You don’t need to be an IT genius to fix slow speeds caused by your VPN–you just need to read this article. Today, we’ll walk you through troubleshooting your configuration, then show you how to speed up VPN connections no matter which service or device you use, step by step.
Virtual private networks are known to be reliable, easy to use, and great for protecting your online activity. They also have a reputation for being slower than an unencrypted internet connection, and for some web users, that’s simply unacceptable. Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with a slow VPN if you have the right tools at your disposal. You can speed up your VPN connection with some easy tweaks, just follow our tips below and you’ll get back to lightning-fast browsing in no time.
Selecting the Best and Fastest VPN
In the quest for a private and secure online experience, more and more people are turning towards VPNs as a one-stop solution. VPNs provide anonymity, they encrypt data to make it unreadable to third parties, and they scramble your location to make it difficult, if not impossible, to track activity back to your device. These features are necessary for private web browsing, but they can come at a price.
RELATED READING: Most Secure Browsers to pick from.
Whether it’s slow Wi-Fi at work or crummy download speeds at home, nothing ruins your day like a bad internet connection. The security features offered by VPNs have a reputation for being anywhere between 10% and 40% slower than an unencrypted internet. Speed drops like that are enough to make you want to throw privacy out the window just so you can stream movies without buffering every thirty seconds.
The good news is not all VPNs are slow. By choosing the right service with the best servers, you can dodge most of these speed issues before they even arise. We compared the top VPN providers to look for the fastest ones on the market. Check out our recommendations below and you’ll enjoy private, anonymous connection to the internet without sacrificing speed.
ExpressVPN has a well-deserved reputation for being fast, friendly, and easy to use. The software is elegantly designed for one-click access to a high speed connection on every device, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. You still get to take advantage of 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-logging policy on all traffic data, and both kill switch and DNS leak protection, but you don’t have to suffer through slow video streaming speeds at the same time.
ExpressVPN’s servers cover over 140 locations with 3,000+ servers in 94 different countries. This directly translates to better speeds and lower latency scores around the globe, no matter where you live, work, or travel. Even better, many of ExpressVPN’s apps offer built-in speed tests so you can be sure you’re getting the fastest connection possible.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocking Netflix USA, iPlayer, Amazon Prime
- Fastest servers we have tested
- Torrenting/P2P allowed
- Strict no-logs policy for personal information
- Great support (24/7 chat).
- Max 3 connections simultaneously
- Slightly pricier than competition.
NordVPN has a lot of great features that help make it a top choice for fastest VPN around. The biggest feature is the company’s network of servers. The list changes constantly, but at the time of writing it sits at just under 5,800 servers in 60 countries. This massive number of connections means you’ll never have a hard time getting fast downloads or keeping lag to a minimum. Even if you travel to underserved parts of the world, NordVPN likely has a server there, ready and waiting.
To keep you safe online, NordVPN uses strong 256-bit AES encryption for all connections, offers kill switch and DNS leak protection, and deploys a thorough zero-logging that covers timestamps, traffic, DNS logs, and more. NordVPN even offers dedicated servers for added DDoS protection, onion over VPN routing, and double encryption, just in case you’re having a rough time.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Optimized servers for unblocking Netflix
- Mind-boggling number of servers
- Tor over VPN, double VPN
- Extra-secure Double VPN for data encryption
- Live chat support is available.
- Not much
- They can take 30 days to process refunds.
IPVanish offers a great balance of speed and security. The service is ideal for video streaming fanatics and anyone who enjoys Netflix, YouTube, BitTorrent movies, or Kodi. IPVanish keeps you safe with 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and an automatic kill switch on all devices, including tablets and smartphones. You’ll also stay safe with a zero-logging policy on all traffic, ensuring your activity can never fall in the wrong hands.
IPVanish operates a network of over 1,300 servers in 75+ different locations around the world, one of the largest in the industry. This is a great core feature that translates to fast connections and incredibly low latency no matter your location.
Read our full IPVanish review.
VyprVPN is one of those VPNs that fills a specific niche in the market. If you live in an area with heavy government level censorship, or if you need top notch privacy in your VPN, Vypr is the service for you. The company offers over 700 servers in 70 different countries, a strong network that’s both owned and operated internally to help keep prevent security leaks. You’ll also have access to 200,000 IP addresses, 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and a zero-logging policy that covers traffic and DNS requests.
The big selling point for VyprVPN is its very own Chameleon technology. This protocol wraps each packet’s metadata in an extra layer of encryption, defeating deep packet inspection and bypassing censorship blocks with ease. You can use Chameleon to stay safe and access the open internet around the world, including places like China, Russia, and Turkey. Chameleon will slow down your speeds quite a bit, but sometimes any connection is better than no connection.
Read our full VyprVPN review.
Diagnosing a Slow VPN Connection
Slow VPN connections can be the result of a dozen different problems. Some of these are simple and easy to work with, others are more difficult and can only be fixed indirectly. Before you can speed up your VPN, you need to figure out what’s making it so slow in the first place.
Symptoms of a Slow Connection
Saying your internet connection feels slow isn’t a very precise definition. To fix the problem, you first need to narrow the scope as much as possible. Below are a few of the more common things people refer to when complaining about a bad internet connection. Knowing which one is affecting you can make a huge difference when it comes time to tweak your VPN for optimal performance.
- Web pages are slow to load
- Movie streams are choppy
- Online games are laggy
- Downloads are slow
- Torrent files are sluggish
What’s Causing the Slowdown?
Once you’ve defined the type of slowdown you’re experiencing, it’s time to take a look at the specific causes behind the bad connection.
- Poor VPN Network – There’s always the possibility that a VPN’s network is just low-quality from the start. If you’re using a free VPN, this is very likely the case. If you’re using a paid service, the company could be having issues with some server node you’re connected to. This issue causes all of the above slowdown issues, and more.
- Crowded Servers – The more people connected to a server, the slower it’s going to be. This increases latency (lag) and is especially frustrating when you’re streaming movies or playing online games.
- ISP Slowdown – No matter how good your VPN is, you’re still limited by the internet speeds provided by your ISP. If their servers are crowded, or if your service plan limits your download speeds, you won’t be able to get around these issues with a VPN.
- Local Hardware and Software – Finally, VPN slowdown can be caused by your own home network. If your router is bad, your modem is faulty, your device is low-powered, or if you’re running software that interferes with your connection, this could be the cause of all your slowdown issues.
How to Fix a Slow VPN Connection
Slow internet is one of the most frustrating things in the modern age. VPN users are likely to encounter this more than casual web surfers, which is why you should arm yourself with the information below.
Check Your VPN’s Servers
Most VPNs offer a one-click quick connect that automatically selects the fastest server for you. This can change throughout the course of the day, however, which means you won’t always stay on the best server. If your connection slows down, simply refresh the list and switch to a different server, one that’s either closer to your physical location or not as densely populated. This will be especially helpful if lag is your main speed issue.
Examine Your VPN Encryption Settings
Some VPNs, most notably our recommended services above, offer an array of settings that let you fine tune your encryption protocols for a more private browsing experience. The general rule of thumb regarding encryption is “the stronger, the slower”, so if downloads and website loading times are sluggish, jump into your VPN’s settings menu and see what you can change. Below are a few generalized suggestions most VPN providers will offer.
- Decrease encryption strength to boost speed. It’s best not to go below 128-bit, though, even if the option is given.
- Turn off extra security measures. Features that boost encryption strength or provide better anonymity often cause a huge drop in speed.
- Switch protocols. The UDP/TCP debate doesn’t have a straightforward answer, but if your VPN offers a connection through one and it’s a little slow, try switching to the other for better performance.
Stop ISP Throttling by Switching Portst
Slowdown issues aren’t always caused by your hardware or the VPN, sometimes it’s all down to your ISP. If nothing you do seems to speed up your connection, it’s likely your ISP might be throttling VPN traffic. Most VPNs provide easy workarounds for this limitation. Try running a speed test both with and without your VPN active to see if there’s a stark contrast in the results, then run through the tips below to see if that helps.
- Switch to UDP or TCP port 80 or 53. You can also try switching to a higher port, something above the 40000 range.
- Use alternative encryption protocols like SSH or SSL, if your VPN offers them. These help mask your traffic to defeat throttling efforts.
Use a Wired Connection Instead of Wi-Fi
A surprising number of speed issues come down to the limitations of Wi-Fi compared to wired connections. If you’re using a laptop or PC, see if plugging a physical cable into your router helps with the speed problems. You can also try moving closer to the router or making sure the signal isn’t blocked by walls or other obstacles.
Fixing Slow Torrents
Slow torrent downloads, is a problem every VPN user deals with at one time or another. The main cause of this is usually the VPN themselves blocking or throttling torrent connections. If your service does this, there’s nothing you can do to speed up the downloads. If they don’t, try switching protocols and opening ports in the VPN app’s settings to make things faster.
Reboot Your Entire Network
The tried and true IT method of rebooting everything really does work sometimes, even when it comes to slow internet speeds. Shut down your VPN, turn off your computer or other device, then reboot both your router and your internet modem. Wait for them to power cycle completely, then start your connection and fire up your VPN again.
Limitations of Speeding Up VPNs
You can tweak it, reboot it, refine it, and hack it, but at the end of the day, there’s always a limit to how fast you can make your VPN. Below are a few common issues to watch out for when trying to get the best speeds possible.
Your ISP is Still the Limit
No matter how fast your VPN is, it can’t be faster than your local connection. If you pay for 50 Mbps through your ISP, for example, that’s the absolute maximum your VPN can provide, even if it’s technically capable of more. ISPs don’t always deliver the speeds they promise, either, which means some slowdown issues can be traced back to local servers instead of the VPN’s network.
INTERESTING READ: Understanding Internet Fast Lanes
Speed without the VPN
If you’re engaging in a high bandwidth, low security risk activity, something like online gaming or streaming movies through Netflix, you’ll probably be ok switching off your VPN for a little while. This neatly bypasses the restrictions of speed and packet encryption and lets you milk your connection for as much as it’s worth. Once you’re done, switch the VPN back on so you stay safe.
Watch Out for Fake Speed Boosters
The sketchy looking “speed booster” extensions and apps are nothing but trouble. Most of them tout a mysterious ability to speed up your connection no matter which VPN provider you use, a promise that’s little more than the software equivalent of clickbait. Stick to the tips above when it comes to speeding up your VPN. If all else fails, try a new VPN service to get faster downloads.
Free VPNs Are the Slowest of All
It’s tempting to grab any old free VPN and use that in place of a paid service. Hey, you’re saving a few bucks a month by doing it, so why not, right? The downside to unpaid VPNs is your data is likely being sold to third parties. You’ll also have to suffer through bandwidth caps, blocked torrent and P2P connections, and slow downloads across the board. A reliable paid VPN service is always faster and safer than a free one. They’re usually easier to use, too, and offer a ton of configuration options you can use to keep a speedy connection anywhere in the world.
READ ALSO: How Free VPNs Make Users Part of a Botnet
VPNs are incredible tools everyone should use on a daily basis. They add privacy, anonymity, and basic security back to the web. VPNs aren’t without their limitations, of course, the chief of which is speed. With a few tweaks you can get the fastest downloads possible out of your VPN, giving you the best of both worlds. If you’ve got any other tricks to fix slow VPN connections, let us know 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.