Best VPN services 2024: Top picks for speed, price, privacy, and more

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A virtual private network service, aka a VPN, is one of the best tools you can use to boost your online privacy and security. It tunnels your traffic through a private encrypted server allowing you to keep your online activities anonymous and obscured from prying eyes.

There are a few things you’ll want to consider when looking for a VPN: First, it should be able to keep your internet usage private and secure without leaks. Speed is another factor — privacy and security are crucial, but you don’t want the service to cripple your internet speed either. And if you’re concerned with anonymity, you should seek out a VPN with data collection policies that are clear and transparent. Finally, the number of available servers and country locations a VPN offers is worth bearing in mind if you’re trying to get around region locks in specific countries.

Why you should trust us: Here at PCWorld we’ve been testing computer hardware, software, and services since the 1980s. We’re continually testing all of the major VPNs on the market and many lesser-known services in order to curate a list of the very best VPNs across a variety of categories. For a more in-depth guide, you can check out our article on how we test VPN services at PCWorld. Below you’ll find our favorite VPNs and additional information about how we test these services as well as helpful advice about what to look for when choosing a VPN on your own.

PROMOTION

Grab the award-winning VPN with 85% off

Don’t compromise. Get both stability & speed with Surfshark.

Buy now for only $2.29 per month and enjoy 2 more months of VPN for free.

Granted, not everyone wants or needs a premium VPN service—although if online privacy is important to you, we think it should be a priority. You might just want a VPN for occasional use such as when you’re using public Wi-Fi, for instance. If that’s the case, head over to our roundup of the best free VPNs for more recommendations, and caveats about the limitations of using a free VPN.

Updated April 16, 2024: Our latest review of Mullvad proves it to be as worthy of recommendation as it was before, particularly when it comes to privacy. See our updated summary below to learn why we think so highly of this trusty VPN.

ExpressVPN – Best VPN overall

Pros

Excellent speeds

Easy-to-use interface

Unblocks all streaming services

Great security and privacy practices

Cons

More expensive than many competitors

Light on some features for a top VPN




Why we like ExpressVPN

It’s difficult to select the best overall VPN. Some services are weaker on privacy, but are significantly easier to use with tons of features, while others could use a serious interface redesign.

For many years we chose the best VPN based purely on privacy, but that is no longer the sole concern of most people when choosing a VPN. Privacy is important, to be sure, but so are performance, extra features, a wide country selection, and ease of use. ExpressVPN has it all, making it our top choice for VPN. Not only is it one of the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested, but it also has a very easy-to-use Windows app.

Its servers are all diskless, running everything in RAM—a welcome practice that’s become fairly standard these days. ExpressVPN also has wide device support—recently adding AppleTV to it’s lineup of supported devices, as well as a smart DNS feature for set-top boxes, consoles, and more. It is even branching out from just being a VPN provider to taking a more holistic approach to security for users, adding ad- and tracker-blocking and, most recently, a password manager to the service, as well.

It’s not the cheapest VPN out there, but you do get excellent value for the price, and the service is regularly bringing in third-party auditors to bolster its privacy credentials.

Who should buy ExpressVPN

Since ExpressVPN is our pick for best VPN overall, we think it’s a great option for everyone. VPN novices will find that they can just download the software, choose their server location and connect—it’s as simple as that. But more advanced users will be able to choose from features such as split-tunneling, protocol optimization, and a kill switch.

Also, ExpressVPN in it’s attempt to provide an all-inclusive security suite now offers users ad- and tracker-blocking, parental controls, and most recently, a password manager. Plus, ExpressVPN has one of the most expansive device support networks I’ve ever seen. So users can user the VPN across practically any and all devices they own—up to eight simultaneous device connections.

Read our full

ExpressVPN review

NordVPN – Best VPN for features

Pros

Great feature set

Excellent speeds

No-logs policy

Attractive and intuitive interface

Cons

Expensive




Why we like NordVPN

Just like our top pick, NordVPN is also an excellent choice. Nord is arguably more feature-filled than ExpressVPN even, and the service is just one part of a larger suite of privacy- and security-focused products. The desktop app is very easy to use and offers a ton of different features including access to the TOR network over VPN, multi-hop options, Meshnet, and a security suite complete with ad and malware blocking.

NordVPN has also gone a long way to bolster user trust with a now thrice independently verified no-logs policy and increased company transparency in recent years. The service also carries out vendor assessments and uses diskless servers for increased security. Their speeds are also outstanding, reaching an average of 73 percent of the base internet speed in our test across all servers.

The only reason we placed Nord second is due to the price of the service, which is more expensive than ExpressVPN for a similar feature-set. Still, you can’t go wrong if you decide to go with NordVPN as your VPN of choice.

Who should buy NordVPN

Similar to ExpressVPN, we think NordVPN is truly a solid option for everyone. It comes with an excellent feature set that will appeal to power users as well as an easy-to-use app that is intuitive and straightforward. Also, just like ExpressVPN, there will be no problems accessing any geo-restricted streaming service while using NordVPN.

Additionally, for those who don’t want to bother subscribing to a lot of different security apps, NordVPN offers its own security features such as malware protection, ad- and tracker-blocking, and file-download protection.

Read our full

NordVPN review

Mullvad – Best VPN for privacy

Pros

Good speeds

Inexpensive monthly plan

Unrivaled anonymity

Open-source

Cons

Struggles with unblocking streaming services

Smaller server network

Lacks some extra features that other VPNs offer




Why we like Mullvad

As Hotspot Shield is to speeds, so Mullvad is to privacy and anonymity. We’ve never seen another VPN that actively resists knowing who you are the way Mullvad does. Mullvad doesn’t ask for your email address, name, or anything else. Instead it assigns a random account number that acts as your identifier and login.

Mullvad accepts payments using standard methods such as credit cards and PayPal, but you can also mail your payment in cash to remain as private as possible. Mullvad has a no-logging policy and doesn’t collect any identifying metadata from your usage.

Mullvad is also fast, ranking among our top five for speeds.

Who should buy Mullvad

Mullvad is all about privacy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a more than capable VPN for any user. But the ultra-privacy conscious will find the most to like in its anonymized payment system, commitment to not collecting metadata, and strong privacy promises. I did find some hiccups when trying to access streaming services, so users who want their VPN to bypass location-restricted content may want to look elsewhere.

Read our full

Mullvad review

IVPN – Best VPN for privacy runner-up

Pros

Excellent speeds for its U.S., UK and European servers

Interface is easy to understand

Default WireGuard protocol connects quickly

Cons

It’s on the expensive side at $100 per year

Server network is under 100 servers





Best Prices Today:



$6 at IVPN

Why we like IVPN

Coming in behind Mullvad is IVPN. This Gibraltar-based VPN recently moved to dumping email-based identifiers and going with randomly assigned account numbers instead. Similar to Mullvad, it accepts a variety of payment options for privacy including cash, as well as the standard credit cards, PayPal, and other options like Bitcoin and Monero. IVPN doesn’t rank as one of our fastest VPNs, but it does have acceptable speeds for most casual uses.

Another option is OVPN. This VPN doesn’t go to the levels that Mullvad and IVPN do, but it does only require a username and password to create an account. OVPN doesn’t require an email address, though you can add one as a backstop for account recovery should you forget your password. OVPN doesn’t rank in our top 10 for speeds, but it’s just outside the top performers at number 12.

Who should buy IVPN

IVPN will mainly appeal to those concerned with privacy. Similar to Mullvad, it has an anonymized payment system and further obfuscates user IDs via randomly assigned number instead of emails. Not to mention that it has a strong privacy policy as well.

Read our full

IVPN review

Hotspot Shield – Fastest VPN

Pros

Very fast

Large country selection and plenty of servers

Cons

Domain visits are recorded, though not tied to you

Expensive




Why we like Hotspot Shield

While our pick for best overall VPN, ExpressVPN, boasts above-average speeds, Hotspot Shield is on another level. No other service comes close to hitting the speeds we’ve seen with this service. This isn’t just a one-off occurrence either; Hotspot Shield has consistently been at the top with speeds that are 12 to 15 percentage points above the competition. In our tests, Hotspot Shield maintained around 67 percent of the base speed. That’s substantially faster than you’ll see with most VPN services—though your experience may vary.

On the downside, Hotspot Shield doesn’t allow for a way to pay anonymously and its privacy policy may not sit well with some. Still, Hotspot Shield has excellent speeds, it’s desktop application is very nice, and as a bonus it works with U.S. Netflix.

Who should buy Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is for those looking to maintain the fastest connection possible with the minimum loss of base speed. In the past it was far and away the fastest VPN we had ever tested, but in recent years other services seem to be catching up.

Regardless, it is still one of the best around if connection speed is your main concern. We also found that it can access location-restricted content on most major streaming services. This, combined with it’s excellent speeds makes it a good option if you mainly use a VPN to access streaming content.

Read our full

Hotspot Shield review

Private Internet Access – Best VPN for split-tunneling

Pros

Independently verified no-logs policy

Unlimited simultaneous device connections

Incredible number of servers

Great extra features such as multi-hop and split tunneling

Cons

App panel awkwardly located on the lower-right corner of screen by default

Speeds are just okay

Why we like Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (PIA) has been around for awhile and has demonstrated that it can continue to innovate and improve with each passing year. The latest version of PIA is no different. By updating its service to include unlimited simultaneous device connections it has improved upon an already solid VPN.

But the real feature that stands out with PIA is its split-tunneling feature. While this is a common feature in most of the services on this list, PIA goes above and beyond. Not only does it allow users to pick and choose which apps they wish to run through the VPN, but it also allows them to designate IP addresses and DNS requests as well. It even comes with the option for an app-based kill switch, which will block traffic only on specific apps should the VPN connection break.

There are a few awkward interface issues and PIA isn’t the fastest service we’ve ever tested. But neither of these issues makes the service any less viable.

Who should buy Private Internet Access

PIA is continuing to establish itself, along with the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN, as one of the best VPNs around. I think it can be a great VPN for all users. However, where PIA really shines is in its extensive customizable feature set. Power users and those who like their apps to be customized to their individual needs will especially love all of the tweaking that this app allows you to do—even outside of just split-tunneling.

Read our full

Private Internet Access review

AirVPN – Best VPN for torrents

Pros

Excellent speeds

Detailed real-time information about the network

Good pricing with many subscription options

Cons

Team is largely anonymous




Why we like AirVPN

Torrents get a bad rap, and if we’re honest, that’s for good reason. Using torrents is the number one way to download pirated material including movies, TV shows, music, and games. But that’s not all there is to torrenting. It’s a very efficient way to download legitimate software such as Linux distributions and authorized content from sites such as BitTorrent Now.

Whatever your reasons, when it comes to torrenting, a VPN makes it easier—especially if the network you’re on blocks torrenting. There are many VPNs among our top picks that could be used for downloading torrents, but our preferred choice is AirVPN. This no-frills VPN has a reasonable number of servers and country locations, really good speeds, excellent network transparency, and a focus on user protection. The price is also right at about $58 a year.

Who should buy AirVPN

As AirVPN allows for P2P connections on all of its servers, it’s a great option for those who want to use their VPN to remain anonymous while surfing the web or torrenting. It also uses diskless RAM servers so data is only kept for as long as you’re actively using the VPN itself. Plus, AirVPN’s small team of dedicated hacktivists and privacy advocates are committed to putting user privacy and security at the forefront. This means that it’s ideal for privacy-conscious users.

Read our full

AirVPN review

CyberGhost VPN – Best VPN for server locations

Pros

Easy-to-use interface

Independently verified no-log policy

Seriously impressive server spread

Cons

Lacks some common features such as multi-hop and double VPN

Server speeds are hit-or-miss, especially in Asia




Why we like CyberGhost

If you want variety and options in the server locations from your VPN, then there are none better than CyberGhost VPN. It offers a staggering 9,000+ servers for users to connect to, which is more than twice as many as top-pick ExpressVPN. Unlike some competitors, these servers aren’t all concentrated in the U.S. or Europe, either.

The server spread totals 110 countries all across the world. The service even recommends optimized servers to users for various needs such as gaming, streaming, and torrenting. In our testing we found that some of the servers were faster than others, with servers located in Europe having excellent speeds and servers in Asia not fairing as well. But overall, the speeds are good enough to do most of what you want to do with a VPN—web browsing, streaming, etc.

CyberGhost also has a well-designed Windows app that is intuitive and easy to use, even when tweaking your settings. It lacks some of the power-user features that other VPNs on this list provide, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the average user. Ultimately, CyberGhost is a straightforward and easy-to-use VPN service with an incredible number of server locations.

Who should buy CyberGhost

Due to it’s plethora of servers and locations, CyberGhost is one of the best options to find a server no matter where you need it in the world. For those who travel a lot or just need access to a diverse and vast server spread, CyberGhost is definitely worth consideration.

Read our full

CyberGhost review

Surfshark VPN – Best VPN for multi-hop

Pros

Unlimited simultaneous device connections

Works well with Netflix

Built-in extras such as ad tracker and malware blocking

Low price on long-term plans

Cons

Indicators for ping or server load are not readily available

Based in the Netherlands and subject to government data sharing requests




Why we like Surfshark

For those who might not be familiar with multi-hop, it allows you to route your traffic through more than one external server (i.e. connect to a server in Japan, but multi-hop through Singapore). This makes it more difficult to track your online activities and further obfuscates your actual location.

While many VPNs now offer multi-hop as a feature, Surfshark stands out by allowing users to either choose a predetermined route or create their own multi-hop route. Furthermore, Surfshark is working to implement its Nexus VPN network which will use a Dynamic Multi-Hop feature to automatically connect you to the fastest available entry and exit servers at any desired location. This should further optimize connection speeds across the board. So not only does Surfshark already have one of the best multi-hop features, but it is also set to improve by leaps and bounds in the near future.

Who should buy Surfshark

Surfshark is a great all-around VPN option, as well, for most people. That being said, power users and those concerned with optimizing anonymity will get the most from Surfshark VPN’s unique multi-hop functionality and rich, customizable feature set.

Read our full

Surfshark review

AVG Secure – Best VPN for novices

Pros

Good speeds

Allows an excellent 10 simultaneous connections

Cons

Does log some data

No real customizability for power users




Why we like AVG Secure

If you want something that’s all about ease of use then AVG Secure is a good choice. First, it comes from a known and trusted security company, so there are fewer worries about data security than with one of the independent services.

The key thing with AVG Secure is that the interface is easy to understand and use. It has a big “Change location” button to help you select the country you’d like to appear to be in. The app also tells you what your current IP address is and how long you’ve been connected to the VPN. That’s pretty much it. This VPN also works with streaming services and it has P2P servers. One thing it doesn’t have is a lot of extra features, which is actually perfect for anyone looking for a no-frills VPN.

Who should buy AVG Secure

Those new to the VPN game will find a lot to like with AVG Secure. It’s dead-simple to use and the interface is designed in a way that is intuitive even for novices.

Read our full

AVG Secure review

Windscribe Pro – Best budget VPN

Pros

Simple setup

Good performance

Great free plan

Cons

Tricky security track record with 2021 server incident

Slow loading of browser extension




Why we like Windscribe

Choosing the best VPN for you can often come down to price. Windscribe Pro is one of the cheapest premium services around at about $5 per month (when billed annually). It is also really easy to use and offers great security, with both a Windows client and browser extension that work in tandem to keep your browsing private and pop-up free.

Windscribe also allows you to pick and choose the features that you want via a build-a-plan system allowing for great versatility to meet each user’s needs. Windscribe’s free option is itself fine to use, and is a good test run before deciding on a paid tier.

Who should buy Windscribe

Windscribe is great for people who are new to VPNs or just need a VPN service for a short period of time. Those who have never used a VPN can use Windscribe’s free option to play around and start getting used to using a VPN service. Alternatively, if you only need a VPN for a little bit then Windscribe Pro’s low monthly price means you don’t have to pay much to use it in the short-term.

Read our full

Windscribe Pro review

PersonalVPN – Best U.S.-based VPN

Pros

Reasonably priced

Fast servers in many locations around the world

Good for power users and novices

Cons

Not a lot of extra or specialized features

Tiered pricing has odd choices for premium features





Best Prices Today:



$50 at WiTopia

Why we like PersonalVPN

If you want a VPN based in the good ol’ USA, we recommend WiTopia’s PersonalVPN. The speeds are good, the price is right, and the app is very easy to use. It’s true that a lot of VPN review sites stress the importance of having a VPN that’s outside of the so-called Five Eyes countries, which includes the U.S.—some will even say to avoid the Fourteen Eyes. The idea being that if you use a U.S.-based VPN your activities may end up being secretly monitored by Western authorities. Edward Snowden revealed such truths back in 2013.

But if you’re using a VPN to access your accounts for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other U.S.-based service, then staying outside the Fourteen Eyes is more or less pointless. Sure, that VPN with an exotic locale may be able to easily ignore U.S. subpoenas for data, but the American online services you use are another story. Besides if an American VPN does you wrong, it’ll be a lot easier to hold it to account than one based in Singapore, or even Sweden.

Who should buy Personal VPN

Users concerned with entrusting their private online activity to a company in another country outside of the U.S. should consider PersonalVPN. You won’t be losing out on much by using this service rather than another VPN and you can rest assured that your data is being handled by a reliable company located domestically.

Read our full

PersonalVPN review

What to look for in a VPN

One of the first things you should look for when shopping around for a VPN is the number of servers and locations. It’s difficult to judge any VPN by just one feature, but a semi-reliable way to tell if a VPN is even worth your time is to look at the server network. Anything with 1,000 or more servers and 30 or more country locations will do.

The next thing to consider is a VPN’s speed. This may be tricky to do since you aren’t likely to be able to test connection speeds without paying to use the service. Reading reviews online will give you a general estimate. Look for reviews, like ours, that give you a relative average of connection speeds rather than direct Mbps speed comparisons for a more accurate picture.

You’ll also want to read up on a VPN’s privacy protections. Does it have a no-logs policy? Has it undergone any independent audits of its servers? Where is the VPN company located? All of these will give you an idea of whether or not a VPN is transparent with its data collection policies and if it’s subject to government data sharing requirements.

Other factors you’ll want to take into consideration are the overall ease-of-use, user experience, and any additional features. Some of these features, such as split-tunneling and kill switches, can be extremely useful for certain purposes and might sway your subscription decision one way or the other.

Finally, as with all subscription services, you’ll want to review the price of a VPN service. Do you want a monthly or yearly subscription? Some top VPNs might be pricey month-to-month, but actually become quite affordable with long-term plans.

How we tested

We judge VPNs on a variety of criteria including server network, connection speeds, privacy protections, ease-of-use, additional features, and cost. For a more detailed guide on how we test, check out our comprehensive guide on how we test VPN services.

Speed tests are kept as simple as possible. We average the connections between different global locations for any given VPN and then compare them to our baseline internet speed to get a good picture of the overall connection speeds. We thoroughly research and analyze the privacy policies and histories of each VPN and note any outstanding discrepancies or data collection issues.

Experience and ease-of-use are subjective, but we try our best to give an accurate representation of how it feels to work with the VPN. And finally, we compare the value of the service based upon its price and additional features to the industry average to help you gain an accurate picture of what you’ll get for your money.

Other notable VPNs and security suites

There are many more worthwhile VPNs than just our favorites listed above, including AVG Internet Security, CyberGhost, ESET Security Premium, FastestVPN, Hide.me, HMA Pro 4, OVPN, Trend Micro Maximum Security, Windscribe Pro, Perfect Privacy, PrivateVPN by TrunkSpace Hosting, PureVPN, Speedify 10, VPNCity, ClearVPN, Malwarebytes Privacy, TorGuard, VeePN, AceVPN.com, and SurfEasy.

We’ll keep evaluating new ones and reevaluating services we’ve already tested on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see what else we’ve put through their paces.

FAQ

1.

What is a VPN?

VPNs create a secure tunnel between your PC and the internet. You connect to a VPN server, which can be located in the United States or a foreign country—say, France or Japan. Your web traffic then goes through that server to make it appear as though you’re browsing from that server’s location, and not from your actual location.

When you’re using a VPN, it’s difficult for others to snoop on your web-browsing activity. Only you, the VPN service, and the website you’re visiting will know what you’re up to. 

A VPN can be a great response to a variety of concerns, such as online privacy, anonymity, greater security on public Wi-Fi, and, of course, spoofing locations.

2.

Is it legal to use a VPN?

Yes! It is perfectly legal in most countries, including the United States, to use a VPN. While using a VPN, you might find some websites that try to block your connection, but this is an individual website’s use policy and has nothing to do with the legality of the VPN itself. One thing to note though, while it’s legal to use a VPN, some of the activities done while using a VPN might be illegal. Such things as downloading pirated copyrighted content or accessing dark web markets are illegal whether you use a VPN or not.

3.

Do VPNs protect against malware and computer viruses?

No, a VPN connection itself does not protect you from malware and computer viruses. It does however encrypt your internet traffic and keep prying eyes from accessing your browsing history.

Some VPN services, such as Nord VPN, do however provide additional security features such as ad and malware blockers. Additionally, many antivirus suites now offer VPN services along with their security features. Although VPNs and antivirus software are used for different purposes, there is still a degree of overlap that makes using both tools together beneficial.

4.

Will a VPN affect my internet speeds?

Most likely you will see a moderate speed decrease to your internet while using a VPN. This is mainly due to the process of your internet traffic being rerouted and encrypted through a VPN server before heading on to its destination. The amount of latency you will experience through this process is down to what country’s server you choose to proxy your traffic through. If you choose a server located on the other side of the world, then you will notice a much greater hit than if you were to connect to a server nearby in your same country.

Thankfully, most modern VPNs should have the infrastructure to maintain high-speed, secure data transfer rates. So it’s likely you can still browse and stream with no noticeable impact while using a reputable VPN like those listed above.

5.

Will a VPN make me anonymous online?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just turning on your VPN and disappearing off grid. While VPNs certainly offer better privacy and security, they don’t make you completely anonymous. There are a mindbogglingly number of ways that companies track you across the internet and a VPN isn’t capable of blocking all of them. For example, when you sign into a website, your identity is revealed to that website. Or when you log into your Gmail account while using a VPN, Google can now collect cookies based on your browsing.

6.

How many servers should my VPN have?

There is no set number of servers that make one VPN better than another. However, most major VPN providers offer between 3,000 to 5,000 servers. Also, we recommend avoiding any paid services whose providers have under 1,000 servers as this may be an indication that the company is not yet well established, meaning that there is a higher chance for reliability issues.

It is common for VPN providers to advertise the number of servers they have, but this is largely a marketing gimmick and doesn’t generally equate to the quality of the VPN provider itself. Things such as the spread of server locations and server quality are as important, if not more so, than the number of available servers.

Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, our reviews are subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the services.

Personal Software, Security Software and Services, VPN

PCWorld  A virtual private network service, aka a VPN, is one of the best tools you can use to boost your online privacy and security. It tunnels your traffic through a private encrypted server allowing you to keep your online activities anonymous and obscured from prying eyes.

There are a few things you’ll want to consider when looking for a VPN: First, it should be able to keep your internet usage private and secure without leaks. Speed is another factor — privacy and security are crucial, but you don’t want the service to cripple your internet speed either. And if you’re concerned with anonymity, you should seek out a VPN with data collection policies that are clear and transparent. Finally, the number of available servers and country locations a VPN offers is worth bearing in mind if you’re trying to get around region locks in specific countries.

Why you should trust us: Here at PCWorld we’ve been testing computer hardware, software, and services since the 1980s. We’re continually testing all of the major VPNs on the market and many lesser-known services in order to curate a list of the very best VPNs across a variety of categories. For a more in-depth guide, you can check out our article on how we test VPN services at PCWorld. Below you’ll find our favorite VPNs and additional information about how we test these services as well as helpful advice about what to look for when choosing a VPN on your own.

PROMOTIONGrab the award-winning VPN with 85% off
Don’t compromise. Get both stability & speed with Surfshark.

Buy now for only $2.29 per month and enjoy 2 more months of VPN for free.
Get Surfshark

Granted, not everyone wants or needs a premium VPN service—although if online privacy is important to you, we think it should be a priority. You might just want a VPN for occasional use such as when you’re using public Wi-Fi, for instance. If that’s the case, head over to our roundup of the best free VPNs for more recommendations, and caveats about the limitations of using a free VPN.

Updated April 16, 2024: Our latest review of Mullvad proves it to be as worthy of recommendation as it was before, particularly when it comes to privacy. See our updated summary below to learn why we think so highly of this trusty VPN.

ExpressVPN – Best VPN overall

Pros

Excellent speeds

Easy-to-use interface

Unblocks all streaming services

Great security and privacy practices

Cons

More expensive than many competitors

Light on some features for a top VPN

Why we like ExpressVPN

It’s difficult to select the best overall VPN. Some services are weaker on privacy, but are significantly easier to use with tons of features, while others could use a serious interface redesign.

For many years we chose the best VPN based purely on privacy, but that is no longer the sole concern of most people when choosing a VPN. Privacy is important, to be sure, but so are performance, extra features, a wide country selection, and ease of use. ExpressVPN has it all, making it our top choice for VPN. Not only is it one of the fastest VPNs we’ve ever tested, but it also has a very easy-to-use Windows app.

Its servers are all diskless, running everything in RAM—a welcome practice that’s become fairly standard these days. ExpressVPN also has wide device support—recently adding AppleTV to it’s lineup of supported devices, as well as a smart DNS feature for set-top boxes, consoles, and more. It is even branching out from just being a VPN provider to taking a more holistic approach to security for users, adding ad- and tracker-blocking and, most recently, a password manager to the service, as well.

It’s not the cheapest VPN out there, but you do get excellent value for the price, and the service is regularly bringing in third-party auditors to bolster its privacy credentials.

Who should buy ExpressVPN

Since ExpressVPN is our pick for best VPN overall, we think it’s a great option for everyone. VPN novices will find that they can just download the software, choose their server location and connect—it’s as simple as that. But more advanced users will be able to choose from features such as split-tunneling, protocol optimization, and a kill switch.

Also, ExpressVPN in it’s attempt to provide an all-inclusive security suite now offers users ad- and tracker-blocking, parental controls, and most recently, a password manager. Plus, ExpressVPN has one of the most expansive device support networks I’ve ever seen. So users can user the VPN across practically any and all devices they own—up to eight simultaneous device connections.

Read our full

ExpressVPN review

NordVPN – Best VPN for features

Pros

Great feature set

Excellent speeds

No-logs policy

Attractive and intuitive interface

Cons

Expensive

Why we like NordVPN

Just like our top pick, NordVPN is also an excellent choice. Nord is arguably more feature-filled than ExpressVPN even, and the service is just one part of a larger suite of privacy- and security-focused products. The desktop app is very easy to use and offers a ton of different features including access to the TOR network over VPN, multi-hop options, Meshnet, and a security suite complete with ad and malware blocking.

NordVPN has also gone a long way to bolster user trust with a now thrice independently verified no-logs policy and increased company transparency in recent years. The service also carries out vendor assessments and uses diskless servers for increased security. Their speeds are also outstanding, reaching an average of 73 percent of the base internet speed in our test across all servers.

The only reason we placed Nord second is due to the price of the service, which is more expensive than ExpressVPN for a similar feature-set. Still, you can’t go wrong if you decide to go with NordVPN as your VPN of choice.

Who should buy NordVPN

Similar to ExpressVPN, we think NordVPN is truly a solid option for everyone. It comes with an excellent feature set that will appeal to power users as well as an easy-to-use app that is intuitive and straightforward. Also, just like ExpressVPN, there will be no problems accessing any geo-restricted streaming service while using NordVPN.

Additionally, for those who don’t want to bother subscribing to a lot of different security apps, NordVPN offers its own security features such as malware protection, ad- and tracker-blocking, and file-download protection.

Read our full

NordVPN review

Mullvad – Best VPN for privacy

Pros

Good speeds

Inexpensive monthly plan

Unrivaled anonymity

Open-source

Cons

Struggles with unblocking streaming services

Smaller server network

Lacks some extra features that other VPNs offer

Why we like Mullvad

As Hotspot Shield is to speeds, so Mullvad is to privacy and anonymity. We’ve never seen another VPN that actively resists knowing who you are the way Mullvad does. Mullvad doesn’t ask for your email address, name, or anything else. Instead it assigns a random account number that acts as your identifier and login.

Mullvad accepts payments using standard methods such as credit cards and PayPal, but you can also mail your payment in cash to remain as private as possible. Mullvad has a no-logging policy and doesn’t collect any identifying metadata from your usage.

Mullvad is also fast, ranking among our top five for speeds.

Who should buy Mullvad

Mullvad is all about privacy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a more than capable VPN for any user. But the ultra-privacy conscious will find the most to like in its anonymized payment system, commitment to not collecting metadata, and strong privacy promises. I did find some hiccups when trying to access streaming services, so users who want their VPN to bypass location-restricted content may want to look elsewhere.

Read our full

Mullvad review

IVPN – Best VPN for privacy runner-up

Pros

Excellent speeds for its U.S., UK and European servers

Interface is easy to understand

Default WireGuard protocol connects quickly

Cons

It’s on the expensive side at $100 per year

Server network is under 100 servers

Best Prices Today:

$6 at IVPN

Why we like IVPN

Coming in behind Mullvad is IVPN. This Gibraltar-based VPN recently moved to dumping email-based identifiers and going with randomly assigned account numbers instead. Similar to Mullvad, it accepts a variety of payment options for privacy including cash, as well as the standard credit cards, PayPal, and other options like Bitcoin and Monero. IVPN doesn’t rank as one of our fastest VPNs, but it does have acceptable speeds for most casual uses.

Another option is OVPN. This VPN doesn’t go to the levels that Mullvad and IVPN do, but it does only require a username and password to create an account. OVPN doesn’t require an email address, though you can add one as a backstop for account recovery should you forget your password. OVPN doesn’t rank in our top 10 for speeds, but it’s just outside the top performers at number 12.

Who should buy IVPN

IVPN will mainly appeal to those concerned with privacy. Similar to Mullvad, it has an anonymized payment system and further obfuscates user IDs via randomly assigned number instead of emails. Not to mention that it has a strong privacy policy as well.

Read our full

IVPN review

Hotspot Shield – Fastest VPN

Pros

Very fast

Large country selection and plenty of servers

Cons

Domain visits are recorded, though not tied to you

Expensive

Why we like Hotspot Shield

While our pick for best overall VPN, ExpressVPN, boasts above-average speeds, Hotspot Shield is on another level. No other service comes close to hitting the speeds we’ve seen with this service. This isn’t just a one-off occurrence either; Hotspot Shield has consistently been at the top with speeds that are 12 to 15 percentage points above the competition. In our tests, Hotspot Shield maintained around 67 percent of the base speed. That’s substantially faster than you’ll see with most VPN services—though your experience may vary.

On the downside, Hotspot Shield doesn’t allow for a way to pay anonymously and its privacy policy may not sit well with some. Still, Hotspot Shield has excellent speeds, it’s desktop application is very nice, and as a bonus it works with U.S. Netflix.

Who should buy Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is for those looking to maintain the fastest connection possible with the minimum loss of base speed. In the past it was far and away the fastest VPN we had ever tested, but in recent years other services seem to be catching up.

Regardless, it is still one of the best around if connection speed is your main concern. We also found that it can access location-restricted content on most major streaming services. This, combined with it’s excellent speeds makes it a good option if you mainly use a VPN to access streaming content.

Read our full

Hotspot Shield review

Private Internet Access – Best VPN for split-tunneling

Pros

Independently verified no-logs policy

Unlimited simultaneous device connections

Incredible number of servers

Great extra features such as multi-hop and split tunneling

Cons

App panel awkwardly located on the lower-right corner of screen by default

Speeds are just okay

Best Prices Today:

$11.95 at Private Internet Access

Why we like Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (PIA) has been around for awhile and has demonstrated that it can continue to innovate and improve with each passing year. The latest version of PIA is no different. By updating its service to include unlimited simultaneous device connections it has improved upon an already solid VPN.

But the real feature that stands out with PIA is its split-tunneling feature. While this is a common feature in most of the services on this list, PIA goes above and beyond. Not only does it allow users to pick and choose which apps they wish to run through the VPN, but it also allows them to designate IP addresses and DNS requests as well. It even comes with the option for an app-based kill switch, which will block traffic only on specific apps should the VPN connection break.

There are a few awkward interface issues and PIA isn’t the fastest service we’ve ever tested. But neither of these issues makes the service any less viable.

Who should buy Private Internet Access

PIA is continuing to establish itself, along with the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN, as one of the best VPNs around. I think it can be a great VPN for all users. However, where PIA really shines is in its extensive customizable feature set. Power users and those who like their apps to be customized to their individual needs will especially love all of the tweaking that this app allows you to do—even outside of just split-tunneling.

Read our full

Private Internet Access review

AirVPN – Best VPN for torrents

Pros

Excellent speeds

Detailed real-time information about the network

Good pricing with many subscription options

Cons

Team is largely anonymous

Why we like AirVPN

Torrents get a bad rap, and if we’re honest, that’s for good reason. Using torrents is the number one way to download pirated material including movies, TV shows, music, and games. But that’s not all there is to torrenting. It’s a very efficient way to download legitimate software such as Linux distributions and authorized content from sites such as BitTorrent Now.

Whatever your reasons, when it comes to torrenting, a VPN makes it easier—especially if the network you’re on blocks torrenting. There are many VPNs among our top picks that could be used for downloading torrents, but our preferred choice is AirVPN. This no-frills VPN has a reasonable number of servers and country locations, really good speeds, excellent network transparency, and a focus on user protection. The price is also right at about $58 a year.

Who should buy AirVPN

As AirVPN allows for P2P connections on all of its servers, it’s a great option for those who want to use their VPN to remain anonymous while surfing the web or torrenting. It also uses diskless RAM servers so data is only kept for as long as you’re actively using the VPN itself. Plus, AirVPN’s small team of dedicated hacktivists and privacy advocates are committed to putting user privacy and security at the forefront. This means that it’s ideal for privacy-conscious users.

Read our full

AirVPN review

CyberGhost VPN – Best VPN for server locations

Pros

Easy-to-use interface

Independently verified no-log policy

Seriously impressive server spread

Cons

Lacks some common features such as multi-hop and double VPN

Server speeds are hit-or-miss, especially in Asia

Why we like CyberGhost

If you want variety and options in the server locations from your VPN, then there are none better than CyberGhost VPN. It offers a staggering 9,000+ servers for users to connect to, which is more than twice as many as top-pick ExpressVPN. Unlike some competitors, these servers aren’t all concentrated in the U.S. or Europe, either.

The server spread totals 110 countries all across the world. The service even recommends optimized servers to users for various needs such as gaming, streaming, and torrenting. In our testing we found that some of the servers were faster than others, with servers located in Europe having excellent speeds and servers in Asia not fairing as well. But overall, the speeds are good enough to do most of what you want to do with a VPN—web browsing, streaming, etc.

CyberGhost also has a well-designed Windows app that is intuitive and easy to use, even when tweaking your settings. It lacks some of the power-user features that other VPNs on this list provide, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker for the average user. Ultimately, CyberGhost is a straightforward and easy-to-use VPN service with an incredible number of server locations.

Who should buy CyberGhost

Due to it’s plethora of servers and locations, CyberGhost is one of the best options to find a server no matter where you need it in the world. For those who travel a lot or just need access to a diverse and vast server spread, CyberGhost is definitely worth consideration.

Read our full

CyberGhost review

Surfshark VPN – Best VPN for multi-hop

Pros

Unlimited simultaneous device connections

Works well with Netflix

Built-in extras such as ad tracker and malware blocking

Low price on long-term plans

Cons

Indicators for ping or server load are not readily available

Based in the Netherlands and subject to government data sharing requests

Why we like Surfshark

For those who might not be familiar with multi-hop, it allows you to route your traffic through more than one external server (i.e. connect to a server in Japan, but multi-hop through Singapore). This makes it more difficult to track your online activities and further obfuscates your actual location.

While many VPNs now offer multi-hop as a feature, Surfshark stands out by allowing users to either choose a predetermined route or create their own multi-hop route. Furthermore, Surfshark is working to implement its Nexus VPN network which will use a Dynamic Multi-Hop feature to automatically connect you to the fastest available entry and exit servers at any desired location. This should further optimize connection speeds across the board. So not only does Surfshark already have one of the best multi-hop features, but it is also set to improve by leaps and bounds in the near future.

Who should buy Surfshark

Surfshark is a great all-around VPN option, as well, for most people. That being said, power users and those concerned with optimizing anonymity will get the most from Surfshark VPN’s unique multi-hop functionality and rich, customizable feature set.

Read our full

Surfshark review

AVG Secure – Best VPN for novices

Pros

Good speeds

Allows an excellent 10 simultaneous connections

Cons

Does log some data

No real customizability for power users

Why we like AVG Secure

If you want something that’s all about ease of use then AVG Secure is a good choice. First, it comes from a known and trusted security company, so there are fewer worries about data security than with one of the independent services.

The key thing with AVG Secure is that the interface is easy to understand and use. It has a big “Change location” button to help you select the country you’d like to appear to be in. The app also tells you what your current IP address is and how long you’ve been connected to the VPN. That’s pretty much it. This VPN also works with streaming services and it has P2P servers. One thing it doesn’t have is a lot of extra features, which is actually perfect for anyone looking for a no-frills VPN.

Who should buy AVG Secure

Those new to the VPN game will find a lot to like with AVG Secure. It’s dead-simple to use and the interface is designed in a way that is intuitive even for novices.

Read our full

AVG Secure review

Windscribe Pro – Best budget VPN

Pros

Simple setup

Good performance

Great free plan

Cons

Tricky security track record with 2021 server incident

Slow loading of browser extension

Why we like Windscribe

Choosing the best VPN for you can often come down to price. Windscribe Pro is one of the cheapest premium services around at about $5 per month (when billed annually). It is also really easy to use and offers great security, with both a Windows client and browser extension that work in tandem to keep your browsing private and pop-up free.

Windscribe also allows you to pick and choose the features that you want via a build-a-plan system allowing for great versatility to meet each user’s needs. Windscribe’s free option is itself fine to use, and is a good test run before deciding on a paid tier.

Who should buy Windscribe

Windscribe is great for people who are new to VPNs or just need a VPN service for a short period of time. Those who have never used a VPN can use Windscribe’s free option to play around and start getting used to using a VPN service. Alternatively, if you only need a VPN for a little bit then Windscribe Pro’s low monthly price means you don’t have to pay much to use it in the short-term.

Read our full

Windscribe Pro review

PersonalVPN – Best U.S.-based VPN

Pros

Reasonably priced

Fast servers in many locations around the world

Good for power users and novices

Cons

Not a lot of extra or specialized features

Tiered pricing has odd choices for premium features

Best Prices Today:

$50 at WiTopia

Why we like PersonalVPN

If you want a VPN based in the good ol’ USA, we recommend WiTopia’s PersonalVPN. The speeds are good, the price is right, and the app is very easy to use. It’s true that a lot of VPN review sites stress the importance of having a VPN that’s outside of the so-called Five Eyes countries, which includes the U.S.—some will even say to avoid the Fourteen Eyes. The idea being that if you use a U.S.-based VPN your activities may end up being secretly monitored by Western authorities. Edward Snowden revealed such truths back in 2013.

But if you’re using a VPN to access your accounts for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other U.S.-based service, then staying outside the Fourteen Eyes is more or less pointless. Sure, that VPN with an exotic locale may be able to easily ignore U.S. subpoenas for data, but the American online services you use are another story. Besides if an American VPN does you wrong, it’ll be a lot easier to hold it to account than one based in Singapore, or even Sweden.

Who should buy Personal VPN

Users concerned with entrusting their private online activity to a company in another country outside of the U.S. should consider PersonalVPN. You won’t be losing out on much by using this service rather than another VPN and you can rest assured that your data is being handled by a reliable company located domestically.

Read our full

PersonalVPN review

What to look for in a VPN

One of the first things you should look for when shopping around for a VPN is the number of servers and locations. It’s difficult to judge any VPN by just one feature, but a semi-reliable way to tell if a VPN is even worth your time is to look at the server network. Anything with 1,000 or more servers and 30 or more country locations will do.

The next thing to consider is a VPN’s speed. This may be tricky to do since you aren’t likely to be able to test connection speeds without paying to use the service. Reading reviews online will give you a general estimate. Look for reviews, like ours, that give you a relative average of connection speeds rather than direct Mbps speed comparisons for a more accurate picture.

You’ll also want to read up on a VPN’s privacy protections. Does it have a no-logs policy? Has it undergone any independent audits of its servers? Where is the VPN company located? All of these will give you an idea of whether or not a VPN is transparent with its data collection policies and if it’s subject to government data sharing requirements.

Other factors you’ll want to take into consideration are the overall ease-of-use, user experience, and any additional features. Some of these features, such as split-tunneling and kill switches, can be extremely useful for certain purposes and might sway your subscription decision one way or the other.

Finally, as with all subscription services, you’ll want to review the price of a VPN service. Do you want a monthly or yearly subscription? Some top VPNs might be pricey month-to-month, but actually become quite affordable with long-term plans.

How we tested

We judge VPNs on a variety of criteria including server network, connection speeds, privacy protections, ease-of-use, additional features, and cost. For a more detailed guide on how we test, check out our comprehensive guide on how we test VPN services.

Speed tests are kept as simple as possible. We average the connections between different global locations for any given VPN and then compare them to our baseline internet speed to get a good picture of the overall connection speeds. We thoroughly research and analyze the privacy policies and histories of each VPN and note any outstanding discrepancies or data collection issues.

Experience and ease-of-use are subjective, but we try our best to give an accurate representation of how it feels to work with the VPN. And finally, we compare the value of the service based upon its price and additional features to the industry average to help you gain an accurate picture of what you’ll get for your money.

Other notable VPNs and security suites

There are many more worthwhile VPNs than just our favorites listed above, including AVG Internet Security, CyberGhost, ESET Security Premium, FastestVPN, Hide.me, HMA Pro 4, OVPN, Trend Micro Maximum Security, Windscribe Pro, Perfect Privacy, PrivateVPN by TrunkSpace Hosting, PureVPN, Speedify 10, VPNCity, ClearVPN, Malwarebytes Privacy, TorGuard, VeePN, AceVPN.com, and SurfEasy.

We’ll keep evaluating new ones and reevaluating services we’ve already tested on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see what else we’ve put through their paces.

FAQ
1.
What is a VPN?

VPNs create a secure tunnel between your PC and the internet. You connect to a VPN server, which can be located in the United States or a foreign country—say, France or Japan. Your web traffic then goes through that server to make it appear as though you’re browsing from that server’s location, and not from your actual location.

When you’re using a VPN, it’s difficult for others to snoop on your web-browsing activity. Only you, the VPN service, and the website you’re visiting will know what you’re up to. 

A VPN can be a great response to a variety of concerns, such as online privacy, anonymity, greater security on public Wi-Fi, and, of course, spoofing locations.

2.
Is it legal to use a VPN?

Yes! It is perfectly legal in most countries, including the United States, to use a VPN. While using a VPN, you might find some websites that try to block your connection, but this is an individual website’s use policy and has nothing to do with the legality of the VPN itself. One thing to note though, while it’s legal to use a VPN, some of the activities done while using a VPN might be illegal. Such things as downloading pirated copyrighted content or accessing dark web markets are illegal whether you use a VPN or not.

3.
Do VPNs protect against malware and computer viruses?

No, a VPN connection itself does not protect you from malware and computer viruses. It does however encrypt your internet traffic and keep prying eyes from accessing your browsing history.

Some VPN services, such as Nord VPN, do however provide additional security features such as ad and malware blockers. Additionally, many antivirus suites now offer VPN services along with their security features. Although VPNs and antivirus software are used for different purposes, there is still a degree of overlap that makes using both tools together beneficial.

4.
Will a VPN affect my internet speeds?

Most likely you will see a moderate speed decrease to your internet while using a VPN. This is mainly due to the process of your internet traffic being rerouted and encrypted through a VPN server before heading on to its destination. The amount of latency you will experience through this process is down to what country’s server you choose to proxy your traffic through. If you choose a server located on the other side of the world, then you will notice a much greater hit than if you were to connect to a server nearby in your same country.

Thankfully, most modern VPNs should have the infrastructure to maintain high-speed, secure data transfer rates. So it’s likely you can still browse and stream with no noticeable impact while using a reputable VPN like those listed above.

5.
Will a VPN make me anonymous online?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just turning on your VPN and disappearing off grid. While VPNs certainly offer better privacy and security, they don’t make you completely anonymous. There are a mindbogglingly number of ways that companies track you across the internet and a VPN isn’t capable of blocking all of them. For example, when you sign into a website, your identity is revealed to that website. Or when you log into your Gmail account while using a VPN, Google can now collect cookies based on your browsing.

6.
How many servers should my VPN have?

There is no set number of servers that make one VPN better than another. However, most major VPN providers offer between 3,000 to 5,000 servers. Also, we recommend avoiding any paid services whose providers have under 1,000 servers as this may be an indication that the company is not yet well established, meaning that there is a higher chance for reliability issues.

It is common for VPN providers to advertise the number of servers they have, but this is largely a marketing gimmick and doesn’t generally equate to the quality of the VPN provider itself. Things such as the spread of server locations and server quality are as important, if not more so, than the number of available servers.

Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, our reviews are subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the services.

Personal Software, Security Software and Services, VPN 

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