Private Internet Access Review

8.9/10
Popular, cheap, and fast
Last updated: December 1, 2020

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the most affordable and well-known VPNs out there. The consistent quality of this service has kept it popular for ages now. But just how good is it?

Minimum Price:
$2.19 / month
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux chrome firefox opera
Works with:
router

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

One of the top VPNs in the industry, Private Internet Access is dependable in its security and entertainment abilities. If you’re looking for torrenting, unblocking Netflix, and solid protection for a great price – it’s for you.

I’ll be testing security, privacy, speed, apps, pricing, and support in this Private Internet Access review. You can find an overview of the results at the bottom of this article. What is more, I’ll answer the question nagging many around the world: does PIA unblock Netflix US?

Keep reading to see whether to invest in the product or look further.

Overview

Rank #5 out of 215 providers
Company location United States
Website privateinternetaccess.com
Number of locations 70+ countries
Number of servers 12300+
Unblocks Netflix Yes
Safe for Torrenting Yes
Encryption AES-256
Protocols WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Customer Support Live chat
Logging policy Court-proven no-logs
Price From $2.19/month
Free version or trial No

Speed and performance

Connection speeds depend on location, ISP, hardware, and other factors. Due to this, no average speed test in the world can give you a good answer to the question, “how fast is this VPN for me?”

That being said, we’ve created our in-house speed test tool that eliminates as many variables as possible when measuring those Mbps. It should give you an idea of how fast PIA really is when connecting in the US, the UK, Germany, and other countries.

Private Internet Access 14-Day Speed Average

More live data from our VPN Speed Test tool
USA server
Download Speed 96 Mbps
Upload Speed 191 Mbps
UK server
Download Speed 66 Mbps
Upload Speed 289 Mbps
Germany server
Download Speed 118 Mbps
Upload Speed 366 Mbps

As you can tell, PIA provides some of the best speeds, especially in Germany and the US. Of course, a few VPNs on the market are faster, but on the other hand, Private Internet Access is cheaper than most.

PIA servers

PIA has an insane number of servers that cannot be compared with any of its competitors. Its server fleet consists of 12300+ servers in 74+ countries. If that wasn’t enough, all of these servers are bare-metal, meaning their performance far exceeds that of any virtual one.

Server locations

With Private Internet Access, you’re most likely to feel the negative effects of server distribution if you’re based in Asia (including the Middle East), Africa, or even South America – most servers are not based in these locations.

map showing PIA servers around the world

If you are in Europe or North America – you’re in luck. A large chunk of PIA’s servers is in these two locations.

Here’s how it all looks like in more detail:

LocationCountriesServers
North AmericaCanada, United States, Mexico7,500+
Central and South AmericaPanama, Venezuela, Bahamas, Brazil, Argentina150+
EuropeUnited Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Romania, Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Andorra, Armenia, Cyprus, Georgia, Greenland, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, Malta, Ireland, Poland, Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia3,500+
Africa, the Middle East, and IndiaAlgeria, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, India, South Africa, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Nigeria400+
Asia PacificAustralia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, China600+

Pricing

There are three different Private Internet Access pricing plans. You can choose from:

  • 1-month plan: $11.95
  • 1-year plan: $39.95 ($3.33/month)
  • 3-year plan: $79.00 ($2.19/month)

PIA Black Friday deal

I might bash Private Internet Access for not offering a free trial, but I don’t blame them for skipping it with prices so low. Instead, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee – fair enough, PIA. After all, most premium VPNs are moving away from the free trials, and getting one has become an exception to the rule.

Also, a generous ten simultaneous connections limit will allow you to share the account with family and friends.

Security and privacy features

PIA has reliable security features. They may not be super-advanced or numerous, but they’re all most users will ever need.

Encryption and tunneling protocols

PIA uses strong encryption – namely, AES-128 and AES-256. The app offers more cryptographic choices than are commonly available: you can pick your level of data encryption, the handshake, and the authentication standard.

The primary tunneling protocol used by PIA is OpenVPN, but the iOS app also has mobile-friendly IKEv2. It’s also nice to see that the company is futureproofing its security measures and has now added a preview of the WireGuard® tunneling protocol on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. This places the service high up on our list – not many providers have mastered the new technology to include it in their apps.

Kill switch

Private Internet Access has a great kill switch – an important feature to protect from any unexpected connection disruptions. This is bolstered through the use of their private DNS to avoid leaking.

In addition to the VPN, there are also PIA proxy services in the form of the Chrome/Firefox extensions, as well as SOCKS5 and Shadowsocks proxies. The latter is awesome in heavy censorship countries, like China.

You can find them in the Settings:

PIA proxy settings

IP and DNS leaks

To see if there are any IP or DNS leaks, it’s best to run a test online. First of all, I connected to Mexico and was assigned the IP address 196.52.10.18. After that, I checked if my IP address or DNS queries were leaking:

screensot of dns address using server in Mexico

As you can see, the IP addresses match, which means there is no IP leak.

Business location

PIA is based in the US and owned by Kape Technologies, which bought Private Internet Access in 2019. This country is one of the most problematic places for registering a VPN company.

There are many reasons for this – the legal climate with legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), government surveillance, including by the NSA, corporate surveillance by tech and telecommunications companies, and so on.

If that’s not enough, the US is part of the Five Eyes country group – a robust intelligence-sharing framework.

With that said, all of these privacy risks are greatly mitigated by PIA’s strong no-logs policy.

Logging policy

Private Internet Access has a clear no-logging policy. This was proven in a US court case in 2015 and several more recent cases where PIA personnel was called to testify and couldn’t produce anything useful to the prosecution.

This should be reassuring to anyone seeking online privacy – you can be certain that not even PIA knows what you’re doing online. This VPN is one of the most popular services, so you can join them without having to worry about your traffic logs.

Anonymous purchase

What I like about PIA are its vast options for anonymous purchase.

You can pay anonymously with many major brand gift cards: including, Fully Anonymous, Instant Access, 100% Secure Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy, and many more.

PIA payment options

Additionally, there are plenty of cryptocurrency options as well. These include Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Beam, and Zcash, among others. That’s more than enough opportunity to keep Private Internet Access off your balance sheet.

PIA’s Handshake Naming System

In August of 2019, Private Internet Access announced a new feature – the Handshake Naming System (HNS). To put it in simple terms, the HNS is a blockchain alternative for the Domain Name System (DNS).

HNS completely decentralizes the domain name system and creates an additional layer of privacy for users. According to PIA, it also works as a tool against DNS-level blocking (something governments use to ban websites and online services).

The HNS is definitely good and will be appreciated by power users. However, its usefulness for common folk is exaggerated. It is no more effective for bypassing DNS blocking than regular PIA DNS servers.

The only exceptions to this rule are marginal cases, and certainly not blocking websites like Facebook.

Is PIA good for streaming?

Private Internet Access is a great choice for watching your favorite shows online. In fact, it’s among our best VPNs for streaming. PIA has plenty of bare-metal servers to keep the load down and fast-enough speeds for HD or even 4K streams.

PIA unblocks Netflix

I’ve tested Netflix from Europe using fast.com to determine the nominal speed and check the loading times (if the content was successfully unblocked). The original speed without a VPN was 230 Mbps, as per the fast.com test. Let’s see what numbers I got after turning on PIA.

US, New York – 64 Mbps

Private Internet Access Netflix speed test results in the US, New York

64 Mbps is more than enough for UHD (4K), and the loading times didn’t exceed a few seconds.

pia netflix punisher

US, Los Angeles – 74 Mbps

Once more, I’m getting better Netflix results on the West Coast despite New York being closer to my location.

Netherlands, Utrecht – 92 Mbps

As expected, the best speeds were in Europe, and PIA unblocked the Netherlands library! Loading times were no more than a couple of seconds, while streaming was as smooth as marble.

I tried a bunch of other locations as well – the UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan – but PIA none were able to unblock Netflix. Therefore, if you want to access some of the other Netflix libraries, look for another VPN service. However, if you’re unable to unblock Netflix at all, I suggest you read our troubleshooting guide.

Private Internet Access for Kodi

In terms of security, Private Internet Access is a great choice for Kodi, even if it’s not among the best ones. While it has no Android TV or Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick apps, you can still set the VPN up on those devices by following the support page’s instructions. You can also run Kodi through PIA via your Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS device.

PIA also offers a free SOCKS5 proxy, which you can set up directly on your Kodi app. And if you have any questions, there’s a live chat available along with extensive knowledgebase. Therefore, all in all, I can recommend PIA VPN for Kodi.

Should you use PIA for Twitch?

With gaming becoming a mainstream hobby, streaming your own gameplay or watching others has become an increasing part of one’s leisure time. As Twitch remains the #1 platform, having a VPN that works well with it is important. So how does PIA fare in this department? Does it even work with Twitch?

PIA is a great choice for streaming Twitch TV. For starters, it has the biggest server fleet among all VPNs. What’s more, it’s also pretty fast and very cheap. Finally, its court-proven no-logs policy means that you won’t get caught streaming illegally.

However, if you’re not from North America or Europe, expect a worse performance from Private Internet Access. That’s because most of its servers are concentrated in these two regions.

Does PIA VPN support torrenting?

Private Internet Access supports torrenting and is definitely not the worst choice for P2P action. European and North American users will find the speeds decent, and the security features are sufficient.

There’s also the port forwarding feature, which is great if your torrent tracker demands that you seed. However, use this feature at your own risk because it increases the chances of being found out.

Unlike some other VPN services, PIA doesn’t limit P2P traffic on the network – you can torrent on any server. Additionally, users can take advantage of the free SOCKS5 proxy. This allows you to secure traffic at the VPN app level, thus potentially saving some valuable bandwidth.

Does Private Internet Access support my device?

PIA has apps for the following platforms:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS

There’s no Private Internet Access router app at the moment. However, you can still run PIA VPN on most router devices, including DD-WRT, pfSense, and Tomato, if you follow the instructions on their site. There are also guidelines for manual Amazon Fire Stick setup, although it’s not officially supported.

Desktop apps: Windows, macOS, and Linux

The Private Internet Access Windows 10 version is the one I looked at. It’s elegant, simplistic, and has some security benefits over the old app.

Once you’re connected, you’ll see a simple home screen where you can:

  1. Click the large Connect button
  2. Choose the server (sortable by country or latency)
  3. Enter the Settings screen (button in the top right)

PIA Windows app screenshots

The server choice screen lets you expand or minimize the location lists in various countries. There are no fireworks, but the menu is easy to use and self-explanatory.

In the Settings screen, everything’s grouped according to function:

  • Privacy Preferences lets you customize the kill switch and toggle PIA MACE. The latter is an excellent security feature combining an ad blocker, tracker blocker, and malware shield.
  • Network Preferences allows you to choose DNS servers, Request Port Forwarding (useful for seeding torrents or remote desktop connections), and toggle whether to allow LAN Traffic.

PIA network settings

  • Connection Preferences offers to choose the tunneling protocol (Connection Type), Remote/Local Port, as well as cipher settings. A feature that is almost unique to PIA is the option to use Small Packets, which should improve the experience for users who has connection stability issues.

PIA connection settings

Ultimately, this constitutes a good set of features, although power users may miss server information or stealth features for use in censorship-heavy countries.

Mobile apps: Android and iOS

The Android version of PIA has most of the desktop features. You can request port forwarding, switch DNS, connect via a proxy, force IPv6 blocking, and so on.

PIA Android app Settings

Unfortunately, the iOS app provides only the basics, such as choosing the protocol and encryption or turning on the malware blocker. Luckily, you can use WireGuard to achieve much higher speeds.

In the end, both mobile apps are user friendly and easy to use.

Browser extensions: Chrome, Firefox, and Opera

You can download PIA browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

PIA’s Chrome and Firefox extensions are HTTPS proxy addons. This is good, but keep in mind that only your web traffic will be affected.

Chrome and Firefox extensions aren’t the only way to use a Private Internet Access proxy – each subscription includes a SOCKS5 proxy. You’ll need a separate password to use it, which you can generate on the Client Control Panel.

Does PIA work in China?

I don’t recommend using PIA in China. While it has physical servers there, it would be naive to think that the no-logs policy has the same power as in a privacy-friendly country. Even if you don’t care about your personal data and just want to climb over the Great Firewall of China, PIA will most likely fail to deliver. CyberGhost could be great alternative for unblocking China, check this PIA and CyberGhost comparison.

Customer support

Private Internet Access has multiple customer support options. Those include:

  • Self-help resources – knowledgebase, guides, news, forum (Feedback)
  • Support tickets
  • Live chat

PIA support section

We welcome the most recent addition, the live chat option, as it truly makes for a much more streamlined experience. Sure, it works according to the US time zones, but it’s still way better than having to wait at least half a day before someone sees your support ticket and finds enough inner strength to open it.

Should you get Private Internet Access VPN?

PIA is a trustworthy tool both in terms of security and entertainment. If you’re European or North American and your goals are to torrent, stream Netflix US, and protect yourself from cybercriminals whilst sipping a Starbucks latte – PIA is for you. It’s really cheap and gives you ten simultaneous connections – that’s a rare combination among premium VPNs.

While this provider is based in the US, which is not known for putting privacy above everything else, its no-logs policy has been proven in court. There’s no such independent audit institution that could better prove how serious PIA is about protecting its clients.

FAQ

Is Private Internet Access a good VPN?

Yes, it certainly is. In fact, it’s among the best overall VPNs. But is PIA better than the highly touted NordVPN? Check out their comparison for a clear answer.

Is PIA fast?

PIA is among the fastest VPNs available. But just how fast is PIA VPN? Well, you can find the best answer on our VPN speed testing tool’s page.

Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?

PIA does work with Netflix, including the US and the Netherlands libraries.

How safe is PIA?

PIA is 100% safe to use. It offers military-grade encryption, court-proven no-logs policy, and best tunneling protocols. This VPN doesn’t have any IP or DNS leaks and comes with a reliable kill switch.

Why is Private Internet Access VPN so slow?

While PIA is not the fastest VPN, it’s far from the slowest. Actually, it’s among the best performing services, as per our VPN Speed Test tool. Also, let’s not forget that many factors can impact performance, such as your location, ISP, hardware, and time.

Is PIA trustworthy?

PIA is a trustworthy VPN that offers good security and a court-proven no-logs policy. It comes with an ad blocker, anonymous torrenting, and the largest server fleet on the planet. One would be hard-pressed to find a more reliable VPN option for such a small price.

Private Internet Access won’t connect: what to do?

If PIA won’t connect, it’s time to get troubleshooting, and you have several ways to do so. You can find step by step guides in the support thread. None of them are particularly complex, and there’s a good chance one of them will deliver a solution:

  1. Change the connection ports used by PIA
  2. Try manually assigning DNS settings
  3. Switch to the OpenVPN app

How to install PIA?

To get your Private Internet Access account, go to the PIA website and click the carrot-colored button. You can choose the one at the top-right (JOIN NOW) or at the center (GET 2 MONTHS FREE!).

You’ll be asked to choose one of three pricing plans, select a payment method, and make the payment. Then you’ll create an account and receive an email with your username and password. Enter these into the Private Internet Access login screen when the app starts.

Installing a PIA client is a no-brainer. You’ll have to:

  1.       Run the installer from your browser or your Downloads directory
  2.       Choose a language for the installation
  3.       Allow the installer to make changes to your device (click Yes when prompted)
  4.       Follow the installation wizard – it will install the client and the TAP drivers
  5.       Click “Finish”

Good

  • Good security credentials
  • Largest server list (12,500+ servers)
  • Not bad for torrents
  • Very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix US
  • Privacy-friendly service
  • Fast speeds
  • 10 simultaneous connections

Bad

  • Based in the US
  • Not good in China
 8.9 / 10
Total score
$2.19 / month
Minimum Price
Top VPN options:
1. NordVPN
9.6 / 10
Excellent security
Very fast speeds
2. Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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

15 comments
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  1. Bill

    I’ve been using PIA for a couple of years now and it’s not perfect, but its cheap, fast and works well for torrents and such.


  2. Anthony

    where i live, PIA is the ONLY app which works. after introducing the WireGuard feature, speed got better and works like a charm. definitely recommend it.


  3. AlArabi

    It seems that it offers a good value and decent performance but I heard that there is no free trial for it, is it true? If yes then it’s a no-no for me.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hi AlArabi,

      Yes, that’s correct, although you can pay and get a refund within 7 days (they have a 7-day money-back guarantee).


  4. Kevin D

    My device is LENOVO YOGA 730-151 KB. OS is Win 10 Home. I’ve used others and find this to be the best, fastest, and most efficient for the money. Great application. A quick and easy solution to surf the web anonymously and it works across multiple platforms. Recommended highly


  5. Lorna

    PIA is a decent option for browsing but what do you do when you have problems and their support doesn’t answer or takes a few days to do that? Happened to me and I cancelled my account with them. I was expecting a far better service from such a known company. ExpressVPN is much better.


  6. B. Chmielewska

    I tried using PIA and was very disappointed with them. I experienced disconnects regularly and struggled getting any help from their support system. I wouldn’t recommend using Private Internet Access and hope that no one has to go through the horrible experience that I did. Their price may be enticing, but don’t waste your money.


  7. Daniel G

    Best VPN on the market!

    Not only it is cheaper(in price), but it has the best features! Including their own security feature, MACE.
    Both Windows Software and Chrome Extension are amazing! And easy to use.


  8. Wilhelm J.

    Do you know of other VPN with a Kill Switch feature? I’m from Germany and copyright laws are very strict here. I liked PIA, but I’m looking for something to watch Netflix on.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hi Wilhelm,

      There are plenty of VPN services with a kill switch. Basically any of the top ones will fit your needs: NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN – all are great for Netflix and have a kill switch.


  9. Benton1234

    As long as it uses OpenVPN, I’m satisfied with it.
    Thanks for the info.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Yes, it’s a very decent choice, especially if you’re based in the States!


  10. Elvira Albert

    I have used PIA for 2 months only but I can definitely its good for torrents and streaming but not for its speed. Currently using Ivacy VPN now and found it the best option in terms of cost as well.


  11. digvane

    cant seem to get pia to work on roku
    dont know if doing something wrong or just not compatible


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hey digvane,

      While PIA doesn’t support Roku directly, you could still get it to work in a roundabout way by setting PIA up on your router (assuming you have the right kind of router). Check the helpdesk page on PIA’s website for info on how to do this.

      Best of luck!

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Private Internet Access review
Private Internet Access
8.9 / 10
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux chrome firefox opera
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