What is the best VPN for Windows 10, 8 and 7? (2019 In-depth Review)

Windows has had privacy issues for years. Different hacks and phishing schemes have put online privacy at risk. Today we’re telling you what are the best VPNs for Windows; those that are fast, secure, and affordable. Learn more about Windows VPNs in this article.

What is the best VPN for Windows?

Staying safe on a Windows device requires more than just a firewall and antivirus software. The simple act of going online transmits private information to local service providers and beyond, offering unencrypted data for hackers to steal or ISPs to sell or share with third parties. Keeping your information private is just as vital as preventing viruses from infecting your system.

A good virtual private network (VPN) is the best way to add that measure of data security. Not only does it encrypt your data, but it also offers an easy way to access region-blocked content on services like Netflix and Hulu.

VPNs are an indispensable tool for Windows users to keep information safe. We’ve collected a few of the best providers to ensure you get the best experience possible.

Evaluating the VPNs

Choosing a good VPN is a daunting task. You’re selecting a service to handle your internet connection along with all of your private data, so the more research you do, the better. We sifted through a number of providers to find the best VPN for Windows that offers a balance of speed, security, privacy, and ease of use. Below are the criteria we used to evaluate each service.

Logging practices. Whether or not a service provider keeps logs should always be a top concern when looking for VPNs for Windows. Providers should have a strict zero-log policy to ensure data is never stored on their servers, keeping information as private as possible. Good VPNs never keep logs and they state that fact clearly, up front, and without exception.

Speed. Sluggish internet connections are frustrating. Encrypting data and routing traffic through servers located across the world can have a noticeable slowdown affect. The best VPN providers know this and have methods in place to ensure fast connections that don’t skimp on privacy measures. We made sure the services below keep speed in mind when building their network.

RELATED: How to get a US IP address from anywhere

Bandwidth and traffic limits. Some VPN providers set restrictions on the amount of bandwidth each user can consume, putting caps in place once a certain threshold has been met. They also forbid certain types of transfers, including P2P file sharing and torrents. We made sure the services below provide unlimited bandwidth with no speed restrictions and allow all types of files.

Server distribution. One of the more practical uses of a VPN is the ability to switch IPs, effectively giving your device a new geographic location. This is perfect for anyone looking to bypass region locked content or to stream Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer videos not available in their country. The VPN services below feature a wide range of server locations and let users switch between them at their leisure.

Pricing structure. Competition has driven most VPNs to adopt a similar pricing structure and rates. Most feature monthly billing options with a discount if you pay for a full year. Some even include short trials, money back guarantees, and even referral programs to help you earn free time.

Company location. A VPN’s legal jurisdiction can have a profound affect on how useful the service is. If a country has strict or unusual data retention policies, a VPN provider must adhere to those laws. This can override zero-logging policies and put your private data at risk.

The best VPNs for Windows

What is the best VPN for Windows you may ask? Our research below will give you plenty of context.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN aims to make VPNs accessible with a strong focus on ease of use, excellent privacy policies, and good location variability. You can choose from servers in 94 countries spread across Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia, freely switching between them to find the best connection to access region locked content regardless of your location. Unlimited bandwidth comes with every plan, and there are no speed caps or file type restrictions, either. ExpressVPN also has a zero-logging policy and uses strong encryption and IP masking to keep your data private.

The ExpressVPN Windows client is an extremely fast install. Simply sign up for the service, download the file, then log in and connect. Any features you customize are completely optional as everything works right out of the box. There are also clients available for iOS, Android, Mac, Linux, and routers to ensure all of your devices are covered.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off – link below)
  • Reliable and fast connections
  • Govt-level AES-256 encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy for personal information
  • Live chat support available.
Cons

  • Expensive month-to-month plan.
BEST VPN FOR WINDOWS: ExpressVPN is our #1 choice for devices running Windows. Get 3 months free on ExpressVPN’s annual plan & save 49%. Try it risk-free with the 30-day money back guarantee, for all plans.

2. NordVPN

Safety and restriction-free internet access are two of NordVPN‘s leading features. The service employs a unique double encryption tactic that adds an additional layer of security to your data. 2048-bit SSL encryption even a supercomputer can’t crack, to be more precise. This pairs nicely with a strict zero-logging policy, an automatic kill switch to prevent unencrypted data leaks, and bitcoin payments for that extra measure of privacy.

The speed and reliability of NordVPN’s network is also top notch. The company deploys a network of 5,100+ server locations in 60+ different countries, a number that’s constantly on the rise. This makes it easy to switch servers and change your virtual location to access blocked content. Servers are customized to deliver specific types of content more efficiently, allowing for faster video or torrent downloads. There are no bandwidth caps or file type restrictions, either.

NordVPN plans offer the full range of features for a flat monthly or yearly rate. Discounts are available for longer subscriptions, and a 30 day money back guarantee ensures you’re happy with the service from top to bottom. There’s even a referral program designed to give both you and your invited friends an incentive to join. The quick set-up Windows client makes getting started as easy as downloading and installing. There are also apps available for iOS, Android, Linux, Mac, and routers for complete device coverage.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix
  • GooglePlay users rating: 4.3/5.0
  • Up to 6 simultaneous connections
  • Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
  • Money back guarantee policy.
Cons

  • Automatic server selection can be unreliable
  • Refund processing can take up to 30 days.
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 3. IPVanish

IPVanish has a simple slogan: stop the spying. The service puts data privacy first with 256-bit AES encryption and zero traffic logs, making it virtually impossible to get your information once it leaves your computer. IPVanish also delivers unlimited bandwidth, anonymous torrenting, unlimited P2P traffic, and 1,300+ VPN servers in over 60 countries, perfect for stepping over region locked content on services like Hulu or BBC iPlayer.

IPVanish plans feature a flat monthly rate with hefty discounts if you pay annually. There’s a generous seven day trial if you want to try things out before taking the VPN plunge. Coupons are often made available directly on the site, making it even more affordable than the plans suggest.

To top it off, the IPVanish software supports Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Ubuntu, Chromebook, and router software, and the Windows client is a fast and easy download.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is a powerful virtual private network service. Its operating philosophy centers around privacy and freedom for everyone, and it delivers on that promise with a massive network of servers and speedy connections that don’t sacrifice security. VyperVPN’s network includes over 200,000 IP addresses spread across 700 servers in 70 different locations with unlimited switching, so accessing region locked videos through BBC iPlayer or Netflix is never an issue. There are also no data caps, speed restrictions, or banned file types.

One of the unique features of VyperVPN is that the company owns and operates all of its servers, skipping over third parties to make sure your information is always secure. The unique Chameleon technology even bypasses blocks put in place by governments to censor data, making it an ideal choice for anyone seeking free access in a limited environment.

The VyprVPN plans are straightforward and offer flat rates billed either monthly or yearly. The Windows client takes just a few moments to set up and includes fast access to all of the service’s unique features. There are also apps to cover your non-Windows devices, including Anroid, iOS, Mac, Linux, routers, and even TVs.

Read our full VyprVPN review.

Why Use a VPN?

VPNs are extremely useful tools for internet users concerned about privacy. They also provide a measure of flexibility in accessing content as well as protect your mobile devices while traveling. VPNs are essentially your own private tunnel to the internet, allowing you to access the content that you want without broadcasting your location or your private data to third parties.

Some of the benefits of using a VPN include:

ISPs can’t track you

– All of your internet data passes through a local service provider. Without a VPN that information stays unencrypted and is stored on ISP servers where it can be sold or shared with third parties. With a VPN in place that data is encrypted, turning raw information into scrambled numbers and letters. Even if the ISP turns over all of its logs, your information cannot be retrieved.

Public Wi-Fi is safer

– Using public Wi-Fi can be a huge risk. Not only do you not know the service provider behind the connection, you also don’t know the practices put in place by the company providing the Wi-Fi. It’s easy to snoop public connections and grab people’s personal data, which is why a VPN on your laptop or mobile device is an essential travel investment. The data encryption alone goes a long way to keeping your information safe.

Access restricted content

– One of the more immediately useful features of a VPN is the ability to change locations at the click of a button, allowing you to bypass content blocks that restrict access based on your country. This allows you to step over information censored by governments or company agencies as well as watch videos on Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer you couldn’t normally access.

RELATED READING: Best Netflix VPNs according to Reddit

What Can’t a VPN do?

There are more threats online than data leaks and censorship. A VPN keeps your information safe when it leaves your computer, but it doesn’t protect you from local threats such as viruses or malware. Windows users already know about keeping firewalls and antivirus software active, which remains true even with a VPN.

VPNs won’t protect you from viruses

VPNs use encryption and rerouting to move your data and keep it safe, but they won’t stop computer viruses from invading your machine.

Every device isn’t automatically protected

– Installing VPN software on your Windows device encrypts the data leaving your PC, but it doesn’t automatically protect other devices connected to your home network. Every phone, tablet, and laptop needs to have its own software installed and running to ensure data stays safe. Installing a VPN’s router software is a workaround for this limitation, but you’ll need to be comfortable configuring the hardware yourself, which can be a bit technical.

VPNs can be sluggish

– A VPN can’t speed up your internet connection. The data you send to a VPN’s servers still has to pass through your local service provider. In fact, VPNs are often slower than ISPs due to the encryption overhead and distances the data must travel. Many VPN providers take this into account and work to keep speeds as high as possible without sacrificing privacy.

Always Avoid Free VPNs

There’s a strong temptation to use free VPNs, especially on Windows. Their banners are all over the place promising lightning fast speeds and complete data security at no cost to you. All you have to do is install a quick browser extension or download a simple program and your data is, apparently, safe.

If there’s only one rule of using a VPN it’s that free is always a bad idea. Providers who don’t charge customers need to make revenue through other methods, often by collecting and selling the very user data they promise to protect. Even if the free VPN insists they deploy strong encryption and keep zero logs, there’s no guarantee. Always shop for a reliable VPN with a good reputation. Their reasonable monthly fees truly are a small price to pay for real privacy.

ALSO READ: How to pretend you’re in a different country, with a VPN.

Speeding Up Your VPN

If your VPN has good speed ratings but you just aren’t seeing the results, there are a few tricks you can do to diagnose and fix the problem.

Switch servers

– VPN speed is directly affected by the distance between your computer and the server you’re connected to. Try switching to a closer location, preferably within your own country, to resolve the slowdown issues.

Wait

– It sounds strange, but speed issues often resolve on their own. If a server is experiencing a heavy influx of connections it can slow things down considerably. This is especially common during peak times of day. Even if it’s the middle of the night in your home, the server you’re connecting to could be routing traffic for countless users just getting home from work.

Try a wired connection

– If you live in an apartment building or are an area with a large number of interfering Wi-Fi networks, slowdown can be a common issue. Try plugging your computer directly into the router to see if that resolves the speed problems.

Disable security software

– A controversial fix, but one that’s worth trying simply to diagnose the issue. Firewalls and antivirus software can create lag as they scan incoming packets of data. By disabling these programs you can often regain some speed. Always enable them once you’ve performed your tests, however.

Change ports

– All VPN software connects using a port number and assigned protocol. Local networks can sometimes restrict the speed of these ports, throttling your speed without your knowledge. The easiest fix for this is to check your VPN’s software and switch ports from there.

Read What is the best VPN for Windows 10, 8 and 7? (2019 In-depth Review) by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How Does HTTPS Work to Keep Us Safe? (HTTP vs HTTPS Explained)

How do we know what’s safe on the internet or if sites are secure when we make payments or put personal information online? Today we’ll tell you what HTTPS is and why it’s different from HTTP. We’ll also answer the question “how does HTTPS work” and how it keeps you safe.

How Does HTTPS Work to Keep Us Safe? (HTTP vs HTTPS Explained)

HTTP makes the internet run. Every computer and every device that goes online takes advantage of this decades-old protocol to send and receive data with servers located around the world. It’s such an intricate part of our online experience that we often forget the letters are at the beginning of every website address.

In recent years a modified version of HTTP has been gaining popularity. HTTPS secures the normally raw, open data transmitted by HTTP, allowing servers and clients to communicate with a level of guaranteed privacy. At the time of writing, over 51% of the top million websites offer a secured HTTPS version of their site, and that number is constantly on the rise. It’s great news for privacy advocates and casual web surfers alike.

The details of SSL connections and cryptography keys is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Understanding the basics of how HTTPS connections work, doesn’t take a computer science degree, however. Keep reading for a brief explanation of HTTPS and how it makes all of our online lives safer and more secure.

HTTP – How the Internet Works

Anybody who’s ever used the internet is familiar with those four letters. HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, a distributed system of communication that links code together to make the internet function. In essence, HTTP coordinates the exchange of all the bits of code that create the internet, everything from HTML websites to PHP pages, Javascript, and beyond. Whenever you load a web page, HTTP ensures you get the data you requested and that it all makes sense to your computer.

To get a little more technical, HTTP transfers data using TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), another protocol that forms the foundation of the web. Data is broken into packets before being sent, each of which is stamped with your computer’s IP address, which functions a lot like a mailing address. Through HTTP sending data via TCP, your online activity gets broken down, sent into the world, then brought back and re-assembled in your web browser.

The Problem with HTTP: It Isn’t Secure

HTTP was developed in 1989 and has formed the backbone of the internet ever since. It’s fast and efficient and does its job quite well, but there’s one major shortcoming a lot of users have started to worry about in recent years.

HTTP is inherently unsecure. Everything the protocol sends and receives is done in plain text format, making it extraordinarily easy to intercept. There’s nothing built into HTTP that prevents any random computer from taking a look at what’s being transferred. It’s a lot like having a telephone conversation in a crowded room. Everybody can hear what you’re saying, all they have to do is start listening.

WORTH READING: These are the best VPNs for using Paypal securely

HTTPS: Making HTTP Secure

HTTPS works in fundamentally the same way as HTTP, but that “S” on the end makes a huge difference for the end user. The S stands for Secure, and it’s shorthand for a method of sending HTTP requests with a layer of SSL/TLS security on top, encrypting the data to prevent eavesdroppers. Even if someone intercepted packets they wouldn’t be able to break the encryption or read the information, making HTTPS an extremely effective method of securing internet traffic.

Let’s break the above statement down a little bit. TLS stands for Transport Layer Security. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is the predecessor of TLS. Both are frequently referred to as SSL and are widely used cryptographic protocols that provide an easy method of adding encryption to a variety activities. It’s also used by VoIP programs to authenticate transmissions, web browsers to secure data, and VPNs to create makeshift network tunnels to quickly secure user traffic.

When incorporated into HTTPS, SSL acts as an encryption companion that secures and verifies everything the HTTP protocol is transmitting. SSL essentially rides along with each packet of data and decrypts it only when it reaches its intended destination. The server and the computer handle everything exactly as before, but if a third party picks up any of the packets, they won’t be able to decrypt the data.

How HTTPS Works

Now that you’ve got a basic background, let’s look at what goes on during a typical HTTPS session. The first thing that happens is establishing a secure SSL connection. This begins with a quick handshake between the client (your computer, smartphone, etc.) and the server. The goal of this is to verify each other’s identity and agree upon encryption protocols, setting things up for an impending data transmission.

If an SSL handshake were a conversation, it might play out something like this:

  • CLIENT: I’m looking for Server #SS1978-IJ56. Is that you?
  • SERVER: Yes. Are you the client I’m supposed to be working with?
  • CLIENT: Yes. Let’s use Encryption Method 742 to chat.
  • SERVER: 742, no problem.

The handshake serves as a brief introduction. No data is transmitted during this process, it’s just a quick superficial nod to make sure both parties are who they should be. The next part of the process is where the server and the host verify their identities and actually start exchanging information. This is still just the SSL part of the interaction, by the way. HTTP is waiting to do its job once SSL gives it the go-ahead.

After the handshake, the following steps take place, in order:

1. Greeting – This phase is somewhat similar to the handshake, only now that the client/server identities are established, they can actually send data to each other. Verification begins with the client sending the equivalent of a hello message. This encrypted message contains all the information the server will need to communicate with the client via SSL, including encryption keys. The server then sends its own hello message back, containing similar information the client needs in order to hold up its end of the communication.

2. Certificate swap – Now that the server and client are ready to communicate securely, they need to verify their identity. This is a crucial step that ensures third parties can’t pretend to be the intended server, which is what keeps encryption keys out of their hands. This is accomplished through an SSL certificate swap between the client and the server, roughly the equivalent of showing someone your ID in real life. SSL certificates contain data like the party’s domain name, its public key, and who owns the device. These are checked against a centralized Certificate Authority (CA) source to make sure it’s valid. CAs issue these certificates, which helps keep them out of malicious third party hands.

3. Key swap – Everyone knows who everyone else is, encryption protocols have been agreed upon, so it’s finally time to get started. The key swap begins with the client (your device) generating a cipher key to use in a symmetrical algorithm. This means the encrypted data can be unlocked and fully accessed by anyone with the key, hence the symmetry. Since the key styles were agreed upon during the verification phase, all the client has to do is share the key and the two parties can communicate efficiently and securely.

All of these phases with SSL verification and data swapping seem like a lot of extra steps, but they’re crucial to establishing a secure connection between the right computers. Without verifying identities, other computers can steal data and decrypt it. Without verifying encryption methods, other computers can share fake keys and gain access to data. Only with all of these pre-sharing steps can the HTTP transfer take place securely.

Once the SSL portion of the transfer takes place, HTTP steps in and does its thing. Here data is broken into packets, labeled with your IP address, stuffed inside the SSL envelope and sent along their way. SSL ensures only the client and the intended server can read the information being sent. The process is completed thousands of times for each request, and it happens in a fraction of a second.

ALSO READ: How to pretend you’re in a different country by changing your IP address

HTTPS in Your Browser

You’ve probably seen your browser display a little padlock icon in the URL bar from time to time. This simply means the site is secured with HTTPS. It normally happens with sites that legitimately collect private data, such as credit card information for online shopping, passwords for checking your e-mail, or anything involving banking or financial transactions. More and more websites are using HTTPS these days, however, which is great for online privacy in general.

HTTPS is done on the server’s side. In other words, you can’t force a site to use HTTPS if its servers aren’t set up to handle it. Many websites will only switch to HTTPS if your browser specifically demands it, and others will load unsecured content within HTTPS pages, which defeats the purpose entirely.

There’s a fantastic browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere that alleviates a lot of the above issues. The plug-in rewrites your browser requests to use HTTPS whenever it’s available. It can’t create a secure connection where none exists, and it doesn’t encrypt anything itself, but HTTPS Everywhere ensures you always take advantage of the extra security whenever possible.

VPN Encryption versus HTTPS

The word “encryption” is used a lot these days. At its core, encryption refers to using cryptography to generate incredibly complex mathematical puzzles that lock information packets in an unbreakable box. That box can only be opened with an equally complex cipher key, which is generated when the data packets are encrypted in the first place. There are a number of different encryption processes used in the modern internet, but the basic idea behind them is roughly the same.

Virtual private networks are always discussed in relation to the encryption they provide. In short, a VPN runs on your local device and encrypts everything before it’s sent through the internet. Data packets are unreadable as they travel to your ISP and to the VPN’s servers. At this point your local IP address is removed and replaced with an IP address associated with the VPN. The VPN carries out the data request on your behalf, then returns the information to your computer. The entire process takes place under the protection of encryption, and it also removes identifying data so it’s impossible to trace activity back to your computer.

HTTPS protocols and virtual private networks may sound similar, but in reality they’re two different technologies that attack the same problem from different angles. VPNs secure all traffic between your computer and the internet. They also anonymize data to make it harder to trace your online activity. HTTPS only secures traffic between one website and your computer, with no measures taken to add anonymity. Even if you’re accessing a site secured with HTTPS, a VPN offers extra features to keep your data safe.

How to Choose a Secure VPN

HTTPS does an amazing job securing the connection between your device and a single website. Not all sources are protected by this server-side encryption, however, and even when they are there’s a chance an unsecured link can find its way into the site and threaten your privacy. To keep your online activity secure, you should always use a VPN.

Choosing the right VPN seems like a complicated process. There are all sorts of features to compare, prices to consider, encryption strengths to contrast, and so on. Below are some of the criteria to focus on when researching the best VPN for secure online browsing. We’ve also included a few recommendations to help get you started.

Encryption strength – The complexity of a VPN’s encryption protocols can make a big difference in your privacy. Most providers deliver 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption, which is perfect for almost all online activities.

Logging policy –  All of your traffic passes through a VPN’s servers. If the company keeps detailed logs, there’s a chance your data could be given to a third party or government agency. The best VPNs have strict zero-logging policies that keep your info safe no matter what.

Software support – To take advantage of a VPN, you need to run it on every device that connects to the internet. Most VPN services offer custom software for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and everything in-between. Make sure your devices are covered before signing up.

Speed – A downside to encryption is that it adds data to each packet of information, effectively slowing your connection. The best VPNs work around this limitation to provide fast downloads without sacrificing privacy.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN focuses on delivering incredible speeds to users around the world. Encryption often slows down VPN connections, and having servers located far from your home can increase lag. With ExpressVPN, both of those issues are minimized thanks to blazing fast hardware and a server network distributed across the globe. When coupled with unlimited bandwidth and no speed caps or throttling, you’ve got an incredible recipe for a strong and reliable VPN.

Other features from ExpressVPN:

  • Easy to use custom apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and more.
  • Great access to Netflix, even when other VPNs are blocked.
  • Over 145+ VPN locations in 94 different countries.
  • DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch.
  • Great for bypassing censorship in countries like China.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Works with US Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu and other services
  • 94 countries, 3,000+ servers
  • OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2 Encryption
  • No logs for personal data
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • High cost for month-to-month users.
BEST OVERALL VPN: ExpressVPN is our top choice recommendation. Get 3 months free on ExpressVPN’s annual plan & save 49%. Try it risk free with a 30-day money back guarantee.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is an incredibly reliable VPN with two outstanding features: a large server network, and lightning fast speeds. NordVPN operates over 5,100 servers in 60 different countries, twice the size of most VPNs. This gives you a wide variety of options for selecting out-of-country IP addresses to access geo-restricted content. You’re also guaranteed a fast connection with NordVPN’s network, even if you take advantage of their unique double encrypted servers.

A few of NordVPN’s best features:

  • Incredible zero-logging policy covers everything from traffic to bandwidth, IP addresses, and time stamps.
  • Strong privacy features allow open access to the internet even in countries like China.
  • Double encryption servers that wrap all data in 2048-bit SSL encryption.
  • One of the best VPNs to access Netflix with.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Best Budget Choice
  • Different IP addresses aervers
  • DNS leak protection, kill switch
  • “Double” data protection
  • 24/7 Chat Support.
Cons

  • Not much
  • Sometimes slow in procesing refunds (but always do).
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3. IPVanish

Stopping censorship and providing user security are two of IPVanish’s biggest features. The service works to protect your privacy by delivering 256-bit AES encryption with all of its 1,300 servers in 60 different countries, adding in a thorough zero traffic logging policy to boot. You’ll always be able to find a reliable, fast connection with IPVanish, and with over 40,000 IP addresses to use, you’ll be able to bypass censorship filters and firewalls with ease.

IPVanish also comes with the following features:

Read our full IPVanish review.

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Read How Does HTTPS Work to Keep Us Safe? (HTTP vs HTTPS Explained) by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

What is the Fastest VPN in 2019 That Won’t Compromise on Speed?

VPNs protect your security. They protect your anonymity. They help you download privately online. But are all VPNs the same? Should you get a run of the mill “free VPN online” or a paid service that won’t compromise speed or security? Here’s our list with the fastest VPNs in 2019.

What is the Fastest VPN?

When most people look for a VPN, their main concern is privacy. Hide your identity, protect your data, and do it with the most secure VPN around, end of story. An important consideration that often gets overlooked in the quest for anonymity is speed. The nature of encrypting and rerouting traffic can make a VPN slower than your average local service provider. Streaming movies suddenly take forever to load, and you can forget about online gaming and file sharing.

Extra privacy doesn’t have to come at the expense of speed. A number of high quality, reliable VPN services understand the importance of a solid internet connection and have taken extra steps to ensure downloads remain fast without giving up anonymity or privacy.

Evaluating VPN Providers

Updated: May 6, 2019

When looking for the fastest VPN providers, download and upload speeds were naturally at the top of our list. Some services boast fast downloads but don’t have the data to back it up, third party or otherwise. We chose VPNs that have been thoroughly tested and verified and who are upfront with their speed policies, traffic restrictions, and connection information.

It’s important to note that speeds will vary greatly depending on your location as well as the location of the server you’re connected to. To remedy this, a good VPN will offer unlimited and uncapped bandwidth, allow multiple devices to connect at once, and let you switch servers to find a faster connection without penalty, all without sacrificing the same data protection features offered by other providers.

  • Up and Down Speed Test – This is where raw numbers carry a lot of weight. We looked at reported download and upload speeds for each VPN provider along with average pings and latency. The figures vary depending on location and who was running the test, but several services stood head and shoulders above the rest.
  • Server availability – Although it can be useful to route your traffic through a server located on the other side of the globe, the added distance can create noticeable lag. Some providers offer more server location options than others, giving you more choices when it comes to finding a fast, closer connection.
  • Simultaneous Connections – Almost all VPN providers limit the number of devices that can connect to the service at one time. This can quickly cause problems if you have downloads running on a PC while trying to surf on your tablet or play games on a console.
  • Traffic limitations – Some VPNs block certain types of traffic, including P2P file sharing and BitTorrent. If you want to stream movies or download torrent files, you need to make sure the VPN will allow it, otherwise, those blazing fast speeds will go to waste.
  • Bandwidth limitations – Apart from connection limitations and file type restrictions, a few VPNs insist on throttling bandwidth after a certain transfer amount has been met. We made sure the VPNs below don’t put a cap on the amount or speed of the data you use.
  • Logging policy – Privacy is still top priority in choosing a VPN. Each VPN below follows a strict zero-logging policy and encrypts all traffic that passes through its servers, keeping your information safe and anonymous.

What’s the fastest VPN?

1. ExpressVPN

The aptly named ExpressVPN takes its network speed seriously. The service doesn’t just promise fast downloads, it builds the tools you need to test server lag right into the software. While running the Windows, Mac, and Android versions of the ExpressVPN app, simply access “speed test” from the menu to run a quick check on the current server’s latency, download speed, and overall speed index. Your connection will vary depending on your location and which server you’re trying to access, but with 3,000+ VPN servers in 94 countries, you won’t be spoiled for choice.

The only potential downside to ExpressVPN is the device limitation. The default is three devices connected to the network at one time, meaning you can have a PC, phone, and gaming console sipping data, but that’s it. You can purchase additional device licenses to get around this limitation, or you can install the ExpressVPN app for routers and manually set up your home Internet to connect as many devices as you need.

Putting security to one side for a moment, ExpressVPN is a great way to watch geo-restricted content like Netflix, Hulu or BBC iPlayer. If you’re surfing from China with this goal in mind, ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs that works in that market.

Rounding out ExpressVPN’s offers are unlimited speed, unlimited bandwidth, and no restrictions on what types of files you stream or download. The service also hits all the right marks as far as privacy and anonymity are concerned, making it a solid choice for a fast VPN that doesn’t skimp on security.

Read our full ExpressVPN review and check our ExpressVPN speed test.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off – link below)
  • Reliable and fast connections
  • Govt-level AES-256 encryption
  • Strict no-logs policy for personal information
  • Great customer service via chat.
Cons

  • Expensive month-to-month plan.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN has a stellar reputation for making privacy and anonymity a top priority. The service is no slouch when it comes to speed, either, with over 5,100 VPN servers spread across 60+countries, representing every continent except Antarctica. That list continues to grow over time, as well, ensuring easy access to nearby servers for optimum speed no matter where you’re located. You can also connect up to six devices to one account, the highest base number in the services we tested.

One of NordVPN’s standout speed features is servers customized for specific types of online access. Ultra Fast TV servers, for example, are made for video streaming and can deliver consistently high speeds around the world. There are also VPNs designed for P2P and torrent use, all of which are included in NordVPN’s unlimited bandwidth promise.

On the security side of things, NordVPN has a strong zero-logging policy, uses a DoubleVPN for an extra layer of encryption security, and has a kill switch to stop software from connecting to the internet if your VPN service drops.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3-year plan (75% off – link below)
  • Extensive server park of over 5,400 different servers
  • No IP/DNS leaks found
  • Retains no metadata of your browsing
  • 24/7 Customer Service.
Cons

  • Apps can be a bit cumbersome to use.
BUDGET DEAL: Get a huge 75% discount on the 3-year plan, at just $2.99 per month and try it risk-free, thanks to a 30-day money back guarantee.

3. IPVanish

IPVanish offers a massive variety of servers to connect to, over 1,300 in 60+ different countries. Speeds can vary greatly depending on your location and the server’s origin, often more so than some of the other providers on the list, but IPVanish’s US-based servers show consistently high speeds that may be the fastest on the market. Further sweetening the deal, IPVanish doesn’t monitor or throttle bandwidth, allows unlimited server switches, and doesn’t restrict P2P or torrent access (though these downloads may be noticeably slower).

IPVanish allows up to five simultaneous connections to a VPN, giving you plenty of room to connect and stream without worry. If you need more than that, however, you’ll need to set up a router using the IPVanish network details. The process can be a bit technical, but the company offers several guides to walk you through the process.

Read our full IPVanish review.

READER SPECIAL: IPvanish offers a 7-day money back guarantee which means you have a week to test it risk-free. Save a massive 60% here on the annual plan, only $4.87/mo.

4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN bills itself as the network made for speed and is a popular choice with gamers. The company owns all of its servers, writes code optimized for fast connections, and uses hardware specifically designed to handle high speed traffic, even under a full load. You won’t encounter any bandwidth or speed cap restrictions, either, and VyperVPN allows unlimited server switching so you can find the connection that’s fastest for you. With 700 server locations in 70 countries, you’ve got plenty of options at your disposal.

The security features for VyprVPN are also top notch. Multiple encryption protocols ensure data stays scrambled, and zero-knowledge, zero-logging policies provide the maximum amount of privacy possible, all without sacrificing speed. VyprVPN also offers incredible geo-location options to bypass censorships and region-locked content. If you are looking for a VPN to use when torrenting look elsewhere, VyprVPN doesn’t allow torrenting on its network but is a good choice for everyone else.

Why Do VPNs Tend to Be Slow?

Most speed issues with VPNs can be traced back to three basic causes: low-quality service, high encryption overhead, and geographic location. The service issue is easy to circumvent if you choose a well-known VPN like the ones listed above. These providers don’t skimp on good hardware and keep fast connections a high priority for all users.

Geographic location is probably the most important factor in slow VPN connection speeds. There are many advantages to connecting to a server in another country, including bypassing region locked content and gaining an extra measure of data privacy. But the physical distance can create a stuttering connection simply because packets have to travel a longer distance. To work around this, VPN providers offer dozens of servers in dozens of countries and give customers the ability to pick and switch which ones they connect to on their own.

Encryption is a benefit with some drawbacks. The process of taking data and encrypting it requires adding extra data to make it difficult to decipher. This eats up available bandwidth, making every packet larger and more difficult to download. Weaker encryption makes for faster speeds, but it also reduces your security by a notch or two.

ALSO READ: How to Get a US IP address from anywhere in the world

How to Speed Up Your VPN

If you’ve chosen a reliable, fast VPN provider but are still having trouble with slow speeds, don’t worry, there’s hope! More often than not sluggish internet is a result of too much traffic passing through a single server. It may be the middle of the night where you’re sitting, but if your server is in a different time zone, it could be rush hour. If waiting for the congestion to dissipate doesn’t correct the problem, try the speed tips below.

1. Change servers – The physical distance between you and the server you’re connected to has a profound impact on VPN speed. If you don’t need to connect to a certain country’s servers, try switching to a closer location to see if the connection issue resolves.

2. Switch devices – Some internet connected devices just aren’t built for speed. If the internet feels sluggish on your phone, try connecting from a laptop, desktop PC, or tablet to see if the problem persists.

3. Use a wired connection – Wi-Fi can be unreliable when it comes to speed, especially if you live in an area where lots of other wireless networks are in close proximity. Simply switching to a hard network cable connection can fix a number of speed issues.

4. Disable local security software – Firewalls and antivirus software can cause serious lag issues with internet connections as they scan incoming packets of data. Disable them temporarily to see if that clears up the speed issue.

5. Change ports or protocols – VPN software connects using a specific port number and protocol. Some local networks restrict the speed of these ports which will cripple your connection no matter how fast the service provider delivers. Check your VPN software’s options to switch ports for an instant boost in speed.

6. Reboot – When all else fails, close your VPN software and restart your device.

Your ISP is Still the Limit

No matter how fast your VPN service and no matter how thoroughly optimized your hardware and software, internet service providers are still the ultimate determining factor in how fast your connection is. Most high tier VPNs clock in with download speeds around 50-60 megabits per second. The average internet speed offered by service providers in the US is 50 megabits per second, with most low level and mobile plans barely reaching half of that. There’s plenty of room for overlap, but be sure to perform speed tests of your own to make sure the limiting factor isn’t your ISP, not the VPN provider.

Did you know? You can unblock Netflix in school, here’s how.

Speed without the VPN

Some VPN users follow the slightly controversial advice of disabling their VPN connection when engaging in bandwidth-heavy but data-light tasks. Online gaming is a prime example of this, as very little private information is being sent across the internet, just vague location details associated with your service provider’s IP.

Because a local ISP will usually have better speeds than a remote VPN, temporarily disabling the connection software while gaming online is a valid method of squeezing out a little extra speed. Just don’t forget to re-enable it when you’re done.

WORTH READING: How to fake your IP location and pretend you’re in another country

Beware of Fake Speed Boosters

There are a number of browser extensions and third-party apps that claim faster VPN connections on any device. Some come with promises of free VPN service, while others tout a mysterious ability to speed up your connection no matter which VPN provider you use. The rule for virtual private networks is that if it’s free, you don’t want it. This holds true for third-party apps as well. Unless the software was made by your VPN service, it won’t speed up your connection and is simply not worth downloading.

Read What is the Fastest VPN in 2019 That Won’t Compromise on Speed? by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

Whare Are the Best VPNs for Roku in 2019?

If you want privacy or maybe need to bypass geo-restrictions on your Roku device, you will need a VPN. But since not all services are made equal, we went the extra mile with an in-depth review and we found out what are the best VPNs for Roku.

Best VPNs for Roku

Media lovers have plenty of options in streaming movies and TV series. From Netflix to Amazon Prime to Hulu and more, each service offers its unique selling points that attract different subsets of users. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a large number of devices have become available over the years to meet the needs of the media-hungry masses.

Smart TV’s are everywhere, and allow users to access internet TV streaming services. The drawback is the user experience, which is usually cumbersome and unintuitive. Internet-enabled DVD players, such as the Sony BDP-S590, offer all-in-one media solutions for playing physical and digital media. However, the appeal of digital content is that it eschews physical media, making this device and those like it something of a novelty at best.

The way forward is with purpose-built streaming devices like the Apple TV and the extremely popular Roku.

What is Roku?

The name “Roku” comes from the Japanese word for six – roku(). The company is appropriately named, as it was the sixth founded by current CEO Anthony Wood.

Most people, however, know Roku as a digital media player that offers streaming video over a variety of hardware configurations. The Roku set-top box is the most popular of these devices, though the USB dongle and Smart TV are seeing a rise in use.

Since its launch back in 2002, Roku has quickly gobbled up market share from competing (and we say far inferior) streaming devices. This is in part due to its myriad forms, including set-top boxes, streaming sticks (of similar design to the Amazon Fire TV Stick) and even its very own smart TV. Furthermore, it is compatible with well over 600 internet TV channels, including some incredibly popular ones like Netflix, Hulu and other major players.

What is more, Roku’s user-friendly interface makes it easy to search out the content you want. It even includes a feature which lets you search across all the different streaming services for a particular movie or TV show you are after.

Accessing geo-restricted content

Indeed, the only drawback with Roku is that it is subject to geo-restrictions on many of the channels it offers. This is a pain, especially for users outside the USA (where the majority of Roku’s available channels are based). Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this issue.

A VPN can fool internet services into thinking you are located in a different country to your actual one, and so unblocks geo-restricted content. While there are plenty of VPN providers out there and all will claim to be able to unblock internet TV channels on Roku, some will inevitably do a much better job of it than others. This is why we’ve compiled this list of the best VPNs to use with Roku.

RELATED READING: Best VPN for IPTV to Unblock Geo-Restrictions

How we tested

Our staff are veteran users of both Roku and VPNs, and we’ve developed a keen understanding of the ecosystem. We’ve pulled together our years of experience and debated the virtues of each VPN candidate to compile the following list of features for any must-have VPN:

  • Established VPN provider with track record of unblocking geo-restricted sites
  • Ability to unblock all the main online streaming services, including Netflix
  • Fast and consistent connection speeds
  • Multi-platform availability and multi-device connection capability
  • Strong encryption and privacy provisions
  • A good selection of servers from the main streaming markets, especially the USA

Based on these criteria, the best VPNs for Roku are:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is quite simply one of the best and most popular VPN providers today, and it has the features and performance to prove it. For starters, you can use their service on virtually any device or operating system in existence and count on a well-design and user-friendly experience. We particularly like ExpressVPN’s offerings on iOS and Android. You can also connect up to three devices at any one time, which is less than some competitors but still adequate for most users.

ExpressVPN’s encryption is about as secure as it gets too; their entire network is SSL-secured with 256-bit encryption, and is as strong as any other VPN I have come across to date. As they are based in the British Virgin Islands, they can legally offer a guaranteed no-logs policy, a defining feature for privacy-minded Roku users.

Performance-wise, ExpressVPN boasts a faster connection speed and better stability than nearly all of its competitors. Users enjoy access to more than 3,000 servers across 94 countries, with a large majority of those being in popular markets like the USA and Europe. If you’re looking for a buttery-smooth viewing experience across Roku’s entire worldwide catalogue, this is the VPN for you.

ExpressVPN is not the cheapest VPN around, but it is definitely one of the best and is without question money well-spent.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • SPECIAL OFFER: 3 months free (49% off – link below)
  • Superfast servers (minimal speed loss)
  • Supports ALL devices
  • Keeps no logs of personal data
  • Customer Service (24/7 Chat).
Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than some other options.
BEST FOR ROKU: ExpressVPN is our top choice for media streaming. Get 3 months free on ExpressVPN’s annual plan & save 49%. A 30-day money back guarantee is included, try it risk-free.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is another longstanding and extremely well-regarded provider on the VPN market. While its services don’t quite reach the same soaring heights as ExpressVPN in some key areas, it is a fair bit cheaper and therefore an incredible value-for-money VPN.

NordVPN is available on just every device and operating system imaginable, with fantastic offerings on iOS and Android to boot. It also supports five simultaneous connections, which is a step-up on ExpressVPN.

Encryption is a little less secure, but with 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN and 2,048-bit Diffie-Hellman keys, it is more than strong enough to keep user data secure. As NordVPN is based in Panama, their privacy policies are also robust and trustworthy.

NordVPN has received some bad press in the past regarding its connection speeds, but they seem now to have addressed any issues they once had. Furthermore, they are in the process of updating many of their servers to “ultra-fast” connections. In my experience streaming media content through NordVPN, however, speed has never been a particular issue.

They have an immense selection of servers, with more than 5,100 available across 60+ countries. Many of these are in the USA, which grants users access to what is by far the most popular market for media in the world. NordVPN also guarantees access to any streaming service, regardless of whether they are actively trying to block VPNs. This is made possible through their SmartPlay technology, which comes included in every connection and performs admirably well in my experience.

Read our full NordVPN review.

Pros

  • Servers optimized for unblocking Netflix
  • Most VPN servers with different IP addresses
  • Connect up to 6 devices at once
  • No logs and encrypted connections for total privacy
  • 24/7 Live Chat.
Cons

  • Some servers can have average d/l speeds
  • Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
BUDGET OPTION: Enjoy a special promotional discount of 75% on the 3-year plan – just $2.99 per month. If you’re not completely satisfied with NordVPN after your first 30 days of use, get your money back, no questions asked.

3. IPVanish

IPVanish forms something of a VPN trifecta alongside ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Like its two competitors, it has developed a strong reputation on the basis of its outstanding service.

While its price point is decidedly in the middle of the pack, make no mistake that this is anything but a premium provider in every regard. IPVanish is readily available on nearly every platform, with dedicated apps for mobile users. Like NordVPN, they also allow for 5 simultaneous connections.

As far as security is concerned, IPVanish offers both L2TP and OpenVPN protocols using 256-bit encryption as standard, which is as strong as any option on the market. While their privacy policies are solid, it is worth noting that IPVanish is based in the USA and is thus subject to mandatory logging laws. Furthermore, many are predicting that data retention laws in the USA could be changed in the near future, potentially causing significant problems.

Performance-wise, IPVanish offers connections that are speedy and reliable. They also offer access to more than 1,300 servers in more than 60 countries for users to bypass geoblocking. 300 of these servers are located in the USA, which will surely please international Roku users.

All considered, IPVanish is an exceptional VPN that makes no compromises on features or performance. If you can get over some logging, you’ll love their service.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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4. VyprVPN

The final name on this list is yet another widely acclaimed VPN service: Golden Frog’s VyprVPN. Comparable in features to the other leading options, VyprVPN is available across nearly all platforms including iOS and Android devices.

Their encryption is as sophisticated as any you’ll find on the market, while connection speeds are fast and reliable. VyprVPN operates more than 700 servers worldwide, with a large portion in the USA giving international Roku users something to be happy about.

The only problem with VyprVPN comes when we take a look at their privacy provisions.  Unlike most of their biggest competitors, VyprVPN does keep user connection logs. This data they retain includes such things as the user’s home IP address, the VyprVPN IP address you connected to, the connection start and stop time, and the amount of data transferred.

Most experts agree that such logs are a risk to not only privacy but also security as the data might easily end up in the wrong hands. However, the reality is that this will not be a high priority among most Roku users.

If privacy doesn’t concern you too much, then VyprVPN is a good bet. With good spread of features and admirable performance, their logging policy is the only thing that holds this service back from being a truly top-tier choice.

Read our full VyprVPN review.

What can I watch on Roku?

As the company has made deals with a whole host of the best streaming services out there, Roku users enjoy incredible access to a staggering amount of content. In fact, over 600 channels and radio stations are available, including:

  • Amazon Cloud Player
  • Amazon Video
  • Ameba TV
  • BBC iPlayer
  • CBS All Access
  • Google Play Movies & TV
  • Hasbro Studios
  • HBO Go
  • Hulu
  • MLB.TV
  • Netflix
  • Now TV (UK only)
  • Pandora Radio
  • SiriusXM
  • PBS
  • PlayStation Vue
  • Showtime
  • Sling TV
  • Time Warner Cable
  • VMedia
  • WWE Network
  • YouTube
  • ITV Hub
  • And many more!

Why can I only access some channels on my Roku device?

Streaming services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer have to buy the rights to stream the content which is available on their service. These rights are sold on a country-by-country or regional basis and in many cases, a service will only hold the rights to stream a show in a certain part of the world.

Roku is tied to the same rights agreements that their streaming partners have signed up to. This is why the BBC iPlayer is blocked to anyone trying to access its service outside the UK. It is also why Netflix has a different service for each country it operates in and each and every one of them has different content available and charges different subscription prices.

This practice is known as geo-restriction, and it is very common amongst online media content providers. It is unsurprisingly hugely inconvenient to users, who may be deprived of their favourite programmes when traveling abroad for work or a holiday. Expats in particular know the bitter sting of giving up on certain content viewable only in their home countries.

Fortunately, there is a way to get around this geo-restriction and unlock these streaming services to make them available to watch from a Roku anywhere in the world: through use of a VPN.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an online security and privacy tool which can both encrypted all of your online traffic and hide your identity and location online.

When you connect to a VPN, it will establish a secure connection between your device and whichever of their servers you have chosen to connect to. This connection encrypts all your online traffic and routes it through these proxy servers before it reaches the websites and services you are trying to access.

After the data has passed through the server it then heads off to its intended destination, but crucially, it is no longer tagged with your own IP address. Instead, it has the IP address of the server in question. This secure method of transmission guards against prying eyes, nosy ISPs and snooping governments alike.

Using a VPN ensures that your traffic is obscured and hidden from everyone, even ISPs who can only see that you are connected to the VPN server. It also offers complete anonymity online, since there is no way to track your data back to your location or device. In fact, it can only be traced back as far as the VPN’s server.

How does a VPN help get around geoblocking?

The most important benefit a VPN can offer to Roku users is the ability to access geo-restricted content by spoofing your IP address. If you’re not quite sure what that means, fear not! It’s really quite simple.

First, you need to know that your IP address is what streaming services use to determine where in the world you are located. All VPNs mentioned in this article grant their users access to numerous servers in countries all over the world. When you route your traffic through these nodes, your IP address is changed to reflect that server’s country, rather than your own. This fools streaming services into delivering content appropriate for that region, rather than popping up a polite message telling you their service is unavailable in your area.

Some streaming services, most notably Netflix and the BBC iPlayer have tried to clamp down on people accessing their service in this way. The only way they can do this, however, is by identifying and then blocking individual IP addresses they have identified as coming from a VPN. This is time-consuming, costly, and ultimately ineffective as it is relatively easy for a VPN to change its IP address when necessary.

While these measures have stopped some VPNs cold, the four on our list above grant Roku users reliable access to the full extent of its catalogue, completely free of geographic restrictions!

Read Whare Are the Best VPNs for Roku in 2019? by David Spencer on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to Hide Your IP Address for Extra Privacy

Privacy on the internet is about more than finding free VPN online or searching for the meaning of VPN”. It’s important to understand the benefits of VPN – one of them being how to hide your IP address. There are some limitations of VPNs, too. We’ll discuss these in this article.

How to Hide Your IP Address

IP addresses were created so computers could deliver information back and forth to each other. With an IP attached to each piece of data, it’s easy to locate the source and eventual destination of information, which is ultimately what makes the internet possible. Unfortunately, that same marker can be used to trace requests back to their source and identify the origin, turning simple data transmissions into homing beacons for users around the world.

The modern climate of privacy awareness places data security as a high priority. Keeping your IP address secure is the first step in preventing digital surveillance, thwarting hackers and identity thieves, and putting a stop to ISPs who want to track you across the web. One simple preventive measure can make a huge difference in your online privacy, and it comes with a number of other benefits, as well.

IP Addresses – The what and the how

An IP address, short for internet protocol address, is a number assigned to devices when they connect to a network, whether that be an at-home network or a larger one such as the world wide web. Every device that logs onto the internet is given an IP address, from computers to tablets, phones, printers, gaming consoles, cameras, even smart TVs and appliances. IPs are used to mark devices for data delivery similar to putting an address on a package and shipping it through the mail.

The most recognizable type of IP address is a public IP address that’s written as a series of numbers separated by decimals (e.g. 123.45.678.9). These are assigned by internet service providers (ISPs) which act as a middleman between you and the internet. When you request a website from your browser, your computer sends that request through your ISP which then pulls the information from the web and sends it back to you. Every request is stamped with your IP address so the ISP knows where to deliver the information.

Most users have a router that allows multiple devices to connect at once, either through wired connections or via Wi-Fi. This is where internal IP addresses come into play. They serve a similar purpose as a public IP, only instead of directing packets of data from internet service providers, they’re used by your router to send information throughout your home. Whenever someone refers to an IP address, it’s almost always the public one, not an internal IP.

RELATED: How to pretend you’re in a different country

How Can IP Addresses Be Abused?

Every packet of data that goes to and from your home network is paired with a public IP address. Without it, nothing could be delivered to your devices. But because an IP address can be traced to your local service provider, it’s extremely easy to look at someone’s IP and know what country and city they live in. Because most of us pay an ISP for access to the internet, our billing address, name, and phone number are on file, making it a surprisingly simple process to track down a person based on their internet history.

IP addresses aren’t necessarily unsafe on their own, but when you combine them with unencrypted data and detailed activity logs, you suddenly have a serious privacy issue. Your internet history can be stored by websites and service providers for months or years, keeping a detailed record of every query along with an associated IP address. Service providers are under no obligation to keep this information private, and some even have the legal ability to sell logs to third parties without your permission. Whether you’re a journalist who needs anonymity or simply an average person who appreciates privacy, this combination of public IPs and raw data logging is a massive problem.

Advantages of Hiding Your IP Address

Hiding your IP address, or simply changing it to another IP that isn’t associated with you or your location, has a number of immediate benefits. When you disassociate this public tag with the data you interact with you immediately gain a measure of online anonymity. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s a step in the right direction.

There are several other benefits of hiding your IP address:

Bypass censored content – Many governments and businesses censor content from their users, making it impossible to access websites they deem inappropriate or illegal. Hiding your IP often allows you to circumvent those restrictions and surf the web with complete freedom.

Prevent tracking and surveillance – ISPs, websites, and eavesdropping hackers can all gain access to your browsing history with very little effort. Because that data is tied to your IP address, it’s possible to trace back to your location. Hiding your IP effectively erases your digital footprint, giving your surfing activities an added measure of privacy.

Access streaming videos blocked in your country – IP addresses are used to geolocate devices connected to the internet. If you connect to Netflix, for example, and Netflix is instructed to block certain content from customers in your country, you won’t be able to stream those videos. By hiding or changing your IP address you can effectively fool these websites into thinking your location is somewhere else entirely. This allows you to watch videos on Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, YouTube, and more, all without worrying about region-locked content.

WORTH READING: How to Unblock Netflix in School

Using a VPN to Hide Your IP Address

The simplest and most effective way to hide your IP address is to use a virtual private network. VPNs work like a tunnel between your device and the internet at large. Every byte of traffic is encrypted before it leaves your computer, turning raw data into unreadable packets of information. These travel through your ISP and straight to the VPN provider. The VPN then assigns the data a new IP address, one that isn’t associated with your location or identity. The end result is an internet connection that works just like before, only now you aren’t sharing your information with the world.

Best VPNs for hiding your IP address

It takes some time to find a good VPN that suits your needs. There are plenty to choose from, all of which offer different plans with different pricing, have different server structures, and push certain benefits over others. We used the criteria below to take some of the hassle out of looking for the best VPN. Each one delivers great performance along with the ability to hide your IP address no matter which device you use to connect to the internet.

Server distribution – VPNs operate wide networks of servers located around the world. Some have a few dozen in major cities, others several hundred or several thousand placed on nearly every continent. The more servers that are available the better chances you’ll have to find a fast connection. It also gives you more options to change or hide your IP.

Device connectability – A common limitation imposed by VPN providers is restricting the number of devices that can access their network at once. If you’re using a phone, desktop PC, and a gaming console, for example, you may not be able to log in with a tablet or laptop unless you disconnect something beforehand. To make sure you can surf anonymously without hassle, we made sure the providers below allow at least three simultaneous devices.

Unlimited server switching – A few VPNs limit the number of times you can switch servers per day. This can be a frustrating feature, as it means you could be stuck with a slow connection or an IP address that doesn’t meet your needs. All of the VPNs below have unlimited server switching, no exceptions.

Kill switches and DNS leak protection – The few moments when your VPN software is reconnecting, are crucial. During this time it’s possible that your standard connection will reactivate, sending your real IP across the network and broadcasting your location. To help prevent this, good VPN provider software will lock down the network to ensure your identity is never leaked.

Logging policy – The pillar of VPN privacy is a company’s logging policy. All of your data passes through a VPN’s servers and can theoretically be stored for an indefinite period of time. If third parties or government agencies demand the VPN turn over data, they often have to comply. If no logs are kept, however, there’s no data to be shared, giving you an extra layer of privacy.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN consistently ranks as one of the fastest and most security conscious VPN providers around. The company deploys a robust network of over 3,000 servers in 94 different countries. Each server can have thousands of available IPs, which gives you an enormous amount of freedom when it comes to hiding your own IP. You can also switch servers as often as you like and connect up to three devices at a time, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and gaming consoles.

Privacy is another of ExpressVPN’s strong suits. The policies aim to keep users safe with DNS leak protection, a kill switch for both desktop and Android devices, and absolutely no logs. Coupled with unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on traffic types and you’ve got a great VPN service that can hide your IP address and provide a host of other benefits, including regular access from countries like China and Turkey.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Pros

  • Unblocks American Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu
  • Fast serves with minimal speed loss
  • No DNS/IP leaks found
  • No personal information logs kept
  • Live chat support available.
Cons

  • Power-users configuration options.
BEST OVERALL VPN: ExpressVPN is our top choice for hiding your IP address online. Get 3 months free their annual plan & save 49%. Comes with a no questions asked money-back guarantee.

2. PureVPN

PureVPN is a great service for quick and easy IP address hiding. It all starts with a network of 2,000+ servers in 140+ different countries, covering every corner of the globe with a massive range of IPs to choose from. Unlimited server switching is also available, along with a zero-logging policy, unlimited bandwidth, DNS leak protection, and a quick kill switch to make sure your data and your IP stays safe.

One of the most interesting PureVPN features is the company’s “Virtual Router” software. With this you can turn your Windows desktop or laptop into a virtual hotspot, allowing you to connect up to ten devices at once. This is double the service’s standard offering of five simultaneous devices, which itself is two more than most VPNs on the market. If device connectability is a major concern, you can’t go wrong with PureVPN.

Read our full PureVPN review.

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3. IPVanish

IPVanish has two strong selling points that make it an excellent choice for masking your IP. For starters, the company operates over 1,3000 servers in 75+ different locations, providing an amazing range of IPs you can switch back and forth between. All of these are backed by 256-bit AES encryption, kill switch and DNS leak protection, and a zero-logging policy for top quality privacy.

Getting the most out of your VPN connection won’t be a problem with IPVanish. Each plan comes with unlimited bandwidth, allows P2P traffic and torrent access, works on a wide variety of platforms, and has a high limit of five devices simultaneously connecting to the VPN. Users in countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar will need to do a little extra configuring to get IPVanish to work in their region, but otherwise the service is available worldwide.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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4. VyprVPN

Privacy is one of VyprVPN’s top concerns. The company owns and operates it entire network of 700 servers spread across 70 locations, ensuring no third party ever has access to the hardware. This also gives VyprVPN the ability to customize their network to deliver superior speed and encryption without sacrificing anonymity.

Hiding your IP address is easy with VyprVPN. The wide server availability gives you plenty of options to choose from, bolstered by the exclusive Chameleon technology that defeats VPN blocking and throttling. This makes VyprVPN an excellent service if you live in a heavily restrictive location such as China or Turkey. This, combined with a strict zero-logging policy, a built-in kill switch, DNS leak protection, and fast overall download speeds makes VyprVPN a great choice for keeping your IP address hidden.

Read our full VyprVPN review.

30-day money back guarantee: VyprVPN ain’t cheap; they cost $5 per month.

Private Internet Access

Activism has been one of Private Internet Access’ focal points since the beginning. The company wants to make the internet freely available for everyone and works hard to ensure that’s possible. Private Internet Access runs a network with 3,250 servers in 25 different countries, all backed by a zero-logging policy, a digital kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a smart IP cloak to ensure your real IP is never seen. Unlimited server switching means you have the freedom to choose the IP you want without having to share your location, and a high limit of five simultaneous connections means you won’t have any trouble getting your entire house online.

Private Internet Access is one of the more affordable VPNs on the market and backs all of its plans with a seven-day money back guarantee.

Using a Proxy Service

A common alternative to using a VPN to hide your IP address is to sign up with an anonymous proxy server. These services work something like a VPN, allowing you to choose which country your IP address will be associated with to mask your real location. The proxy then requests web information on your behalf and relays it to you without divulging your true IP.

There are several downsides to using a proxy service, as well. While VPNs have a reputation for being slow, proxies are often slower, all due to the nature of their network structure. Free proxies are even worse and can inject ads, limit bandwidth, and show pop-ups while you’re browsing, which is both invasive and frustrating. Proxies lack the encryption and other privacy benefits VPNs afford, however, making them best reserved for users with other strong security measures already in place.

Using the Tor Network to Hide Your IP

Privacy advocates love talking about Tor. The Tor network works by using what is known as onion routing to encapsulate data in layers of encryption before passing it through a series of computer nodes. Each node pulls back a layer of encryption, revealing the next destination for the packet of information. When the final layer is decrypted the data will reach its location, leaving no trace of the data’s origin or the randomized path it took through the Tor network.

Lots of software uses the Tor network for a basic layer of privacy and anonymity. The most common and most accessible way to utilize it yourself is to download the Tor Browser. This browser works like any other browser, only instead of sending information to and from your computer, it encrypts it and sends it through the Tor network. Every request the browser sends comes back without leaving a trace of your IP, only the random IP addresses of nodes on the network. Simple, easy to use, and remarkably effective.

The Tor Browser isn’t without its drawbacks, of course. For starters, all of this layered encryption and node passing takes a lot of time. Using the Tor Browser for everyday tasks is an exercise in patience, as even simple things take forever to load. Furthermore, the Tor Browser blocks things like Quicktime, Adobe Flash, and Javascript, all of which can share your real IP without your knowledge. The Tor Browser is great for sensitive tasks that require extra privacy, but not so great at being your main method for accessing the internet anonymously.

For more information on the Tor network and the Tor Browser, see the article How to Use Tor: A Guide to Getting Started.

Warning: Don’t Use Free VPNs to Hide Your IP Address

Free VPNs and free proxy services are all over the place. Most browser extension markets and mobile app stores are filled with them, each promising free, fast, and unlimited service. Simply download and start hiding your IP, it all sounds too good to be true! The unfortunate reality is free VPNs and free proxy services often endanger your privacy more than they protect it, making the benefits of hiding your IP not worth the sacrifices.

A business that operates a virtual private network has to make income to stay afloat. Servers need maintenance, workers need salaries, that sort of thing. If customers aren’t providing a stream of revenue, the free VPN company needs to seek income elsewhere. The most common method is to log and sell data collected from its users. All of your browsing history could be shared with third parties without your permission.

Although it’s tempting to use a free VPN service to hide your IP, it’s not worth it in the long run. Even high quality VPNs are competitively priced these days, which keeps extremely affordable.

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Low-Tech Way to Hide Your IP: Use a Different Hotspot

You don’t have to use a VPN or a proxy to hide your IP address. Because IPs don’t follow people or devices around, you can change yours by simply connecting through a different hotspot. Any public Wi-Fi network will do, including the local library, an internet cafe, coffee shop, or even a friend’s house. Once you log in you’ll be given a unique IP address that isn’t tied to yourself or your home.

It’s worth noting that using public Wi-Fi isn’t necessarily safe or private. Without a VPN or any sort of encryption active, you’re still sending raw data across networks, divulging your browser history and maybe even sensitive data. It’s also possible to track down your location based on this public IP, it just takes a bit more work. If you need to cover your identity, be sure to use an IP masking service like a VPN or proxy.

Read How to Hide Your IP Address for Extra Privacy by Geoffrey Walters on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter