PPTP since macOS Sierra and iOS 10 (likely due to its lack of security), and something like that can happen with other platforms too.

Interested in finding out more about PPTP? Check out our in-depth article on it.

SoftEther vs. L2TP/IPSec

For starters, both protocols offer support for 256-bit encryption and powerful ciphers, but SoftEther security is much better because it also uses SSL 3.0, and it’s open-source, making it a more trustworthy protocol. You should also know that Edward Snowden has previously claimed that L2TP/IPSec has been intentionally weakened by the NSA, but there is no clear evidence that can show how legit those claims are yet.

In terms of stability, SoftEther fares better because it can use port 443. Since L2TP is paired up with IPSec, it can get blocked if port 500 and IP protocols 50 and 51 are blocked. Also, L2TP can encounter NAT issues if L2TP Passthrough isn’t enabled on the router.

The SoftEther VPN protocol also provides better connection speeds, as L2TP/IPSec tends to take longer to negotiate a VPN tunnel – not to mention the double encapsulation feature can reduce speeds too.

When it comes to availability, though, L2TP/IPSec is a better choice because it’s natively built into many platforms. So, it’s very easy to set up a connection. Also, there are more VPN providers who offer L2TP/IPSec connections than providers who offer SoftEther connections.

And like the protocols we discussed above, the SoftEther VPN server also offers support for L2TP/IPSec.

In case you’d like to read more about L2TP/IPSec, follow this link.

SoftEther vs. IPSec

Most VPN providers pair up IPSec with L2TP and IKEv2, but you might still find some services that offer access to IPSec on its own. Generally, it’s a pretty secure VPN protocol, though if it’s not set up and configured properly, the protection it offers could be flawed.

Regarding stability, IPSec is much easier to block with a firewall than SoftEther is because of the use of limited and easy-to-block ports. SoftEther is also faster than IPSec, and the SoftEther VPN server actually supports the IPSec protocol.

IPSec works on numerous platforms – pretty much the same ones SoftEther works on. However, IPSec is more convenient to configure because you don’t normally need to download extra software.

Lastly, SoftEther supports more packets than IPSec which is normally restricted to IPv4 packets. As a quick example, SoftEther can also transmit IPv6, PPPoE, STP, VLAN, and RIP.

All in all, IPSec is a decent protocol, but SoftEther is simply a much better choice. If you’d like to learn more about IPSec, here’s our article about it.

SoftEther vs. SSTP

SSTP pretty much offers the same level of security as SoftEther. The only reason it isn’t better than SoftEther in that regard is because it’s not open-source, and because it’s solely owned by Microsoft – a company that has been known to hand the NSA access to encrypted messages and collaborate with both the NSA and the FBI. If that somehow doesn’t bother you, though, it’s safe to say that SSTP is as safe to use as SoftEther.

However, you should know that while SSTP can use port 443, it only uses the TCP transmission protocol. Because of that, the protocol can be susceptible to the “TCP Meltdown” issue, which can cause connectivity issues. Also, SSTP doesn’t offer support for authenticated web proxies. Unfortunately, if it uses non-authenticated web proxies, there’s a chance a network admin could spot SSTP headers and drop the connection if they want.

Regarding speeds, it’s safe to assume that SoftEther is much faster than SSTP. Why? Because SSTP online speeds are often compared to the connection speeds offered by OpenVPN, and we’ve already seen that SoftEther is faster than OpenVPN.

The SoftEther VPN protocol also offers better cross-platform compatibility since SSTP is only natively available on Windows (Vista and higher). Besides that, the protocol can also be configured on routers, Linux, and Android. SoftEther, on the other hand, works on all those platforms (including Windows XP and Windows 98), and many other operating systems and devices too:

  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Solaris
  • FreeBSD

And like it was the case with most of the VPN protocols discussed up until now, the SoftEther VPN server can run SSTP while the SSTP server can’t run the SoftEther protocol.

In case you’d like to learn more about SSTP, here’s a guide we wrote on that topic.

SoftEther vs. IKEv2/IPSec

Both SoftEther and IKEv2/IPSec are really secure and offer decent speeds, but there’s a chance SoftEther might be faster simply because of the way it’s programmed. However, IKEv2/IPSec is easier to block since it only uses UDP port 500. IKEv2/IPSec is normally closed-source (being developed by Microsoft together with Cisco), but there are open-source implementations of IKEv2.

When it comes to stability, though, IKEv2/IPSec might fare better than SoftEther on mobile devices. Why? Because the protocol has been built to resist network changes, meaning you can easily switch from a WiFi network to your data plan on the go without having to worry about your VPN connection going down. While SoftEther is definitely reliable and its quick auto-connect features are always a plus, it can’t really compete with IKEv2’s feature.

And when it comes to availability, both protocols are pretty tied. Still, IKEv2/IPSec might have an advantage since it works on BlackBerry devices too, making it a better choice for mobile users.

In the end, we would only recommend using IKEv2/IPSec if you are concerned about SoftEther dropping the connection when you switch networks. If you want to find out more about IKEv2/IPSec, follow this link.

SoftEther vs. Wireguard

Like SoftEther, Wireguard is an open-source protocol. It’s allegedly as secure as SoftEther, and has a very light build, meaning it can attain decent online speeds.

In fact, according to the benchmarks on the Wireguard website, the protocol is significantly faster than OpenVPN. Wireguard could potentially be faster than SoftEther too seeing as how its throughput goes up to around 1000 Mbps, while SoftEther’s throughput goes up to approximately 900 Mbps.

Still, for the moment, Wireguard is only in its experimental phase. It’s essentially a work in progress, so it’s not a good substitute for SoftEther right now since it’s not stable. Plus, it only works on Linux. In the future, Wireguard might potentially surpass SoftEther, or – who knows – the protocol might get support on the SoftEther VPN server.

Want to learn more about Wireguard? Feel free to check out the protocol’s guide.

So, Is SoftEther the Best Option?

As things stand for the moment, we’d say that yes. SoftEther is very secure, it works on tons of platforms, and it offers high online speeds and great stability as well. Whether you want to access geo-blocked content, secure your online data on public WiFi, or just protect your Internet privacy from online surveillance, SoftEther is a great choice.

Looking for a SoftEther VPN to Secure Your Connections?

We’ve got your back – CactusVPN offers easy, secure access to SoftEther connections. And you get to enjoy the utmost privacy and security since we don’t log any of your data, and our connections use military-grade ciphers.

Furthermore, you’re not only limited to SoftEther. While it’s an excellent VPN protocol, we realize you might want to try out other options too. That’s why we also offer access to:

  • SSTP
  • OpenVPN (both TCP and UDP)
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • PPTP

Best of all – you can directly use SoftEther if you download and use our VPN clients – no need to install any additional software other than that!

Enjoy Quality VPN Services on Multiple Devices

You’ll be happy to know that our VPN applications are very easy to set up, and they work across many platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

And that’s not all. If you want, you can also manually configure our VPN connections on tons of other devices – just follow our step-by-step tutorials, and you’ll be all set.

Test-Drive CactusVPN Free of Charge

You don’t need to pick a subscription right away. You can first try out our VPN services for free for 24 hours to see if they meet all your needs. Don’t worry – you don’t need to give out any credit card info.

And here’s the best part – once you do become a CactusVPN user, we’ll still have you covered with our 30-day money-back guarantee if there are any problems.

What Is SoftEther? The Main Idea

SoftEther is free-to-use, open-source VPN software that offers both a secure VPN protocol and a versatile VPN server that can run multiple protocols (SoftEther, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IPSec, and SSTP). Despite being relatively new, the SoftEther VPN protocol is pretty popular since it’s offers strong encryption while also providing fast speeds. Also, it’s very cross-platform compatible.

SoftEther is so well programmed, in fact, that it’s a better choice than most VPN protocols. The only one that currently comes close to it is OpenVPN, but it’s significantly slower than SoftEther. Unfortunately, finding a VPN provider that offers SoftEther connections is a bit difficult. In case you’re looking for one, feel free to check out our service.

Interested in a VPN provider that supports SoftEther?

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Tim has been writing content and copy for a living for over 4 years, and has been covering VPN, Internet privacy, and cybersecurity topics for more than 2 years. He enjoys staying up-to-date with the latest in Internet privacy news, and helping people find new ways to secure their online rights.