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Best VPN Services of 2019

By Simon Migliano | Updated December 3, 2019

Illustration of a podium

VPNs are becoming increasingly popular – in the last 12 months alone, over 450 million mobile VPN apps were downloaded.

But, there are hundreds of VPN services out there: some good, some bad, and some downright dangerous ones that put your online security and privacy at risk.

So, how do you choose the right VPN?

That’s where we come in. We tested and reviewed 74 VPNs to answer the ultimate question:

What’s the best VPN for 2019?

The VPN services we chose are the most impressive we’ve seen. They are fast, private, and secure, and with them you can:

  • Hide your web activity from ISPs and snoopers
  • Download files privately and safely
  • Unlock video content from anywhere in the world
  • Use public WiFi securely (in coffee shops, hotels, etc.)
  • Bypass the strictest online censorship

Scroll down to see our latest recommendations. You’ll also find helpful answers to popular reader questions further down the page.

However, if you’re looking for a free VPN then take a look at the best free VPNs of 2019.

The Most Important Factors When We Review a VPN

  1. Privacy and security features
  2. Logging policies, IP leak protection & jurisdiction
  3. Download (and upload) connection speeds
  4. Netflix, torrenting and P2P traffic
  5. Ease-of-use and customer support
  6. Cost and value for money

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

Best Safe & Private VPNs

1. ExpressVPN - Best Overall

Ranked #1 of 74 VPNs

  1. Exceptionally fast VPN speeds
  2. Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  3. Unrestricted torrenting/P2P traffic
  4. Strong logging policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Connect to over 3,000 VPN servers in 94 countries
  6. Very easy to install and use
  1. Shorter plans are expensive
  2. No kill switch for iOS
  • 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 a very safe and private VPN provider – in fact, it’s the absolute best VPN service on the market, 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.

ExpressVPN is ideal for torrenting, and it also unlocks Netflix (including the US content library), BBC iPlayer, and other popular streaming services with ease.

Not to mention that it is our number one VPN choice for bypassing censorship blocks in countries like China.

ExpressVPN comes with top-notch security features like Network Lock, which is essentially a kill switch to keep you protected if your network connection drops. This isn’t available for iOS, though.

Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN doesn’t collect any personally identifiable logs, and we didn’t detect any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks on any of its custom VPN apps during our tests.

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.

ExpressVPN has one of the most user-friendly interfaces out there, and is very easy to install and set up on all devices including your desktop, smartphones, games consoles, and streaming devices.

At a higher, but still affordable price, ExpressVPN is our highest recommended VPN for 2019.

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

2. NordVPN - Best Alternative

Ranked #2 of 74 VPNs

  1. Very fast VPN speeds
  2. Unlocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  3. No logs & No IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks
  4. Torrenting & P2P allowed on many servers
  5. Huge server network (over 5,200 servers in 59 countries)
  6. Simple custom VPN apps for range of platforms
  1. Extra VPN protocols for Windows & Android require manual config
  2. Obfuscated VPN servers don't always work in China
  3. Streaming doesn't work on Amazon Firestick & router connections
  4. Responded poorly to server breach
  • Best PriceExtra 3 months free

    $3.49/mo over 36 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    90Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    59 countries, 5,200+ 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 we’ve tested.

Headquartered in privacy-friendly Panama, NordVPN has the biggest server network on the market: over 5,200 fast and secure VPN servers spread across 59 countries.

NordVPN works very well with BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and other major streaming services on desktop and mobile devices. You can expect consistently fast download speeds for fast buffer-free streaming in HD or even 4K.

However, recently it stopped working with these streaming services on Amazon Fire TV and through router connections.

Nevertheless, NordVPN has some excellent privacy features, such as a VPN kill switch, Double VPN and AES-256 encryption. NordVPN doesn’t keep any user logs, either.

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 in order to carry out an independent audit of the 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 feel it’s important to make you aware of a security incident involving NordVPN. In October 2019 it came to light that a NordVPN server had been breached by a hacker.

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

NordVPN is still a very good VPN, but it’s something to consider before you buy. 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 the VPN service on up to six at one time (one more than ExpressVPN).

NordVPN is a decent choice for China, but its obfuscation tools aren’t as reliable as ExpressVPN’s.

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

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

3. IPVanish - Best for Fire TV Stick

Ranked #3 of 74 VPNs

  1. Impressive VPN speeds
  2. Works with Netflix
  3. All VPN servers permit torrenting & P2P traffic
  4. Strict no-logs policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Best VPN app for Fire TV Stick
  6. Over 1,300 VPN servers in 50 countries
  1. Doesn't work with BBC iPlayer
  2. No browser extensions
  3. Doesn't work in China
  • Best Price73% off 12-month plan

    $3.25/mo over 12 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    84Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    50 countries, 1,300 servers

  • Compatible with

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

The Bottom Line

IPVanish is a very good VPN service, and one of the fastest VPNs around. It is particularly popular with torrenters, Kodi fans, and Firestick users.

The IPVanish server network 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 its strict no-logs policy is reassuring, especially as IPVanish is based in the privacy-unfriendly US.

No IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks were detected in our extensive testing, either.

IPVanish does work with Netflix but disappointingly it doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer and it won’t beat censorship in countries like China and the UAE.

Like its top rivals, IPVanish is available on all popular platforms and devices, and you can use it on a very generous 10 devices at once with just one subscription.

However, the desktop apps look fairly unpolished and may be trickier to use for beginners than those of our top two VPN picks.

The IPVanish money-back guarantee isn’t great either – you’ll only have seven days before the refund period expires.

While it’s not the best VPN for streaming, IPVanish is still a great VPN choice for privacy-focused users who seek fast encrypted connections on all their devices.

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

4. CyberGhost - Best Value

Ranked #4 of 74 VPNs

  1. Very fast & reliable VPN speeds
  2. Unlocks Netflix & BBC iPlayer with dedicated servers
  3. Some VPN servers optimized for P2P/torrenting traffic
  4. Strict no-logs policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Big server network (5,600+ servers covering 90 countries)
  6. Simple, sleek custom VPN apps for range of devices
  1. Not all VPN servers allow torrenting/P2P traffic
  2. Not recommended for Kodi on Firestick
  3. Doesn't work in China
  • Best Price79% off 18-month plan

    $2.75/mo over 12 Months

    See all plans

  • Top Speedi

    87Mbps same city speed

    Based on a 100Mbps test connection

  • Servers

    90 countries, 6,200+ servers

  • Compatible with

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

The Bottom Line

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

CyberGhost’s 5,600+ servers form one of the biggest VPN server networks available. It includes dedicated streaming servers that work brilliantly with Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

In fact, CyberGhost is one of the best VPN services when it comes to fast, unrestricted streaming in HD or even 4K.

CyberGhost VPN’s torrenting/P2P optimized servers work well too, but it’s a shame that Australia and a host of other country-specific servers don’t allow torrenting or P2P traffic.

A range of security features like the automatic VPN kill switch and a no-logs policy make CyberGhost a superb choice for privacy.

We’ve never detected any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our comprehensive tests.

CyberGhost provides custom VPN apps for all major platforms and you can use the VPN on up to seven devices at once – that’s more than average.

Overall CyberGhost is a very strong VPN choice for those on a budget. Just don’t expect it to work in high censorship countries like China.

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

5. PrivateVPN - Best Free Trial

Ranked #5 of 74 VPNs

  1. No logging & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
  2. Consistently fast VPN speeds
  3. No limits on torrenting/P2P traffic
  4. Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
  5. 7,000 individual IP addresses in 59 countries
  6. Very simple, user-friendly VPN apps
  1. No browser extensions available
  2. Very small server network (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 has become one of the highest-rated VPN service providers.

PrivateVPN’s connections are fast and reliable around the world, and unrestricted access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer (and more) make it a great VPN choice for streaming fans.

Torrenting is allowed on the entire server network, with servers optimized especially for P2P traffic too, and low pings make PrivateVPN a great pick for gamers.

PrivateVPN’s server network is very small (only 150 servers) compared to its top rivals, however this shortcoming is compensated somewhat by the 7,000 IP addresses available to PrivateVPN users.

We have found PrivateVPN to live up to its name: it’s very private and secure. PrivateVPN doesn’t log user data, it has a working VPN kill switch, and it won’t leak your true location.

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

While all of our other top VPN recommendations for 2019 have 24/7 live chat support, PrivateVPN’s support is intermittent at best.

PrivateVPN has a lot going for it and we’ve been impressed with this VPN so far, although it does have some way to go before it can challenge the top four VPN services ranked above it.

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

Popular Questions

How We Test & Review VPNs

Our 10-Step Review Process

We thoroughly test out each VPN reviewed on our website, and make sure to keep our recommendations up-to-date so that you can make informed decisions.

Our VPN reviews and guides are honest and unbiased – we never accept compensation in exchange for positive coverage.

We have a rigorous testing methodology that always follows these 10 steps:

  1. We purchase the VPN subscription. We never take press samples 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. Once we’ve installed the VPN software 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. A VPN needs to be fast, so we test speeds manually in our lab and automatically using our proprietary speed testing tool to give you the most accurate results.
  7. We test to see whether it works with popular streaming services (like Netflix and Disney+), torrenting and other P2P activity.
  8. Some countries, like China, operate strict online censorship and block many VPN connections. We find out if the VPN can bypass these web blocks.
  9. An extremely important part of our review process involves thoroughly reading a VPN provider’s privacy and logging policies. We also look into who owns the VPN company and where it’s based. By doing this, we are able to understand how private, safe, and trustworthy the VPN is.
  10. Finally, we put the VPN’s customer support to the test. We ask its support agents a wide range of questions, from the most simple to the most technical, to see how knowledgeable and helpful they are.

Read all about how we review VPN services here.

What Is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a piece of software that routes your internet traffic to its own servers through an encrypted tunnel before the traffic reaches the website, service, or app you want to access.

What does that mean for you, though?

A VPN ensures that your internet traffic remains secure and private, preventing your ISP or other third parties from snooping on your online activities.

You might have heard about VPNs in the context of the workplace. Business VPNs allow employees to access the office network remotely and securely.

On the other hand, personal VPNs – the ones we test and review – are slightly different.

Personal VPNs are generally used by individuals who don’t need remote access to files on a home or work network.

Instead, they are used for personal privacy and security reasons, and for bypassing online geo-blocks.

To learn more about what a VPN is and how it works, read our ‘What Is a VPN?’ guide.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

Now you know what a VPN is you’re probably wondering: why should I use one?

Well, there are many reasons to use a VPN. Here are the main ones:

1Hide your web activity from ISPs, governments & snoopers

Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) logs everything you do online.

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

That’s pretty scary.

In the United States, ISPs are also permitted 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. 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 internet provider is unable to see beyond that server and therefore can’t track what you do online.

2Bypass geo-restrictions

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

That applies to every country.

When you connect to a VPN server your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server.

You can unlock geo-restricted content by connecting to a VPN server in the region where that content is readily available, as the website will think you’re really in that country.

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

One 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.

If you aren’t in the US but want to access US Netflix – which has the biggest Netflix content library in the world – you’ll need to use a VPN.

3Protection against hackers on public WiFi

Public WiFi hotspots are dangerous.

Why?

Because they can be vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.

Hackers can conduct a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, eavesdrop, intercept your private data, or carry out a phishing scam.

While convenient, free WiFi networks in restaurants, coffee shops, department stores, and on public transport are all very risky.

Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks.

This means can use the internet while out and about without the worry of being spied upon or having your details stolen.

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

Censorship seems to be everywhere now – it’s no longer restricted to the most authoritarian regimes like China.

The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are in the workplace, schools, or libraries.

Governments can force ISPs to block websites and apps, too.

In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all blocked, along with thousands of other websites.
The best – and safest – way to get around censorship blocks is to use a good VPN.

Not all VPNs work in China, though. In fact, only a few VPNs can beat the country’s sophisticated censorship tools.

illustration of a map of the world.

VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they legal?

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

It depends.

When you use a VPN all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. So you want to be sure that you’re using a VPN worthy of your trust.

How do you know if you can trust your VPN service?

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 secure and safe jurisdiction.

A bad VPN collects extensive user logs, mines and sells data, manipulates your 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 make sure you understand what encryption it uses, what type of data it logs, and what legal jurisdiction it falls under (follow the links to go to the relevant guides).

We make sure to cover all of these important factors in our independent VPN reviews.

There have been several cases of VPN providers abusing their power, so 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 it’s 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.

Be sure to read our comprehensive VPN reviews to find out if a VPN is trustworthy or not. We’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

Free vs Paid: Are Free VPNs Safe?

Often when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse.

Unfortunately, this is absolutely the case with VPNs.

Many free VPN services come with drawbacks like:

  • Tiny VPN data allowances
  • Speed caps
  • Limited server locations
  • Loads of ads

And unfortunately it doesn’t end there…

Some free VPNs pose serious risks to whoever uses them.

When we recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps we found that over 85% were potentially unsafe.

We 100% recommend that you use a paid VPN, if you can afford the small monthly fee of course.

Are there any good free VPNs out there, though?

Yes. Read on to find out which are the best.

What's the Best Free VPN?

There are only a handful of free VPNs that we recommend.

Currently, the best ones are:

They do come with some restrictions but, most importantly, they are safe to use.

Find out why we chose these five free VPNs in our dedicated guide to free VPNs.

Can You Get Premium VPNs for Free?

All of the free VPNs that we recommend 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 (P) and freemium (F) versions of our top five free VPNs:

VPN Name Server Country Locations Data Cap Simultaneous Connections
Windscribe 58 (P) / 10 (F) Unlimited (P) / 10GB p/m (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F)
ProtonVPN 43 (P) / 3 (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F) 10 (P) / 1 (F)
TunnelBear 22 (P) / 22 (F) Unlimited (P) / 500MB p/m (F) 5 (P) / 5 (F)
Hide.me 36 (P) / 4 (F) Unlimited (P) / 2GB p/m (F) 5 (P) / 1 (F)
Avira Phantom 25 (P) / 1 (F) Unlimited (P) / 1GB p/m (F) Unlimited (P) / Unlimited (F)

Freemium VPN Comparison Table

But not all premium VPNs have a ‘freemium’ option.

Don’t worry, though.

You can still use some premium VPNs for free – at least for a period of time.

Many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees so that you can fully test out the VPN software before you commit to it for the long term.

Look for a 30-day money-back guarantee with ‘no questions asked’. That way you know that you’ll get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with the service.

Here are some guides for getting popular VPNs for free:

Does a VPN Really Protect You?

Yes, using a VPN does protect you from numerous threats online.

Good VPNs can keep you safe from hackers and online surveillance by encrypting your personal data and hiding your IP address.

There are some threats that you will need a different set of tools for, though.

Some VPN services come with the ability to block pop-ups, but you’ll want to install your own ad-block extension to help with that.

VPNs are not antivirus software, either.

However, some VPNs do provide some real-time malware protection.

While a VPN may help prevent harmful or malicious software reaching your computer in some circumstances, you should always use dedicated antivirus software.

What Can’t You Do with a VPN?

Using a VPN is essential for your online security and privacy, and it allows you to access content from all over the globe.

But even VPNs come with limits.

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

  • Provide complete antivirus protection. Be sure to install a trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN comes with a malware blocking feature.
  • 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.

Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?

An illustration of a woman being watched by eyes

A VPN does not make you 100% untraceable – it’s important to bear that in mind and set your expectations accordingly before downloading one.

If someone, be they a hacker or government, wants to track you down online then with enough determination they will be able to.

However, tracking someone who uses a VPN is significantly more difficult than tracking someone who doesn’t.

A proper VPN service will swap your IP address and DNS servers for one of its own, encrypt your traffic thoroughly, and then delete any connection and browsing logs that you leave behind so as to secure your anonymity.

The rule when using a VPN is simple: don’t do anything when connected to a VPN that you wouldn’t do without one.

You can reduce the chances of being tracked online by using a privacy-friendly web browser – as opposed to, say, Google Chrome – alongside your VPN.

Let’s take Tenta Browser as an example.

This privacy-centered web browser automatically blocks ads and trackers, and it vows never to sell your personal data.

You should also consider how search engines like Google and social media sites like Facebook track, log, and sell your personal information. If you’re concerned about this, use a more private search engine like DuckDuckGo.

How Much Should I Pay for a VPN?

Piggy bank illustration

First things first: if you can pay for a VPN service, you really should.

Not because we want you to spend money, but because free VPNs are limited at best and dangerous at worst.

So, how much should you be paying for a VPN?

It 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 plans of varying lengths, usually from one month 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 need to keep in mind that you’ll usually 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.

One thing to remember is that the quality of a VPN doesn’t necessarily increase with the price so make sure you read our VPN provider reviews to find out whether a VPN is worth buying.

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 offered 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, we also recommend Windscribe, ProtonVPN, and Surfshark as VPN apps that are very easy to use.

But not all VPNs are as easy to use.

Here’s 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.

On Which Devices Can You Use a VPN?

Depending on the VPN service that you choose, you can use a VPN on pretty much any internet-connected device.

Some VPNs offer custom/native apps for a wide range of devices (like the ones recommended on this page), while others come with only mobile apps, for example.

Screenshot of NordVPN download page

It’s sometimes possible to 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 a particular device:

You can also install VPN add-ons for your browser, though these are proxy extensions rather than full-blown VPN connections.

These are available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. We have rounded up the top VPN extensions for the following browsers:

If you want to protect all internet-connected devices in your home, be sure to install the VPN at router level.

What's the Best VPN for iPhone?

The best VPN for iPhone is ExpressVPN – it comes with a super simple custom app for iOS devices – that includes iPads – and it’s very fast, secure, and private.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN iOS apps on iPhone and iPad

ExpressVPN is also our top choice for Android smartphones too.

How Do You Set Up a VPN?

It’s very easy to install and set up a VPN, as long as it comes with custom apps.

All you need to do is download the app from the VPN provider’s website (or an official app store), follow the installation prompts, and log in.

If there are no native apps available for your device, you may be able manually configure the VPN.

Take a look at our step-by-step setup guides for the following devices and platforms:

Once you’ve installed the VPN onto your device, you should take a look at the VPN settings before you connect to a server.

Be sure to enable the VPN kill switch and any DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, if there’s an option to do so.

Now you’re all set – select your preferred VPN server and click the connect button.

Does a VPN Slow Down Internet Speed?

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

VPNs work by routing your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel, which slows down your internet speed a little in the process. Usually, the stronger the encryption, the slower the speed.

However, the very best VPNs will deliver fast speeds while keeping your connections very secure. 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 will allow you to stream, torrent, and browse the web just like you normally do without a VPN. But, you’ll be much safer doing so with one.

If you want to know what the quickest VPN is, take a look at the fastest VPNs of 2019.

A few tips to increase your VPN speed:

  1. If possible, connect to the nearest VPN server to your physical location. The farther away the VPN server is, the slower the speeds will be.
  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 be aware that speed sometimes comes at a price. Learn the difference between VPN protocols in our VPN encryption guide.

Can a VPN sometimes increase your internet speed?

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

What's the Fastest VPN?

When it comes to speed reliability and consistency around the world, ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN.

But, it’s not the fastest when connecting to nearby servers – that’s Private Internet Access.

However, even on same-country connections ExpressVPN only slows down internet speeds by about 11%. Take a look at our speed test below:

Screenshot of speed test with no VPN connection

This is our internet speed with no VPN.

Screenshot of speed test when ExpressVPN is connected

Here is our internet speed when connected to ExpressVPN.

Can You Use a VPN to Watch Netflix?

Yes, you can use a VPN to watch Netflix and to unlock their regional video libraries.

Did you know that US Netflix has twice the number of TV shows as UK Netflix?

However, not every VPN works.

Netflix actively blocks VPN connections – ever seen this annoying error message when you try to stream Netflix with a VPN or 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) unblock Netflix.

Some VPN services like CyberGhost and PrivateVPN come with dedicated streaming services that help you unlock video content instantly.

Others like ExpressVPN and NordVPN don’t, but most of their servers work with most popular services.

If a server doesn’t unblock Netflix, get in touch with a VPN provider’s live chat support team to find out which VPN servers still work.

Other streaming services you can watch with a VPN are BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, HBO, and many more.

Do You Need a VPN When Torrenting?

A secure and trustworthy VPN is an essential tool for torrenting and other P2P activity.

Why?

The moment you open up a torrent client and begin downloading or uploading files your IP address is exposed to your ISP.

Using a secure VPN will hide your true IP address and encrypt all of your traffic.

When it comes to choosing a VPN for torrenting, there are two necessities: speed and privacy.

A good VPN will make your torrenting much more private, with very little impact on your download speeds.

Some VPN services even have special servers designed for torrenting.

If you’re a keen torrenter, then take a look at the most private and safest VPN services for torrenting.

Tip: Before you open up your torrenting client, make sure you turn on your VPN and enable the VPN kill switch. This will prevent your true IP address from leaking.

VPN vs Proxy: What's the Difference?

Illustration of a VPN connected to a proxy server

VPNs and proxies are often mixed up, but they are not the same.

Both tools help users to get around content blocks, but when it comes to privacy the two pieces of software are pretty different.

Proxies hide your real IP address and location from the website you are trying to access, but they often don’t encrypt browser traffic.

Many proxies have been known to keep logs of users’ personal data. Like VPNs, there are good proxies and bad proxies, so you should do your research before you use a free proxy (trustworthy ones are rare, and totally private ones are almost non-existent).

VPNs, on the other hand, encrypt all traffic, at an OS-level rather than a browser-level. All your personal data flows through a secure VPN tunnel, and a good VPN won’t log your online activities.

Sometimes, free services are labeled as VPNs when they are in fact proxies. One example is Hola, which we recommend you completely avoid.

VPN services often come with add-ons for certain web browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox. These browser extensions are proxies, as they work at a browser-level, not an OS-level.

The best proxy extensions use encryption to secure connections.

You can learn more about the differences between proxies and VPNs in our guide.

VPN vs Smart DNS

You can use VPNs or Smart DNS to watch streaming content, but are they the same thing?

Not at all.

Smart DNS works by changing the DNS of your device and reroutes traffic through a proxy server that will enable you to bypass regional content restrictions.

It’s primarily used to access streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

Unlike a VPN, Smart DNS is not a privacy tool. It doesn’t encrypt traffic or hide your IP address.

ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer tool is similar to Smart DNS.

Smart DNS is very easy to set up (including on games consoles and streaming devices) and it allows for faster speeds than a VPN connection.

But, again, it won’t help keep your personal data private.

VPN vs Tor

Illustration showing two hands choosing between a Tor onion and VPN shield.

Tor (The Onion Router) and VPNs are both privacy tools, but they aren’t one and the same.

In fact, Tor is more of an anonymity tool than a privacy tool. It is often used by political activists and journalists in high-censorship countries.

The Tor browser directs internet traffic through a global network of volunteer-run servers.

The traffic is routed through guard nodes, middles, servers, and exit nodes (all randomly selected), so that no one server knows both what the message is and where it came from.

Because of this process, Tor is very, very slow.

One of the other issues related to Tor is that others will be using your IP address, and you don’t know what they will be doing with it.

Tor is commonly used to access the Dark Web, which is a nesting ground for criminal and illegal activity.

That’s why you should use a VPN alongside Tor for extra security. Some VPN services even come with special servers for use with Tor.

If you want to know more about Tor, read our guide to Tor vs VPN.

Business VPN vs Personal VPN

Even if you’ve never used a personal VPN, you’ve probably heard about VPNs at your workplace.

There are two main types of VPN services: business (or corporate) VPNs, like Cisco, and personal VPNs.

While the technology is very similar, the uses are different.

Business VPNs are used by company employees to remotely access the office network and company servers securely.

This allows a company’s staff to access network folders, intranet sites and files from outside the office.

Your internet traffic is encrypted between the user’s device and the VPN server in the office, which prevents third parties from intercepting the traffic.

However, your web traffic is still subject to your company’s policy, meaning that your employer may still see what you’re doing online, even though you’re not physically in the office.

Unlike business VPNs, personal VPNs give you access to a pool of different IP addresses around the world, so that you can:

  • Use the Internet privately
  • Use torrenting and P2P services securely
  • Access web content from any country
  • Secure your public WiFi connection
  • Unblock websites in high censorship nations

Your web traffic is still encrypted and, if you use a trusted VPN service, nobody can see what you’re doing online.

However, you won’t be able to access network-specific files remotely.

You won’t find any business VPN reviews on this website – we just review consumer VPNs.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio