What is a VPN?

Ethan Payne
Ethan Payne | Writer
Last updated: September 6, 2021
What is a VPN explained

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A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an online service that creates a secure connection to another network over the internet. It hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic, effectively protecting your privacy from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), your government, and other unwanted onlookers.

You can use a VPN to secure yourself on public wifi hotspots, unblock geo-restricted services such as Netflix, secure your P2P traffic, avoid speed throttling, and much more.

What is a VPN and how does it help?

A VPN is a tool for security and privacy, but it can do way more than that. So if you ever asked yourself, “Why do I need a VPN?” read on to find out. Here’s how a virtual private network helps:

  • Encryption. A VPN encrypts your traffic so that it becomes virtually indecipherable to third parties.
  • Hiding your IP. A VPN hides your IP, which in turn hides your location as well.
    Access to Netflix. With a VPN, you’ll be able to watch your movies and shows outside your home country.
  • Torrenting protection. A VPN will protect you when torrenting.
  • Firewall circumvention. From the ones at your office to the ones used in China, firewalls block certain websites from users. VPNs allow you to circumvent these restrictions.
  • Wi-Fi protection. Finally, a VPN will protect your connection on public Wi-Fi and help avoid bandwidth throttling. Some Virtual Private Networks even offer anti-malware solutions.
Choose the best VPN for your security
Protect yourself with the ultimate VPN for security. With military-grade encryption, the NordLynx tunneling protocol, a kill switch, and an audited no-logs policy, you can be sure that your privacy will remain intact.

What does a VPN hide?

As you can see, VPNs hide your actual IP address. They also encrypt your traffic using a military-grade cipher. But how does that translate into real-world scenarios? Let’s take a look.

  • IP address. Websites track you by your IP address. By using a VPN, you can hide your real IP address and your identity behind the IP of the VPN server.
  • Location. Your IP gives away your approximate location. With a VPN, it becomes difficult to track you and your movement. Plus, changing your location enables you to access geo-blocked content.
  • Web activity. If you’re using a VPN provider that doesn’t log your web activity, you can be sure that neither your ISP (Internet Service Provider) nor your government knows what you’re doing online.

How does a VPN work?

How a VPN works

A VPN works by rerouting your internet traffic through a remote server and encrypting it in the process. That way, the VPN server is responsible for all of your internet requests, while your ISP can only see that you’re connected to a VPN.  Furthermore, your IP address is now hidden behind the IP address of the VPN server.

This process, illustrated above, involves creating what is known as a VPN tunnel. It uses unique tunneling protocols to “wrap” packets of data in a layer of encryption so that anyone intercepting it cannot make any sense of it. Most VPNs use military-grade encryption, which means that it’s virtually impossible to break the cipher using a brute force attack.

Without a virtual private network:

  1. Your connection request goes straight to the ISP, which in turn forwards it to your desired online resource.
  2. Your traffic will be unencrypted, and your ISP will know everything that you do on the internet.
  3. Your IP address is visible and gives away your approximate location.
  4. Your torrenting activity is public because people can recognize you by your IP.

VPN security

Using insecure VPNs is almost as bad as having no VPN at all. In fact, it could be far worse. If users feel protected when they are not, they might let their guard down and share information that puts them at risk.

Here are some of the risks that poorly run VPNs can expose users to:

  • IP and DNS leaks (on rare occasions, VPN connections can drop unexpectedly, exposing your actual IP address and invalidating the security that a VPN was providing)
  • Your online activity data being sold to marketers
  • Exposure to malware
  • Out of date (and easy to hack) encryption

Despite people knowing about these risks, many VPNs remain vulnerable to IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. All of these VPN security vulnerabilities leave users wide open to hacking attempts or government surveillance.

A significant proportion of VPN users rely on them for protection in rather sensitive situations. Perhaps they’re journalists or political activists, hiding from the malicious gaze of government agencies. Or maybe they’re simply torrenting and would instead not get hit with fines. Whatever the case may be, using a faulty VPN can result in a nasty surprise.

Can a VPN protect me from hackers?

A virtual private network can protect you from hackers, but it doesn’t give a 100% guarantee, just like any other online security solution. That being said, a solid VPN will make hackers work much harder, and that’s the least you can do for your safety.

For starters, a VPN encrypts your traffic using a military-grade cipher, which completely stops any hacker. Furthermore, DNS and IP leak protection mean getting your actual IP address will be quite a challenge.

Do VPN providers see my online activity?

When you’re using a VPN, your ISP cannot see what you do online because your traffic is encrypted. But can a VPN provider see your online activity? Well, it depends on the VPN you’re using.

Technically, all of them can see your traffic, so this is a matter of ethics. Usually, VPN providers claim to have a no-logs policy, meaning they don’t monitor and don’t store your session’s logs. However, not all of them practice what they preach. For instance, in 2017, PureVPN admitted to handing over records of a suspected cyberstalker to the FBI.

Then there’s the legal system of each country. Some like Australia have strict data retention laws, requiring VPNs to store logs for two years. That’s why the best VPNs choose their home bases in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland, which are not a part of any surveillance alliances, such as the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance.

How to choose a VPN?

Choosing a VPN will mainly depend on your use case. VPNs are quite versatile and can accomplish a wide variety of things, but not every provider is suited for every type of activity. However, there are some basic characteristics that any proper VPN should have:

  1. AES-256 encryption. Any VPN worth its salt should be using strong encryption to secure your connection.
  2. Good server coverage. A decent number of servers worldwide is necessary for good connectivity from anywhere. For optimal speeds, look for a VPN with servers in your home country.
  3. Kill switch. A good way to avoid IP or DNS leaks is having a reliable kill switch.
  4. Multiple simultaneous connections. A premium VPN should allow you to connect more than one device on a single subscription. Somewhere between 5 or 10 connections.
  5. Price. Naturally, a worthwhile VPN needs to priced accordingly. Most services shouldn’t cost more than $5/month, but there are exceptions.

After that, here are some specific details that you need to pay attention to depending on your VPN use case:

  • Streaming. If your main priority is watching movies and shows online, you need a streaming VPN that can reliably get around geographical restrictions. Furthermore, fast connections are essential if you want to watch content in HD. Plus, compatibility with your preferred streaming services and devices.
  • Torrenting. For P2P activities, security and privacy are essential in any VPN for torrenting. Pay attention to the encryption standard, kill switch, tunneling protocols, VPN jurisdiction, and especially the privacy policy.
  • Security. For general safety online, look at what bonus features the service offers. Besides the essentials, look for ad and malware blockers, traffic obfuscation methods, DDoS protection, and other similar features.
  • Privacy. To maintain anonymity, look for providers that have anonymous payment options, privacy-respecting jurisdiction, audited no-logs policies, and registration without personal information.

For more information on the various features that VPNs offer, you can find detailed explanations at the end of this article.

VPN reviews

Once you’ve gained more knowledge about the essential pillars of a VPN, a great way to further your knowledge before getting one is reading various VPN reviews online. For example, we have reviewed many well-known providers, such as NordVPN, Surfshark, and VyprVPN.

Of course, you can’t just depend on one website to provide you with all the information (though I wouldn’t mind if you picked VPNpro as your go-to site). It’s best to read a few different reviews from different sources to ensure that the facts add up.

Similarly, you should take these reviews with a grain of salt. These sites may play favorites with certain VPNs and try to embellish some positive aspects while also glossing over the negative aspects. But usually, the sites that go too far with this don’t last very long. It’s better to be as unbiased as possible.

VPN comparisons

Similar to reviews, VPN comparisons are an overview of the main features between multiple VPN providers. However, this is done with two or more providers to see which one is better and in what respects. These are an excellent source of information if you’re picking between a few providers but can’t seem to make up your mind.

Naturally, we have plenty of our own comparisons, such as NordVPN vs ExpressVPN and PIA vs NordVPN.

However, it’s essential to be somewhat familiar with the topic of VPNs before diving into these. Such comparisons are fairly condensed and don’t go into too much detail about the basics. Don’t worry, you’ll be ready to dive into our comparisons after finishing this article.

VPN prices

Free vs Paid VPN services

While paid VPNs are generally better, it’s hard to tell whether a free VPN wouldn’t be enough for you. Plus, many different factors influence the VPN cost. Furthermore, most premium VPNs come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning that you won’t have to pay for something you don’t like.

The most popular VPNs are not always among the best. Some of them gain audiences only because they’re free. That’s why the list below is of VPNs that have earned their popularity through merit and effectiveness.

  1. NordVPN – starts at $3.67/month
  2. Surfshark – starts at $2.49/month
  3. VyprVPN – starts at $1.67/month
  4. PrivateVPN – starts at $2.08/month
  5. Private Internet Access – starts at $2.19/month

Free VPNs

In general, using a free VPN is riskier, although it depends on its type.

Pros:
✔️ Doesn’t cost money
✔️ Can try out many different options without commitment

Cons:
❌ Slow connection speeds
❌ Limited server selection, bandwidth, and browsing data
❌ Potential data logging
❌ Won’t get around geo-restrictions
❌ Ineffective or lack of security features

There are two types of free VPN services:

  • Completely free (funded by ads and other means)
  • Freemium, i.e., paid service with a free version (funded by paying customers)

“If it’s free, you are the product” – this applies to the first type of free VPNs. Usually, this means ads, but it can also mean that the VPN tracks your online activity and sells that data. Some might say, “so what?” but for many, that’s defeating the entire purpose of using a VPN.

The second free VPN type is less risky, but there’s a different issue. Because the business model of these VPN services is to sell subscriptions, the free versions are usually loaded with limitations. However, you can minimize most of these issues by choosing from the top free VPNs.

Premium VPNs

Paid VPNs are not ideal, but they are generally a lot more powerful and trustworthy.

Pros:
✔️ Negligible speed reduction
✔️ Wide range of servers worldwide
✔️ 24/7 customer support
✔️ Can get around geo-restrictions
✔️ Plenty of bonus security features

Cons:
❌ Costs money
❌ Cheap plans require year-long commitments

For starters, they don’t come with free VPN limitations, such as security flaws, poor privacy, slow speed, or unhelpful customer support. They don’t show ads, don’t sell your data, and put effort into keeping you safe online. Most premium services also include a reliable kill switch and leak protection – something that many free VPNs lack.

What’s more, free VPNs won’t be able to unblock Netflix and other streaming platforms. They might not support torrenting either. Therefore, if you want to access your favorite movies and shows in addition to allowing P2P traffic, a worthwhile premium VPN is the way to go. The best part is that you will be able to get your money back most of the time if the service doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Which VPN to choose?

Here’s a quick look at the most secure and notable VPNs on the market today.

1. NordVPN overview

Rated: 9.6/10⭐

NordVPN is the number one VPN that you can get. It’s based in Panama, has a third-party-audited no-logs policy, and is loaded with 5500+ servers in 59 countries. It uses AES-256 encryption by default, has the proprietary NordLynx tunneling protocol, and has a kill switch to protect your IP from leaks.

If you’d like, you can try out the service by grabbing the 7-day free trial on Android devices. After that, you can use the VPN on six devices simultaneously. Pricing starts at $3.67/month, and you get a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Get NordVPN

2. Surfshark overview

Rated: 9.4/10⭐

For well-rounded security and privacy, Surfshark is an excellent choice. Located in the British Virgin Isles, this service allows unlimited simultaneous connections and comes equipped with the fast WireGuard protocol. Additionally, MultiHop and CleanWeb features will secure your privacy even further than a typical VPN.

With 3200 servers in 65 countries, Surfshark is well-equipped against any geographical restrictions. Furthermore, it’s pretty cheap and starts at $2.49/month.

Get Surfshark

3. PrivateVPN overview

Rated: 9.3/10⭐

PrivateVPN is all about quality over quantity. With 150 servers in 62 countries, this Sweden-based service can effortlessly fulfill all of your VPN needs. It uses the OpenVPN tunneling protocol, is equipped with a kill switch, and has a strict no-logs policy. Plus, you can secure up to six devices simultaneously.

In addition, you can get a 7-day free trial on their website to try out the service for free. Once that is up, pricing starts at $2.08/month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Get PrivateVPN

Best VPN by category

Naturally, some VPN services are better suited for specific devices or use-cases. That’s why you need to think about under what circumstances you’ll be using your VPN the most and choose the best product for those situations.

Thankfully, we already went through the trouble of testing loads of VPNs to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick glance at some of the categories that we’ve covered:

What is a VPN: video explanation

If you prefer a short video explaining what a VPN is, check out the video on our Youtube channel below. It’s around three minutes long and will introduce you to the basics of VPNs.

What is Virtual Private Network (VPN) EXPLAINED in 3 min
2021-08-11
VPN explained in detail: 16 FAQs about using VPN services ANSWERED
2020-09-08
What is a VPN and how does a VPN work? | VPNpro
2020-04-24

How to set up a VPN?

Most VPNs are easy to set up and use. All you need to do is pay, sign up for the service, install the app, log in, and start using it. Even if there’s no dedicated client for a particular device, most likely, you can manually configure it using a step-by-step guide.

If for some reason, you don’t want to use the VPN app, you can download OpenVPN software and the configuration files from your provider’s website. Of course, you will be able to use only the OpenVPN tunneling protocol.

After you log in, you can choose the fastest server or any other that’s available. Just keep in mind that not all servers may be suitable for streaming or torrenting. Most providers mark specialized servers either in the app or on their website.

Want to learn more? Read our ultimate guide on setting up a VPN

Quick guide how to install a VPN

Installing a VPN on your device has never been easier. Just follow our simple step-by-step guide.

  1. Choose a VPN provider. We recommend NordVPN, currently 72% OFF!
  2. Go to their website and download the app for your device
  3. Install the software and log in with your credentials
  4. Connect to any server worldwide and revel in the benefits of a VPN

Secure yourself with the best VPN

Should I use a VPN for torrenting?

You should use a VPN for torrenting, even if it’s legal in your country. For starters, your ISP and leechers can see your IP address and determine your location. Such exposure can result in a cyberattack against you or the government sending you a legal notice.

However, when you use a VPN, your traffic is encrypted, and third parties see only the server’s IP address. There’s also no way to tell what you’re downloading or seeding because data deciphering using brute force would take eons.

Is using a VPN for online streaming a good idea?

Using a VPN for streaming Netflix and other content platforms is a good idea. First and foremost, a good streaming VPN greatly expands your selection. Furthermore, a VPN can unblock Netflix libraries from different continents, in addition to streaming services that are unavailable in your country. These include Disney+, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu, among others.

With that said, you need a paid VPN to watch Netflix and other platforms. Free VPNs are easily blocked and often prove to be too slow to stream in HD quality.

VPN technical features

Here’s an explanation of many of the technical terms that you will come across when reading about VPNs. This overview includes the essential features, such as encryption and tunneling protocols, and some bonus features that not every provider includes.

Encryption

Encryption ensures that the data that goes through the VPN tunnel is secured and unreadable to snoopers. Of course, not every encryption standard will do, as weaker encryption means an easier time for hackers to decipher your information.

AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is the de facto standard in the VPN industry. It comes in either 128, 192, or 256-bit key lengths, which tell you how strong the encryption is. In this case, longer key lengths mean more effective encryption.

AES utilizes the symmetric key method, meaning that one key is used for encrypting and decrypting data. This method provides improved performance over asymmetric encryption.

Tunneling protocols

A tunneling protocol defines how data travels between different networks.  Simply put, tunneling protocols influence many of the main characteristics of how a VPN software works in a given situation. Some protocols, like WireGuard, are lightweight and optimized for speed. Others can be optimized for security and getting around various online censorship methods. Some are just plain outdated and only kept around because of backward compatibility with older devices.

Server coverage

Map with NordVPN servers

A VPN works by rerouting your internet connection through a server in a remote location. Unsurprisingly, connecting to a server further away leads to a slower connection as the data travels a greater distance. Meanwhile, connecting to a nearby server offers almost no reduction in speed.

What follows is that a VPN with a wide selection of servers is objectively better in most cases as you can have a more optimal connection. However, there are other factors to consider as well.

For instance, A VPN provider might be renting servers from a third party, which can be considered a security flaw. To remedy this, a provider should have full ownership of their server network, although that might come with the downside of less global coverage.

Simultaneous connections

Thankfully, you don’t need a separate VPN subscription to secure each of your devices. Practically all providers give you the option to connect multiple devices simultaneously with a single subscription. Between 5 to 10 connections are relatively standard and should be enough for the typical person, but, in rare cases, VPNs let you connect an unlimited number of devices. One such service is Surfshark VPN.

Kill switches

When connected to a VPN, the last thing that you want is for your actual IP address to leak. However, that can happen if your VPN suddenly disconnects and you’re thrown back to your regular internet connection.

A kill switch blocks your internet whenever the VPN is off. So not only does it protect your IP address from leaking, but it also ensures that you can’t do anything on the internet while not connected to the VPN. That way, you’ll never know what it’s like to have an unsecured connection again!

Double VPN

As the name suggests, Double VPN is a feature that routes your connection through two remote servers instead of just one.

This feature has a few advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, it offers more robust security by hiding your IP address and internet traffic under multiple encryption layers. Thus, your internet traffic is less likely to be leaked or intercepted by third parties. Naturally, the consequence of this is an even more significant reduction in connection speed.

Tor over VPN

Tor over VPN combines the Tor network with a VPN for a higher level of security and privacy. Tor is a browser and free online network whose purpose is to preserve users’ anonymity. It consists of volunteer routers or relays – anyone can become one.

Instead of your computer contacting a server, the traffic is sent on a journey through several of these relays. The traffic is encrypted – levels of encryption are added or removed at each relay (depending on which way the traffic is going). This process makes it very difficult for observers to track you and see what you are doing online.

Bonus features

Surfshark features

Of course, we can’t cover every single feature imaginable. Besides the features mentioned above that any worthwhile VPN will have, some are just bonuses that provide more flexibility in certain situations.

  • Split tunneling – this feature allows you to select which applications or websites should always go through the VPN connection and which should not. Such traffic control is handy if you need to secure a few apps at a time while keeping others on your regular connection.
  • Port forwarding – with port forwarding, it’s possible to access your private network from outside. This feature is also relevant if you want to achieve faster download speeds when torrenting.
  • Proxies – these can come in many different flavors, such as SOCKS5 or Shadowsocks. Essentially they are services that route your traffic through a remote server, but only for specific apps.
  • Browser extensions – some browser extensions just act as proxies, while others offer more features, such as remote access to your VPN app,  online tracker blocking, or browser fingerprint spoofing.
  • Adblocking – one of the most annoying and sometimes dangerous aspects of browsing online is malicious ads. Luckily, some providers block a lot of ads or domains used for nefarious purposes.
  • Secure cloud storage – we’re all about diversity, so it’s nice when a VPN offers different but just as essential security features, like cloud storage. One such provider is IPVanish.

VPN Privacy practices

This is one of the most contentious VPN topics, primarily due to the difficulty of knowing the behind-the-scenes practices of VPN service providers. Thus, privacy is always an approximation rather than a hard fact.

Location

A VPN’s location is vital due to the legal and institutional context in which the company must function. Some countries like the UK have draconian data retention laws, requiring them to collect and store data about their users. Others like the US don’t have data-retention regulations but have agencies like the NSA that carry out wide-ranging surveillance operations.

Then we have countries that belong to the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance. Thanks to Edward Snowden, this group is known for spying on each other’s citizens and sharing collected information, among other things.

Finally, countries like China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or North Korea are arguably the worst places as VPN bases of operation. You can almost be sure that their governments know all there is to know about VPN users.

On the other end of the equation are countries like Switzerland (home of ProtonVPN) with rigorous privacy protection. That includes off-shore havens like the British Virgin Islands (Surfshark VPN) or Panama (NordVPN) as well.

What is a VPN privacy policy?

While many VPN service providers boast of having a strict “no-logs” policy, the reality is often contradictory. Minimum data logging is needed if the user pays with a credit card or other non-anonymous method, so there’s nothing to worry about here. It’s the other things you should look out for in the Privacy Policy: logging IP addresses, DNS queries, etc.

In any case, we can group all VPNs and their privacy policies into these categories:

  • Verified no-logs policy. On rare occasions, VPN providers have to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. Yet even when they do, no information about a user can be gained from the VPN servers. Such VPNs have a no-logs policy and can be trusted. Examples include Private Internet Access.
  • Independently-audited no-logs policy. Some VPNs like NordVPN or VyprVPN invest in having their no-logs policies audited by a third party, which is a sign that they’re serious about your privacy.
  • Minimal logging. Some providers like CyberGhost claim to do minimal logging, and we’re inclined to trust them for the time being because they rank high in other areas, such as security.
  • More than minimal logging. These services, such as TunnelBear, should be used cautiously because they care less about your privacy.
  • Extensive logging. Finally, we have services that collect as much data as possible and probably sell it to third parties. That’s why they have no problem with handing over your information to authorities if needed.

Anonymous sign-up

Another important aspect of VPN privacy is the sign-up process. Some services require personal data that includes names and addresses. Meanwhile, others will only ask for an email, which can be a throwaway account. On the other hand, Mullvad VPN is an exceptional case that uses a randomly generated number as a way to distinguish between accounts.

Additionally, paying for a VPN anonymously, for example, with either cryptocurrencies or gift cards, is crucial as well.

VPN protocols

We’ve already mentioned tunneling protocols earlier. Here are the most commonly used ones if you’d like to further your understanding of the topic.

WireGuard

Deemed to be the next-gen tunneling protocol, WireGuard is relatively new. However, some providers like Surfshark VPN or VyprVPN have already implemented it. In the next few years, WireGuard should be available on most premium VPNs because its speed and safety are unparalleled. What’s more, this open-source protocol is easy to implement and audit.

 

OpenVPN

Arguably the most popular tunneling protocol, OpenVPN, is supported by virtually every VPN. It’s open-source, very secure, and supports all major platforms. OpenVPN works with either UDP or TCP network protocols, where the former is faster, but the latter is more stable.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to configure and audit on devices with weak processors, such as old routers or smart TVs. Furthermore, it’s also easy to detect by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).

IKEv2

Another standard protocol, especially on mobile devices, IKEv2, brings security and speed. It’s usually implemented together with IPSec protocol, where IKEv2 does the transport part, and IPSec ensures safety. This protocol has native support on iOS, so expect to see it on the mobile versions of most VPNs. IKEv2’s biggest drawback is that it’s not open-source and cannot be audited.

L2TP/IPSec

Just like IKEv2, it’s made out of two protocols and is most often used on iOS mobile devices. L2TP/IPSec is still quite common but already outdated, so you should avoid using it whenever possible. That’s because Snowden leaks have confirmed that the US government may have hacked L2TP/IPSec.

SSTP

SSTP is a less popular protocol, mostly because Microsoft created it and works only on Windows, with some exceptions. It’s hard to block by using DPI and can pass firewalls pretty easily. However, there are some concerns that Microsoft may have a backdoor for accessing SSTP traffic.

PPTP

PPTP is a rare, totally outdated, and not secure protocol that you shouldn’t be using. Just like SSTP, it was developed by Microsoft. The problem is that this happened back when Windows 95 was the latest OS. Although it’s quite fast, this comes at the cost of safety, which is simply too high.

Bottom line

A VPN is so much more than just an online security tool. Different aspects make these programs capable of many things, such as unblocking geographically restricted content, protecting personal data, hiding your browsing habits from your ISP, data brokers, and even your government. What matters is that you choose the best VPN for your specific need.


You may also like to read:
How to watch Netflix with a VPN
How to change Netflix region
Best VPN for crypto trading
Should I leave my VPN on all the time?
How to change region on Steam


FAQ

What is a VPN and why do I need it?

A VPN is a security tool that routes your internet traffic through a remote server while encrypting it in the process. Because of this, your online activities are hidden and kept confidential. Furthermore, by routing your traffic through a server in a different country, you can circumvent various geographical restrictions.

Are VPNs safe to use?

Most premium VPNs are safe to use and improve your overall security. However, some free VPNs are used to collect your data and sell it to advertisers. Additionally, unverified software could contain malware.

Can you be tracked through a VPN?

No, using a VPN makes you completely anonymous and untraceable. However, an untrustworthy VPN could be logging your data and sharing that information with other parties, such as governments and marketing companies.

Should I leave my VPN on all the time?

Leaving a VPN on all the time is not mandatory, but it is recommended. It will ensure that your actual IP address does not leak, your true location remains hidden, and you avoid various inconveniences from switching your IP constantly.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

52 comments
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  1. frank79

    Here’s a bizarre scenario – if someone is connected to my computer what happens if i use a vpn? Lets say they’re connected with TeamViewer. Will they lose the connection? Because it may be funny prank on my coworkers, but also a way to defend myself against hackers who gain control of my system.


  2. Lars

    hey this might seem weird considering that it’s outdated tech, but what port is required to be open for pptp vpn to be successful?


  3. amosX

    ok so i get how vpn works but then why do so many different providers exist? What’s the difference between them anyway? Seems like they all do the same function but at different prices. I’ll just pick the cheapest one and be ok with that.


  4. Haruna Yumi

    The vpn industry is expanding like crazy. There are so many things to know and to be up with. which vpn protocol is the oldest and least secure of the vpn protocols? I’m just curious, as you know, some companies might say that they offer only the best when in reality it might be outdated


  5. Jonathan

    i’ve been using vpns for a long time and most of the time they work ok, occasionally they disappoint, but nothing I can’t handle. however there is one thing that i can’t seem to figure out and i’d really like to know because i’m planning to upgrade to a fiber internet connection and i wouldn’t want to get bottlenecked by my vpns. so my question is what is the max speed for a vpn? lets say I get 10gbps connection – can I expect a vpn do keep up?


    1. Brian Odongo

      Help me with a password


  6. Lely

    Great article! I’m a little confused about the encryption part… So what is better to protect your data – vpn or encryption? Do I only get encryption with premium vpns?


  7. cliff

    you mentioned different vpn protocols, but what is the best vpn protocol for china? or it doesnt matter?


  8. Billy D.

    hello,vpnpro team!i recently started my new job, and i think that my company is sometimes checking what i’m doing during my working hours.i’m not slacking or something, i’m just curious what is visible to my company when i use a vpn. i completely undestand what ia a vpn used for, but have no clue, whethear it hides my activity or not. please help


  9. curious me

    Using vpn is quite expensive ( I’m talking about decent providers, not crappy free ones), So, I wanted to ask what are alternatives to vpn? Similar apps? Or maybe proxies? Proxies are super expensive and slow, and they are used for other stuff (scraping, for example). Let’s take the Netflix library change, for example. Can I change it with anything other than vpn?


  10. Chris

    I’ve browsed a lot of different websites and I guess this is the most detailed and informative article explaining what is vpn ever. Kudos for that! I’m a newbie in tech, and I came across a lot of articles with good, but very difficult explanations with tech wordings 🙁 Maybe you could help me, and answer -what is the best vpn i can use on both my laptop and my android phone? Like an ultimate combo. Maybe you could even suggest a couple of providers? I want something not very expensive.


  11. Martha

    Is VPN dangerous? I have heard about certain things that I don’t like about VPNs in general and I would like another opinion. From what I can tell a part of the VPN companies are good or very good and others are scammers.


    1. Joe233

      “Is VPN dangerous?” Well, it depends which VPN were talking about. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surf shark vpn and others are good and are not dangerous. You just have to go for the best, most trusted vpn out there because other VPNs can be dangerous. Some will downright sell your email and contact info to other companies and you’ll start getting spam mails or worse. You don’t want to risk getting all sorts of emails that contain links leading to malware or ransomware. You want to be safe, working with companies that are trustworthy and will do good by you. Don’t just go with the next, cool looking VPN that you know nothing about. Always make sure to do a lot of research before choosing a VPN because it’s a very important choice to make.


      1. avatar
        Julie Cole

        Yup, Joe pretty much covers it. Some VPNs are dangerous, many VPNs are quite safe. Industry leaders are generally the best for this purpose, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and others.

        In general, we always recommend avoiding free VPNs, as they’ll often give you something free in return for something else — your data perhaps.

        You can find our list of the best VPNs available.

        Good luck!

        Julie


  12. Matthew

    Does VPN harm your phone? Are there vpns (or maybe all of them do this) that hurt your phone? Should I be looking for certain ones that are more trustworthy? What is the best vpn to use?


    1. Oli10

      I would say the lack of a vpn will harm you phone in the long run. And also, the lack of an antivirus. Many people seem to think that a smartphone is impervious to malware or viruses, but they are so wrong. Smartphones are the first ones targeted nowadays so you need to take measures to protect yourself. Every device you have needs to be protected against viruses, malware and hackers and the phone is no exception. Are VPN worth it? Not all of them. But the best are worth their weight in gold.

      So, does a vpn harm your phone? Of course there are bad ones that can do this but most won’t do anything bad to your phone.


    2. Teo

      Most VPNs will not harm your phone; quite the opposite. But there are also those that are unreliable or can contain malware. To be safe, just use reputable VPNs and you will be fine. It all depends on why you need a vpn, what does a vpn do for you? Do you need it to unlock certain content in specific countries? It all depends on what you want to do with this vpn because there are vpns that are good for some things above others. Can you give us more details about what you need it for? Just for browsing? Torrenting? Anything else? Depending on what you need it for, I would recommend NordVPN, ExpressVPN or SurfShark. Either of these is a good choice.


  13. Amir

    Hey, does anyone know: can VPN steal your data? I’ve heard someone mention this and I would like more info on it. Is it true? Which VPNs are bad or/and are known to steal data and so on. What is the best vpn to use so you can stay safe? Thanks a lot.


    1. Randy99

      There are plenty of VPNs that are known for being secure and trustworthy and there are also those that are really shady and downright bad. “Can VPN steal your data?” Yes, and some do. Just sign up with a few free vpns and give each a different, real email you have and the wait. See on which email you start receiving spam messages (in 1-3 weeks from the moment you signed up). This will show you which of the free vpns you joined has just sold your email address to anyone willing to pay. This is how you can easily spot the bad or evil VPNs out there and avoid them. You can test this with paid VPN as well. You might be surprised at what you’ll find by doing this. There are those VPN companies that seem great on the surface but they are not; not at all.


    2. Jonas

      Unfortunately, that is true. Some VPNs are very unreliable or even evil and will steal your data, keep logs and generally do things they shouldn’t. You should always do your research and make sure the VPN you want to pick is a reputable one. Some of the most trusted vpn are: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost, Windscribe. Have a look at these and see which ones you like and can afford to get. I would recommend you test a few of them out for a month and see which one is better for your needs. It all depends on what your needs are. If you need the best vpn for torrenting then that could be NordVPN. If you need the most secure vpn that would be ExpressVPN and so on.


  14. Cesara

    Is VPN safe for online banking? I want to secure my online transactions and I’m looking into how vpn do this and if they are to be trusted in such important cases. I’ve had my account broken into twice in the last 4 years so I must be doing something wrong and it’s time to improve on this.


    1. Annie

      “Is VPN safe for online banking?” the question is what vpn is safe for doing this? ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Surfshark are just 3 of the ones I would say are among the most trusted vpn out there and thus safe for online banking. I would never use an unknown vpn, a cheap one or one that is not rated well. Just look for the top ones and you should be just fine. And since you’ve already had problems, make sure to change your password often.


    2. Robert

      The most trusted vpn out there like ExpressVPN for example are perfect for online banking needs. Express VPN is very secure (probably the most secure vpn in the world) so you can use it without any worries. I’ve been using it for years without any issues or problems. It’s worth every penny.


  15. Karen Krueger

    Do you have an article on how to get a VPN too? And do I need a VPN for at home and different VPNs to use for traveling to different places? Some VPNs are better for different countries, I’ve seen, so would that be a good idea?


  16. Cestor

    Could anyone tell me what is the best free vpn? I want to use a vpn and see how it goes and then maybe get a paid one if needed. I need it for browsing online while staying safe. I don’t need it for torrents or anything like that. I just don’t want others to spy on me or know my browsing history and habits. I hate the lack of privacy we have nowadays and would like to do something to make sure I’m not so unprotected when online.


    1. Kody

      “What is the best free vpn?” I don’t know which is the best one but you should try two of them for sure: ProtonVPN and Windscribe. They are both very good options and they are free. When you see what they can do you might not even believe that they are actually free. Just try them out and let us know how it goes. They won’t work for torrenting but for anything else, they will do just fine and they have plenty of servers for a free vpn.


      1. Jasper

        If you ask me, I think ProtonVPN is the best free vpn (although some people say Windscribe is better). I’ve tried both and Proton did a little better plus it has a lot less limitations than Windscribe. ProtonVPN has a free and a paid option. Their free option is just a watered down version of the paid one and I like these kinds of tools because I can get a feel of how their paid plan will look like.


  17. Graham

    Is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal? I can’t find a clear answer for this. While I don’t think using a VPN should be illegal I do know that Netflix doesn’t like this at all. They don’t want us to see content meant for other countries, do they? Anyway, I hope someone actually know the answer to this.


    1. Dnn

      “Is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal?” – no, it’s not illegal BUT you do have to have a Netflix account. When you have an account that you pay for, you aren’t technically breaking any laws. While Netflix might want you to only see certain content, it isn’t illegal to connect to Netflix US or UK for example. I for one, hate the fact that I can’t see certain shows that US citizens get to see and I unlocked Netflix US so I can see everything.


      1. Cosley

        It doesn’t seem legal either. At least not to me. I mean, even if you do have a Netflix account you are still using content from another country (US, UK, etc) that you don’t normally have access to. Doesn’t this mean it’s not ok? Doesn’t that make it somewhat illegal? Anyway, is VPN legal in this case? I mean, if it clearly breaks the rules of Netflix, is that ok? And I for one wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t use a VPN to unlock content on Netflix US or UK. I understand copyright laws in certain countries and I wouldn’t want to break them. I understand the appeal for some people to get access to extra content that is restricted. I mean, just the word restricted makes some want to break rules and get access to that content. On one side, it’s not ok to break these rules but on the other hand, you are paying for a service and aren’t getting the same service/content as other people, from other countries. I don’t know. Just my 2 cents I guess.


        1. Graham

          @Dnn – Thanks for the reply. I also hate the fact that you can’t watch certain shows just because you’re from the “wrong” country. Is wanted to know if is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal or not and you answered that question.

          @Cosley – I totally understand what you’re saying. I go to the cinema a lot and I actually like (and feel it’s fair) to support people that are creators of movies or games/etc. For example, I like to torrent new games to see if I like them or not and once I figure out that I like a game, I will buy it. I think a lot of people do things this way and transformed torrenting in a way of testing games before deciding on them.

          Sometimes there are instances like with Netflix where there’s another way just because they are blocking us from other countries.


  18. Aarna

    Is VPN legal? I wonder if using a vpn, free or paid, is actually legal or illegal? I mean, can you use it without fearing jail time? I apologize if this is a stupid question but I am new to this thing and do not know much. I want to stay on the safe side and would like to be protected when I am online but can I do that? A week ago I was searching for things like “what is a vpn connection” or “what does a vpn do” just so you can see my current level of knowledge about this. I like to learn new things so here I am. I appreciate all the answers and thank you for your patience and guidance.


    1. Justin

      No matter the country you are from, you should check this page: https://vpnpro.com/guides-and-tutorials/are-vpns-legal-in-my-country/– it’s a goldmine for people living in all the countries of the world.


      1. Aarna

        Hernan – thank you for your assistance. I’m starting to understand why vpns are so important. And yes, I am from India and yes there are certain things that you need to be careful about.

        Justin – thank you for sharing that article. It was very helpful to see how things are both in my country and in other ones. I have another question: is a free vpn an option? And what is the best free vpn out there?


    2. Hernan

      I am guessing, from your name, that you live in India, correct? From what I know, VPNs are not illegal in India, although the government has banned some sites (especially porn sites) and trying to bypass this may lead to prison time and fines. So, basically using a VPN is legal but you need to be careful what you use it for. Torrenting copyrighted things like movies or music is illegal. The question, in you case, is: are VPN worth it? Meaning depending on what you want to do, you should think if it’s worth it to risk getting caught. I would probably not risk it but I don’t live in India and don’t know exactly what people do there and how they get around such bans.

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