A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that allows you to connect to the internet via one of its own servers, effectively hiding your IP address and providing some privacy to your surfing. VPNs may be used for a variety of applications. You may bypass restrictions, gain access to another country’s Netflix collection, or just add an extra degree of protection when browsing the web.
The finest VPNs can perform all of the above, but like any product, some are better at one thing than others. In addition, there are additional factors to consider when purchasing a VPN, such as a usability, speed, and even the number of servers.
The most crucial issue, though, is one of privacy and security. With new VPN providers popping up left and right, it may be difficult to determine which ones are genuine and which were created just to steal your data—and there are plenty of untrustworthy VPNs out there.
We went through all of our choices below, confirming what they can and cannot do and going over their privacy rules with a fine-toothed comb. We’ve also done our homework to determine whether there have been any instances of trust breaches. These are our best recommendations!
Frequently Asked Questions
VPN (a virtual private network) is a method of delivering data across a public network (such as the internet) as if you were connected to a private network at another location. Consumer VPN services are frequently used to circumvent regional limitations, prevent internet censorship, and increase privacy. To access resources on its network, an entity such as your business or school may require you to connect to its own VPN.
Best Overall VPN: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is our overall favorite VPN service. It has everything you could want in a VPN and then some. It’s quick (so it only marginally slows you down) and simple to use. ExpressVPN’s UI is really simply one large button for turning it on and off, with another for accessing the server menu. Simple, straightforward, and efficient.
More significantly, ExpressVPN performs what a VPN should do. It effortlessly bypasses the Netflix VPN ban, as well as the blocks on Amazon Prime and Hulu. It’s also extremely safe, due to powerful encryption, making it an excellent choice for avoiding Chinese censorship.
ExpressVPN is the VPN of choice for many members of the How-To Geek team, and we’ve never had a problem with it. You may also read our ExpressVPN review to get a sense of what you’re getting for your money.
In a nutshell, ExpressVPN is fantastic. It’s quick, easy to use, secure, has a VPN kill switch and streams everything.
Best Budget VPN: Surfshark
Surfshark, on the other hand, has them both beat on pricing, costing only $60 for two years of subscription. However, this is just for the first two years; after that, your annual payment will be $60. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful value, and Surfshark is an excellent VPN for the money. It’s about the cheapest quality VPN you can buy, barring any Black Friday or other promotional offers!
While Surfshark won’t blow you away in a speed test, it does the job. It’s adequate for accessing Netflix and has a pleasant user experience.
It also offers some cool features, such as NoBorders, which Surfshark says can get you around any China-style bans (though we prefer another VPN for that), as well as remarkable server coverage in countries that many other VPNs don’t service, such as Nigeria and Kazakhstan.
Overall, there’s a lot to appreciate about Surfshark, and the pricing can’t be beaten. It’s an excellent value at a little under $60 for the first two years of service.
Best Free VPN: Windscribe
If you don’t want to pay for a VPN, there are a few good businesses that offer free services. However, you should exercise caution while using free VPNs since many “free” VPN providers operate just to steal your data and sell it to advertising and data miners.
In fact, the problem is so severe that we suggest only three free VPN services: ProtonVPN, TunnelBear, and Windscribe, with the latter being the best of the bunch.
The primary problem with free genuine VPNs is bandwidth, or the quantity of data that can be transmitted via the VPN. TunnelBear provides 500MB of free bandwidth each month, which may be increased to 1GB by tweeting about the service.
Windscribe, on the other hand, provides twenty times the amount, with 10GB every month and an additional 5GB by tweeting. Referring friends earns you an additional 1GB for each referral. Though 15GB isn’t enough to fuel a heavy torrenting habit, it should be enough for most individuals.
ProtonVPN, unlike Windscribe, does not have bandwidth limitations and instead restricts you to a small number of servers while also capping your speeds. This makes it a suitable choice for folks who only wish to safeguard their browsing. However, we believe Windscribe has an advantage here because to its faster speeds.
The main reason to use TunnelBear over Windscribe is that the former offers servers in a far larger number of countries available to free users, whilst Windscribe only has 10 available. Windscribe earns our recommendation because we’d choose 20 times the bandwidth over a nation choice any day
Windscribe provides the most bandwidth of the three free VPNs we listed, around twenty times more than TunnelBear. This nearly guarantees Windscribe victory.
Best VPN for iPhone: ProtonVPN
Because of the rising amount of assaults directed at smartphones, protecting your privacy when using mobile devices is just as vital as safeguarding desktop PCs and laptops. Most of the VPNs on our list offer mobile applications that do an excellent job of safeguarding all of your devices, but if you primarily use an iPhone, you might want to give ProtonVPN a try.
There’s a lot to admire about ProtonVPN, which is well-known for providing the encrypted email service ProtonMail. This VPN program is quick and safe, and it has made a firm commitment to customer privacy. It also has a reasonable pricing system and a discount if you combine ProtonVPN with ProtonMail.
The UI is the major reason we enjoy ProtonVPN for iPhone. In essence, the app is merely a map, and you select the nation you wish to connect to by clicking its flag. Other buttons allow you to alter the choices; everything is merely laid out easily.
ProtonVPN offers a solid user interface that fits well on the screen and does not have too many superfluous buttons. It’s incredibly secure, and you can combine it with ProtonMail to create an excellent overall solution for the iPhone.
Best VPN for Android: Hide.me
Most VPNs will work well with Android devices, but we particularly favor ExpressVPN because of its one-button method. The Android app is really only one button to turn on and another to change places. It’s easy and foolproof.
However, ExpressVPN is rather expensive, so for a more affordable option, we propose to Hide.me. The Android app follows the same basic idea, with a single button dominating the VPN app. Set up the server, connect to it, and then leave it alone. We enjoy it when designers keep things simple.
Hide.me offers a few more advantages aside from its simplicity of usage. It features a big server network that is dispersed around the world, which is ideal for frequent travelers. The main disadvantage is that it isn’t as stable for streaming as other rivals, however, this may be less of an issue if you just use it on mobile. Give Hide.me a try if you need a VPN for Android. This VPN is quick, safe, and, most significantly, boasts one of the most user-friendly interfaces we’ve encountered on a smartphone.
Best VPN for Streaming: ExpressVPN
The most common reason users purchase a VPN is to stream geo-restricted material. If you have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other services, you may access their libraries with a single purchase from anywhere in the globe.
However, despite the fact that other VPNs publicly state that they are the only provider that can unlock all of these streaming sites, we believe there is only one true winner: ExpressVPN, making it the best VPN for Netflix. We’ve never had any real problems attempting to access Netflix libraries in other countries or faking a U.S. IP address throughout our years of using it. We needed an IP address to access Hulu.
Other providers, such as NordVPN, Windscribe, and CyberGhost, come close, but ExpressVPN comes out on top. When you are locked out of Netflix, simply move to a different server in the same country, and you should be alright.
ExpressVPN’s fast speeds are another reason binge-watchers should consider it. Streaming necessitates high connection connections, and ExpressVPN’s outstanding speeds will have you buffering the least.
When it comes to streaming, we’d always recommend ExpressVPN. It easily unblocks most countries’ Netflix libraries and is as quick as greased lightning.
Best VPN for Gaming: Private Internet Access
If you need a VPN to support your gaming habit—whether for extra anonymity when pwning online or to access servers in multiple regions—latency is the name of the game. If your ping is too high, you can say goodbye to a high KDR because you’ll be aiming while the opposing team has already blown you off the map.
However, most VPNs will significantly increase your ping, and it isn’t much you can do about it. While you may mitigate some of the harm by employing some simple VPN speed-up techniques, the distance between you and the VPN’s server is ultimately what matters. A VPN’s best bet is to provide high-quality servers.
This is where Private Internet Access (or PIA) enters the picture. Not only is it one of the most secure VPNs available, but it’s also one of the quickest, with only ExpressVPN routinely outperforming it. NordVPN occasionally outperforms PIA, but not consistently. Add to that a yearly fee of $40, and you have a superb VPN for all of your gaming requirements.
Gamers require low ping, which Private Internet Access provides. It’s also reasonably priced at less than $40 a year and comes with a slew of intriguing security features.
Best VPN for Torrenting: NordVPN
Aside from accessing region-locked streaming services and ordinary internet browsing, another popular reason people use VPNs is for torrenting, which is the primary means by which individuals obtain copyrighted material without paying for it. Because this is illegal in most parts of the world, the only way to avoid fines is to use a VPN.
There are a few solid torrenting VPNs available, including ExpressVPN and Windscribe, but our favorite is NordVPN. This is due to our preference for its dedicated torrenting servers. These so-called P2P servers stand out primarily because they are built to withstand higher loads than NordVPN’s other servers.
This implies that your torrenting speeds should improve significantly. Slowdown should be a thing of the past now that the server has extra capacity to accommodate you. You may also utilize NordVPN’s double VPN feature, which routes your connection across two servers instead of just one. Though it may appear to be overkill, it’s a terrific strategy to stay off the radar of your local copyright watchdog.
Best VPN for Windows: CyberGhost
If you enjoy a basic UI that reminds you of Windows (at least Windows 10 and before), you should give CyberGhost a try. While it can do a little bit of everything well enough—it typically gets through to Netflix and has adequate speeds—where it truly excels is in its interface, which is well-organized and simple to use.
While we prefer ExpressVPN’s one-button method, there is something to be claimed for CyberGhost’s scrolling menus. Its biggest power, though, is how it chooses servers for you. It has, for example, selected the finest feasible sites to connect to Netflix US or access BBC’s iPlayer.
While CyberGhost does not accomplish anything better than anybody else, we believe many customers will appreciate the user experience provided by CyberGhost. Its cost is also extremely reasonable, at a little under $85 for two years of access.
If user-friendliness and Windows compatibility is important to you, you should certainly look at CyberGhost and its affordable options.
Best VPN for China: VyprVPN
Beating Chinese censorship is no easy task: the government’s restrictions that prevent citizens from accessing foreign websites, known collectively as the Great Firewall, are strong. If you are detected tunneling through the Firewall, you may find yourself in hot water with the police, who may want to have a discreet conversation with you about your browsing history.
The Chinese government controls the flow of internet traffic across the country via multiple access points. From there, it can scan connections to see if they’re heading to blacklisted sites and block them, or it can check to see if a connection has the tell-tale indications of a VPN and block it as well.
Vypr VPN is one of our favorite VPNs for connecting from the Chinese internet to the ordinary internet because of its specifically built Chameleon protocol, which avoids detection by masquerading as a regular connection (thus the name). Few other providers provide anything comparable, and even fewer have the track record of success that VyprVPN has.
Best Private VPN: Mullvad
VPNs, as useful as they are, have certain flaws. Services are only as good as their no-log policy, and the service you sign up with has access to your account information. For starters, they have your email address and, in many cases, your payment information. The only exemption is if you purchased using cryptocurrencies, which isn’t usually the case.
Mullvad avoids these problems by not needing an email address when creating an account, instead opting for a randomized key that acts as your user ID. Furthermore, you may mail the provider an envelope containing cash to cover the VPN’s operational costs—euros are preferable, but US dollars are accepted as well—leaving no paper trace.
Mullvad may be the finest VPN available if you want to optimize your privacy. Because there is no password recovery without an email address, your personal organization skills must be top-notch, but it does mean that you may sleep comfortably at night, knowing that no one can trace your IP address.
Mullvad is the most private VPN service available, as it requires no email address and accepts both cryptocurrencies and cash. Accept no replacement if you do not wish to be monitored in any manner.