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Why can I only make a maximum of 2 VPN connections concurrently from my Windows XP client?

Posted on 2006-05-17
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Last Modified: 2010-05-18
I support a number of customers and use a Windows XP client to make a VPN connection to their networks. I have tried from a number of different client machines from inside a company network and also using a direct connection to the Internet, but I find that in all cases, I can only make two VPN connections at any one time. If I try to connect a 3rd, I get "Error 800: Unable to establish the VPN connection". I can connect to any 2 of the 4 customer networks that I regularly visit, but never to more than two at a time.

The VPN server at each customer site is either Windows 2000 server or 2003 server. I have access to each of them, so can make changes to the server configurations or on my Windows XP client.

I have mentioned this to several people, and also searched to see if anyone else has encountered this problem, but without any luck.
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Question by:andysailcrest
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LVL 12

Expert Comment

by:valicon
ID: 16700600
Check the following. If you are using Routing and Remote Access services on Windows 2003 then do the following, check

Ports > Right Click > Property > select L2TP or PPTP > Maximum ports > what does it say here? you may have to increase  this number here.
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by:valicon
ID: 16700637
Other possible causes of this issue:

http://www.modemsite.com/56k/duns800.asp
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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16700812
Thanks, but I don't think the issue is to do with any of the servers. If I am connected to VPN servers A and B, I can't connect to server C. However, if I disconnect from either of servers A or B, I can connect to C. Similarly, I can connect to A and C, but fail when connecting to B; or I can connect to B and C, but fail when connecting to A.

BTW, if I am connected to A and B, and then try to connect to C from a different VPN client -- it works!
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Joseph Hornsey earned 900 total points
ID: 16701377
Windows XP Pro (and Windows 2000 Pro) are only going to allow two VPN connections at a time (using native Windows functionality).  In order to do more, you'll need to start looking at third party solutions.  Cisco VPN Client (if you have Cisco equipment) is an alternative.  There are plenty of others, too.

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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16701423
Is this limitation by design? I've never seen any reference to it on the Microsoft site.
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by:Joseph Hornsey
ID: 16701559
I think so.  I haven't found a reference to this, either, but I've run into the problem.  Since we were using Cisco equipment, we got around it by downloading the Cisco VPN Client and using it instead.

I probably shouldn't have spoken quite as confidently about the issue, because I don't have any supporting documentation, but I've seen the problem before.  I guess you could say this is more of an assumption on my part than anything else.  

There's also a rumour that after you install SP2 on Win XP Pro, you're then limited to no more than 10 outbound connections.  You've always been limited to 10 inbound connections (all the way back to NT 3.51 Workstation), but that's the first I've heard of outbound limitations.  I don't know if it's true, but that's what I've seen on forums and I've had some IT guys at some of my customer sites tell me that.

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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16701768
Thanks for the information. I'll leave the question open for a while, in case anyone else knows about it.
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Expert Comment

by:carl_legere
ID: 16703733
what are the IP ranges on the remote networks you connect to.
The fact that you can connect to two VPN's kind of brings us into the gray area of logic- what are you going to with this?  Why is this necessary?
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by:Rob Williams
ID: 16704754
The router on your end can be the limiting factor as well. Many routers will only allow a single VPN pass-through connection, you might want to look into the detailed specs for the unit.
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Expert Comment

by:Joseph Hornsey
ID: 16704790
Hey, great point, RobWill.  Some of the cheaper VPN boxes (LinkSys, NetGear, etc.) only allow two VPN tunnels, either pass-through or terminating on the router itself.

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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16706483
I wondered about that, but I have a laptop that can connect directly to the Internet through a mobile (cellphone) network, and that shows the same problem too.
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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16706565
To answer carl_legere's comment, all the customer networks have different IP address ranges. In an ideal world, I would like to establish a VPN connection to all of them, and then access resources on any of their networks, as and when I need to do so, without having to disconnect and reconnect the VPN's all the time.
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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16717254
I've accepted SplinterCell5894's answer, because it seems to fit the facts. However, it would be nice if someone could confirm it. Is there a technical reason for it, or is it some arbitrary restriction introduced for commercial reasons. I suspect the latter: if you could only connect to one VPN, I could understand it was a technical limitation -- but if you can connect to 2, why not any number within reason?
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Expert Comment

by:Rob Williams
ID: 16717277
If you provide the make and model of the router we can look into that option. Many, actually most small office home routers only allow a single tunnel, one D-Link supports 5, though I haven't seen any, it is very possible that some have a 2 user limit. Then again, it is possible yours only "supports" 1 and you are just lucky to get a second.
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Author Comment

by:andysailcrest
ID: 16717335
Sorry, but I am sure it is not a router issue. I have the same problem if I make a direct connection to the Internet. I have a laptop that can connect via a cellphone network, and I have the same problem accessing more than one VPN through that connection.
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Expert Comment

by:Joseph Hornsey
ID: 16718690

What I would recommend is this:

It sounds like you don't have a really huge VPN need.  If you've got the budget, I'd purchase a Cisco PIX firewall.  If you've got under 75 users, the PIX 501 is the way to go.  It supports 10 simultaneous tunnels and you can download and use the Cisco VPN client.  You can get 10-, 50- or unlimited user licenses on it.  Expect to pay about $500 for the 10-user, $700 for the 50-user and $900 for the unlimited.  They're great and you can do just about anything with them.

Hope that helps.

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