What is a VPN? 36 Topics Covered (Ultimate Guide)

What is a VPN? 36 Topics Covered (Ultimate Guide)

This is a particularly pressing concern in the current climate and one that will only become more important as we share more and more of our sensitive data online.

That’s not all a VPN can do either! It can likewise help you to access otherwise restricted information, visit region-locked sites, and more. In this detailed post, we will break down precisely what a VPN is used for, and why it’s something that everyone should invest in!

What Does a VPN Do?

A VPN essentially allows a user to hide their IP address. This means that when they visit a website, the owner of that website won’t be able to gain information about who they are or where they are located. This right away offers additional privacy and peace of mind. But of course, by protecting the user’s IP from site owners, a VPN can also protect it from others. These include governments as well as hackers and the like.

A VPN essentially allows a user to hide their IP address. This means that when they visit a website, the owner of that website won’t be able to gain information about who they are or where they are located. This right away offers additional privacy and peace of mind. But of course, by protecting the user’s IP from site owners, a VPN can also protect it from others. These include governments as well as hackers and the like.

What Does a VPN Do?
Virtual Private Network (source: Wikipedia)

For example, a VPN can help to protect your computer from DOS attacks: which can otherwise prevent you from accessing the internet and potentially ruin your business. Likewise, a VPN can prevent a government from instructing a site owner to hand over all of your data during an investigation. Believe it or not, government organizations will do this even if the individual is innocent.

You might also have heard about Google, Facebook, and other companies tracking your internet use and then selling data about you – even if you aren’t signed up to any of their services! This data manipulation can sometimes have profound consequences, as the very content of the web is changed to try and sell to the individual. This behavior has been implicated in unusual voting behavior, an increase in discrimination, and more. Imagine not being offered a certain rate on your car insurance – or even a home loan – because of your internet browsing history.

VPNs protect you against these things – though you also need to think about cookies stored on your browser.

What Does a VPN Do?

Likewise, a VPN can allow you to access sites like streaming services and view them as though you were in another country. This means you can see the content that those websites only show to specific regions. Has a new TV show come out in the UK that you want to see in the US? Then by using a VPN, you’ll be able to watch UK TV from anywhere in the world!

What is a VPN Service

Now you know what a VPN does, you can likely figure out what a VPN service is. Essentially, a VPN service is a company that offers a VPN to customers. Normally they will provide apps and software that users can download.

What is a VPN Service

Alternatively, they will offer a browser extension or an online portal that acts as a proxy. Often companies will offer multiple options. Whatever the case, the VPN service will very often charge a monthly fee for this access.

How to Use a VPN?

If this sounds like something that you might be interested in, then you might consider starting to use one.
The good news is that this is usually extremely simple. All you will do is to download the installation file for the VPN service you want to use, and then install the program. From there, you can open up the program and connect to a server of your choosing (most providers will offer locations all around the world).

How to Use a VPN

Once a secure connection has been established, you’ll then be able to browse and use your computer as normal – safe in the knowledge that all your data is going through this middle-man. Better yet, is that you can also get VPNs for mobile and practically any other device as well.

VPN Types

Remote Access VPN
The site to Site VPN
Internet Protocol Security or IPSec
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol
Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol
Secure Shell (SSH)
Read more…

There are several different types of VPN.

  • Remote Access VPN

This type of VPN lets a user connect to a private network and then access all of its services remotely. This is a common choice for businesses and individual users alike.

VPN Types
  • The site to Site VPN

Site to Site is also known as Router to Router. This is largely used by big businesses. This essentially allows for a network like those found in most offices, only remotely distributed between multiple sites. This is sometimes referred to as an “extranet based VPN.”

VPN Protocols

  • Internet Protocol Security or IPSec

This is used to secure communication across IP networks. Each data packet will be authenticated and secured during the connection. It has two modes: transport mode and tunneling mode. Transport mode encrypts data in data packages, while the tunneling mode encrypts the entire data packet. IPSec can be used in conjunction with other protocols.

  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol

This is a protocol that will usually be combined with something like IPSec to strengthen a VPN connection. This creates a tunnel between two connection points, while IPSec is used to encrypt the data.

  • Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol

This method creates a tunnel and encapsulates the data packet. It uses something called PPP (Point to Point Protocol) to encrypt all data going through the connection. This is among the most widely used VPN protocols.

  • OpenVPN

This is an open-source VPN solution that can be used to create Point-to-Point and Site-to-Site connections.

  • Secure Shell (SSH)

This creates the VPN tunnel that data can travel through and keeps the tunnel encrypted.

What is a VPN Connection?

A VPN connection is a connection between a user and a server belonging to the VPN service. More specifically, a VPN works by rerouting internet traffic through a remote server. If that sounds like Greek to you, here’s what you need to know.

What is a VPN Connection

Normally, when you view the content of a website, you do this by establishing a connection with a server. A server is essentially like a computer in that it stores files and runs an operating system. The big difference is that it is connected to the internet 24/7.

That server could be located anywhere in the world, but once you make the connection, it will deliver files to your computer that together make up the content of a website. Those website files will then be loaded in your browser, and you will view the website.

This means that to view any webpage, you must first make a direct connection between your computer and that website. This means that the website owner can view your IP address, and that information can then be collected from interested third parties.

When you use a VPN however, there is a kind of “middle man” in this process. Your computer no longer makes direct connections with the server containing the website files, but instead makes the connection with a different remote server. That server is then what will retrieve the files from a website somewhere in the world, and then, in turn, share those files with you.

This essentially means that your IP address is never exposed because you never make any direct connections. Instead, the website owner and anyone snooping will only be able to see the IP address of the server belonging to the VPN.

How People Use a VPN?

In this table, we have explained how people are using a VPN service

Social networks or news33.71%
Browsing anonymously31.14%
Access sites at work and School31.38%
Access torrent sites26.74%
Hiding browsing history from government17.49%

VPN Usage by Countries

Saudi Arabia29.67%

VPN Users by Age


Device Used for VPN


How VPN Works?

Thankfully, VPNs use something called encryption, which essentially means that all the data you send to the VPN is extremely garbled via complex algorithms. These algorithms are designed in such a way that it would take multiple supercomputers running extremely complex machine learning algorithms years to crack just a few lines.

Computer Guy explains absolutely all details on a whiteboard in this 25:41 minute guide visually. Video about How VPN Works.

The Basics of VPN Encryption

The Basics of VPN Encryption

The VPN, however, can quickly decipher this information and then pass that on to the websites you are interacting with. This is what allows a VPN to protect information such as credit cards and passwords from eavesdropping cybercriminals.

Another big benefit of this is that it allows you to access sites that local governments and ISPs (internet security providers) have tried to block. Because the information is all encrypted, your ISP doesn’t know to block those sites, and that means you can access them freely.

For many, this is an important philosophical and moral battle: the internet is best when it is free, and when users can access whatever sites they choose. Attempts at censorship and control can be circumvented by software such as VPNs.

Standalone VPN Services

Standalone VPN Services

By standalone VPN service, we are referring to a company that offers a separate VPN service for customers. This means a dedicated piece of hardware that will handle the encryption and forwarding of traffic. It has dedicated processors and works for all types of internet traffic.

This is the best type of VPN for those that are serious about protecting their privacy, and we’ll see why this is better than the alternatives in a moment.

When you use a VPN service, it might feel like you are using a piece of software. Though, you are using a hardware solution – it’s just that the hardware is located a long way away. That hardware is not reliant on anything installed on your computer to work (this merely provides the UI and establishes the connection) and that’s what we mean by standalone.

Browser Extensions

Browser Extensions

The best way to understand the benefits of a standalone VPN service like those we have been discussing is to compare that option with the alternatives.

The alternative, in this case, is to use browser extensions or a free browser. This means that instead of installing additional software on your PC, you will simply add an app to your browser (normally Chrome) so that all traffic you route through Chrome will be encrypted and private.

This seems like a great solution – especially given that most browser extensions are free or very affordable! A browser extension is an inferior alternative to a standalone VPN however.

The first reason for this is that a browser extension will only protect traffic that goes through that browser. In other words, if you are searching for something on Chrome, then this traffic will be encrypted. However, if you’re using a streaming service for instance, then that traffic won’t be encrypted. This means that you won’t be able to access foreign content, and it also means that companies can still collect a lot of data about you.

The other big issue with browser-based VPNs and plugins is that they are normally free. Why is that a bad thing? We’ll get to that in a moment!

How Does a VPN Router Work?

How Does a VPN Router Work?

A VPN router is a hardware device that is designed to allow network communications inside a VPN environment. This facilitates connections between multiple different VPNs, which is particularly useful for larger organizations that might be trying to maintain a large network or intranet/extranet.

Corporate VPN

A corporate VPN is simply a VPN that is used by a large organization. While anyone can use a VPN, the service is of particular interest to big businesses, seeing as large companies will often have more data to protect.

Corporate VPN

Intellectual property theft and data breaches are very real challenges faced by a huge number of organizations today, and only by going the extra mile to ensure that data is secured can they prevent crippling, high profile data breaches that can likewise be devastating for public relations.

Ultimately, no matter what end users do to secure their connections, they are always going to be somewhat reliant on companies looking after their data!

How Data is Transferred With and Without a VPN?

To recap, when data is transferred with a VPN, it will first be encrypted and then sent to the server. The server will then decrypt that information and handle the user’s browsing activities on the web. The information this generates will then be encrypted and returned to the VPN server, before being forwarded back to the user’s computer. In short, no un-encrypted information travels between the user’s computer and any external server other than the VPN.

This is in contrast to data transfer as handled without a VPN, where the user will connect directly to the VPN belonging to a website or business and then send information such as password details and even card details with minimal encryption. Which sounds safer to you?

What is VPN Protection?

What is VPN Protection?

There are many things to consider when comparing different VPN providers. One of the most important is speed: how quickly is the data passed from your computer to the VPN server and then on to the outside web.

How to Choose Your VPN?

Many factors can impact the speed of the VPN. These include the protocol (OpenVPN, L2TP, PPTP, etc.), the hardware being used, and the distance of the VPN server. Read more…

How to Choose Your VPN

Look for the speed index, which is a single metric used to indicate the overall speed of a VPN. More on this later.

While speed is important, security is even more crucial for many companies when it comes to choosing a VPN service. The best VPN services can handle this aspect in several ways. Leak protection, for example, ensures that your real internet address details won’t be accessible. Some features that enable this protection include:

  • VPN Kill Switch

This deletes your ISP gateway if the VPN disconnects to prevent an IP leak.

  • IP6 Leak Protection

This disables the IPv6 network address and helps to protect against leaks this way.

  • DNS Leak Protection

This removes default DNS servers, thereby ensuring that only DNS servers assigned by the VPN are available.


When you use a VPN, it’s also good to choose a recognized company, which will provide peace of mind and better support. Read reviews and pay particular attention to any comments regarding customer service.

This is another thing to always look for with VPN services, as you don’t want to find yourself shut out with no one to help – especially if you desperately need to be completing work that day.

Free Vs. Paid VPN – Which is Truly Better?

You might be interested in using a VPN to protect your data and to guarantee freedom in the way that you use the internet. However, you might also find that the price of entry can be a little off-putting. How do you go about using a VPN without breaking the bank then? Simple: you use a free VPN! But can this be as good as a paid option? What is the catch? Read more…

Free Vs. Paid VPN – Which is Truly Better?

Unfortunately, the truth is that you do get what you pay for here, and a free VPN is never going to offer as much peace of mind as a paid offering. It might not be a particularly good option at all! 

Why is that? The simple reason is that running a VPN service costs a lot of money. Remember: this is a hardware solution that involves the installation of countless servers based all around the world. These are large, powerful computers with lots of bandwidth that need to be constantly maintained and kept up to date. That involves a lot of staff and a lot of physical premises. This is NOT a cheap operation!

So why is this a problem? Simple: it should raise questions as to how and why a company can offer the service for free. The business has to be making money somehow and in all likelihood, that means that it is either collecting your data to sell it, or it is going to be showing ads of its own.

And this somewhat counteracts the entire purpose of having a VPN, to begin with!

At the very least, a free VPN service is unlikely to have the resources necessary to offer the best speeds. For all of these reasons, it’s certainly worth considering paying to truly protect your privacy and data.

Is VPNs Legal?

Is VPNs Legal?

One question that a lot of users have is whether or not VPNs are legal. The good news is that they are indeed completely legal. There is nothing inherently wrong with rerouting your web traffic, and any attempt to outlaw the practice would seem extremely backward and very much like an attempt by the state to control its population. 

Common Reasons for Using a VPN

We’ve seen precisely what a VPN can do, but now the big question: what is the purpose of using a VPN? In this post, we’ll explore why a lot of people like to use VPNs and what the major use-case scenarios are.

  • Living in Totalitarian Countries
Living in Totalitarian Countries

In a country where the state tightly controls and monitors its population, a VPN can be one of the only ways to access restricted sites, to enjoy true freedom of expression, and generally to enjoy the same content that the rest of the world can access without challenge.

  • Using Public WiFi
Using Public WiFi

Public WiFi is extremely convenient when traveling, or if you’re someone who finds they do their best work in the environment of a coffee shop. Unfortunately, public WiFi also involves sending packets of data that can be intercepted by cybercriminals. Using a VPN is one of the only ways to do this safely.

  • Keeping Browsing History Safe
Keeping Browsing History Safe

While you aren’t necessarily intending on doing anything you shouldn’t online, that doesn’t mean that the thought of governments being able to forcibly access your data should sit easily with you. Using a VPN protects your privacy, meaning that you get to decide who knows what about you.

  • Accessing Foreign Sites
Accessing Foreign Sites

If you want to stream foreign shows or otherwise enjoy the region-locked content, a VPN offers the best option, Doesn’t matter where you are located, you have access on any countries on earth (where internet is providing)

  • Avoiding Censorship
Avoiding Censorship

The Pirate Bay has been banned by many ISPs, which means that users are forced to use proxy sites and the like to access it. Remember: there is nothing inherently illegal or immoral about the Pirate Bay, which is simply a portal for users to share P2P content. Using a VPN, you can obfuscate your traffic, thereby hiding the fact that you are visiting that site. You can enjoy unrestricted access once again!

  • Avoiding Ads
Avoiding Ads

Tools like AdBlocker can prevent ads from following you around the net, and using incognito mode when browsing can ensure you aren’t storing lots of cookies. While that’s true though, as long as you are connecting directly to websites, they can still track your behavior and discern a lot of information about you – information that will come back to you in the form of ads. That’s why using a VPN in conjunction with those tools is the best strategy.

How to Set Up a VPN?

If you have a Windows 10 computer, then setting up a VPN is very straightforward and you have plenty of options. Setting a VPN for personal use is not as hard as it may sounds, it’s easier like installing any usual app on your devices. Read more detailed guides for all devices…

How to Set Up a VPN on Windows 10?

Windows 10 is the most common PC operating system, but most importantly will also support legacy Windows apps dating back to Windows 7 and before! This means that you can use a huge amount of software for productivity and entertainment, making this one of the most important operating systems to use with a VPN…

How to Set Up a VPN on Windows 10

This also means there’s a huge amount of choice when it comes to picking a VPN. You have browser and plugin based VPNs, you have free VPNs, and you have standalone VPNs. Which to choose?

There are lots of considerations but one tip is that it’s important to check out the logging policy of a VPN. This is essentially industry talk for the privacy policy, which is particularly salient for any business that revolves around improving security for its clients.

The best VPN services will gather customer addresses only so far as they are required by the payment process. Furthermore, they will not need to collect home addresses or other personal details. The emails will not be released, except under legal obligations such as a subpoena. This is the case for nearly all VPNs.

Why is this so important? Essentially because a VPN is still a third party. While a VPN can protect you from outside users and organizations, you still need to be able to trust the VPN itself! If it is logging large amounts of data about you, then you need to ask why it is doing that and what it intends to do with the information. Likewise, you have to consider the possibility that the VPN service itself could someday be hacked or subpoenaed. 

Find the VPN you want, install it, and follow the instructions to get setup. This will normally mean creating an account, selecting the server nearest to you (or one based in another country if you’re trying to spoof your location), and then hit connect. As long as the app says its connected, all traffic will be routed through the VPN!

How to Setup VPN on Mac?

As with PC, there are lots of options as to which type of VPN you want to choose. You have standalone software, as well as browsers and plugins…

How to Setup VPN on Mac

Plugins and browsers will only protect your traffic that is going through your browser. Some people will see this as a benefit. After all, using a VPN does add some small amount of lag to your internet traffic – which we will address in a moment. Therefore, you might wish to avoid using a VPN when watching movies, or when downloading big files – even when gaming!

But remember that you can always stop using a VPN when you don’t need it. This is usually as easy as closing the app, or as clicking a big cross button! At least this way though, you have the option of when to use it!

Think that none of the data you send out of your browser is of interest or importance to hackers? Think again!

Even by looking at seemingly innocuous data, a hacker can work out things like the times of day that you are most likely to be home and use this information to break into your home. Then there are the countless apps on your computer to consider that are transmitting private and sensitive data at all times.

Think about tools like Dropbox or Google Photos that store backups of all your photos. Think about the high-profile cases of celebrities having their accounts on these services hacked!

How about the fact that Microsoft Word will back up all of your documents to OneDrive now. Or how about the fact that any service that you pay for will need to transfer data regarding your password and possibly payment details!

So we recommend using a standalone VPN service to watch Hulu so that this way you can still enjoy all the benefits that come from a VPN.

So choose a standalone piece of software. Download the .exe, follow the steps to install, and then create an account. From there, it’s usually a simple matter of choosing the server you want to connect through, clicking connect, and then enjoying all that content!

How to Setup VPN on iOS?

How to Setup VPN on iOS?

Setting up a VPN on iOS is as simple as installing the app you want to use – which will often be charged monthly – and then clicking connect on said app. As long as the app is running in the background and it says it is connected, your traffic will be protected.
iOS is famous for restricting access to apps and tools, so it’s refreshing to see that the service allows for.

How to Setup VPN on Android?

How to Setup VPN on Android?

Setting up a VPN on a mobile device is even more important, seeing as the chances are that you’ll be connecting to lots of different roaming WiFi networks.
VPNs become especially important when using WiFi or public WiFi. keep reading for details…

The reason for this is that hackers can use “sniffing” to read data packets that are traveling from computers to the wireless routers. If you are inputting data such as passwords and credit card details directly, then this presents a very real security threat.

However, if you use a VPN, then no sensitive information will be leaving your computer – it will all be going from the VPN to the site in question. This is possible thanks to what we call “VPN Encryption.”

As we have seen, VPNs work by allowing users and businesses to connect to remote servers that then act as proxies or “middlemen” for the rest of your browsing. But this alone isn’t enough to ensure your data and information is kept secure.

After all, you are still sending the same data to the VPN for it to forward on, right? Wrong! Because VPNs are encrypted, this means they can protect your data no matter where or how you are surfing.

Android offers a huge range of VPN services, and once again, using these is as simple as downloading an app, making sure it is connected, and then leaving it to run in the background while you do your surfing.

How to Setup a VPN on Firestick?

Firestick is an extremely popular streaming device from Amazon. This is very cheap and will give you access to Amazon’s Prime Video service, as well as letting you download YouTube, Netflix, and the rest.

How to Setup VPN on Firestick

You can install apps on your Firestick from an app store that works very much like iOS or Android. And of course, this store is filled with lots of options for great VPNs!

Just keep in mind that if you have lots of devices with lots of VPNs, then it can get a little expensive. This is why you should look for a service with apps that run on all major devices. OR use the option suggested below.

How to Setup a VPN on Router?

A VPN router is a separate device that will allow you to tether the VPN service to the router itself. This means finding a VPN that is capable of running VPN client software, which you should be able to find quickly and easily online. If you use an ISP router, chances are that it won’t be compatible (ISPs don’t love VPNs!). Fortunately, you can get around this by using a secondary VPN compatible router and then connecting that to your current router.

How to Setup VPN on Router

Otherwise, the process is as simple as buying your VPN compatible router, using that to replace your current router, and then install the new firmware. This involves “flashing” the software onto the device, which in turn means changing your operating system. This can be a lengthy process, so make sure you find instructions that are specific to the model of the device you are using.

This will protect all internet traffic in your home, meaning you can use any device and any service and feel completely at ease.

How to Unblock Websites With VPN?

How to Unblock Websites With VPN?

A VPN can help with this. All you need to do is to install a regular standalone VPN service, and this will then allow you to spoof your address. Because it is the VPN server that is connecting to Facebook’s servers, Facebook has no way of knowing that you aren’t originally located in that country! This means that when choosing which server you want to connect to, you need to make sure that you pick one that is based in that location. Make sure to take this step, as many VPNs will

How to Watch Netflix With VPN?

How to Watch Netflix With VPN?

Netflix is an extremely popular streaming service that has taken the world by storm. It has one of the most comprehensive selections of films and TV, and it now also offers a ton of unique and exclusive content made especially for the service. Shows like Star TrekThe Good PlaceOrange is the New BlackDaredevil and countless others can only be watched on Netflix…

The problem is that some of Netflix’s content is restricted only to certain regions. That means that you aren’t getting the full experience, despite paying the full price.

But there’s a catch. Unfortunately, Netflix has wised up to this practice and now blocked several VPNs from its servers. That means you won’t be able to access the service with certain VPNs. The solution is just to do your research: if you are serious about using a VPN to watch Netflix, then you need to make sure that the service you pick is supported first.

How to Watch Hulu With VPN?

Watching Hulu with a VPN works the same as watching Netflix with a VPN. Simply install a VPN on your machine, then choose the server that you want to spoof…

How to Watch Hulu With VPN

You can actually what Hulu through a browser by going to www.hulu.com. This means that using a VPN browser or browser plugin would work just as well as an external option. The problem is that watching Hulu in this way means that other apps and software won’t be protected.

You can also use a “proxy” to enjoy Hulu content. This is a site that acts as a VPN, but which doesn’t add the layer of encryption. It’s also typically a lot slower.

How to Watch YouTube With VPN?

How to Watch YouTube With VPN?

Watching YouTube with a VPN is once again as simple as downloading and installing the software, clicking connect, and then navigating to the page in your browser. The only big consideration here is speed, which is affected by many things – including the server you choose.

Because YouTube is a streaming service, the best download speeds become extremely important. So make sure to pick a server that is close to you. And make sure the service provider offers a nearby server before signing up!

That last point is important, because if the VPN is a long way away, then you will need to send your data further which of course takes longer! That said, you also need to consider the location of the ISP servers, and of the sites you are visiting!

The best VPN providers will offer a variety of different VPNs in different locations. This allows you to pick the one closest to you unless you need to spoof an IP address from a particular location (to access region-restricted content for example).

In this case, however, you might need to find a VPN server located in another country (if your region is blocked from YouTube for instance). That means that the other factors influencing speed become even more important.

Speed is measured in several ways. Latency, for example, describes the time it takes for a data packet sent from your device to reach the VPN server. The lower this number, the better.

You also need to consider the download speed. The faster the download speed, the quicker you will be able to download and stream content. The minimum quality that is acceptable for most people is 500kbps, though this won’t provide a good experience and you may spend time waiting for pages to load. The best quality to look for is 25,000kpbs, which will allow you to stream ultra HD quality with no noticeable delay.

A metric called the speed index will provide both these scores into a single number that can be understood at a glance. The higher the speed index, the faster your connection will be.

Keep in mind that while a company might boast about its best times or its average times, these won’t always be completely representative of the experience as a whole. Servers will experience downtime, will get slowed down by high volumes of traffic, etc. Therefore, it’s a good idea to do a little extra research and to read reviews. When using a VPN, you can run speed tests to see just how much of a hit your connection speeds have taken.

How to Unblock Facebook With VPN?

How to Unblock Facebook With VPN?

If you want to access Facebook by using a VPN, then you have several options. Any VPN tool that reroutes your traffic will allow you to access Facebook as though you are from another region, and will allow you to spoof your IP address. Whether your country is blocked from accessing Facebook then, or whether you have been banned from the service, a VPN can provide the answer.

How to Unblock Twitter With VPN?

How to Unblock Twitter With VPN?

Likewise, Twitter can be just as effectively accessed with a VPN. This can be used to circumvent restrictive laws in your country. Another great use for a VPN when it comes to accessing sites like Twitter and Facebook is that it allows you to get around parent locks and restrictions placed by employers! This way you can enjoy Twitter at work, while connected to your company’s WiFi!

How to Unblock Games With VPN?

How to Unblock Games With VPN?

Finally, you can use a VPN to unblock games that are otherwise blocked on your School, Office, ISP, or even to access stores and multiplayer servers that are only intended for a specific region. This can open up a host of new gameplay opportunities!
The important tip again here is to look for speed when it comes to the service you want. Lag in multiplayer gaming, in particular, can be a matter of life or death!

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