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The Best Free & Premium VPNs for the Tor Browser

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Callum Tennent oversees how we test and review VPN services. He's a member of the IAPP, and his VPN advice has featured in Forbes and the Internet Society.

Fact-checked by Simon MiglianoAdditional Testing by Alyx Morley

Our Verdict

The best VPN for Tor in 2023 is NordVPN. It operates a zero-logs policy, uses RAM-only servers, and delivers consistently fast speeds, even when routing data through Tor's network. NordVPN also offers pre-configured servers for accessing the Tor Network, but we recommend connecting to a traditional NordVPN server and using the Tor Browser instead.

The best VPNs for Tor will hide your real IP address, encrypt your web traffic, and protect your anonymity with minimal impact on your connection speeds.

A good Tor VPN should cooperate with the Tor Browser seamlessly. Most importantly, it should collect no identifying data logs.

With this in mind, we’ve developed a unique testing methodology to identify the very best free and premium VPNs for Tor. If used correctly, these VPN services will securely encrypt your Tor activity and reliably hide your IP address from Tor’s entry nodes, maximizing your privacy when browsing the dark web.

SUMMARY: The Best VPNs for Tor in 2023:

  1. NordVPN: The Best VPN for Tor Overall
  2. Proton VPN: Secure Alternative That Accepts Cash Payments
  3. Private Internet Access: Cheapest VPN for Tor
  4. Windscribe Free: Best Free VPN for Tor
  5. PrivadoVPN Free: Fastest Free VPN for Tor

These recommendations are the result of testing over 56 VPN services with the Tor Browser in mind specifically.

They’re the best options on the market if you want to maximize your online privacy and stay safe when using Tor, particularly using the Onion over VPN method of combining the two technologies.

Why Trust Top10VPN.com?

Unlike many review websites, we’re completely independent and focused on VPN software. We’ve spent thousands of hours testing and reviewing VPNs for speed using our VPN speed test process to recommend the best ones.

Here’s a summary of our key Onion over VPN testing statistics:

  • VPN Logging Policies Reviewed: 56
  • VPNs Tested with Tor Browser: 56
  • Onion Sites Tested: 10
  • IP & DNS Leak Tests Performed 9,500+
  • How Much We’ve Spent On Testing $25,000+

The Best VPNs for the Tor Browser Compared

The table below compares the best free and premium VPNs for Tor based on the results of our testing. You can find out which VPN has the best logging policy, the fastest local download speeds, the highest number of server locations, and much more:

In the rest of this article, we’ll explain our VPN recommendations in depth. You’ll find out which free VPN is best for Tor, which VPNs to avoid, and exactly how to use a VPN safely with the Tor Browser.

EXPERT ADVICE: If you visit the Dark Web regularly, we recommend investing in a premium VPN service like NordVPN. Subscription-based providers are typically faster, less restrictive, and much more secure than free alternatives.

The 3 Best VPNs to Use with Tor in 2023

Based on our most recent tests, the three VPNs in this list are the best services for Tor overall. If you want to try a VPN before committing to a subscription, skip to our section on free VPNs for Tor instead.

1. NordVPN: The Best VPN for Tor Overall

NordVPN is the fastest VPN, it has a verified no-logs policy, zero leaks, and it’s based in Panama.

Pros
Cons
  • Tor over VPN servers
  • The fastest VPN we’ve tested
  • Based in Panama (privacy-haven)
  • Verified no-logs policy & no IP, DNS, or IPv6 leaks
  • AES-256 encryption, RAM-only servers, double VPN & reliable kill switch
  • Accepts bitcoin payments
  • Renews at a much higher monthly price
  • Minor server breach in 2018
  • Doesn’t accept anonymous cash payments

 

The best VPN for Tor is NordVPN because it’s the fastest VPN, so Tor won’t slow down your internet connection too much. It has specialized Onion over VPN servers, industry standard AES-256 encryption so your online activity won’t be seen by your ISP.

NordVPN also has a zero-logs policy verified in a real-world case, a network of RAM-servers, and helpful 24/7 live chat support.

Screenshot of NordVPN connected to a server in the UK, while Tor browser is open on Torch.onion sit.

Using NordVPN and the Tor browser, we accessed Torch, the oldest search engine on the Tor network.

Moreover, NordVPN has additional security features, which are excellent for privacy-sensitive activities, such as double-VPN, split tunneling, and a reliable kill switch.

Stable connections with minimal speed loss

NordVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested. This is important because Tor routes your internet traffic through three separate, random nodes in various parts of the world, which can cause significant speed loss.

When connected to a local server, we only recorded a 2% decrease in our download speeds and 5% in uploads. Beyond Tor, this also makes NordVPN a great VPN for browsing content online, streaming, and torrenting.

NordVPN’s preconfigured Tor servers aren’t the safest option

You may see other websites suggest using NordVPN’s pre-configured Tor/onion servers (or Onion Over VPN servers). A benefit of this is that you can access .onion sites on your favorite browser, including Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

However, accessing the dark web without the protections of the Tor browser can be dangerous. You can open yourself up to potential attacks and information leaks.

Other browsers are nowhere near as secure as the Tor browser. For maximum security, we recommend connecting to NordVPN first and then using the Tor browser to access the dark web.

Who is NordVPN best for?

You should use NordVPN if:

  • You want a fast VPN for Tor. NordVPN is the fastest VPN out of 56 VPNs, with short distance speed losses as low as 1%.
  • You want a VPN with Tor over VPN servers or double VPN. NordVPN is highly customizable and comes with extra security features other VPNs don’t have.
  • You want an easy-to-use VPN for Tor. NordVPN is the most user-friendly VPN service that we recommend for Tor. But you should be wary of even exploring the dark web if you’re new to VPNs.

You should not use NordVPN if:

  • You’re an Android user. NordVPN’s Android app is good, but the kill switch can be complicated for beginners to configure.
  • You don’t want to pay a higher price after the initial subscription. NordVPN’s subscription renews at a higher price after the initial period is up.

Get NordVPN or read our full NordVPN review.

2. Proton: Secure Alternative that Accepts Cash Payments

A secure VPN with a Swiss jurisdiction, strong no-logs policy, IPv6 leak-block capabilities & accepts anonymous cash payments.

Pros
Cons
  • Tor over VPN servers
  • No-logs policy proven in 2019 legal case & externally audited in 2022
  • Safe Swiss jurisdiction
  • IPv6 leak blocking capabilities & open-source apps
  • AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, WireGuard & Secure Core servers
  • Accepts cash & bitcoin payments
  • You can try out Proton Free before purchasing a subscription
  • Premium plans are expensive
  • Doesn’t have RAM servers
  • Live chat not available 24/7

 

Proton VPN is a reliable and trustworthy VPN for accessing the dark web via Tor. It’s also the best VPN for security overall.

It’s one of the best options for Onion over VPN because it’s based in the best country for digital privacy (Switzerland), has powerful AES-256 encryption, a proven no-logs policy, and accepts completely anonymous cash payments.

In our tests, we enabled Proton’s secure core servers, kill switch, and then accessed ProPublica.onion on the Tor browser.

In our tests, we enabled Proton’s secure core servers, kill switch, and then accessed ProPublica.onion on the Tor browser.

Furthermore, our tests show that Proton VPN has an effective kill switch and doesn’t leak your IP address, DNS requests, or IPv6 requests.

Switzerland-based & accepts anonymous payment methods

Proton VPN is headquartered in Switzerland, which is known for its political neutrality. To protect the privacy of its citizens and companies, it isn’t part of any intelligence-sharing alliances. This makes it a great place for a VPN company to be based in.

It also accepts anonymous cash payments (whereas NordVPN and PIA do not). This means you can pay for your subscription without giving up your payment details.

It can be argued that Bitcoin is a better anonymous payment solution. However, Bitcoin is a riskier currency because its price is more volatile, and it can be stolen by hackers if kept in a virtual wallet.

Proven no-logs & has helpful online resources

Proton VPN Free is actually the best 100% zero-logs free VPN service. It’s no-logs policy has been third-party audited and proven in a legal case in 2019.

This means you can trust Proton VPN to delete any activity logs that could be used to identify your online activity.

Proton VPN openly shares that a normal browser (and its Tor over VPN server) is no match for the Tor browser in terms of anonymity.

Proton VPN openly shares that a normal browser (and its Tor over VPN server) is no match for the Tor browser in terms of anonymity.

Proton VPN also has a comprehensive bank of online resources — from its blog to its support center. We easily found Proton’s setup guide on Tor over VPN, which features screenshots and lots of answered questions below.

No RAM servers & more expensive

Compared to NordVPN and PIA, ProtonVPN is the most secure VPN but it doesn’t have RAM servers. These are the best way to ensure that your data won’t be accidentally saved or stolen by third parties.

This VPN service is also not the cheapest VPN service that’s good for Tor. If price is a priority, there’s PIA and Surfshark. Both services offer RAM-only servers, have no-logs policies, and are more affordable than Proton VPN.

Who is Proton VPN best for?

You should use Proton VPN if:

  • You want a VPN for Tor with a safe jurisdiction. Out of the best VPNs for Tor, Proton VPN has the safest jurisdiction — Switzerland.
  • You want an anonymous payment method. Proton VPN is the only VPN for Tor we recommend that offers both cash and bitcoin payment options.

You should not use Proton VPN if:

  • You want the cheapest premium VPN for Tor. Proton VPN is not the most expensive VPN for Tor, but PIA is much cheaper overall.
  • You’re a VPN beginner. In comparison, NordVPN has a much better app interface. Proton VPN has advanced features that might be confusing to a VPN beginner.

3. Private Internet Access: Cheapest VPN for Tor

PIA has the most reliable VPN kill switch, a RAM-server network, and it’s the best no-logs VPN.

Pros
Cons
  • The cheapest premium VPN recommended for Tor
  • The best VPN kill switch we’ve tested
  • No-logs policy verified multiple times in real-word cases
  • RAM-only server network, double VPN, split tunneling & ad blocker
  • OpenVPN, WireGuard & AES-256 encryption
  • Effective obfuscation against online firewalls
  • Accepts bitcoin payments
  • Based in the US (Five Eyes)
  • No double VPN
  • Bugs on macOS client
  • Doesn’t accept anonymous cash payments

 

PIA is the third-best VPN for Tor. Its no-logs policy has been proven multiple times, and it has the best VPN kill switch, which will protect your IP address in case your internet connection drops.

We used PIA and the Tor browser to access Ahmia.onion.

We used PIA and the Tor browser to access Ahmia.onion.

A strong no-logs policy is one the most important criteria for a good VPN for Tor. This is because Tor over VPN hides your Tor use from your ISP, but exposes it to your VPN.

So, you need to trust your VPN will not leak your IP address, DNS requests, or other activity logs. In short, a VPN that commits to your privacy is necessary for browsing the dark web.

PIA has a RAM-only server network & military-grade encryption

Despite its more affordable price tag, PIA is a highly secure VPN that goes above and beyond to secure its customers’ online privacy.

PIA has reinforced its no-logs policy by implementing a RAM-only server network, which almost guarantees all data saved is deleted in a server seizure.

These RAM servers are also programmed to routinely reboot, meaning all data is permanently deleted on a regular basis.

In addition, PIA offers military-grade AES-256 encryption, which is almost impossible to decode. This in combination with WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols secure your online traffic against external attackers and snoopers.

US jurisdiction & no double VPN

One of PIA’s major drawbacks is that it is based in the US, which is widely considered one of the worst places for data privacy. This is because the US is a founding member of the Five Eyes data sharing alliance.

However, PIA has a verified no-logs policy that can offset the risks of an invasive government. This has proven multiple cases in court and in a server seizure.

PIA doesn’t offer double VPN, which could add an extra layer of protection to your VPN connection. But while other websites might suggest combining double VPN with the Tor browser, we tested this combination, and we experienced very slow speeds.

Since the Tor browser is already slower than other browsers, we wouldn’t recommend using this combination unless you only wanted to browse static web pages.

Who is PIA best for?

You should use PIA if:

  • You want a VPN with a strong kill switch. PIA has the best VPN kill switch available so you can trust your data won’t be leaked if your internet connection drops.
  • You’re a VPN beginner. PIA offers lots of advanced security features and customization options that might be intimidating to a beginner.

You should not use PIA if:

  • You don’t want to use a VPN based in the US. PIA’s headquarters are in the US, which means it has to comply with Five Eyes intrusive data privacy laws.
  • You want to use multihop. In addition to using Tor’s network, some might want to use double VPN to further obfuscate your original IP address. However, PIA doesn’t offer this feature.

The Best Free VPN for Tor in 2023

1. Windscribe VPN: The Best Free VPN for Tor

The absolute best free VPN for Tor with 10GB monthly data, a kill switch, IP leak protection, a privacy-friendly logging policy, and the free best server coverage.

Pros
Cons
  • No payment info required on signup
  • Reliable VPN kill switch & no recorded IP leaks
  • Privacy-friendly logging policy
  • 10GB monthly data cap
  • No kill switch on mobile
  • No third-party privacy policy audit
  • Based in Canada (Five-Eyes)

 

Not only is Windscribe one of the best free VPNs overall, it’s also the best free VPN for Tor. It’s private, safe, has robust security features, and has never leaked our true IP address in our tests.

Connected to Windscribe free and the Tor browser, we accessed ProPublica’s onion site.

Connected to Windscribe free and the Tor browser, we accessed ProPublica’s onion site.

Secure and private free VPN service

Windscribe Free is suitable for Tor over VPN because it uses secure AES-256 encryption, and it offers OpenVPN, and WireGuard protocols.

It’s also got a great kill switch (Windscribe Firewall) that prevents your real IP address from being leaked if your internet connection suddenly drops.

Windscribe Free doesn’t store any logs that could be used to identify a users’ online activity. However, we would like to see Windscribe complete an independent audit that will back up the fact that they don’t store any logs.

Windscribe Free is slower than the paid version

Like all free VPNs, Windscribe Free’s internet speeds are about a third slower than its paid counterpart. This is a big drop considering the Tor browser is already slow.

One way to try to speed up the service is to connect using the WireGuard protocol. However, all free VPNs are inevitably slower than premium VPNs.

If you want the fastest VPN recommended for Tor, NordVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested that even comes with a reliable kill switch, and thousands of servers across 59 countries.

Who is Windscribe Free best for?

You should use Windscribe Free if:

  • You want a secure free VPN for Tor. Windscribe Free uses industry-standard AES-256 encryption and doesn’t log identifying data.
  • You want to try Windscribe before purchasing a subscription. If you’re frequently browsing the dark web, we recommend buying a VPN subscription. But you can use Windscribe’s free version to try it out before you buy it.

You should not use Windscribe Free if:

  • You don’t want to use a VPN based in Canada. Windscribe is based in Canada, which means it has to comply with Five Eyes intrusive data privacy laws.
  • You need reliable customer support. Windscribe doesn’t offer 24/7 live chat or comprehensive troubleshooting resources.

2. PrivadoVPN Free: Fastest Free VPN for Tor

10GB of free data, private logging policy, AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, and based in Switzerland, a privacy haven.

Pros
Cons
  • 13 servers in nine countries
  • Based in Switzerland, a privacy-haven
  • VPN kill switch & no recorded IP leaks
  • User-friendly apps
  • 10GB monthly data cap
  • No servers in Africa or Asia

 

PrivadoVPN Free is one of the best free VPNs available. It’s one of the fastest free VPNs on same-country connections, which makes it a good option for Tor over VPN.

It’s also very easy to set up and doesn’t require any payment details of any kind, making it a privacy-first service.

We tested PrivadoVPN free with SecureDrop’s onion site.

We tested PrivadoVPN free with SecureDrop’s onion site.

Swiss-jurisdiction and strong encryption

PrivadoVPN Free goes above and beyond to keep your personal data safe and protect your online activity from your ISP.

All of its apps are beginner-friendly, with clear layouts and easy-to-navigate settings options. They offer AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, and WireGuard protocols (but not on macOS).

The VPN service does keep logs on total bandwidth used. However, this information can’t be used to identify a user’s online behavior. Crucially, no sensitive data is monitored or stored, including your real IP address, DNS queries, ISP, and timestamps.

PrivadoVPN Free is also based in one of the best jurisdictions for online safety: Switzerland. This is great because the country is not part of any surveillance agreements.

Fast speeds & servers in nine countries

PrivadoVPN Free has servers in nine countries, which isn’t the worst server network we’ve seen, but it hardly compares to the best VPNs overall.

It’s a good option if you’re based in the US, though, as it has servers in more than one US city.

Who is PrivadoVPN Free best for?

You should use PrivadoVPN Free if:

  • You want to use a free VPN without submitting payment details. You can sign up and use PrivadoVPN free without entering any payment information.
  • You want to unblock US Netflix for free. Although Windscribe works with the most Netflix regions, PrivadoVPN is the only top free VPN that unblocks US Netflix.

You should not use PrivadoVPN Free if:

  • You’re based in Africa or Asia. PrivadoVPN Free has servers in nine countries, but none of these are in Africa or Asia, which could affect your connection speeds.
  • You want additional customization options. Despite its strong security credentials, PrivadoVPN Free doesn’t include any advanced features or customization settings.

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Free VPN with Tor

A safe free VPN like Windscribe is a good choice if you’re trying out a VPN before buying or you’re a casual user.

But if you’re doing anything remotely sensitive or you’re concerned about your online privacy, we highly recommend using a premium VPN service that has the highest-quality additional features on the market.

VPNs to Avoid with Tor (Privacy Leaks & Security Vulnerabilities)

Many VPN services are simply not trustworthy and log your data, which is especially dangerous when using Tor and accessing the dark web.

We’ve picked out three VPN services that you should avoid when combining a VPN service with the Tor browser.

Hotspot Shield Free

We don’t recommend Hotspot Shield Basic for Tor because it logs too much data and shares information with third-party advertisers.

It logs your IP address, geographical location, timestamps, bandwidth usage, and domain names (though these are aggregated monthly).

Due to its invasive logging policy, Hotspot Shield’s US jurisdiction is problematic.

Darkweb VPN

Besides the off-putting logo and app design, Darkweb VPN itself is a mystery and cannot be trusted with your IP address and online traffic.

Screenshot of Darkweb VPN on the Google Play Store.

We’re unsure what the relationship between Technosoft Corps and Technocon Associates is.

Technocon Associates, the developer of Darkweb VPN, is based in Pakistan and claims to specialize in “Designing | Project Management | Construction.” We’re very concerned that as a VPN provider it doesn’t even specialize in IT products or cybersecurity.

Darkweb VPN’s privacy policy is also just a blank web page, which is a huge red flag. We suggest staying far away from this VPN service.

Full Tor VPN

We analyzed Full Tor VPN’s privacy policy and found that it’s a terrible VPN service.

It saves your IP address, ISP, mobile phone number, GPS location, and more unnecessary data. This information can be used to analyze your online activity and can be dangerous if leaked.

Screenshot of Full Tor VPN's logging policy, which can be found on its website.

A free VPN that collects this much information does not prioritize your privacy.

The company behind Full Tor VPN, Full Dive, is also based in the US. This combined with its awful privacy policy make it a horrible choice for online browsing.

How We Test VPNs for Tor (Our Methodology)

We make sure every VPN for Tor we recommend is free of malware, encrypts your data, doesn’t leak your data, and doesn’t collect any identifying information.

Our reviews and verdicts are completely impartial. We never accept compensation in return for positive coverage.

Here’s a more detailed look at the factors that go into our testing process for the best VPNs for Tor:

No-Logs Policy

We read and analyzed the privacy policies of 56 VPN services. In our research, we found the best no-logs VPN services that do not store any identifying information about its users.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean the VPN service is completely devoid of saved information.

Our definition of a zero-logs VPN can collect personal information (an email address, username, password, and any payment data provided) and aggregate anonymous logs. We accept this because it can’t be used to identify any single user’s online behavior.

Reliable Kill Switch

Not all VPN kill switches are effective or reliable. Our experts tested 56 VPN services with our in-house kill switch test tool to find the best VPN kill switches.

We ranked these VPN kill switches by whether the kill switch can be turned on and off, if it’s customizable, and the number of compatible platforms.

All the VPNs listed in this roundup have a kill switch that activates immediately following a VPN disconnection, meaning your real IP address is not leaked.

Furthermore, all internet traffic is permanently blocked from leaving your device, even if you’ve excited the VPN app.

Fast Local Speeds

The Tor browser is the best way for intermediate and advanced users to browse the dark web. But because it directs your web traffic through three random nodes, it can be very slow.

So to combat this, we’ve included fast local speeds as criteria for the best VPNs for Tor. Of course, privacy and security is the most important factor when deciding which VPN to select.

But, we want to actually be able to browse the dark web without having to wait ten minutes for a single web page to load.

AES-256 Encryption, Trustworthy Protocols & Leak Protection

Security and encryption is crucial when choosing a VPN for Tor. Since the dark web is full of malicious threats, we’ve only recommended VPNs that offer AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, and leak protection.

Should You Use a VPN with Tor?

VPN services and the Tor Browser are two completely different types of software that work independently of each other to encrypt your web traffic and hide your IP address.

It’s possible to use Tor without a VPN and still remain anonymous, and it’s not always beneficial to use both at the same time – especially if you connect to them in the wrong order.

However, in most circumstances, it’s wise to use a combination of the two technologies for maximum privacy. VPN services typically come with additional security features like a kill switch, and they can be useful for gaining access to Tor in highly-censored countries.

Before we explain exactly how and why it can be beneficial to use a VPN with Tor, we’ll need to explain how the Tor Network actually works, and the different ways you can combine the two technologies.

If you’d like to learn more about how each type of software works and how they differ, you can read our full guide to Tor vs VPN services.

Onion Over VPN vs. VPN Over Tor

When you use the Tor Browser, your web traffic is encrypted and routed through a random network of servers or ‘nodes’. Each node in the chain only knows the identity of the node directly next to it.

Data passing through the Tor network

How your data passes through the Tor network.

Importantly, the first node in the sequence (the ‘guard’ node) can see your true IP address, but not the contents of your traffic. The last node in the sequence (the ‘exit’ node) can see your traffic, but not your IP address.

This information plays a key role in differentiating the two ways you can combine a VPN with Tor, which we’ll explain now.

1. Onion Over VPN

If you connect to a VPN service and then use the Tor Browser, it’s known as Onion over VPN. Here, your data is routed through the VPN’s server before it reaches Tor, which means your ISP is unable to see that you’re using the Tor Network.

This method also hides your real IP address from the Tor guard node, and hides your internet activity (while using Tor) from your VPN service. However, it does not hide your activity from Tor’s Exit node.

Your VPN service will know you’re using Tor, but it won’t be able to see what you’re doing.

Onion over VPN is the simplest way to set up a VPN with Tor, and it’s the most popular method of combining the two.

2. VPN Over Tor

If you route your traffic through Tor and then connect to a VPN service, it’s known as VPN over Tor.

In this scenario, all of your VPN traffic also travels through the Tor network. Exit nodes are unable to see your activity, but the first node in the Tor network will be able to see your real IP address.

More importantly, your ISP will be able to see that you’re using Tor (though it won’t see what you’re doing), and your VPN will technically be able to see your activity.

Which Method Should You Use?

As you can see, the advantages of using a VPN with Tor depend on how you’re using it and what you’re trying to achieve.

Using Tor can invite unwanted attention from your ISP, so we generally recommend using Onion over VPN to hide your activity from your ISP. This method is easier to set up, much faster than VPN over Tor, and provides a larger privacy benefit.

However, you can technically use VPN over Tor if you’re particularly concerned about malicious exit nodes spying on your activity.

EXPERT ADVICE: We recommend avoiding the ‘Onion over VPN’ servers offered by some VPN services. These allow you to connect to .onion websites using traditional browsers like Chrome or Firefox, which are far less secure than Tor itself. If you’re going to use a VPN with Tor, connect to a normal VPN server and then access the Tor Browser.

The Downsides of Using a VPN with Tor

Despite the potential benefits, it’s possible to actually decrease your anonymity by using a VPN and Tor at the same time.

VPNs that don’t offer cash or cryptocurrency payments can leave a money trail. Some low-quality VPNs even record your IP address, activity logs, and timestamps – making it much easier to identify a user’s online behavior.

Put simply, a VPN adds another layer of responsibility to your web traffic. If you entrust that responsibility to an insecure or dangerous VPN, you may be worse off than not using one at all.

In many cases, using the two together can also be overkill. You’ll experience very slow connection speeds, and the extra layer of encryption doesn’t offer any additional security.

As a general rule, you should only use VPN and Tor together in extreme circumstances where you require complete anonymity. For casual use or day-to-day privacy, use a VPN by itself.

If you do use the two together, we advise you use a strictly no-logs VPN in combination with anti-malware software to stay safe.

How to Use a VPN with the Tor Browser

How to set up and use VPN over Tor differs depending on your device. We’re going to show you how to use NordVPN over the Tor browser on Windows.

Although you can use Tor on your mobile device, it’s not worth the risk as mobile browsers do not have the same protections as desktop browsers. It’s also more complicated to set up Tor on iOS and Android.

Here’s a video showing how to use NordVPN to connect to Tor, using the Onion over VPN method.

In our tests, NordVPN over Tor only slowed our internet speeds a little.

Here’s how to enable NordVPN over Tor:

  1. Open the NordVPN app.
  2. At the bottom left, click on the settings icon.
  3. Change your protocol to OpenVPN and enable both kill switches. Add the Tor browser to the app kill switch.
  4. Go back to the homepage and choose your closest server for the best speeds. You do not need to enable the Onion over VPN servers.
  5. Open the Tor browser and click Configure to change your browser settings. We recommend enabling Safer mode.
  6. Now you can browse the dark web using the Tor browser.

Optimizing Your VPN Settings for Tor

The process for optimizing your VPN settings for Tor can vary between different VPN services. Ideally, your VPN service should offer the following VPN Tor settings:

  1. OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols
  2. Internet and/or application kill switch
  3. Inbuilt leak protection or specialized setting

A few VPNs offer Onion over VPN servers, which make it possible for you to visit .onion websites on different browsers.

But the risks outweigh the benefits of using these servers because the Tor browser is the safest browser to use when accessing the dark web. So, we recommend sticking to just connecting to a normal server and then using the Tor browser.

To prevent data loss and the transfer of viruses over the dark web, you should also purchase anti-malware software if you’re a frequent user of Tor.

To make sure your VPN is working properly, try using our bespoke IP leak test and kill switch test before you send any sensitive data.

What to Do if Your VPN Isn’t Working with Tor

We only recommend using a VPN with Tor if you’re an advanced user who knows how to configure both in a way that doesn’t put your privacy at risk.

But, if you’re an advanced VPN user and you’re having trouble with VPN over Tor, there are a few simple fixes.

Follow these steps to adjust your VPN connection:

  1. Connect to a different server – the closer the better for your internet speeds.
  2. Change from OpenVPN to WireGuard or vice versa.
  3. If you have multiple VPNs installed, check to make sure you don’t have a kill switch enabled in another app.

If the Tor browser doesn’t connect, try these simple solutions:

  1. Check your device’s time and date is set correctly.
  2. Check to make sure your antivirus software isn’t preventing Tor from running.
  3. Restart your device and launch the Tor browser again.
  4. Completely delete the Tor browser from your device and install it again.

The Tor Project also has a detailed troubleshooting guide and active online forum if you need further assistance.

Is It Illegal to Use Tor?

Tor is legal to use in most countries around the world, but there are some places where it is illegal, banned, or blocked by authorities to enforce state censorship. For example, China blocks all Tor traffic to prevent users bypassing the Great Firewall.

If you’re based in a country that blocks Tor traffic, use Astrill to bypass the online firewall and download the Tor browser. When connecting, only use the Onion over VPN method.

Will My ISP Know If I Use Tor?

Without a VPN, your ISP can see everything you do online and will know you’re using Tor. Depending on where you are based, your ISP might then throttle your internet speeds and even contact you about Tor usage. This is one of the many reasons why Tor isn’t always safe to use.

That’s why we recommend using Onion over VPN, which can hide the fact you’re using Tor from your ISP. This does mean you have to choose a trustworthy no-logs VPN that will delete your activity logs.