How to add the L2TP VPN option to NetworkManager in Linux

The Linux NetworkManager is sadly limited when it comes to VPN connections. Jack Wallen walks you through the process of adding an L2TP option, so you can connect to your company VPN.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you work with the Linux operating system on your desktops, and you need to connect to a VPN, you might notice, out of the box, the options are quite limited. This can be a bit problematic when you're on the go and your company's VPN happens to be a Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) solution? By default, you'd be out of luck.

Fortunately, there's a way to add L2TP support for the NetworkManager found on Ubuntu Unity and GNOME desktops (which will be one and the same in 2018).

Let's take, for instance, a freshly installed Ubuntu 16.10 desktop. If you click on the NetworkManager icon in the system tray, click Edit Connections | Add and then click the connection type drop-down, you will notice the only option is PPTP (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The default Network Manager VPN options.

When you're presented with such limited options, what do you do? Since you're using Linux, you change it. Let's do just that; add an L2TP option to the NetworkManager. Here's how.

Adding the option

Open up a terminal window on your Ubuntu desktop. Before we jump into the installing of the new VPN option, let's make sure our machine is up-to-date with the commands:

sudo apt-get update
​sudo apt-get upgrade

When those two commands complete, we need to add a repository to apt with the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nm-l2tp/network-manager-l2tp

Now update apt and install the software with the commands:

sudo apt-get update
​sudo apt-get install network-manager-l2tp network-manager-l2tp-gnome

Once the command completes, logout of the desktop and log back in. Once you've logged back in, click the NetworkManager icon and then click Edit Connections | Add. In the new drop-down, you will see the L2TP option (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

The L2TP option is now available to Network Manager.

Select L2TP and click Create. You will now be presented with the L2TP configuration window (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The L2TP configuration window.

Enter the necessary options for your company VPN, click Save, and you're good to go. When you need to connect to that newly added VPN, click on the NetworkManager icon in the system tray, click VPN Connections, and then select your L2TP VPN connection from the list (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Connecting to your L2TP connection.

You're all set.

Never say never

One of my mantras with Linux is never say never. If there's something you believe a Linux desktop cannot do, a bit of research will probably uncover that it can, in fact, do just what it is you want. VPN connections are no exception.

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