How to get one year of free Windows VPS for SM Tasker – Full Instructions
Before we go into details on how you can get a free one-year VPS, let’s take a quick recap about VPS and why you want or need to have one for SM Tasker.
SM Tasker is not cloud-based, hence all information is stored locally and in order for the software to continue executing its scheduled tasks, both the computer and SM Tasker should be up and running at all times. In addition, SM Tasker relies heavily on the speed of your connection for a flawless automation experience.
We understand that this entire scenario may not be workable for some, which is perfectly understandable, but that should not stop anyone from enjoying the full potential of SM Tasker. A good solution to this is to get a VPS and install SM Tasker there, this way you can have it running 24/7 even when your computer is off.
So, what is a VPS?
VPS may sound complex for non-techie folks so we will try to explain the concept as simply as we can. Simply put, it’s like having a computer somewhere else; a virtual computer where you can download and install a bunch of software and store your files without consuming any storage space on your physical computer, the computer that you use.
You can have your virtual computer running all the time even when your physical computer is off, therefore, this is the best solution for those who don’t want to keep their computer running all day long as well as those who don’t have a Windows-based computer.
Where to get a VPS?
There are a number of VPS providers in the market but if you only have one or two accounts in SM Tasker, a free Windows VPS that you can use for a year at zero cost will definitely do the trick.
It may not be boasting with power, but it’s fairly enough for running a couple of accounts on SM Tasker.
Note: This is not for folks that require a more powerful machine and use a lot of accounts. For that setup, you will need a better server and there are a lot of places where you can get that online, you should know better if you’re at that level so we’re not going to get into that.
In this article we’re going to cover the following:
- How to get a free windows VPS for 1 year
- How to connect to your VPS using a remote desktop on Windows
- How to connect to your VPS using a remote desktop on Mac OS X
- How to use your local drive in remote connections (or how to copy data from your PC to the VPS)
- How to use your local drives in remote connections(or how to copy data from your Mac OS X to the VPS)
- How to install and start using SM Tasker on your new VPS
- How to disable IE Enhanced Security in Windows Server 2019
- How to get notifications when you go over the limits of your free Amazon VPS
Let’s get started 🙂
How to get a free Windows VPS for 1 year
Some of you might know but most of you probably don’t, Amazon offers everybody that wants to test their services a free VPS for a year. However, it may be a bit of a challenge to navigate through their signup pages so here’s a short walkthrough on how to do it swiftly and with ease.
What you need to prepare:
- a credit card, it will not be billed as the VPS is free but they require you to provide one
- a telephone number – they will call to verify your identity (the call is automated, not human)
- 5-15 minutes of your time depending on how fast you are in filling up forms and following instructions.
What’s in it for you:
- 1Gb of RAM
- 30Gb Hdd (you’ll have around 11Gb free after the OS is installed)
- 1 virtual processor at 2.49Ghz
- OS: Microsoft Windows Server 2019.
- 1GB monthly free traffic (if you go over they will charge you $0.12 per 1Gb which is almost free as well)
As you can see, it’s not much but it’s pretty decent what’s important is that it’s free for a year and it will suffice for any day-to-day post scheduling.
If you want to go ahead and get your own server like the one above, just go over to Amazon at http://aws.amazon.com/free/. You will see this server is referred to as the AWS account (it means Amazon Web Services account).
There would be more information on their page about the free plan, you can go ahead and read that or if you opt to simply go on your way and continue, just click the orange ‘Create a Free Account’ button as seen below:
Next, you will be taken to the signup page for the AWS service, you can proceed and create a new account by selecting ‘I am a new user’ and entering your email like this:
After filling out the required information, click the orange ‘Verify Email Address’ button and take you to another form to verify your identity. You need to get the code sent to your email address
After that, it will ask you to create your AWS account password and you need to confirm it on the 2nd box. Click on ‘continue’ to get to the next step.
You will need to complete this form in order to proceed to the next step. You can choose between a Company or a Personal account, I went for a ‘Personal’ one.
Fill everything out accurately, and be sure to provide your real name, number, and address as you will also have to enter your credit card information later if they don’t match, you might get denied and all your previous efforts would amount to nothing. Hence, use your Full Name, and company (if any), select your country, enter the address, city, state, postal code, and phone number, and finally tick the AWS customer agreement checkbox. When you are all set, click the Continue button. You will then be redirected to the Payment Information page where you need to enter your credit card details. Note that there’s a disclaimer on the side that they will not charge you for the free tier limits but they may hold up a transaction amounting up to $1 USD to confirm your identity:
Type in your credit card number and select the expiration date. Enter your name as before, either leave the address that you already entered or select a new one, then press ‘Verify and Continue‘. You will be redirected to the Identity verification step:
In this part of the signup process, they will verify that you are who you say you are, so you will get an automated SMS from Amazon via the phone number you entered and you will need to enter the provided PIN in order to proceed. Aside from that, you need to pass the security check by solving the captcha shown. Make sure again that you entered your phone number correctly and have your telephone close by before you click the ‘Send SMS’ button.
You should immediately receive an SMS from Amazon, or in some cases, it takes up to 10 minutes. Enter the code and click on ‘Continue’.
You will be routed to the screen where you will need to select the support plan for your VPS:
This one should be quite simple, if Basic (Free) is already selected leave it as it is. If something else is selected, then choose ‘Basic (Free)’ then click the ‘Complete sign up’ button and you finally have your Amazon Web Services account:
Cheers! You now have an AWS account. And the next thing you need to do is set up your Windows VPS. To do that, just click on the yellow ‘Go to the AWS Management Console’
At this point, you might be prompted to re-enter your AWS password, the one you provided in the signup process. Just go on and enter the required information and re-login to the AWS management console. Don’t mind all the other services Amazon is providing here; there are a lot of them and someone that is new to this would easily get confused. The management console would look something like this:
Again, pay no attention to the other items, just focus and click on ‘Services’ > ‘EC2 – Virtual Servers in the Cloud’. You will then be taken to another screen that yet again presents overwhelming information; Amazon sure is having fun with all these.
Just click either of the two ‘Launch Instances’ buttons boxed on the image below and you will be redirected to a page where you will need to choose what operating system to install on your VPS:
Here, you will be asked to add a name to the instance and you will see several choices of operating systems. If you are doing this in order to use it with other software at this point you can choose either Linux or Windows. However, to use the VPS for SM Tasker, you need to select ‘Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Base’. As you can see, there’s a note there saying that this selection is free tier eligible.
Then, you will need to go through a couple more steps in order to select the specs of your new VPS. In order to keep it free, always select the one that has the Free tier eligible text:
It should be selected by default, if not, select ‘t2 micro’ which has 1vCPU and 1GB memory.
For the key pair, you don’t have one yet since you just created a new account, so enter a key pair name and click on ‘Create a new key pair’.
A pop-up window will appear, re-enter the key pair name, and select .pem as the file format. Once you have entered the name for your key pair, click on ‘Create Key Pair’ and your browser should prompt you to download a new file to your computer; it will be named as the name you’ve given above, without spaces and with a .pem extension. We can’t stress this enough, save it somewhere on your computer and keep it safe for future use.
As mentioned, this is a very important step, as without this file you won’t be able to connect to your VPS, so if your browser does not prompt you to download this file make sure you have disabled any plugin that might block it. Also, choose to save the file on your computer instead of opening it.
After this, go to the Summary view, and the orange ‘Launch instance’ button would be activated, so click it as soon as the setup time is done, you should receive a message that your new instance is launching:
You may also notice a Get notified of estimated charges notification on this screen which you can later set up so you get notified if your VPS gets over the free limits.
Next, click on the ‘View all instances’ button and you will be brought back to the AWS console where your newly created VPS instance will be listed, it should look something like this:
You will see your VPS with the status of running. Tick the checkbox next to your instance and take note of the ‘Connect’ button above it, click that and another window should appear with instructions on how to connect to your VPS.
It looks like this. Go to the “RDP Client” tab:
Yes, I hear and feel you on this one, I know it’s been long signup but hang in there and we’re almost done so breathe in and breathe out, look at the bright side, you only have to do this once for an entire year of free VPS, so that’s a tad of good news there.
Moving on, click on ‘Download Remote Desktop File’ and save that file somewhere on your computer, it’s what you will use to connect to your VPS. Next, you will need a password so click the ‘Get Password’ button. Now is the time that you will need to provide the Key Pair that you created and downloaded earlier in order to decrypt your password:
You can either upload your .pem file or copy its content in the designated box and click the ‘Decrypt Password’ button. Shortly after that, you should see your VPS password, record it somewhere and keep it safe; you’ll use that every time you connect to your VPS.
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for…You’re done! Now, you have a free Windows VPS that will be up and running for the whole year.
You have your .rdp file which you will be using to connect to your VPS and you have your password. In case you used a VPS before you should very well know how to proceed. For the new kids on the block, please keep on reading.
Also, I just want to reiterate, that this is just a one-time setup process, from here on, you have your VPS ready and running at all times, all you need to do is connect to it.
How to connect to your VPS using a remote desktop on Windows
Connecting to your newly created VPS through a remote desktop is rather simple, if you don’t have the .rdp file that you previously downloaded, you would need to create your connection manually and enter the IP of your VPS. If this is not the case though, just double-click the .rdp file, the name should be something like the-ip-of-the-vps.rdp (something like 192.168.1.1.rdp …just an example). When you access it for the first time (by double-clicking), you would get a pop-up similar to the image below:
Be sure to check the ‘Don’t ask me again for connections to this computer’ checkbox (to skip doing this each time you connect) and click the ‘Connect’ button. You will then arrive at the login screen where you need to enter your password:
Enter your password in the designated area. Also, check the ‘Remember my credentials’ checkbox underneath so you don’t need to enter your password every time. Next, hit the ‘OK’ button. Again, since this is the first time you’ve done this, an extra window will appear:
Simply tick the ‘Don’t ask me again for connections to this computer’ checkbox then click ‘Yes’ to avoid this dialog box the next time you connect.
Right after you click ‘Yes’, a connection will be established which will bring you to your VPS, your new Windows VPS machine, and can do anything you want with it. Just use it as you would use any other computer, you can do stuff such as downloading and installing programs and the like. It will run 24/7 and even when you are not connected to it.
How to connect to your VPS using a remote desktop on Mac OS X
For MAC users, things would be a bit different. However, if you follow the above tutorial, you will have your .rdp file ready which you will use to connect to the windows VPS, so you’re halfway done.
To connect to your VPS through your machine, you first need to install a remote desktop connection client. In this guide, we installed Microsoft Remote Desktop which is a free app (you can find it in the App Store) and is rather user friendly, it will look like this:
When you’re done with the installation, you need to create your connection. Be sure to have your .rdp file handy so you can just import the file, this will save you some time as opposed to manually setting up the connection.
If you don’t have the .rdp file ready, you can create your connection, by entering the IP of your VPS, the user name, and the password as shown below:
- PC Name – is where you enter the IP of your VPS
- User name – is the user name for your VPS; “Administrator” is the user name by default unless you changed it to something else
- Password – is the password you previously decrypted when setting up your VPS
Since we are on this screen, let’s make a few more tweaks too. If you imported the .rdp file, edit the imported connection and make sure you add the password (so you need not type it whenever you connect), and select a resolution that works best on your screen. Don’t forget to save your settings once you’re done.
When everything is set up, just double-click on your newly created connection and this should connect you to your VPS.
How to use your local drives in remote connections (or how to copy data from your PC to the VPS)
Depending on what you want to set up on your VPS you might find the need of using one of your local drives in remote desktop connections. This will help move data from your computer to the VPS like installers, folders with posts, or the entire SM Tasker folder if you previously had it running on your computer. It’s not a hard task but most are not aware of it since it’s a lesser-known feature. Let’s begin:
- Right-click on your Amazon VPS .rdp file and select ‘edit’
And it would launch the Remote Connection window, something like the image below:
- Next, click on the “Local Resources” tab, and at the bottom under ‘Local devices and resources’, click the ‘More…’ button.
- Then, click on the ‘+’ sign beside Drives, and all your local drives will show up.
- You can either select a few to make them available when you connect to your VPS or just select them all. Note that, your drives are available on the VPS only when you are connected and only one person can connect at a time so your data is completely safe.
- After selecting one or more drives, click on ‘OK’ and this will bring you back to the Local Resources tab. You can now proceed to the General tab where you can save the changes you made to the remote connection.
- Then, you can connect as you would normally do and you will notice in ‘My Computer’ (on your VPS) that you also have access to your local drives when you’re connected to your VPS.
TIP: Should you want to move SM Tasker to your VPS, you will find the files in C:\Users\yourname\AppData\Roaming\SM%20Tasker\ – where ‘yourname’ is the user name you are using on your computer.
- Right-click on your Amazon VPS .rdp file and select ‘edit’
How to use your local drives in remote connections (or how to copy data from your Mac OS X to the VPS)
If you are on Mac and you want to share files between your machine and your new VPS, you can follow these few simple steps:
- To start, open the Microsoft Remote Desktop application that you previously installed. You will see your previously created connection. Right-click on your connection and choose ‘Edit’.
- Or you can select your VPS connection and click on the ‘Edit’ button in the menu. The Edit window will appear with the 3 tabs: General, Session, and Redirection.
Go to the “Redirection” tab and from there, click on the ‘+’ button you should be able to add a new local folder to your VPS. You just have to give it a name and select the target folder by entering the Path in the corresponding field (or simply choose Browse and navigate to the folder).
- If you did the steps correctly, you should be able to see your shared folder on your VPS.
You may exit the Edit window and connect to your VPS. On your VPS, open the File Explorer and, in the Devices and Drivers section, you should see the selected folder from your Mac machine.
TIP: You just have to repeat these steps for all the folders you need for your work and you should be good to go.
- To start, open the Microsoft Remote Desktop application that you previously installed. You will see your previously created connection. Right-click on your connection and choose ‘Edit’.
How to install and start using SM Tasker on your new VPS
Installing SM Tasker on your VPS is practically the same as installing it on any Windows-based computer. All you need to do is double-click the installer and you will be guided through the steps that you need to take before installing it.
In order to get the installer on your VPS either use your local drives on your VPS as explained in the steps mentioned above or just download the software directly on your server.
If you opt to download SM Tasker on your VPS, you can get the link from SM Tasker Installation. In addition to the download link, you can also view the installation tutorial provided on the same page.
As soon as you are over and done with the installation process, you can start using it as you would use it on your own computer. And since SM Tasker is on your VPS, it will be up and running 24/7 thus you can set it up and it will start automating your social media tasks. Just use the remote desktop connection to check SM Tasker on your VPS from time to time, and see if everything is working as planned.
How to disable IE Enhanced Security in Windows Server 2019
This may not be directly connected with using SM Tasker on your VPS but still, we’d like to share this bit of information with you in case you encounter a problem with browsing, downloading, and so on through Internet Explorer (the only browser on your VPS).
For some reason, Microsoft thought it would be a smart idea to create the “IE Enhanced Security”. Basically, IE Enhanced Security blocks you from browsing any website, even Google is inaccessible unless you do 5-7 clicks first and add it to the safe list. And whenever you do a search on Google and click on the resulting website/page, you will need to add that as well, and so on.
To skip all these unnecessary steps, you can opt to disable this feature.
First, you will need to click on the ‘Start/Windows’ menu in the bottom left corner:
You will be redirected to another window where you need to click on ‘Server Manager’:
After the Server Manager is loaded click on ‘Local Server’:
When you get to the Local Server Properties page, navigate to the right side of the screen and you’ll spot the ‘IE Enhanced Security Configuration’ setting and see that it’s ‘ON’
Click on ‘On’ and then a smaller window will pop up where you can switch it to ‘Off’ and disable the setting.
From the image above, we have already selected Off for Administrators and that’s what you should do too. If there are other users on your VPS, you can opt to tick the ‘Off’ selection for Users as well. Otherwise, if you’re the only one that will connect and use the VPS, you can leave it as is.
After selecting ‘Off’, hit the ‘OK’ button. You will notice that the IE Enhanced Security Configuration still shows ‘On’, you’ll need to press ‘F5’ to refresh the window and the display will get updated.
You may then exit the Server Manager page, launch IE and it should start working, no more silly prompts. While you’re at it, you can choose to download your preferred browser for your convenience.
How to get notifications when you go over the limits and need to pay for your Amazon VPS
- In the top right corner, you will see your email/username, click on it
- Click on ‘Account’, this will take you to your account page on Amazon VPS.
- From there, on the left side, select ‘Billing Preferences’
- Tick the box to ‘Receive billing alerts’
- Click the ‘Save preferences’ button
- Next, click on the ‘Manage billing alerts’ link in the middle of the page and you will be directed to another page.
You will be redirected to the CloudWatch section for Alarms. Make sure you are under the “Billing” tab then click on ‘Create Alarm’ and click on ‘Select Metric’.
From there, you will assign a graph name (we used Billing for this sample) and details. Click on ‘Custom 12M (12 months)’ view since the free tier is good for 12 months or 1 year. Under Metrics, click ‘Billing’ > ‘Total Estimated Charge’ > select ‘USD’ > click on ‘Select Metric’.
Under the Threshold type, choose ‘Static’. For Whenever EstimatedCharges is, choose ‘Greater’. For than, enter the monthly amount (for example, 200) that must be exceeded to trigger the alarm. Let’s have it set to ‘0’ then click ‘Next’.
For notifications, select ‘In Alarm’. Select an SNS topic to notify when the alarm is in an ALARM state, or create a new topic to be notified. If there are no topics created yet, you should choose ‘Create a New Topic’ then enter its name and the email address(es) that will receive the notification, and click on ‘Create Topic’. After the topic creation, this will be automatically selected as the SNS topic then click ‘Next’.
Then, specify the alarm name and enter a description and click ‘Next‘.
You will be given a preview of the alarm and if everything’s all set, just click on ‘Create Alarm’. You will be redirected back to Billing Alarms with a banner that says the alarm has been created successfully.
If it’s the first setup, you will also get a banner that says Amazon SNS will not send messages to endpoints that are not yet confirmed. You will need to click on ‘View SNS Subscription’ to send the confirmation first.
Click on the checkbox for the item with ‘Pending Confirmation’ and select ‘Request Confirmation’. This will trigger a notification that will be sent to the designated endpoint or email address. It may take a while to get the email and you may also check your spam/junk folders.
On the email from AWS, click on ‘Confirm Subscription’.
It will route to a different tab which tells you that the subscription is now confirmed. Copy the URL from that tab,
Then go back to the Subscriptions list, and select the item again but this time click on ‘Confirm Subscription’.
Paste the URL you copied earlier then hit the orange ‘Confirm Subscription’ button.
The status for that subscription should be changed after to Confirmed.
It was quite a journey setting up your VPS but you only do it once and you’re all set up for the entire year of free server.
If you stay within the limits and be mindful of how you use it, then you won’t have a problem. Should you plan to publish hundreds and hundreds of posts per day with several accounts, it might get slower but would still work. Beyond that, you better switch to a paid VPS that provides more power and resources. Overall, the free VPS should be fair enough for moderate users.
Aside from using your VPS for SM Tasker, you can also test it out for other stuff like if you have other software that does not require a lot of resources and that you want to keep online 24/7 this could work with that as well.
Keep in mind though that there is a set of limitations on the server and that you have your Credit Card on record, thus if you go over the said limits, Amazon will charge you for the excess usage. While the rates are really affordable, we feel we owe you the heads-up so you can be well aware of the consequence and avoid overusing your VPS. As much as possible, try not to install software that crawls and downloads a lot of big images, which will create a lot of traffic and could cause you to hit your limits sooner than expected.