Last update: 08.26.2019
At the beginning of 2018, Surfshark VPN was a name known only to its creators and a group of friends. This year we’re writing an article on how to use Surfshark, a VPN service that continues to grow its user base and garner positive reviews across the web.
The company behind Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a jurisdiction that doesn’t belong to the Fourteen Eyes alliance and has no data retention laws. Surfshark VPN has a strict “no-logs” policy and even called an audit upon themselves, showing that they’re serious about retaining their spotless reputation.
At the end of 2018, they had 500 servers in 50 countries. Now with over 800 of them, Surfshark further solidifies its global coverage and good speeds.
Last but not least, their client is simple and user-friendly. Therefore it shouldn’t be hard to learn how to use Surfshark. Their CTO Magnus Steinberg has stated that Surfshark wants to guarantee “online privacy for your whole family – simple and intuitive on the outside with a robust security mechanism inside.” We have no reason to believe they can’t do that.
Before answering how to use Surfshark, let’s see what pros it has. Different users have different needs. For some, security is the top priority, while others might just want something that unblocks Netflix or allows torrenting. As we noted in our Surfshark VPN review, the service manages to please many individual tastes, even while being relatively new in the VPN business.
These are the main pros of Surfshark VPN:
- Strong and fast encryption (AES-256-CBC)
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- 24/7 live chat for support
- Unlocks Netflix, Kodi, BBC iPlayer
- Allows torrenting
- Great performance
- Apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Amazon FireTV, Apple TV, and game consoles
- Browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome (independently audited)
- Free 7-day trial for macOS, iOS, and Android
- Anonymous payment options
We want to stress the unlimited simultaneous connections feature. Most VPNs offer no more than six, meaning one account cannot be used in a bigger household where everyone has multiple devices. But Surfshark doesn’t just portray itself as a “family VPN,” it acts like one, making sure that even your uncle staying overnight after the family reunion could browse anonymously from the guestroom, for better or for worse.
Another great feature, still not found in every top-rated VPN is the 24/7 live chat. We’ve tested it, and every time Surfshark’s support guys were helpful and polite. Therefore this provider has an advantage over those competitors that are still reluctant to invest in their customer support.
Streaming and torrenting are also great with Surfshark. This VPN even delivers good enough speeds to watch Ultra HD (4K) on some occasions while maintaining the top-level encryption. P2P connections aren’t being throttled, so file sharing is fast and easy.
Finally, Surfshark is one of the few premium VPNs to offer a free 7-day trial for most platforms. But even if you don’t get it, there’s always a 30-day money-back guarantee.
How to download and install Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN doesn’t have a free trial for Windows, so the following instructions should be followed when you are ready to purchase the VPN. Apple and mobile users can find extensive tutorials on Surfshark’s Support page.
Downloading Surfshark client
First, you’ll need to set up your account. Do that by clicking Get Started on the Home page. Here you’ll get to choose your pricing plan and payment option. Notice that Surfshark requires only your email for this account. Nice.
After your subscription is confirmed and activated, you can go straight to Apps > Windows on the Homepage menu and download the Surfshark client.
Installing Surfshark client
Installing the Surfshark client is easy – just follow the on-screen instructions.
After successful installation, click Run.
In the app, choose Log in. Enter your email and password and press Log in.
You will see the Main menu. Pressing Connect will connect you to the fastest server. Alternatively, you can click the hamburger menu to choose Nearest country or Fastest P2P location. To select one of the 50 available countries, click Locations at the top left corner.
After a successful connection, you’ll see the background with the Surfshark logo turn blue-green and grey “Not connected” will switch to green “Connected.”
That should cover the basic needs of all users. But if you want some more options or extra security, read the section below on how to use Surfshark.
How to use Surfshark VPN
Clicking on Locations on the left sidebar menu will provide you with a full searchable list of available cities and countries to connect to. All physical servers are sorted by the region, while virtual and P2P servers have their own lists.
There’s another option called MultiHop. This feature provides an extremely secure connection by using two servers instead of one. This way there’s virtually zero chance of anyone tracking you down. This comes at the cost of connection speed, though.
Below the Locations, we find CleanWeb, which acts as an ad-blocker. CleanWeb protects from malware, phishing attacks, and also blocks trackers, pop-ups, and ads.
Next comes the Whitelister – a split tunneling feature that allows you to whitelist selected apps and websites that will not be protected by Surfshark. While this can be a useful feature if you want faster connectivity with some trusted resources, we recommend this for advanced users only, because every website and application can have unknown security vulnerabilities.
Pressing the white Settings gear on the left sidebar will get you under the hood of Surfshark.
General > Connectivity
Starting with General > Connectivity, you can choose to start the VPN with Windows and auto-connect to either the Fastest location or any other that you prefer.
Auto-connect also allows checking the wifi networks which won’t follow this rule. This is important for users who often connect from different locations. There might be times when you’d rather have your home laptop connect to your office’s VPN to be able to access local resources.
Next comes the Kill switch feature which is turned off by default. We recommend having it on at all times. While it means you won’t be able to access the internet without connecting to the VPN first, your private information won’t be exposed if the VPN connection drops.
Moving to the Status notifications, we advise keeping it on. Thinking that your VPN is working when it doesn’t help your security.
General > Advanced
General > Advanced is not as advanced as one may think. There are only three options here, two of which are on by default.
The first is the protocols. If you have no idea what that is, leaving it as it is will be just fine. But if you’ve already spent some time reading about both OpenVPN and IKEv2, feel free to experiment, especially with the more stable TCP and the faster UDP. We can only say in advance that for China you should try the new Shadowsocks proxy.
Speaking of restricted internet access, the NoBorders mode should help in countries like China. This trademarked unblocking feature detects restricted networks automatically, reacting with the algorithms implemented to bypass the restriction.
Finally, the last option named Crash reports is turned on by default. We suggest leaving it on as it helps Surfshark to make sure that next time neither you nor others experience any issues. Turn it off if you’re a nihilist.
The Surfshark client is very easy to download, install, and use. All features are explained in a way that even users without advanced VPN knowledge can customize their setup. And if there are any questions, a fast and helpful 24/7 live chat support is ready at your service.
Therefore, the only reason why you should choose another VPN over Surfshark should be related to anything but user experience.