Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) provide invaluable protection for all online activities, whether you’re downloading torrents, sending emails, or reading the news. But this protection comes with some caveats as well.
VPNs use system resources and tend to limit transfer speeds to some degree. Unsurprisingly, such inconveniences tend to dissuade users from leaving VPNs on all the time.
However, perhaps the downsides are nothing compared to the risk of turning off your VPN at the wrong time? Continue reading to find out the details.
Should I leave my VPN on all the time?
When you have a VPN, you may start asking yourself, “should I leave my VPN on all the time”? I’ll try to answer that question as thoroughly as possible because the short answer to that question is “it depends,” which isn’t very informative.
VPNs have various use-cases, such as getting around geographical restrictions, securing your online activities, or protecting your privacy. Most of the time, a VPN can stay on, and it won’t inconvenience you in any way. But on rare occasions, it’s recommended to disconnect your VPN to avoid unnecessary troubles.
Pros and cons of having a VPN on all the time
|Secure access on public Wi-Fi ✔️||Shorter battery life ❌|
|Safe transfer of personal information ✔️||Connection speed reduction ❌|
|Security when traveling abroad ✔️||Potential data logging ❌|
|Getting around geo-restrictions ✔️||Unnecessary security warnings ❌|
|No data throttling ✔️|
Times when you should leave a VPN on
First, let’s cover the scenarios when you should leave your VPN on all the time – no questions asked. These are various activities that you should always protect with an added layer of security. Not having a VPN on under these circumstances poses serious consequences. Here’s the list, while detailed explanations are further below:
- When accessing public Wi-Fi
- When sending personal information
- When traveling abroad
- To bypass geo-restrictions
- To stop bandwidth throttling by your ISP
- When streaming
- When torrenting
- When shopping online
When accessing public Wi-Fi
One of the most dangerous things you could be doing without a VPN is connecting to public Wi-Fi. It may seem ridiculous, but publicly available hotspots are not always made with the best intentions.
In fact, hackers could be operating wi-fi networks to siphon data about you, such as your online login credentials, personal information, or browsing history. They could even gain remote access to your computer and install malicious software. Yikes!
Luckily, all of this can be avoided by turning on a reputable VPN when connected to public Wi-Fi. Your browsing data will be encrypted and unreadable to all wannabee snoopers.
When sending personal information
When you’re sending out your personal information, regardless of what means of communications you’re using, it’s vulnerable to interception.
Depending on the information that you’re sharing, a threat actor could use it to extort you, impersonate you for his own needs, or sell it for profit. Meanwhile, you’ll have the unfortunate consequence of unrelenting spam and phishing attempts.
Thankfully, you can use a VPN to secure your digital communications and make them impenetrable to attackers.
When traveling abroad
Many essential online services, such as banks or government websites, are used to seeing you connect from your home country. If you try to log in from another country, the service could see it as a red flag that someone is trying to steal your account. But this can be easily avoided by having a VPN with servers in your home country. That way, you can access these crucial websites as if you were in the comfort of your own home.
Additionally, a VPN will also secure your personal information while visiting various tourist attractions. Such places can be hotbeds for scammers and digital thieves alike. Don’t let your guard down while traveling in foreign lands, and protect your online data with a VPN.
To bypass geo-restrictions
Furthermore, countries worldwide have to deal with various geographical restrictions. These are in place because of copyright laws and licensing. You might come across them when traveling abroad and seeing that your favorite local content is inaccessible.
But besides using a VPN to access your usual shows while traveling, you can utilize a VPN to broaden your horizons and access content from other regions as well. By connecting to a different country, you can trick online platforms into believing that you’re in that location. Then you can watch shows and movies that are exclusive to that country – all without stepping a foot outside your house.
To stop bandwidth throttling by your ISP
If you live in the US, you might be aware of how ISPs (Internet Service Providers) slow down your connection when you’re partaking in certain activities. They say that bandwidth throttling is necessary to maintain network integrity, but we all know that’s a lie. They just want to sell you pricier subscriptions.
Naturally, you can use a VPN to hide your online activities’ details and avoid any throttling. If your ISP doesn’t know what you’re up to at a given time, it can’t throttle you when you’re streaming or torrenting.
Speaking of which, a VPN offers excellent benefits to the avid Netflix viewer as well. Many streaming services are subject to the aforementioned geographical restrictions. Depending on where you live, you gain access to different content libraries.
Some regions have vast libraries with thousands of movies to choose from, while others get only a fraction of that. In any case, you can use a high-quality VPN to trick even the most stubborn streaming service.
You might be concerned about connection speeds when connected to a VPN. Naturally, your bandwidth will slow down a bit, depending on the quality of your VPN.
Thankfully, this is hardly an issue if you’re using one of the top VPNs for streaming. With the help of modern tunneling protocols like WireGuard, you can rest assured knowing that you can watch your favorite shows in crisp HD or even 4K resolution.
If you prefer to get your content by other means, such as P2P, you can still benefit from the added security of a VPN. Plus, many networks limit P2P traffic as it is often used to download files illegally.
With a VPN, you can hide the fact that you are using peer-to-peer technology. Furthermore, choosing a good VPN for torrenting grants you additional security features specifically for torrenting, such as split tunneling, port forwarding, and SOCKS5 proxies.
When shopping online
Online shopping is a popular and convenient way to get the things you want. However, you’re out of luck if hackers decide that they want your credit card information.
Luckily, you can protect your payment information and keep your online shopping habits confidential by having a VPN on at all times.
Plus, you can even utilize it to get better deals on various goods and services. Frequently retailers offer different prices depending on your location. Additionally, they track how often you visit their online stores with the help of cookies. If you’re a frequent visitor, they might inflate the prices unfairly. You can curb these practices by using a VPN to change your location.
Top 3 VPNs to leave on all time
Trusting a VPN with all of your browsing data can seem daunting at first. It’s essential to choose a trustworthy provider with an optimized app to not interfere with your daily activities. That is why we selected the Top 3 providers that you can rely on and leave your VPN on at all times.
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Our top VPN for having on 24/7 is NordVPN. Based in Panama, this service has a pristine reputation and an independently-audited no-logs policy. With subscription costs starting at $3.29/month, this service offers 5400+ servers in 60 countries, military-grade AES-256 encryption, and breakneck connection speeds.
Furthermore, with the help of SmartPlay, NordVPN can effortlessly get around a wide range of geographical restrictions, including streaming services. Plus, it also has Obfuscated servers to guarantee privacy even in the direst circumstances.
If you’d like to try out the service before committing, you can get a 7-day free trial on Android devices. Once grabbed, you can use the VPN on any six devices simultaneously. After that, you have the luxury of an additional 30-day money-back guarantee.
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If our top choice doesn’t fit into your budget, then you can try out Surfshark. Starting at $2.30/month, this VPN allows you to secure an unlimited number of devices simultaneously. Additionally, it is based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Isles and has a solid no-logs policy, ensuring that your data does not get misused.
With 3200 servers in 65 countries, you’ll have no shortage of content from around the world. Furthermore, a kill switch, MultiHop, and Whitelister will guarantee your security and privacy. The service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and accepts anonymous payment methods.
Current deal: Get IPVanish and save $81.89
A great middle ground between price and performance is IPVanish. With 2000 servers in 50 countries, this service is an excellent choice for streaming, torrenting, or other online activities. Subscriptions start at $3.99/month, and you can employ the OpenVPN tunneling protocol or other protocols to secure your digital life.
Furthermore, IPVanish allows you to connect ten different devices simultaneously. It also has many dedicated apps for various devices, such as Amazon Fire Stick and Chromebook. Plus, it works reliably at unblocking multiple streaming services, such as Netflix.
Optionally, the VPN comes with 500GB of secure cloud storage for your crucial files. And if you decide to grab this VPN, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cons of keeping a VPN on all the time
Unsurprisingly, there are some mild cons when it comes to leaving your VPN on all the time:
- Shorter battery life
- Connection speed reduction
- Potential data logging
- Unnecessary security warnings
They are pretty self-explanatory, but what matters is that you can mitigate them by picking a well-made and optimized VPN for your system.
Shorter battery life
While a VPN is on, it’s working hard behind the scenes to encrypt your entire online traffic, usually with AES-256 encryption. Such a task isn’t complicated for modern processors, but it still slowly chips away at your battery life. So if you’re concerned about running out of battery life too quickly, use a VPN only when necessary, for example, banking online or sending out critical personal data.
Connection speed reduction
A VPN works by routing your data through a server in a remote location. As you can imagine, this increases the travel time of data and reduces connection speed. Naturally, these reductions can vary wildly and depend on your VPN provider’s quality and your chosen country.
If you’re connecting to a server on the other side of the world, your internet speed will decrease dramatically. Meanwhile, connecting to a nearby country won’t be noticeable at all. Luckily, you can reduce the impact of these issues by grabbing one of the fastest VPNs available.
Potential data logging
Instead, you need to choose a trustworthy provider, ideally with jurisdiction outside of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and an audited or court-proven no-logs policy. That way, you can rest easy knowing that your data is truly secure from prying eyes.
Unnecessary security warnings
One metric by which online services monitor your security is by keeping track of various patterns. For example, if you’re constantly logging in from the same location (or IP address), it means that only one person is using it, and everything is in order.
However, if you use a VPN to change your location and IP address, the service will assume that someone else is trying to hack into your account.
As a precaution, it may ask you to verify your password once again or even change it. Of course, this is just one example and not that common if you’re using 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) or other means of protecting your information online.
The final answer
If you’ve been keeping count, you’ll notice that there are more reasons to leave a VPN on all the time, as opposed to switching it on and off.
The main takeaway is that you need to choose a trustworthy and well-performing VPN service for your device. Then you won’t have to deal with the drawbacks and potential risks outlined in this article.
Do you leave your VPN on all the time? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!
Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?
No, you can’t be tracked if you’re using a reliable premium VPN. However, some free VPN services are not trustworthy and track your data to sell it to online advertising companies later.
Should VPN be connected all the time on my iPhone?
Yes, VPNs are recommended on all mobile devices to ensure security on the go.
Is using a VPN legal?
Yes, using a VPN is legal in most countries. However, oppressive regimes like China don’t allow VPN usage unless it’s a state-sponsored VPN provider.
Should I use a VPN on a router?
Using a VPN on a router has some pros and cons. The main benefit is that you can secure your entire home network by installing a VPN on a single router. However, you will have a more challenging time switching countries if the need arrives because that involves manual configuring.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.