PrivateVPN is a basic VPN service that provides best-in-class AES-256 encryption and native apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV. For this PrivateVPN review, our team of experts put it through our rigorous testing process to find out how it compares to other VPNs on the market.
We discovered that PrivateVPN is one of the very best VPNs for streaming, with dedicated streaming servers for sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. However, we found that these servers were often overly congested — meaning you can’t always rely on the VPN to stream titles in HD.
PrivateVPN is also an excellent choice for P2P file-sharing and includes dedicated torrenting servers, port forwarding features, and a functional kill switch on all desktop apps. It’s also one of the cheapest VPNs around, with prices as low as $1.89 per month on a two-year plan.
It’s also one of a small number of VPNs that consistently works in China and other highly-censored regions, easily passing the Great Firewall in our tests.
Although the server network of just 150 total servers is tiny compared to competitors, the VPN does a good job of providing worldwide coverage. One of the main downsides is that live chat customer support is not run during scheduled hours, so it’s only accessible at random times of the day.
In summary, PrivateVPN is a superb budget VPN that unblocks a huge amount of streaming services and is a simple choice for quickly securing your internet connection. It’s not perfect, though. PrivateVPN needs to resolve its frustrating speed issues, provide a Smart DNS feature, and complete an independent audit. If it does, it could become one of the best VPNs available.
PrivateVPN Pros & Cons
PrivateVPN Key Summary
|Logging Policy||No Logs|
|Jurisdiction||Sweden (14-Eyes Member)|
|Works in China||Yes|
|Cheapest Price||$1.89/mo over 24 months|
PrivateVPN works with Netflix
Streaming & Torrenting
PrivateVPN is a fantastic VPN for streaming, with a huge amount of servers dedicated to streaming sites from around the world. Our repeated tests found the VPN always worked with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.
The PrivateVPN app includes servers to stream a total of 27 different Netflix libraries in a variety of different languages. This is the largest number of dedicated servers we’ve seen from any VPN provider. Other top VPNs have far fewer — CyberGhost only has four.
Our investigation into Netflix VPNs found that PrivateVPN is the second-best VPN service for unblocking the highest number of Netflix libraries. All 32 of its Netflix servers worked over months of our testing. Unlocking a larger amount of Netflix catalogs increases the likelihood that the content you want to stream will be available.
You can see the results of our study in the graph below:
PrivateVPN doesn’t only work with the usual streaming services, either. The app comes with dedicated servers for 23 different streaming services, including less represented sites from around the world. These include support for Hotstar, IPTV, and sports services like Sky Go and DAZN.
PrivateVPN’s dedicated streaming servers change their IP address regularly, which prevents detection from geo-blocks. We tested all of these servers on iPhone, Windows PC, and on Amazon Fire TV Stick, and they worked flawlessly. This means you’ll always be able to access your favorite service on all of your devices without any issues.
However, despite their effectiveness, we discovered that most of PrivateVPN’s streaming servers suffer from poor speeds. As the VPN has a relatively small server network, the most popular servers are often congested, which results in extreme slowdowns. Depending on your internet speed, you may experience frustrating buffering and interruptions. You can read more about this issue later on in this review.
Another negative of using PrivateVPN for streaming is that the VPN does not offer a Smart DNS feature. Smart DNS allows you to spoof your location and bypass location restrictions on devices that are not VPN-compatible.
This omission means that PrivateVPN will not work on devices like Apple TV, PS4, and Xbox. If you use any of these devices for streaming, then you should avoid PrivateVPN. Instead, check out ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, Surfshark, or NordVPN — all four of these VPNs offer a reliable and easy-to-use Smart DNS feature.
Overall, PrivateVPN is simply one of the best VPNs for streaming, and is available at a much lower price than competitors. Its dedicated streaming servers are the most reliable we’ve tested, and the Amazon Fire TV stick app means you can watch geo-restricted content on your TV.
PrivateVPN Is Excellent for Torrenting
We tested PrivateVPN with various torrent clients, and each time we were able to download a torrent file without any interruptions quickly. Our most recent speed test results measured a bitrate of 5.1 MiB/s from our 100Mbps internet connection, which means you won’t have any trouble sharing large files like movies, music, and software with others.
The VPN also operates its own no-logs DNS servers, which means there is no third-party involved in resolving your DNS requests. This is a must-have feature for private P2P file-sharing, so we’re glad to see PrivateVPN cover it.
Although torrenting is allowed on all of its servers, PrivateVPN recommends you only connect to a location from the ‘Dedicated IP’ server list. These servers are easy to find, and we’ve found them to be faster than PrivateVPN’s other servers.
These servers are owned and controlled by PrivateVPN, unlike all other servers which are rented from third-parties. A PrivateVPN representative confirmed to us that only PrivateVPN have direct physical access to these servers and no one else.
This allows for an additional layer of control and security, which is essential when it comes to keeping torrenting activity private.
Additionally, these servers allow most ports to be forwarded automatically, so there’s no need to configure any port settings on your torrent client. In fact, it’s our number one recommended VPN if you want to seed torrents. For the fastest speeds, we also recommend you connect to the dedicated IP server location that is closest to you. You can read all about PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers here.
In turn, PrivateVPN’s superb torrenting performance makes it an excellent choice for using Kodi, Popcorn Time, and all other torrent-based streaming platforms.
Does PrivateVPN Keep Logs?
About & Logging
PrivateVPN protects your privacy as it doesn’t log any user data. Anything you do while connected to the VPN will remain private to you and hidden from any third parties, like snooping governments and PrivateVPN itself.
The only information that PrivateVPN does retain is your email address — used for logging in, resetting your password, and for renewing your account. This is nothing to worry about, though, as this is standard practice. PrivateVPN also confirmed to us that this is not linked to your activity in any way.
By not even logging anonymous usage data, PrivateVPN is one of the very few no-logs VPNs. This level of privacy is typically reserved for more expensive services.
“PrivateVPN does not collect or log any traffic or use of its service.”
We found that PrivateVPN has not always fully disclosed its logging practices, too. Although it has now been removed, the VPN previously logged user’s IP addresses when signing up for the seven-day free trial. After contacting it, PrivateVPN told us that these IP addresses were securely stored in a “dummy database” and linked to “no other data.”
The problem with this lack of disclosure is that it damages trust between you and the VPN provider. This is no small issue, either, given the level of sensitive data and information about you that’s handled by the VPN.
The problem is made worse by the fact that PrivateVPN has not conducted any third-party audits — so you are forced to trust the information that it provides. You can read more about this in the section below.
As you are relying on the VPN to process your most sensitive information and data, a trustworthy relationship is essential. However, we are confident that PrivateVPN is now a true no-logs VPN and that this wrongdoing was a result of careless behavior rather than anything malicious.
No Independent Security Audits or Real-World Tests
The drawback to PrivateVPN’s logging policy is that it has not been audited by a third-party and it has also not been verified by any real-world court cases. As a result, you are left having to trust everything the provider claims.
Many popular VPNs conduct annual audits from reputable third-parties to verify their claims of no-logging — giving users hard evidence to survey, rather than having to rely on the words of the provider itself.
There are also notable examples of some VPN logging policies being verified by real-world cases. We prefer these, as it removes the risk of any window-dressing and puts the VPN’s security and privacy systems through the strictest of tests.
For example, Private Internet Access has been unable to provide user data to the FBI on several occasions due to its true no-logs policy. This is in contrast to providers like PureVPN, a VPN that claimed to not log any user activity, but was found to be lying after it handed over a user’s IP address to the FBI.
We want this VPN to complete an audit from a third-party cybersecurity firm and to disclose previous real-word tests, if any do exist. While we do trust PrivateVPN to keep you private and safe, we are hopeful that it will provide evidence of its no-logs policy in any future update, just for peace of mind.
PrivateVPN is based in Sweden
PrivateVPN operates under the jurisdiction of Sweden. Sweden is a relatively safe VPN jurisdiction, but it is certainly not the best.
Sweden is part of the 14 Eyes, a group of 14 nations that share surveillance information. Originally formed to exchange military intelligence, the program has since evolved to include information on regular citizens.
Although we don’t typically recommend VPNs based in a 14-Eyes country, Sweden conducts less invasive VPN data collection and surveillance than its partners.
In Sweden, VPN providers are not considered an ‘electronic communications network’ nor an ‘electronic communications service’. This makes PrivateVPN exempt from Sweden’s intrusive laws, like The Electronic Communications Act, allowing the PrivateVPN to sidestep any mandatory data collection.
On top of this, PrivateVPN’s no-logs policy means that it is unable to provide any information about its users, even if it was asked to comply with an investigation.
However, we do wish PrivateVPN took steps to educate and reassure users about its base in a 14-Eyes country. Mullvad, for example, provides a detailed breakdown of all relevant Swedish laws and an explanation of its efforts to protect user privacy. OVPN, another Swedish-based VPN provider, has published blog posts explaining Swedish data laws and detailing its response and systems.
Overall, despite its base in an imperfect jurisdiction, PrivateVPN is a safe and private choice. The VPN’s no-logs policy offsets most of the negatives of an invasive government, and there has never been evidence to suggest that Sweden has forced a VPN provider to log user information secretly. In short, you can trust PrivateVPN with your data.
Amazing value on all pricing plans
PrivateVPN Pricing Plan
PrivateVPN is a bargain on all of its pricing plans. As is typical, the larger discounts are only available on the longer-term plans, but all PrivateVPN subscriptions come with the same advanced features and 30-day money-back guarantee.
Three billing options allow you to pay monthly, every three months, or every two years. The PrivateVPN monthly package costs $7.12, or you lower the cost by 83% to $1.89 if you pay for two years up front. The three-month subscription costs $4.20 per month.
These impressive prices make PrivateVPN the best VPN choice if value is your main priority. By contrast, other cheap VPNs, like NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost, all cost at least $11.95 a month, making PrivateVPN a clear price winner.
PrivateVPN Free Trial
PrivateVPN recently removed its free trial option. This trial period didn’t require any payment details to sign up and was our favorite free trial from any VPN service. It made it unique among the many VPNs on the market, so its removal leaves PrivateVPN less impressive than before.
After contacting it, the VPN provider assured us that the free trial would return in the future, but refused to give an estimated timescale. We hope that PrivateVPN restores this option soon, as it was a great entry point for many VPN users.
More pleasingly, though, the VPN does come with a 30-day money-back guarantee for all users, and the only condition is that you use less than 100 GB of data in the period.
You will need to provide a reason for asking for your money back, but all refunds are processed within five business days of them being requested.
US$7.12/moBilled $7.12 every month
US$4.20/moBilled $12.60 every 3 months
US$1.89/moBilled $45.36 every 2 years
All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee
Payment & Refund Options
Very fast speeds across the server network
Our manual speed test results show that PrivateVPN is often a fast VPN with impressive speeds. Our download speeds dropped by just 6% from 100Mbps to 94Mbps when connected to a nearby VPN server — making PrivateVPN a speedy VPN for all web activities.
Some long-distance speed results were impressive, too. When connected to a Canada server from the UK, our download speed fell by just 16%, and our speed only dropped by 38% when connected to an Australian server.
These fast long-distance speeds show that PrivateVPN is a decent choice for secure torrenting and buffer-free HD streaming. However, there are a few significant drawbacks that mean we do not recommend PrivateVPN if speed is your number one priority.
Most importantly, PrivateVPN suffers from inconsistent speeds due to its relatively small server network. With just 150 total servers, most of PrivateVPN’s in-demand servers are overly congested — resulting in frustratingly slow speeds.
This is regularly an issue with PrivateVPN’s dedicated streaming servers, as their desirability attracts more users than other servers. However, these servers are mixed in with the regular server list, so it’s difficult to avoid them.
From our speed test findings, we’ve compared the results from a regular PrivateVPN server with a congested streaming server in the table below:
This issue is worsened as PrivateVPN does not show server load or latency on almost all of its apps. Server latency is only displayed on the Windows app, and load is not visible anywhere.
For all other users, the app forces you to guess which is the best server to connect to. The VPN also does not include a server speed test feature or an option to connect to the fastest available server automatically.
These inconveniences often add up to make PrivateVPN frustrating to use. We would prefer if PrivateVPN adopted the same strategy as other VPNs, like Windscribe, that allow you to unblock streaming sites on all of its servers. This allows a more balanced load across the range of servers — resulting in speed and performance improvements
Short-Distance Speed Test Results
Before using PrivateVPN:
When connected to PrivateVPN:
To maintain fair and unbiased speed testing, we measured our internet speeds before and after connecting to a nearby London VPN server while using a UDP OpenVPN connection. We performed a series of tests over several days and then took the average number for each.
We recorded a speed loss of just 6% — from 100Mbps to 94Mbps — which is a really impressive result. You’ll experience similar results when connecting to a server near you, making PrivateVPN a great option for demanding tasks like torrenting and video calling
Long-Distance Speed Test Results
PrivateVPN’s speed on long-distance connections was equally impressive. We recorded good speeds across a range of locations.
Despite experiencing mediocre speeds when connecting to a US server, it performed more admirably in other far-away locations like Australia and Canada. We were able to play online games and stream HD video from these countries without any buffering or interruptions.
Here are the full results we recorded when connecting to far-away servers from London, UK with a 100Mbps internet connection:
USA (New York):
- Download: 62Mbps (38% slower)
- Upload: 67Mbps (32% slower)
- Download: 84Mbps (16% slower)
- Upload: 65Mbps (34% slower)
- Download: 80Mbps (20% slower)
- Upload: 95Mbps (4% slower)
- Download: 32Mbps (68% slower)
- Upload: 26Mbps (74% slower)
- Download: 49Mbps (51% slower)
- Upload: 31Mbps (69% slower)
Although PrivateVPN is not close to being the fastest VPN available, these speeds will still allow you to reliably stream, torrent, and browse the web without any issue. You do need to be wary of its slow congested servers, though, but through some trial and error, you will be able to find a fast VPN server.
How Fast is PrivateVPN Compared to Other VPNs?
To keep our speed test results as scientific as possible, we also record results using our in-house VPN speed testing tool.
These tests run automatically four times per day and the results are displayed exactly as we find them — so there’s no possibility for any bias or human error.
The graph below compares PrivateVPN’s average loss of internet speed to other popular VPNs while running on our New York server.
These results show that PrivateVPN’s speeds are poor compared to other top VPN providers. Over the previous eight weeks, PrivateVPN’s speed performance has been very inconsistent — fluctuating between speeds of 81Mbps to 60Mbps on a same-city connection.
PrivateVPN’s poor speed test results are in contrast to other providers like Surfshark and NordVPN. As you can see, speeds from these VPNs remained both fast and consistent, which is essential for reliability.
PrivateVPN performed slightly better on international connections. When connecting to London from New York, PrivateVPN often outperformed other top VPNs, like Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN. However, PrivateVPN’s speeds remained inconsistent and unpredictable.
Inconsistent speeds are frustrating for streaming geo-blocked content from sites like Netflix and Hulu, as it makes HD streams less likely. For a more predictable streaming experience, our speed test results show that NordVPN and Surfshark are both better options.
PrivateVPN is a cheaper VPN service than some of its competitors, so congested VPN servers and slower speeds can be somewhat expected. However, services like Surfshark and NordVPN are only slightly more expensive, so we hope PrivateVPN can increase their server capacity and improve their speed performance in the future.
150 servers across 60 countries
Servers & Locations
PrivateVPN covers a wide range of locations, with servers in 60 countries around the world. Sadly, the app does not allow you to connect automatically to the fastest server, and it doesn’t include any information about server load and latency, either.
Servers are available in popular locations like the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, Germany, and Canada. All of these include city-level servers, too, so you can connect to the nearest server to you in a specific country.
Disappointingly, though, South Africa is the only African server available. As a result, you’re likely to experience lackluster speeds if connecting from the continent. There are plenty of VPN servers located near China, however, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam — making connections from behind the Great Firewall fast and reliable.
However, despite the decent number of countries covered, PrivateVPN has a tiny global network of just 150 servers. Its best city-level coverage is in the US, with a total of 11 servers across 10 cities. By comparison, NordVPN has a massive 5,552 servers — with 1,700 servers across 15 cities in the US alone.
The benefit of an extensive VPN server network is that it increases the likelihood of you connecting to a nearby server, giving you better speeds and reliability. It also helps balance server load and prevents crowded servers — an issue that PrivateVPN suffers from.
Virtual Server Locations
13% of PrivateVPN’s server locations are virtual — meaning they are physically located in a different country to the IP address. For example, we discovered that PrivateVPN’s South Korea server is actually located in a server park in the US.
PrivateVPN uses a relatively small number of virtual server locations, which is an approach we typically prefer. This increases transparency and ensures that your data is not being diverted towards any country other than where you think it’s going.
Virtual server locations can also drastically hinder your internet speed if you think you’re connecting to a nearby server, when in fact it’s located on the other side of the world.
For this reason, we do wish that the PrivateVPN app would indicate which server locations are virtual and which are physically located. Other providers, like Cyberghost, are very upfront about their use.
Although PrivateVPN does list all of its virtual server locations on its website, they are concealed and not easily discoverable.
It also does not reveal the real physical location of these servers. This feature would allow users to weigh up a specific virtual server’s impact on privacy and speed performance before connecting. ExpressVPN, for example, clearly labels both the announced IP address and the server’s true physical location.
Dedicated IP Servers
All of PrivateVPN’s apps come with a separate tab allowing you to connect to ‘Dedicated IP’ servers. These servers have several unique features which make them very useful for certain activities.
Firstly, PrivateVPN owns all of these servers, with none rented from third-parties. This makes these servers excellent for privacy and security, as it removes any additional intermediaries that are responsible for your data.
We spoke to a PrivateVPN representative and found that a subset of these servers are 100% owned by PrivateVPN — meaning it has full control of the hardware, servers, network equipment, and everything else.
These servers are:
- Denmark – Copenhagen
- France – Paris
- Germany – Frankfurt
- Italy – Milan
- Spain – Madrid
- Sweden – Stockholm
- Switzerland – Zürich
- The Netherlands – Amsterdam
- UK – London
- US – NYC 1
All of these servers have a 10GB dedicated internet connection, and as PrivateVPN wholly owns them, the bandwidth is not shared with any additional renters. This makes these servers particularly fast — great for demanding tasks like streaming.
Secondly, all ports are automatically enabled on PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers — making these servers perfect for torrenting and P2P file-sharing. With other servers, you are forced to manually configure your torrent client, which is often a lengthy and complicated process.
By having all ports open, this allows all incoming P2P connections to transmit directly to your device. Without this, you will get low priority from other seeds and your download rate would suffer.
Finally, these servers issue dedicated IP addresses — meaning that when you connect to one of them, your IP address will not be shared with any other user. These IPs are still dynamic, too, so you will get a different IP when you reconnect.
This makes these servers great for streaming sites like Netflix, as these services typically geo-block content by blacklisting crowded IP addresses. As you’re the only person using the IP address at any time, it appears as a residential IP and bypasses the location-based restrictions.
We like that these dedicated IPs are dynamic, too. Most other dedicated IP features allocate a static IP address to your account that persists for each connection. But as every PrivateVPN user can connect to these dedicated IPs, it’s almost impossible to trace any activity back to a specific user.
In all, PrivateVPN’s dedicated IP servers are one of the VPN’s main strong points — allowing tighter security, faster torrenting, and reliable streaming. However, the VPN does not promote these servers anywhere, nor does it provide guides to educate users about their use, so we’d like to see it focus on these more in the future.
Simple & attractive apps for all major devices
Platforms & Devices
PrivateVPN has native apps for all major platforms and devices, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Its apps are some of our favorites, prioritizing simplicity and intuitiveness over an abundance of customization options.
The apps function and look almost identical across all platforms, enabling a familiarity and a continuity that we appreciate.
The only notable difference is that the iOS app does not include a kill switch — so your true IP address is at risk of exposure if your VPN connection drops. However, many top VPNs, including ExpressVPN, struggle to provide a kill switch on iOS, so it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.
For alternative platforms like Linux, PrivateVPN’s website provides plenty of manual setup tutorials to guide you through installation.
You can connect up to six devices at the same time, too, which makes PrivateVPN a good choice if you want to protect your family’s devices as well as your own.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
As PrivateVPN is a VPN designed for streaming, we were very disappointed to discover that it does not offer a Smart DNS feature. This means the VPN cannot unblock streaming sites on devices like PS4 and Apple TV.
As these devices do not allow for the installation of VPN apps, most top VPNs include Smart DNS. This tricks websites and apps into thinking you’re connecting from a country different to your own without the need for a full VPN.
Due to its absence, you will have to install PrivateVPN at router-level if you want to unblock streaming sites on a games console or streaming device. Unlike many other VPNs, PrivateVPN does not offer any pre-installed routers for sale, either, so you will have to do it manually.
To do this, check out our step-by-step guide on how to install a VPN on your router or read PrivateVPN’s own tutorial. This process is complicated if you’re inexperienced, so double-check each step before starting.
Alternatively, you could use PrivateVPN’s Fire TV app if you want to stream movies and TV shows from around the world on your TV. Amazon Fire TV Sticks are very affordable, too, so it’s a good option. You can read more about this in the section below.
Amazon Firestick & Fire TV
PrivateVPN features a great app for Amazon Fire TV Stick, with the ability to unblock over 30 Netflix libraries directly onto your TV.
The app comes with the same dedicated streaming servers as the desktop and mobile apps, so you can also stream sites like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max.
Some other VPNs, like Private Internet Access, struggle to unblock streaming services on Firestick due to the device’s stricter VPN-detection techniques. However, we connected to PrivateVPN’s US, UK, Australia, Japan, and Canada servers and they all worked with Netflix.
One drawback to the app is that it hasn’t been optimized for Fire TV — so it’s left looking like a blown-up version of the Android app. As it was originally designed for touch input, it makes it difficult to decipher what setting you’re controlling at any given time. The only indication being that the element in focus gains a faint green-colored border.
The main negative to PrivateVPN’s Firestick app is that it doesn’t feature a kill switch. This is particularly problematic for Kodi streamers, as if your connection drops for any reason, you may accidentally reveal your IP address.
Despite these issues, PrivateVPN remains our second-best choice for the best VPN for Firestick. It’s earned its place simply because it works flawlessly for unblocking geo-restricted sites and features the largest number of dedicated streaming servers of any VPN.
Unlike all other top VPNs, there are no browser extensions available for PrivateVPN.
VPN browser extensions provide a fast and convenient way to unblock streaming sites, like Netflix and Hulu, so PrivateVPN’s lack of options is disappointing.
It is worth noting, though, that most VPN browser extensions merely work as an internet proxy — failing to encrypt any of your non-browser internet traffic. This leaves activities, like photo syncing and torrenting clients, outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel.
As a result, if privacy is your priority, the absence of browser extensions will not be an issue. However, if you’re a streamer that wants a quick way to change server locations, the lack of browser extensions might be a regular frustration.
Does PrivateVPN Work in China?
Due to the strict nature of the Chinese government, it’s very difficult to test VPNs in China from outside of the country. Because of this, most claims about a VPN’s capability in China are not based on real tests and are instead based on internet forums and discussions.
To ensure our information is 100% accurate, we have servers physically located in Shanghai that run Windows 10 on a virtual machine. This allows us to make a real connection within China remotely, just as if we were in the country itself.
Our latest round of testing found that PrivateVPN works in China. Using the VPN’s Stealth VPN protocol, we were able to beat the Great Firewall of China and unblock apps like Netflix, YouTube, and WhatsApp.
However, it is worth noting that despite being branded as a bespoke PrivateVPN protocol, Stealth VPN routes traffic through the open-source Shadowsocks proxy. Shadowsocks is not unique to PrivateVPN and is available from many other VPN services. It’s simply not as safe or effective as custom VPN obfuscation tools.
In contrast to PrivateVPN, some VPNs, like Astrill, have developed proprietary technology for bypassing censorship. These don’t rely on proxies and are a safer option if you regularly connect out from China.
Is PrivateVPN Safe?
Encryption, Privacy & Security
DNS Leak Blocking
IPV6 Leak Blocking
Supports TCP Port 443
VPN Kill Switch
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
Despite not offering many configurable security features, PrivateVPN is a trusted safe VPN and does the basics very well. You can rely on the service to encrypt your data and keep your online activities private and anonymous.
The VPN’s website claims that the very strongest encryption methods are in use — including the AES-256 cipher and 2048-bit RSA handshake. To verify this claim, we analyzed the VPN connection logs, and we were pleased with what we found.
After our research, we discovered that PrivateVPN’s encryption and security are tough. The VPN implements its encryption as follows:
- OpenVPN connections are established via an RSA-2048 handshake.
- Perfect Forward Secrecy via an ECDH key exchange.
- Authentication is provided using an SHA-384 hash.
- Traffic is securely encrypted using the AES-256 cipher.
Although the technical details of this may sound complicated, these protocols work in tandem to ensure your data is kept safe, secure, and private.
If you want to read about VPN encryption, protocols, and ciphers in more detail, check out our dedicated guide to VPN encryption.
A kill switch is an essential feature for any VPN user as it stops your internet connection altogether if your VPN connection drops at any point. By doing this, the kill switch protects your IP address and your true identity is never exposed.
PrivateVPN has a kill switch for Windows and MacOS to keep you safe if your connection drops. It’s not enabled by default, though, so make sure to have it turned on within the ‘Connection Guard’ tab of the settings menu.
To test the effectiveness of PrivateVPN’s kill switch, we performed a number of IP leak tests while manually disconnecting the VPN. The kill switch worked flawlessly and our true IP address did not leak.
A kill switch is essential for many online activities, like unblocking streaming sites and torrenting, so we’re glad to see it included. However, a major drawback is that there is no kill switch on PrivateVPN’s iOS or Amazon Fire TV app — leaving connections from these devices vulnerable.
Unlike so many other big-name VPNs, PrivateVPN does not offer a split tunneling feature. This means that you are unable to exclude any apps from using the VPN connection, which may result in PrivateVPN stopping them from working properly.
Although it may seem unusual to leave some of your traffic unprotected, there are some situations where this feature is necessary. A VPN will interfere with your wireless printer and smart home devices, for example.
As a result, we were unable to use any of these local services while running PrivateVPN. Without this feature, PrivateVPN lags behind some of its competitors and may become useless to you, depending on your use-case.
Leak Test Results
Although PrivateVPN encrypts all VPN traffic with gold-standard protocols, data leaks can still occur. This happens when traffic is transmitted outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel, making your identity visible to third-parties.
Thankfully, PrivateVPN comes with IPv6 and DNS leak protection. To verify that these features are fully functional, we put PrivateVPN’s Windows and iOS apps through a series of real-world leak tests.
To test for any IP address leaks, we used ipleak.net. We used PrivateVPN servers in the US, UK, Australia, and Sweden. PrivateVPN did not leak our real IP address at any point — keeping our identity private and anonymous.
PrivateVPN also passed our DNS leak test without any issues. This is helped by the fact that PrivateVPN operates its own DNS servers that resolve all your DNS requests, thereby removing any risk of leaks from third-party servers and data-handlers.
In sum, these results show that PrivateVPN is safe and can be trusted to protect your identity as you browse the web.
Inconsistent customer support
|Live chat Support||Yes|
PrivateVPN has good customer support but it is inconsistent in both availability and quality of service. The support team can be contacted either through live chat or via email.
Despite being operational 24/7, its live chat is not always available. After reaching out to the company for an explanation, we were told that there are only four customer support agents in total, so the live chat system is shut down temporarily if there is a large queue or if the agents are on break.
The chat box will display either red or green depending on whether it’s available. It can be initiated from the bottom-right corner of the PrivateVPN website and it will prompt you to enter your name, email address, and question before proceeding.
This is extremely poor for a top VPN service. 24/7 customer support is now an expectation for good VPNs and, if not, then live chat is always available during set times of the day.
With PrivateVPN, though, the availability of a customer support agent is unpredictable and random — which can be extremely frustrating if you want a quick answer to a query.
In addition, PrivateVPN’s support agents differ substantially in helpfulness. Some agents are very knowledgeable, prompt to respond, and courteous. However, some others are very ill-informed, misunderstand queries, and are slow to reply.
If live chat is unavailable, your question will be forwarded to PrivateVPN’s email support. This email support runs 24/7 and, in our testing, we frequently received a reply within an hour. The email support team is generally more knowledgeable than the live chat staff, so make sure to contact them if you have a more advanced query.
For any general issues, PrivateVPN’s online resources and FAQs page should suffice, but these are limited and only cover the basics. We would like to see more video walkthroughs and an update of the tutorials. Many still use screenshots from the old PrivateVPN app, for example.
Easy to install and set-up
How to Install & Set Up PrivateVPN
One of the best features of PrivateVPN is its easy-to-use and simple apps. The apps have been recently updated, too, further enhancing their intuitiveness and attractiveness.
From the app’s home screen, you can only connect or disconnect from the VPN using the large on/off button, or change your server location. However, the app is more configurable than it first seems as it allows you to choose between this ‘simple view’ or an ‘advanced view’.
From the app’s advanced view you can manually configure a range of settings. You can adjust the VPN protocol, the level of encryption used, as well as turn on advanced features like the kill switch and Stealth VPN. This makes the advanced view great if you want to tailor the service to suit your preferences.
The simple view, on the other hand, is perfect if you’re a VPN novice who wants a quick and easy way to connect the VPN and change server location.
Overall, the user experience of PrivateVPN’s apps is one of the very best we’ve seen — they’re easy to use and navigate, they don’t include any bloatware, connecting is quick, and they’re very stable.
Do We Recommend PrivateVPN?
The Bottom Line
PrivateVPN is an excellent VPN service overall. It comes with intuitive apps for beginners, advanced security and encryption, as well as some of the most affordable prices on the market.
PrivateVPN is particularly well suited for streamers who want a quick and easy way to unblock streaming sites from around the world. The apps include the largest amount of dedicated streaming servers we’ve seen — supporting 32 different Netflix libraries, Hulu, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer. However, we do wish PrivateVPN offered a Smart DNS feature, as users are left unable to stream content on devices like Apple TV or games consoles.
PrivateVPN is also one of the best VPNs for China, with its Stealth VPN protocol easily bypassing the Great Firewall in all of our recent tests.
However, we encountered some highly unreliable speeds when testing PrivateVPN. The VPN’s tiny server network and lack of information about server load means that servers are often overcrowded. It’s therefore impossible to decipher whether your speeds will be fast or slow before connecting. This is the VPN’s most significant drawback and will often frustrate your Netflix streaming with interruptions and buffering.
PrivateVPN is also based in an imperfect jurisdiction and its logging policy has not been verified by an independent audit or a real-world court case. There is a risk the VPN is not entirely disclosing its logging practices, which we discovered had been happening in the past.
Overall, PrivateVPN is one of our favorite VPNs and is a great option for most VPN users. It will work with any streaming service, hide your torrenting activity, and it will secure data on public WiFi. However, if you want a more fully-featured VPN with the fastest speeds, Smart DNS, browser extensions, 24/7 live chat, and numerous server locations — you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Alternatives to PrivateVPN
Surfshark is a similarly-priced VPN that comes with more features. Surfshark includes Smart DNS, it’s based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, live chat is available 24/7, and it allows unlimited simultaneous connections. It’s not as good for streaming, though, and you will have to pay for three years upfront to get access to the cheapest deal. Read Surfshark review
If money is no issue, then ExpressVPN is the very best VPN available today. It has the fastest long-distance speeds of any VPN, it works in China, and it reliably unblocks streaming sites from around the world in HD. You’ll have to pay $6.67 per month for its 15-month plan, but ExpressVPN is well worth the extra money. Read ExpressVPN review