Whether you want to encrypt your traffic, secure your Wi-Fi connection, unblock content in other countries, or protect your privacy while browsing the web, a personal VPN will help. Thank you to the providers listed below for offering our visitors exclusive discounts of up to 63% off unlimited VPN.

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5Private Internet Access$3.2535CheckboxCheckboxPIA

Below you will find our lists of the best VPN services based on device & operating system, purpose, and country. You will see a mix of the top VPNs listed in most the posts. However, there are some purposes such as P2P / file sharing and providers with a VPN kill switch that may vary from our normal recommendations.

Top 10 Reasons to Use a VPN

1. Stay safe on public Wi-Fi

Whether you enjoy working from Starbucks or hanging out with friends at the neighborhood watering hole, a VPN is a must.  Most people connect to public Wi-Fi networks on a daily basis.  I just got back from a family vacation.  In the first 8 hours we used Wi-Fi networks at the airport, hotel, and restaurant.  You can bet we used a VPN at all of those locations.  You might think a network is secure if you need a password to access it, but that’s not true.  You could be sharing the network with anyone which puts your data and identity at risk.  A VPN will help protect your privacy everywhere you go.  I also recommend reading this article from Lifehacker for some additional tips to help you stay safe when using public Wi-Fi networks.

2. Be more anonymous online

You’ll notice that I didn’t say a VPN will ensure your online anonymity. There are a lot of steps you can take to be more anonymous online.  A VPN is certainly one of them.  Using a VPN will replace your IP address and encrypt your data.  That’s a good start since a lot of tracking is done by IP address.  There are other steps to take as well.  It really depends on your reason for staying anonymous.  If you want to make sure your ISP doesn’t track your activities then a VPN will go a long way.  If you’re a reporter or activist who wants to avoid government surveillance then you want to take additional steps.  My best advice is to pay close attention to your online activities.  For example, if you login to sites like Facebook or Google you will still be tracked.

3. Break through censorship

The level of censorship faced by millions of Internet users is continuing to increase.  A week hardly goes by without hearing about a country blocking social media sites.  You might think of the Great Firewall of China when the word censorship is discussed, but just about every country in the world censors the Internet in some fashion.  That makes VPN an invaluable resource for getting around restrictions.  You can connect to a server in another country to view sites that would otherwise be blocked.  Of course it depends on just how vigilant the government is where you live.  Those in China may need to rely on more than one VPN service and should consider those who offer protocols and methods for circumventing deep packet inspection.

4. No more digital borders

If you travel internationally or have ever lived abroad then you know just how frustrating geo-restrictions can be.  Try watching Netflix outside the USA and you’ll quickly realize just how bad the problem is.  Digital borders don’t stop with countries though.  Sports fans know all about the frustration of geo blocking as well.  You get all set to watch your favorite team only to realize there is a blackout rule in affect for your area.  Even though you pay for access to a service like mlb.tv there are still games that you can’t watch.  Fortunately a VPN will help with these issues as well.  Enjoy streaming services and live sporting events around the world by accessing a server in another country.

5. Avoid search engine logging

Every wonder why searching on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, or even Amazon generates ads on other websites?  The search engines are gathering your query data and selling it to advertisers.  Some users find that helpful while others are annoyed to the point of using ad-blocking software to help stop the ad madness.  A VPN won’t stop you from seeing ads, but it will make it harder advertisers to target you based on IP address.  It will also help keep your more private searches from being recorded and tracked back to you.  We all have reasons to want our privacy.  They don’t have to be criminal as governments like to suggest.  You may have a sick family member or personal issue you are trying to deal with.  Whatever the situation, a VPN will help protect your privacy while doing research on the Internet.

6. Secure VoIP communication

Most people don’t realize that voice communications are in no way secure.  Whether you use Skype, Facetime, Google Talk, Vonage, or another VoIP provider, a VPN can help encrypt your communications.  In addition to the privacy protection, a VPN can help you avoid VoIP restrictions and save money.  Countries like China, UAE, and Malaysia are known for blocking websites and VoIP services.  You can connect to a VPN server in another country to circumvent these restrictions.  Connecting to another country can also save you some money depending on your VoIP plan.  This is especially useful for those who travel internationally and want to stay in touch with family and friends back home.

7. Save on airfare and hotels

Travel websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak use a number of factors to determine the cost of airline tickets and hotel rooms.  You might be surprised to hear that one of the factors used is your location.  They determine where you are located based on your IP address.  That means you can connect to a VPN server in another country or region to save on airfare, hotel, and car rentals.  There have been a lot of experiments over the years to prove the effectiveness of using a VPN to save on travel costs.  In one of our favorites, ExpressVPN saved over $2,000 on a flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles using Expedia.

8. Block your ISP from tracking

Surveillance laws differ between countries but most Internet users find that their ISP can track their activities.  You hear about it most often when someone gets a notice for downloading or sharing copyrighted content.  That’s just one of the many reasons your ISP may track your activities on their network.  Some are even bold enough to sell your data to advertisers.  Regardless of your reason for wanting to stay private online, a VPN will help you avoid surveillance.  The same is true for VPN services.  We recommend you select one that doesn’t track your activities.  There are plenty of no-log VPN services available when it comes to keeping your usage private.

9. Unblock online games and reduce lag

Gamers know all about regional restrictions.  Whether you want to download the latest release early from Steam or play with your friends in another country, a VPN can help.  Fallout 4 is a great example.  The game was officially released in the United States on November 10th.  Gamers found that they could use a VPN to download and play the game early.  By connecting to a server in Australia they were able to enjoy early access to Fallout 4.  The same is true for other popular games.  That’s not the only way a VPN will help though as it can reduce lag and protect against DDoS attacks.  A VPN will also help you get around firewall restrictions at school or in the office.

10. Protect all your devices

VPN providers have come a long way over the years.  When we started reviewing VPN services they were best suited for technical users.  Most of them required members to download the open source OpenVPN software and download certificates.  You’ll still find a few companies that prefer that approach.  There’s nothing wrong with that from a privacy standpoint.  However, it takes more technical knowledge and lacks the advanced features in the custom apps offered today.  You will find that most the VPNs we recommend have developed a full suite of custom software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.  Those who offer Smart DNS services also support game consoles, set top boxes, smart TV’s, and more.  Our favorite VPN providers also offer guides to help you set up your router to run through their service.  This will help you protect every device on your network.

Tips for Choosing a VPN Service

1. Security

The first thing that you should do when choosing a VPN is ask yourself one simple question. What do you want the VPN for? If you are like most people, the primary reason you want a VPN is to secure your (computer’s, iPhone’s, iPad’s, Android device’s, etc.) Internet connection to guarantee that all of the data transmitted to and from your device is securely encrypted and protected from prying eyes. The authentication and encryption used by VPNs is paramount to this. Without a doubt, the best VPN protocol is OpenVPN because it allows authentificatin by passwords, certificates, and preshared-keys and uses SSL/TLS which is considered to be one of the strongest and most secure encryption protocols available. It supports the latest encryption ciphers like 256-bit AES-CBC for data channel, RSA 4096 for keys, and SHA512 HMAC for message authentication. Additionally, it is open source and has been vetted for security by your peers.

Alternately, L2TP/IPSec can be used but you will take a hit in speed due to its double encapsulation. SSTP is secure as well but only has limited use in Windows primarily. IKEv2 provides security for some mobile devices and is notable because of its fast reconnection if the VPN drops or the user changes areas. PPTP is no longer considered secure and only used as a last resort. In conclusion, you should look for a VPN service which primarily uses OpenVPN because it is open source peer reviewed, provides the best authentication, and supports the best data encryption ciphers available today.

2. Privacy and Anonymity

We have determined that we need a VPN that supports the OpenVPN protocol suite. Why else would we want to use a VPN? The second most popular reason that people use a VPN is for its privacy and anonymity. This leads to the TOS and Privacy Policy that a VPN provider has. Specifically, do they store or log any personal information about you. Ideally, you want to seek out a provider who has a “no-log” or “zero-log” policy. A no-log policy guarantees that even if an “authoritative entity” asks for the data from the VPN provider, all they would be able to hand over would be blank disks.

Many VPNs keep what they call maintenance information to help them ensure normal VPN operation which can include IP address used, connection times, session duration, and more. This makes it important that you always examine their TOS and privacy policy to see what data they store about their subscribers. Specifically you want to look for providers that say they do not store any “online activity” of those using their service. Also providing a way to pay for the service so that a minimal amount of personal information is necessary like the crypto-currency Bitcoin can help you be more anonymous. Most VPN services also use shared IP addresses to help keep users more anonymous.

3. Usability

Now that we have examined security and privacy, let us take a look at usability. For maximum usability, we need to find a reputable VPN that has servers worldwide. It should also have multiple servers in countries like the US and UK that you might want to stream media from or take advantage of discounted regional pricing. This will ensure that you do not experience any performance issues due to load in these popular countries. It should also have a location in your country or one nearby which can provide you a fast general surfing speed for all of your local VPN uses. Additionally, many people are under the false belief that US based VPN services are required to retain data on their users but the US has no such directive. Some countries in Europe, Australia, and many others do. This is where having a no-log policy VPN service could become really important.

4. Software and Device Support

Also in the area of usability is what kind of OS or devices does the service support. If you have a Mac OS X computer and an iPhone or Android phone, you want to be sure that the VPN service you choose supports these devices. Ideally, you want to find a VPN provider that supports the most devices. Also along this line , you will want a VPN provider who allows at least two simultaneous connections. More is even better. Premium providers have written custom software to make it easy to install and use their service on a variety of operating systems and devices. These GUIs make it easy for non technical users to connect, disconnect, and reconnect to all of the servers in their network with just a few mouse clicks or taps on a touchscreen. If you are one of these less technical users or you just do not want to deal with the hassle of manually installing OpenVPN on your devices, these providers should be on the top of your list.

5. Price

We have covered security, privacy and anonymity, usability, and software. What else should you ultimately consider when looking for a VPN service? The answer, not surprisingly, is price. First, let us say that we think that after considering all of the other factors, you should narrow your list of providers to those that you can afford that provide you with all of the features that you desire. Many providers offer money back guarantees that you can take advantage of to test out their service yourself. After testing those on your list, you should choose the one that you trust and enjoy using the most.