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What is the Fastest VPN in 2020?

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Fastest VPN
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
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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

By securing your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, every VPN will slow down your speed to some extent. The fastest VPN will minimize this impact — making any speed loss unnoticeable.

A fast VPN is essential for buffer-free Netflix, fast torrent downloads, and lag-free gaming. To find the fastest VPN in November 2020 our team of experts have conducted thousands of speed tests while running over 69 VPNs.

Each test is performed in strict scientific conditions, making our results accurate and fair. Most of the VPNs we tested were slow at downloading files, didn’t securely encrypt data, or gave inconsistent results. After months of testing, we found the five VPNs that were fastest and most reliable across all server locations.

Here are the fastest VPNs in November 2020:

  1. Hotspot Shield: 99.59Mbps. The fastest VPN we’ve tested and our speed test winner. Read summary.
  2. NordVPN: 98.26Mbps. NordLynx protocol is fast and unblocks all streaming sites. Read summary.
  3. Private Internet Access: 97.65Mbps. Secure VPN with a huge server network for gaming. Read summary.
  4. Mullvad: 96.21Mbps. Fast and private service that’s great for torrenting. Read summary.
  5. ExpressVPN: 92.15Mbps. Versatile VPN that’s incredibly fast on long-distance connections. Read summary.

All five of these VPNs have been tested and verified to meet our strict requirements for speed, security, and privacy. You can read about our testing methodology later in this article, along with instructions on how to speed test your VPN and how to boost VPN speeds.

We’ll also tell you what’s the fastest free VPN, along with expert tips and tricks along the way.

5 Fastest VPNs in November 2020

  1. 1. Hotspot Shield

    The world's fastest VPN and winner of our 2020 speed test results.

    Ranked #1 out of 69 VPNs for Speed
    1. The fastest VPN available
    2. Works with US Netflix & Hulu
    3. Unrestricted torrenting on all servers
    4. Allows router-level installation for gaming
    5. Large server network in 82 countries
    1. Less trustworthy VPN protocol
    2. Kill switch is only available on Windows

    Our 2020 speed test results show that Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN available. It delivers the fastest connection speeds on both nearby and far-away servers, it doesn’t throttle or block torrenting traffic, and it streams US Netflix in 4K UHD.

    Cheapest Price$2.99/mo over 36 Months See all plans
    Local Speed100Mbps
    International Speed92Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolCatapult Hydra
    US NetflixYes
    TorrentingUnlimited
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    The fastest VPN across all locations

    Hotspot Shield’s speed performance is unmatched — our speeds dropped by just 0.41% to 99.59Mbps when connected to a nearby VPN server, and fell by just 2.89% to 97.11Mbps when connected to East Coast US.

    We experienced the slowest speeds when connecting to South Africa, over 5,000 miles from our location, with a speed drop of 17%. This is still a really impressive result and much faster than what we recorded from other VPNs.

    Hotspot Shield is able to achieve these speeds through a combination of its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol and the way it treats TCP traffic. A representative from Hotspot Shield told us that the VPN transmits TCP traffic via a transparent TCP proxy on a nearby internet device. The nearby device intercepts the connection between the VPN server and your device to prevent lost packets and to resolve slowdowns caused by ‘last mile congestion’. For casual users, our tests show that this process makes Hotspot Shield much faster than standard VPN connections.

    You can see our full results from Hotspot Shield’s speed test in the table below:

    Download Speed
    % Speed Loss
    Distance (miles)
    No VPN
    100Mbps
    0%
    0 mi
    UK
    99.59Mbps
    0.4%
    0 mi
    Germany
    99.36Mbps
    0.6%
    457 mi
    USA
    97.11Mbps
    2.9%
    4,484 mi
    Brazil
    93.32Mbps
    6.7%
    5,496 mi
    South Africa
    82.57Mbps
    17.4%
    5,635 mi
    Japan
    88.68Mbps
    11.4%
    5,870 mi
    Australia
    93.19Mbps
    6.8%
    9,420 mi

    Unblocks US Netflix, Hulu, and more

    Hotspot Shield’s fast speeds will allow you to stream content in HD without any buffering or lag. We found that Hotspot Shield works with most major streaming sites around the world, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, and Hulu.

    The VPN comes with an impressive app for Amazon Fire TV, too, so you can unblock your favorite TV shows and movies on your biggest screen. However, if you want to use a fast VPN primarily for streaming, there are better options available.

    Other fast VPNs, like ExpressVPN, can unblock over four times as many Netflix libraries as Hotspot Shield — giving you access to more TV shows and movies.

    VPN protocol lacks transparency

    The drawback to using Hotspot Shield is that it uses a closed-source VPN protocol that is not as reputable as open-sourced and established protocols, like OpenVPN or WireGuard.

    Catapult Hydra is a VPN protocol developed in-house by AnchorFree, the company that founded Hotspot Shield. Catapult Hydra is based on TLS 1.2, it uses 128-bit AES encryption, and it incorporates Perfect Forward Secrecy. In this way, its encryption matches other leading VPN protocols.

    However, the problem with technology developed by VPN services themselves is that it cannot be openly error-checked by security experts and enthusiasts. Open-source VPN protocols, like OpenVPN, have been built upon for over 18 years by a large community of contributors. On the other hand, Hotspot Shield claims Catapult Hydra has been audited by “third-party security experts,” but gives no further details on how frequent or how rigorous these examinations are.

    To summarize, Hotspot Shield is undoubtedly the fastest VPN in 2020. It is fast enough to  download torrent files in seconds, stream Netflix buffer-free, and have a minimal impact on all browsing activity. Although the VPN uses a less-reputable protocol than other VPNs, it’s still the number one choice if speed is your priority.

  2. 2. NordVPN

    Fast speeds for secure browsing and buffer-free streaming.

    1. Exceptional speeds across most locations
    2. The fastest implementation of WireGuard
    3. Torrenting permitted on most servers
    4. Unblocks all major streaming services
    5. Fully-featured app for Fire TV Stick
    6. Low ping for gaming
    1. Slower speeds on far-away servers

    NordVPN is a well-rounded and extremely fast VPN. Although slightly slower than the #1 fastest VPN, NordVPN has many additional features that Hotspot Shield doesn’t, including Double VPN, Smart DNS support, and the ability to unblock lots of Netflix libraries.

    Cheapest Price$3.71/mo over 24 Months See all plans
    Local Speed98Mbps
    International Speed80Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolNordLynx
    US NetflixYes
    TorrentingPermitted
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Incredibly fast speeds

    We found that NordVPN is consistently the second-fastest VPN on both local and international connections. The VPN performed particularly well on local connections, though, making our drop in internet speed unnoticeable.

    When connecting to a nearby server in the UK, we recorded an average speed of 98.26Mbps — which is much faster than most other top VPNs. The VPN’s performance was more mixed on international connections, with a very impressive speed loss result of 7.29% when connecting to the US, but a mediocre result of 65.42Mbps when connecting to Japan.

    You can see our full results from NordVPN’s speed test in the table below:

    Download Speed
    % Speed Loss
    Distance (miles)
    No VPN
    100Mbps
    0%
    0 mi
    UK
    98.26Mbps
    1.7%
    0 mi
    Germany
    98.67Mbps
    1.3%
    457 mi
    USA
    92.71Mbps
    7.3%
    4,484 mi
    Brazil
    72.83Mbps
    27.2%
    5,496 mi
    South Africa
    79.66Mbps
    20.3%
    5,635 mi
    Japan
    65.42Mbps
    34.6%
    5,870 mi
    Australia
    71.92Mbps
    28.1%
    9,420 mi

    NordLynx is highly-secure and speedy

    NordVPN can achieve these impressive speed results due to the NordLynx protocol, which is its implementation of WireGuard. NordLynx allows for much faster connections compared to UDP OpenVPN connections, without sacrificing privacy or security.

    WireGuard is also open-source, which means anyone can view and inspect the mechanics of the codebase. This is in contrast to Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra, which is a closed-source protocol that has only been viewed by certain parties. Ultimately, this transparency makes WireGuard more trustworthy and will allow it to improve over time from the contributions of a large error-checking community.

    Great for torrenting & Netflix

    NordVPN provides lots of great VPN features that take full advantage of its fast speeds. The VPN unblocks 15 different Netflix libraries from around the world in 4K UHD. It also comes with a fully-featured app for Amazon Fire TV, and a Smart DNS feature — so you can unblock geo-blocked content on all of your devices.

    In addition, torrenting is permitted on over 85% of NordVPN’s servers. The app conveniently lists these in the ‘P2P’ section under ‘Specialty Servers’. Alternatively, you can use NordVPN’s server recommendation feature to find the best torrenting server based on your location. After connecting to our recommended server, we were able to download a legal torrent in seconds.

    The only drawback to NordVPN’s performance is that its speeds drop noticeably on long-distance connections. That said, it’s still incredibly fast and is only beaten by Hotspot Shield.

    Overall, NordVPN is a superb, fast VPN that is a great choice for most users. It’s the best WireGuard VPN and includes more advanced VPN features than almost all other top VPNs. Although it misses out on the number one spot based on raw speed performance, it’s a terrific and highly-secure service.

  3. 3. Private Internet Access

    Speedy VPN with the largest overall server network.

    1. Fast speeds on nearby servers
    2. Unrestricted torrenting on all servers
    3. Works with US Netflix
    4. Cheap on long-term plans
    5. Huge server network
    1. Slow over long-distance connections
    2. Inconsistent with streaming sites

    Private Internet Access is a WireGuard-based service that’s great if you want an advanced and customizable VPN. Its speeds are extremely fast on local connections and it can be used on 10 devices at once, making it great for multi-device users.

    Cheapest Price$2.19/mo over 3 years See all plans
    Local Speed98Mbps
    International Speed57Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolWireGuard
    US NetflixYes
    TorrentingUnlimited
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Fast local speeds, slower international speeds

    When connecting to a nearby server, our research found Private Internet Access to consistently be the third-fastest VPN. When connecting to a UK server from our location in London, we saw an average speed loss of just 2.35%, which is unnoticeable in normal use.

    With these results, PIA is a great choice for everyday use. You can securely encrypt your traffic, privately torrent, and secure unsafe public WiFi networks without having to worry about performance issues.

    However, PIA performs less impressively when connecting to international server locations. When connecting to the US, our speed dropped by 33.89%, and by 74% when connecting to Japan — making it slower than most other VPNs we tested. This makes the VPN a poor choice when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted streaming content.

    You can see our full results from Private Internet Access’ speed test in the table below:

    Download Speed
    % Speed Loss
    Distance (miles)
    No VPN
    100Mbps
    0%
    0 mi
    UK
    97.65bps
    2.4%
    0 mi
    Germany
    97.20Mbps
    2.8%
    457 mi
    USA
    66.11Mbps
    33.9%
    4,484 mi
    Brazil
    48.83Mbps
    51.2%
    5,496 mi
    South Africa
    47.58Mbps
    52.4%
    5,635 mi
    Japan
    25.95Mbps
    74.1%
    5,870 mi
    Australia
    53.77Mbps
    46.2%
    9,420 mi

    Expansive server network

    Private Internet Access has the largest server network of any VPN service, with over 12,000 servers in 74 countries. This means that no matter where you are in the world, you’ll be able to connect to a fast nearby server.

    PIA has an impressive 165 servers per country on average, compared to NordVPN’s 93 and Hotspot Shield’s 39. The benefit of more servers is that it reduces server congestion and eases slowdowns. In turn, you can expect fast and consistent speeds with Private Internet Access, even at peak times.

    The only drawback to PIA’s server network for speed is that it uses a lot of virtual server locations. As a result, you may experience slower speeds than expected if the server is physically located in a location far-away from what’s advertised. These servers can be disabled in the app, though, so we recommend avoiding them if possible.

    Not recommended for streaming

    We recommend that all streamers avoid Private Internet Access and opt for a more suitable VPN instead. This is because the VPN is inconsistent at unblocking Netflix and other streaming sites. You can typically expect at least one server to work, but this involves a lengthy process of cycling through servers until you find one that works.

    Besides, PIA’s relatively slow international speed performance means that, depending on your baseline internet speed, you may not always be able to stream content in HD or 4K. There are better streaming VPNs available, so Private Internet Access is only competitive when it comes to fast torrenting and lag-free gaming.

    In summary, Private Internet Access is a safe and reliable fast VPN. The VPN’s speeds are only slightly slower than NordVPN and Hotspot Shield on local connections, making it a great option for speedy torrenting and gaming. However, PIA’s speeds deteriorate when connected to far-away servers. This, coupled with the VPN’s inconsistency with Netflix, makes it a poor VPN for streaming.

  4. 4. Mullvad VPN

    WireGuard VPN with robust privacy and security features.

    1. Fast on close by servers
    2. P2P traffic allowed on all servers
    3. Cheap monthly price
    4. Private logging policy
    1. Slower speeds on far-away servers
    2. Doesn't work with Netflix
    3. Small server network
    4. Android app is still in beta

    Mullvad runs exclusively on the WireGuard protocol, making it a fast and secure VPN. It can be installed on routers for gaming purposes and it’s a great choice for torrenting and anonymous web browsing.

    Cheapest Price$5.80/mo See all plans
    Local Speed96Mbps
    International Speed55Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolWireGuard
    US NetflixYes
    TorrentingUnlimited
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. amazon_firetvFire TV
    5. routerRouter

    Fast local, but slow international speeds

    After putting Mullvad through our speed testing process, we found that although it’s a very fast VPN on nearby servers, its speeds noticeably slow down on long-distance connections.

    When connecting to a local server in the UK, our internet speed fell by just 3.79%, meaning we could torrent, download files, and browse the web without any slowdowns. We recorded similarly impressive results when connected to a Mullvad server in Germany, with the VPN only slowing our connection down by 7.68%.

    Our internet speed fell by 73.65% when connected to a Brazilian VPN server, though, and 65.36% on an Australian server. These results are a lot worse than other VPNs in this list, so if you expect to frequently connect to international locations, you should avoid Mullvad.

    You can see our full results from Mullvad’s speed test in the table below:

    Download Speed
    % Speed Loss
    Distance (miles)
    No VPN
    100Mbps
    0%
    0 mi
    UK
    96.21Mbps
    3.7%
    0 mi
    Germany
    92.32Mbps
    7.7%
    457 mi
    USA
    73.46Mbps
    26.5%
    4,484 mi
    Brazil
    26.35Mbps
    73.7%
    5,496 mi
    Japan
    49.22Mbps
    50.8%
    5,870 mi
    Australia
    34.64Mbps
    65.4%
    9,420 mi

    Cheap & P2P allowed on all servers

    Mullvad permits torrenting traffic on all of its servers. This, coupled with Mullvad’s fast local speeds and its minimal-logs policy makes it a great VPN for fast and private torrenting. Although not as fast as some other VPNs in this list, we were able to torrent a file in minutes with Mullvad. It provides helpful guides for torrenting with Mullvad, too, which is a nice touch.

    The VPN is also unique in that it only offers one price tier. Mullvad is available for a flat monthly fee of $5.80, with no options to pay for a long-term subscription. Although this does limit flexibility, it means that Mullvad is available for a much cheaper monthly price than other fast VPNs. In fact, it’s at least $6.15 cheaper when paying monthly than all other VPNs on this page.

    Too many compromises

    Although cheap, Mullvad suffers from too many drawbacks to make it one of the very best fast VPNs. Most frustratingly, the VPN’s Android app is still in beta. All other paid VPN services have apps for major platforms and devices, so Mullvad’s slow adoption is disappointing.

    In addition, the VPN only has servers in 35 countries, with the vast majority of these located in Europe. If you’re in Asia, South America, or Africa — you’ll be forced to connect to a far away server, which will slow down your internet speed. This is particularly a problem with Mullvad, given its poor international performance.

    Mullvad also doesn’t work reliably with any streaming sites and it doesn’t have apps for Amazon Fire TV or Smart TVs. This means that you won’t be able to take advantage of Mullvad’s fast speeds for unblocking geo-restricted content.

    In general, Mullvad is a capable fast VPN that’s perfect for users who prioritize privacy and anonymity. However, the VPN is not fast enough over long-distance connections and its lack of Android app, poor streaming ability, and non-existent support for TVs means there are better options available.

  5. 5. ExpressVPN

    Well-rounded VPN that's perfect for torrenting and streaming.

    1. Excellent long-distance speed performance
    2. Works with all streaming services
    3. App for Fire TV Stick and Smart TVs
    4. Includes Smart DNS functionality
    1. Slower on local connections
    2. More expensive

    ExpressVPN is a fully-featured service that is one of the fastest VPNs on international connections but performs poorly over short-distances. It’s also the most expensive VPN on the market, but it’s unrivaled streaming and torrenting support make it worth the extra cost.

    Cheapest Price$6.67/mo over 15 Months See all plans
    Local Speed92Mbps
    International Speed76Mbps
    Fastest VPN ProtocolLightway
    US NetflixYes
    TorrentingUnlimited
    Compatible with
    1. windowsWindows
    2. macosMacOS
    3. iosiOS
    4. androidAndroid
    5. amazon_firetvFire TV
    6. routerRouter

    Very fast international speeds

    ExpressVPN makes it in the top five fastest VPNs due to its impressive performance when connected to far away servers. Our speed tests showed that ExpressVPN is the third-fastest VPN over international connections, with an average speed loss of 24.43% across our six test locations.

    Results were particularly impressive when connected to a US server. ExpressVPN kept our internet speed at a fast 89Mbps, which was more than fast enough for HD streaming and uninterrupted gaming sessions.

    The disadvantage to ExpressVPN, though, is its relatively poor local speed performance. Our speeds slowed to 92Mbps when connected to a nearby VPN server, which is still very impressive, but not competitive with the very fastest VPNs.

    You can see our full results from ExpressVPN’s speed test in the table below:

    Download Speed
    % Speed Loss
    Distance (miles)
    No VPN
    100Mbps
    0%
    0 mi
    UK
    92.15bps
    7.9%
    0 mi
    Germany
    92.28Mbps
    7.7%
    457 mi
    USA
    89.41Mbps
    10.6%
    4,484 mi
    Brazil
    67.80Mbps
    32.3%
    5,496 mi
    South Africa
    73.92Mbps
    25.1%
    5,635 mi
    Japan
    68.00Mbps
    32%
    5,870 mi
    Australia
    60.99Mbps
    39%
    9,420 mi

    Lightway protocol is safe and fast

    ExpressVPN has recently improved its speeds thanks to the introduction of its proprietary Lightway VPN protocol. Lightway has been developed in-house by ExpressVPN, and our test results have shown it to be faster than OpenVPN.

    Although we typically prefer for VPN providers to adopt established open-source protocols, ExpressVPN will open-source the Lightway codebase once it exits the beta stage. This is in contrast to Catapult Hydra, as Hotspot Shield only provides the code to third-party security companies. Lightway is unproven for now, though, but we do expect it to challenge WireGuard in the future.

    The best VPN for streaming

    ExpressVPN’s fast international speeds are put to good use, too, as it is the very best VPN available for streaming. It unblocks every streaming site including Hulu and BBC iPlayer, as well as 19 different Netflix libraries. For each of these services, our speeds remained fast enough to stream in HD without any buffering.

    Unlike most other VPNs, ExpressVPN also comes with a Smart DNS feature. This will allow you to unblock geo-blocked content on devices that don’t support VPNs, so you can stream on PS4, Apple TV, and Smart TVs.

    All this functionality does come at a cost, though, as ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN on this list. The cheapest price is on the fifteen-month plan, which works out to $6.67 a month. You do get plenty of features for that price, so it’s worth the extra cost.

    Overall, ExpressVPN is a great choice if you want a VPN for more than just raw speed. It beats out every other VPN on this list when it comes to general use, but it doesn’t match them when it comes to pure speed results.

Fastest VPN Comparison Table

Fastest VPN Speed Test Results 2020

All of our findings on this page are from our manual tests, which involves physically using and speed testing VPNs, just like you would at home. This gives us findings that mirror your experience as best as possible. You can read more about our research methodology and limitations in the section below.

As you’ll be connecting to a local VPN server most often, we prioritize short-distance speeds in our tests. To get this result, we connect to a UK server from our base in London and take the average from a series of over twenty tests. You can expect similar results when connecting to a nearby server from wherever you are located.

Here are our VPN speed test results when connecting to a local server with our 100Mbps internet connection:

Graph showing our fastest VPN speed test results

As the graph above shows, Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN on local connections. 50% of VPNs were able to sustain speeds of over 95Mbps, though, which is an extremely impressive result.

CyberGhost, PrivateVPN, and Surfshark performed the worst — experiencing slowdowns of up to 15%. This is still fast enough for most tasks, but you may struggle to perform high-bandwidth activities with these VPNs.

Local internet speeds aren’t all that matters, though. VPNs can be used to unblock geo-restricted Netflix libraries and play games on servers from the other side of the world. Because of this, it’s important that a VPN also has fast international speeds.

To test long-distance speed performance, we tested the seven fastest VPNs while connected to seven server locations from across all five inhabited continents of the world — Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America. We then take an average from all of these tests, which gives us a more accurate picture of the VPN’s consistency, and not just its peak performance.

Here are the results when connecting to international servers with our 100Mbps internet connection:

Graph showing our fastest VPN international speed test results

The result from our investigation is definitive: Hotspot Shield is by far the fastest VPN. The VPN is faster than all others on both nearby and far-away servers. With Hotspot Shield you can stream, torrent, and game without worrying about your network speed slowing down.

SUMMARY

Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN by far. In our tests, the VPN consistently beat all other services across all server locations.

Research Methodology

To ensure our VPN speed test findings are as accurate as possible, we follow a strict and scientific process. This has been refined over many years from our team of VPN experts.A visualization of Top10VPN.com's 10-step review process

Here are the steps we have in place to ensure our speed test results are the most reliable findings available:

Dedicated 100Mbps Broadband Line

We have a dedicated 100Mbps fiber-optic broadband line that is only used for conducting our VPN speed tests. This means that our speed is not slowed down by any external factors, like bandwidth-consuming activities from anyone else on the network. Any drops in speed are a direct result of the VPN running.

Consistent Infrastructure & Equipment

All of our speed tests are done using a Lenovo ThinkPad PC running Windows 10 and on an iMac running MacOS Big Sur. These devices are connected to the broadband line using a Cat7 ethernet cable.
By keeping all of our equipment consistent, we can always conclude that any speed changes are as a result of the VPN, and not any issues with our test devices.

Use the VPN’s Preferred Protocol

For our speed tests, we use the VPN with the fastest protocol available. This allows us to give an accurate representation of the speeds you can expect while using the VPN.

For the tests on this page, the protocols used were as follows:
CyberGhost, Mullvad, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, Surfshark — WireGuard
ExpressVPN — Lightway
Hotspot Shield — Catapult Hydra
HideMyAss, IPVanish, PrivateVPN — OpenVPN (UDP)

Same Speed Testing Tool

We use Ookla’s popular speed test tool for all of our tests. We elected to use this because a representative from Ookla assured us that it has “strong mitigations in place to prevent such behavior [VPNs prioritizing traffic to Ookla].”

None of the other speed test tools would provide this guarantee. In turn, this rules out the possibility of a VPN speeding up its service when it detects a speed test, which would give unreliable results.

Tested Over a Long-period

To minimize the risk of random and anomalous results, our final speed test result is the average from a series of tests, performed over a month. We tested all VPNs at regular six-hour intervals, equaling four different times per day. In total, we manually undertook thousands of VPN speed tests, ensuring our results most accurately represent the speeds of the fastest VPNs.

Research Limitations

Although we have taken steps at every stage to keep our speed test results as accurate as possible, there are still some limitations to our research that may result in a VPN performing differently when you test it yourself. These include:

Speed Fluctuations

To quantify speeds and account for speed fluctuations, we would have to test every single VPN server during every second of the day.

To counter this, we pace our testing out throughout the day. Tests are performed four times a day, with a six-hour break between each test. Although not perfect, this allows us to test each VPN during both peak and quiet hours of the day, giving us an accurate, but not perfect, representation of typical speeds.

Upload Speed & Ping

The fastest VPN is not necessarily the fastest VPN for all activities. For example, a VPN with fast download speeds but slow ping time will be great for streaming, but poor for online gaming.

For this page, we’ve chosen to focus solely on download speed. This is because the vast majority of online activities rely on a fast download speed, and fewer need a speedy upload speed or ping rate. If download speed is less important for your use case, you can read our dedicated guides for the best VPNs for gaming and torrenting.

Varying Device Performance

Different devices, with different network cards and performance capabilities, can yield dramatically different speed test results. For example, desktop PCs will often have larger and faster wireless cards than mobile devices. This means that you may not always experience the same results as us, depending on your device.

To address this, we use two different test devices — one Lenovo ThinkPad and one Apple iMac. These devices are made by different manufacturers and run a different operating system, which gives us speed test data from the two major desktop operating systems.

Overall, we have tried our best to eliminate all possible factors that could hold back our investigation into the fastest VPNs. However, with the VPN industry constantly changing, just keep in mind that we can only ever provide a snapshot and not an absolute answer for the fastest VPN.

How to Test VPN Speed

To test your VPN speed, you’ll need to perform two separate tests — one while disconnected from the VPN, and one while connected to the VPN.

This first stage will give you your baseline internet speed. From this, you can calculate how much your VPN impacts your speed.How to test VPN speed
To test VPN speed, just follow the steps below:

Testing Internet Speed Without a VPN:

  1. Make sure that you are disconnected from your VPN.
  2. Ensure there are no other apps running in the background.
  3. Visit speedtest.net and click ‘Go’ to start your speed test.
  4. Note your results for download, upload, and ping.

Testing Internet Speed With a VPN:

  1. Ensure there are no other apps running in the background.
  2. Open your VPN app and connect to your chosen location.
  3. Visit speedtest.net and click ‘Go’ to start your speed test.
  4. Compare these results to the results you got when disconnected to the VPN.

For download and upload speeds, the smaller the difference between your original result and your VPN result, the better. Generally speaking, less than a 10% loss in speed is a great result for a local server, and under 40% loss in speed is a good result for a server in a different continent.

EXPERT TIP

Your ISP will often exaggerate your baseline internet speed. Make sure to test your speeds while disconnected from the VPN before testing VPN speed.

How to Speed Up Your VPN

How to speed up VPN

Although some loss in performance is inevitable when running a VPN, there are a few things you can do to make this unnoticeable.

Here are four ways to speed up your VPN:

1Use one of the VPNs we recommend

All of the services on this page have been verified by our team of experts as the fastest VPNs on the market. If you instead choose a slow VPN service, there is nothing else you can do to boost speed performance.

2Use WireGuard or the VPN’s proprietary protocol

Although secure, our tests have found that OpenVPN is noticeably slower than WireGuard and proprietary VPN protocols, like Catapult Hydra. If your VPN app allows you to choose, make sure to use WireGuard or the VPN’s custom protocol.

3Connect to the server closest to you

In general, connecting to a closer VPN server to your location will give you faster speeds. This is because your traffic takes a shorter route, allowing the packets to be delivered at a much faster rate.

4Connect using an ethernet cable

Due to channel interference, WiFi connections are less efficient than wired connections. Connecting your device directly to your router with an ethernet cable will give you faster and more reliable speeds.

EXPERT TIP

Your VPN’s speed is dependent on your regular internet connection. The best way to maximize speed is to make sure you’re getting the fastest connection from your ISP.

What Is the Fastest Free VPN?

The fastest free VPNs are:

  1. ProtonVPN
  2. Windscribe
  3. Hide.me

Free VPNs are typically a lot slower than paid options. This is primarily because free VPNs have more users, which results in server congestion and slowdowns. Additionally, VPN providers often provide better infrastructure for paying users and impose bandwidth caps on free servers.

There are still a handful of free VPNs that provide good speeds, though. After putting all of the best free VPNs through our scientific speed testing process, we found that ProtonVPN is the fastest free VPN in 2020.

We recorded just a 5% loss in internet speed when connected to both a nearby and far-away ProtonVPN server. This level of speed performance matches results from some premium VPNs, so it’s very impressive.

Fastest free VPN

ProtonVPN is the fastest free VPN.

The reason that ProtonVPN is able to maintain fast speeds is that it reroutes traffic to a pool of over 200 servers, far exceeding the amount offered from other free VPNs. This minimizes server load and keeps connections fast. On top of this, ProtonVPN is the only safe free VPN that does not impose any monthly data caps — so you can keep the VPN running at all times.

You won’t be able to use it for streaming or torrenting, though, as both activities don’t work on ProtonVPN’s free tier.

Though slower, Windscribe worked with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer in our tests, and we were able to download torrent files quickly. You’ll be limited to 10GB of bandwidth per month, which is not enough for most users.

These free VPNs are useful if you’re on a budget or just want to test what you can do with a VPN. However, if you want the best and fastest VPN performance, it’s worth paying for a premium VPN service.

Fastest VPN FAQs

Which VPN protocol is fastest?

The fastest safe VPN protocol is WireGuard. Performance benchmarks have shown it to be as much as three times faster than OpenVPN.

Our speed test results have shown Catapult Hydra to be even faster than WireGuard, but this is a closed-source protocol and is only available on Hotspot Shield.

Although some older protocols, such as PPTP and L2TP, are faster than WireGuard, these should be avoided under all circumstances. These fast connection speeds are down to the protocol’s weak security, so they are useless as a tool for privacy and security.

Which VPN server is the fastest?

VPN server speed is dependent on proximity and server load. In general, the closest server to your physical location will be the fastest server for you. For example, if you’re in India, an India VPN server will be the fastest.

However, overly congested servers will be slower than servers with fewer active users. Because of this, popular locations, like New York and London, often perform worse than other servers in the same country. Many VPN apps indicate live server load information, so make sure to avoid busy servers.

For the very fastest speeds, we recommend connecting using your VPN’s ‘quick connect’ feature. This automatically connects you to the fastest server based on a calculation of your location and the relative server congestion.

Can VPN reduce ping?

A VPN won’t reduce your ping time. Ping is the amount of time it takes for a packet of data to travel from one point in a network to another. So, the closer you are to a server, the lower your ping time will be.

When you connect to a VPN that’s located anywhere other than the same city as you, your ping will increase, as your data is having to travel further before it reaches its destination.

To reduce the impact of your VPN on ping, make sure you choose one with city-level choice in your country, as this will allow you to connect to the nearest possible server and keep your connection as responsive as possible.

Will a VPN stop buffering?

A VPN will only prevent buffering if your ISP is throttling your data. ISP throttling is when your ISP intentionally slows down your internet speed, typically during high-bandwidth activities, like torrenting or streaming.

Using a VPN will hide your online activity from your ISP, preventing them from slowing down your connection during certain activities. The VPN will bypass any throttling measures, allowing you to benefit from continuous peak speeds and less buffering.

In general, though, ISP throttling is rare and the additional layer of VPN encryption is much more likely to slow down your connection. However, all the VPNs we recommend on this page will only reduce your speeds by a negligible amount.

Should you use UDP or TCP?

Your VPN app will often allow you to toggle between UDP and TCP. In general, you should use UDP for the very fastest speeds.

TCP is slightly slower because it uses error protection and guaranteed delivery, ensuring that each data packet is sent in the correct order. UDP doesn’t have these protections or verification steps, so it’s able to transmit data faster across the network — but don’t worry, it’s still perfectly safe.

About the Author


  • 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