To install and start using PrivateVPN, go to its website and click Get PrivateVPN. Choose your subscription plan and download the app. This whole process was simple and took less than 10 minutes.
PrivateVPN hasn’t updated its app design for a long time. It now looks and feels slightly dated compared to other top VPNs.
Curiously, the home page of its website has shown a version of the app with an updated interface for over a year. When we asked, a PrivateVPN representative stated “there is no timeframe” for when this will be released.
Here’s more detail of our experience using PrivateVPN on every operating system:
Desktop & Laptop (Windows & Mac)
Exclusive to the desktop apps, PrivateVPN allows you to choose between a ‘simple view’ or an ‘advanced view’.
From the app’s advanced view, you can manually configure a range of settings. You can adjust the level of encryption used as well as turn on advanced features. 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 suitable if you’re a VPN novice who wants a quick and easy way to connect the VPN and change server location. But we do wish some of the simpler settings, like changing the VPN protocol, could be changed from this view.
Sadly, unlike almost every other VPN app, PrivateVPN cannot automatically choose the fastest server based on your location. Instead, you’ll have to manually select one.
Choosing a server is easier on Windows as the app displays and color codes the server ping. Simply connect to the server with the lowest ping for the fastest speeds. On Mac, the server list is blank with no indication of the distance between you and it.
The Windows app (top) displays more server information than the Mac app (bottom).
As you can see in the screenshot above, the server list window is needlessly large on both platforms. The same amount of information can be displayed on a window half the size, so we’d at least like this to be resizable.
We also don’t like how the server list opens in an entirely new window and obstructs the home screen of the app. Because of this, it took us a while to realize that you have to close the window to return to the main app. Almost every other VPN allows you to change servers from the home screen of the app.
Disappointingly, PrivateVPN is not usable from the menu bar on Mac and the taskbar on Windows. Other VPNs let you quickly change server location from here, but PrivateVPN doesn’t have this functionality.
Mobile (iPhone & Android)
PrivateVPN’s iOS and Android apps are basic but very easy to use. From the home screen, you can connect or disconnect from the VPN using the large on/off button.
Disappointingly, though, PrivateVPN hasn’t added any mobile-only features to make the app better to use. It doesn’t include a dark mode interface and there’s no integration with the Shortcuts app on iOS. Nor are there widgets available for iOS and Android.
The home screen of the iOS app (left) is identical to the Android app (right).
As on desktop, the only significant difference between PrivateVPN’s mobile apps is the addition of server ping on the Android version.
Unlike the desktop apps, the mobile apps don’t have a ‘simple’ or ‘advanced’ view. To change the VPN’s settings, simply tap VPN Settings. We recommend turning on the kill switch from here as soon as you download the app as it’s not enabled by default.
In short, PrivateVPN’s mobile apps are the most basic we’ve seen from a leading VPN service. The VPN will continue to lag behind the competition unless it puts development time into integrating with the device it’s built for.
Though possible, it’s extremely difficult to connect to a PrivateVPN server on Linux. The VPN doesn’t have either a CLI or GUI app for Linux.
To connect to PrivateVPN on Linux, you have to use OpenVPN certificate and key files.
It’s a lengthy, technical process which isn’t made any easier by PrivateVPN’s outdated 12-step walkthrough. Running Ubuntu 22.04 we found the majority of instructions referred to labels and options that have either been renamed or no longer exist. You also have to repeat these 12 steps if you want to have the option of more than just one server to connect to, too.
PrivateVPN is difficult to use on Linux.
We also discovered that the Linux app leaks your IPv6 address, which you can read about elsewhere in this review.
We’d prefer it if PrivateVPN took the time to add full Linux support — even a CLI app like ExpressVPN’s is easier to use than this. Similarly priced VPNs, like Surfshark, offer fully-featured Linux apps that are as easy to use as the Windows and Mac versions.
Amazon Firestick & Fire TV
PrivateVPN features a simple and easy-to-use app for Amazon Fire TV Stick. Using it, we could quickly connect to a server to unblock 14 on our TV.
Changing the server location was simple, too. Although we would have liked the ability to search for a specific location rather than scrolling through the entire list of countries.
One drawback to the app’s interface is that it hasn’t been optimized for Fire TV. As it’s a scaled-up version of its Android app, which was originally designed for touch input, it’s difficult to work out which setting you’re controlling at any given time. The only indication is the button in focus gains a faint green-colored border.
PrivateVPN’s Firestick app isn’t optimized for larger screens.
To fix this, we’d like to see PrivateVPN develop a custom app for Fire TV. Other VPNs, like CyberGhost and Atlas VPN, include a customized app for Firesticks. These have been designed with larger screens in mind, making them much easier to use.