The issue of anonymity on the Internet is increasingly worrying ordinary users. There are different ways to hide your presence in the network from providers and bypass their blocking of access to certain web resources, introduced on their initiative or on the initiative of legislators from different countries. The easiest way to implement it is to use proxy-servers that allow to hide a user’s ip-address.

The most common way to use proxies is through an HTTP proxy on ports 80, 8080 or 3128, but this option has several significant drawbacks. First of all, HTTP proxies work only for the HTTP protocol and keep the entire history of your communications with the website, which is detrimental to your anonymity. In addition, proxy servers can pass proxy usage information in the headers, as well as filter and spoof data, which can also adversely affect the security and anonymity of end users when surfing the Internet.

Another, more reliable way is to use SOCKS proxies. Not only browsers, but also practically every application the user uses when surfing the Internet, can work through SOCKS proxies. For example, a user can work anonymously with e-mail clients, icq messenger and other messengers by using SOCKS-proxies. Proxy servers working with SOCKS5, have additional security support and can work with UDP protocol, which makes them a universal tool for anonymous work on the Internet. In addition, SOCKS proxies allow building chains, that is, a user can use multiple SOCKS proxies to increase anonymity.

Thus, SOCKS proxies are far superior to HTTP proxies in terms of anonymity, security, and versatility, which makes them an indispensable tool for users who want to get the best results with minimum effort.

So, how does an average Internet user arrange his access to the Internet via SOCKS-proxy?

There are a number of programs, installing which a user can easily configure his computer to work anonymously on the Internet. The most popular programs are SocksCap, FreeCap, ProxyCap, WideCap and Proxy Helper and we will consider their features in this article.

SocksCap

SocksCap is a program allowing a user to set up applications in Windows to work through SOCKS-proxy versions 4 or 5. The program is very simple to install and configure, which is a definite plus.

Note that the original version of SocksCap, common on the network, works only in Windows XP and refuses to install and work normally in Windows 7 and later, especially in the 64-bit version. However, there is now a more recent and modified version of SocksCap64, which works steadily both in 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

After installation and the first start-up, the program itself prompts you to automatically detect and add to the list of programs browsers installed in the system. In addition, you can manually specify the programs whose traffic must be routed through the SOCKS-proxy, and the links to them also appear in the main window of the program.

The user just need to specify SOCKS-proxy parameters in the appropriate settings and then run the necessary application by double-clicking the mouse on the corresponding shortcut in the main window of SocksCap.

Advantages:

  • The installation process does not require any special knowledge from the user
  • Easy to configure. You just click the appropriate button in the program menu and enter the parameters of SOCKS-proxy provided by SOCKS5 provider.
  • Ease of use. The interface is intuitive, the user just needs to click on the shortcut of the application that should work through the SOCKS proxy, and that application will immediately launch.

Disadvantages:

  • Many users have complained that SocksCap worked stably only in Windows XP and refused to install and work properly in Windows 7 and later, especially in the 64-bit version. However, there is now a more recent and modified version of SocksCap64, which works steadily in later versions of Windows, so we recommend using it.

FreeCap

FreeCap – free program for redirecting connections through SOCKS-server. The program supports SOCKS-protocols versions 4/5 and allows you to organize the work through a proxy server of any software that is not able to directly “communicate” with SOCKS-servers.

The program has an archaic, but pretty friendly interface and is very easy to set up – it is enough to specify in the settings of the proxy-server parameters and specify the path to the program that should work through the proxy. After that the necessary program starts directly from the FreeCap window and works automatically through the proxy that you set in the settings.

The program works correctly with Windows95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Longhorn/Blackcomb OS. Unfortunately, the program does not work correctly with later Windows operating systems, which are currently installed on most users’ devices.

Advantages:

  • The program is completely free for end users
  • Easy to install and configure – no special knowledge required of the user
  • Easy to use. It is enough to specify once SOCKS-proxy settings in FreeCap settings and then all applications launched through it automatically work through this SOCKS-proxy.

Disadvantages:

  • Archaic interface in the style of programs from the early 2000s
  • Program does not work correctly in Windows 7 and later versions of Microsoft operating systems.

WideCap

More advanced software for work through SOCKS-proxy from FreeCap developers. The program is created on a new platform and, in contrast to FreeCap, uses more advanced algorithms for working with proxies, which solves most compatibility problems. WideCap allows you to set up the proxy server behavior with maximum precision, in particular it is equipped with flexible rules of software behavior – from setting up individual chains and exclusions for certain software to network speed limitation and traffic limit setting. The program has a rich set of functions inherent in any modern network software, has a customizable interface and maximum compatibility with Windows Vista software, which was not seen in its predecessor.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get WideCap to work in Windows 7, because after I installed and launched it, the program list configuration tab (New Application) was inactive. Thus, I could not tell WideCap which programs should work through the SOCKS proxy.

Advantages:

  • Modern interface with the ability to use skins
  • Compatibility with Windows Vista
  • Ability to flexibly and as precisely as possible configure the rules

Disadvantages:

  • The program list tab is inactive in Windows 7, which makes WideCap inoperable and useless software in this operating system

ProxyCap

One of the best programs for working through SOCKS-proxies. Unlike the aforementioned “colleagues”, the program works with all versions of Windows operating systems, including the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The program has a lot of settings that allow it to flexibly adjust the behavior of client programs, supports both TCP and UDP, and allows you to organize SSH tunneling. In addition, ProxyCap allows you to organize chains of arbitrary types, which allows you to achieve maximum anonymity. It also supports DNS redirection through proxy and SSH servers, effectively hiding the real user location.

ProxyCap is very easy to install – you just have to run the installation file and wait until the installation is complete. The interface may seem complicated at first glance, but practice shows that it is enough for a user to understand the settings once and then the practical use of the program will be no problem at all. In the settings of the program one must specify the parameters of the SOCKS-proxy to be used and the path to the program files to be launched which should work through this proxy. After that, the user starts the program as usual and its traffic is automatically redirected through the defined proxy server.

A distinctive feature of ProxyCap is a built-in proxy checker that considerably simplifies a user’s life. Right from the window of proxy server settings, program users can check the availability of proxy servers by clicking on the appropriate label, which allows them to quickly select an available proxy server from a list they have entered before and to remove non-working proxies from the list. The built-in proxy checker also allows you to test not only individual proxies but also entire chains of proxies you have configured, something that is not possible with other similar programs.

ProxyCap has strong support that responds in a timely manner to any problems arising from users, making it one of the most stable and least “glitchy” programs on the market.

The program is paid, but users can test its functionality for free for 30 days after installation.

Pros:

  • Works flawlessly in all modern versions of Windows, both 32-bit and 64-bit
  • Very easy to use. It does not require any attention from the user after a single setup. All programs that need to use the proxy are listed once in the settings, then run in the usual way from the desktop, the Start menu or the Quick Launch bar.
  • Supports SSH, remote DNS, IPv6
  • Has a built-in proxy checker
  • Allows maximum flexibility in routing setup
  • Equipped with powerful logging system
  • Allows arranging chains of up to 16 proxies
  • Offers powerful technical support

Disadvantages:

  • Not very user friendly setup interface for novice users
  • Automatic search of available servers and automatic switchover from non-working servers are not implemented
  • It is a paid program

Proxy Helper

Probably the best program for organizing anonymous work through SOCKS-proxy. The distinctive feature of Proxy Helper is the provision of uninterrupted work of the user in the Internet through SOCKS-proxy, because the program automatically switches from the “failed” proxy server to a working one, which no other software allows. Proxy Helper works through the 5socks.net service, which greatly increases the reliability of connections and allows you to get rid of the constant search for working proxy servers.

The program supports all types of proxies: Socks 4/5, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP. Thus, the user can fully use almost any services on the network while ensuring the highest level of anonymity and security.

Its intuitive interface (in contrast to ProxyCap) does not bother users at all, and the program itself requires only a single setup after installation, saving the user from time-consuming manipulations of reconfiguring the necessary software and proxy servers.

The program works flawlessly in all versions of Windows, has a powerful logging system and allows you to enable/disable proxies in Explorer, delete cookies, enable/disable javascript, enable/disable active-x, log HTTP requests and much more.

In addition, Proxy Helper requires no installation and is ready to work right after launching, because the program is automatically configured for the user’s proxy account when downloaded from the website. The only thing a user needs is to have an account at 5socks.net and specify its parameters when downloading the program.

The program is paid.

Advantages:

  • Friendly, intuitive interface
  • Requires no handling to install and configure
  • Transparent proxying of other programs that do not work through proxies
  • All kinds of proxies: Socks 4/5, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP
  • Maintains serviceability of the installed proxy server and automatically changes it to another one if it ceases to respond or a warning window is received about its non-operability
  • High reliability when working with SOCKS-proxy service – if for some reason the site of SOCKS-proxy provider stops working, you will be able to continue using the service, taking a proxy directly from the program menu
  • Change IP by one click
  • Logging option
  • Indication of network activity and traffic calculation

Disadvantages:

  • Program is paid, but the user gets rid of the need to constantly search and configure available proxy-servers, which greatly simplifies and speeds up his work on the Internet

Conclusions

The best and most convenient program is Proxy Helper, which allows the user to organize anonymous and secure internet access with minimal effort and maximum comfort due to the built-in automation of the choice of the SOCKS-proxy, which no competitor program on the market has.

A good program for SOCKS proxies is ProxyCap, but it is a paid program and its cost significantly exceeds the cost of Proxy Helper. In addition, ProxyCap, unlike Proxy Helper, has no means to automate the search for working proxy servers, as a result, users have to manually search for working SOCKS-proxies several times a day and enter their parameters in the program settings.

Free and shareware programs like SocksCap, FreeCap and WideCap discussed in the article are outdated and do not work correctly in modern operating systems of Microsoft family, as a result of which their setting up and use is quite a complicated and time-consuming task. These programs can work stably only in a virtual machine with Windows XP, but not every user is ready for such difficulties. In addition, they also do not automate the search for active proxy servers, so users have to manually search for active SOCKS proxies and enter their settings.

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