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Best VPN Services of 2020

Illustration of a Podium Displaying First, Second and Third Place
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

VPN services come with many benefits: anonymous web browsing and torrenting; unblocking Netflix and other geo-restricted streaming platforms; bypassing online censorship in countries like China; and, protecting your data on unsecured free public WiFi.

Unfortunately, not every VPN can actually do all of the above. If you don’t want to be left frustrated or disappointed, you’ll need to use one of the very best VPN services.

We’ve been testing VPNs since 2016, spending over 30,000 hours analyzing and reviewing hundreds of VPNs for PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android devices, and even Fire TV Sticks. You can trust our VPN reviews to be honest, impartial and comprehensive.

The five VPN services below are impressively fast, highly secure and trustworthy. They’ll hide your IP address quickly and effectively, keeping you safe and anonymous online. Currently, the best VPN for 2020 is ExpressVPN.

Top VPN Features We Review

  1. Privacy & security features
  2. Download (and upload) VPN speeds
  3. Logging policy, IP leak protection & jurisdiction
  4. Streaming (Netflix) & torrenting availability
  5. Device compatibility & ease-of-use
  6. Customer support & overall value for money

Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.

Best Fast & Safe VPNs

1. ExpressVPN - Best Overall

Ranked #1 of 70 VPN services

  1. Exceptionally fast VPN speeds
  2. No user web logs & no IP address leaks
  3. Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ & more
  4. Unrestricted torrenting & P2P traffic
  5. Over 3,000 VPN servers in 94 countries
  6. Easy to use apps & VPN browser extensions
  1. Shorter plans are expensive
  2. No kill switch for iOS or Android
  3. Firestick app design needs improving
  • Best Price

    $6.67/mo over 15 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    85Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    94 countries, 3,000+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

ExpressVPN is an extremely safe and private VPN provider – in fact, it’s currently the absolute best VPN service and our extensive testing proves it.

As a whole package ExpressVPN simply can’t be beaten; its consistency is exceptional, with fast and reliable VPN speeds around the world.

It’s great for torrenting, and it easily unlocks eight Netflix libraries (including the US catalogue), BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO and many other popular streaming services.

Furthermore, it efficiently bypasses aggressive censorship blocks in countries like China, Turkey and the UAE.

ExpressVPN comes with advanced security features like ‘Network Lock,’ a VPN kill switch to keep you protected if your VPN connection drops. This isn’t available for iOS or Android, though, as with many other VPN services. There are workarounds, though.

Based in the British Virgin Islands (a privacy haven), ExpressVPN doesn’t collect any personally identifiable logs. And, we didn’t detect any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks on any of its VPN apps.

In fact, ExpressVPN’s logging policy was put to the test in December 2017 when one of its Turkish servers was seized by the Turkish authorities. They couldn’t find any user connection logs.

Also, we love ExpressVPN’s user-friendly interfaces – all the apps are very easy to use and well designed (apart from the Firestick app).

You can also use its Chrome and Firefox extensions, if you prefer in-browser access to the VPN. And for the more tech-savvy, the pre-configured ExpressVPN router is one of the best around.

While it’s more expensive than the other VPNs in our list, ExpressVPN is still affordable and great value for money considering what you get with it.

For a more in-depth look, read our full ExpressVPN review.

2. NordVPN - Best Alternative

Ranked #2 of 70 VPN services

  1. Very fast same-country speeds
  2. No logs & no IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks
  3. Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, etc.
  4. Huge server network (over 5,500 servers in 58 countries)
  5. Torrenting P2P allowed on many servers
  6. Simple custom VPN apps for range of platforms
  1. Extra VPN protocols for Windows & Android require manual configuration
  2. Not always working in China
  3. Doesn't unblock streaming apps on Amazon Firestick & routers
  4. Responded late and poorly to a 2018 server breach
  • Best Price

    $3.49/mo over 36 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    93Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 5,552 servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

NordVPN is one of the safest and most secure VPN services.

Headquartered in privacy-friendly Panama, NordVPN has the second-biggest server network after CyberGhost: over 5,500 secure VPN servers spread across 58 countries.

Unsurprisingly, the NordVPN apps have excellent privacy features, such as a VPN kill switch, Double VPN and AES-256 encryption.

And, NordVPN doesn’t keep any user logs, in case your were wondering.

While it’s not as good as ExpressVPN for streaming, NordVPN still works very well with BBC iPlayer, Netflix (with access to seven libraries), Disney+ and plenty more streaming platforms. Consistent fast download speeds will deliver fast buffer-free viewing in HD and 4K.

However, NordVPN recently stopped working with major streaming services on Amazon Fire TV and through router-level VPN connections.

In October 2018, NordVPN proved its commitment to transparency and privacy by allowing a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers AG (PwC) to inspect its VPN servers and code, as part of an independent audit of its logging policy.

This audit was the first of its kind in the VPN industry, and has paved the way for other VPN services to do the same.

However, we need to make you aware of a security incident suffered by NordVPN. In October 2019 it came to light that a NordVPN server had been breached by a hacker in 2018.

No user information was taken, no data was logged, and the VPN encrypted tunnel wasn’t compromised. That said, the hacker exploited a worryingly simple vulnerability, and we’re disappointed by NordVPN’s delayed response.

Despite this incident, NordVPN remains a very good VPN, but it’s still something to consider. You read more about the security breach here.

Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN has custom VPN apps for a wide range of devices and you can use them on up to six devices at once (one more than ExpressVPN). And it comes with browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

NordVPN is a decent choice for China, but its obfuscation tools aren’t as reliable as ExpressVPN’s. NordVPN’s apps usually require some manual configuration to get them to work in highly-censored countries.

Nevertheless, NordVPN is a great alternative to ExpressVPN – and cheaper too.

For a more in-depth look, read our full NordVPN review.

3. CyberGhost - Best Value

Ranked #3 of 70 VPN services

  1. Very fast & reliable VPN speeds
  2. Doesn't keep user logs & doesn't leak
  3. Dedicated streaming servers for Netflix & BBC iPlayer
  4. Optimized VPN servers optimized for P2P traffic
  5. Biggest server network (6,200+ servers across 90 countries)
  6. Automatic public WiFi protection
  1. P2P not allowed on Australian servers
  2. Won't work in high censorship nations
  3. Monthly plan has a short refund period
  • Best PriceExtra 2 months free

    $2.75/mo. over 3 years

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    87Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    90 countries, 6,400+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

CyberGhost VPN is one of the most established VPN services, and currently one of the cheapest – it’s also very safe to use.

CyberGhost’s 6,200+ servers form one of the largest VPN server parks. Its dedicated streaming servers work flawlessly with Netflix (four libraries), BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and much more.

Undoubtedly, CyberGhost is one of the best VPN services for fast and unrestricted streaming around the world.

And all is good on the anonymous torrents front too, thanks to its P2P-optimized servers. It’s a shame that torrenting isn’t allowed on the Australian servers, though.

Moreover, CyberGhost is a super choice for privacy: great security features like automatic WiFi protection and the kill switch, and a robust no-logs policy. And we’ve never detected any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our lab tests.

CyberGhost VPN is compatible with all widely-used computers and smartphones, and you can use the VPN on up to seven devices at once – that’s more than ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Overall, CyberGhost is a very strong contender for best VPN service. Just don’t expect it to work in high censorship countries like China, Turkey, or the UAE.

For a more in-depth look, read our full CyberGhost review.

4. IPVanish - Best for Fire TV Stick

Ranked #4 of 70 VPN services

  1. Impressive VPN speeds
  2. No-logs policy & verified IP leak protection
  3. Works with Netflix
  4. All VPN servers allow torrenting traffic
  5. Best VPN app for Fire TV Stick
  6. Over 1,300 VPN servers in 50 countries
  1. Doesn't work with BBC iPlayer or Disney+
  2. Doesn't work in China
  3. No browser extensions
  4. Short refund period (7 days)
  • Best Price

    $5.20 over 12 months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    84Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    57 countries, 1,400+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

IPVanish is a remarkable VPN, and it has recorded some of the fastest speeds in our speed tests. It’s particularly popular with torrenting, Kodi, and Firestick fans.

The IPVanish server park isn’t huge – around 1,300 servers – but the number of IP addresses available is: there’s over 40,000.

IPVanish has a kill switch on both Windows and MacOS devices, and a strict no-logs policy. This is critical, as IPVanish is based in the privacy-unfriendly US.

Reassuringly, we didn’t detect and IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our extensive leak testing.

IPVanish does work with Netflix, but disappointingly it doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer or Disney+. It also won’t beat web censors in countries like China and the UAE.

Like its top rivals, IPVanish is available on all popular devices. And you can use the IPVanish apps on up to 10 devices at once with just one subscription. That’s very generous.

Surprisingly, there are no VPN browser extensions available. And, the IPVanish money-back guarantee isn’t great either: only seven days.

All in all, IPVanish is a solid VPN for privacy. Torrenters and Kodi fans should seriously consider it. However, streaming fans should opt for one of the other four VPNs we recommend.

For a more in-depth look, read our full IPVanish review.

5. PrivateVPN - Best Free Trial

Ranked #5 of 70 VPN services

  1. Consistently fast VPN speeds
  2. No logging & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
  3. Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  4. No limits on torrenting traffic
  5. 7,000 individual IP addresses in 59 countries
  6. Very simple & user-friendly VPN apps
  1. No browser extensions available
  2. Only 150 VPN servers in total
  3. Live chat isn't always available
  • Best PriceExtra 12 months free

    $1.89/mo over 2 years

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    86Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 150+ servers

  • Compatible with

    • Windows logoWindows
    • Mac logoMac
    • iOS logoiOS
    • Android logoAndroid
    • Linux logoLinux

The Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is a relative newcomer in the VPN world, but in that short time it’s become one of our highest-rated VPN service providers.

Its VPN connections are fast and reliable around the world, with unrestricted access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer. This is where PrivateVPN shines: it unblocks an incredible 19 Netflix libraries – that’s enough to keep you binge-watching for months on end.

Torrenting is allowed on the entire server network, with special servers optimized for P2P traffic. And gamers will enjoy the very low ping times.

PrivateVPN’s server network is very small (only 150 servers), but this shortcoming is offset by the 7,000 IP addresses available (that’s way above average). As PrivateVPN’s subscriber base grows, we want to see it increase its server infrastructure with it.

If you were wondering, PrivateVPN absolutely lives up to its name: it’s very private and secure. It doesn’t log your web activity, it has a working VPN kill switch, and it won’t leak your true location.

PrivateVPN’s apps are available on a wide range of devices, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick. And they’re all really easy to set up and use.

Unfortunately, while all of our other top VPN recommendations have 24/7 live chat support, PrivateVPN’s support is occasionally unreliable. Support agents are helpful and quick to communicate, but beware that they aren’t always there.

Nevertheless, PrivateVPN has a lot going for it and we’ve been impressed it so far. It does have some way to go before it can seriously challenge the top four VPNs ranked above it, but at such a low price we can forgive its shortcomings.

For a more in-depth look, read our full PrivateVPN review.

More Info about VPNs

How We Test & Review VPNs

Our 10-Step Review Process

We thoroughly test each VPN and make sure our recommendations are up-to-date, so that you can make more informed buying decisions. Our VPN reviews and advice are honest and unbiased – we never accept compensation in exchange for positive reviews.

Our comprehensive VPN testing methodology follows the 10 steps below:

  1. We purchase the VPN subscription. We never accept ‘test accounts’ or freebies (unless the VPN itself is free).
  2. We download, install, and test the VPN on multiple platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and even Amazon Fire TV Stick.
  3. We see how easy (or hard) it is to use, for example, finding specific server locations.
  4. We examine the security features and level of encryption. Does the VPN service come with a kill switch? Does it use AES-256 encryption?
  5. We test for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks to see if the VPN truly hides your real IP address, and to understand how private the VPN really is.
  6. We run manual speed tests, as well as automated ones using our own speed testing tool, to give you the most accurate speed results.
  7. We check whether the VPN unlocks popular streaming services (like Netflix and BBC iPlayer), torrenting and other P2P activity.
  8. We check if the VPN can bypass the strictest web blocks in countries like China, UAE and Turkey.
  9. We put its privacy and logging policies under the microscope. We also investigate who really owns the VPN company, and where it’s based. By doing this, we can determine how private, safe, and trustworthy it is.
  10. Finally, we put the VPN’s customer support to the test. We ask its support agents a wide range of questions, via live chat and email, from the most simple to the most technical. This is to assess how knowledgeable and helpful they are.

To learn more about our testing methodology, read our dedicated ‘How We Review VPNs’ guide.

Why You Should Use a VPN

There are many reasons why you should use a VPN at home, at work or on the move. Here are the main ones:

1Hide your web activity from ISPs, governments & snoopers

Illustration showing a blurred man hidden behind a magnifying glass.

Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) is able to monitor and log everything you do online.

If that’s not unsettling enough, in certain countries, like Canada, ISPs are forced to track and store customers’ online activities and hand it over to the authorities if asked to.

In the United States, ISPs are also allowed to collect, share, and sell your personal data and information about your online habits to third parties, including advertisers.

They can do this without your explicit consent. We believe that’s a huge infringement of your privacy. If you want to prevent this from happening you need to use a trusted VPN service.

When you connect to a VPN server, your web traffic is rerouted through that secure server and your internet provider is unable to see beyond that server. Therefore, can’t track what you do online anymore.

2Bypass geo-restrictions

Illustration of a woman browsing across the world.

You already know that the internet provides a wealth of information and content. However, did you know that not all of web and video content is accessible from where you live?

Every country applies geo-restrictions of some sort, and the only way to circumvent these geo-blocks is by using a reliable VPN.

When you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server. By connecting to a VPN server in the region where that content is available, you can unlock it as the website or application will think you’re in that specific region.

Just make sure the VPN service you choose comes with VPN servers in your desired countries or cities.

A very popular example of geo-restricted content is Netflix. Netflix libraries are different in every country, varying in size and content drastically from one to another.

Many people want to access the US Netflix catalogue, since it hosts the most video titles in the world. If you aren’t in the US but want to stream US Netflix, you’ll need to use a good streaming VPN.

3Protection against hackers on public WiFi

Illustration of a man connected to public wifi while traveling.

Free public WiFi hotspots in restaurants, coffee shops and hotels are dangerous. They often use unsecured connections, which are vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.

In fact, hackers can carry out a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, which allows them to either eavesdrop, manipulate and steal your private communications. MITM attacks can also be used to carry out phishing scams.

Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks, since a VPN adds a layer of encryption (often, AES 256-bit encryption) to any unsecured internet connection. This means you can use the internet in public places without the worry of being spied on, or having your personal data stolen.

4Beat online censorship imposed by governments, workplaces, or schools

Censorship it’s certainly no longer restricted to authoritarian regimes like China or the UAE. The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are governments blocking piracy websites and apps. Web blocks also occur in the workplace, schools, or libraries.

In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands more websites are all blocked. The best and most effective way to get around these censorship blocks is to use a good VPN. However, only a few VPNs can beat China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus.

It’s easier to bypass website blocks in workplaces and schools, but you can’t always install VPN software on a workplace or school device. When that happens, you can install a VPN browser extension onto your web browser instead. Here are the best Chrome VPN extensions, and the best Firefox VPN add-ons.

Limitations of VPNs

We think that using a VPN is essential for your online security and privacy, and it allows you to unlock video content from all over the world. But even VPNs come with limits.

Here are some things that a VPN can’t do:

  • Provide complete antivirus/malware protection. Always install trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN has a malware-blocking feature (like Hotspot Shield).
  • Store all of your passwords together securely. You’ll need a password manager for this.
  • Increase your maximum internet speed, unless your ISP is throttling your connection.
  • Block ads. Some VPNs come with an ad-blocker, but if yours doesn’t then it’s definitely worth getting one.

illustration of a map of the world.

VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they legal? The answer is yes, VPN services are legal in almost every country except for a handful listed below.

Country VPN Status Social Media Blocks Censorship Surveillance
Belarus Illegal Moderate Extensive Extensive
China Restricted Extensive Extensive Extensive
Iran Restricted Moderate Extensive Extensive
Iraq Illegal Moderate Moderate Minor
North Korea Illegal Extensive Extensive Extensive
Oman Restricted Minor Extensive Moderate
Russia Restricted Moderate Extensive Moderate
Turkey Restricted Moderate Extensive Extensive
Turkmenistan Illegal Extensive Extensive Extensive
UAE Restricted Moderate Extensive Moderate

 

If you’re located outside of the above countries, you can download and use a VPN without any legal worries.

To know more about the legality of using VPNs, read our ‘Are VPNs Legal?’ guide.

Can You Trust Your VPN Service?

An illustration of a man protecting sensitive data from eyes

Whether you can trust your VPN service or not depends on a number of factors.

When you use a VPN, all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. That means it’s really important you use a VPN you can really trust. Therefore, the question is: how do you know if you can trust your VPN?

A good, trustworthy VPN doesn’t keep user activity logs, doesn’t leak your true IP address, it properly encrypts web traffic, refuses to hand over user data to those it doesn’t belong to, and is based in a safe jurisdiction (privacy-haven).

A bad VPN collects extensive user logs, mines and sells your data, manipulates your internet traffic, and can even share your browsing data with the government and any number of third parties.

Before you decide which VPN to use, you should check what encryption it uses, what type of data it logs, and what legal jurisdiction it falls under.

Over the years, there have been several cases of VPN providers abusing their power. Here are some noteworthy VPN controversies:

Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield has been embroiled in a few controversies over the years. In August 2017, it was alleged that Hotspot Shield had been injecting affiliate links into users’ traffic in order to monetize it.

At the time, this was fully disclosed in the privacy policy, which has since been completely rewritten.

In February 2018, a security researcher found a vulnerability that allowed hackers to see users’ true locations via their WiFi network name. Hotspot Shield addressed and fixed the issue.

Hola VPN

This peer-to-peer proxy service that falsely brands itself as a VPN is bad news all around.

The free version doesn’t encrypt your traffic and it keeps logs of everything you do online.

Screenshot of Hola's privacy policy

Here’s a very concerning section of Hola’s privacy policy.

The free version of Hola also uses personal IP sharing to create its network, meaning your IP address will be used by strangers to do whatever they want with it.

You should avoid using Hola at all costs.

IPVanish

In 2016, under previous management, IPVanish handed information (including user logs) over to US authorities as part of a court case. StackPath acquired IPVanish in 2017, and when the news broke this breach of privacy, it assured IPVanish users that it “does not, has not, and will not log or store logs of […] users’ activity as a StackPath company”.

We’ve done our due diligence with regards to IPVanish, and we’re happy to say that it’s now safe and private.

Pirate Chick VPN

Pirate Chick VPN posed as a legitimate VPN service but was in fact acting as a Trojan virus host, installing malicious payloads on its victims.

PureVPN

In October 2017, PureVPN handed over one user’s information to the FBI that included their IP address, despite its logging policy stating: “We do NOT keep any logs that can identify or help in monitoring a user’s activity.” You can read the court case file here.

PureVPN subsequently revamped its logging policy, which now clearly states that it does not log users’ originating IP addresses:

Screenshot of PureVPN logging policy

PureVPN’s updated logging policy

PureVPN recently commissioned an independent body to audit its logging policy.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There are plenty of VPN services that have proven their trustworthiness and commitment to privacy:

ExpressVPN

In December 2017 the Turkish authorities seized and inspected one of ExpressVPN’s Turkish servers, but they couldn’t find any customer connection logs.

ExpressVPN also underwent an independent audit by PwC in July 2019 to verify its TrustedServer feature and privacy policy. Cure53 has also audited ExpressVPN’s Google Chrome browser extension.

Private Internet Access

In addition to its regularly updated transparency reports, Private Internet Access’ no-logs claim has been proven to be true multiple times during court cases (one in 2016 and the other in 2018) where authorities requested user information and PIA couldn’t hand any over.

Screenshot of Private Internet Access' Transparency Report July-Decemeber 2018

Here’s Private Internet Access’ Transparency Report for July-December 2018.

Free vs Paid: The Dangers of Free VPNs

Often, when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse. Sadly, this is definitely the case with VPNs. Many free VPNs are limited by:

  • Limited data allowances
  • Slower (capped) speeds
  • Limited server locations
  • No Netflix support
  • Intrusive advertising

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. A worryingly high number of free VPNs pose serious security risks to whoever uses them. We recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps and uncovered that over 85% were potentially unsafe.

What's the Best Free VPN?

Despite the many limitations and risks of using free VPNs, there are a handful of VPNs that you can use safely, without spending a dime.

At the moment, the best free VPN services are:

These free VPNs do come with some restrictions and they won’t compare that well with many paid VPN services, but they are safe to use. Find out why we chose these five free VPNs in our dedicated guide to free VPNs.

Tip: Using Paid VPNs for Free

All of the free VPNs that we recommend above are ‘freemium’ VPNs. This means that, while free, they are essentially stripped-back versions of the premium product.

Here’s a table showing the difference between the premium and freemium versions of our top five free VPNs:

Not all premium VPNs have a ‘freemium’ option, however you can still use some premium VPNs for free – at least for a period of time. In fact, many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees, so that you can test the VPN before you commit to buying it.

Here are three guides on how to use three of the best VPNs for free:

How Much You Should Pay for a VPN

How much you should pay for a VPN really depends on your budget, and whether you’re ok paying a larger upfront sum of money to make longer-term savings.

Most VPN services offer a range of subscription plans of varying lengths, usually from one month up to three years. Some even offer lifetime subscriptions.

The longer the plan the greater the savings you’ll make on a monthly basis, but you’ll have to pay for the whole subscription up front. In other words, if you buy a two-year VPN plan for $2.99 a month, you’ll have to pay $71.76 when you sign up.

If you can’t afford to pay for yearly subscriptions, it’s also possible to pay month-by-month (on a rolling basis), but it’ll be much more expensive in the long run. We’ve seen month-long subscriptions for as cheap as $8.00, all the way up to as much as $16.00.

Overall, we don’t recommend paying more than $12.00 per month for a top VPN.

Importantly, one thing to remember is that the quality of a VPN doesn’t necessarily increase with the price. Make sure you read our detailed VPN provider reviews to find out whether a VPN is worth buying or not.

Are VPNs Easy to Use?

When we test a VPN service, we really download, set up, and use it. We test every VPN app on every platform it to make sure it’s as easy as possible to use.

Whether you’re a VPN beginner or a tech expert, our best VPN recommendations are intuitive and quick to set up, with lots of advanced features that are clearly labeled, accompanied by in-depth online support.

Take a look at the ExpressVPN Windows app, for instance:

Screenshot of ExpressVPN Windows app

As you can see, ExpressVPN’s custom app is clean, intuitive, and simple. Just select the VPN server location and hit the big connect button – you’re good to go.

In addition to the VPNs on this page, Windscribe, ProtonVPN, and Surfshark are good VPNs that are very easy to use.

But not all VPNs are as easy to use. Here’s AirVPN’s interface, an example of a more complicated VPN app:

Screenshot of AirVPN's Windows app

AirVPN is a great VPN for experienced users, but its custom apps are unintuitive and user-unfriendly.

They’re cluttered, confusing, and even frustrating at times. But AirVPN’s apps do come with loads of configurable options that some simpler apps lack.

If you’re a VPN beginner, we recommend using a VPN service with simple custom apps before moving onto more complicated ones like those of AirVPN.

VPN Device Compatibility

You can use the very best VPN services on almost any internet-connected device. The VPNs we recommend in this guide all have native apps for a wide range of devices, and you can even set them on up on your router to protect all devices in your house.

Screenshot of NordVPN download page

Additionally, you can sometimes manually configure VPNs to work on devices or platforms that lack a custom app. This is a little trickier than downloading an app, though.

Take a look at the following guides to find out the best VPNs for specific platforms, operating systems and devices:

You can also install VPN add-ons on your web browser, although these are proxy extensions rather than full VPNs (unless they run alongside your VPN client).

We’ve rounded up the top VPN extensions for Chrome and Firefox, but you can find add-ons for Safari and Opera, too.

How to Set Up a VPN

It’s very easy to install and set up a VPN, as long as it comes with custom apps for your devices. Here are five very simple steps to install a VPN:

1Download the VPN

Download the VPN client from your VPN provider’s official website, or download the application from an official app store.

2Install the VPN

If you’re on a PC or Mac, click on the VPN installation file and follow the online prompts. If you’re using a smartphone, and you downloaded the VPN from an app store, the VPN is already installed. Once a VPN is installed on your device, click/tap on it to open it.

3Log in

When you first run a VPN, sometimes you’ll have to log into it using your login credentials or your activation code, and sometimes you won’t. This depends on the VPN service you chose.

CyberGhost login in our CyberGhost VPN review

The app will automatically open once installation is complete. Simply type in your login details.

4Check your settings

Once you’re logged in, make sure your VPN settings are optimised. This means enabling the VPN kill switch and any DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, if there’s an option to do so. The best VPNs default to very secure VPN protocols, but quickly check that is the case in the app’s settings.

How to Connect to Change Settings on ExpressVPN on MacOS

5Connect to a VPN server

You’re now ready to connect to a VPN server. Select your preferred server location, click/tap connect, and in a matter of seconds your IP address will have changed to a new one assigned by your VPN server.

To help you get set up on a VPN without any issues, we’ve created several step-by-step guides on how to install a VPN on the below devices and platforms:

How to Unlock Netflix with a VPN

A man breaking through a wall with a hammer to reveal the Netflix logo

A VPN is a great tool to unlock Netflix’s regional video libraries. Did you know that US Netflix has twice the number of titles as UK Netflix?

However, not every VPN works with Netflix. That’s because Netflix actively blocks many VPN connections, so if you ever see the error message you know that Netflix has detected your VPN (or a proxy).

Screenshot of the streaming error screen on Netflix

If you don’t want to see the above message, you’ll need to use one these VPNs that still work with Netflix. Some, like PrivateVPN and Surfshark, can unlock more than 15 Netflix libraries around the world, including US, UK, Korea, Japan and France. Others, like CyberGhost, have dedicated Netflix servers for even smoother streaming.

To unlock Netflix, particularly the American library, here’s what to do:

  1. Choose a working Netflix VPN

    Select one of the VPNs that we’ve verified to unlock Netflix in the US, and in other countries too.

  2. Install the VPN

    Download the VPN onto your preferred device(s) and set it up follow the installation steps we covered above.

  3. Connect to a Netflix server

    Once the VPN is set up, launch it and select a server from the list of locations. To stream US Netflix, select a US server or, if available, select a dedicated US Netflix server.

  4. Clear your web cookies

    Clear your web cookies from your browser so that any trace of previous visits from your device to the Netflix website are wiped. Sometimes cookies from previous non-VPN visits to Netflix can affect how well the VPN unlocks the service.

  5. Stream Netflix

    Visit the Netflix website or launch the Netflix app. As long as you’re using one of our recommended Netflix VPNs, start streaming all that new video content you couldn’t access before!

If for whatever reason the VPN isn’t working with Netflix, contact the VPN service’s support agents on live chat. In our experience, they quickly fix any Netflix-related issues.

With the best streaming VPNs, you can also unlock BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, HBO, and many more streaming platforms.

Why You Need a VPN for Torrenting

We strongly recommend that torrent files using an anonymous VPN, tested to hide your IP address effectively.

If you don’t use a VPN and download (or upload) files, you’re immediately exposing your real IP location to a whole range of third-parties.

  1. Internet Service Providers (ISP)

    Your ISP uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to monitor and store your web traffic, including your downloads and uploads. If you don’t hide your torrent IP address, your ISP will see that you’re torrenting, which can lead to three things: blocking or throttling your P2P, sending you warnings about breaking copyright laws, and sharing your details with content licensors.

  2. Peers, Seeders & Snoopers

    Unless you use a VPN, your real IP address will be visible to all other devices downloading (peers) or uploading (seeders) a torrent file, known as the ‘torrent swarm.’ The problem is you just don’t know who’s hiding in this swarm. Copyright enforcement agencies are known to lurk in them, and sometimes even seed files as bait!

For your peace of mind, use of one of these torrent VPNs to download safely and anonymously.

Does a VPN Slow Down Internet Speed?

VPNs do slow down your internet speed, but not by much if you choose the right VPN.

The reason why this happens is because VPNs encrypt your internet connection using advanced encryption ciphers like AES 256-bit. The stronger the encryption, the slower the speed, but the best VPNs are able to limit the impact significantly.

In fact, the VPN providers we recommend on this page will only slow your internet down by 10% or less (if you connect to nearby servers). A speed loss of 10% or less is barely noticeable. You’ll be able to stream, torrent, and browse the web like you normally do without a VPN.

We care a lot about VPN speed, and spend a lot of time testing how fast each VPN service is. Head over to our fastest VPNs of 2020 guide to see which VPNs are currently the quickest.

Tips to increase your VPN speed:

  1. Connect to the nearest VPN server to your physical location (if possible). Generally, the farther away the VPN server is, the slower the speeds.
  2. If your VPN shows individual server loads within the app, choose the server with the lowest server load.
  3. Some VPN protocols are quicker than others. Changing protocol can improve speeds, but that can sometimes comes at a price. See the difference between VPN protocols in our VPN encryption guide.

Can a VPN increase your internet speed?

Using a VPN can increase your internet speed if your ISP is throttling your traffic when you stream or download large files.

Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?

An illustration of a woman being watched by eyes

Before you start using a VPN, it’s important to set your expectations: a VPN does not make you 100% untraceable.

If a government agency wants to track you down online, they will eventually be able to. But, it’s also true that tracking someone who uses a VPN is significantly harder than tracking someone who doesn’t.

The best VPN services will: disable logging on its VPN servers, change your IP address and DNS servers with its own, and thoroughly encrypt your web traffic usually with the AES-256 cipher. All of this secures your almost complete anonymity.

You can further reduce the chances of being tracked online by:

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio