If you’ve been VPN shopping for a while, you probably know about the basic encryption and spoofing features–but don’t ignore advanced functions like an automatic kill switch. Today, we’ll review the best VPNs that include kill switches, plus show you how a kill switch works and why it’s useful.
One extremely useful but often overlooked feature of a VPN is a kill switch. This is a function which ensures that you will never accidentally send data over an unsecured internet connection. If you are concerned about security, and especially if you are downloading illegally (which we do NOT condone), then a kill switch is a key feature that you should be looking for when you choose a VPN provider.
Below we’ll explain to you more in depth about what a kill switch is. If you decide that it’s a feature which is important for you, after that we’ll have recommendations for the best VPNs with a kill switch so you can choose one which meets your needs.
Intro to kill switches – What you need to know
You might see a kill switch referred to as an internet kill switch, a VPN kill switch, or a network lock. These are all different terms for the same thing, which is a feature of your VPN software. The idea is that the switch can be enabled or disabled as you require. When the switch is activated, no data will be sent over your internet connection unless the VPN is enabled. When the switch is turned off, your internet connection can be used normally whether the VPN is connected or not.
Why would you want to use a kill switch? Well, it’s an important feature if you’re extremely concerned about your privacy and you want to make sure that no data is ever send unencrypted over your connection. This is particularly vital if you’re going to be downloading files using torrents or other peer to peer systems, as even accidentally downloading a small portion of a file over an unsecured connection can still get you in legal trouble.
RELATED READING: Best legal torrent sites
If you’re wondering how you could accidentally use an unsecured connection, it can be easier than you think to make that mistake. When you’re connected to a VPN server, after several hours the server might go down and you would have to connect to a new server. In the few seconds between disconnecting from the old server and connecting to the new one, you could send data over the internet without even realising it. Or when you turn your computer on, you could forget to start up your VPN software before opening your web browser, and then your currently open tabs would be downloaded over the unsecured network.
With a kill switch enabled, you can be sure: you’ll never inadvertently send data over an unsecured connection. And here’s another useful tip – companies which offer a kill switch in their VPN software are the companies which are most concerned with privacy. So if you want to keep your internet use private and you see that your VPN has a kill switch option, that’s a good sign.
Top recommended VPNs with a kill switch
It can be a lot of work to compare all the different VPNs on the market, which is why we’ve gone to the trouble for you. Our extensive testing and research has returned the following VPNs as having the best performance, privacy, and of course–automatic kill switches:
In ExpressVPN, the kill switch feature is called a network lock. It is available using the desktop software for modern version of Windows or Mac: that is, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), macOS 10.12 (Sierra), and macOS 10.13 (High Sierra).
Network lock is enabled by default. Here’s how to change it: in the ExpressVPN software, click on the three grey lines in the top left to open the menu. Go to Options (or Preferences on a Mac) and then to General. You’ll see that the second section down says Network Lock. Here there’s a checkbox labelled Enable Network Lock (internet kill switch) and you can check or uncheck as you require. Then press OK at the bottom to save your settings.
ExpressVPN has a stellar reputation among power users for providing the fastest connections with maximum flexibility. In addition to the kill switch, it is strong in terms of security. It uses 256-bit encryption which will keep all of your data private and secure. The company has a strict no-logging policy so you can be sure that your data will never be handed over to another company or organisation.
The service shows its flexibility thanks to the huge server network which you’ll get access to, with over 3,000 server in 160 locations in 94 different countries. This means that you’ll have plenty of options for servers to connect to all around the world, including in countries with strict internet restrictions like China.
The software can be installed on Windows and Mac OS, plus Linux, Android, iOS, and Blackberry. There are also browser extensions available for the Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers which are extremely easy to use. You can even install the software onto your router to protect all the devices on your network automatically.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
- Fastest servers we have tested
- Torrenting/P2P allowed
- Keeps no logs of personal data
- Live Chat Support.
- Priced slightly higher.
NordVPN helpfully provides a kill switch option in both its desktop software and its mobile apps. The desktop version, for Windows and Mac, can shut down applications which you specify if your VPN connection goes down. The mobile version for Android and iOS disables internet access across the system if the VPN connection goes down, meaning that apps won’t be shut down but they won’t be able to communicate across the unsecured internet.
To enable the kill switch on the desktop software, open it up and click on Settings at the top, and then to General on the left. This will show you a number of options, including the Kill Switch slider. You can toggle the slider to turn the kill switch on and off. And below the slider you can add applications which should be terminated in the case of VPN disconnection – such as your web browser and your torrent client.
To enable the kill switch in the mobile app, open the app and click on the Account icon in the top left. You’ll see a Kill Switch option which you can toggle on and off.
NordVPN is a highly security-minded VPN provider, and in addition to the kill switch they have extra strong double encryption which keeps your data as safe as possible by encrypting your metadata as well as the data itself.
The software can be installed on many operating systems, like Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, 8, and 10 as well as Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, and Windows Phone. So it should be no problem to protect all of your devices with this one subscription.
The large server network offers access to an amazing 5,500+ servers in 58 countries so it’s easy to get around region locks. The company also has a no logging policy to maintain your privacy, so your details will never be passed onto anyone else.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
- Mind-boggling number of servers
- DNS leak protection, kill switch
- Strict zero logs policy on both traffic and metadata
- 24/7 Chat Support.
- Not much
- Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
IPVanish has a kill switch feature in their desktop software for Windows and Mac. To find the switch, just open up your IPVanish software, then go to Settings on the left hand menu. Now select CONNECTION from the menu at the top. You’ll see a bunch of options under the VPN section, including a check box for Kill Switch. Just check this box and the kill switch will be enabled.
If you’re looking for a VPN which has lightning fast connections that you’ll never have to wait around for, then you might like IPVanish. In addition to blazing fast speeds and a kill switch, the security is strong with its 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe and a no logging policy to maintain your privacy.
The IPVanish software can be installed on many platforms, including Windows 7, 8, and 10, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Windows Phone, and Chromebook. With this software you’ll get access to a network of 850 servers in more than 60 countries, so the service is ideal for getting around region locks to watch content from other places as well as keeping you safe.
Read our full IPVanish review.
PureVPN offers an easy-to-use kill switch in their Windows and Mac software. To enable it, open the PureVPN software and then go to the settings icon (it looks like a gear in the top right of the screen). Then go to Advanced Options, and see the section titled Internet Kill Switch. Here you have three checkbox options: Activate Internet Kill Switch, Auto-redial if VPN connection drops, and Stop internet even if I disconnect the VPN manually. Check the first box to enable the kill switch.
PureVPN stands out for having both a range of advanced user features like a kill switch, but also being user friendly. When you purchase a subscription to PureVPN, you’ll get access to a whole bundle of security software in addition to the VPN. The security suite includes bonus tools like ad blocking software, malware protection, anti-virus software, and web filtering, all of which can be used to keep your device as safe as possible.
In terms of security, PureVPN uses strong AES 256-bit encryption and can be installed on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. The network gives you access to 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries.
Read our full PureVPN review.
VyprVPN not only has a kill switch for Mac and Windows, but also has detailed settings to let you customise it to your liking. You can see the settings for the kill switch by going to the Settings section of your software, then clicking to the Connection tab. At the top of this page you’ll see a section labelled Kill Switch. Here you’ll find a check box for Stop all internet traffic when VyprVPN is disconnected, which you should check to enable.
Beneath the checkbox are two options: App and System. App means that the kill switch will operate when VyprVPN is running, preventing internet use until you connect to a VPN server. System means that the kill switch will operate all the time, even when the VyprVPN software is not running. To access the internet, you’ll have to open up the software and connect to a VPN server first. You must choose one of these two options to activate the kill switch.
There’s also a third option below, which allows you to block LAN traffic as well as internet traffic. To enable this, check the box next to where it says Stop LAN traffic when Kill Switch is active.
Users who want a kill switch for their VPN are likely to be highly concerned about privacy, and in that case they can be recommended to look into VyprVPN. This company values the privacy of its users highly, and offers a unique feature in the form of their exceptional Chameleon protocol. This double encrypts all of your data, protecting your metadata though encryption as well as the data itself.
The Chameleon protocol gives two advantages: firstly, it adds an extra layer of security, making it even harder for anyone to track or observe your internet activity. Secondly, it allows you to get around VPN blocking such as that used by the Chinese government. If you’re planning to travel to China or if you’re trying to avoid government spying, this is the product for you.
The software can be installed on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and your router, and it will give you access to more than 700 servers in 70 different countries. Naturally, for a security-minded company, there’s a no logging policy too.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
A kill switch is a handy feature to have built into your VPN software, especially if you are highly concerned about privacy. Not all VPNs have this capability, but all of the ones that we’ve mentioned today do, along with other excellent features. We can confidently recommend each of these VPN providers for users of all kinds.
Do you use a kill switch for your VPN? Is it a feature which matters to you? Then let us know about it in the comments below!
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.