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Published: Apr 04, 2024 33 min read

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VPNs are designed to encrypt and obfuscate a user’s activity over the internet. They help avoid targeted marketing, bypass regional content blocking and establish a secure connection while using public networks.

Read on to learn how you can find the best VPN service for you.

Our Top Picks for the Best VPN Services of 2023

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Best VPN Service Reviews


Why we chose it: We chose ExpressVPN as the best overall VPN for its outstanding performance and for excelling in all key areas we evaluated — security, features and cost.

Pros
  • One of the fastest VPNs on the market
  • Large number of servers and server locations
  • High level of encryption and advanced security features
  • Compatible with many types of platforms and devices
Cons
  • Plans are more expensive
  • Limit of 5 simultaneously connected devices
  • Some features only available on Windows, Mac and Linux
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
3,000 +
Server locations
160
Jurisdiction
British Virgin Islands
Plans starting at:
$8.32 per month

ExpressVPN uses top-notch security measures and provides ample features on both the server and user sides. Not to mention it’s one of the fastest VPNs on the market.

With over 3,000 servers in 160 locations across 94 countries, this VPN uses advanced technology independently audited to confirm essential privacy protections. Servers are run entirely on volatile memory, or RAM, which requires power to store data, meaning all information on a server is wiped every time it is powered off and back on again. This lowers the risk of leaks of sensitive information.

Performance wise, ExpressVPN is one of the most reliable and fastest VPNs today thanks to its proprietary Lightway protocol, which only uses about 2,000 lines of code. With fewer lines of code than other major protocols it’s easier to audit and maintain, runs faster, and uses less battery.


Why we chose it: We chose Norton Secure VPN as the best introductory offer because it boasts a comprehensive online security package for a remarkably low price — during the first year.

Pros
  • One of the most affordable VPNs on the market
  • Detects compromised and unsecure networks
  • Built-in ad-tracking blocker
  • Global high-speed servers
Cons
  • Low number of server locations
  • Only annual plans available
  • No public audit information
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
1,000+
Server locations
29
Jurisdiction
U.S.
Plans starting at:
$34.99/yr

Developed by one of the most well-known brands in the cybersecurity space, Norton Secure VPN comes with bank-grade encryption, an integrated ad-tracking blocker and other key privacy tools for only $34.99 a year. Although the company doesn’t offer monthly payment plans for its VPN, this is still considerably lower than what other competitors charge for their annual plans.

Norton Secure VPN has a high number of servers compared to smaller VPNs, although its number of locations and selection of countries is somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, the VPN’s servers are spread throughout most regions of the world and boast high speeds, dynamically scaling with the number of users to ensure the best performance.

One standout feature of Norton Secure VPN is its ability to automatically secure your device if it detects you are connected to a compromised, unsecure or suspicious network. Together with its kill switch, which disconnects you from the Internet if the VPN connection is lost, Norton provides a hands-off experience that requires little user interaction with the software.


Why we chose it: We chose NordVPN as the best VPN for torrenting because of the excellent performance of its dedicated peer-to-peer servers and its split tunneling feature.

Pros
  • Specialty servers for torrenting and for unique security features
  • Over 5,000 servers across 60 countries
  • NordLynx protocol provides high speeds without giving up privacy
  • Strong apps with intuitive, simple layouts
Cons
  • Split tunneling only available on Android and Windows
  • More expensive than the average VPN
  • Occasionally cramped interfaces
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
5,000+
Server locations
60
Jurisdiction
Panama
Plans starting at:
$3.79 per month

Our NordVPN review found the company excels for several reasons, including ease of use, its specialty peer-to-peer servers that are optimized for torrenting only and support SOCKS5 proxy, which offers faster download speeds than other proxies on P2P platforms. This is complemented by the company’s in-house NordLynx technology that allows the WireGuard® protocol’s speed benefits without compromising user privacy.

NordVPN is also well-known for being a highly secure and privacy-forward VPN. The company implements a strict zero-log policy, has an automatic kill switch, uses AES-256-Bit encryption, and hosts specialty servers for Onion Over VPN, double VPN, and greater obfuscation. Moreover, its CyberSec tool can block dangerous websites, avoid botnet control, and skip unwanted pop-ups and ads.

Nord’s plans are more affordable than those of other competitors of the same brand popularity, and it features more than 5,200 servers — one of the highest counts on this list.

Read full review


Why we chose it: We chose Hotspot Shield as the best VPN for iPhone because of its compatibility with older iOS models, added security services, and seamless interface.

Pros
  • One of the world's fastest VPNs
  • Free version does not require credit card information
  • Affordable family plan allows up to 25 devices
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
Cons
  • Gathers a significant amount of data, albeit anonymously
  • No third-party infrastructure audit and dated transparency report
  • Only 5 simultaneously connected devices allowed
  • Lack of protocol variety and transparency
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
3,200
Server locations
80+
Jurisdiction
USA
Plans starting at:
$7.99 per month. Free version available.

Hotspot Shield is as straightforward as VPNs get, which can be helpful for iOS users who want a service that’s fast, appealing, and easy to set up. Although the VPN lacks certain functionalities and customizability, its robust encryption scheme, good amount of servers and high speeds more than make up for it.

Paid Hotspot Shield plans include a spam-call blocker and 1Password manager integration. The call blocker will automatically tag calls as spam if they come from a suspicious number and report them to the FTC. 1Password can create unlimited passwords and pre-fill logins, and will notify users if their accounts logins and passwords are compromised.

Hotspot Shield for iPhone is compatible with all phones running iOS 11.0 or later, which includes all models from iPhone 5S up to iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Mini.


Why we chose it: We chose CyberGhost as the best VPN for streaming because its numerous server locations allow viewing content from a wide variety of regions, and for its many dedicated streaming servers.

Pros
  • High number of servers
  • Servers specifically designated for different streaming services
  • 7-day free trial with no credit card required
  • WireGuard® protocol supported across all apps
Cons
  • Unintuitive app user interface
  • Expensive monthly plan
  • Servers for some streaming services can be unreliable
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
8,000+
Server locations
91
Jurisdiction
Romania
Plans starting at:
$2.11 per month

CyberGhost is a long-running Romanian VPN service that nearly tops the list for number of servers. CyberGhost has over 7,400 servers around the world, good security features, including a kill switch, IPv6 and DNS leak protection, and a malware blocker. It also allows up to seven simultaneous connections.

What puts CyberGhost ahead of other VPNs for streaming is its number of server countries — 94 in total — in combination with its extensive server network. The size of the server network ensures that users don’t suffer from bloating due to surges in traffic, while the number of server countries means users can access regionally-restricted content from all over the globe.

CyberGhost also has specially designated servers for using specific streaming services, including servers for Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. You can also access streaming services unavailable in your country by setting up a VPN for your Amazon Fire TV or Chrome browser.

Another of CyberGhost’s highlights is its NoSpy servers. These are managed by the VPN’s team end-to-end and integrate premium hardware with a dedicated uplink to provide extended bandwidth for data-intense online activities.

Read full review


Why we chose it: We chose SurfShark as the best VPN for gaming because it’s affordable, performs well and can be used alongside more restrictive gaming services.

Pros
  • Connect an unlimited number of devices at once
  • Whitelister allows online gaming and other services without shutting down VPN
  • Shadowsocks protocol to bypass internet censorship in restrictive countries
  • Multi-hop feature maximizes connection privacy
Cons
  • Split tunneling only available on Windows and Android
  • Requires longer subscriptions to unlock its low prices
  • No one-year plan available
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
3,200+
Server locations
65
Jurisdiction
British Virgin Islands
Plans starting at:
$2.39 per month

Surfshark’s affordable prices, extensive list of features and reliable connection speeds make it a powerful gaming VPN. The VPN consistently delivers low ping and latency numbers on most of its servers. Having over 3,200 servers also lowers the likelihood that users will experience drops in performance due to sudden bursts in traffic.

Setting up Surfshark for PC or mobile gamers is quite simple. For console gamers, the VPN provides a guide on how to set it up on a router with OpenVPN or IKEv2. Users with a router that supports at least one of these protocols will have a much easier time with this process.

If you’re on a PC or mobile device, there’s also a Whitelister function available. This feature lets users route their favorite games through a VPN so they don’t affect other online activities.

Besides being a superb VPN for gaming, Surfshark is also an excellent all-around privacy and security solution that doesn't keep logs of your activities. The service also features an automatic kill switch, multi-hop functionality, Private DNS & leak protection, and a Camouflage Mode that masks the fact you’re using a VPN.

Another big advantage of Surfshark is that it places no limits on the number of simultaneously connected devices a single account can have. This makes it an excellent VPN for families, as they can share the VPN across all devices that it’s available on.


Why we chose it: We chose Windscribe as the best free VPN because of its numerous features, nearly all of them available on the free version of the software.

Pros
  • Unlimited number of simultaneously connected devices
  • Free version grants access to nearly all features of premium plans
  • Minimalist client interface, easy to set up and use
Cons
  • 10GB/mo data usage limit
  • Stores more data than other competitors to enforce usage limits
  • Many features are only available on specific platforms
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
175
Server Locations
110+
Jurisdiction
Canada
Plans starting at:
$5.75 per month. Free version available.

Windscribe is a powerful free VPN service that's simple and effective. It also comes with more features than other VPNs on the market and works well out of the box. The client interface has a minimalist design, you just need to open the VPN app to establish a connection.

Due to the interaction between browser extensions and PC apps, Windscribe is a strong choice for computer users. Advanced features such as matching your timezone to the selected server, rotating your user agent, disabling WebRTC, and multi-hop (also known as double VPN) are available by using both clients simultaneously.

A big advantage that Windscribe offers over other VPN services — especially over other free VPN services — is that you can use it on unlimited devices. Another advantage over other VPNs is its firewall system, which is available on Windows and Mac and provides a superior solution to standard kill switches by working proactively to avoid data leaks.

The trade-off for Windscribe’s extensive list of features and unlimited number of devices is that it stores your username, the server you’re connected to, and the amount of data transferred to ensure these are your devices and enforce its 10GB data limit. Nonetheless, this information is erased within three minutes of the session ending and Windscribe doesn’t store connection logs, IP stamps, or visited sites.


Why we chose it: We chose Private Internet Access as the best VPN for Android because of its ioXt certification and its strong core features available on the Android app, such as split tunneling, tracker blocking, and various protocols.

Pros
  • Over 29k servers — the highest on our list
  • Highly customizable applications and extensions
  • Available anonymous payment options
  • Up to 10 simultaneously connected devices
Cons
  • No live chat support
  • No app exclusion or whitelisting feature
  • Cost for dedicated IP address is higher than other services
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
30,000 +
Server locations
100+
Jurisdiction
USA
Plans starting at:
$2.11 per month

Private Internet Access (PIA) makes for an excellent Android VPN due to its easy-to-use app and long list of features. When opening the app, users can see a large, yellow button that, when pressed, turns green after the app establishes a connection to the best server available. The VPN features a kill switch, a snooze function, a favorites list, port forwarding, split tunneling, proxy support, and more.

Customization is a major highlight of PIA, which makes for a good pairing with Android given the system’s freedom of personalization. There is an abundance of options and settings users can tweak in the VPN’s client, including the level of encryption, conditions for establishing connections automatically, and even the look and feel of the app.

Another highlight: The number of servers. With more than 30,000 servers in 100 locations across 83 countries, PIA's network is the largest among all VPNs we considered. The variety of servers is also notable, with specialized servers for streaming and P2P.

PIA only uses bare-metal servers for its VPN network for enhanced security and performance and they are compatible with the WireGuard® protocol. The VPN’s Android app supports all devices with Android 5.0 new and operating software.


Why we chose it: We chose VyprVPN as the best VPN for traveling because its strong network infrastructure and security tools give it an edge over competitors while on the move or abroad.

Pros
  • Designed to bypass censorship, VPN blocking and geo-restrictions
  • Support for a wide variety of protocols
  • Affordable plans relative to its competitors
  • Reliable for use in China
Cons
  • Limited to five simultaneously connected devices
  • Low number of servers compared to major VPNs
  • Does not work with some streaming services
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
700+
Server locations
70+
Jurisdiction
Switzerland
Plans starting at:
$5 per month

VyprVPN has a valuable reputation for its ability to bypass geo-restrictions and government censorship in countries like China and Russia. The VPN has high security standards, implementing 256-bit AES protocols paired with SHA256 authentication, an automatic kill switch, a NAT Firewall, and DNS protection service. Its plans are also more affordable than its competitors.

The crowning jewel of VyprVPN is its proprietary protocol, Chameleon. Chameleon scrambles user metadata to combat VPN blocks and get around deep packet inspection so no one can detect you’re using a VPN.

What VyprVPN lacks in sheer quantity, it has in quality. Although it only features over 700 servers, it owns, engineers, and manages all of its servers in order to deliver faster and more reliable connections. The VPN has also greatly improved its logging practices by becoming a no-log policy service, which a 2018 Leviathan Security independent audit confirmed.

Read full review


Why we chose it: We chose IPVanish as the best VPN for multiple devices based on the unmetered connections available simultaneously on various devices.

Pros
  • Solid security protocols and features
  • Unlimited data usage
  • No limit on the number of devices
  • Verified no-logs policy
Cons
  • Server selection not user-friendly
  • Dynamic IP addresses may cause some issues
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
2,200+
Server locations
75
Jurisdiction
U.S.
Plans starting at:
$2.99 per month

IPVanish is an excellent option for those who regularly need multiple VPN-protected devices simultaneously. Unlike other providers, who may place data caps in exchange for unlimited devices, the company does not limit the number of devices or the amount of data you can use.

IPVanish features over 2,200 servers across 75 locations around the globe. It uses dynamic IP addresses, meaning each user is temporarily assigned one of the company's 40,000 shared IP addresses. Dynamic IP addresses are cheaper and more secure, but the ever-changing IP address ensures you will need to re-enter your info every time you visit a frequented website.

The VPN also uses AES 256-bit encryption and features an automatic kill switch. IPVanish offers software for Windows, Mac and Linux users and supports Apple and Android smartphones. While user response for its apps is positive, some individuals found the ping-based server selection method unhelpful.

On the topic of privacy features, IPVanish touts an independently-verified no-logs policy. The company explains they do not record unique data such as traffic destination, IP addresses and DNS inquiries. Connective diagnostic data also self-destructs at the end of the session.


Why we chose it: Mozilla's nonprofit status and values-centered approach will make it an appealing choice for some users.

Pros
  • Helps support the nonprofit Mozilla
  • Server infrastructure powered by privacy-oriented Mullvad
  • Uses the Wire Guard protocol
  • Supports multi-hop and split tunneling
Cons
  • Low number of connected devices
  • Limited number of server options
  • Only available in seventeen countries
  • No live chat support
HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
500+
Server locations
30+
Jurisdiction
U.S.
Plans starting at:
$4.99 per month

Mozilla has consistently advocated for a healthier internet, stating in Principle 4 of their Mozilla Manifesto that “individuals’ security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.” If you are looking for a VPN provider that shares those values, Mozilla may be the right option for you.

Mozilla uses WireGuard protocol, which is known for its speed and stability. Like many VPN providers, Mozilla VPN does not own the server infrastructure it uses. Instead, Mozilla VPN partners with Mullvad, one of the more trusted, privacy-focused VPN providers.

Mozilla does have a few downsides. For instance, the number of devices you may connect is limited to five, which is fewer than that of many competitors. Moreover, the VPN is only available to subscribers in 17 countries, and it does not offer a live chat feature for user support.

Read full review


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Other Companies We Considered

Some VPNs considered were noteworthy, but did not have any particular features that made them stand out from the rest. Others perform well, but are too expensive for what they offer, lack essential security tools, or have a history of low customer satisfaction.


TunnelBear

Pros
  • Engaging and straightforward user interface
  • Audited annually for security
Cons
  • Low data usage limit of 500MB/mo
  • Smaller than average server network

TunnelBear is a solid choice for VPN beginners: It’s free, employs a high level of security and is effortless to use. All paid plans are affordable and feature a generous degree of functionality, although the service could use more servers.

Consumers who are more experienced with VPNs, need specialized solutions, or simply want more speed, connected devices or features should probably look elsewhere.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
3,000 +
Server locations
45+
Jurisdiction
Canada
Plans starting at:
$3.33 per month. Free version available.

Torguard VPN

Pros
  • Great for torrenting
  • Large server network
Cons
  • Streaming costs extra
  • Split tunneling only for Android

As the name implies, Torguard VPN is designed for torrenting. It boasts industry-standard security features, such as a no-logs policy and an automatic kill switch, as well as a large number of servers to ensure that connection speeds do not drop significantly.

On the other hand, the company's pricing structure may be a drawback for users who want additional features, such as video streaming. You may be able to find a more cost-effective VPN, depending on your needs.

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
3,000+
Server locations
50+
Jurisdiction
U.S.
Plans starting at:
$9.99 per month

Ivacy

Pros
  • Can connect users to a server according to specific use cases
  • Competitive pricing and a one-week trial
Cons
  • No kill switch or split tunneling for iOS or macOS
  • Poor choice of protocols compared to other top VPNs

Ivacy was the first VPN to bring split tunneling to the market. This feature allows users to route some of their traffic through an encrypted tunnel, while other applications or devices maintain direct access to the internet.

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
5,700+
Server locations
100+
Jurisdiction
Singapore
Plans starting at:
$1.33 per month

AtlasVPN

Pros
  • Unlimited number of connected devices
  • Malware, tracker and ad blocking tool included
Cons
  • Small number of servers
  • No diskless servers

AtlasVPN is a relative newcomer in the VPN space but is already making some noise due to a strong batch of features and an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. Its unique SafeSwap feature is noteworthy: it improves privacy by rotating your IP address while you browse by connecting to a single VPN server.

Despite its advantages, Atlas has some room to grow, as it’s currently held back by a limited server network. It also does not use diskless servers, which have become a security standard even among free VPNs.

Read full review

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
750
Server locations
42
Jurisdiction
Delaware, USA
Plans starting at:
$1.83 per month

ProtonVPN

Pros
  • Strong server infrastructure with many optimized for file sharing
  • Highest plan tier includes premium Email service
Cons
  • Free version suffers from substantial bottlenecking
  • Customer support is lacking

ProtonVPN is another service with a free version, albeit one whose unpaid option serves best as a trial mode than a full product. The VPN excels in many areas, namely in its variety of plans and server network and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, a lack of live customer service and stifling bandwidth limitations on its more affordable plans hold back the VPN.

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
1,696
Server locations
63
Jurisdiction
Switzerland
Plans starting at:
$4.99 per month

Mullvad

Pros
  • Anonymous account creation
  • Accepts a wide variety of payment methods
Cons
  • Low number of servers
  • Customer service only via email

Mullvad is one of the best VPN options for those focused on privacy. Although many VPNs claim to improve users’ online privacy — some even promising “complete anonymity” — Mullvad actually does so thanks to the way they handle account creation and payments.

Mullvad may seem limited compared to larger VPN services, which offer a higher number of servers and features, but it has a niche that most others can’t fill.

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
833
Server locations
68
Jurisdiction
Sweden
Plans starting at:
Plans starting at: €5/mo per month (~$5.24/mo)

IVPN

Pros
  • Weekly, monthly and annual payment options
  • Highly affordable given its number and variety of features
Cons
  • Very low number of servers
  • No browser extensions

IVPN is another VPN service that is hyper focused on user privacy. It allows for several anonymous payment options, uses several obfuscation methods, and includes a tracker, adware and ad blocker.

IVPN's greatest disadvantage is the low number of servers on its network, which could result in slower VPN speeds during peak times.

HIGHLIGHTS
Servers
77
Server locations
45
Jurisdiction
Gibraltar
Plans starting at:
$2 per week

Best VPN Guide

VPNs are useful for a variety of purposes. If you’ve ever asked yourself “Do I need a VPN?,” the answer is that anyone who uses the internet regularly can benefit from one.

However, keep in mind that VPNs aren’t a magical solution for internet security or privacy, and are best used in specific circumstances.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, hides your IP address and physical location when using the internet. VPN hosts redirect your online activity to servers in their network, which may be a few miles away or entire countries apart. This makes it so no one but your VPN can tell who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing online — not even your internet service provider.

Concealing your real IP address has several benefits, such as throwing off advertisers, bypassing censorship and gaining access to region-specific content. VPNs also encrypt your data to deter malicious third parties from getting their hands on it. This is especially useful in the context of public Wi-Fi networks, which are inherently more hazardous than private servers.

VPNs are often offered as software that consumers can download onto their PC, smartphone, tablet, or even router. Once it’s up and running, users generally have two choices: connect to the server recommended by the VPN service or manually select a server. The user’s internet traffic is then routed through that server after a connection is established.

How does a VPN work?

VPNs work via misdirection. They create virtual tunnels that channel your data into their private network via communication protocols, which are sets of rules that allow information to be transferred between two networks.

Your VPN host effectively replaces your internet service provider with a specially configured remote server as the source of your data. And because VPN protocols use hashing algorithms, they also provide encryption, safeguarding your data while it travels from your device to their servers.

By the time a VPN tunnel throws your data back into the public Internet, your activity appears under the IP address of the server you are using. If that server is in a different country, your traffic will show as if it’s coming from there.

What does a VPN do?

VPNs circumvent your current internet connection, creating a tunnel that encrypts your information as it travels from your device to its destination online. This obfuscates your activity from internet service providers and protects your data from third-parties when using public WiFi.

Without a VPN, cybercriminals can more easily get ahold of your data while using an unsecured network.

How to choose the best VPN

It’s important to understand the features you should be looking for in a VPN. Some people will value a wider variety of server locations, whereas others will focus on price. For instance, if you are wondering what VPN for crypto trading is best, you should look for those with the highest possible security standards.

  • Identify your use case. Do you need a VPN because you often use public Wi-Fi or because you want to unblock Netflix content from other regions? Different VPN solutions are best suited for different tasks, so you should choose one that best matches your situation.
  • Assess the features you need. Many VPNs offer additional cybersecurity products, such as ad blockers, antivirus, and password managers. They may even offer ID theft protection (we recommend you check our list of best identity theft protection services to see which ones are worth your time).
  • Establish your budget. Most VPNs cost between $9 and $13 per month. This is relatively inexpensive, but you may be better off with a more affordable product if you don’t plan on using your VPN regularly.
  • Start comparison shopping. Look at key features from VPNs with the features you need that are within your budget. Make a list of no more than five products that are limited to ones you are seriously considering.
  • Check each VPN’s server locations. Having a large number of servers is a good selling point for a VPN, but the location thereof is arguably even more important. This is especially true if you want to access servers in specific countries. Make sure these locations are covered by the VPN service.
  • Check for money-back guarantees. Even if the VPN you are considering seems perfect, there’s nothing like getting your hands on it and actually trying it out. Make sure that any VPN you are considering has at least a 30-day money-back guarantee, or better yet, a free version to test its features.
  • Make sure your devices are compatible. Although most VPNs are available on a number of operating systems, you should always check that they are compatible with the specific device(s) you plan to use. Also, make sure that any features you need, like split tunneling and double VPN, are available in your chosen platform or device.

How to set up a VPN?

For those wondering how to set up a VPN, there are two methods for doing so: the software approach and the manual approach. The software approach is recommended for first-time VPN users. It consists of downloading a VPN's client — an app or extension — on your device(s), opening the software, logging into your account, and providing any required security key or two-step authentication code.

The manual approach varies by operating system and is recommended for users who want more VPN configuration options. After finding your target server and identifying the available protocols, you'll have to look for a guide that shows how to set up the connection on your specific device.

How do I test VPN services?

Testing your VPN service is an essential step in your cyber security strategy. If your VPN fails, your data is vulnerable to the prying eyes of hackers or your ISP. Likewise, if your VPN is too slow to use, it may be worth reconsidering if the service is right for you. Testing your VPN can be broken down into two categories: security and speed.

Several websites offer basic tests that can check your VPN for leaks. For instance, ipleak's basic test can check for IP address leaks which could compromise your data. The ipleak test also checks for IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks. These basic tests should be sufficient for the majority of users.

The reality is all VPNs will slow your internet speed, but you don't want to pay for a service that will drastically slow your connections. Speed tests can track both your download and upload speed. A simple speed test can be found at speedtest.net. Be sure to check your normal internet to establish a baseline before checking the effect your VPN may have on speed.

VPN Glossary

  • DNS: The Domain Name System is a naming system for computers, services, and other resources connected to the Internet or a private network. It lets you connect to websites by matching human-readable domain names (like Money.com) to machine-readable IP addresses.
  • DNS leak: DNS leaks are a security flaw that can occur while using services that enhance your online privacy, like a VPN. They happen when traffic leaks outside of the secure VPN connection established by the service.
  • Encryption: Encryption is the process of taking information or data and scrambling into an unreadable format to prevent unauthorized access. This is done via hashing algorithms. A password or "key" is used to decrypt the information.
  • Geo-blocking: Also known as geo-filtering, this process restricts access to Internet content based on your geographical location. Geo-blocking is used by various entities, but it’s most often associated with region-locked multimedia content, such as films and TV shows.
  • IP address: An Internet Protocol address is a unique numerical label that is attached to a computer network. It’s similar to a mailing address, but for the Internet. Your IP address is associated with your online activity and is used to communicate with other computers and websites.
  • Logs: Logs are records of incoming and outgoing connections to a server. VPN hosts may hold onto this data to monitor the usage of their service. Keeping logs of any kind is generally frowned upon by the VPN community due to the possibility of this information being leaked or shared with third parties.
  • Network: A network consists of two or more computers, servers, mainframes, or other devices that are linked in order to share resources. These electronic devices use protocols to communicate with each other. When using a VPN, your local network sends data to the VPN host’s network and its designated servers.
  • Protocols: Similar to language, a protocol is a set of rules, syntax, semantics, and other elements that allow two devices to interact. If two devices speak the same language, they may be able to communicate. VPNs currently use a variety of tunneling protocols, including PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, and WireGuard.
  • Server: Servers are computer programs or devices that provide resources, data, services, or programs to another computer and its user — known as the client — over a network. VPN servers are located all over the world, and VPN hosts allow clients to access them.
  • Tor: Tor is short for The Onion Router, a free, open-source project that seeks to provide anonymity via encryption layering facilitated by a large network of volunteers. How is Tor different from a VPN? Tor obscures user data via this layering of encryption, while VPNs establish a direct connection using tunneling.
  • Torrenting: Not to be confused with Tor, Torrenting is a file-sharing method that allows users to acquire files via peer-to-peer connections instead of a centralized server. This practice is legal, though often utilized for the illegal practice of copyright infringement.

Latest News on VPN Services

Identity theft has become increasingly rampant in recent years, with 2.2 Million fraud reports filed with the FTC in 2020 alone. According to the FTC, someone becomes the victim of identity fraud every 14 seconds. This makes it all the more important to learn how to protect yourself from identity theft.

It’s not just identity theft, though: all types of cybercrime are on the rise as our society becomes more and more dependent on online tools and services. There were a record 1,862 data compromises in the U.S. last year, according to the Identity Theft Research Center. Learning how to protect yourself online is an essential skill nowadays, and downloading one of the best antivirus software can further shield you from online threats.

The Netflix password sharing crackdown has been in full effect for several months now since being announced earlier this year. For some, the crackdown has led to increased costs due to the rules established by the platform’s new policy. This move followed recent price hikes by other streaming services, including Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, Max and Paramount+.

Best VPN Services FAQs

Are VPNs legal?

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Yes, VPNs are legal in many parts of the world. Some countries ban VPNs through legislation, whereas others only prohibit the use of specific VPNs. While there are no legal repercussions for purchasing or using a VPN in the U.S, this does not absolve users from infringing copyright law or engaging in other illicit activities.

How to use a VPN?

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After downloading and installing the software, the VPN will generally give you the option of immediately connecting to the best available server. VPNs will also show a list of all available servers — and status — in their network so users can manually choose the server they want to connect to by clicking on it.

What is the best VPN?

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The "best" VPN will vary depending on what you want to use it for and how much you are willing to pay. We chose Express VPN as the best overall VPN due to its platform compatibility, large number of servers and country locations, advanced security features and better speed test performance than its competitors.

What is the best free VPN?

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Free VPNs tend to have limited features to encourage users to invest in their paid versions. We determined that Windscribe was the best free VPN in large part due to the numerous components present in its free version, including a generous 1GB/mo data limit. ProtonVPN and TunnelBear's free plans are both runner-ups in this category and are worthy of consideration as well.

How to set up a VPN?

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There are two ways of setting up a VPN: the software approach and the manual approach. The software approach is recommended for first-time VPN users. It consists of downloading a VPN's client — an app or extension — on your device(s), opening the software, logging into your account, and providing any required security key or two-step authentication code.

The manual approach varies by operating system and is recommended for users who want more configuration options. After finding your VPN's address and available protocols, you'll have to look for a guide that shows how to set it up on your specific device.

How We Chose the Best VPN Services

The best VPNs are easy to set up, have high security standards, and feature a wide variety of servers and server locations. They also stay true to their word regarding customer support and their logging practices. The VPNs included in our list scored high in the following categories:

  • Security - Security features are essential for a VPN solution, so we considered the variety of protocols they had available, the type of hashing they use for encryption, and whether they implement a kill switch or firewall failsafe. We highly favored VPNs that have been recently audited by independent firms.
  • Features - We looked at the number of devices, the number of servers and server countries, the availability of dedicated IPs, and the server types that VPNs feature. We also considered if they had multi-hop and/or split tunneling functionality, as well as any additional products included with their VPN plans.
  • Cost - We reviewed each service’s prices, but because most VPNs are similarly priced, we mostly focused on payment plan variety. We only considered VPNs that had a money-back guarantee, a free trial, or a free version.

Summary of Money’s Best VPN Services of 2024