The best VPN service in 2023

Best VPN provider ExpressVPN on a range of devices
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Staying private is more important than ever, and the best VPN of 2023 is the perfect tool for protecting yourself online. That's why our experts have reviewed dozens of VPNs hands-on, and ranked the best providers right here.

Virtual Private Networks are apps that keep your online activity hidden from your ISP, the government, and even hackers. In simple terms, they do this by encrypting all your traffic and routing it through their own servers located around the world, hiding your real location in the process.

If you just want quick access to the three best VPN services of 2023, simply pick from ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark below – in our expert reviews we rated them as the very best in their respective price ranges. However, If you want more in-depth info, simply keep scrolling for our rundown of the 10 top VPNs available today, and details of how we test VPNs at the bottom of the page.

The best VPNs at a glance

1. ExpressVPN – Get 3 months FREE with the best VPN

1. ExpressVPN – Get 3 months FREE with the best VPN
We think ExpressVPN is the best VPN in 2023, with great performance in just about every area. It offers class-leading privacy and security features, can unblock just about every streaming site, and is super easy to use. 

Its 30-day money-back guarantee lets you trial the service risk-free, and Tom's Guide readers can claim 3 months free – plus 1 year free of backup software Backblaze.

Save 49% on ExpressVPN's 12-month plan

2. NordVPN – Big name offers serious security

2. NordVPN – Big name offers serious security
NordVPN is arguably the biggest name in the VPN industry, and for good reason. As well as its secure and private VPN, it offers a wider suite of cybersecurity tools, including an ad blocker and malware protection.

NordVPN excels when it comes to streaming, and at around $3.49 a month, it sits in the middle ground when it comes to price. Just like ExpressVPN, you'll get a 30-day money-back guarantee to try before you commit.

3. Surfshark – The best-value VPN on the market

3. Surfshark – The best-value VPN on the market
For those looking for a premium VPN on a budget, Surfshark is well worth considering. With top-tier privacy and the fastest connection speeds we've tested, it's snapping at the heels of pricier brands.

It's excellent for streaming and day-to-day privacy, and offers servers in 100 countries, so you'll never be far from a connection. Best of all, it's currently only $2.30 a month, which includes 3 months free.

What is a VPN?

If you're wondering what is a VPN, in short it's an application installed on your device that redirects your internet connection through its own servers around the world. This allows you to virtually change your location online, making you more anonymous and tricking sites like Netflix into showing you content that's blocked in your country.

A VPN also encrypts your traffic, which means that if it's intercepted, your activity can't be seen. That goes for hackers, your government, and even your internet service provider – a VPN lets you browse in total secrecy.

This in turn allows you to access sites that might be banned by your ISP – perhaps that's YouTube or TikTok at school, or Western news and social media if you're in Russia or China. 

While VPNs might sound techy, nowadays they're super simple to use. They almost all offer simple, attractive apps for many different devices, and you can get connected in a single click. So, don't be intimidated – if you managed to install Facebook on your smartphone, you can install a VPN as well.

In short, the best VPN makes the internet a freer place, and allows you to do what you want, when you want to do it – and with the current VPN deals on offer, there's never been a better time to sign up.

The best VPNs of 2023: top 5

  1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN overall
  2. NordVPN – the best VPN bundled with a security suite
  3. Surfshark – the best cheap VPN
  4. Private Internet Access – the best VPN for Linux
  5. Proton VPN – the best VPN for censorship and internet freedom

Our expert-tested list of the best VPNs of 2023

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

The best VPN overall

ExpressVPN on a range of devicesEditor's Choice

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The best VPN on the market overall

Number of servers: 3,000+ | Speed: Up to 560Mbps | VPN locations: 160 in 94 countries | Maximum devices supported: 8 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Rock-solid privacy features
Apps for just about everything
Superb for torrenting
Class-leading 24/7 support
Premium pricing, but well worth it
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want the very best VPN service on the market. Others have marginally wider suites, but if you're just interested having a class-leading VPN, ExpressVPN is it.

✔️ You want to stream global content. From Netflix to Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN is super reliable.

✔️ You value your privacy. Whether you're in the US, Europe, or even China, ExpressVPN's countless audits and unblemished history of protecting its users should inspire confidence.

Avoid if:

❌ You're on a strict budget. ExpressVPN certainly isn't the cheapest on the market. Those looking for a better price may want to consider NordVPN or Surfshark.

❌ You want a fuller suite of software. Some other providers like NordVPN have expanded to offer other services. While ExpressVPN has nailed its VPN, it doesn't offer much else.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

All things considered, ExpressVPN is the very best VPN we've tested. Its privacy features are second to none, it delivers great speeds, unblocks a whole host of global streaming sites and is very accessible in terms of design and device support. If you're looking for the best of the best, this is it, and you can try it out with its 30-day money-back guarantee.

It's a big accolade to hand out, but from our extensive user testing and independent review process we can once again confidently say that ExpressVPN is the very best VPN you can buy today. 

On paper, ExpressVPN already impresses: over 3,000 servers in 160 locations spread across 94 countries around the world, a kill switch, split tunneling and obfuscated servers. While some providers have more servers in total, very few have such a wide spread – meaning that wherever you're based, you'll get swift, reliable connections. It has an especially impressive range in Asia, which is often neglected by other providers.

All apps use super-secure, industry-standard AES-256 encryption, paired with OpenVPN and Lightway protocols. Lightway is the standout here, and the in-house, open-source protocol delivers excellent speeds – although this is an area where Express is just beaten by close rivals Surfshark and NordVPN. However, unless you're using a 1Gbps+ connection you won't notice a difference.

ExpressVPN also uses its own TrustedServer technology, which ensures its RAM-only DNS servers retain no information about you or your activity. In short, ExpressVPN is fast and secure – and a recent update has added a well-needed kill switch to iOS. Combined with the 3 months free Tom's Guide readers can claim, you get a lot for your money.

> ExpressVPN is Tom's Guide's #1 VPN – get 3 months FREE 

ExpressVPN's apps are a pleasure to use and almost identical across the board – once you've used one, you've used them all – and the range of devices is huge. Not only can you cover your PC, Mac, iPhone or Android, but your router, Chromebook, Linux PC, Fire TV Stick and a ton more can also enjoy the same protection.

What's more, ExpressVPN can now be used on 8 devices at once, up from the previous 5. This is great news for those who have tons of devices, and addresses one of ExpressVPN's few downsides – although rivals Surfshark and PIA offer unlimited connections on a single plan.

One of the most common reasons to download a VPN is to access geo-blocked streaming content. Here, ExpressVPN really delivers. In our testing, it reliably unblocked a number of Netflix locations, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and works impeccably for regional TV channels around the world. Only a few other providers like NordVPN and Surfshark can match this – and Express is still our #1 streaming VPN.

Of course, improvements can be made with any service, and the same is true here. For example, if you need a dedicated IP or port forwarding, a provider like PIA might be a better fit. 

Finally, a word on customer support. If anything doesn't work as it should – perhaps you're having issues unblocking UK Netflix from the US, for example – the 24/7 live chat support is always on hand. In our experience they have been quick and knowledgeable, and in general much better than most other VPN providers' live chat teams. Plus, the on-site help articles are excellent, too.

When everything is tallied up, it all comes together to make a near-unbeatable package that's well suited to experts and newbies alike – and we think that premium price is well worth what you get.

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ExpressVPN test results
DesignSimple, navigable design that’s easy on your eyes and straightforward to understand⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useBeginner-friendly, little to no expertise needed⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceReliable and very fast, although some others deliver higher peak speeds.⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingServers in 160 locations and 90 countries ensure limitless content⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyTop-notch security with 256-bit AES encryption⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportExpert assistance is available 24/7⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceSlightly more expensive than other options ⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN + security suite

NordVPN on a range of devices

2. NordVPN

The best VPN with a full security suite

Number of servers: 5,500+ | Server locations: 80+ in 59 countries | Maximum devices supported: 6 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Excellent focus on security
Impeccable streaming performance
NordLynx delivers incredible speeds
Tons of servers
Renewal prices are high
Subscribe if:

✔️ Netflix access is a priority. As our #1 rated VPN for Netflix, NordVPN unblocks more locations than any other provider we've tested.

✔️ You want more than just a VPN. NordVPN also offers malware detection and ad-blocking on a standard plan. 

✔️ You want maximum bang for your buck. While NordVPN isn't quite the cheapest, it offers a very tempting blend of price and performance.

Avoid if:

❌ You like simple apps. Compared to the likes of ExpressVPN, Nord's map interface can be quite busy.

❌ You torrent often. Only some of Nord's servers are configured for P2P, and due to this we've found it can be somewhat slow to download torrented files.

❌ You need a huge range of global locations. NordVPN offers a healthy 60 countries, but ExpressVPN offers 94, and Surfshark tops out at 100.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

NordVPN is a powerful VPN that offers just about everything anyone will need from a VPN for a great price. For the price, it's well worth considering, and its 30-day money-back guarantee means you can trial it before you commit.

Sitting at #2 is NordVPN, and in our full NordVPN review we found that the biggest name in VPN is still one of the very best.

With over 5,500 servers in a generous 59+ countries, NordVPN practically guarantees a speedy server wherever you are – and while it's not present in as many locations as ExpressVPN, you'll still be very well served. You'll likely be connecting to those servers with Nord's own NordLynx protocol, which is a reworked version of WireGuard. In short, it's stable, and delivered searing connection speeds of around 820Mbps in our testing.

You'll get split tunneling, an effective kill switch, AES-256 encryption, and you'll even get some unusual options like Onion over VPN and Double VPN which are designed to keep you even safer when browsing the web. Another interesting feature is Threat Protection – but while it's a nice addition, dedicated tracker blockers do work more effectively.

Nord's apps are powerful and fairly pleasant to use, but while the map-based interface works well on larger screen such as PCs and tablets, on smartphones it can be more of a hindrance than a benefit – simpler interfaces like ExpressVPN's tend to work better here. 

A recent update also means the PC client can't be resized, and there are inconsistencies between platforms. Despite that, though, the apps are very capable, and you'll be able to install it on a huge range of devices – for just $3.29 a month, it's excellent value.

Nord's most interesting new feature, however, is Meshnet. This allows users to link devices anywhere around the world via encrypted NordVPN connections, creating its own secure network. This has real power, and while Nord hasn't quite worked out how to make the feature clear to users yet, we're very excited to see where it goes.

When it comes to streaming, however, NordVPN really impresses. You'll be able to unblock tons of Netflix locations, iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime and more – and in recent months Nord and the related Surfshark have proved to be a little more reliable with Netflix than our top choice overall ExpressVPN.

With a 30-day money-back guarantee and some attractive deals running throughout the year, NordVPN is a quality service that only misses out on the top spot thanks to some small UI quirks – and, frankly, the sheer quality of the competition..

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NordVPN test results
DesignFun interface but might seem a little crowded for some users ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useThough simple to use, the map-like design might not work for everyone ⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of the fastest with an average speed of 820Mbps⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly unblocks most content streaming platforms⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyStrong encryption with additional features like Threat Protection for safe streaming⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportReliable 24/7 customer support⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceProvides ample value for the price.⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best cheap VPN

Surfshark on a variety of devices

(Image credit: Surfshark)

3. Surfshark

The best cheap VPN available today

Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 160+ in 100+ countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Unlimited devices supported
Recent update to over 100 countries
Great value considering the features
Excellent for streaming
Steep price hikes after first term
Support is slightly lacking
Subscribe if:

✔️ You're looking for quality on a budget. Surfshark is an absolute bargain, and we're consistently amazed that it can offer such a good product for the price.

✔️ You have a need for speed. Surfshark is quite simply the fastest VPN we've tested, peaking at 950Mbps.

✔️ You have tons of devices. Surfshark's unlimited simultaneous connections policy means you can use one plans on as many devices as you like.

Avoid if:

❌ You truly rely on your kill switch. While it's very unlikely to happen in real life, our testing was able break Surfshark's kill switch. This didn't happen to ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

❌ You're a hardcore torrenter. Surfshark is more than capable of torrenting effectively, but if your main use case is sharing P2P, try ExpressVPN or PIA.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Surfshark is one of those rare examples of a product combining genuinely premium features with an incredibly low price. While it's not quite as powerful as the leading two providers, it's super secure, can be installed on unlimited devices, and also offers a 30-day refund period. 

If you're looking for a cheap VPN that outperforms products twice its price, look no further than Surfshark. The services in this guide are ranked by quality, not price, so to see a VPN that's so affordable sitting at #3 is seriously impressive.

In our Surfshark review, we found its apps great to use, and offer all the privacy and security essentials such as AES-256 encryption, a kill switch, split tunneling, and the superfast WireGuard protocol. Surfshark's been hard at work on extra features like MultiHop, and Nexus – the latter of which is not currently fully formed, but looks promising.

If you're a hardware hoarder, Surfshark's unlimited simultaneous connections policy may put it above our #1 and #2 picks. You can install one plan on any number of devices – great for complete protection, or even sharing with those in your home. And, as a Linux VPN, Surfshark is one of the few providers to offer a full GUI – most others are only command line. Very impressive for a VPN that costs well under $2.50 a month.

In the most recent testing, connection speeds rose considerably, and on our 1Gbps connection it maxed out at a staggering 950Mbps. That makes Surfshark the fastest VPN we've ever tested – beating out the likes of ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PIA, and CyberGhost. Plus, it's currently proving to be very reliable for streaming. We've had some issues before, but almost every provider has at some point.

However, when we put Surfshark's kill switch through our rigorous testing procedure, we did manage to catch it out and get it to reveal us very briefly. However, the situation in which this happened is unlikely to happen in the real world. And, unfortunately, Surfshark's support isn't quite as good as ExpressVPN's or NordVPN's.

Overall, Surfshark is an excellent budget option, and when you consider its price, what small sacrifices you may need to make seem really quite insignificant.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Surfshark test results
DesignMinimalistic, clean, and intuitive design ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useBeginner-friendly and easy to understand⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFastest VPN I’ve ever tested⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingGreat at unblocking streaming apps and getting around censorship⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyKill switch isn’t the best, but everything else is excellent⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent 24/7 customer support and tons of help articles⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceCheap VPN with excellent value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN for Linux

Private Internet Access on a range of devices

(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

4. Private Internet Access

Excellent value, and very useful for torrenting

Number of servers: 10,000+ | Server locations: 84 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Excellent value
Unblocks US Netflix
Reliable apps and kill switch
Passed no-log audit
Apps are powerful, but complex
Full app audit still in the works
Subscribe if:

✔️ You're a Linux user. PIA is an excellent VPN for Linux users, and is one of the few providers to offer a native GUI (Surfshark being another).

✔️ You want proof of a no-logs policy. PIA has had its claim of no logging proven in court twice. That's just about as reliable proof as you're going to get.

✔️ You want a server in every US state. This is perfect for getting around things like sporting blackouts and shopping restrictions, or doing research on medical procedures banned in your state.

Avoid if:

❌ You prioritize connection speed. With peak speeds of around 510Mbps in our testing, PIA certainly isn't slow – but there are much faster out there. 

You value simplicity. PIA definitely presents as more of an 'expert' option, meaning that newbies could be intimidated by the additional functionality and settings.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Private Internet Access is an excellent VPN that offers deep customization, rock-solid privacy, as well as a proven zero-logging policy. It slightly lags behind the top three in terms of streaming and connection speeds – but some users will definitely find value here, especially due to the bargain price.

Private Internet Access has been around for a long, long time, but unlike other dinosaurs of the VPN game, it's stayed on an upward trajectory rather than falling to the new guard. 

In fact, it's risen another place to #4 since our last Private Internet Access review.

While PIA doesn't disclose its server network size, we believe it to sit at around 20,000 servers, which makes it by far the most server-rich provider on the market. Combine that with 84 available countries and you've got yourself quite the spread. 

PIA really stands out when you get under the surface a little. Its desktop apps offer port forwarding – a relative rarity – and its kill switch is super reliable. 

Also, its proxy browser extensions are also very good, with updated tech that allows for faster browsing. For newbies and those looking for a simpler experience, though, this could very well be a little annoying or intimidating.

It's great for streaming, with access to Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer. We expanded our streaming testing even further this time round, and the only service stopping PIA from scoring a clean sweep was Aussie streamer 10Play.

We're also still waiting for PIA to complete a full independent security audit, but the good news is that it's started the process. The zero-logging policy has been audited and confirmed as true, so now we're just waiting on the full shebang.

For those looking for a highly featured, reliable service that's keenly priced, we'd recommend giving PIA a go – it has a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test it out risk-free.

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Private Internet Access test results
DesignLoads of customization options, can be a bit overwhelming⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useGreat for tech-savvy users, not too beginner-friendly⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDecent speeds but falls behind the industry heavyweights like NordVPN and Surfshark⭐⭐⭐
Unblocking20,000+ servers in 84 countries for smooth and fast content unblocking⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyBest-in-class encryption with a proven no-log policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAdequate resources, plenty of guides, and a contact form to reach the team⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceOne of the cheapest VPNs, all the more ideal for the long term.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN for internet freedom

Proton VPN on a range of devices

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)

5. Proton VPN

Privacy favorite keeps getting better

Number of servers: 2,900+ | Server locations: 67 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | live chat support: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Great connection speeds
Excellent for streaming
Apps are stable and powerful on all platforms
Support site is complex
Can take a while to connect
Subscribe if:

✔️ You're looking for a decent free plan. While Proton's free service can't match up to its paid plan, it's still very useful for emergencies.

✔️ You want a provider that advocates for internet freedom. Proton as a company has demonstrated its commitment to internet freedom by offering, among other things, free servers dedicated to accessing Deutsche Welle's unbiased reporting. 

Avoid if:

❌ You're looking for a bargain. Proton is fairly pricey when compared to the likes of PIA and Surfshark.

❌ You want super fast connections. Proton VPN's no slouch, but it's slower than a number of key rivals.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Proton VPN has made a lot of improvements in the last few years, growing from a pretty techy and complex option to an accessible VPN that's remarkably good for streaming. Its free plan is great, and for those who need features like Secure Core, this may well be the best option.

The Swiss-based Proton brand has had quite the makeover recently, and its star product Proton VPN has been given a well-earned bit of zing. Now that the fresh new look matches its stellar performance, it's even easier to recommend. 

Connections speeds are good, topping out at 510Mbps with WireGuard and around 210Mbps with OpenVPN, although even with the proprietary VPN Accelerator tech, it can't match up to the likes of Surfshark.

You'll also get a comprehensive zero-logging policy and string encryption, and Proton VPN will certainly appeal to those looking to use their VPN for absolute online privacy.

What's more, Proton VPN also offers its Secure Core servers, which are located in physically secure locations in privacy-friendly countries. You can choose to use these, and then route to a destination of your choice for added anonymity. Proton Unlimited also adds the entire privacy suite of Proton Mail, Proton Drive, and Proton Calendar for a fairly reasonable price.

However, it's not all work and no play for Proton – in our testing for the full Proton VPN review it proved to be a real standout when it comes to unblocking Netflix, reliably accessing a number of useful locations, as well as BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. However, just like PIA, it couldn't crack 10Play when we tried.

However, Proton VPN really stands out thanks to its commitment to helping users around the world access a free and uncensored internet. One such example of this is its partnership with news company Deutsche Welle. Even free users can connect to a dedicated server and access unbiased news anywhere in the world. 

For example, this is a godsend for those in countries like China and Russia who prefer not to consume state-controlled news.

It's getting trickier by the day to pick faults with Proton, but there are still a couple of sticking points. Firstly, while some servers do support P2P traffic, there are relatively few compared to the competition – although if Proton detects P2P activity, it'll seamlessly redirect you to a compatible server. 

Prices have recently dropped across the board, but it's still not cheap. However, sign up for 2 years and you'll get a decent deal, with a generous 10 simultaneous connections to boot.

Overall, Proton VPN is very much on the up, and it's evident the developers are putting in some hard work rather than resting on their laurels. Thanks to that, Proton VPN is a service we can wholeheartedly recommend.

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Proton VPN test results
DesignIntuitive and dynamic design with the dark mode as a standout⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSome desktop features may be too technical for regular users to understand⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDespite proprietary technologies to increase speed, it’s mid-pack⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingUnblocks most sites on the paid subscription⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyState-of-the-art security with Swiss law protection and an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent response time with countless guides⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceNot the most budget-friendly, but there’s a free plan for new users ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best of the rest

We think that one of either ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, Private Internet Access or Proton VPN will be the best VPN for the vast majority of users. They all deliver excellent speeds, provide class-leading privacy and security features, are effective at unblocking tons of content around the world and are super simple use.

They also cover a range of price points, ranging from the premium-priced (and worth it) ExpressVPN to the absolute bargains that are Surfshark and PIA.

However, if you have a very particular feature you're looking for, there are plenty of other trusted providers to choose from. Below we're running down all the other VPNs we're comfortable recommending – and while they're not quite as versatile a well-rounded as our top picks, they could still be worth considering.

CyberGhost on a range of devices

(Image credit: CyberGhost)

6. CyberGhost

Excellent for torrenting and streaming

Number of servers: 9,700+ | Server locations: 91 countries | Maximum devices supported: 7 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45 day money back guarantee: Yes

Tons of servers
Feature-heavy apps
Great WireGuard speeds
Some useful streaming features
Infrequent app updates
UK Netflix and Disney+ unavailable
Subscribe if:

✔️ You're looking for a bargain. Often almost hitting the $2-a-month barrier, CyberGhost is very affordable

✔️ You want a long refund period. CyberGhost gives you 45 days to make up your mind, rather than the industry-standard 30.

✔️ You like easy-to-use apps. Clean and clear, CyberGhost's apps are super intuitive.

Avoid if:

❌ You want to use lots of devices. Instead of allowing you to log in and out to make the most of your simultaneous connections, CyberGhost only allows 7 installations. To use another device, you'll have to remove it completely.

❌ You need top-tier support. CyberGhost's support is decent, but nothing like the quality of ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

CyberGhost is an established provider that's trusted by an incredible 36 million users. It's private and secure, and its apps are great to use. However, it falls a little behind the pack when it comes to streaming, and its device limit is quite restrictive, especially if you're sharing within your household.

CyberGhost is another long-standing name in the world of the best VPNs, and in that time it's developed a reputation for privacy, streaming performance, and torrent-friendly servers.

With over 9,700 servers, CyberGhost has one of the largest server networks in the industry, and with a spread of 91 countries, there's plenty of variety when it comes to picking which to connect to.

In our expert CyberGhost VPN review, the Romanian provider delivered great connection speeds of up to 730Mbps (although this is down since our last test), and while few users will have base connections capable of such heady heights, it's still quite an accolade. 

CyberGhost's apps had an overhaul in 2021, and with the introduction of Version 8, the experience is much more modern and sleek. 

However, you'll only be able to install CyberGhost on 7 devices – and after that, you'll need to unregister a device to use another, rather than simply logging out on one device like almost all other providers allow.

CyberGhost's apps offer some very useful dedicated streaming features like Netflix and iPlayer-optimized servers. It's fairly capable when it comes to unblocking, and in our last testing we saw it unblock some Netflix libraries (not the UK), iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video. 

Disney+, however, was unavailable, and the likes of NordVPN and Surfshark are better providers for streaming.

One of our biggest issues with CyberGhost in our last review was that it hadn't undertaken a security audit of any kind. This time round it's still not perfect, but it has had its no-log policy audited by Deloitte. Let's hope a full server and app audit is in the works

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CyberGhost test results
DesignVery nice to use, with good customization.⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSimple layout means it's great for beginners and experts alike.⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceGreat performance, and only outsped by the very fastest.⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingClaims to have dedicated streaming servers, but sometimes failed to access Netflix and Disney+.⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyGood baseline tech with an audit from Deloitte.⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNot bad, but customer support agents could be more helpful.⭐⭐⭐
PriceExcellent price considering what you're getting.⭐⭐⭐⭐

Windscribe on a range of devices

(Image credit: Windscribe)

7. Windscribe

Tons of features and an excellent Chrome extension

Number of servers: 400+ | Server locations: 110 in 62 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: No

WireGuard speeds are much improved
Feature-packed apps
Decent value with flexible plans
Best built-in tracker blocker of any VPN
Apps aren't the simplest to use
No 24/7 live chat or audit
Subscribe if:

✔️ You're after a quality Chrome extension. Windscribe offers the best standalone proxy Chrome extension available, which is great for quickly accessing blocked sites and changing location.

✔️ You want the best ad- and tracker-blocker. Windscribe's blocking tech is some of the best we've tested.

Avoid if:

❌ You want a premium plan. While the free plan is excellent, if you're willing to pay, there are much better options.

❌ You want an audited VPN. While Windscribe is open-source, it's fallen behind the competition in terms of independent auditing.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Windscribe absolutely shines when it come to the things it gives you for free. You'll get a generous amount of servers, and a great proxy extension that we use day-to-day at Tom's Guide. However, paid plans are expensive and complicated, and the vast majority of users will want to look elsewhere when parting with their cash.

Our expert Windscribe review found the provider's free VPN that gives users 10GB of data a month very useful, but it also offers a fairly-priced paid service that delivers unlimited data and lets you connect as many devices at once as you like. Most other VPN services permit only five to 10 at a time.

Windscribe is compatible with many platforms – including routers and Amazon Fire and Kodi TV set-top boxes. The service offers a great variety of connection options, has a wide geographic reach with hundreds of servers, and presents an appealing, if minimal, user interface. It's also good for watching overseas Netflix, and has dedicated 'Windflix servers' to enable this – although we couldn't tap into Netflix Japan this time round.

The service's Chrome VPN extension is a standout feature. As one of the best on the market, it offers tons of features and can be used without installing the desktop client – great for work computers of other devices you can't install software on. 

For those that do install the desktop client, you'll notice the brand-spanking Windscribe 2.0 software has tidied up the interface and offers a ton of nifty features – although newbies may be overwhelmed. One such feature is Decoy Mode on Android which, although very niche, could be invaluable to dissidents in truly extreme situations.

Once of our previous complaints was that Windscribe simply wasn't very fast compared to others, but since then it's upped the ante, topping out at a respectable 700Mbps.

You can pay for a Windscribe subscription with Bitcoin, you don't even have to provide an email address, and the service is based in Canada, which may appeal to users wary of US authorities.

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Windscribe test results
DesignFairly well laid out, but the UI is quite cramped⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot too tricky, but others are simpler to get going with.⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceNothing to write home about⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingImpressive, with the only issue being Japanese Netflix.⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacySolid code and open-source, but no audit.⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNo live chat, but the knowledgebase is good.⭐⭐⭐
PriceThe free plan offers a lot, but the paid plan is simply too expensive.⭐⭐⭐

IPVanish on a range of devices

(Image credit: IPVanish)

8. IPVanish

Feature-packed, but not a perfect streamer

Number of servers: 2,200+ | Server locations: 75+ in 52 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Verified as no-logging
Unlimited simultaneous devices
Tons of features
A number of Netflix locations unavailable
Apps are complicated
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want unlimited connections. A single IPVanish plan can be used on unlimited devices. 

✔️ You're a Linux user. Unlike many VPNs, IPVanish offers a full GUI for Linux.

Avoid if:

❌ You want to pay the same price forever. Be aware that if you don't cancel and resubscribe at the end of your plan, prices go through the roof.

❌ You're a Netflix addict. IPVanish is a decent VPN when it comes to streaming, but it can't unblock some niche locations like Japan Netflix.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

IPVanish has been around for a long time, and is pretty good across the board. It's fast, decent for streaming, and offers plenty of customization. However, compared to the leading providers, it hasn't quite kept up with the pack. 

IPVanish is a US VPN that's been in the game for a long time, and it's widely regarded as a safe, reliable, and trustworthy provider. It's designed for the more techy user, it boasts a bunch of useful additions and powerful apps that display all the data you could wish for.

In our testing for the IPVanish review, we saw the provider deliver respectable speeds of around 720Mbps when using WireGuard, which is comparable to close rivals CyberGhost and Windscribe. 

Its OpenVPN speeds are poor, at just 120Mbps in our testing, but most users will be using the new protocol anyway. 'Scramble' is an interesting feature that allows VPN use in countries like China, and while it's not quite as robust as other specialized China VPN services, it's still very useful.

When it comes to streaming, it's also a mixed bag. We got access to US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+ and Prime (which is an improvement from last time we checked), but unlike providers further up this list, we couldn't tap into any other Netflix locations like Australia or Canada.

One of our biggest criticisms in our last review was that IPVanish rarely updated its apps – and it looks like the devs were listening. The brand new interface looks great, retains many of the in-depth features we loved, while integrating a Favorites function as well as in-app support. However, on the flip side, it's a shame that some niche features have been removed, rather than tucked away more neatly.

Overall, though, while it's lost a little ground on the top services, IPVanish is still well worth considering, especially if you're a fan of in-depth, techy software.

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IPVanish test results
DesignFairly attractive, but complex to navigate⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot as easy as many other providers⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceVery good speeds of around 720Mbps⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingPretty reliable, but not flawless⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyAudited, reliable, and trustworthy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportArticles aren't hugely helpful, although live chat is available⭐⭐⭐
PriceDecent to begin with, but renewals hikes are hefty⭐⭐⭐

Mullvad being used on a laptop

(Image credit: Future)

9. Mullvad

Privacy extraordinaire lives up to expectations

Number of servers: 669 | Server locations: 73 in 43 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live support: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Excellent speeds
Open-source apps
Good kill switch and leak protection
Not designed for streaming
No live chat
Subscribe if:

✔️ Privacy is your #1 concern. Mullvad doesn't require you to submit any identifying info. That means no email address, no name, no nothing.

✔️ You want to pay with cold, hard cash. Mullvad is one of the only VPNs that accepts posted cash as a payment system.

Avoid if:

❌ You want to stream content. Mullvad isn't set up for streaming, nor is this a priority for the provider. Go for ExpressVPN, Nord, or Surfshark if this is a deal-breaker.

❌ You're after a cheap choice. No matter how long you sign up for, you'll be paying $6/€5 a month. No discounts or deals here.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mullvad is well-known and widely recommended online for its privacy features, and we can't disagree. For those looking for a very private VPN service, it's a good choice, but in terms of streaming, speed, app features and general usability, it can't compete with our top three.

In our expert Mullvad review, we found that the Swedish provider eschews 'gimmicks' for true privacy performance. However, while this certainly endears Mullvad with techies and old-school VPN veterans, the crowd-pleasing likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN arguably offer a better proposition for the casual user.

With no tricks and a very transparent website, Mullvad's one of the few providers that avoids making disputable claims of "unblocking anything" or
"guaranteed anonymity". 

Rather, it leads by example by never taking any personal details, accepting cash payments sent through snail mail, and offering simple, effective and open-source apps. New additions include the ability to purchase account numbers through Amazon – an anonymity plus point – and a fresh DNS server audit.

It also avoids the incredible complexity of other 'expert' VPNs, and while a very small selection of users will want to tweak countless DNS settings, many will simply appreciate the no-nonsense approach to online privacy.

As we said, though, Mullvad does lack in some important areas that many users won't want to compromise on. While connection speeds are very impressive, in line with IPVanish, CyberGhost, and the like, it's not able to unblock any streaming services – and likely never will. 

The apps also lack some fairly commonplace usability features like automatic selection of the nearest/fastest location, and no favorites list. Plus, if you run into any issues you'll have to rely on email support or the bare-bones support site rather than live chat.

Overall, though, if you're looking for a transparent, privacy-focused VPN, you could do a lot worse than Mullvad.

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Mullvad test results
DesignPretty simple apps on most devices.⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the easiest, and assumes a bit of knowledge.⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceGood speeds using both WireGuard and OpenVPN.⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingCan access blocked websites on occasion, but absolutely no streaming sites are unblocked.
Security and privacyPrivacy-first business model inspires confidence⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportEmail support is swift and knowledgeable, and almost makes up for the lack of live chat.⭐⭐⭐
PriceQuite expensive, but at least there are no price hikes.⭐⭐⭐ on an Android phone

(Image credit:


Superb customization and well-suited for experts

Number of servers: 2,000 | Server locations: 79 | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes

Excellent OpenVPN and WireGuard speeds
Good for streaming
Very configurable Windows app
Free 2TB Internxt cloud storage
Mac app is relatively underpowered
Potentially intimidating design
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want to delve deep into your settings. offers almost unparalleled customization of its settings.

✔️ You need cloud storage. The bundled Internxt cloud storage is a bonus – if you'll use it.

✔️ You want a speedy provider. is right up there with some of the fastest.

Avoid if:

❌ You're a beginner.'s customization is a double-edged sword – if you don't really know what you're doing, you're better off with a simpler provider like ExpressVPN or Surfshark.

❌ You're a Mac user.'s Mac offering doesn't quite match up with its other platforms.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you're looking for powerful, customizable VPN solution, then might be well up your alley. However, when compared to the elite providers like ExpressVPN, PIA, and NordVPN, there's little it does better, and it's just not as nice to use. has been around since 2011, and in that time it's developed quite a following and has made quite an impression on the VPN industry.

With around 2,000 servers in 75 locations, it's in the mid-pack when it comes to network size – outstripped by PIA, CyberGhost, NordVPN, and others – but in practice this is more than enough for just about any user. Connections are lightning-fast too, topping out at a mega 880Mbps in our last round of testing.'s Windows VPN apps are powerful and configurable, with plenty of protocol choices, DNS protection, torrenting support, and more. It's evidently aimed at the advanced user, and those with the knowledge and inclination to trawl through the settings will be greatly rewarded. 

However, for many, it's quite possible that it'll all be too much and won't deliver such a seamless experience as more welcoming providers like ExpressVPN – and its Mac offerings are much weaker than the competition.

It's also worth noting that we experienced some minor technical issues with the apps, including an issue with the kill switch which could potentially compromise users when changing server.

In our streaming testing, impressed. It's able to access a number of Netflix locations alongside BBC iPlayer, Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and more. 

Finally, also has some excellent privacy credentials – although it hasn't undertaken any kind of audit since 2015, and even then there's very little detail. But, overall, it's a great choice, especially if you like to tinker with your software – and the new free 2TB cloud storage plan courtesy of Internxt isn't to be sniffed at.

Swipe to scroll horizontally test results
DesignPlenty of options for those who want them, although Mac app is underpowered.⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useGreat for tech-savvy users, not too beginner-friendly.⭐⭐
PerformanceVery fast, and up there with the best.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingGood access to a lot of sites, but some inconsistency.⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyDecent feature-set and encryption, but a kill switch issue and dated audit hold it back.⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportGood articles and fair live-chat support⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceGreat pricing on longer plans⭐⭐⭐⭐

^ Back to the top

A router sending out a VPN connection

(Image credit: Anton Shaparenko/Shutterstock)

Recent updates: 8/21/2023

Again, not much has changed since my last update of this page, but I've gone through the stats for each provider to ensure everything here is correct and up to date.

The most interesting recent changes – ones that I outlined in my last update – regard ExpressVPN.

The good news: Express has finally addressed one of my key complaints by increasing the number of simultaneous connections on a single from 5 to 8. This puts it more in line with the competition, and now outdoes its closest rival, NordVPN.

The bad news: Renewal prices are now slightly higher than introductory rates. On the six month plan, you'll now be paying $69.95 overall, while on the 12-month plan you'll be charged $116.95 for the full term.

Complete industry standings

Swipe to scroll horizontally
1. ExpressVPNOur choice of the best VPN with unrivaled privacy features and easy-to-use apps.
2. NordVPNThe perfect choice if you want a security suite beyond VPN.
3. SurfsharkOur choice as the best cheap VPN, and also the fastest we've tested.
4. Private Internet AccessExcellent for Linux thanks to a dedicated GUI, and the no-logs policy has been proven in court twice.
5. Proton VPNGreat paid and free plans, with the option of a wider security suite.
6. CyberGhostEasy to use, fast, and cheap – a good choice for newbies.
7. WindscribeFree plans standout more than paid, and the Chrome extension is very useful.
8. IPVanishAn established provider that's still top-tier, but lags behind the best
9. MullvadA very privacy-focused VPN that even accepts cash, but don't expect to stream with it.
10. Hide.MeFast, and great for those who like to tinker with settings under the hood.
11. PrivadoVPNThe very best free VPN, with extraordinary Netflix unblocking performance.
12. TunnelBearSimple and effective, but too basic for all but the lightest users.
13. Atlas VPNNordVPN-owned provider focusing on providing a reliable, cheap product.
14. PureVPNWell-known for its incredibly cheap deals.
15. Hotspot ShieldSpeedy VPN with a few interesting features.
16. StrongVPNMid-range provider that's making improvements.
17. VyprVPNExcellent for evading VPN blocks in countries like China, but generally outclassed elsewhere.
18. AstrillVPNAnother provider known for its excellent performance in China
19. AirVPNHacktivist-built provider that sits in the mid-tier.
20. TorGuardUseful VPN for torrenting and accessing overseas websites.

How to choose the right VPN

The competition between the best VPNs becomes stiffer every time we re-review all the different providers – and with new features and usability tweaks coming regularly from the developers, change is always on the horizon. 

However, in our latest round of testing, only one provider earned five stars out of five: ExpressVPN.

The simple reason for this is because for the vast majority of users, it offers the best combination of rock-solid privacy, excellent apps on a huge range of devices, some very interesting additional features, plus great streaming performance with BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN Plus, and even more.

When choosing the right VPN for you, however, it's worth considering what you'll be using it for. Will you be wanting to stream tons of global Netflix libraries? If so, in our testing NordVPN proved slightly more effective than ExpressVPN with Netflix.

Linux users will want a GUI, so Private Internet Access will look appealing, while those with tons of devices will appreciate Surfshark's unlimited simultaneous connections policy.

In short, make note of your must-haves from your VPN. Then read through our complete list, perhaps delving into our expert reviews, and then sign up to the one that ticks the most boxes.

How we test the best VPN services

When it comes to recommending a product that users will entrust with quite possibly every byte of their online life, we have to be absolutely sure that our choices are correct, and thoroughly tested.

Unlike some sites, we don't simply reel off a spec sheet and declare the provider with most impressive claims the winner. Instead, we have a dedicated team in-house that gets hands-on with all the providers listed (and more). 

Every 6 months, after scouring the website for new claimed features or changes in policy, we sign up to a plan and install it on a range of devices. The Windows app sees the most rigorous testing, and it's here that we'll try to break the kill switch, ensure any leak protection is working correctly, and measure connection speeds.

The other apps, including the Mac VPN, iPhone VPN, and Android VPN also see comprehensive testing, and we'll check every available setting in every app to make sure it's functioning as promised by the provider.

As we use the apps, if anything appears to be behaving strangely we'll investigate that. We might dig into the source code, or view the contents of its RAM. This general usage stage is also how we make decisions on aesthetics and ease of use – although these are admittedly more subjective.

Then comes the streaming testing. We'll test each VPN with all the big streaming sites from a number of locations to ensure it's working as claimed. As Netflix is still hugely popular and somewhat troublesome when it comes to VPNs, we test the biggest providers every month to make sure our recommendations are still relevant.

VPN speed testing – our results

Good connection speeds are incredibly important to VPN users – if a VPN slows your internet to a crawl it's unlikely to be used regularly, leaving more devices unprotected. And, now that one of the most common uses for VPNs is streaming, being able to load HD and 4K content without buffering is more important than ever.

In our review process we test every VPN service on a 1Gbps line. We measure the speeds with a number of tools, including the Ookla SpeedTest website and CLI, nPerf, Netflix's Fast and others. We then take the average (median) of each tool's results to generate an accurate range of speeds. We repeat these tests morning and evening to ensure accuracy.

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VPN speed results
VPNWireGuard/proprietary protocolOpenVPN
Proton VPN510Mbps210Mbps
Hotspot Shield375Mbps---

Which VPNs work with Netflix?

Netflix is still the most popular online streaming service, and it also turns out it's now one of the most problematic for VPNs.

Netflix shows different content in different countries, so US subscribers will be able to watch different shows to those in the UK, Japan, or Germany. By using a VPN, though, you can virtually change your location, but recent updates by the streamer means that its VPN detection and blocking tech is more effective than ever.

We test the top providers every month (at a minimum) to make sure our recommendations are up to date. Below, we'll outline which locations the best VPN services can currently unblock.

  • ExpressVPN: UK, US, Australia, Canada
  • Proton VPN: UK, US, Australia (mixed results), Canada
  • Surfshark: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan
  • NordVPN: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan
  • IPVanish: US
  • Hotspot Shield: US (mixed results)
  • CyberGhost: US


How do I choose the best VPN service?

Choosing the best VPN for can be a tricky process – that's why we've put together this comprehensive guide. However, for most people, we'd recommend our #1 VPN ExpressVPN as the best choice.

It works great as a VPN for Netflix, a torrenting VPN, and even an iPlayer VPN, so whatever you need your VPN to do, it's got you covered – all the while keeping you protected with its rock-solid encryption.

If you're after a cheap service, we'd also recommend bargain VPN Surfshark as a great option. It's not as fully-featured as ExpressVPN, but it's usually available for around $2.49 a month.

As a middle ground, fan favorite NordVPN is also useful. It offers serious security for a decent price, and has apps for tons of devices.

Is it illegal to have a VPN?

Short answer – no.

Using a VPN is not illegal, and it's perfectly legitimate to want to protect your data and activity. Having one on your computer and using it regularly in pursuit of watertight web security and location spoofing is in no way unlawful.

However, using a VPN to hide illegal activity doesn't make you above the law, so downloading copyrighted material is still illegal even with a VPN. Similarly, using a VPN goes slap bang against Netflix's Ts&Cs, and the provider has the right to terminate your subscription if they catch you – although that's never actually happened.

Countries like China and the UAE have made laws against VPN use, but due to their use in business it's impossible to outlaw VPNs outright. However, in those cases it's well worth reading up on what you may or may not be permitted to use a VPN for, and consider if the very small risk is worth taking.

What are the VPN dos and don'ts?

The best VPN can make it look like you're located somewhere you're not. It's a well-worn practice to evade online censorship, as is done in some countries, or to tap into US streaming services while in Europe or Asia. We've used VPNs to read the New York morning paper in Beijing, and watch US TV in London.

But there are some caveats. A VPN will give you more privacy, but not more security. If you end up on a website harboring malware, the VPN can't prevent you from being infected.

Evading geographical restrictions on streaming content has become trickier in recent years. While a simple proxy will work for accessing overseas prices and written media, sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer have cracked down on VPN users and invested in tech to detect them. If discovered, you'll still be blocked from streaming, so making sure your chosen VPN can access what you want before you sign up is essential.

What makes a great VPN?

The most basic qualities you should look for are speed, privacy and ease of use. These might seem like basic attributes, but in reality few providers have found a happy medium.

Connection speed relies on having a wide range of well-maintained servers. This allows the VPN to provide excellent speed and bandwidth to everyone using its servers. 

Having excellent security is a fairly basic requirement, but hard to get right. If you're concerned about that, make sure your VPN has an airtight privacy policy, and a no-logging policy is even better. Some services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have also been independently audited to prove their claims.

Finally, although many users might be au fait with tech, more and more newbies are looking to start using VPNs. If that's you, it's definitely worth making sure that your provider has well-designed apps on all the devices you expect to use with the service. 

Are no-fee VPNs any good?

Naturally, free services are very popular products because everyone likes to save their money. And, they can be handy bits of software if you're not somebody that's likely to keep their VPN turned on all the time and just want it for occasional use for staying safe on public Wi-Fi. Oh, and if you don't mind ads...

For most people, though, free services provide a false economy. They tend to have limited servers in just a handful of locations, often restrict you to a single device and almost always have a limit on the amount data you can use per day or month.

Those data limits rule out using your VPN for streaming or torrenting, and if you want to keep your VPN running 24/7 for a permanent privacy layer, a no-fee VPN just isn't going to work.

What VPN protocols are there?

There are several different VPN protocols, not all of which are used by all of the VPN services we reviewed. Most operating systems have built-in support for at least one of these protocols, which means you can use that protocol – and a willing VPN service – without client software. The full-fledged VPN services have online instructions for how to do this, as well as how to set up routers to connect directly to the services.

OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.

L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2, generally with IPsec): This is a new-ish standard that is very secure when properly implemented. It has native support in Windows, iOS and recent versions of OS X/macOS.

SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol): SSTP is a Microsoft protocol with native support on Windows Vista and later versions. It's thought to be quite secure, but only Microsoft knows for sure.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol): This standard is largely obsolete, with many known security flaws, but it's fast. It has native support built into Windows, Android and older versions of Mac OS X and iOS; Apple dropped support with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. Use PPTP only for streaming content, as it won't protect your data.

WireGuard: The newest of these protocols, WireGuard combines reportedly excellent security with great speeds. Developed from the ground up, it uses far less code than its predecessors, meaning a better, simpler user experience. However, it's not yet supported by many VPN services, although as it gains traction more and more are beginning to implement it. Some, like Mozilla VPN, solely use WireGuard.

Read more:

Tom's Guide VPN disclaimer - best VPN

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.