The best VPN service in 2024 (2024)

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The best VPN service in 2024 (1)

1. Top picks at a glance
2.
Best VPN overall
3.
Fastest VPN
4.
Best cheap VPN
5.
Best Linux VPN
6.
Other VPNs I recommend
7.
What is a VPN?
8.
Do I need a VPN?
9.
VPN industry rankings
10.
VPN speed test results
11.
How to choose a VPN
12.
How we test VPNs
13.
Our experts
14.
Our testing ethics
15.
VPN FAQs

A virtual private network (VPN) is a privacy tool that protects your device and information when you're online. The best VPNs encrypt your data and route it through a secure server—giving you a new IP address, and making it appear as though you're in a location of your choosing. This makes it easier to unblock streaming services and restricted content abroad whilst hiding your internet usage from cyber criminals, internet providers, and even governments.

However, there are hundreds of VPN providers to choose from, and unfortunately, most of them don't offer the privacy and security you need. In TechRadar's 15 years online, our experts have tested and reviewed over 100 VPN services, and in the past three years, I've found countless providers that don't meet our standards.

To help you choose which one is worth your hard-earned cash, I've compared the technical security, privacy policies, features, unblocking capabilities, speed, server locations, and (most importantly) the value for money of the best services to curate this list of the top VPNs.

Written by

The best VPN service in 2024 (2)

Written by

Andreas Theodorou (MRes, BA)

As a digital privacy advocate and expert, he's spent the past four years leveraging his master's degree to research VPNs, cryptography, and other cybersecurity topics.

The three best VPNs in 2024

Want a quick answer? Here are the three best VPN services right now:

The best VPN service in 2024 (3)

1. The best overall VPN service: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN holds the crown for the best VPN around because it automates all of the difficult processes that most other apps would make you do manually. This isn't some default setting like a lot of the competition, Express configures your setup in real time to give you the safest, fastest connection in the blink of an eye. Express blows me away in every aspect of my testing.

It may seem pricier than Nord and Surfshark, but if you want the absolute best, it more than makes up for it by offering a password manager, a year of unlimited cloud storage, alongside three months of extra protection for free on a 12-month subscription.

See for yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can put it to the test without risking a penny.

↪ Read more in my ExpressVPN deep dive

2. The fastest VPN around: NordVPN
NordVPN offers an all-in-one VPN solution with built-in ad blocking and malware protection as standard. Combine that with rapid server speeds, lots of customization, and fantastic features, and you can see why it's a close runner-up to ExpressVPN.

It currently tops my list as the best VPN for Netflix, and as the service turns 12 years old, Nord is offering TechRadar readers 67% off and a free Uber Eats voucher so take advantage of NordVPN's, 30-day money-back guarantee and see how it compares to ExpressVPN risk-free.

↪ Read more in my NordVPN deep dive

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3. The best cheap VPN: Surfshark
Surfshark keeps giving us reasons to recommend it. It's a high-value, low-cost option that's easy to use, packed with security features, and easily unblocks restricted content abroad.

With servers in over 100 countries, you can stream your favorite shows from almost anywhere. Best of all, Surfshark costs just $2.29 per month, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, too.

↪ Read more in my Surfshark deep dive

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Recent updates

My latest in-depth VPN tests are underway, so keep checking to see whether ExpressVPN can hold onto its crown. For now, though, I've ensured the servers, features, pricing, and performance are all up-to-date.

What are the best VPN services in 2024

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

See how my top picks compare in the following analysis and reviews as I discuss reasons to subscribe, reasons to avoid, my testing results, what I liked about each provider, and how they compare with one another.

The best VPN overall

The best VPN service in 2024 (6)The best VPN service in 2024 (7)

1. ExpressVPN

The best VPN in 2024 - a quality service with lots of features

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Hulu, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, Linux (command-line only), Routers, almost everything else | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 3,200 | Server locations: 160 | Countries: 94 | Simultaneous connections: 8

Easy to use for beginners

Apps for almost everything

Fast servers in over 94 countries

Ultra-reliable security features

Expert 24/7 live customer support

An expensive choice

Not as fast as NordVPN or Surfshark

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a VPN that you can set and forget:ExpressVPN's auto-connect feature means that you connect once, and you're always protected.

✔️ You're wanting to access content everywhere:with over 160 locations around the world to choose from, you'll be able to access local content no matter where you are.

✔️ You need a VPN you can trust with your life:between ExpressVPN's regular audits and no-logs policy, you can be certain your information is safe from oppressive regimes.

Don't subscribe if:

You're on a strict budget:in a cost-of-living crisis, ExpressVPN is an expensive choice. If you can't afford its prices, we'd recommend looking towards NordVPN or Surfshark.

You need a full security suite:ExpressVPN prides itself on being the best VPN, and that's where it focuses its attention. If you need an all-in-one solution with built-in antivirus capabilities, Express may not be the right pick for you.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒ExpressVPNstrikes the perfect balance between security, usability, performance, and unblocking capability, all while offering exceptional customization.Try for yourself and see why it's our #1 pick with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth ExpressVPN review for a closer look at the service, and see why it's our top VPN pick for 2024.

ExpressVPN tops our list as the best VPN on the market thanks to its consistently premium service, intuitive and easy-to-use apps, and wealth of reliable security features. It comes with a built-in password manager and Threat Manager to keep your security simple.

Everything is laid out in a simple and clear design that makes it great for beginners. With one-click connect, you just tap the power button and you're instantly protected. ExpressVPN also shows suggested servers for the fastest connection, as well as your recent connection history and amount of time protected.

Try ExpressVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you're looking to access content abroad, ExpressVPN's server library is enormous. With 160 locations across 94 countries, that's more than almost any other provider. Whether you're wanting to watch the latest series on HBO Max or stream your favorite shows on BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN has plenty of servers in the US and UK.

ExpressVPN is always there to offer support—with teams available 24/7. In my personal testing, I found ExpressVPN had issues split tunneling Android Auto in my car, which meant it occasionally wouldn't work. After relaying this information to ExpressVPN, the devs pushed out a new update, almost immediately, to fix the issue and ensure Android Auto was detectable in the split tunneling list.

ExpressVPN offers some amazing speeds, but it does have its drawbacks. Unfortunately, it's not as fast as NordVPN or Surfshark, which both maxed out our tests. However, the speeds it does offer (750 Mbps) are still over 30 times what you'd need for streaming in 4K ultra-high-definition and gaming online.

Be sure to set up the auto-connect and kill switch functions if you want to make sure your device and data are protected at all times. This means that even if your VPN connection is interrupted, your data will still be protected, and you won't accidentally reveal what you were doing online. I use it on my phone so I know I'm always protected when I'm out and about.

ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best VPN overall because of the sheer quality of its service. For the everyday user, ExpressVPN will go above and beyond your needs to protect your device and data. It's the best VPN for most use cases, and focuses on providing a service that people can trust with their lives—and many of its users do. With so many high-quality security features, ExpressVPN gives genuine peace of mind while you're using the internet.

Click to show technical analysis of ExpressVPN ↓

Servers, connections, and apps:ExpressVPN offers over 3,200 servers, which isn't as many as NordVPN (5,670) or Private Internet Access (over 20,000), but they're spread across a vast 160 locations over 94 countries—compared to NordVPN's 80 locations in 60 countries, and Surfshark's 143 locations in 100 countries. That's a pretty fantastic array of options to choose from, so you'll always be able to access content wherever you want it.

ExpressVPN and Linux

ExpressVPN only supports Linux through a command-line interface (CLI). If you need a GUI, Private Internet Access and Surfshark offer better ease of use.

Its top-quality apps are a highlight, with ExpressVPN not only supporting Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux, but also having the best app for routers, downloads for Chromebooks, Amazon Fire TV, and Kindle Fire, and straightforward setup guides for just about everything else. Its Mac apps also run natively on Apple's M1 and M2 chips for maximum performance, too.You can protect any device you want, and even install its browser extension for additional security.

ExpressVPN subscriptions only support eight simultaneous connections, which is lower than most other leading providers offer. Surfshark and IPVanish go the whole hog with unlimited connections. However, eight is likely enough for most users, and our ownsimultaneous VPN connection survey datashowed only 1 in 10 VPN users actually use more than 5 connections at the same time.

Security and privacy: from tight control over its server setup to military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, ExpressVPN is one of the most reliable services out there. It even created a proprietary and (uniquely among VPN providers) open-sourceLightway protocol, to offer users a faster, more secure VPN experience.

ExpressVPN's Network Lock kill switch held up to our stress tests, meaning you can trust it with your life—it's not going to accidentally leak your data. Couple that with its clear privacy policy, and wealth of regular, detailed third-party privacy and security audits, show that ExpressVPN's comprehensive approach betters most of the competition with a dedication to privacy and quality of construction that few genuinely offer.

The best VPN service in 2024 (8)

In March 2023,Cure53 audited ExpressVPN's Lightway protocoland confirmed its security for the second time in a row. If you're wondering whether you should use Express' proprietary protocol, the answer is "yes." It's a faster, more secure alternative to traditional OpenVPN encryption—a protocol that's over 20 years old.

Usability:where ExpressVPN really shines for me, is its simple user interface. With a one-click connection feature, you're protected instantly. You can even set the app up to auto-connect when your device turns on, and customize your encryption to suit your needs better, be it torrenting, streaming shows from abroad, or gaming online.

Most top apps have at least some minor irritations—an unsorted list here, wasting time with an extra click there—but ExpressVPN developers prefer to work smarter, not harder. This means simplifying tasks and making your VPN experience smoother and more straightforward.

Get more for your money

If a premium, reliable service isn't enough, get 3 months extra for free on a 12-month plan and get 1 year of unlimited cloud storage from Backblaze, a password manager, and Threat Manager when you sign up today.

Performance:ExpressVPN lives up to its name, with maximum download speeds coming in at around 750 Mbps in our latest rigorous speed tests. For context, 25 Mbps is enough to stream shows at 4K Ultra HD, so this is more than enough for most people.

It's worth noting that this result is up significantly from our previous test (560 Mbps), and we're confident that it's a speed that will remain consistent. While Surfshark is currently ourfastest VPNwith speeds averaging over 950 Mbps, ExpressVPN still scores highly and would be more than enough for the most data-intensive tasks.

Streaming:this is yet another area where ExpressVPN excels, as in our latest tests the service unblocked Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer library in every region we tested.

The best VPN service in 2024 (9)

Features:ExpressVPN goes above and beyond with cutting-edgeVPN encryption protocols, secure DNS, leak protection, a kill switch (called Network Lock),split tunneling, and more—all of which we found to work admirably. It also expanded to hardware with the Aircove router. All of these features together give you a robust service that adapts to meet your needs—without compromising on security or privacy.

There are some unusual but helpful touches, such as a configurable toolbar that launches your favorite apps or websites from the ExpressVPN app (no more fumbling around with your browser or the Windows Start menu). There's almost always something shiny and new to add to the list on every review, including Threat Manager, where you'll be able to put a stop to invasive (and downright irritating) ads and speed up your browsing sessions, and block adult sites, giving you more control over how your kids navigate the web.

Customer support:available 24/7, ExpressVPN's live chat is always there if you have a question or an issue and want a human response. I found replies to my queries to be speedy, with knowledgeable agents generally doing an excellent job of answering our questions like what servers are best to use for different streaming services.

Smart website organization ensures it's easy to find what you need, and the support site is also crammed with clear and detailed articles, covering just about every topic you can think of. The articles include genuinely useful information, in clear and simple terms. For instance, instead of saying "Try another protocol" to get better speeds, it lists all possible protocols in the best-performing order—telling you exactly what you need to know.

Price:ExpressVPN may seem like it's more expensive than leading competitors like NordVPN and Surfshark, but if you compare it like-for-like with other provider's one-year subscriptions, it's actually a lot more reasonable than the competition would have you think. Unfortunately, if you want the best VPN you have to pay for it. However, with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can still give it a try and get your money back, risk-free to see how it compares to the competition. Put it to the test, and see for yourself why it's my favorite VPN, and why ExpressVPN tops our list as the best VPN service in 2024.

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ExpressVPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA clean and simple design that gives you everything you need, exactly when you need it⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIntuitive apps with auto-connect functionality make life easier⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFast enough for anything you could throw at it, but slower than NordVPN and Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly gives you access to content around the world⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyExpress offers military-grade protection for total peace of mind⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAlways available, friendly, and helpful⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceMore expensive than leading competitors⭐⭐⭐

The fastest VPN I've tested

2. NordVPN

So fast it maxed out my testing line

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 5,670 | Server locations: 80 | Countries: 60 | Simultaneous connections: 6

Excellent security tools

Reliable Netflix unblocking

High-speed NordLynx protocol

Meshnet secure network as standard

Apps can be a bit confusing for beginners

Fewer server countries than ExpressVPN

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want an all-in-one security suite: NordVPN comes with ad blocking and malware protection as standard with its VPN subscription.

✔️ Streaming Netflix is your primary use case:NordVPN currently tops our list as the best VPN for Netflix, so you can access streams anywhere in the world.

✔️ You want a blend of quality and cost:NordVPN offers plenty of features, amazing speeds, and additional security tools, all at a mid-range cost.

Don't subscribe if:

❌ You want a super simple interface:NordVPN's map-style interface can be a lot of fun, but if you want a more plain design without the bells and whistles, our other top picks all have cleaner apps.

You want to access content everywhere: with servers in 60 locations, you get a lot of options, but compared to our other top picks, NordVPN is more limited in countries and locations.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒NordVPNstrikes the perfect balance between security, usability, performance, and unblocking capability, all while offering exceptional customization.Try for yourself and see why it's such a close runner-up with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth NordVPN review for a closer look at this all-in-one security solution.

NordVPN may have been fractionally edged into second place in our rankings again, but there's still plenty to love about the service. It's currently sitting atop my fastest VPN rankings with over 950 Mbps download speeds. It's immensely capable of unblocking streaming sites, and filled to the brim with features to protect your devices and information.

What really sets NordVPN apart from the competition, though, is its all-in-one approach to security. Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers built-in ad-blocking and antivirus protection to keep you safe and streamline your online activity. On top of that, NordVPN also offers its NordPass password manager, data breach scanner, and NordLocker secure cloud storage to users on the Complete plan.

Try NordVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

With the introduction of NordVPN's Meshnet feature, you can create secure private networks in your own home and protect as many as 60 devices at any one time. This makes it perfect for secure file sharing, gaming, and virtual routing as you can direct your traffic through a device of your choosing (such as a router or computer).

What's more, NordVPN now offers free Meshnet for all users—most companies would charge a premium on top of the regular subscription fees for a service like that. With NordVPN's customizable pricing, you can choose what you need, and reduce the cost by not paying for features you don't want.

Despite the amazing array of features available, it lacks the sheer attention to detail and sheer quality that comes with ExpressVPN. The map-style interface can be as awkward as it is novel, and I find some of the in-app pop-ups, notifications, and nagware a little frustrating. The quality of NordVPN's features is undeniable, but this is just a minor element that everyday users may find irritating.

Overall, NordPVN is an amazing middle-ground for people who want an all-in-one security solution, but don't want to invest in ExpressVPN. If you're just after a Netflix VPN that goes the extra mile to keep your device secure, then NordVPN is an excellent value-for-money option that doesn't skimp on quality or functionality.

Click to show technical analysis of NordVPN ↓

Servers, connections, and apps: NordVPN is more generous than ExpressVPN when it comes to server count, with a massive 5,670 servers to choose from. Admittedly, they don't cover as many countries, but NordVPN probably has coverage in all of the key areas you'll need to access. What's more, you'll get six simultaneous connections to play with (one more than ExpressVPN), though it's worth remembering that Surfshark and Windscribe don't impose any connection limits at all.

A capable set of apps covers you for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Chromebooks, and Android TV, amongst others (and the Windows app recently added a handy "raise ticket" screen"). Welcome extras also include browser extensions for Edge, as well as Chrome and Firefox, and the ability to set up NordVPN on compatible routers means that you can use the service with just about any device you happen to own. But that's not all, NordVPN just launched its new link checker tool as another way to keep you safe from scams online.

Security and privacy: NordVPN has always had plenty of security features, but the company moved into overdrive after its data breach five years ago. If nothing else, the breach was a powerful reminder for the entire industry not to goad hackers, and NordVPN has since added layer after layer of privacy-protecting features and technologies. You don't have to take NordVPN's word on its abilities either, because it now brings in PricewaterhouseCoopers annually to carry out a thorough independent audit of NordVPN's no-logging policy.

Nord owns and manages many of its servers, for instance, ensuring others can't access them. Its apps use only the most secure protocols, with strong AES-256 encryption for reliable protection. Plus, they're crammed with high-end privacy features: double VPN (known as multi-hop elsewhere) routes your traffic through two servers for extra anonymity, secure DNS further shields your browsing, a reliable kill switch protects you even if the VPN fails, and Nord still can scan downloads for malware with its (admittedly somewhat limited) Threat Protection feature.

Performance:NordVPN cooked up its own custom version of WireGuard, called NordLynx, and the results are pretty impressive. I recorded speeds of over 950 Mbps during my most recent round of testing—which actually maxed out my line. So, as you'd expect, NordVPN now claims the title of fastest VPN. This is a marked improvement from 880 Mbps in previous tests, but shows a clear and consistent improvement to the service (and a need for us to test this with 10 Gb lines next time round).

Usability:you don't reach number two in our charts by making major usability mistakes, and for the most part, NordVPN is a doozy to set up and operate. However, we noticed some small areas where the apps weren't quite as polished as the competition.

There is no option to mark favorites on the apps. You can choose from recent and specialty servers, or scroll through the list of countries. Couple that with an annoying disconnection process that asks you whether you want to pause instead of giving you the option to clearly choose between pausing and disconnecting, and it's just not as user-friendly as ExpressVPN.

These are minor points and they don't make NordVPN's apps bad. But we can't ignore these details at this level either, because they're part of what makes the difference between a good VPN, and a great one.

The best VPN service in 2024 (11)

Streaming: NordVPN is fantastic for unblocking streaming services and currently tops our charts for the best VPN for Netflix. As well as Amazon Prime Video, you can use it to unblock YouTube, stream Disney Plus, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, C4, 9Now, and more.

Features: We've noted some of NordVPN's security features already, but other benefits include strong DNS leak protection, two ultra-reliable kill switches (system-wide and application-specific), and even dedicated TOR and double-VPN servers for increased anonymity.

Customer support: it's rare that NordVPN causes us any serious technical troubles, but if you do run into problems, there are plenty of in-depth tutorials and troubleshooting articles (many are available in multiple languages, sometimes eight or more). Plus, there's always the intelligent chatbot and helpful, experienced live chat support on hand 24/7 in case of real emergencies.

Price: NordVPN's monthly billed plans are a little more expensive than some, but the annual offering is good value for what you're getting. If you're keen on signing up, though, the two-year plan beats most providers for the first term. If you want to give the service a whirl before you commit, NordVPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.Do note that their renewal prices are a bit above average, however. You can even pay in crypto if you want to further increase your privacy.

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NordVPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA fun design that can be a little busy for some people⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEverything is easy to find, but the map interface can be off-putting, and there isn't much attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceThe fastest VPN in our latest round of tests⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingPerfect for Netflix and other streaming sites⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyEvery bit as strong as ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportFriendly, supportive and professional⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceFantastic value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best cheap VPN service

3. Surfshark

The best cheap VPN - amazing speeds and a premium service

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 3,200 | Server locations: 143 | Countries: 100 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Incredibly fast

Unblocked everything in our tests

Unlimited connections

Pause VPN feature

Unclear virtual server locations

Windows kill switch is still buggy

No notification if your VPN drops

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want the best budget VPN:Surfshark is the perfect blend of cheap and cheerful, with lots of features, unbelievable speeds, and a reliable network—all at a low price.

✔️ You need a fast VPN:currently topping our charts with over 950 Mbps average speeds, Surfshark isn't just fast, it's faster than all of our top picks.

✔️ You want a cheap security suite:much like NordVPN, Surfshark comes with an array of internet security tools to keep you safe.

Don't subscribe if:

You need a bulletproof kill switch:our testing showed some issues with Surfshark's kill switch. If an accidental IP leak could put you in danger, we'd recommend ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

You need even more server locations:If 143 locations still isn't enough for you, you're better off with ExpressVPN.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒Surfsharkis an exceptional value-for-money VPN. With unparalleled speeds and unlimited simultaneous connections, you get a lot of VPN for a low price.Try for yourself and see why it's our favorite cheap VPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Surfshark VPN review and see why the fastest VPN is also our #1 budget pick.

Surfshark isn't just the best cheap VPN, it's a whole security suite. With built-in ad-blocking, antivirus, tracker-free web browsing, and even a data breach notifier built in, it's premium protection without the price.

Surfshark recently launched its latest innovation, Incogni: a service that automatically requests the deletion of personal data stored by data brokers. I love this tool because it finally gives us the tools to reclaim our digital privacy from invasive data-tracking practices and companies.

Try Surfshark with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

With unlimited simultaneous connections, you can protect every device you own on a single subscription, as well as every device your friends and family own, too. Admittedly, we've not tried to test how many devices we could install Surfshark on, but that's because it would require everyone at TechRadar to spend all of their time installing the software until Surfshark asked us to stop—and that would take far too much time to do.

If you're one of the many Linux users looking to shore up their privacy with a VPN, you'll be glad to know that Surfshark has a dedicated Linux GUI for some of the most common distros. It's one of the few leading VPNs that offer more than the standard command-line interface for Linux, and it shows the genuine love and care the service has for its users.

Where Surfshark falls short, however, is its torrenting and unblocking capabilities. Once marketing itself as the VPN for streaming, it struggles to compete against the likes of NordVPN in recent tests. That said, it's not incapable. We were able to reliably unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and more in our latest round of tests.

Because of this amazing blend of capability, features, and immense speed, it's no surprise that Surfshark tops our charts for the best cheap VPN and the fastest VPN. It's the perfect pick for anyone looking to protect the devices of everyone they know.

Click to show technical analysis of Surfshark ↓

Servers, connections, and apps: Surfshark's network has 3,200 servers, not quite as many as some, but with 100 countries, there's an excellent chance it covers the regions you need. A wide range of apps enables accessing the network from Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS devices, along with Amazon Fire and other smart TVs. And unlike most of the competition, there's no need to keep track of the hardware you've got connected at any one time because Surfshark doesn't have any connection or device limits.

Security and privacy: Surfshark's apps more than cover the VPN privacy basics: secure protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN), strong encryption, and a kill switch to prevent exposing your traffic if the VPN drops. But that's just the start. The service also uses private DNS to shield your browsing activities, and Multi-Hop VPN to make it even more difficult for others to track you, while ad, tracker, and malware-blocking keep other privacy-busting dangers at bay.

Performance: Surfshark continues to offer fantastic speeds, with WireGuard-powered downloads hitting over 950 Mbps consistently in our tests. OpenVPN was sluggish by comparison at around 130 Mbps. That probably won't be an issue if you're accessing Surfshark from the standard apps (you'll just set them to use WireGuard), but it might affect you if you're installing Surfshark on a router.

Usability: Surfshark's apps look a little more complex than the competition, with tabs, sidebars, and buttons to explore. But that's no real surprise when they have so many features, and with one or two small usability exceptions, they're simple enough to operate.

What's more, some of Surfshark's features can do a lot to make your life easier. If you only need to use a VPN for browsing, streaming, or maybe P2P, set that up in Surfshark's Bypasser and everything else will use your regular connection—simple.

The best VPN service in 2024 (13)

Streaming: If you're tired of streaming services preventing you from accessing overseas content, Surfshark can help. It immediately got us into US, UK, Australian, Japanese, and Canadian Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, C4, 9Now, and BBC iPlayer.

Customer support: If you need help setting up Surfshark, or if it's not quite as you expected, the support site is on hand to help. It doesn't quite have the depth we see from the two above providers, but the articles you do get are hugely detailed. Open an installation guide with some VPNs, and you'll get little more than "go to this app store link and install it as usual." Do that at Surfshark, and you'll get screenshots for every single installation step, detailed guidance on using all the app's main features, links to other relevant articles, and even a video tutorial if you'd prefer.

Or, if that sounds too much like hard work, you could just open a live chat session. We're usually talking to an agent in a minute or two, and most of our test questions had helpful and accurate replies right away.

Price: While Surfshark's monthly billed plan isn't as cheap as some others, sign up for the two-year deal and the effective monthly cost comes in around $2.30—that's spectacular value for what you're getting in total here.

General news: Surfshark is now rolling out Nexus, a clever networking technology that the company says will allow it to add new privacy features, and "stabilize and speed up your VPN connection." These features will appear throughout 2023, so we can't give any verdict on Nexus, but it's good to see a provider so focused on finding new and innovative ways to improve the service.

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Surfshark test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignEasy to use and elegant⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useConnecting only takes a few clicks—ideal for newbies⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of the fastest providers we tested⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingUnblocks virtually everything you'll need⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyNot a comprehensive antivirus or ad-blocking solution, and some kill switch ossues⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportBrowsing support articles isn't as intuitive as I'd like⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceReal value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN for Linux

4. Private Internet Access (PIA)

The best VPN for Linux with a dedicated GUI for most distros

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Hulu, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: Over 20,000 | Server locations: Over 100 | Countries: 84 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Port-forwarding support

Open-source apps

Lots of features and customization

Dedicated streaming servers

Apps can be difficult for beginners

Below-average WireGuard speeds

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a VPN that's proven its claims:PIA is one of the only VPN services that can say it's proven its no-logs policy in court—not once, but twice.

✔️ You need a dedicated Linux GUI:with apps for the most popular distros and over 10 years in the industry, it's a long-standing favorite in the Linux community.

✔️ You need a customizable torrenting VPN:port-forwarding and a mountain of torrent-friendly servers make PIA an excellent pick for P2P file sharing.

Don't subscribe if:

You want the easiest VPN to use:PIA's technical prowess is both a blessing and a curse, and its orientation towards technical users means that it isn't the easiest for absolute beginners.

You want a built-in password manager:unlike ExpressVPN and NordVPN, PIA doesn't offer a password manager for users.

❌ You want the fastest VPN:PIA offers good speeds for torrenting and is comparable to ExpressVPN, but it is nowhere near the speeds on offer with NordVPN and Surfshark.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒Private Internet Accessis an industry veteran, and a long-standing favorite of privacy purists like myself.Put it to the test with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Private Internet Access VPN review and see why this low-cost option is also great for Linux.

Private Internet Access has over a decade of experience in the industry and has outlasted the majority of its competition for one simple reason: it does exactly what it says on the tin. While most leading services will commission regular third-party audits, PIA goes a step further and makes its software open-source so anyone in the world can view, audit, and verify its privacy claims.

If that's not enough, PIA is perhaps the only VPN that has proven its no-logs claims in court, twice. When American authorities presented a warrant for information, PIA gave them absolutely nothing, because there was nothing to give in the first place. If you need a VPN that will genuinely protect your digital privacy, nothing gives peace of mind like having your policies proven true.

Try Private Internet Access on unlimited devices.

My favorite feature is the utterly enormous network on offer. There are tens of thousands of servers to connect to—giving you plenty of opportunities to access content in the country you want. Dedicated streaming servers make it easier to unblock your favorite shows around the world, and with more IPs on offer than any other pick on our list.

All subscriptions come with a free email breach scanner and Boxcryptor license to encrypt and secure your cloud storage. Both of these come as standard with all PIA subscriptions, and when you factor in that most competitors would charge extra for those same features, its value for money increases exponentially.

The mobile and tablet apps are easy enough to use and are absolutely rammed with features and security tools, but the desktop apps are better suited to more technical users. As such, it generally lacks that intuitive feel and attention to detail that comes with ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark. Plus, PIA is one of the few Linux VPN services with a GUI (visual app), rather than a simple command-line interface like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

While it definitely suits advanced users best, PIA has an absolutely impeccable record and comes with built-in threat protection and ad-blocking functionality. It's easy to see why privacy purists are so fond of the service.

Click to show technical analysis of Private Internet Access ↓

Servers, connections, and apps: PIA more than delivers on the network basics, with tens of thousands of servers distributed across 84 countries. Platform support is more standard (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux), but the Chrome extension stands out for its cookie-blocking and other bonus privacy tools. Whatever you're using, unlimited simultaneous connections also means you can protect every device you own.

Security and privacy: PIA preserves your privacy by using the highly secure OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, while its MACE feature keeps ads, trackers, and malware at bay. In our testing, it blocked 96% of trackers, 74% of malicious links, and 96% of ads. The company has open-sourced its apps, too, allowing anyone who's interested to check the code and confirm it works as advertised.

I love that PIA is open-source, but it feels a bit half-hearted now. There appears to have been no significant app updates in more than a year, and the last update we observed doesn't have its source available because it only had "minor changes". This is something I'll be keeping a close eye on, and pointing out to PIA in my next conversation with its engineers.

Performance: In the past, speed wasn't the greatest, but this time around it certainly earns back some points. Our latest testing shows WireGuard speeds up to 360 Mbps, down from 510 Mbps in our last check. While speed may be a problem for gaming online, if you're mostly browsing, torrenting, or streaming, then PIA should be more than fast enough.

Usability: PIA's apps have a huge number of features, and the mass of panels can look cluttered and be very overwhelming to some users. But unusually, you can configure them to highlight your favorite features and hide everything else you don't care about. It's the best of all worlds: experts get the power they need, while anyone looking for simplicity can cut the app down to little more than a simple connect button.

Streaming: PIA was one of the few services that unblocked every service in every region we tested. With dedicated streaming servers, it's incredibly easy to watch your favorite shows, anywhere in the world.

Customer support: PIA has an average support site, and if it can't answer your questions, you're now able to immediately ask a member of the support team via live chat. In our experience, friendly and knowledgeable agents respond within a minute or two, pay close attention to the question, and have the knowledge and experience to diagnose tricky problems and deliver accurate and insightful advice.

Private Internet Access claims to have over 10,000 servers around the world—that's way more than any other premium consumer VPN. (Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Price: If you're impressed by PIA's functionality, then so are we, but what's truly outstanding is that all this can be yours for a fraction of the cost of the competition. Their monthly plan has jumped up a few dollars, but these aren't headline prices that double on renewal, either—they're just great value.

Anything else? Many providers develop lengthy lists of clever features but sign up, and you discover many are only available on Windows. PIA? Not so much. Its Mac and iOS apps have a host of options and settings, and the Android VPN app is more powerful than some providers' desktop editions.

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Private Internet Access test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignLots of customization, but could do with some attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the best for beginners, but great for advanced users⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceGood speeds, but generally average compared to industry leaders⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDedicated streaming servers and an enormous global network help you unblock anything and everything⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThe latest and greatest in VPN tech, and a proven no-logging policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportA mass of knowledge online and expert support on-hand at all times⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceBudget-friendly and offering plenty of value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Other VPNs I've tested and recommend

Between myself and the team, we've conducted hundreds of VPN reviews over the years—so many that I've frankly lost count. Here are five more VPN providers that may not be the best overall, but they're excellent alternatives that I would still recommend.

5. IPVanish

A speedy VPN with lots of customization

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 2,200 | Server locations: 75 | Countries: 50 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Blistering speeds

Independently audited

Unlimited simultaneous connections

Dedicated Linux GUI

Couldn't unblock Disney+ in our latest round of tests

Couldn't unblock Netflix AU or CA in our latest round of tests

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a Linux GUI:IPVanish is one of the few VPNs that offer a dedicated app for Linux users.

✔️ You have a lot of devices to protect:much like Surfshark, IPVanish offers unlimited simultaneous connections.

Don't subscribe if:

You don't intend to cancel your renewal:initial pricing is pretty cheap, but if you allow the service to renew, you might just break the bank.

You want to stream Disney+:IPVanish has pretty reliable unblocking capabilities, but it struggled to unblock Disney+ in our latest round of testing.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒IPVanishis a budget-friendly provider with plenty of great features and unlimited simultaneous connections. It's come a long way since our last deep-dive.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth IPVanish VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

IPVanish really took some strides in our latest round of reviews, pushing its speed and capabilities to a whole new level. The company doesn't just rent its servers, it owns them—giving it full control over bandwidth. On top of that, there are no device limits, so you can protect as many devices as you want. Combine all that with a feature-rich offering and independent auditing, and it's a reliable alternative.

In our latest round of testing, IPVanish unblocked US, UK, and Japanese Netflix with ease, and even accessed Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4, and 9Now. However, it struggled to unblock Disney+.

Try IPVanish with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The desktop apps stand out for their intuitive and easy-to-use map interface. It's less imposing than NordVPN's but comes with some of the same UI problems. Personally, I really like the dark aesthetic of the software—it almost feels like you're in a hacker movie.

IPVanish makes the most of WireGuard too, with blistering test results of over 950 Mbps earning it a place in our top three fastest VPNs. OpenVPN speeds were up from previous testing too, coming in at 225 Mbps. This might not seem like a lot in comparison, but bear in mind that WireGuard is around 5,000 lines of code, while OpenVPN is over 72,000 lines of code, and over 20 years old, to boot. Getting speeds of over 200 Mbps with OpenVPN can be incredibly difficult, so this is quite impressive.

There's a wealth of security features and customization to be had with the app. You can tweak it to suit your style, and the built-in kill switch holds up to our most extreme testing, so you can be confident in the protection it gives you. I'm not a big fan of the hard kill switch approach though. If you have it activated and intentionally disconnect from the VPN, it'll stop your internet. This can be a pain in the neck if you just want to pause it for a moment. It's easy enough to deactivate on the fly though, so this is only a minor gripe.

IPVanish is a great alternative for anyone with lots of hardware to protect and who wants to use its eye-popping WireGuard speeds. The 30-day money-back guarantee gives you a risk-free way to find out more, but beware, it's for annual plans only—monthly billed users aren't covered.

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IPVanish test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignDark and edgy, but generally complicated⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSome usability issues and a complex interface⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceIncredibly fast WireGuard speeds⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDecent unblocking with a couple of hiccups⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThoroughly audited and reliable encryption⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportSupport articles aren't as helpful as they should be and generally say the same thing⭐⭐⭐
PriceGenerally cheap, but renewal prices are quite a sting to users that get caught out⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN service in 2024 (17)

6. PrivadoVPN

The best free VPN in 2024

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Smart TVs | 24/7 support: Website and email | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 300 | Server locations: 63 | Free locations: 13 | Countries: 48 | Simultaneous connections: 10

Unblocks plenty of streaming services

Excellent features, even on the free version

Fast WireGuard-powered apps

No security audits

Single-month plan is pricey

Fewer servers than Express, Nord and Surfshark

Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a reliable free VPN:PrivadoVPN doesn't hide its most important features behind a paywall like ProtonVPN, so you get a reliable service without spending a penny.

✔️ You want to stream Netflix:a dedicated geo-unblocking team means that even free users benefit from reliable US and UK Netflix unblocking.

Don't subscribe if:

You want lots of server options:while the free service has 13 locations, it's still incredibly limited, and the same can be said for the premium service compared to the likes of PIA and Surfshark.

You need more than 10 GB of data per month:PrivadoVPN's free service has a data limit on its uncapped server speeds, but after that's used up, you go into "over quota mode" where you're limited to 1 Mbps. If you need unlimited data on a free VPN, I recommend Proton VPN.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒PrivadoVPNoffers a decent mid-tier premium service, but it's hands-down the best free VPN on the market right now.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth PrivadoVPN review and see why this free service is so good at unblocking Netflix.

PrivadoVPN is a mid-tier premium VPN with an unbeatable free version.On a premium subscription, you get 10 simultaneous connections, a zero-logs policy, an ad blocker, parental controls, and even threat protection to help keep your devices safe from malware.

When it comes to the free version, some of these features are locked behind the enticing premium paywall. But you still get plenty of customization.

Try PrivadoVPN absolutely free.

Our latest round of testing showed a fantastic 880 Mbps download speed, which is plenty for streaming in 4K, gaming online, and seamless torrenting. It even handles its own bandwidth and transit routes, so you get fantastic speeds and almost no server congestion—even on free servers.

I spoke with one of PrivadoVPN's representatives about how pleased I was that they offered WireGuard encryption on the free plan, and they responded with "Of course. We wouldn't want to lock something so important behind a paywall." This just goes to show how much they value users, regardless of whether or not they're premium customers.

Its easy-to-use apps allow for plenty of customization. You can utilize one-click connections and a kill switch to make sure you're always protected, even if your VPN connection drops.

PrivadoVPN has a dedicated geoblocking team, that constantly looks to bypass censorship and regional content restrictions. What's more, it doesn't make free users suffer with sub-par servers—making it one of the only free services that can reliably unblock US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime.

PrivadoVPN has yet to verify its privacy credentials with an independent audit. Privado told us that an audit would require months of standstill for development, and that would prevent them from delivering on the needs of their users. Privado plans to pursue an audit as soon as possible, but it needs to make sure it's offering the best service it can at all times. This admittedly feels a little hollow given the app doesn't feel as wholly polished as some of the competition.

I liked that PrivadoVPN doesn't give you a reduced priority if you're a free user. if you find yourself stuck, Privado has 24/7 email and live chat support for customers—regardless of what plan they're on.

Click to show my trip to PrivadoVPN ↓

In September 2023 Mo and I flew out to Amsterdam to see PrivadoVPN's servers in person. I was absolutely blown away by the capacity of throughput available and the room available to expand further. PrivadoVPN's teams are constantly innovating to improve the capability of its data centers, and the attention to detail was astounding. From cable management to little details like tagging, external power supplies, and accidental removal protection on every plug.

As we analyzed the server stacks, Mo and I saw that PrivadoVPN uses RAM-only straight passthrough servers for its traffic. This means that no user data can be stored when you're using the VPN, so if authorities came knocking, there'd be nothing to hand over.

The best VPN service in 2024 (18)

Ultimately, what reassured me most was how the engineers were hungry to improve the service, and better serve customers. I encouraged them to pursue open-sourcing and independent third-party audits, and believe we'll see the provider pursue one or both of these sooner rather than later.

In a cost-of-living crisis, it's refreshing to see a VPN provider go so far with its freemium plan. Digital privacy is a right, and one that PrivadoVPN clearly defends.

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PrivadoVPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA simple yet colorful design⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEasy to use and clearly laid out⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceThe low end of average for a leading service, but generally fast enough for anything you could throw at it⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingSome hiccups despite a dedicated unblocking team⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyGood scores on paper, but currently lacking an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent email support, but not a lot of of on-site help⭐⭐⭐
PriceNothing beats free⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

7. Proton VPN

A VPN that continues to advocate for internet freedom everywhere

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 30 days - free version available | Number of servers: over 2,900 | Server locations: 85 | Countries: 67 | Simultaneous connections: 10

Open-source apps

Free plan with unlimited bandwidth

Improving speeds and coverage

Lots of free tools

Not the best value for money

Customer support needs improvement

WireGuard Windows connection time is slower than most

Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a free Linux VPN:Few VPNs offer serious Linux support, and Proton VPN is the only service to offer a GUI for freemium Linux users.

✔️ You want a totally unlimited free VPN:if you need lots of data every month, ProtonVPN doesn't limit your monthly usage.

Don't subscribe if:

You need a fast VPN:Windows connection speeds were a bit slow in our testing, so we'd recommend ExpressVPN or Surfhark if speed is a deal-breaker for you.

You want lots of locations to choose from:while Proton VPN has improved greatly, it still offers a limited range of locations and countries to choose from—especially on its free plan.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒Proton VPNis a well-known brand and a popular free Linux VPN that even offers protection for hackers on Kali.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Proton VPN review and find out how it keeps up the fight for internet freedom.

Proton VPN's network exploded in size from a just few hundred servers in 14 countries a few years ago, to over 2,900 servers across 67 countries today. You can access these servers via a wide range of apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, and Chromebook.

Trust is important when you're choosing a VPN provider, and Proton VPN does more than most to reassure you that your privacy is safe in its hands. You can pay anonymously via Bitcoin, even cash. Proton VPN's apps are open-source, allowing anyone to inspect the code, and they've been independently audited, too.

Try Proton VPN's unlimited free plan.

Technical privacy and security features start with strong encryption and the best protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2) MultiHop VPN passes your traffic through several VPN servers for extra safety, and a rock-solid kill switch keeps your identity safe if the VPN drops.

Our test results saw Proton VPN peak at an average of 460 Mbps (down from 510 Mbps) for WireGuard—not quite top ten material, but fast enough for most people— and a well above average of 350 Mbps with OpenVPN.

Proton VPN's support site still has some overly complicated articles, and although the company has added live chat, agents aren't always available. When you do get ahold of someone, though, we've found them to offer top-notch advice, and email questions usually get helpful replies within a few hours.

Proton VPN may focus on its privacy-protecting abilities, but it also knows how to have fun. Our latest tests allowed us hassle-free access to content from US, UK, Aussie, and Canadian Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Unlike PrivadoVPN, Proton VPN doesn't offer the same unblocking reliability to both premium and free users.

On June 28, Proton launched Proton Pass, a new password manager with a free option available, too. It's another tool in the wider array of Proton's belt, and means that you can create a whole security suite for yourself, with emails, VPN, and password management, all for free.

Continuing its efforts to combat censorship around the world, Proton launched the VPN Observatory to monitor spikes in VPN usage. The Observatory uses that information to raise the alarm when sudden acts of censorship have taken place around the world.

Proton VPN isn't cheap, but it's open and superbly transparent, with plenty of features and great unblocking abilities. Plus, a generous ten-device limit—more than the likes of Express or Nord—means it's likely you can connect and use all your hardware at the same time.

We found Proton VPN's clients to be "dependable, with only one connection drop during testing" (Image credit: Proton VPN)

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Proton VPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignIf you like dark mode, you'll love this interface⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useFairly easy on mobile, but a bit more complex on desktop⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDecent speeds, but there's a risk of congestion on free servers⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingLimits unblocking to premium services but otherwise fantastic⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyStrong encryption and plenty of security add-ons available⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAgents can be hard to get ahold of, but there's a lot of very technical support available⭐⭐⭐
PriceModerately expensive premium plans, but a great free plan⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN service in 2024 (21)

8. Windscribe

A popular free VPN with open-source apps

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Disney, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 3 days - free version available | Number of servers: over 400 | Server locations: 112 | Countries: 69 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Unlimited device connections

Crammed with advanced features

10GB a month free plan

Open-source apps

No 24/7 live chat support

No security audit

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a free VPN with more than 3 locations:unlike Proton VPN, Windscribe offers 11 countries to choose from on its free servers.

✔️ You want to pretend you're in Antarctica:that's right, Windscribe has a fake Antarctica server, so you can pretend to be a penguin accessing international content.

Don't subscribe if:

You're paying for a subscription:it's a great service, but even Windscribe's cheapest premium plan just doesn't offer the same value for money as the likes of Surfshark of PIA.

You want an audited VPN:Windscribe is open source, so anyone can audit, but it has yet to commit to a proper, independent third-party audit.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒Windscribeoffers an amazing free plan, but its premium service struggles to compete with the industry leaders in terms of value.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Windscribe VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

Windscribe is a capable Canadian VPN with a stack of interesting features, and plenty of appeal for just about every type of user.

Lots of hardware to protect? There are stylish open-source apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux, along with powerful browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. A subscription covers unlimited devices, too, so you can likely connect your entire home with one Windscribe plan.

Try Windscribe for free today.

If streaming overseas content is a priority, you'll love Windscribe's ability to unblock US Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Notably, in our latest test, we were unable to unblock Netflix Japan, however.

Experts get access to unusual advanced features. Windscribe doesn't just have basic ad blocking, for instance; it can also block trackers, malware, fake news, p*rn sites, and more, and you can configure every detail to get the precise protection you need.

Our testing shows Windscribe is continually improving its speed, and this year it was one of the few that maxed out our testing lines. That's impressive, and even more so when you factor in that it was able to unblock most streaming services (with the exception of Amazon Prime) in our latest analysis.

There's no 24/7 live chat support, unfortunately, although you can send emails or use the company's own Subreddit. Although Windscribe has taken a big transparency step recently by open-sourcing its desktop apps, we'd like to see it go further by putting the service through an independent security audit.

Windscribe is a solid VPN choice, but it still has a way to go before it goes toe-to-toe with the leading providers. That said, it's making improvements every day, so I'm keen to see how it'll look in the future. What's more, the free plan gives you 10GB per month and access to all the main features, so if you're tempted, you can try the service out risk-free, to see what it can do for you.

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Windscribe test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignGenerally simple, but quite cluttered⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIntuitive, but may feel complicated for beginners⭐⭐⭐
PerformancePretty average for WireGuard⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDecent unblocking, but couldn't access Amazon Prime in our tests⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyRobust and open-source, but lacking an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNo live chat, but helpful on-site content and quick responses to emails⭐⭐⭐
PriceWe always love free plans, but the premium plan is quite expensive⭐⭐⭐

9. CyberGhost VPN

A good value VPN with plenty of features

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, ITVX, Channel 4, 9Now, 10 play | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 45 days | Number of servers: over 9,260 | Server locations: 116 | Countries: 91 | Simultaneous connections: 7

Above-average WireGuard speeds

Can be used on almost anything

45-day money-back guarantee

Audit is hard to access

Annoying device limit scheme

Support site isn't the best

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want an easy-to-use VPN: a clean and intuitive interface makes CyberGhost VPN a great choice for beginners.

✔️ You want more than a month to test it:CyberGhost VPN offers the longest money-back guarantee on the market at a spectacular 45 days.

Don't subscribe if:

You need a Disney Plus VPN:in our latest round of testing, CyberGhost VPN struggled to unblock the popular streaming service.

You need in-depth support:while the customer support agents are friendly and helpful, CyberGhost's support site lacks the depth on offer with PIA, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN.

❌ You want to install it on more than seven devices:most services have a limit on the maximum number of simultaneous connections, whereas CyberGhost VPN only lets you have up to 7 installations at any one time.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒CyberGhost VPNis a popular choice for beginners with easy-to-use apps and a whopping 45-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth CyberGhost VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

CyberGhost VPN has a mighty network of over 9,260 servers (mostly torrent-friendly) spread across an impressive 91 countries. There are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and other smart TVs, and Smart DNS support allows you to set it up on game consoles, too.

Streaming proved another highlight, as CyberGhost VPN effortlessly unblocked US Netflix (but unsuccessfully in catalogs further afield), Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. CyberGhost failed to unblock Disney Plus and UK Netflix this time around, despite having dedicated streaming servers for the platforms. I love that the apps have dedicated servers for streaming Hulu, HBO Max, and more.

Try CyberGhost VPN with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Although the apps are generally easy to use and intuitive, they have one or two very basic omissions. The Windows app still doesn't display a notification when it connects or disconnects, for instance, so unless you're looking at the app window, you won't know for sure when you're connected or if the VPN drops.

Unfortunately, CyberGhost VPN removed its password manager due to a lack of interest from users, so if that's a deal-breaker, you may want to consider ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it's fair to say that CyberGhost isn't wasting time or money on features that its users don't really want or need.

CyberGhost's maximum speed is impressive, but was slightly lower than our previous testing, with WireGuard connections sitting around 630 Mbps (down from 730 Mbps), and OpenVPN reaching 360 Mbps (down from 380). This is still incredibly fast, and more than enough for gaming online, torrenting, and streaming in 4K, so you'll be glad to know it won't slow you down.

One major concern we have with CyberGhost is that the Windows app doesn't use notifications when it connects or disconnects. This isn't a trivial point—you can't be sure when you're protected unless you watch it, meaning it could give you a false sense of security. Because of that, combined with a recent, embarrassing Windows security vulnerability, that was identified and fixed via a bug bounty before it was reported, we've knocked CyberGhost down in our rankings.

If you're willing to commit to a longer plan, there's exceptional value for money on offer, and with its enormous network, you don't need to worry about busy servers slowing you down.

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CyberGhost VPN test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignSimple, intuitive, and easily customizable⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of usePerfect for beginners and anyone wanting a simple experience⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDecent speeds that are great for torrenting, streaming and gaming online⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDedicated streaming servers, but struggles to unblock Disney Plus⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyA few notable hiccups, but a third-party audit from Deloitte⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAgents are helpful, but the on-site content could be better⭐⭐⭐
PriceExcellent value and competitive pricing⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN service in 2024 (23)

10. Mullvad

A fast VPN that prioritizes security over streaming

Streaming sites unblocked: None | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 650 | Server locations: 72 | Countries: 43 | Simultaneous connections: 5

Sign up without handing over any personal information

Super-fast speeds

App and infrastructure audits

Accepts cash payments

Couldn't unblock streaming services in our tests

Apps could use some improvement

Subscribe if:

✔️ You want to pay with cash:One of the only services that let you pay by cash for increased anonymity.

✔️ You want total VPN anonymity:Mullvad offers the option for a zero-knowledge account. Simply generate an account and pay by cash and you can hide your personal information.

Don't subscribe if:

You're on a budget:Mullvad has one price, and it's not exactly cheap.

You want to stream:Mullvad prioritizes anonymity and security over unblocking streams, so if you want to access Netflix, Disney+ or iPlayer, you'll be better off with ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒Mullvadis an incredibly reliable service that people can trust with their lives, but if you're hoping to stream shows abroad, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Mullvad VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

Every VPN claims it cares about privacy, but Mullvad goes further than most. You can open an account without handing over any personal details, for instance, then pay by crypto, or even post a cash-stuffed envelope (no, seriously) ensuring the company knows nothing about you at all.

Mullvad scores for transparency, too, putting its entire infrastructure—apps, servers, websites, and more—through comprehensive security audits, and promising to repeat these regularly.

Try Mullvad with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If performance is your top priority, though, Mullvad's 900 Mbps (up from 770 Mbps at last testing) peak speed is nearly twice some of the competition. That said, OpenVPN speeds were nearly triple what we would normally see from the competition at 530 Mbps. Privacy purists who are still skeptical of the latest protocol can have peace of mind knowing that the OpenVPN speeds are some of the fastest in the industry.

Valuable features include a reliable kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a variety of stealth options. The apps are top-quality, too, fully leak-free and with a rock-solid kill switch keeping us safe in every situation.

It's not all good news, though. The apps are a little basic in many areas, and Mullvad couldn't unblock a single streaming service in our tests. On top of that, there's no live chat or 24/7 support; its single 5 Euros a month plan is great if you're happy with the monthly billing, but there's no discount if you're happy to sign up for longer.

Plus, on May 29, Mullvad announced it was removing port-forwarding from its service. The loss of this key feature means that torrenters will be better off with the likes of ExpressVPN or PIA.

Feeble unblocking and basic support mean this isn't a VPN for the average user. High speeds and excellent privacy make Mullvad a solid pick for anyone who's looking to maintain anonymity online.

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Mullvad test results:
AttributesNotesRating
DesignA fairly basic design that does away with the usual bells and whistles⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the easiest for beginners⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceSolid speeds, even on OpenVPN connections⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingMullvad focuses more on privacy and security, and less on unblocking content, leaving it all a bit underwhelming
Security and privacyMeticulously audited, with lots of attention to detail⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNo live chat, but we saw speedy responses from email tickets⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceExpensive, but the price doesn't shoot up on renewal like other providers⭐⭐⭐

What is a VPN?

Avirtual private network (VPN) is "a mechanism to establish a secure remote access connection across an intermediary network, often the internet" (Stewart and Kinsey, 254, 2021). To do this, the VPN software encrypts your internet connection and makes it illegible to anyone who doesn't have the key to decrypt it. Put simply, this means that no one can see your data or what you're doing online, and improves your security, privacy, and anonymity online.

In doing so, a VPN replaces your IP address (your device's digital signature) to make it appear as though you're accessing from a different device elsewhere in the world. This lets you unblock foreign content while hiding your identity behind the sheer volume of users among VPN services.

Note: choosing the right VPN is essential. There are so many services that aren't secure enough, and using them could give you a false sense of security. Some of the more suspect VPN services will even track your activity and sell your information to third parties—unraveling the privacy aspect of using the VPN in the first place.

Do I need a VPN?

In short, yes! A VPN is an essential piece of kit in the modern world. There's a lot more to a VPN than just unblocking your favorite shows and hiding your online activity from your internet provider.

It's also capable of protecting you far beyond the capabilities of normal internet encryption standards, and even securing your device from hackers. With everything being so internet-focused, cybercrime is becoming increasingly complex and hard to stave off by the everyday person.

That hotel/airport/café WiFi you just connected to may be fake, or could've been tampered with by a hacker to steal your information. Sadly, it's easier to do than you might think. But a VPN is the answer to securing yourself against those online criminals.

Click to show more ↓

Too much of our internet usage is under-protected. I'm sure you're thinking "But Andreas, almost everything uses HTTPS nowadays" and that's true, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to beat.

Backdoors and encryption cracking are becoming increasingly problematic, and with the development of quantum computing, HTTPS traffic is currently susceptible to a store now, decrypt later (SNDL) attack. This is where someone saves encrypted data, waiting for when quantum computers are capable of decrypting the information—experts believe this could happen in just five years given the current rate of development.

So what does this mean for you? It means that a VPN is the best way to protect yourself online—not just now, but in the future, too!

TechRadar's VPN rankings

There are hundreds, if not thousands of VPNs out there, and you've likely heard the names of countless services. Check out our rankings below of popular services and see some honorable mentions that can't currently compete with what's on offer with our top services.

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VPN serviceRatingSummary
1. ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐The best VPN overall and our top pick for most use cases.
2. NordVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐½The fastest VPN, plus a full security suite with ad-blocking and malware protection.
3. Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐½The best cheap VPN, and also the fastest in our tests.
4. Private Internet Access⭐⭐⭐⭐½The best Linux VPN. A dedicated GUI for Linux, and a no-logs policy that was proven in court twice.
5. IPVanish⭐⭐⭐⭐The best of the rest. An up-and-coming provider that supports Linux.
6. PrivadoVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐The best free VPN. It even unblocks Netflix.
7. ProtonVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐A popular free VPN service with a history of advocating for the freedom of the internet.
8. Windscribe⭐⭐⭐⭐A fast service with a popular browser proxy.
9. CyberGhost VPN⭐⭐⭐⭐A popular and easy-to-use platform that's great for beginners.
10. Mullvad⭐⭐⭐⭐Good for Linux, and you can even pay in cash.
11. PureVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐One of the cheapest premium VPNs on the market.
12. Hide.Me⭐⭐⭐⭐A speedy service with plenty of customization.
13. Atlas VPN⭐⭐⭐½A new player in the VPN industry that's already making waves.
14. TunnelBear⭐⭐⭐½A reliable free VPN but no support for content unblocking.
15. Mozilla VPN⭐⭐⭐½A well known brand with a VPN that currently underperforms.
16. Hotspot Shield⭐⭐⭐½A fast VPN service with lots of great features.
17. VyprVPN⭐⭐⭐A reliable VPN with a dedicated protocol for bypassing even the most severe censorship.
18. Norton VPN⭐⭐⭐Known for its popular security suite with a lacklustre VPN.
19. PrivateVPN⭐⭐½An excellent cheap service that offers plenty of support for streaming and torrenting.
20. AstrillVPN⭐⭐½A mid-range VPN that's popular for bypassing Chinese censorship.
21. FastestVPN⭐⭐½Making its way up the list, but not yet living up to its name.
22. StrongVPN⭐⭐Another mid-range VPN that continues to improve.
23. AirVPN⭐⭐Built by hacktivists, for hacktivists.
24. Goose VPN⭐⭐An incredibly cheap mid-range VPN.
25. TorGuard⭐⭐A torrent-friendly VPN that's good for accessing foreign content.
26. UltraVPN⭐⭐Fast and secure with plenty of server locations.
27. Le VPN⭐⭐Lots of locations to choose from and integrated SmartDNS technology.
28. VPNArea⭐⭐A mid-range VPN that struggles to hold up against the industry leaders.
29. ZoogVPN⭐⭐A fairly underwhelming VPN from Greece.
30. Google One⭐⭐Google's history with data doesn't give us much faith in the service.

We've tested a lot of VPNs over the years. Check out our VPN reviews for more information.

What is the fastest VPN?

It's a well-trodden sales technique for VPN providers to claim they have the fastest speeds—but they clearly can't all be the fastest. That's why we test the speeds on offer from all the top VPNs across different global servers and on a variety of protocols.

Below are the speed results for the top VPN services, during our latest tests:

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VPN serviceWireGuard or proprietaryOpenVPN
1. NordVPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)140 Mbps
2. Surfsharkover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)130 Mbps
3. IPVanishover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)225 Mbps
4. Windscribeover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)330 Mbps
5. Hide.meover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)260 Mbps
6. Norton VPNover 950 Mbps (maxed out my testing)240 Mbps
7. Mullvad900 Mbps530 Mbps
8. PrivadoVPN880 Mbps130 Mbps
9. Atlas VPN860 MbpsN/A
10. ExpressVPN750 Mbps230 Mbps
11. FastestVPN730 Mbps170 Mbps
12. PureVPN650 Mbps140 Mbps
13. CyberGhost630 Mbps360 Mbps
14. Private VPN610 Mbps110 Mbps
15. Hotspot Shield570 MbpsN/A
16. TunnelBear500 Mbps310 Mbps
17. Proton VPN460 Mbps350 Mbps
18. Private Internet Access360 Mbps310 Mbps
19. Mozilla VPN360 MbpsN/A
20. Google One345 MbpsN/A
21. VyprVPN325 Mbps105 Mbps
22. Astrill VPN390 Mbps (inconsistent testing results)N/A

How to choose a VPN

Finding the right VPN starts by focusing on your needs and intended use case. Will you be streaming content? Just want to keep yourself safe online? Or do you want to use it for torrenting and doing some gaming?Whether it's one of these things or all of them, the following factors will help you find the best VPN.

Click to show more detailed information ↓

Locations: think about where you want to connect from and where you want to connect to. Physically closer servers will give you faster connection speeds, but if you want to access foreign content, you need to make sure the VPN provider has servers in that country. You also need to consider whether those servers are physically located in that country.

Servers that are physically there (often referred to as "bare metal servers") may be slower to connect to, but will more easily unblock the local content. However, virtual servers can be just as effective at unblocking content but may be physically closer to you—enabling better speeds. Knowing whether a server is a physical or virtual instance can help you make a better decision about which provider to pick.

Unblocking capability: if streaming shows and movies is a top priority for you, look for a VPN that unblocks your favorite services like Netflix or Player. Similarly, some services offer dedicated servers for specific tasks, like streaming and torrenting, which make it easier to unblock your favorite content regardless of where you are.

Features: it's an industry standard to offer features like a kill switch and encryption protocol customization, but not all VPNs are created equal, and some features are of higher quality. If you're a journalist or political dissident, having security features that won't accidentally break and leak your data can be the difference between life and death, so always invest in a proven service like the ones noted above.

Similarly, additional tools are becoming popular in the VPN industry as providers look to all-in-one solutions. Services like NordVPN and Surfshark now offer the option to upgrade to a full security suite with antivirus, cloud storage, and data breach tracking included in your subscription.

Torrent users will obviously want P2P support on as many servers as possible, in addition to an independently audited no-logs policy to ensure all your online activities stay private.

Get what suits you best

Our experts have reviewed hundreds of VPN providers and curated this list of the top services, but it's up to you to choose which one fits with your own needs and budget.

Simultaneous connections: most VPN services limit the number of devices you can protect at any one time, and some will even have a download limit for the app. If you have multiple mobile devices, laptops, smart TVs, or other hardware to protect, you will absolutely want to go for a provider that supports more simultaneous connections. Providers like Surfshark, Private Internet Access, and IPVanish offer unlimited simultaneous connections so you can protect every device you own.

Support: One of the best ways to spot a good (or bad) VPN is to check its support site. Look for lots of detailed and well-written content that you feel would help you in whatever tricky situations you may find yourself in. Live chat support is always a welcome sight, as it shows a commitment to helping users as quickly as possible. That said, email support can be surprisingly speedy, with some providers responding in minutes.

Apps: depending on your device, you may be limited in your choice of what provider you can pick. While most services offer apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, very few offer support for Linux, routers, and smart TVs. Even fewer offer a dedicated graphical user interface (a visual app) for Linux, and those that do, only do will mostly offer them for the most common distros like Ubuntu. Be sure to check what the app looks like for your device as well as what setup support is available too.

Price: of course, there's the always cost to consider, too, though we'd suggest concentrating on functionality, first. If price is a key concern, take a look at our list of the best cheap VPNs and bear in mind that you don't always have to compromise on quality.

In short, look for a VPN with everything you want to actually do. That doesn't have to be expensive – there are some great value deals on this list—and you can always use price later to prune your shortlist down to a final choice.

How we test VPN services - our review methodology

While our experts use the top VPNs every day, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of the top 30 VPN services every 6 months with the help of Mike Williams and Anthony Spadafora. This allows us to keep track of who's really the best, and for which use cases.

TechRadar's VPN reviews begin at the provider's website, where we analyze the claims it makes, its privacy policy, its support options, and any other elements of note.We look for any tracking cookies on the site and if/when they activate to see if the service tracks people using the site.

Click to show our testing methodology ↓

Next, we ask ourselves the following questions: what security tools does the provider offer? Does it promise the world, or is it more realistic? Does the privacy policy clearly say how your data is handled? Are there any catches in the small print? Is the pricing open and honest? Ultimately, we're considering not just what the provider says it gives you, but what it really gives, and whether you can trust it with your data.

In order to make sure our reviews are as honest and realistic as possible, we make every effort to sign up for the services anonymously, so our results aren't skewed by the services knowing they're being tested by us.

After signing up for a plan, we install and test the Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux VPN apps, as these are the most popular platforms. Then, we move on to testing the features within those apps, like the kill switch, checking for data leaks, and generally confirming everything works as advertised.

As we do this, we play around with the different encryption protocols on offer, connect to different servers, throw malware at it, and generally look for any way we can stress test the service. If anything breaks under any of our tests, we report it back to the provider so they can fix the issue, but we make sure to include both the issue and the provider's response in our results where appropriate.

We test every VPN provider's speeds at least 120 times across two sessions, and use both a US home connection and a 1 Gbps UK data center to show us a provider's potential versus the real-world application. We measure using different encryption protocols, speed test websites, and features and use the average of the best session as the provider's peak speed. In doing so, you get a better understanding of what you can really expect when you use the service, and not just an arbitrary figure of its fastest speed.

The best VPN service in 2024 (24)

A good VPN should be able to unblock multiple streaming services. To check this, we try to access geo-exclusive content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer, repeating the test from three different locations around the world to get an idea of how the service performs in real life.

In our day-to-day testing, we take a more focused approach depending on the needs of the specific use cases we're writing about. Such as how easy it is to set up the VPN, how much attention to detail there is in the design, and whether a beginner can pick it up easily. We carry out constant real-world testing to make sure our analysis is always accurate and relevant.

However, we don't just trust what we see on the surface of a VPN provider's website.
We'll view the contents of its RAM, even decompile and browse its source code (if we can) to find out what's going on behind the scenes and whether the service gives genuine protection or just a false sense of security.

Want to know more about how we test VPNs? We have a much more in-depth explanation on our VPN testing methodology page.

Tested by

Meet the experts behind our best VPN guide and their favorite VPN services:

The best VPN service in 2024 (25)

Andreas Theodorou

A privacy purist at heart, Andreas is a VPN expert who believes that the best VPN doesn't have to be the most expensive—it's about what's right for you. He enjoys nothing more than holding VPN services accountable to the highest standards and challenging the industry to be better.

The best VPN service in 2024 (26)

Mike Williams

Mike regularly reviews our top picks, and loves looking behind the curtains to see how a VPN works in the background. If there's a skeleton in the closet, he'll find it.

The best VPN service in 2024 (27)

Chiara Castro

Reporting on the latest trends and happenings in the world of cybersecurity, Chiara's investigative journalism helps keep our provider analysis at the cutting edge.

Our VPN testing ethics

When testing VPNs, we don't care about how big the name is or how much money they have to throw around. We care about the product and the genuine value to the reader. We want to know if a service offers a false sense of security. If a VPN is selling your data, we'll call it out. Ultimately, we leave no stone unturned.

We're not here to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. We're here to show which VPNs are genuinely the best and hold the industry accountable for its actions.

The best VPN FAQs

What is the #1 best VPN on the market?

ExpressVPN is the best VPN in the industry—setting the bar for everyone else by automating all of the difficult manual procedures for you, rather than just providing a default configuration and saying it's automatic.

On top of that, it supports almost any device you can think of, and has a proven track record of unblocking content and streaming services from around the world in our rigorous testing. If that's not enough, ExpressVPN continues to engage in cybersecurity conferences and academic studies to help further the field.

You can try it out for 30 days risk-free thanks to its completely no-quibbles money-back guarantee. If you sign up for an annual plan, you'll also get a built-in password manager, a year of Backblaze cloud storage, and an extra three months of protection, absolutely free.

The best VPN service in 2024 (28)

What is the best free VPN to get?

PrivadoVPN is my go-to recommendation for a free VPN because it doesn't lock all of its most important security features behind paywalls, and actually unblocks regional streaming libraries consistently. Coupling that with super-fast speeds means it is hands-down the best free VPN around.

Is a VPN easy to use?

Most top VPNs are remarkably easy to use and despite all the technical-sounding terms that get thrown around. However, it's important to pick the right VPN if you're not already adept with them. Not all VPNs are created equal, and some providers are built with more technically advanced users in mind.

If you're new to VPNs and just want something simple, I recommend using ExpressVPN or Surfshark, as they're particularly simple in their designs, and offer excellent one-click connect functions and recommended server so you get instant protection.

What can I use my VPN for?

The most common uses of VPNs include:

Protecting your digital privacy and securing your device online

Accessing public Wi-Fi without a VPN puts you at risk of cybercriminals monitoring your internet traffic and stealing your data, malicious hotspots redirecting you to dangerous websites, and government agencies tracking and restricting your online activity. By using a VPN, you encrypt your data and hide your IP address, giving you greater digital privacy, and increased anonymity online.

Unblocking restricted apps

Whether it's a government firewall, your work's WiFi, or even a school network, there's always something that's being blocked. When a network blocks access to YouTube, TikTok, or even social media, the above VPNs allow you to bypass those restrictions and log into your favorite apps in total privacy. No one can see what you're doing online thanks to your encrypted data.

Getting around government censorship

Countries like Russia, China, and other privacy-oppressive governments try to block websites and apps countrywide. If you connect to a secure VPN with obfuscation (VPN cloaking) enabled, you'll be able to access censored foreign content to help you avoid propaganda and disinformation.

However, this doesn't work in every case and may be illegal depending on where you are. China, in particular, works hard to detect and block VPNs—so only the best China VPNs can get around the country's strict censorship (commonly referred to as the "Great Firewall of China").

Streaming shows around the world

If you've ever had the displeasure of seeing an "unavailable in your region" error on Netflix or the like, you'll be glad to know that a VPN can help. Thanks to the new IP address from your secure server, you can spoof your location and make it appear as if you're really in that country.

However, not all VPNs are created equal in this regard, and many streaming sites will try to limit your access if they detect that you're using a VPN. Whether you need a VPN for Netflix, or just want to watch BBC iPlayer from abroad, only the top services can give you reliable access every time.

Save money online

By shielding your IP, you can prevent tracking cookie-based price changes that up the cost of a product because the site thinks you're more likely to buy it. On top of that, you can use a VPN to buy products cheaper from abroad by leveraging online sales in different regions. Do this enough times, and you'll end up saving the cost of your VPN and more.

The best VPN service in 2024 (29)

Which VPN protocol should I use?

That depends entirely on you. If you're in a country that doesn't restrict VPN usage, and just want to be safer online while unblocking global content, then WireGuard will be more than enough.

However, if you're in a country like China or Russia, where VPN usage is heavily restricted, being caught using a VPN can be incredibly dangerous. Because of this, I'd recommend using OpenVPN with obfuscation (VPN cloaking) enabled to hide your VPN usage. Unfortunately, WireGuard cannot be obfuscated in a commercially viable way (yet). If you need to hide the fact you're using a VPN, OpenVPN is the most secure and proven protocol around.

TCP or UDP?

Transmission control protocol (TCP) and user datagram protocol (UDP) both have advantages and disadvantages. TCP is better for torrenting and everyday usage because it verifies the order, receipt, and sanctity of every packet, so you won't end up downloading half of a photo.

However, UDP doesn't have that verification, meaning data can flow more quickly, but a packet may occasionally lose its way. It's nothing to be concerned about—it just means it's much better for streaming your favorite shows or playing games online.

How do I get the best VPN?

Finding the best VPN means choosing the one that suits your needs. We can show you which ones are worth your time, but only you can decide if it's right for you. Once you've chosen a VPN from the list above, the next stage is easy. Click through to the one you like, and follow the easy steps on-site to sign up, using the payment method you're most comfortable with—some even let you pay with cryptocurrency these days. Providers like Privado and Proton will even off a free plan for you to take advantage of.

Going for a longer-term subscription will save you money in the long run if you decide to commit, but one thing to note—even though the prices will be described in monthly terms, you'll still have to pay for the full amount up-front.

Once signed up, you can download the VPN apps on whatever devices you want. So, for mobile, get yourself over to the App Store or Play Store, download, and you'll be connected in seconds.

Once installed, you can then get extensions added to your chosen web browser, and go about adding functionality to your various devices. Including your computer and mobile phone of course, but also your games console, tablet, TV streaming devices—even your internet router.

Paid VPNs vs free VPNs - which should I get?

When it comes to cost, a free VPN can feel like a no-brainer, but bear in mind that a great VPN doesn't have to be expensive, there's always a great VPN deal to be had, no matter the time of year. But to answer the question, you should get the one that suits you best.

I've compared some great choices above, but don't think that all VPNs are created equal—most of them are either mining your data to sell on, or simply not offering the protection you need. A lot of proxy services masquerade as VPNs, and because they lack the encryption of a true VPN service, you could open yourself up to a whole host of problems.

Some free services go much further. We've seen one that sends screenshots of your device back to the developer, allowing it to see the sites you're visiting and the apps you're using. Not much privacy protection, there.

Ultimately, whether you pick a free or paid-for service depends on your budgeting. Plus, you can get a premium service without saying goodbye to your cash by taking advantage of free VPN trials.

Are VPNs legal?

For most of the world, it's not the VPN that might be illegal, but what you do with it could still land you in trouble. If you're committing crimes while you're using a VPN, you're still breaking the law, and a VPN won't excuse that.

VPNs are legal in North and South America, Western Europe, Oceania, and most of the rest of the world, but in some countries, it's a far more complicated story.

China and Russia don't ban VPNs entirely, for instance, but they only allow you to use government-appointed providers. To encourage you, they've also banned just about everyone else: Russia's latest banned list includes ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Proton VPN, IPVanish, and more.

Turkey similarly hasn't tried to ban all VPNs, but it might block access to the sites or servers of providers that don't follow its rules. UAE and Oman have laws that might get you into trouble in some VPN-related situations. Iraq, North Korea, and Turkmenistan are more extreme and ban VPNs entirely.

It's a complex area, where the situation might change at any time as countries introduce new laws. It's unlikely you'll get into big trouble for, say, accessing Twitter from a foreign hotel room—repressive governments get enough flak over free speech issues already, without attracting more—but it can't be ruled out entirely. "But I didn't know" isn't a strong defense, though, so if you're traveling somewhere you might run into trouble, be sure to do a little research before you go, and find out what you can do and what you can't.

How much does a VPN cost?

VPNs aren't expensive, and you can get a premium service for as much as a cup of coffee per month. There are even some free services that are worthwhile alternatives if you're struggling to justify the expense.

How to reduce the cost of a VPN

The easiest way to make a VPN cheaper is to opt for a longer subscription. VPN services regularly offer significantly reduced rates for longer commitments.

For example, while a single month of ExpressVPN can cost over $12.95, opting for a 12-month subscription lowers the price by 49% to $6.67 per month. Some providers even offer longer subscriptions, like PureVPN's 5-year offer at just $1.33 per month.

How to check if your VPN is working

The easiest way to check if your VPN is working is to open an incognito/private browsing window and search "What is my IP address" to find an IP checker. Run the test before you connect to your VPN and you'll get your real IP address. Close the incognito window and connect to your chosen VPN, then open a new incognito window and repeat the same process. If your IP is the same, you may not be connected properly or your VPN may have a DNS leak.

Are VPNs safe?

What's the safest VPN?

The services in this guide are safe. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands of providers out there, and a significant portion of them wouldn't meet our standards for us to consider them safe. Many unscrupulous VPNs track your internet usage and log your IP so they can sell your data and hand over your information to anyone who comes knocking.

If you want to make sure your VPN is safe, you should ensure it has the following features at a minimum:

A no-logs policy: ensuring the service isn't tracking your IP or internet usage.

AES 256-bit encryption: the industry standard for security, so no one can snoop on you. Be sure to look for post-quantum encryption as standard, too. With Q-day fast approaching, you don't want to be let down by sub-par encryption.

A kill switch: disconnecting your internet if your VPN connection drops and protecting you from unsuspecting data leaks.

Secure encryption protocols: we recommend using the latest and greatest in encryption technology (WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2) as some older protocols aren't as secure as they once were (IPSec, L2TP).

ExpressVPN currently tops my list for the most secure VPN because it automates its configuration to make sure you're always getting the safest, fastest service possible.

Will a VPN slow my internet speed?

Encrypting and decrypting your traffic, as well as routing it through an extra server, is a lot of extra work, and if you don't pick a provider with decent speeds, they'll likely drop your performance.

Top VPN providers keep this to a minimum by using well-designed apps and the most efficient protocols (the rules a VPN app and server use to transfer data). We regularly see the best VPNs reach over 600 Mbps and more, so if you choose your provider carefully, you may not even notice any difference in speed.

Do quantum computers pose a threat to VPNs and encryption?

The short answer: only if the encryption isn't up to modern standards.

The long answer: because quantum computers can operate in a superposition of both 1 and 0 (unlike traditional computers, which can only be one or the other), it means that they can "look through millions of potential solutions at once, rather than sequentially" as a traditional computer would need to (Stallings, 457, 2023).

This greatly amplifies the computational power and means that traditional public key cryptography leveraging factoring and discrete logarithm problems, such as RSA-based methods, are no longer secure. What would take a traditional computer millennia to crack will soon only take a few minutes on a quantum computer.

"Shor's Algorithm" shows that a powerful enough, and most importantly stable enough, quantum computer would be able to employ attacks such as those based on "Grover's Algorithm" to identify the public key and decrypt your VPN traffic in a matter of minutes (Stinson and Paterson, 342 to 343, 2022).

In the wake of revelations that quantum computers could obliterate traditional key exchange encryption methods, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) called experts to come up with ways to combat the issue.

The result was post-quantum cryptography standardization enabling VPN services to continue protecting your information. There were four algorithms identified by NIST to be quantum-resistant, with the most popular so far being lattice-based encryption methods. Employing a lattice of vectors for the key exchange, instead of a multiplication of two unique primes means that VPN providers can create thousandfold dimensions in which a quantum computer is just as useless as a traditional computer when it comes to decryption.

The encryption/decryption race is just another cat-and-mouse chase.

Article sources

The following textbooks (among others) continue to fuel my research and analysis of VPN services, helping me make better recommendations to readers, and challenge providers on their shortcomings:
- Stallings, William. Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and Practice (Eighth Edition). Harlow: Pearson, 2023.
- Stewart, J. Michael, and Denise Kinsey. Network Security, Firewalls, and VPNs (Third Edition). Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2021.
- Stinson, Douglas R. and Maura B Paterson. Cryptography: Theory and Practice (Fourth Edition). Boca Raton: CRC Press. 2022.

Edited by

The best VPN service in 2024 (30)

Edited by

River Hart

River helps take care of cybersecurity content on TechRadar—ranging from breaking news pieces, reviews, and buying guides.

Disclaimer

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

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The best VPN service in 2024 (31)

Andreas Theodorou

Editor-in-Chief of Tech Software

Andreas has been with TechRadar as Future PLC's Editor-in-Chief of Tech Software since March 2023, supporting content and teams on VPNs, antivirus, and other cybersecurity tools. He's previously written for and led content at ProPrivacy, Business2Community, and The Tech Report. After completing a Master of Research degree, Andreas fell in love with all things cybersecurity; combining his passions to help expose the prevalence of ad tech in the charity sector and raise awareness of digital privacy around the world.

With contributions from

  • Mike WilliamsLead security reviewer
  • River HartTech Software Editor
  • Chiara CastroSenior Staff Writer
The best VPN service in 2024 (2024)

FAQs

What is the best VPN in the US 2024? ›

ExpressVPN comes in at No. 1 in our rating of the Best VPNs of 2024 with a score of 4.5 out of 5. We're not the only ones to rank this VPN highly. It offers strong privacy and security protection, fast speeds even when streaming and torrenting, and is easy to use.

What is the #1 best VPN? ›

ExpressVPN – Best VPN overall

Privacy is important, to be sure, but so are performance, extra features, a wide country selection, and ease of use. ExpressVPN has it all, making it our top choice for VPN.

What is the fastest VPN in 2024? ›

The best fast VPNs in 2024 – our detailed list
  • NordVPN – fastest VPN service in 2024. Based in: ...
  • Surfshark – high-speed VPN with a diverse server fleet. ...
  • IPVanish – high-speed VPN with unlimited connections. ...
  • ExpressVPN – speedy VPN with a proprietary protocol. ...
  • CyberGhost VPN – very fast VPN with exceptional server fleet.
Mar 15, 2024

Which is better NordVPN or ExpressVPN? ›

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are great options for streaming VPNs. They have powerful unblocking and streaming capabilities on various devices – from mobile to smart TV. However, NordVPN is our #1 pick overall because of better speeds and top-notch features.

Which VPN is 100% safe? ›

1. NordVPN – the safest VPN in 2024 overall
Jurisdiction:Panama
Logging:No-logs policy (independently audited 4 times by PwC and Deloitte)
Kill switch:Yes
Current deal:Get NordVPN, now up to 69% OFF + 3 months FREE!
Mar 15, 2024

Is NordVPN better than Surfshark? ›

NordVPN offers more than 6300 ultra-fast VPN servers covering 111 countries, while Surfshark has over 3,200 servers covering 100 countries. Overall, NordVPN has more servers in Europe and North America, while Surfshark offers more choices in Asia, Africa, and South America.

What is the safest VPN type? ›

OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol and the safest choice thanks to its near-unbreakable encryption, which keeps users' data private even when using public Wi-Fi. Because it's open source, users can check the source code for vulnerabilities and reassure themselves that there are no weaknesses in its security.

What is the top 5 best VPN? ›

What is the best VPN?
Best VPN servicePriceSimultaneous connections
ExpressVPN$6.67 per month with 1-year planEight
Surfshark VPN$2.29 per month with 2-year planUnlimited
NordVPN$3.99 per month with 2-year planSix
Private Internet Access$2.03 per month with 2-year planUnlimited
1 more row
5 days ago

What is the fastest stable VPN? ›

NordVPN has finally taken the crown as the best VPN on the market thanks to its amazing array of features, excellent streaming site unblocking, and super-fast speeds.

How do I choose a VPN provider? ›

6 things to consider when choosing a VPN
  1. A free VPN is, in fact, not free. ...
  2. Security experience of the vendor. ...
  3. All reviews are not independent. ...
  4. VPN provider's home country matters. ...
  5. Check your VPN's privacy policy. ...
  6. Thousands of servers may be a security risk.

Which VPN has all the states in USA? ›

PIA VPN has IP addresses for all 50 states and DC, so our users have access to their favorite content anywhere.

Who owns ExpressVPN? ›

As of September 2021, ExpressVPN is owned by Kape Technologies and reportedly has 4 million users.

What is the most secure VPN location? ›

5Which countries are best for VPN server locations? Switzerland, Iceland, Estonia, Canada, Singapore, Spain, the UK, Panama, Romania, and Germany are considered the best countries for VPN server locations due to strong privacy laws, advanced internet infrastructure, and minimal content restrictions.

Which VPN to use in USA? ›

They offer US IP addresses and advanced security and privacy features to safeguard your personal data. My top pick VPN for the USA is ExpressVPN. It's highly secure and fast and gave me reliable connections for any online activity. You can try it risk-free since it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Which VPN has the most US states? ›

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a cheap, no-logs VPN that has the largest pool of available US IP addresses. The VPN service runs servers in 50 US states, and it's the only VPN to offer IP addresses in every part of America. Its speeds are some of the fastest we've tested, too.

What is the fastest VPN in USA? ›

10 Fast VPNs in 2024
  • NordVPN: Best for security features.
  • TorGuard VPN: Best for advanced users.
  • TunnelBear: Best for beginners.
  • ProtonVPN: Best for privacy-conscious users.
  • Surfshark: Best for multidevice users.
  • Private Internet Access VPN: Best for customization.
  • hide.me: Best for gaming and streaming.
Apr 10, 2024

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