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Private Internet Access Review

By Simon Migliano | Updated April 7, 2020

Ranked #6 out of 72 VPNs

Private Internet Access screenshot

Read User Reviews

Our Verdict

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a cheap VPN service with incredibly fast local speeds, strong security, and the ability to consistently unblock US Netflix. Its US jurisdiction is a drawback, but PIA is a verified no-logs VPN provider with a good track record for user privacy. This makes it a great budget option for torrenting, streaming, and staying safe on public WiFi.

Private Internet Access has the fastest local connection speeds we’ve tested. It offers newly updated apps, an effective kill switch on all platforms, and P2P file sharing on all 3,300+ of its VPN servers. The VPN consistently unblocks US Netflix and has had its no-logs policy verified through server seizures and multiple real-life cases.

PIA uses industry-leading encryption protocols including OpenVPN, the unbreakable AES-256 cipher, and Perfect Forward Secrecy. This makes it one of the most secure and private VPN providers on the market, perfect for streaming and torrenting. 

PIA is also one of the cheapest VPN services around, with prices as low as $3.33 on its one-year plan. There’s a generous 30-day money-back guarantee and a wide selection of apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux.

Though it consistently unblocks US Netflix, Private Internet Access cannot access Amazon Prime Video or Disney+. It was recently acquired by Kape Technologies, a company with a controversial past, and is based in the US, which is the worst jurisdiction for user privacy.

Despite concerns around its jurisdiction, PIA is a great budget option for VPN users who want a simple way to access US Netflix, torrent safely, or encrypt their traffic on untrustworthy WiFi networks. We’ve put months of testing into this Private Internet Access review to help you decide if it’s the right VPN for you.

Private Internet Access Pros & Cons

  1. Very fast local speeds
  2. Verified no-logs VPN provider
  3. Unblocks US Netflix & BBC iPlayer
  4. Unlimited P2P & torrenting
  5. Low price
  1. Based in the privacy-unfriendly US (FVEY jurisdiction)
  2. Owner has a controversial past
  3. Customer support is limited

Private Internet Access Key Summary

Data CapNone
Speed89Mbps
Logging PolicyNo Logs
Data LeaksNo
JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
Servers3,200+
IP Addresses3,200+
Countries31
US NetflixYes
TorrentingUnlimited
Works in ChinaNo
SupportLive Chat
Cheapest Price$3.33/mo over 12 Months
Official WebsitePrivateinternetaccess.com

Private Internet Access is a proven no-logs VPN

Logging & Jurisdiction

Private Internet Access keeps absolutely no VPN logs, a policy that has been independently verified by several real-life cases. You can use the service with complete confidence that your IP address and activity is not being monitored, stored, or linked back to you.

PIA’s privacy policy states outright that it “does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network (“VPN”).” This commitment to privacy makes it a rare outlier among competing services that often collect some form of connection data.

Private Internet Access does collect your email address and payment details at signup, which is standard practice.

A screenshot of the verified no-logs privacy policy from Private Internet Access.

Excerpt from the no-logs PIA Privacy Policy.

PIA also releases regular transparency reports that detail the number of requests for data it has received from government agencies. So far in 2020, the service has received six subpoenas for data and has been unable to produce logs every single time.

This VPN is unique in that its no-logs policy has been externally verified on several occasions. In 2016, the FBI subpoenaed PIA in connection with a user that was suspected of making bomb threats. Though it was faced with an official data request, the service simply had no information to provide, as described in the official court documents

The Russian government also seized PIA servers in 2016 but did not find any retained connection or activity data. PIA subsequently removed all of its servers from Russia in protest to this incident, which is a bold move that we’d like to see more VPN providers follow. 

While there is no independent audit to verify PIA’s privacy and security offering, these court cases are real-world tests that provide a much more practical way of verifying the company’s logging claims.

Given PIA’s unique success in these real-world tests, we have absolutely no doubts about its exceptional privacy policy, and consider Private Internet Access a fully verified no-logs VPN provider.

PIA Is Based in the United States

An image showing PIA's headquarters, located within the United States, a notably poor jurisdiction for a VPN service.

PIA’s HQ in Denver, Colorado, flying the US flag.

PIA is based in the United States, which is generally considered to be the worst place to base a VPN provider.

The US is a founding member of the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence alliance, which means it has automatic systems in place to collect and share surveillance data with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

The Patriot Act also gives US authorities sweeping powers to collect and retain data, especially through the use of National Security Letters. US state agencies have the power to coerce businesses to log and share user data, and often issue gag orders that prevent the target company from disclosing what they’re being compelled to do.

We typically do not recommend using a VPN based in a Five Eyes country like the US. However, a verified no-logs policy can offset most of the issues posed by an invasive government. After multiple real-world verifications, we are wholly confident that PIA’s privacy policy and logging practices can withstand its privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction, and you can trust this VPN with your data.

Who Owns Private Internet Access?

Private Internet Access was purchased by Kape Technologies (formerly known as Crossrider) for around $128 million in 2019. Kape Technologies also owns popular VPN services CyberGhost and ZenMate, which means it oversees a subscriber base of around two million VPN users.  

Before this acquisition, Private Internet Access was owned and founded by London Trust Media Inc. (LTMI), a company with an established history in the cybersecurity field. Despite its name, London Trust Media is actually based in Denver, Colorado.

A screenshot from a report by Malwarebytes into Kape Technologies, detailing how Kape once infected its users unknowingly with adware.

Excerpt from a Malwarebytes investigation into Kape Technologies.

Kape Technologies has a controversial history. A 2018 report by Malwarebytes revealed that the company used to infect user devices with adware in order to help clients monetize its products.

According to a report by Forbes, this adware was so effective that it could force mouse clicks and other interactions in a user’s browser session. 

Prior to this, Crossrider co-founder and CEO Koby Menachemi was a developer for Unit 8200, a segment of the Israeli Intelligence Corps described by The Financial Times as “the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world.” Though this was met with a great deal of controversy in the Private Internet Access community, Unit 8200 is in fact a breeding ground for Israeli startups — many of which also focus on digital privacy and security

Mark Karpelès, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at London Trust Media, was also found guilty of data manipulation in March 2019. Karpelès was previously the CEO of Bitcoin trading platform Mt. Gox, where he embezzled millions of dollars through customer accounts.

Image of Mark Karpelès, now the CTO of London Trust Media, announcing that Mt. Gox had filed for bankruptcy.

Mark Karpelès announcing that Mt. Gox had filed for bankruptcy in February 2014.

Paying attention to a VPN provider’s ownership is a key part of establishing trust when purchasing a VPN. Though Kape has a controversial history, PIA has always gone above and beyond to champion digital privacy and we have seen no evidence to suggest that this has changed since its acquisition. Kape is also working hard, and has been for some time now, to improve itself and undo the wrongs it committed in the past.

PIA unblocks US Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Streaming & Torrenting

Private Internet Access allows you to stream US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but does not unblock other services like Disney+.

PIA does not unblock Netflix in any other country, either. This means that reliable access to Netflix libraries in the UK, Japan, or Australia is not possible. If you’re looking to access streaming content from around the world, competing providers like PrivateVPN or Surfshark might be a better option.

Screenshot of the image that Netflix displays when it detects a VPN or proxy service.

We tested all three UK servers and found that Private Internet Access unblocked BBC iPlayer every time. While this is a relatively new fix, PIA now consistently works with UK streaming services. It’s pleasing to see PIA listen to its community and restore functionality after such a long period of incompatibility.

Despite working with UK streaming services, most users report that PIA is not a reliable VPN for unblocking Amazon Prime, Hulu, Sky, HBO, or Kodi. That said, if US Netflix is all you’re looking for, PIA’s fast speeds mean you won’t experience any lag when streaming in high-definition.

Overall, PIA offers reliable access to US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and an easy-to-use VPN app for Amazon Fire TV Stick. However, there are no dedicated servers for streaming and the VPN fails to unblock content on other streaming services. If you’re looking for a VPN for streaming, here are the top five VPNs you can buy right now.

PIA Is an Excellent VPN for Torrenting

Private Internet Access is a great VPN for torrenting. It offers a strict no-logs policy, unlimited bandwidth, fast upload speeds, and port-forwarding, which increases the number of torrenting peers you can communicate with. PIA also allows P2P and file-sharing activity on all of its servers, which is a much more direct approach than some competing providers. 

PIA is compatible with all popular torrent clients including BitTorrent, Deluge, uTorrent, and Transmission. MACE, PIA’s built-in ad blocker, can also help block any trackers or malware you may encounter in the process. 

A screenshot showing that PIA allowed us to torrenting and P2P share successfully.

We were able to download a torrent file very quickly while using PIA.

As you can see from the screenshot below, we were able to successfully torrent on a number of randomized servers on PIA’s network. Our torrenting experience was fast and reliable, and we were able to successfully download and play an episode of the show we were looking for.

There are no dedicated servers for P2P activity. Instead, you can use torrents from any location, with no bandwidth or other limits to restrict your activities. Simply connect to your nearest VPN server and start downloading.

PIA’s port forwarding feature redirects incoming connections to bypass any NAT firewall, allowing you to increase the number of torrenting peers you can communicate with and often drastically improve your P2P download speeds. The PIA settings allow you to forward to ports 443, 80, 110, 53, 8080 and 9201. 

A kill switch is also present on all platforms to protect your traffic if your internet connection suddenly drops. If you need a VPN that’s going to hide your IP address and download your torrents quickly, Private Internet Access is a great choice.

PIA is the fastest VPN we’ve tested

Speed Test

When it comes to local connections, Private Internet Access is the fastest VPN on the market.  

We measured an average speed loss of just 3% when connected to a nearby server, with speeds dropping from 92Mbps to 89Mbps. These local speeds are some of the fastest we’ve ever seen, and come close to the speeds you’d get when not using a VPN at all.

PIA’s long-distance speeds are less impressive. We measured a 66% drop in our connection speed when connected from London to the US — down to 31Mbps from 92Mbps. This is disappointing, but more than fast enough for streaming, torrenting, and other data-intensive activities.

PIA’s VPN apps also have a useful feature that automatically connects you to the fastest server for your location. This feature is called ‘Choose Automatically’ on the desktop apps and ‘Automatic’ on the mobile apps.

Screenshot of PIA's app, showing their 'Choose Automatically' feature which instantly connects you to the fastest VPN server.

Local Speed Test Results

Before using Private Internet Access:

  1. DownloadMbps

    92

  2. UploadMbps

    92

  3. Pingms

    2

When connected to Private Internet Access:

  1. DownloadMbps

    89

  2. UploadMbps

    86

  3. Pingms

    13

We measured our connection speeds before and after connecting to a Private Internet Access server in London, close to our physical location. We measured a percentage speed loss of just 3% — an incredibly fast result. This is the type of performance you can expect if you’re connecting to a US server from within the US.

PIA’s speed and performance really shines on local connections — providing exceptional upload and download speeds.

Long-Distance Speed Test Results

PIA’s speeds over long-distance connections are less impressive but still fast enough for streaming, torrenting, and normal browsing. We connected to servers in the US, Australia, Germany, and Singapore from our London office and measured our speeds before and after.

As expected, the servers located furthest from our office in the UK recorded the largest speed losses.

We recorded an average speed loss of 66% when connected to the US and 72% when connected to Singapore. This level of speed loss is not unusual for long-distance connections, though competitors like ExpressVPN recorded losses of just 19% when we connected from London to the US. You can find the full results of our testing below:

USA (New York):

  • Download: 31Mbps (66% slower) 
  • Upload: 38Mbps (57% slower)

Germany (Munich):

  • Download: 85Mbps (8% slower)  
  • Upload: 72Mbps (19% slower)

Singapore:

  • Download: 26Mbps (72% slower) 
  • Upload: 9Mbps (90% slower)

Australia (Melbourne):

  • Download: 35Mbps (62% slower) 
  • Upload: 10Mbps (89% slower)

If you are planning on using a VPN primarily for long-distance connections, it might be worth considering an alternative provider like ExpressVPN or Hotspot Shield. 

Though its international speeds aren’t the best, we did find that PIA’s speeds are consistent and reliable. We did not experience any unexpected drops in performance and found that connection times were consistently quick.

All of our VPN reviews go through the same scientific speed-testing process and we always use the OpenVPN protocol to keep it fair and consistent. If you’re curious, you can read more about our speed-testing methodology here.

PIA has cheap prices and a 30-day refund policy

Pricing & Deals

Private Internet Access Coupon

Private Internet Access Pricing Plan

Private Internet Access has always been among the cheapest VPN services on the market. Its yearly subscription plan is great value for money, especially considering the number of features on offer and the discounts available on longer plans. 

There are three billing options that allow you to pay monthly, annually, and every six months. The monthly plan costs $9.95 per month — the most expensive of all options. The six-month plan costs $5.99 per month, while the annual plan drops to just $3.33 per month, billed upfront.

The annual plan offers an impressive 71% saving compared to the monthly subscription cost, making it one of the cheapest plans on the market.

  1. Monthly

    US$11.95/mo

    Billed $11.95 every month
  2. 6 months

    US$5.99/mo

    Billed $35.95 every 6 months
    Save 50%
  3. 12 months

    US$3.33/mo

    Billed $39.95 every year
    Save 72%

All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee

Payment & Refund Options

Credit CardYes
PayPalYes
BitcoinYes

While there is no free trial, PIA has extended its refund policy and now offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you want to cancel your subscription within the first 30 days, simply open a ticket with the PIA support team and ask for a full refund.

There’s also a wide choice of payment options including cryptocurrencies, PayPal, debit cards, and even gift cards, which can be purchased anonymously with cash.

3,300+ servers in 50 locations across 30 countries

Server Locations

Globe with a blue flag31Countries
Image of a city landscape52Cities
Image of a pink marker3,200+IP Addresses

Private Internet Access offers a reasonably small network of servers in 50 locations across 30 countries. This is amongst the lowest number of countries on offer from any top VPN service. You can find the full list of server locations on the PIA website.

While this number can seem disappointing, PIA only uses bare-metal servers for its VPN network. This has some privacy and security benefits, but prevents the company from offering servers in locations that are less popular or harder to reach. 

Unlike most competing providers, there is also no option to choose from dedicated servers for streaming, torrenting, or static IP addresses. Every PIA server is labelled identically and only by location.

This is a very simplistic approach to server locations that can present some problems. We’d like to see labels for which servers work best for services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, along with server load so users can see which locations are congested at any given time. As it stands, most users will have to cycle through their closest servers to find a location that works for them.

Static IP addresses are unique to every user on the VPN network. They allow for reliable access to geo-restricted streaming services, business or home servers, and faster speeds. Though this can pose a risk to your privacy, we would like to see Private Internet Access offer it as an optional extra.

PIA’s VPN servers are spread out as follows:

  • Europe: 20 countries
  • Asia: 4 countries
  • North America: 3 countries
  • Oceania: 2 countries

City-level servers can be found in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany: 

  • US: 14 
  • UK: 3
  • Canada: 3
  • Australia: 3 
  • Germany: 2 

PIA’s server spread is mostly concentrated in Europe and North America, and there are absolutely no servers in Africa. Though you will still be able to use the VPN in these underrepresented regions without a problem, you may be forced to connect to a distant server which can significantly reduce your internet speeds.A list showing the VPN servers accessible in the Private Internet Access app.

Although Private Internet Access doesn’t offer the greatest number of server locations, the total number of servers they operate is very impressive.

PIA has 3,292 VPN servers concentrated in a small number of countries. This means that local traffic is spread out across a large number of servers, decreasing congestion and improving performance dramatically.

You can see how Private Internet Access’ server network compares to other VPN providers in the table below:

In practice, this means that as long as your region is covered by PIA’s servers, your internet speeds will be consistently fast.

Does PIA Use Virtual Server Locations?

A virtual server location assigns you an IP address in your chosen location even if the physical server is located elsewhere. 

You could be connected to a German VPN server with a German IP address, but the physical location of this server could be in France.

We spoke to a PIA representative who confirmed that PIA does not use virtual server locations. The PIA server network is entirely composed of bare-metal servers that are physically located in the countries advertised.Image showing the countries where Private Internet Access has VPN servers located.

Virtual server locations allow some VPN providers to offer IP addresses in countries where it would be impossible to place a physical server. This is how HideMyAss offers a North Korean VPN server, for example.

They can also improve performance if the physical server is closer to your real location than the IP address you’re assigned.

However, research has suggested that virtual servers could be up to 30% less secure than physical servers. If the physical server is much further from your physical location than advertised, you may also see a significant drop in performance. 

Using virtual server locations isn’t a problem if it’s done properly. That said, Private Internet Access has clearly chosen to prioritize security and privacy over the number of server locations on offer, and its choice to only use physical servers should therefore be commended.

Does PIA Rent Its VPN Servers?

We contacted a PIA representative who confirmed that Private Internet Access rents almost all of its VPN servers. We were told:

“The majority of our servers, if not all of them, are rented from third parties.”

The representative also informed us that PIA uses a “stringent vetting process” for these third parties. 

Most VPN companies rent some of their servers from data centers around the world.  This helps provide users with access to a global network, but means you are forced to trust an additional party with the responsibility for your data.

Generally speaking, rented servers are not an issue if the VPN provider takes the time to audit all installed hardware along with the network environment it is operating in. 

We asked PIA to explain their vetting process and how they can guarantee compliance from third parties. Sadly, PIA chose not to respond.

Though it is not unusual for a VPN provider to rent its hardware, we wish PIA was more transparent about their server ownership. We would like to see an explanation of exactly how their vetting process can guarantee security.

Strong security, open-source apps, & adjustable encryption

Encryption, Privacy & Security

Protocols

L2TP/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

PPTP

Encryption

AES-128

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

First-party DNS

IPV6 Leak Blocking

Supports TCP Port 443

VPN Kill Switch

WebRTC Leak Blocking

Advanced features

Ad Blocker

SOCKS

Split Tunneling

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

PIA is an extremely safe VPN. We put it through a number of security tests and found that it will reliably encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address.

PIA supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec protocols with the option to choose between UDP and TCP connections. The default setting protects your connection with AES 128-bit encryption, although you can manually select the AES-256 cipher in the settings interface.

There is built-in protection against IPv4 and IPv6 leaks, DNS leak protection, and a VPN kill switch on all platforms. Our tests detected no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in any application apart from PIA’s browser extensions.

PIA also owns and operates its own private DNS servers, which means that your DNS requests are resolved by PIA themselves rather than your ISP. The apps are flexible, too – the Windows client can also be set to use any custom DNS of your choice.

Screenshot of the Private Internet Access settings screen, which allows you to set customized DNS settings.

All of Private Internet Access’ applications are open-source, which means that other third-party developers can test the software for vulnerabilities.

Experienced users will appreciate PIA’s advanced security features too, which are easily enabled in the app’s settings. These include:

  • VPN kill switch
  • SOCKS5 proxy
  • Malware and tracking protection
  • Split-tunneling
  • Port forwarding

Desktop clients also come with a command-line interface that can be used to automatically control some of the apps’ functionality using scripts. This is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and is explained in detail on the PIA support website

The Chrome extension comes with a range of bonus privacy features including the ability to block location access, third-party cookies, website referrers, and more. We’ll explain each of these advanced features in more detail later on in this review.

Manual configuration is supported with OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and SOCKS5, and the company is now beta testing the WireGuard protocol, too.

Overall, Private Internet Access performed well in all of our security tests. The Windows, MacOS, and mobile VPN clients effectively encrypt your traffic and the leak protection features work well to secure your data. Though other VPN services provide more in the way of advanced features, you can count on Private Internet Access to protect your data.

Customizable Encryption

Unlike a lot of VPN services, PIA gives you detailed control over the algorithms and protocols used to encrypt your data. The ability to adjust your encryption settings is useful for optimizing performance and configuring the VPN to suit your needs. Generally speaking, the stronger the encryption you use, the slower your speeds will be.

The default settings protect your connection with OpenVPN and AES 128-bit encryption. You can step up the encryption type to AES-256 (CBC or GCM) in the settings menu, and even turn off encryption altogether. 

You can also choose the level of encryption used for both data authentication and the VPN handshake. These processes allow your device and the server it is contacting to verify the authenticity of the connection and the data being transmitted. The default settings are for RSA-2048  and SHA-256, but you can go all the way up to RSA-4096 and SHA-384.

If you’re unsure what these numbers mean, be sure to read our beginner’s guide to VPN encryption where we explain it all in detail.

A screenshot from the Private Internet Access app, showing how you can customize your VPN encryption settings.

The PIA app allows you to fine-tune your encryption and security settings.

In short, PIA offers the strongest encryption available, along with the option to choose the settings that work best for you.

The most secure settings aren’t selected by default, though, so we recommend changing them to the following configuration:

  • VPN Protocol — OpenVPN UDP
  • Data Encryption — AES-256 (GCM)
  • Handshake — RSA-2048

PIA’s Advanced Security Features

Private Internet Access also comes with a range of advanced security features designed to improve your browsing experience.

PIA’s advanced features include a VPN kill switch, split-tunneling, an ad-blocker, private browser, and SOCKS5 encrypted proxy. Here’s what all that means:

A VPN kill switch prevents your IP address from leaking in the event of a dropped connection. This is an essential feature for any premium VPN service and can be found in the settings menu on PIA’s desktop app. 

PIA’s kill switch works on all of its platforms including Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. Even the very best VPN providers often fail to provide a kill switch on their iOS app, which makes PIA a rare exception.

PIA’s kill switch has three separate modes: Off, Auto, and Always. The “Auto” setting will block outside traffic when the VPN is on, while “Always” prevents you from connecting to the internet prior to the VPN app launching. Sadly, the “Always” option is only available on Windows and MacOS. We recommend using the ‘Always’ mode wherever possible, especially if you’re torrenting. 

Split tunneling allows you to exclude certain websites and applications from the encrypted VPN tunnel. This means you can give certain services access to your real location and retain functionality with devices on your home network such as your printer or Smart Home.

Split tunneling is available on PIA’s Windows, Mac, and Android apps, and can be found in the ‘Network’ section of the desktop app’s settings. It’s worth noting that this feature is still in beta for PIA’s desktop clients, which means it is still being tested. It is not available on iOS at all, which is disappointing. 

We tested PIA’s split tunneling feature by using apps that break if they don’t have access to the local network. We selected some apps to ‘Bypass VPN’ while all other apps were configured to ‘Use VPN’, and found that they worked well.A screenshot of the split tunneling feature available in the Private Internet Access VPN app, which worked successfully in our testing.

PIA MACE is a DNS-based malware and ad blocker found in the ‘Privacy’ section of the app’s settings. This feature blocks access to domains that are commonly-known to host ads, trackers, and malware.

Unfortunately, PIA MACE is not a very good ad blocker. Unlike some alternatives, PIA MACE does not have the ability to white list certain domains, or adjust the filter settings: it is simply On or Off.

An image showing Private Internet Access' adblocker feature.

The inability to whitelist certain URLs means you have no choice but to keep the feature on, which ends up breaking certain websites. Our testing also showed that MACE did not block as many ads as other ad blockers we have tested, an issue that has been reported several times by PIA users.

While it is encouraging to see VPN companies expanding protections for their customers, these features cannot replace standalone malware and tracker-blocking plug-ins, which are typically much more effective.

If you’re serious about blocking ads and trackers, we recommend trying uBlock Origin in addition to your chosen VPN.

Inbrowser is a new private browsing feature for iOS and Android. It offers a permanent private-browsing experience that deletes your history, cookies, and session data every time you exit the app.

The ShadowSocks protocol is an open-source encrypted proxy that can be selected directly from the app’s interface. Also known as SOCKS5, ShadowSocks’ speeds make it a favorite of torrenters and those looking to bypass heavy censorship.

Users will require a different username and password to use the SOCKS5 proxy, which can be generated from the Client Control Panel. Instructions on how to do this can be found on the PIA website.

All of PIA’s desktop applications, mobile clients, and browser extensions are open-source.

In simple terms, this means that absolutely anyone can view the applications’ source code, study how the apps are written, and contribute themselves by fixing errors and making code improvements. You can even study the source code yourself on GitHub.

There are very few VPN providers that have chosen to open-source their apps, with ProtonVPN and IVPN being the most notable.

Transparency is essential for VPN companies because they are responsible for your most private information. As such, we believe that transitioning to open-sourced apps should be a priority for every VPN provider, and PIA should be commended for their commitment to transparency.

Leak Test Results

PIA comes with built-in protection against IPv4, IPv6, and DNS leaks. DNS leak protection is enabled by default on the MacOS app, but has to be manually enabled on the Windows app.

The company also owns and operates their own private DNS servers, which means that as you browse the web, your DNS requests are resolved by PIA rather than your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

PIA’s desktop and mobile apps do not leak. We tested all applications for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks and  found that our real IP address in London was consistently protected. This means you can trust Private Internet Access to mask your true IP address and keep your browsing anonymous. 

Screenshot showing Private Internet Access passed our DNS leak test.

PIA’s VPN apps concealed our true IP address.

The DNS leak test showed our virtual address in Hong Kong and not our real address in London, UK.

However, PIA’s Firefox browser extension consistently leaks your IP address through WebRTC. This is a known vulnerability within the latest version of Firefox (73.0). Some VPN providers, like Tunnelbear, have fixed this vulnerability. Sadly, PIA has not.

We ran a WebRTC leak test on all of PIA’s VPN servers and every single one leaked our IP address when using the Firefox browser extension.

As the screenshot below shows, our public IP address in the UK was displayed despite our connection to the Norwegian Private Internet Access VPN server.

Screenshot showing that the Firefox browser extension for Private Internet Access leaked our true IP address through WebRTC.

PIA’s Firefox browser extension leaked our true IP address.

This means that advertisers, governments, and the websites you visit can locate you in the real world and track your online activity. In short, you should avoid PIA’s Firefox extension where possible, or disable WebRTC in your browser’s settings.

Encryption, Malware, and Tracking Tests

We checked the Private Internet Access VPN app for over 70 known viruses. This type of malware can be planted into software to gather information about your activities for advertisers and cybercriminals.

Private Internet Access tested negative for all 71 known viruses.Screenshot showing Private Internet Access passing our test for viruses and other malware.

We also ran PIA’s apps through a packet-inspection program to ensure the VPN encrypts your traffic as intended. We randomly selected various UDP streams transmitted during our session and inspected the visible data. 

We found that our traffic was displayed as random strings of encrypted text:Screenshot of our investigation into PIA's encryption ability using Wireshark.

This means that your passwords, account details, and other sensitive data is completely illegible to anyone viewing the activity on your network.

Our test shows that you can absolutely rely on Private Internet Access to cloak your traffic and keep you safe online, especially when using an untrustworthy public WiFi network.

Finally, we ran PIA’s Android app through εxodus — a privacy audit platform that scans apps for embedded trackers.

Trackers are small pieces of software that developers insert into their apps to collect data about you and your behaviour. As VPNs are to be used to protect your privacy and security, it’s important that your VPN provider doesn’t overly track and trace your activity.

We found that PIA’s Android app contains no trackers whatsoever. This is an impressive result — many of the most popular VPN providers on the market include at least some trackers in their applications. ExpressVPN uses two, NordVPN includes five, and CyberGhost has as many as seven.Report showing that the Private Internet Access Android app uses no trackers.

PIA’s Android app does require nine device permissions, though, which is a relatively high amount. We were particularly concerned to find that the PIA app requires permission to your device’s camera, which seems contradictory to its use as a privacy and security app. 

There has been worry about this permission among some PIA users, but a PIA representative claims that the camera permission is required “to scan QR codes for the new PIA gift cards instead of typing them in.”

These PIA QR codes do exist, but this seems like a very small benefit for a worrying permission. We would like to see PIA listen to its community and make this permission optional.

Overall, Private Internet Access is an incredibly secure VPN. Its applications use industry-leading encryption, effective leak protection, and a range of advanced security features across every platform. We would like to see better WebRTC leak protection in the Firefox extension and a reduction in app permissions, but you can certainly trust PIA to secure your data.

PIA is compatible with all major platforms

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux
Router LogoRouter

Private Internet Access provides custom applications for every major platform including Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. You can also use PIA on up to ten devices simultaneously, which is double the allowance given by most VPN services. 

There are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, as well as custom apps for streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Manual setup guides are also available on the PIA website to help walk you through older OS versions.

Unfortunately, PIA’s Fire TV Stick app is not particularly effective. We were only able to unblock US Netflix on 25% of PIA’s US servers when using Fire TV Stick despite seeing a 100% success rate with the mobile and desktop apps.

There are no other streaming devices covered, which means that if you’re an Apple TV or Roku user you’ll have to install the VPN on your router to get Private Internet Access on your TV.

There are a few notable differences between each Private Internet Access app that we’ll explain in detail in the following section. For an overview of the features available on each platform, you can use the table below:

Windows Client

The Private Internet Access Windows app offers the best balance of performance and features. It is easy to install and immediately opens with a simple interface from which you can connect to your desired server location, access the settings menu, and view your real and virtual IP address.

Screenshot of the Private Internet Access app on Windows.

More experienced VPN users can click the downward facing arrow to access a wider array of settings. In this expanded view you can see the amount of data transmitted during your VPN session, activate the VPN snooze feature, and measure your VPN’s performance.

The PIA Windows app comes with a ‘Proxy’ tab in the apps settings, which allows you to redirect your VPN connection through one extra location. You can choose between the Shadowsocks or SOCKS5 proxy options, with multiple locations available.

Image showing the customizable proxy preferences available in the PIA app, including Shadowsocks and SOCKS5.

The app runs in the system tray by default, which means that the client is pinned to the bottom right of your device’s screen. The option to detach the app from the tray is buried in the ‘General’ section of the app’s settings, which is hard to find for most people. 


The Windows app does not support any VPN protocol other than OpenVPN, though it does allow you to choose between UDP and TCP. While OpenVPN is the industry-leading protocol in terms of speed and security, we’d like to see Windows users given the ability to choose from other protocols.

Mac Client

There are a few minor differences that make the Mac app more frustrating to use than the Windows client.

Image of the Private Internet Access VPN app on Mac.

Firstly, the PIA Mac app launches as a menu bar app by default. This means that the app cannot be conveniently placed in the dock or launched from Spotlight. Even when detached from the menu bar, traditional keyboard shortcuts do not work with the app.

PIA’s MacOS application is also very slow to load and operate. When running as a windowed app, the Private Internet Access Mac app takes 3 seconds to load — making using it feel like a chore. 

These issues aside, the Private Internet Access client for Mac looks great and is easy to use. The app was very stable in our testing and experienced no interruptions or crashes.

Android App

PIA’s Android app is by far the best of its mobile apps, offering advanced VPN features without compromising on simplicity. The app offers a range of configuration options, with more settings than some competing desktop clients.

Most of the screen on the Android interface is simply white space, with a large connection button in the center of the screen.Image of the PIA mobile app on Android.

Tapping your current server location will display a list of other options. Here, a favorites system means your most commonly-used servers will always be at the top of the list.

Android users can choose between TCP or UDP connections, request port forwarding, customise DNS servers, and adjust encryption settings.

The application can be configured to automatically protect you when accessing unknown wireless networks, or turn itself off when you’re using mobile data. There is a built-in kill switch, a split tunneling option called Per App Settings, and even an option to set your device to vibrate when you connect to a PIA server.

Due to restrictions enforced by Google, the Private Internet Access app downloaded through the Google Play Store does not come with MACE, which is PIA’s proprietary ad blocker.

To get PIA MACE on your Android device you have to download the APK file directly from the PIA website. This is more difficult than a typical app download, but thankfully PIA provides a very accessible step-by-step installation guide.

Overall, the PIA Android app is a strong mixture of technical power and ease of use, with plenty of advanced configuration options.

iOS App

PIA’s iOS app is almost identical to the Android version. There’s the same streamlined interface, location list, and large Connect button.

Image of the Private Internet Access mobile app on iPhone.

The iOS app has the best choice of VPN protocols of all PIA apps, allowing you to switch between OpenVPN, IPsec, or IKEv2. There is also a large selection of configuration options, especially for an iOS app. You can set a custom port, change your DNS server, alter your encryption settings and enable a VPN kill switch. 

The home screen allows you to quickly connect to recently used server locations and toggle network management settings, including the ability to automatically permit trusted networks. There is also the option to use InBrowser, PIA’s private browser for iOS and Android. 

Screenshot of PIA's adblocker on iOS.

PIA’s iOS app allows you to block ads and trackers through its Safari Content Blocker.

Despite retaining the simple and user-friendly design of PIA’s other VPN apps, the iOS app misses out on a couple of key features. Most notably, the iOS app does not offer MACE, PIA’s built-in ad blocker. It does come with a Safari Content Blocker, which can be found in your device’s settings menu.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

AppleTV LogoAppleTV
Amazon Fire TV LogoAmazon Fire TV
Chromecast LogoChromecast
Nintendo LogoNintendo
PlayStation LogoPlayStation
Roku LogoRoku
Xbox LogoXbox

Private Internet Access is a great VPN for gamers. It has fast connection speeds, very little impact on ping, and no DNS or IP leaks. All these components are essential for gaming as they minimize any potential lag and keep your identity hidden.

Games consoles do not allow native VPN apps. To get PIA working on your PS4, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch, you have to install the VPN on your home router instead. This is not as simple as having a native VPN app, but it does allow you to protect all devices on your network without reaching the device limit.Image showing that Private Internet Access can be installed on routers.

PIA has an attractive and easy to use VPN app for Amazon Fire TV Stick, but no other streaming devices are covered. If you’re an Apple TV or Roku user you’ll also have to install the VPN on your router to get Private Internet Access on your TV.

We found that PIA’s Fire TV Stick app was only able to unblock Netflix on 25% of PIA’s US servers, which is considerably less reliable than the desktop and mobile clients. There are plenty of Fire TV Stick VPN apps capable of performing much better than this, so we’re disappointed to see PIA’s offering fall short.

Much like its mobile and desktop counterparts, PIA’s Fire TV Stick app does not unblock Hulu or Disney+ either.

PIA client software can be installed manually on DD-WRT, Tomato, LEDE and AsusWRT routers, or you can buy a router pre-installed with Private Internet Access so you don’t have to set it up yourself. These pre-configured routers are a great option for those who don’t want to deal with technical details, but they are a little expensive at around $160 for the cheapest model.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox
Opera LogoOpera

Private Internet Access has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. These extensions enable you to connect to a PIA VPN server directly from your browser’s interface, hiding your IP address and securing your traffic with Squid HTTPS. These extensions are only available to users with an existing Private Internet Access subscription. 

It’s worth remembering that VPN browser extensions will only affect the traffic from your browser window, and will not secure the rest of your computer’s activity. If you want to encrypt and secure the entirety of your device’s traffic, use a full VPN.

PIA’s browser extensions come with lots of settings to explore, and on balance they work very well. Bonus privacy features include the ability to prevent websites accessing your location, camera, or microphone, block Flash, and bypass particular websites. You can also block third-party cookies, website referrers, and trackers. If you’re looking to keep it simple, you can also just choose a location and click Connect.

Image of PIA's Google Chrome extension successfully unblocking US Netflix.

PIA’s browser extensions allow you to stream US Netflix with ease.

Although the Firefox add-on suffers from WebRTC leaks, PIA’s Chrome and Opera extensions are some of the best we’ve seen. They come packed with more features and functionality than most of the competition, but can’t compete with the full VPN application when it comes to privacy and security.

Does PIA work in heavily-censored countries?

Bypassing Censorship

Private Internet Access works in heavily-censored regions such as Russia, Turkey, and the UAE, but does not work reliably in China. There are no obfuscation tools available to disguise VPN traffic, and most user reports suggest that the service in these countries is inconsistent at best.

The Great Firewall of China is the name given to the combination of tools utilized by the Chinese government to enforce mass censorship. This firewall and those like it are so effective that only the very best VPN services can bypass them.

Private Internet Access works inconsistently in China. This means that access to popular apps and websites like Instagram, Facebook, Gmail, and WhatsApp will not always be possible.

Some PIA users in China have reported that they have had more success when using the L2TP protocol and by using mobile data instead of Wi-Fi. However, L2TP is a less secure protocol and exclusively using mobile data can result in costly payment plans. 

We cannot recommend Private Internet Access for use in China or other censored countries due to its lack of obfuscation tools. Obfuscation technology camouflages VPN traffic to make it appear like normal browsing. This can help users in countries where VPN traffic is blocked.

It’s a shame that Private Internet Access has not yet implemented obfuscation and other similar tools. As a result, we do not recommend choosing PIA to bypass censorship.

Some VPN providers cater to the censorship circumvention market much better. Services like Surfshark provide additional features such as Camouflage Mode and NoBorders Mode which mean they are much more likely to work in highly-censored countries that block VPN traffic.

PIA’s apps are sleek, simple, and user-friendly

Ease of Use

How to Install & Set Up Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access comes with a brand new design that modernizes the look and feel of the VPN. The updated VPN apps are easy to navigate, user-friendly, and still offer enough configurability for advanced VPN users.

Setup is instant and connecting to your nearest server is just one click away. The location menu lists countries and city-based locations that can be sorted by name or ping time, while a search box and Favorites system can help you find the server you need quickly.

Expanding the window reveals a range of other options for connecting to servers in particular countries, viewing real-time performance graphs, usage statistics, key settings, and your current subscription status. You can bookmark each of these options to add it to your default view, allowing you to customize your experience. This is an excellent approach to user experience that helps beginners easily interact with more complex features.

Screenshot of PIA's app, showing the expanded app window.

In terms of usability, the new PIA VPN client also offers:

  • Light and dark mode
  • Settings to launch or connect the VPN on system startup
  • Different language settings

PIA’s dark mode is even better on mobile, as the app detects whether your iPhone or Android device is in light or dark mode and sets the PIA theme accordingly.Image showing the light and dark mode available in the Private Internet Access applications.

PIA has long been a technically proficient VPN that falls down when it comes to user experience. These newly updated apps are a huge improvement that changes this altogether. The new PIA applications are simple to use, intuitive, and visually appealing.

PIA’s customer support could be improved

Customer Service

Live chat SupportYes
EmailYes
Online ResourcesYes

PIA has plenty of online resources available to support its users. However, it does not offer the 24/7 live chat support that we have come to expect from the top VPNs on the market.

PIA’s live chat is only available during the following times:

  • London, United Kingdom — 4pm to midnight.
  • Singapore — midnight to 8am.
  • Sydney, Australia — 3am to 11am.

If live chat isn’t available you have to contact a member of the support staff on the website’s ticket request system. While this system does work and users tend to report positive experiences, you won’t always get a fast reply. In addition, this customer support is only available 11am to 7pm (EST) and is shut entirely on the weekends.Screenshot showing PIA's live chat customer service.

In terms of online resources, there is a large, searchable knowledgebase with articles covering troubleshooting, account problems, technical complications and more. 

The guides section has articles covering setup and tutorials for all supported platforms, which should cover most general issues you might have with the app. It also has a news section which informs users about app updates, service issues, and more.

PIA also has a separate Twitter account dedicated solely to customer service, but response times are poor. Looking through the account’s interactions, some queries were not responded to for over a week. We also contacted this account via direct message, and we did not receive a reply for 4 days.

This is all backed by PIA’s very loyal committed community of users, who are enthusiastic to aid anyone who has run into difficulty via the company forum and even on the Private Internet Access subreddit.

Private Internet Access’ customer service is disappointing for such a popular VPN service. If you require a VPN provider that’s going to be able to assist you whenever you need it, you should look elsewhere.

Do We Recommend Private Internet Access?

The Bottom Line

Private Internet Access is an incredibly fast VPN with robust security and some excellent technical features that make it ideal for privacy advocates. If you are looking for a cheap VPN service that offers good performance and security, Private Internet Access is a great choice.

The service is great for torrenting, with a verified no-logs policy, effective VPN kill switch and P2P activity allowed on all of its servers. It consistently unblocks US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and provides a range of attractive applications with a wide array of advanced settings.

Although PIA’s jurisdiction in the United States is a legitimate concern, we remain confident in Private Internet Access given their strict no-logs policy that has been verified through multiple real-world incidents.

While its 30-day money-back guarantee and simple interface make PIA great for beginners, we would like to see improvements to its customer support offering. If you’re looking to use a VPN in a heavily-censored country or access multiple international streaming libraries, you should look elsewhere.

If you’re looking to stream US Netflix or strengthen your security on public WiFi networks for an affordable price, Private Internet Access is a VPN worth considering.

Alternatives to Private Internet Access

ExpressVPN Logo

ExpressVPN

Where Private Internet Access fails, ExpressVPN delivers. Unlike PIA, ExpressVPN is based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, unblocks multiple Netflix libraries, and has 24/7 customer support. Read ExpressVPN review

Mullvad VPN logo in horizontal orientation.

Mullvad

Mullvad shares a lot of great features with Private Internet Access. Mullvad is one of the fastest and most secure VPNs around, has fully open-sourced all of its apps, and is one of the best VPNs for torrenting. Read Mullvad review

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is our Head of Research and has tested hundreds of VPNs since 2016. His research has been covered by the BBC, The New York Times, CNet, Wired, and more. Read full bio

Top10VPN

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User Reviews for Private Internet Access

4 reviews

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Showing 4 out of 4 reviews
  1.  20% 

    ok vpn terrible customer support

    from all the reviews for this i thought this would be a good vpn but now that i cant connect i tried contacting customer support and its been 2 weeks and they still have not responded. have to find something better now

  2.  100% 

    Very happy and highly recommended

    Fantastic VPN. The android app is fantastic too, especially the ability to exclude apps from the VPN (handy for apps for LAN based functions - NAS file manager, home automation to direct connect to local hub). Speeds are great across most servers. Highly recommend.

  3.  100% 

    best VPN for torrent ! !

    i used private internet access for a few months and i was extremely satisfied with the features in it. also when i had a little problem, PIA support gave me a quick answer with a lot of explanation on how to solve it. Bottom line, i'm very happy to use this VPN!

  4.  60% 

    Slow and no Killswitch if torrent is running without VPN.

    The price is good, the speed is slow, and no kill switch if you start uTorrent or other software and customer service is ok.

    Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN
    Simon | Top10VPN Expert

    Hello Fredhachee,

    Thank you for your review!

    During our speed tests we found Private Internet Access to be one of the fastest VPNs currently available. It's worth getting in touch with customer support who can troubleshoot your speed issues, as the software may not be set up in a way that optimizes speeds.

    With regards to the kill switch, PIA told us that "all versions of PIA come with the Killswitch options except the router set up" but "if your system has more than one network adapter installed (i.e. both Ethernet and Wi-Fi), then you would disable the unused adapter so the killswitch does not "kill" the incorrect connection."

    We hope that helps!