Best VPN to Protect your Online Privacy (Complete Guide)
VPNs, or virtual private networks, are increasingly necessary tools in a world where we entrust the most valuable information in our lives to electronic devices, whether for security, privacy, leisure or work purposes.
VPN software frees us from censorship, allows us to access blocked content on Netflix, download torrents and other P2P files, while protecting our information from hackers and identity theft.
To prepare this guide on the best VPNs you can hire in 2020, we have carried out tests with the most popular services on the market and created a ranking so that you can choose the one that best suits your priorities.
Below you can find out in detail about the performance of each of the best VPNs on computers, mobile phones, game consoles, routers and smart TVs.
Top 10 VPN Ranking
- Hotspot Shield
- Private internet access (PIA)
The Best VPN by Category
Some companies have VPN for certain activities or uses. These activities could be downloading files. It may also change depending on usage on different devices or browsers.
Browsers, for example, have some advantages depending on the VPN being used. On the other hand, not all VPN work the same on all devices.
It is important to remember that not all the best VPN have servers in every country. There may also be better VPN for each country of origin.
The following list reflects the best VPN in the market. Likewise, the information is classified according to the needs of any user.
Finding a VPN to protect your online privacy:
Other recommended VPN providers:
Ranking Best VPN
Analysis of the Best VPNs for Safe Surfing
Without a doubt one of the best VPNs on the market, no matter where you are in the world. Cyberghost has a built-in ad blocker and cookies.
With more than 5500 servers worldwide, speed is the main feature of this VPN, although the best service is obtained from Apple operating systems, since with Windows it reduces its performance considerably.
This connection speed provides users with almost no buffering, which is extremely valuable when consuming audiovisual content. Widely regarded as the most user-friendly VPN on the market, it is really hard to find a service that is easier to use than Cyberghost.
Cyberghost allows access to multimedia content platforms such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and many others. It even recommends the most optimal connection location for each service, making everything much easier for the user.
The mobile application of this VPN is as easy or even easier to use than its desktop counterpart. While it has fewer customizable options, it allows you to, among other things, filter addresses, compress data, and save favorite access ports.
With your Cyberghost subscription you can activate this VPN on up to 7 devices simultaneously, and you have a money back guarantee for up to 45 days after purchase.
Cyberghost has a customer service available at all times. In addition to answering email inquiries, we have been able to verify that the representatives are equally efficient through live chat, resolving our technical queries in a short time.
The website has a very useful section of user guides about the use of Cyberghost in different operating systems, browsers, routers and consoles, explained in more than one language.
The logging o registration of user information is minimal, reduced to just logins and number of devices. Perhaps one of the few disadvantages of this VPN is its slightly higher than average price.
SurfsharkVPN has many utilities, but seems to have been designed particularly to unlock content on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
Surfshark’s servers are not as many as we are used to from paid VPNs. Although there are a little over 1000, their distribution allows them to have a great presence all over the world.
Surfshark is available for use on all popular operating systems, browsers and game consoles and more than one Smart TV option.
Surprisingly, the mobile interface is almost as complete as the computer interface. Overall, Surfshark is one of the most popular VPNs that allows users to customize their experience.
Very encouraging is the novel NoBorders function, which supposedly allows access from traditionally blocked countries such as China. However, we have not been able to test its functionality and it is not explained in detail on the Surfshark website.
This VPN offers various payment plans. The monthly option may seem somewhat expensive. However, prices decrease dramatically the longer the contract lasts. In fact, the price when contracting for two years is one of the cheapest. In addition, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The free one-week trial is a good option for testing the service from mobile devices and Mac computers. It’s a shame that you can’t try it from devices with Windows operating systems.
Express VPN offers one of the most complete services you can find. Its strengths lie in complex data encryption systems and high levels of personal configuration.
The mode kill switch works excellently, closing all navigation windows when the service is down. This feature ensures that your privacy is safe even if you lose your VPN connection
Express VPN uses the OpenVPN UDP protocol by default, but allows you to change it according to your preferences. However, this option is not available when browsing from Android operating systems.
AES 256-bit encryption is probably the most secure encryption available today, and Express VPN takes it even further by modifying the encryption key with every new connection.
Another feature of this VPN that leaves us more than satisfied is the ability to connect to public and private networks at the same time, which is known as split tunneling.
While it may not seem as appealing to casual consumers, ExpressVPN has the particularity of being very stable, in addition to its unparalleled speed. Our performance tests showed one of the lowest levels of speed loss we have seen.
Thus, it is ideal for homes with many devices that combine navigation, gaming and streaming simultaneously. The customization options are many although some of them may be difficult to understand for inexperienced users.
Otherwise, Express offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 24/7 chat for any complaints, problems or comments you may have.
When compared to other services, one of the disadvantages of Express VPN is its high price, although, for the quality of service, it is worth the extra expense.
NordVPN is the most chosen tool in the world for IP hiding and by testing their service, it is very clear to us why. With over 8 million users and more than 5,000 servers in 59 countries, it offers excellent browsing speeds.
With NordVPN you are fully protected through the most popular and effective protocol, OpenVPN and 256-bit encryption. In addition, being based in Panama, it is exempt from disclosing any information about its users at the request of judicial or government authorities.
NordVPN is, in the words of its own developers, “a secure and encrypted tunnel through which online traffic flows”, and experts agree that it is very difficult to find a more efficient and secure VPN than this one.
Although the software has suffered security attacks in the past, they claim to have solved these problems by applying innovative systems to protect their servers.
But NordVPN is not only a great VPN for Netflix, it also supports Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video, to name a few examples. The possibilities are almost unlimited.
It is clear that the company cares about the use that users make of the interface. That’s why NordVPN dedicates more than 4,000 servers to P2P file traffic alone. This makes torrent downloading much faster than we are used to. These features make it one of the best VPNs.
You can use this VPN from any device. Windows, Android, iOS, MacOS, Chrome, and Linux are the most common operating systems, but you can also activate it from your favorite game console. This VPN accepts the use of up to 6 devices simultaneously.
The popularity of this VPN is mainly explained by its low prices, in addition to the high quality of service. Among the accepted means of payment, the absence of one as popular as PayPal is surprising.
Zenmate offers a service aimed at a very specific audience: those people who are looking at a VPN to be able to unlock media content and download P2P files such as torrents.
ZenMate has over 600 in the USA alone, making it a powerful tool for accessing streaming platforms. Although it does not have such an extensive network in the rest of the world, it ensures the possibility of connection from 74 countries.
This VPN cannot be used from China, Iran or Saudi Arabia, although it does have servers in Hong Kong, which is not common. One of the most encouraging features of ZenMate is the fact that it allows unlimited connections. This makes it ideal for large families or people with many devices that combine leisure and work.
With below-average speeds, but good connection stability, this VPN works well within the moderate standards that this application requires. If you wish to use it for another purpose, it is recommended that you choose another one from the list.
However, safety is by no means a neglected aspect. It features data encryption services as advanced as any other on the list, plus the always welcome kill switch.
In addition to 24/7 technical support, the ZenMateVPN home page has an extensive list of frequently asked questions with their respective answers that you can use to solve many of the doubts that may arise.
This is one of the cheapest VPNs in our ranking. Without a doubt, if you are looking for a simple VPN to use mainly with Netflix, this is the one for you. The free trial can be used with any device.
Hotspot Shield was born as a free service based on the use of a few ads while browsing. Today, with more than 60 million users, it also offers a premium version that is very competitive in the VPN market.
The free version still exists and maintains the same features, with the addition of a few advertisements. However, it does not offer many customization options.
While it is not a VPN that stands out especially for its security features, Hotspot Shield doesn’t leave much to be desired with its Open SSL encryption and the infallible OpenVPN protocol.
The price of this VPN may seem somewhat high at first, but it is economical considering some of the subscriptions it includes. These include the 1Password Manager and the Pango Open Source Library. If you use any of these services, you may want to purchase a Hotspot Shield and save a lot of money.
In terms of security, the information available is somewhat confusing and not entirely reassuring. On the one hand, the Hotspot Shield website ensures complete anonymity in navigation and refuses to store user data.
However, reading the fine print at the time of hire, we can see that this is not entirely true. Despite being protected from international intelligence alliances such as Five Eyes, this VPN records data such as browsing history.
The service can only be contracted by paying through PayPal and international credit cards, and does not offer secure and anonymous methods like Bitcoin. For all these reasons, if your priorities are security and anonymity, Hotspot Shield may not be the right choice.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a cheap VPN, with secure protocols and an incredible browsing speed for streaming, gaming and P2P services, Hotspot Shield is a great option to consider.
Tunnelbear is another service that offers both free and paid VPN. However, it should be noted that the first option is limited to half a Gigabyte per month, so it can be considered more as a trial service than a free version.
The premium service, on the other hand, is surprisingly satisfactory. Tunnelbear does not lag behind in terms of security, as it uses the prestigious AES 256-bit encryption method, a common feature among the best VPNs.
One of the great virtues of this company is its transparency. Unlike other VPNs that ensure anonymity and fail to deliver, Tunnelbear pays for all its promises. The information collected from users is limited to session logging.
The kill switch function is present although renamed as Vigilant mode. In addition, there is a powerful bypass system for VPN blockers. Perhaps the biggest problem with the Tunnelbear service is that it cannot be configured on routers.
Although it only allows connections from 23 countries, these are very well distributed throughout the world, with a presence in every continent. In addition, with a high server-to-user ratio, you will most likely never have speed problems when surfing.
Tunnelbear has a user-friendly interface, which also allows both torrent downloads and the use of North American and European multimedia platforms. This VPN enables Netflix’s regional unlocking on some of its servers.
From the website you can access the installers for the most popular operating systems and web browsers. A major shortcoming is the inability to use it on game consoles and routers.
The customer service is very effective. We have found that conflict resolution is fast and efficient, and there are many direct communication channels.
Tunnelbear’s prices are considerably low considering the good service it offers, with good connection speeds especially on European servers.
HideMyAss is a fairly reliable VPN that does not stand out too much from the rest, while still competing among the most popular in terms of servers, speed and functionality.
The interface is simple but effective and works on almost all types of devices, although it is important to note the absence of video game consoles. However, unlike other VPNs, it allows for use on routers, smart TVs and open source operating systems such as Linux.
Security is another area in which we must give this VPN the go-ahead. Many services claim to provide anonymity and refuse to record user data. HideMyAss proves it in the only way we can be satisfied, that is, with external audits that give it the seal of transparency, something that gives it a place in the best VPNs.
One flaw that we cannot avoid noticing is the inability of HideMyAss to bypass the blockers of some sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Especially these errors occur when choosing a US connection. Also, it lacks kill switch, a function that is becoming more and more important every day.
The monthly price is higher than the average although it decreases considerably with longer hiring plans. Especially since this VPN regularly publishes offers and discounts with which you end up paying much less money per month compared to your competitors.
Although it does not have a large number of servers, it is impressive to see how many locations are available – over 300 in almost 200 different countries. Because of the relatively low number of users on servers, browsing speeds are very good in general.
HideMyAss offers 18 different payment methods, including major credit and debit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The technical support is of high quality and efficiency.
Windscribe is a VPN that competes in almost every respect with the top of this list. With this service you can download and share torrent files, as well as unlock content from any region on all media platforms.
With a large network of servers located in 110 cities in more than 60 countries, the upload and download speeds delivered high performance in all our tests. With Windscribe you can access blocked content from Netflix and other platforms.
Windscribe uses the OpenVPN protocol and 256-bit AES encryption. It also offers services that reinforce the security of the connection such as double hop, blocking of cookies and advertising and kill switch that cancels data traffic in case of a possible fall of the secure connection.
Beyond being a paid VPN, Windscribe offers a free version with a 10 GB monthly limit, much more than usual. However it is only available from USA, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway and Romania.
The Windscribe website has a variety of installation guides in many languages to help you set up this VPN on any type of device. In addition, the FAQ section helps solve many issues that may arise. The best VPNs have excellent support.
A not-so-good aspect of the service is the lack of a live chat to communicate in emergency situations. However, the ticketing system for queries is quite effective and we have been able to verify that your representatives respond promptly.
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access is a very user-friendly VPN, simple to use and widely regarded as one of the best options for unlocking content from platforms such as Hulu or Netflix.
At Private Internet Access you will find an inexpensive and easy-to-use VPN, aimed particularly at those who don’t want to pay too much for features they won’t use. Private Internet Access doesn’t access most regions, but it does access the most sought-after ones.
With over 12,000 servers in 78 countries, it has one of the best distributed networks in the market. Fortunately, it supports Windows, MacOS and more than one version of Linux operating systems. The bad news is that it cannot be configured on video game systems such as Playstation, Xbox or Nintendo Switch.
The Private Internet Access service is not the most recommended for those who are very concerned about security and anonymity. Although they have a strict non-storage policy, the company is headquartered in London.
The UK is a member of major international intelligence alliances such as Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes. This means that the company is susceptible to government or judicial requests for information about its clients.
However, the company does not store user data. This means that, in the event of a request for information, they will have nothing to deliver.
One of the positive features of this VPN is the great possibility of customization that it offers to users. The standard version can be modified by other pre-configured options depending on the priority of the client: security or connection speed.
Customer service is also on par with the best VPNs. In addition to the installation guides, FAQs and newsletters, you can contact the company directly via the 24-hour live chat on the website.
With stable, fast connections and the option of using up to 10 devices simultaneously, Private Internet Access is an ideal VPN for people looking for a balance between cost and quality.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network. It is software that allows the user to create his own absolutely private network, limiting the access of third parties to the activity of the protected IP.
Thus, the chances of suffering hacking or content monitoring are significantly reduced. VPNs work by connecting your IP to a private server, where the IP is hidden under another number. This is a way of changing your IP for others so that it cannot be traced.
By masking the IP, for example, you can appear to be in another region. This is why it is so widely used in access to audiovisual content. Another common use is access to private networks. You can see a more detailed explanation about the uses of VPNs in the following section.
How do VPNs work?
Every time you connect to the Internet, regardless of the device, you access a server. This can be the servers of your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or a public network, such as a café or restaurant.
What a VPN does is reconfigure your connection to go through its own servers, which have highly complex security mechanisms. In doing so, it hides your IP number, making it very difficult to trace.
It is important to note that the IP of your computer, mobile, router or console does not change. This number is always maintained, but with a VPN it is no longer visible to hackers or websites.
In addition to IP, VPNs hide any trace that your Internet connection may leave, from usernames and passwords to search history and application usage time and frequency.
The method that VPN companies use to hide all this information is known as encryption. Encrypting data consists of translating it into a language that is impossible to decipher, unless you have the exact code.
This code is known only by your device and the VPN server, so no one can know where you are or what you are doing while surfing the web.
The best VPNs have extensive server networks spread throughout the world. This allows users to choose the country from which they want to establish their connection. This way you can ‘make believe’ a website that your location meets their content unlocking requirements.
Is it worth using a VPN?
Surfing the internet has become an essential part of our lives. We use it to work, study, share moments with family and friends, enjoy our leisure time and much more.
With the scope of the massive use of the web, however, we have come to instances of great levels of misinformation. Today more and more people are surfing the web unprotected, exposing their information and offering vulnerabilities.
Hackers and companies that distribute malware are just a few examples of cases that feed on this weakness. For any of these malicious agents, it is very easy to steal the identity of a person connected to a public network without a VPN.
Think of all the times you’ve connected to the Wi-Fi in a restaurant or a university. During all that time, your mobile is vulnerable to attacks that seek to obtain your passwords saved in the browser or your credit card numbers.
By hiding your IP in a tunnel, VPNs protect you from these insecurities. But even if you consider that you don’t have valuable information that someone might want to steal, VPNs are a great tool in other ways.
Whether it is to surf free of ads and cookies, download torrents without problems or access blocked series and movies, a virtual private network becomes more and more necessary. The price you pay for security, moreover, is much lower than that of many telephone and internet plans.
What aspects matter most when contracting a VPN?
The first thing you should consider before hiring any VPN is the use you plan to give it. This will determine your priorities and help you make better choices.
If you are looking to unlock streaming platforms, pay attention to the services that allow access to the most of them (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO Go, etc.).
Some VPNs allow access to these sites only from European and North American servers. The preferences of each person in this case may end up tilting the decision towards one or the other. With the best VPNs you can enjoy all your favorite shows.
If you live in a house with many people and plan to share service, or have many devices you want to protect, your priority will be a VPN that allows many simultaneous connections.
In some cases, the number of devices varies according to the hiring plan within the same company. It may also change your decision if you need to protect a certain device, such as a router or game console that is not protected by all VPNs.
However, if you’re looking for the highest level of security that a VPN can provide, there are many more factors to consider. One of the signs of a secure service is the possibility of triangulating your connection more than once, which is called double hop, or sometimes multi hop.
Here too, you should pay attention to aspects such as the encryption method and security protocols.
If you wish to browse in complete anonymity, the main piece of information you should be interested in is the country of origin of the company offering the VPN.
In some parts of the world, current legislation obliges VPN companies to release information they hold about their customers in the event of a legal dispute.
There are international intelligence alliances such as Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes that operate in Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, USA and New Zealand. Other countries with similar regulations are Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Finally, a variable that always helps to make the final decision is the price of the service. The budget you have will be an important factor in choosing one or another VPN.
Our review methods and the factors we consider
We know that VPNs have many possible uses and also that not everyone looks for the same thing in them. That’s why our reviews offer the most comprehensive information for whatever readers’ top priority is.
Protection and Security
The main aspect we deal with is the security of a VPN. Mainly, the technologies it uses, such as encryption and protocols. But we also carefully read each company’s terms and conditions of employment to understand their data logging policies. This is very important so as not to fall into advertising scams, the best VPNs guarantee solid security.
Extra services of the VPNs
In addition to how the data is encrypted, we are interested in what other services VPNs offer in terms of security. The way kill switchThe use of pop-up blockers or multiple routing are usually very positive features.
Some VPNs include software or web site subscriptions in their hiring plans. We are especially interested in this because it greatly reduces the final cost. We are talking about password managers, open source libraries and many other types of online programs. The best VPNs guarantee an excellent service, counting some of these extra services.
Place of origin
Another piece of information that can tell us a lot about a company is the country where it has its business headquarters, as this determines its legal obligations. However, this becomes a secondary concern when VPNs do not store customer information, since in the event of a lawsuit, they do not have any valuable data to deliver.
Number and types of devices
We also focus on the number of devices that VPNs allow to connect to the private network simultaneously. But even more so on the types of devices accepted, as it is often very valuable to include video game consoles, routers, smart TVs and not so popular operating systems.
Performance and speed
Last but not least, we seek to provide information on connection speeds and prices for each VPN. The relationship between the number of users and servers is often an indicator of service. In general we evaluate the price not in relation to the average of all the services but based on how much you pay for what you get.
Benefits and uses of VPNs
In practice, the vast majority of users who choose a VPN use it to unlock media content. Streaming platforms such as Netflix block their content regionally, that is, they limit what each user can consume depending on the country they are in.
With a good VPN, this problem ceases to exist. Once you have an account on the platform and a hidden IP, you can choose where in the world to connect from and access content that was previously blocked.
But that’s not the only reason why VPNs are so popular. Today many people use public networks to access the Internet from their mobile phones and computers. For example, at a university, a restaurant, a stadium or means of transport.
These networks are not at all secure and there are hundreds of hackers who use them to steal information and defraud browsers. VPNs avoid these problems by replacing your IP, so it becomes much harder to track information.
Of course, VPNs become even more essential for people who often make purchases online and enter their financial data such as credit card security numbers.
Advertising blocks, pop-ups and cookies
In addition, VPNs allow for much more relaxed surfing by blocking unwanted advertisements and pop-ups. This also prevents data collection by Google and social networks from bombarding users with targeted advertising. With the best VPNs, you can surf worry-free.
Avoiding censorship and state controls
Finally, in countries where there are authoritarian regimes that hide information, VPNs may be the only way to avoid censorship without suffering ideological persecution.
People in high-risk jobs such as activists or some journalists can also benefit from VPN services, as it allows them to hide their identity when dealing with sensitive issues that might otherwise have negative consequences for them.
Why should I hide my IP?
The Internet is a truly wonderful thing, but it has its dangers. The more people are connected, the greater the potential risks, and it is estimated that more than 55% of the world’s population actively uses the Internet today.
Therefore, the first need that arises is for security. The first requirement for safe surfing is anti-virus software. The second is to install a VPN so that all your connections pass through a private network.
This will make it easier for you to protect yourself from hackers, view media from other regions, and safely download torrent and P2P files in general.
By involving the Internet in so many aspects of our lives, the amount of information we deposit there is very large, as well as the dangers. Identity theft is the crime that has multiplied the most in recent years. Protecting the IP with a VPN is as necessary as using social networks and browsing responsibly.
In addition, you will be able to access private networks from anywhere in the world and maintain anonymity, which many people consider to be a very important function in the world of VPNs.
How does a VPN protect my privacy?
The basic process of running any VPN consists of creating a ‘tunnel’ between your device (computer, mobile, etc.) and its own servers, located throughout the world.
So, instead of showing the default IP, your devices will show a temporarily changed IP, hiding the original one. Remember that VPN means ‘virtual private network’ and is not synonymous with any particular technology. Each company can reach the same goal by different means and encryption techniques.
Encryption is the process of taking the information transmitted by your computer and turning it into a secret code so that no one but the members of that tunnel can read it. It is important that VPNs use advanced technologies such as 256-bit AES protocols that are very difficult to decode.
The best VPNs offer, in addition to their standard service, the possibility of being installed in a home router. This way, all devices connected to the router will be immediately protected, without having to make new installations.
Are VPNs legal?
Since their great function in the cyber world is security and anonymity, there is no risk in saying that VPNs are a safe, reliable and recommended tool. But many people wonder if it is absolutely legal to install one of these programs.
The answer is yes, since there are fewer than 10 countries worldwide where VPNs are not legal, or where they are limited in some way. So unless you’re in one of those regions, you’ll be safe in every way by using a VPN.
The countries that currently consider the use of VPN software illegal are China, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Belarus, Turkey, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. In these places, fines or even imprisonment can be applied for installing a VPN on any device.
We must clarify, however, that the use of a VPN does not justify or enable anyone to carry out illegal actions online. Even by hiding the IP, it is possible to be sanctioned for acting against the legislation in force in each territory.
What are the risks of installing a VPN?
The main risk of installing a VPN is falling into the hands of a company for deceptive or fraudulent purposes. This is why we always recommend the best VPNs on the market so that you can be sure of their effectiveness and functionality.
In addition to our guides, there are some tips you can take from which to distinguish an honest company from a complete fraud. The first of these is, without a doubt, to avoid hiring free VPNs at all costs.
VPNs are global mechanisms that involve the installation of many servers in hundreds or thousands of cities. As you might expect, this requires a large investment in terms of infrastructure, salaries, official approvals and so on.
Companies that offer free services do not do so out of good faith, but respond unfailingly to one of the following reasons. Either they use a large amount of advertising to cover their costs, or they collect data from their users to sell them to third parties.
In contrast, paid VPNs can be well-intentioned and even have serious flaws. If their encryption protocols are not good enough, the best hackers can access the servers and steal huge packets of data.
The only solution to this type of problem is to choose from the list of the best VPNs we offer. All of them have external audits that ensure their transparency, as well as being located in countries where they are not vulnerable to state or legal collaboration pressures.
Are VPN services reliable?
The reliability of a VPN depends, to a large extent, on its ability to protect and maintain the anonymity of the users. However, some VPNs do the opposite, collecting information from their customers and then offering it to the highest bidder.
This is often the case with free VPNs, which usually record the data traffic of those who use them. The information stored may consist of browsing history, application usage time or multimedia consumption.
Many companies use this data to analyze the profile of Internet users and offer them advertising targeted to their tastes. Advertising is another method that free VPNs use to make a living.
It should be clarified that not all VPNs that record customer information are necessarily bad. While it is best to find a VPN that does not store data at all, in some cases it is necessary to do so.
For example, when a VPN allows us to have up to 5 devices connected simultaneously, the only way to check that they have is to record the IP of each device. Similarly, if they have a data limit, they must necessarily know the traffic of each client.
What is important, however, is not the fact that VPNs collect information, but what they do with it. That is why it is always advisable to use services that provide external audits to test their transparency.
Can VPNs track their users online?
One of the aspects that we repeatedly recommend attending to in this guide when contracting a VPN is the question of data recording. Strict non-logging policies are, along with encryption methods, the key points of security.
For this reason, if you’ve chosen your VPN service correctly, it’s not them you should worry about being tracked, as they won’t have your account information on file.
However, there are thousands of individuals and companies on the web who are engaged in extracting information and tracking people for criminal purposes. VPNs protect you from them.
In addition to the VPN services, total security will only be complete with the installation of a very good antivirus. This is because there are very difficult to detect malwares that are dedicated to extracting information from your devices, such as the physical location.
It is also possible that your VPN uses a poor encryption method and some hacker accesses your private network. That’s why we recommend hiring only the best VPNs that invest large sums in reinforcing their security systems to make them inviolable.
Of course, even the best of VPNs can’t protect you from your own actions. If you’re used to making credit card purchases or using your personal information on the web, you should take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of scammers.
Do VPNs record logs and logins?
Almost every VPN you find on the web claims to have strict policies regarding the logging of customer metadata. This is because security is often a priority among users seeking this type of service.
However, not all companies keep their promises, which is evidenced by reading the terms and conditions of employment of some of them at the time of payment.
The most attractive VPNs for the user are generally those that do not keep records of any kind. In English, this feature is often seen as no logging. But we must also consider that logging is not always unwanted or so problematic.
It is very important to know, for example, what data companies are archiving about our internet usage, because by entrusting them with our entire connection, they theoretically have access to every aspect of our online lives.
There is a big difference between a VPN that keeps records about our number and types of device, and one that does so with the IP number. Much worse is when it comes to our personal data or browsing history.
We must also consider the time during which that information is recorded in the company’s files. It is not so serious when they are short periods and only for the purpose of improving service performance.
But if the records are definitive and not deleted, the danger of suffering vulnerabilities or even legal claims for judicial cooperation increases exponentially. That’s why it’s always better to spend some more money and hire the best VPNs that don’t keep records of any kind.
Differences between free and paid VPNs
As we’ve discussed in this guide, free VPNs don’t usually offer the best services by a long shot. We should make it clear that we are not talking about free trials here, but extended services that do not require payment.
One of the main problems with these companies is the question of their financing methods. Clearly, setting up the infrastructure required for a global VPN service is very expensive, and some companies compensate by adding unwanted advertising or selling customer data.
But there’s a much more dangerous reason than attending to why no one should use free VPN. In recent years, countless complaints have arisen against the most popular free VPNs for using users’ devices as gateways to their paid service.
If you do not fully understand what this means and why it is so dangerous, we will explain it to you below. In order to operate with acceptable browsing speeds, VPNs must install hundreds of very powerful servers that ensure high bandwidth.
Instead of following this process, some companies take advantage of the bandwidth of non-paying customers to pass through secure connections, i.e. those of their paying customers.
This also ensures that they have thousands of IP addresses all over the world because of their large clientele. It’s definitely a scam by any standards.
The worst thing is that these actions are voluntary, and not the result of a mistake. In almost all cases the operation is explained in detail in the terms and conditions of employment, although very few people bother to read them carefully.
In short, these are the aspects that make free VPNs not as beneficial as they seem:
- collection and filtering of personal and financial data
- use of personal bandwidth as an output node for other clients
- large amounts of advertising and spam
- data transfer limit
- very low connection speeds
- few server options
- low safety standards
What is the fastest VPN?
It is difficult to determine the fastest VPN on the market as this depends on many factors. Connection speed is measured in terms of the Mb per second that a device can go up and down to the server it is connected to.
In all of our reviews you’ll find speed tests that provide great help in understanding the performance of the best VPNs, but these numbers are never absolute or definitive.
The download speed between a device and a server can vary greatly, in principle, depending on the physical distance between them. Thus, when you use a VPN from Spain to access content that is enabled from a server in the USA, you will lose much more speed than if you connect to one in the UK.
Another factor that can determine the speed of a VPN is the operating system of the devices. As you can see from our guides, some services offer very good performance on Windows but do not meet the same standards for iOS or Linux.
This is due to their operation and the way in which they complement each other with the configuration of each device.
Finally, the speed that a server, or a set of servers, is able to offer also depends on the number of simultaneous connections to which it must respond.
That’s why speed tests are never the same from one day to the next or in different parts of the world, although in our reviews we try to give an average so you can understand the good or bad performance of each VPN. To summarize, we list the fastest VPNs below:
- Hotspot Shield VPN. Very fast on Windows and Mac operating systems.
- Private Internet Access. Especially on Windows computers.
- Express VPN. Good performance on all types of devices.
- Nord VPN. Fast worldwide because of its large number of servers.
Are VPNs easy to use?
The best VPNs meet a requirement that is essential for business success. They are both very easy to use and incredibly complex. This complexity lies in how they work but also in the high degree of customization they can achieve.
For a VPN to be successful it must be usable by any Internet user. Having a user-friendly interface is one of the best ways to make a good impression.
In general, to install a VPN on your computer, or any other type of device, you only need to follow the instructions on their website. From that same place you can download the installers in any language.
Once it is installed and you have logged in with your account, the configuration is automatic. Each VPN comes with a default configuration, so you will probably only have to choose the country from which you want to connect.
Having performed these actions, you’ll be surfing with all your traffic redirected to the VPN servers in that country and you’ll be able to view blocked content, download torrents and surf without ads.
Of course, you can access the personal settings of the VPN application and modify them to your liking at any time. For example, you can choose not to have some of your data connected to the private network servers.
Depending on the service, other aspects that can be modified are: choosing a static or dynamic IP, changing the DNS configuration or enabling access to subnets using NAT (IP masking) or routing.
What are protocols? Differences between one and the other
As we have explained, VPNs allow you to create a ‘tunnel’ or secure connection between a public network, that of your home, and a private one, that of external servers.
Different encryption protocols are used to hide information passing between networks and make it more secure. Depending on the priority given to security or the speed of data transfer, the best VPNs choose different methods.
In addition, some VPNs use one protocol to move data and another to ensure that movement, while others use one protocol for both purposes.
The most popular protocol today is OpenVPN. While it significantly reduces connection speed, it is one of the most secure methods. This is because it uses the 256-bit AES encryption key, which is considered virtually unbreakable.
The strength of OpenVPN also lies in the 2048-bit RSA authentication and the 160-bit SHA1 hash function. In addition, because it is published under an open source license, developers can access and adapt the code.
Another well-known, though not so popular, protocol is the so-called PPTP, or Point-to-Point. It was created by Microsoft for Windows 95 and fell into disuse because of its security flaws.
L2TP / IPSec
PTTP was quickly replaced by L2TP, which combines with the IPSec security protocol to achieve great results.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol was developed to integrate seamlessly with all versions of Windows after Vista. It fits perfectly with the secure attention sequence called Winlogon.
Very difficult to detect and therefore quite safe and effective, although its major flaw is that its underlying code is inaccessible, so it cannot be technically analyzed.
It is the protocol that is best suited to mobile devices, which is why it is often used in iOS and Android VPN installers.
Another open source protocol that has gained much popularity in recent times. It also works very well on mobile devices thanks to the encryption code ChaCha20. It uses fewer resources and is easier to configure than OpenVPN.
Does using a VPN affect the browsing speed?
VPNs always affect users’ connection speed to a greater or lesser extent. This is impossible to avoid due to the very nature of their operation: when connecting to a private network all data must pass through at least one other server between the site where it is hosted and your device.
It is important to pay attention, when reading a VPN review, to the speed losses recorded. In general, a good service is considered to be one that does not affect the data transfer speed by more than 40%.
However, the figures may vary according to many factors. One of the most important is the physical distance between your location and the server you choose to connect to. If you use multi-hop, you will be more protected but everything will take longer, the best VPNs guarantee a connection without interruptions.
Many VPNs have different performances depending on the type of device and operating system to which they must be connected. That’s why you’ll always find that reviews clarify performance depending on whether it’s a Mac, Windows, mobile, or Smart TV. Similarly, a distinction is made between upload and download speeds.
One way to check the performance of a VPN yourself is to use the free trial that many of them offer. There are many sites on the web that allow you to perform free speed tests. Of course, you’ll need to measure the data with and without the VPN, and then compare it.
Are VPNs cheap? What is the average cost?
Beyond the prices offered by each company, VPNs are very cheap services if we consider the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we are surfing protected from malware, hackers and identity theft.
In general, the average cost of a VPN is in the range of $5 to $11 per month. However, these data cannot be appreciated without a context that explains why there is so much difference in price between one and the other.
Mainly we must clarify that each VPN company offers more than one hiring plan. It is common to find cases in which a month of service costs around $10 or $12, but the same VPN contracted for a year has a final price of $3 or $4 per month.
While hiring a VPN for one, two or three years seems like a good idea to reduce costs, we do not recommend doing so until we are sure that it is the right service for our needs.
To avoid being compromised by a VPN that doesn’t offer all the features we’re looking for, it’s best to take a free trial. This way we can check its operation, connection speed and performance on each device.
We also recommend paying close attention to any existing offers, as well as making use of the hundreds of discount codes for the best VPNs that can be found on the web.
|VPN||Pricing and Hiring Plans||Money back policy|
|Cyberghost VPN||1 month, $12.99||6 months, $47.94
7.99 per month
|18 months, $49.50
2.75 per month
|Surfshark VPN||1 month, $11.95||12 months, $71.88
5.99 per month
|24 months, $47.76
1.99 per month
|Express VPN||1 month, $12.95||6 months, $59.95
9.99 per month
|15 months, $99.95
6.67 per month
|Nord VPN||1 month, $11.95||6 months, $54
9 per month
|24 months, $89
3.71 per month
|ZenMate VPN||1 month, $10.99||6 months, $32.34
5.39 per month
|18 months, $39.96
2.22 per month
|VPN Hotspot||1 month, $12.99||12 months, $95.88
7.99 per month
|Tunnelbear||1 month, $9.99||12 months, $59.88
4.99 per month
|36 months, $107.64
3.33 per month
|HideMyAss VPN||1 month, $11.99||12 months, $59.88
4.99 per month
|36 months, $107.64
2.99 per month
|Windscribe VPN||1 month, $9||12 months, $49
4.08 per month
|Private Internet Access||1 month, $9.95||12 months, $39.95
3.33 per month
|24 months, $69.95
$2.69 per month
How do you check that a VPN works?
For an inexperienced user it is not so easy to realize if a VPN is working properly after its installation. When we say that a VPN is not working as it should, we may be referring to more than one problem.
The most obvious, which is often a cause for concern, is speed. Connections to private networks generate significant decreases in the upload and download speed of a device. To some extent, this is inevitable, but once we suffer the loss of more than 50% of speed, it is a serious problem.
To check the exact performance of a VPN it is necessary to carry out a speed test. On the web you can find more than one site that will allow you to perform these procedures.
It will be necessary to take measurements with and without the VPN in operation. Please note that connection speed may vary depending on the number of people connected to the server, the distance between the server and your home, broadband restrictions and many other factors.
However, if you are in doubt as to whether your VPN is actually protecting your browsing and hiding your IP correctly, you will need to perform a little more advanced testing that requires more knowledge to check for IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks.
The safest thing to do in any case is to choose any of the best VPNs in our ranking so as not to run the risk of falling into the hands of companies that do not have any kind of support.
What VPN services are not recommended?
When you contract a VPN, the least you can expect is to provide the services you paid for. Therefore, it does not make sense to clarify that you should not contract any VPN that does not allow you to unblock Netflix, download torrents or remove advertisements.
However, there are several aspects that should work as a warning message for VPNs that are not thought of as often. Unfortunately, these problems often arise once we have paid for the subscription.
The problems we talk about include low upload and download speeds, constant interruptions in the connection or collection of personal data and browsing history.
To avoid them, there are two alternatives. The first is to read the reviews of professionals who tell us which VPN companies are the best. The second, which does not replace the previous one but complements it, is to use the free VPN tests.
Of course, we cannot recommend any free VPN service either. These companies not only cheat users by recording their browsing data but also use their connections as exit nodes for paying customers.
Below is a list of the main VPN services that, for one reason or another, we recommend avoiding:
- Hello! VPN
Numbers and statistics: consumption of VPN services in the world
Recent studies on the use of VPN software and concerns about web browsing show that peace of mind from being out of harm’s way is no longer satisfied with the security of the home.
Every day more and more people are hiring a VPN, whether for personal or work reasons, all over the world. Countries with realities as different as Spain, Japan and Iceland have reported a 200% growth of users in 2020.
When asked why they are using a VPN for the first time, most say they are concerned about security. Second comes privacy, driven by a desire to hide private browsing from the eyes of the state. It is closely followed by the unlocking of multimedia content and the downloading of torrent or P2P files.
In general, the demographic information of VPN users worldwide reveals a high percentage of use in people under 40 as well as in people with greater purchasing power.
It is very alarming to see that almost 30% of those consulted use free VPNs, unaware of the dangers of this type of service. Of the remainder, more pay for their own VPN than those who receive it from their employers.
What is clear is that the popularity of VPN services will continue to grow by leaps and bounds, as computer-related crime increases and people understand the risks of surfing public networks. More and more people are being encouraged to choose the best VPNs to protect their privacy online.
What limitations does a VPN have?
While VPNs are a good tool for increasing online security, they can sometimes be flawed. There is more than one way in which a VPN can fail.
The first of these is, of course, that it is a company that does not have user security as a priority, but rather the collection and marketing of user data. This is the case with many free VPNs.
Paid VPNs, however, may also be limited in their functions. One piece of information that should be observed before contracting any service is the country where the company is established.
In some parts of the world, current legislation requires companies to provide information they hold about their customers in the event of a legal dispute. The best known is called Five eyes and includes Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, USA and New Zealand.
Other countries with similar regulations are Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Therefore, it is generally better to use a VPN that is based outside Europe.
Also, VPNs may not work the way they claim to. Some platforms such as Netflix have advanced security systems to block any encrypted connection. The best VPNs on the market can bypass this filter, but many others do not.
Finally, the use of VPN is prohibited in some countries of the world. This means that using them within their borders can lead to legal problems. These countries are China, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Belarus, Turkey, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Do VPNs work for Netflix and other streaming services?
Of course they are! In fact, the ability to access regionally blocked content is one of the main reasons why VPN services are purchased worldwide.
If your main concern is being able to watch Netflix from your account by accessing series and movies from other countries, you should pay attention to some considerations. For starters, only the best VPNs allow you to do so.
Netflix and other streaming services constantly update their code to detect the use of private networks and block them. This has led to a constant push to create new detection and hiding technologies. Therefore, nothing ensures that you can view your content forever.
Secondly, it avoids at all costs free VPNs and those that impose a maximum of data transfer, whether daily, weekly or monthly. These plans quickly run out when consuming multimedia content.
Finally, you may not be able to access content from all countries, but only from the most popular ones such as the UK and the US. It will depend on the servers and the company you have chosen.
If you choose one of the best VPNs in our ranking, you will be able to see Netflix connected from any country. You will also have access to other streaming platforms such as HBO Go, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, Disney + and Showtime.
Can I use a VPN to download torrents?
Just as many choose to consume movies or series from streaming platforms, others prefer to download the files in the form of torrents or other formats shared via P2P.
This method, besides being free, allows access to large multimedia catalogues without restrictions. The only thing needed to download these types of files is software that uses the BitTorrent protocol and an Internet connection.
However, in some countries downloading torrents is prohibited, and in many others, most of their contents are registered under copyright laws. That’s why VPNs, which hide identity and location, have become so popular for breaking through the barriers of torrent prohibition.
In some cases these downloads can generate large losses in the transfer rate of a device. That’s why we recommend using a VPN like Surfshark that has dedicated servers specifically for this activity.
While we cannot agree to the downloading of copyrighted content, all the VPNs in our ranking allow torrents to be downloaded from servers in any country.
Remember that using a VPN does not enable you to carry out illegal activities such as downloading and sharing copyrighted content or visiting websites that are prohibited in your region.
Can I install a VPN on routers, Smart TVs and game consoles?
The best VPNs can be installed on any device that connects to the Internet. This includes, of course, Smart TVs, routers and game consoles such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Playstation.
However, not all VPNs have these features. If you are interested in securing the connection of these devices, we recommend that you check out our reviews to learn more about them.
The possible connections and the number of simultaneous devices supported by a VPN are factors that we consider to make a positive judgment about VPN services.
Especially because these platforms are just as susceptible to cyber attacks as a web browser or an operating system, as we usually enter our personal data and make purchases with credit cards.
We find the possibility of installing a VPN on a router particularly practical. By encompassing all the bandwidth that we receive in a home through our Internet service provider, a protected router ensures that all your connections are protected.
Therefore, if a VPN does not allow installation on Smart TV or game consoles even though it does on routers, the problem no longer exists, because that connection will be secured by default.
In addition, this system will allow you to increase the number of devices supported by a VPN, even going beyond the limit imposed by each company. On the websites of the best VPNs, you will find the recommended router models that best suit their characteristics.
Operating systems and browsers: Windows, Chrome, Linux
The most common way to use a VPN on computers is to download the program from the website and install it by following the steps provided in their installation guides.
In general, these guides are helpful and explained in great detail in many languages so that users do not encounter any problems when installing and operating their VPN.
The computer operating systems that we always find in the best VPNs are Windows (versions 7, 8, 8.1 and 10), macOS (Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, Yosemite) and different versions of Linux (distributions of Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Raspbian, Arch and RedHat).
But VPNs can also be installed in web browsers, not as applications, since you can’t install an app inside another one, but as add-ons or extensions to them.
The browsers that support all VPNs by default are Chrome and Firefox, while the installers for Opera, Edge and Safari are less common. In any review of our site you will find the installation options for each VPN.
We also recommend paying attention to the speed losses involved in each case, as some VPNs are intended for use on a certain operating system or web browser.
Can I use a VPN on my mobile phone? Android and Apple
Of course you can. Mobile devices are even more exposed than our computers, as we constantly use them to connect to public Wi-Fi networks in cafes, restaurants, our places of study and work.
For this reason, it is natural that all the best VPNs provide mobile installers, both for Mac operating systems and many versions of Android.
In general, VPNs are adapted for iOS 10 versions and above, although this is not a problem as in computers, as mobile operating systems are automatically updated beyond the phone model.
For Android something similar happens. Almost all VPNs are configured to be version 10 compliant, although Lollipop, Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo and Pie versions are also supported by installing extension packages.
The most widely accepted operating systems for VPNs are iOS (version 10 onwards) and Android (Pie, Oreo, Nougat, Marshmallow, Lollipop and Android 10 onwards. Earlier versions of Android are sometimes supported with the installation of extension packages).