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The 10 Best VPN for PC and Laptop (2023 Update)

By Tibor Moes / November 2022

Why do you need a VPN? The internet improves our lives at the expense of our privacy. Luckily, you can restore your digital anonymity with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

  • Prevent identity theft. A VPN prevents hackers from stealing your credit card and passwords on public Wi-Fi.
  • Unblock foreign movies. A foreign VPN server can unblock hidden movies on your favorite streaming service.
  • Prevent advertisers from tracking you online. A VPN will hide your browsing history from Facebook and Google.

When you buy the best VPN for PC and laptop, you’ll safeguard your digital privacy and security.

CyberGhost VPN - The best VPN

CyberGhost VPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

CyberGhost is the best affordable VPN of 2023. It’s ultra-fast, private, and secure. And it temporarily offers deep discounts.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 45-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 91 countries
✓ Protect: 7 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN - The most advanced VPN

NordVPN

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  • Security and Privacy 100% 100%
  • Speed 100% 100%

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN of 2023. It has the best privacy technology (RAM-Servers and Double VPN) and a beautiful design.

✓ Stream: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and more
✓ Torrent: Optimized P2P servers
✓ Return: 30-day money-back guarantee
✓ Privacy: Maximum (no logs)
✓ Servers: 59 countries
✓ Protect: 6 devices

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Ranking of the best VPN services of 2023

We have tested cybersecurity software since 2014. Below, we have selected the top 4 from 30 paid and free VPN services (Virtual Private Networks).

Click the links or scroll down for more.

CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost VPN Review

Ranked #1 out of 30 VPNs

CyberGhost VPN Review

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CyberGhost VPN Review

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test. It also has the lowest price and the biggest server network. It's one of the best VPN services you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix US, Disney, Amazon, HBO Max, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on P2P servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 9,000 Servers in 91 countries
  • Connections: 7
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.64
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 45 days

Streaming

CyberGhost has dedicated streaming servers for Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and more.

Torrenting

CyberGhost has optimized P2P servers. It is an excellent VPN for torrenting, thanks to its kill switch, IP- and DNS-leak protection, and no logs policy.

Privacy

CyberGhost has a strict no-logs policy: It does not monitor or record what you do online, and it does not store your IP address. Therefore, you are completely anonymous when using CyberGhost.

Ownership

CyberGhost is owned and operated by CyberGhost S.A. from Romania. Its parent company is Kape Technologies from the UK, which also owns ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and ZenMate.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN services:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

CyberGhost applies the most important security and privacy features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling (on Windows and Android)
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP

But it lacks RAM-only servers and Double VPN, which NordVPN does offer.

Censorship

CyberGhost does not use obfuscation technology, which hides your VPN usage. Therefore, it is not the right VPN for high-censorship countries like China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, or the UAE.

Servers

CyberGhost has a huge number of servers: 9,000 in 91 countries.

60 Countries have physical servers within their borders, while the other 31 are virtual servers. Although virtual servers are not located within the indicated country, they will give you a local IP address from that country.

It also offers specialized servers:

  • Servers optimized for P2P
  • Servers optimized for streaming
  • Servers with static IP addresses
  • Servers with dedicated IP addresses
  • Fully owned NoSpy servers

Devices

You can install CyberGhost on 7 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and a range of routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Prices

CyberGhost has the lowest 1-year price in the industry.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is CyberGhost VPN the best VPN software of 2023?

CyberGhost is the fastest VPN in our test and has the most affordable 1-year contract. On top of that, it is secure, private, and has one of the largest server networks. It's excellent.

You can try CyberGhost risk-free, thanks to its 45-day return policy.

NordVPN

NordVPN Review

Ranked #2 out of 30 VPNs

NordVPN Review

NordVPN Review

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service you can buy. It uses the latest privacy technology, like RAM servers and double VPN, and works in China. It's one of the best VPN providers you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on 80% of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 5,600 Servers in 59 countries
  • Connections: 6
  • 1-Year Price: € 52.68
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

NordVPN unblocks Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Torrenting

NordVPN allows torrenting on most of its servers. On top of that, it has optimized P2P servers for extra high download speeds.

Thanks to its no-logs policy, kill switch, DNS- and IP-leak blocking, it is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

NordVPN has a strict no-log policy. So it does not record your IP address or online activities. It was the first VPN company to subject its privacy policy to an independent audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Ownership

NordVPN is owned and operated by NordVPN S.A. from Panama. Its parent company, Nord Security, merged with the parent company of SurfShark to form Cyberspace BV in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN providers:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It includes both the mainstream security features and the highly advanced ones:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Meshnet (on Windows and Linux)

NordVPN is also available in a bundle, including NordLocker (encrypted cloud storage) and NordPass (password manager and data breach scanner).

Censorship

NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that work in highly censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. This is thanks to its obfuscation technology that hides your VPN traffic.

Servers

NordVPN has an extensive VPN server network, with 5,600 servers in 59 countries. They are all physical servers, meaning every server is located within the country's borders.

It also offers specialty servers:

  • P2P servers
  • Streaming servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers
  • Onion over VPN servers
  • Obfuscated servers

Devices

You can install NordVPN on 6 devices at the same time. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Considering that NordVPN is the most advanced VPN, it is a bargain.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is NordVPN the best VPN service of 2023?

NordVPN is the most advanced VPN software you can buy, thanks to its RAM servers, double VPN, Onion over VPN, and obfuscated servers.

You can try NordVPN risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

SurfShark VPN

Surfshark VPN Review

Ranked #3 out of 30 VPNs

SurfShark VPN Review

Surfshark VPN Review

Surfshark offers the best value for money. It is fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. It's one of the best VPN programs you can buy.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 3,200 Servers in 95 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: € 47.88
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

Surfshark can stream Netflix in 10 countries, including the United States. It also works with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

Torrenting

Surfshark allows P2P file-sharing on all of its servers and offers optimized P2P servers for higher download speeds. Due to its kill-switch, no-logs policy, and leak-blocking, Surfshark is a safe choice for torrenting.

Privacy

Surfshark has a clear no-logs policy. It does not track what you do online and does not store your IP address. In 2021, Surfshark underwent an independent server audit by Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm.

Ownership

Surfshark BV from the Netherlands owns Surfshark. In 2022, its parent company merged with Nord Security, creating the holding company Cyberspace BV, also located in the Netherlands.

Speed

We test all VPN services on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the best VPN programs:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

After NordVPN, Surfshark is the most advanced VPN in our comparison. It covers all mainstream and advanced features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers
  • Rotating IP
  • Override GPS Location on Android

Next to its VPN service, Surfshark also offers antivirus software, personal data breach alert, and a private search engine. These features are sold separately or together with the VPN in SurfShark One.

Censorship

Thanks to its Camouflage and NoBorders Mode, Surfshark works well in censored countries like Russia, the UAE, Turkey, and Iran. However, it does not consistently work in China.

Servers

Surfshark has an extensive network, with 3,200 servers in 95 countries. However, some of these servers are virtual. That means that although you get a local IP address from the country of your choice, the physical server is located in a different country.

Surfshark also offers specialized servers, including:

  • P2P servers
  • Static IP address servers
  • Double VPN servers (Multihop servers)

Devices

Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. It also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Prices

Surfshark's price is excellent. Especially considering that you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is Surfshark the best VPN service of 2023?

Surfshark offers the best value for money in the VPN industry. It is advanced, affordable, and allows you to protect an unlimited number of devices. It is one of the best VPN deals out there.

You can try Surfshark risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

IPVanish VPN

IPVanish Review

Ranked #4 out of 30 VPNs

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish: Temporarily get 61% OFF  🔥

IPVanish VPN Review

IPVanish is an excellent VPN. It's fast, secure, and affordable. And it allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices. However, it's not as advanced as the others in this list and has a smaller server network.

Specifications

  • Streaming: Works with Netflix USA, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu
  • Torrenting: Allowed on all of its servers
  • Logging: No Logs
  • Servers & Countries: 2,000 Servers in 50 countries
  • Connections: Unlimited
  • 1-Year Price: $ 47.89
  • Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Streaming

IPVanish is not the best VPN service for streaming. Although it works with Netflix in the United States, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, it has problems with streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

Torrenting

IPVanish allows torrenting on all its servers. And thanks to its no-log policy, kill switch, and no DNS leaks, it is a safe option to do so. The kill switch is necessary because it will block the internet traffic if the VPN connection drops.

Privacy

IPVanish has a clear no-logs policy. However, in 2018, it handed user data to the US government. Data it wasn't supposed to have, according to its log policy. Since then, it has changed owners twice, but the reputation remains.

Speed

We test every VPN service on a 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) internet connection, with the VPN connection set to the WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest. These are the test results of the fastest VPN connections:

VPN WireGuard
CyberGhost 825-850 Mbps
NordVPN 725-800 Mbps
Surfshark 700-800 Mbps
IPVanish 700-725 Mbps

Security

IPVanish is the only VPN in our comparison that owns all of its servers and doesn't rely on third-party server parks, which is excellent. That said, it is not the most advanced VPN in our test.

It includes the following mainstream features:

  • AES-256 encryption
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN (TCP and UDP)
  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling

But it misses many of the advanced features:

  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker
  • Dedicated IP
  • RAM-only servers
  • Double VPN
  • Onion over VPN
  • Obfuscated servers

Censorship

IPVanish does not work in censored countries like China, the UAE, Iran, Turkey, or Russia.

Servers

IPVanish has 2,000 VPN servers in 50 countries. All servers are physically located within the country and entirely owned by IPVanish. Because it doesn't rely on third-party server providers, it has complete control over the hardware and software, which theoretically should increase its security.

Devices

IPVanish allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. It works with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and some routers. But it has no browser extensions.

Prices

IPVanish has a very attractive price, especially as you can install it on an unlimited number of devices.

VPN 1-Year Price
CyberGhost € 47.64
Surfshark € 47.88
IPVanish $ 47.89
NordVPN € 52.68
ExpressVPN € 99.84

Is IPVanish the best VPN provider of 2023?

IPVanish is fast, secure, and affordable. It owns its entire server network and allows you to install the software on unlimited devices. But it's not the most advanced VPN in our test and not the best option for streaming.

You can try IPVanish risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

Comparison table of the best VPN services 

CyberGhost
NordVPN
Surfshark
IPVanish
Icon
CyberGhost VPN Icon
NordVPN Icon
Surfshark VPN Icon
IPVanish VPN Icon
Ranking
#1 / 30
#2 / 30
#3 / 30
#4 / 30
Logging Policy
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
No Logs
Operating Company
CyberGhost S.A. (Romania)
NordVPN S.A. (Panama)
Surfshark BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
Holding Company
Kape Technologies PLC (UK)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Cyberspace BV (Netherlands)
Ziff Davis, Inc (USA)
VPN Protocols
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, NordLynx (WireGuard)
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, WireGuard
Encryption
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
AES-256
US Netflix




Torrenting




VPN Kill Switch




Split Tunneling




Ad & Tracker Blocker



No
Smart DNS



No
First-Party DNS


No

Dedicated IP


No
No
Double VPN
No


No
RAM Servers
No


No
Works in China
No


No
Countries
91
59
95
50
Servers
9,000+
5,600+
3,200+
2,000+
Speed on WireGuard or proprietary protocol
825-850 Mbps
725-800 Mbps
700-800 Mbps
700-725 Mbps
Comptatible Devices
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router
Number of Connections
7
6
Unlimited
Unlimited
1-Month Price
€ 12.65
€ 10.49
€ 12.95
$ 10.99
1-Year Price
€ 47.64
€ 52.68
€ 47.88
$ 47.89
2-Year Price
€ 74.88
€ 69.36
€ 59.76
-
3-Year Price
€ 82.29
-
-
-
Customer Support
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
24/7 Live Chat & Email
Free Trial
1 Day
7 Days
7 Days
No
Money Back Guarantee
45 Days
30 Days
30 Days
30 Days

How we test the best VPN for PC and Laptop

We’ve examined 30 VPN providers offering free and paid services across multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, macOS, Windows 10, and Windows 11. Here are the 16 tests we’ve used to determine the quality of their services.

> Test 1: Logging policy

What is a logging policy?

A reliable VPN stops others from viewing your personal data. But does it prevent the VPN provider from accessing your information?

This is something we analyze when looking at logging policies. Your data travels through the provider’s VPN servers, and the company can track your activity, similarly to your ISP.

For example, a VPN service can monitor which web pages their customers visit and which files they download to their local storage. Additionally, it may access your IP address and uncover your approximate location.

Unfortunately, most free services like Hola VPN monitor users’ interactions with online content. Their services are free, but they collect your data and sell it to advertisers and marketing companies.

Approximately one-third of VPN providers collect users’ original IP address, while around 5% monitor browsing activity. A transparent logging policy should inform users about the data the provider collects.

What do we test for?

We examine the logging policies of VPN providers to determine what kind of data they track. Ideally, the provider shouldn’t gather any information about your browsing activity or IP address.

  • Online browsing: We assess if the VPN service provider keeps track of your online activities. Even if the data is immediately destroyed after your VPN session ends, it should never record or keep track of this.
  • IP Address: We examine if the VPN service provider logs your originating IP address, which reveals your approximate location and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) you’re currently connected to. Monitoring and storing this information is unacceptable.

Our test analyzes whether the provider saves your IP, which reveals which IPS you use and your location. Additionally, we check whether the VPN monitors which sites you visit. Our thorough approach determines whether the provider stores and deletes browning data while you’re online.

A good VPN should only collect data necessary for their service, like bandwidth usage and server load data.

> Test 2: Ownership

What do we mean by ownership?

Corporate holding structures are common in business.

Your VPN provider may belong to a larger company, operated by an even larger corporation, and so on. Consequently, several corporations may access your personal information.

But there are more potential problems.

You may assume your provider operates from the country or state where you reside. However, the company may be registered in a different country with unique data retention laws. These regulations differ from country to country, further complicating data usage.

Contrary to popular belief, we’ve concluded that there aren’t many different VPN services. Several companies own most VPN providers on the market.

  • Netherlands-based CyberSpace owns some major VPN players, including Atlas VPN, Surfshark, and Nord VPN.
  • US-based Aura (or Pango) offers several popular VPN services, including Hotspot Shield, Touch VPN, JustVPN, Kaspersky, and Panda.
  • Kape Technologies is based in the United Kingdom and owns CyberGhost VPN, ZenMate, and ExpressVPN.
  • Pakistani-based Gaditek owns Ivancy VPN, Unblock VPN, and PureVPN.
  • American-owned Ziff Davis operated multiple VPNs, including Perimeter 81, StrongVPN, and IPVanish.

What do we test for?

We base our test on several factors:

  • Which corporation owns the VPN service
  • In which country is this company registered
  • The corporation’s track record
  • Which data retention laws the company follows

Our findings uncovered several controversies.

For instance, until 2018, Kape Technologies operated under the Crossrider name. They created a platform for people to find tools to develop browser extensions. Many malware developers relied on this platform, tainting Crossrider’s reputation. As a result, the company rebranded and entered the VPN sphere under a new name.

> Test 3: Independent audit

What is an independent audit?

VPN providers occasionally hire independent auditors who test specific aspects of their infrastructure or operation. A VPN’s marketing campaign often includes buzzwords like “Zero-Log Policy” or “Military Grade Encryption.”

An independent audit tests these claims and determines whether they’re valid.

Some notable examples of an independent audit include the following:

  • In 2019, ExpressVPN hired PrehousewaterCooper (PwC) to analyze its TrustedServer technology. The technology is supposed to wipe all data whenever the server reboots.
  • In 2020, PwC also investigated NordVPN’s server infrastructure, technical logs, and configuration. Moreover, PwC interviewed the company’s employees.
  • In 2021, Cure53 searched for flaws in Surfshark’s server infrastructure.

What do we test for?

While we don’t carry out independent audits, we examine which providers underwent audits and what the investigation revealed.

> Test 4: Available VPN protocols

What is a VPN protocol?

A VPN protocol establishes communication principles between a VPN app and a VPN server. The protocol sets up how the app and server recognize and interact with each other, how encryption functions, and more.

Most providers use one of the following protocols:

  • WireGuard: Even more customizable than the popular OpenVPN, the open-source WireGuard uses less code and boasts faster download speeds.
  • PPTP: A now outdated protocol, PPTP suffers from significant security flaws.
  • IKEv2: Cisco and Microsoft created this protocol, implementing advanced security measures. However, it’s not as fast as some other options.
  • OpenVPN: This open-source protocol is secure, fast, and highly customizable. Nearly all VPN services use it, making it the most popular protocol.
  • L2TP/IPSec: The VPN industry regards L2TP/IPSec as one of the slowest and oldest protocol options.

Several VPN providers have developed their in-house protocols:

  • NordLynx (WireGuard-based) by NordVPN
  • Catapult hydra by Hotspot Shield
  • Lightpathway protocol by ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the only provider that allows others to check its protocol. But most providers rely on OpenVPN and use WireGuard or IKEv2 as alternative options.

What do we test for?

We examine which protocols the providers use and whether they’re compatible with all operating systems. Some providers may use specific protocols with selected, but not all, operating systems.

> Test 5: Supported encryption standard

What is an encryption standard?

Encryption prevents hackers from stealing your data.

Encryption standards establish encryption rules.

In 1977, the Data Encryption Standard (DES) came into effect, allowing companies to encrypt and decrypt data using the same encryption key.

In 2002, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) replaced DES. The U.S. government based AES on the Rijndael block cipher. It has a key size of 128, 192, or 256 bits and allots 128 bits to block size.

Today, most VPNs work with AES-128 or AES-256 using either the GCM or CBC version. We lean towards the GCM version because it provides higher security and boasts larger throughput since it writes in parallel.

What do we test for?

In the best-case scenario, a VPN’s default encryption service is either AES-256 or AES-128 (GCM). Plus, we examine which alternatives the service provides.

> Test 6: Basic security features

What are basic security features?

Each service we test should have the following security features:

  • Split tunneling: This feature allows some programs to bypass VPN tunnels to make a direct internet connection.
  • Kill switch: If the provider’s tunnel encryption malfunctions, the kill switch blocks the connection.
  • AES-256 encryption: This is the most secure encryption standard and can effectively fend off brute-force methods.
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN: These two open-source VPN protocols maximize VPN security.

What do we test for?

We check whether the VPN providers have implemented these basic safety features into their infrastructure. Also, we check whether the split tunneling and kill switch features work as expected.

> Test 7: Advanced security features

What are advanced security features?

VPN services should use several advanced security features to bolster customers’ privacy:

  • Dedicated IP address: The provider should obscure your originating IP address and provide you with a unique address. As a result, you’ll be able to access otherwise restricted content. Furthermore, constantly switching your IP address can confuse your bank account and expose you to captchas and blacklists.
  • Ad, tracker, and malicious website blocker: This feature automatically tracks cookies, blocks ads, and monitors potentially dangerous URLs for malware and phishing attacks.
  • Obfuscated VPN servers: These servers hide the fact that you have a VPN. They’re beneficial in countries with severe censorship, like the UAE and China.
  • Double VPN: Also known as VPN server chaining, this feature carries your data through two VPN servers instead of one. Consequently, it bolsters privacy and IP protection and maximizes encryption.
  • RAM-only servers: These servers don’t use classic hard drives. Whenever the server restarts, it automatically wipes the data it saved on its Random Access Memory (RAM). Even if someone were to confiscate it, they wouldn’t be able to extract your information.
  • Override GPS location: With this feature, you can adjust your GPS location to match the VPN server’s location. This is called GPS spoofing, and it prevents apps like Facebook and Google Maps from tracking your location.

What do we test for?

We test whether the services have implemented the necessary advanced security features and whether they work correctly.

> Test 8: IP leak

What is an IP leak?

All our smart devices have a public and private IP addresses. They use their private IP address to interact with each other using the same network. But when we browse the internet, our devices connect to their public IP address.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns you a public IP address for all your devices. This is typically an IPv4 address. However, in recent years, IPv6 addresses have become more prevalent.

Here’s how your IP address can threaten your privacy:

  • It can reveal your approximate location, such as your neighborhood or zip code.
  • When paired with your browsing history, an IP address can uncover your identity and give hackers an insight into your browsing activity.

Fortunately, a VPN has sufficient protection to resolve the above issues. Its primary function is to encrypt your connection and hide your IP address behind the VPN server’s address. This is beneficial in two ways:

  • Although only your ISP knows you have a VPN, they can’t view which websites you visit.
  • The sites and apps you use detect the VPN server’s address, not yours. Thus, they can’t learn anything about your identity and location.

An IP leak occurs if ISPs and sites can view your originating IP address instead of that of the VPN.

What do we test for?

We use the services of a VPN provider and perform an IP address lookup. We detect and report an IP leak if our IP address shows up instead of the server’s address.

> Test 9: DNS leak

What is a DNS leak?

Whenever you try to access a website, you rely on a Domain Name System (DNS). A DNS transforms user-friendly domain names into the website’s actual IP address.

For example, when you enter SoftwareLab.org into your browser’s address bar, the DNS will automatically transfer you to 165.227.148.211.

Think of the DNS as the internet’s phonebook. The servers are the operators, effectively translating domain names into IP addresses. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) usually controls the DNS servers.

As you may have gathered, this puts you in a tricky situation. Your ISP has an overview of your browsing habits. You engage its DNS servers whenever you visit a site. For this reason, top-quality VPN providers have in-house DNS servers.

Ideally, your DNS quarry should travel through the VPN tunnel and get to the VPN’s DNS servers. But if it travels through the ISP’s DNS servers, it results in a DNS leak. This is often the case when you use a VPN that doesn’t operate its DNS servers. Alternatively, you may have tweaked your VPN settings and made a mistake. Either way, your security is at risk.

What do we test for?

We connect to the services of each VPN provider and perform a DNS server lookup. The procedure reveals which providers don’t own their VPN servers.

> Test 10: WebRTC leak

What is a WebRTC leak?

Modern web browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox use Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) to establish real-time communication tunnels with web pages. Thanks to WebRTC, browsers can handle live streaming audio and video feeds without relying on additional software.

The stable line of communication enables the site and browser to interact and exchange data, including your local and public IP address. This is the default mode of operation for WebRTC, and users have few options to resolve the issue. Although you can try to block WebRTC requests from your web browsers, this method isn’t always effective.

The simplest way to solve this problem is by using a VPN service. The best VPN providers only accept authorized WebRTC requests and hide your IP address using the VPN server’s address.

What do we test for?

After connecting to a VPN’s service, we run a test known as a WebRTC lookup. If the results return our originating IP address, we’re dealing with a WebRTC leak.

> Test 11: Download speed via OpenVPN

What is OpenVPN?

OpenVPN is one of the most popular open-source VPN protocols. Consequently, anyone with some coding experience can access and inspect its source code. Thanks to its open-source nature, the protocol has introduced countless improvements over the last two decades.

Today, industry experts consider it the most secure protocol. Many VPN providers use OpenVPN to offer safe and stable connection speeds over different operating systems.

There are two versions of the OpenVPN protocol:

  • OpenVPN UDP (User Datagram Protocol): This version ensures the fastest download speeds, making it the default option for most VPN services.
  • OpenVPN TCP (Transmission Control Protocol): Although it provides slower download speeds than its UDP counterpart, this version offers more protection for data transmission.

Until the release of WireGuard, OpenVPN remained the go-to VPN protocol. It’s still one of the most widely used options. However, many top VPN providers have started using WireGuard because of its impressive download speeds.

What do we test for?

We use the Windows app to measure the download speeds of the best VPN services using the OpenVPN protocol. We use a 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) internet connection in our speed tests for the most accurate results.

> Test 12: Supported speed via WireGuard

What is WireGuard?

Another popular open-source VPN protocol, WireGuard is faster and simpler than its major competitors like IPsec and OpenVPN. It also features a leaner infrastructure, which guarantees a streamlined implementation. While OpenVPN and IPsec use nearly half a million lines of code, WireGuard has only 4,000. Less code makes a protocol more user-friendly and simplifies debugging and security audits.

Although WireGuard was initially only compatible with the Linux kernel, it now works seamlessly on all major operating systems, including Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows.

As we tested multiple VPN providers and servers, our tests concluded that WireGuard was by far the fastest protocol. In fact, its download speeds are approximately 60% higher than those of OpenVPN.

What do we test for?

We measure the download speeds of each VPN service while using the Windows app with the WireGuard VPN protocol. We use a 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) internet connection to test the speed and see how well the VPN performs.

> Test 13: (Virtual) VPN servers and locations

What are (virtual) VPN servers?

VPN providers use VPN servers to host special VPN software. This software allows providers to develop encrypted VPN tunnels with their VPN clients. Some servers even have specialized hardware. For example, Surfshark and NordVPN use RAM-only servers with specialized equipment to host their services.

Nearly all VPN servers are physical. Thus, the VPN app indicates the country where they’re located. When you use a VPN service and connect to one of its servers, the physical server in a different country routes your traffic, providing you with a local IP address.

But not all countries and regions have the necessary infrastructure for local servers. Typically, only developed countries have the means to set up server farms for optimal functionality and accessibility. That’s not the case with smaller countries.

Andorra, a small country with mountainous terrain, can’t support physical VPN servers. But that hasn’t stopped some providers from offering servers in Andorra.

That’s because they use virtual VPN servers. Although they’re not located in that country, they’ll mask your originating address and provide you with a local IP address. While your address will point back to Andorra, the server may actually be located in Spain, France, or Belgium.

Most VPN services have a vast network of servers spanning more than 60 countries. If a portion of their servers is in several countries, virtual servers make up the rest of the network.

What do we test for?

Our team analyzes the server network of each VPN provider, checking their number and locations. Plus, we investigate whether customers can choose to connect to a server based on a city or country level. Another critical factor is whether the servers are physical or virtual.

> Test 14: Streaming compatibility

What is compatibility with a streaming service?

Most streaming services geo-restrict some of their content. That means you might be unable to access your favorite movies and TV shows. A lot of people rely on VPNs to connect to streaming services and bypass these restrictions.

For instance, the French version of Netflix has titles that are unavailable to users in Germany. German residents can use VPN services to unlock French Netflix and view restricted shows and movies.

The basic premise is that with a VPN, you can connect to Netflix using a French-based server. You’ll receive a local IP address, which allows you to stream titles on the French version of Netflix without difficulty.

But it’s not always that simple. Many apps and platforms, including Netflix, have started using software to identify users who access their service with a VPN. Once they identify users with VPN-based connections, they’ll block their accounts and prevent them from accessing their services.

Hence, we run meticulous tests to determine which providers perform regular updates to keep up with this specialized VPN detection software. The best VPN services are aware of the methods streaming services and platforms use to block VPN users. They’re continuously working on implementing sophisticated updates to ensure their customers can always access the platform they want.

What do we test for?

Our tests involve connecting to a VPN and checking whether its US-based server can unlock restricted content on the following apps:

  • HBO Max
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Hulu
  • Disney Plus
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video

Since Netflix is one of the most popular streaming platforms, our tests involve a few extra steps. We investigate whether the VPN can bypass the detection software and unblock titles on the platform’s German, Brazilian, Mexican, Australian, UK, and Japanese versions.

> Test 15: Torrenting compatibility

What is compatibility with a torrent network?

Torrenting is a type of peer-to-peer (P2P) downloading reminiscent of P2P services like LimeWire and Napster. People can create files that other users can download.

The torrent doesn’t require its own specialized servers because users download directly from one another.

One of the most well-known torrenting clients today is BitTorrent. Several torrents, including Popcorn Time, have implemented streaming options.

While sharing files through a torrent isn’t necessarily illegal, copyright can be an issue. Video games, movies, and TV shows are copyrighted materials, which is why some people equate torrenting with piracy.

What do we test for?

We connect to a VPN service and try to download files from torrenting clients. The test uncovers whether some of the provider’s servers support torrenting.

> Test 16: Annual price and price per device

What is the annual price and price per device?

Although some VPN providers offer free services, the most reliable solutions typically charge customers a monthly subscription fee. The monthly fees can be pretty steep. But an annual or biannual subscription usually lowers the price of the monthly expenses.

We examine how much a VPN service charges for an annual contract to find the most cost-effective option. Then, we use this information to calculate how much customers pay per device.

Some providers like Surfshark and IPVanish allow users to connect to their services on unlimited devices. They’re the best option for users who want to share files and use several smart devices.

On the other hand, providers like ExpressVPN have a higher subscription fee than their competitors. These prices also affect our testing criteria.

What do we test for?

We look at each provider and examine the cost of a one-year contract. Our team then calculates the per-connection price as well as the per-device fees.

What VPNs for PC and laptop have we tested?

We have tested 30 paid and free VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Proton VPN is the best free VPN service. But if you have the money, we recommend getting a paid VPN service.

In the best case, the free version allows you to protect only one device and doesn’t offer you unlimited bandwidth / unlimited data. And in the worst case, the free VPN providers show you ads or secretly sell your browsing history to advertisers and your internet service provider.

And should you be strapped for cash, don’t opt for an expensive VPN like ExpressVPN. Instead, get a cheap VPN, like Surfshark, that allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices and share the cost with a friend.

  • Astrill VPN
  • Atlas VPN
  • Avast SecureLine VPN
  • Betternet VPN
  • Bitdefender VPN
  • CactusVPN
  • CyberGhost VPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • HideME VPN
  • HMA VPN (HideMyAss VPN)
  • Hola VPN
  • Hotspot Shield VPN
  • IPVanish VPN
  • Ivacy VPN
  • IVPN
  • Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection
  • McAfee Safe Connect VPN
  • Mozilla VPN
  • MullVad VPN
  • NordVPN
  • Norton Secure VPN
  • Private Internet Access VPN
  • PrivateVPN
  • Proton VPN
  • PureVPN
  • StrongVPN
  • Surfshark VPN
  • Tunnelbear VPN
  • VyprVPN
  • Windscribe VPN

The best are: CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) protects your online privacy. It creates an encrypted VPN tunnel between your device and a VPN server. This tunnel hides your IP address, restores your anonymity online and makes you safe on public Wi-Fi networks.

Why do you need a VPN?

You need a VPN to restore your online privacy and security. Without a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and advertisers can track everything you read, watch and download online. On top of that, if you don’t use a VPN, hackers will be able to steal your data on public Wi-Fi networks, which can lead to identity theft.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN creates an encrypted connection, called a VPN tunnel, between your devices and a VPN server. This hides your IP address and what you do online. As a result, your ISP won’t be able to see what websites you visit, and advertisers won’t be able to know what your IP address is.

What is the best VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the best VPN services of 2022. NordVPN is the most advanced VPN service. CyberGhost has the highest download speeds and the lowest one-year price. And Surfshark allows you to install the software on unlimited devices.

What is the fastest VPN?

CyberGhost, NordVPN, and Surfshark are the fastest VPN services of 2022. Although CyberGhost is slightly faster than the other two, the difference is not noticeable for most users.

About the author

Tibor Moes

Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

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