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How to Use Port Forwarding With Private Internet Access

Simon Migliano 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 and more.

Private Internet Access offers a port forwarding feature to all users, but it is limited to one randomly-assigned port number per connection. In this guide, we explain exactly how to use PIA’s port forwarding feature and what to do if it’s not working.

Port Forwarding with Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of very few VPN services to allow port forwarding on its server network.

This feature allows you to route inbound traffic through a specific port on your VPN server, bypassing the NAT firewall and improving the performance of bandwidth-intensive activities including gaming, torrenting, and other P2P file-sharing.

Unlike many VPNs, PIA offers a VPN port forwarding feature to all of its users. However, the feature is limited to one randomly-assigned port number per connection, which changes each time you connect.

This means you can’t manually choose a port number, and you can’t set up multiple port forwards simultaneously.

In this guide, we’ll explain exactly how to set up port forwarding with PIA and what to do if it’s not working. We’ll review PIA’s port forwarding capabilities, and suggest some alternative VPNs that take different approaches to port forwarding.

EXPERT TIP: PIA’s port-forwarding feature, fast P2P speeds, and zero-logs privacy policy make it the best torrenting VPN available. For just $2.03 per month, you can use Private Internet Access to bypass your NAT firewall with a single dynamic port forward – and it will even automatically select the port for you.

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Does PIA Support Port Forwarding?

Private Internet Access is one of very few VPN services to include a port forwarding feature on all devices. Port forwarding is allowed on almost all of its 18,651 servers (servers in the US are the only exception) – all of which are secured with AES-256 encryption.

You can turn this feature on and find the correct port number directly in the PIA app’s settings menu.

This feature isn’t without restrictions, though. For security reasons, PIA only permits one open port per server. To help maintain anonymity, the port number is randomly selected and changes every time you connect to the service.

This means you can’t manually select a port number to forward. If you want to port forward torrents though, PIA still includes everything you’ll need.

PIA's port forwarding settings menu

PIA port forwarding can be set up with one click from within the app’s settings menu.

PIA also offers a set of port forward scripts. For the technically adept, these can be used to help automate your connection and port forwarding setup.

These scripts aren’t very accessible to those without a background in coding, though, and there aren’t any walkthroughs available, either. For this reason, this option isn’t particularly helpful for most PIA users.

Which PIA Servers Support Port Forwarding?

You can port forward on any PIA server – with one exception: none of its 20 US server locations allow port forwarding.

Servers that don’t allow port forwarding are marked with a crossed-out backwards arrow, and they’re also grayed out on the server selection menu when you have port-forwarding enabled.

PIA has greyed out all US servers as they do not support port forwarding

PIA servers that do not permit port forwarding are grayed out.

Users in the United States can still use PIA’s port forwarding feature, but only when connected to countries that allow port forwarding (e.g. Canada or Mexico).

How To Use Port Forwarding with Private Internet Access

Setting up port forwarding with PIA is very simple – it can even be toggled on or off with one button. The process is the same for most devices and operating systems, too.

The following instructions will work with Windows, Android, iOS and MacOS devices.

Here’s a video demonstrating how to set up port forwarding with PIA:

How to port forward with Private Internet Access.

Here’s how to set up port forwarding with PIA:

  1. Subscribe to Private Internet Access and download the VPN client.
  2. Open the PIA client on your device.
  3. Navigate to Settings > Network and turn on “Request Port Forwarding”.
    The "Request Port Forwarding' option in PIA's settings menu
  4. From the server menu, select a server that supports port forwarding and connect to it. Servers that don’t allow port-forwarding are marked with a crossed-out backwards arrow.
  5. Note down the open port number – it will be displayed in the VPN client below the VPN IP.
    Example of an open port number
  6. Use this port number to configure the application you want to port forward, such as your torrenting client.

PIA Port Forwarding Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It

Port forwarding can be intimidating and complicated. PIA’s interface is user-friendly, but things can still go wrong.

If port forwarding fails with PIA, try these general fixes first:

  1. Connect to a different server location.
  2. Ensure you have copied the correct port number from the PIA client.
  3. Change the connection type to generate a new port number.
  4. Check your computer’s antivirus or firewall isn’t interfering with PIA.
  5. Reset your computer’s TAP adapters (navigate to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections).
  6. Visit PIA’s 24/7 live chat support for additional guidance.

Here are some common issues with PIA port forwarding and how to fix them:

“PIA port forwarding not available in this region”

Port forwarding is not possible on PIA’s US servers. If you want to port forward from the US, you will need to connect to a non-US that’s close to your physical location, likely in either Canada or Mexico.

“Incoming port is closed. Check your Firewall settings.”

When port forwarding is on, PIA opens one randomly assigned port. This port will be displayed in the VPN client when you connect to a server.

You need to use this port number in the app you are forwarding. If you use any other port number, you will see this error message.

Firewall blocking connection

Firewall programs can cause conflict with VPN connections. If you’re having this issue, you need to create an exemption rule for the PIA app in your firewall. This only applies to your computer firewall, though, since your VPN will bypass your router firewall.

Can’t connect to VPN server

If you’re unable to connect to the VPN server at all, port forwarding is unlikely to be the issue. Try connecting to a different PIA server first, and if that doesn’t work, reinstall the PIA client and try again.

Script issues, or port forward API not working

If you’re using PIA’s scripts for port forwarding, it is important you update to the newest version of these scripts. Older versions of the scripts are not compatible with PIA’s current gen servers.

Is PIA a Good VPN for Port Forwarding?

PIA is great for port forwarding over OpenVPN or WireGuard VPN protocols, but it does come with some limitations. Most importantly, it only allows for one random open port per connection.

You cannot manually select or keep a specific port number on the service either, which can cause some compatibility issues.

Pros Cons
Very easy to set up Only one open port available per connection
Secure port forward configuration Port number randomly assigned
Not individually identifiable Port number varies between connections
Excellent logging policy and trusted service No port forward enabled US servers

Simple & Intuitive setup

Our review of PIA found it easy to use in general, and it’s remarkably simple to set up port forwarding on PIA too. Once toggled on from the settings menu, port forwarding will automatically be active whenever you connect to a compatible server.

It’s easy to use once turned on, too. You just need to copy the port number into the application that you want forwarded.

An example of PIA's app showing the port number you are connected too

PIA’s menu shows you the VPN IP address and port number you’re connected to.

Servers are port forward enabled by default. The few that aren’t compatible (primarily in the US) are marked clearly and grayed out when you request port forwarding.

Logging Policy, Anonymity & Security

PIA allows port forwarding on both of its available protocols, OpenVPN and WireGuard. These are industry standard protocols with the highest levels of security, functionality and reliability available. Its apps are also open-source so anyone can inspect the source code for vulnerabilities.

It also maintains a zero logs policy, which guarantees neither your activity or information like IP addresses and connection timestamps will be stored on PIA servers. Security is especially important when port-forwarding.

PIA comes with a kill switch, and we’ve also never seen it leak IP or DNS information. These factors combine to make PIA an excellent choice for torrenting in general.

Randomized Port Numbers

By randomizing port numbers, PIA helps to reduce the security and anonymity risks associated with port forwarding. This makes it significantly harder for bad actors to identify you or take advantage of the gap port forwarding creates in the VPN firewall.

The drawback to this approach is that it means the port forward configuration on your device may break when you disconnect. Every time you connect to the VPN you are assigned a different port number, which may not be the same as the last time you connected.

If your port number has changed, you will need to find the new number from PIA’s client and enter that into the software you want to port forward.

Is Port Forwarding on PIA Safe?

EXPERT TIP: If you aren’t using PIA’s port forwarding feature, you should turn it off in the VPN client’s settings to avoid potential security risks.

Port forwarding can impact your ability to torrent safely. One risk associated with the feature can be loss of anonymity.

If you have the same port location every time you connect to the VPN, you become individually identifiable. PIA overcomes this issue by only allowing you to access one randomized port, which changes every time you connect.

This comes with some downsides: you cannot manually choose a port number or have more than one port forward active at once. However, it helps to prevent your assigned port becoming individually identifiable.

Of course, port forwarding always comes with some security risks. When you port forward with PIA (and any VPN) you are bypassing your VPN provider’s firewall. This means any active port forward exposes your computer to security risks from the wider internet. The risk is small, but still very real.

If a bad actor were to discover your server IP and open port, they could use it to seize control of your computer or steal important personal data like bank details. Because of this, it is very important you never post your port forward information publicly, and only use it with trusted applications.

EXPERT TIP: For port forwarding torrents, the safest torrenting client is qBittorrent, which also comes with advanced port forward configuration options. We recommend only using apps that you trust when port forwarding.

Alternative VPNs for Port Forwarding

There are a few good VPNs that offer port forwarding on their services. Here are two alternatives to PIA that offer good port forwarding features:

1. AirVPN

AirVPN offers the widest range of port forwarding options and customisation of any VPN we’ve reviewed. Compared to PIA it isn’t very easy to use or set up, though.

AirVPN port forwarding settings

AirVPN’s port forwarding setup menu.

The VPN allows up to 10 simultaneous port forwards, which can be set up on any of its servers. AirVPN also allows users to set up a dynamic port forward through its service.

Unlike PIA, AirVPN also allows users to select which port they want to open (any port over 2048).

There are benefits and drawbacks to this approach. If you don’t change your port regularly you could undermine your anonymity or, worse, expose yourself to security threats. AirVPN leaves this up to you.

In general, AirVPN offers a more flexible port forwarding feature than PIA, but it also asks more from you. It’s harder to use and comes with more risks, especially if you’re new to port forwarding.

Visit AirVPN or read our full review of AirVPN.

2. Windscribe VPN

Other than PIA, Windscribe is the highest-rated VPN that also allows port forwarding. However, in order to make use of it, users will have to pay an additional cost for a static IP address.

Windscribe’s port forwarding menu

Windscribe’s port forwarding menu.

Windscribe only offers port forwarding on static IPs. This means free users and even most paying subscribers cannot access it. Users that pay extra for a static VPN IP address can access one port forward, and they can only use it on their static connection.

Since Windscribe’s port forwarding configuration can only be used on a static IP, it is also less secure than other VPNs that offer port forwarding. The combination of a fixed IP address and a fixed open port mean you could be individually identifiable while using the service.

On the other hand, Windscribe’s static configuration is less likely to break when disconnecting or reconnecting. If you change your open port number regularly, Windscribe can be a good choice for port forwarding.