Let us start our Private Internet Access (PIA) review by noting that they are managed by London Trust Media, Inc. whose stated goal is to return the Internet to a time when it provided you your own private little world where you were free to learn, explore, and create without “big data” or “big brother” watching your every move. Private Internet access has been in the privacy industry since August 2009. Surprisingly, despite their name, they are located in the United States. Private Internet Access says they log absolutely nothing, neither metadata nor session data from their users activity. They offer access to a worldwide VPN network that consists of over 3300+ servers in 36 locations across 24 countries at a very competitive price.
They have custom client software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. Although these clients have a minimalistic user interface, they have some advanced features behind the scenes. These include IPv6 leak protection, DNS leak protection, port forwarding, granular encryption control, and even an Internet kill switch. We will examine these in detail in the hands-on portion of our review.
Pricing and Special Offers
Private Internet access markets their VPN service as single package that is sold in term length plans. These plans are monthly, six months, and yearly. Just being a VPNFan reader, you can save even more off your Private Internet Access subscription. Our readers can get a month of their VPN for $6.45 which saves you $0.50 or 7% off their regular monthly price. This savings is even greater if you sign up for a year of service. You can get a year of their VPN for $38.95 which saves you $1.00 off their already discounted yearly price or 53% off the regular monthly price. This means you can enjoy a year of their service for just $3.25 a month.
So, what do you get for your $3.25 per month? Private Internet Access offers all VPN subscribers the following benefits regardless of your chosen plan:
- Free custom VPN Software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android
- Absolutely no logging
- 5 Simultaneous connections
- Unlimited VPN bandwidth and usage
- Worldwide virtual IPs from more than 3300 servers in 24 different countries
- Gigabit VPN port speeds on gateways
- Shared IP addresses among subscribers for better privacy
- Choice of VPN protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP
- Granular encryption choice – maximum, minimum, and even none
- SOCKS5 proxy access for individual applications
- Firewall protection against malware while using their VPN
- The ability to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions
- Wi-Fi hotspot protection against hackers and identity theft
- VOIP support to save on long distance costs and P2P support
- 7-day money back guarantee
Private Internet Access offers a variety of ways to pay for their services. The credit cards they accept are VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. They accept transactions through alternative payment solutions like CashU, Ripple, and OK PAY. You can also pay using PayPal or Amazon Payments which will only require you to enter username, password, and an email address. Pay by using Bitcoin if you want to be more anonymous. They even accept some gift cards.
Risk-Free Trial Period
Private Internet Access does not have a free trial. However they know that you would like to try out their service for yourself before you make the decision to purchase it so they offer new subscribers a 7-day, 100% money back guarantee. This should be ample time for you to fully test out their service. If for any reason, you are not completely satisfied with it, they will refund the full purchase price of your chosen plan. You must request this refund within seven days of the purchase date. Requests made later than seven days from purchase date will not be honored.
In order to refund your payment, you will need to provide the following to verify your account:
- The email address you entered during account registration
- The 7-digit PIA Order number from your payment confirmation email
This information is necessary for security reasons so be sure to keep your confirmation email. This is the easiest way to verify your account to expedite your refund but their are other methods that you can use dependent on your method of payment. These can be found in the FAQ database of the PIA website.
Private Internet Access Network and Server Locations
The Private Internet Access VPN network of servers has grown in size and performance over the years as technology has advanced. Their network now has more than 3300 VPN servers in 24 different countries. They have servers on nearly every major continent including Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Oceania.
All of the servers in their network have Gigabit ports. The best coverage is in Australia (170+ servers), Canada (190+ servers), The Netherlands (310 severs), the United Kingdom (200+ servers), and the United States (1660+ severs). Here is a list of the number of servers in each country, sorted by region:
- Asia – 90+ VPN servers
- Hong Kong (19), India (9), Israel (11), Japan (19), Singapore (19), Turkey (19)
- Europe – 870+ VPN servers
- Denmark (13), Finland (9), France (53), Germany (62), Ireland (9), Italy (19)
- Netherlands (310)
- Norway (14), Romania (16), Sweden (57), Switzerland (70),
- United Kingdom – London (155), Southampton (78)
- North America – 1800+ VPN servers
- Canada – Toronto (128), North York (63)
- United States – California (219), East (426), Florida (112), Midwest (303), New York City (98), Seattle (104), Silicon Valley (130), Texas (193), West (84)
- South America – 40+ VPN servers
- Brazil (19), Mexico (24)
- Oceania – 180+ VPN servers
- Australia – Melbourne (74), Sydney (98)
- New Zealand (9)
It is easy to see from this list that Private Internet Access has servers all over the world and multiple fast servers in more popular locations as we saw above. Their network defaults primarily to the OpenVPN UDP protocol but also supports IKEv2, L2TP and PPTP.
Privacy and Security
PIA absolutely does not keep any logs, of any kind, period. While this does make things harder in some cases, specifically dealing with outbound mail, advanced techniques to handle abuse issues, and things of that nature, this provides a high level of security and privacy to all of our users. Logs are never written to the hard-drives of any of our machines and are specifically written to the null device, which simply acts if the data never existed.
Due to this, we’re unable to provide information on our customers usage of our service under any circumstance, including subpoenas and court orders, which are extremely closely reviewed before we make any response by our experienced legal team.
We can unequivocally state that our company has not and still does not maintain metadata logs regarding when a subscriber accesses the VPN service, how long a subscriber’s use was, and what IP address a subscriber originated from. Moreover, the encryption system does not allow us to view and thus log what IP addresses a subscriber is visiting or has visited.
Private Internet Access is located in the United States – California and subject to all US and California laws and jurisdictional procedures. They feel the US is a good place for a VPN service since they have no mandatory data retention policy, where as some places in Europe now do. They would have to comply with all official judicial orders and hand over all the information about their users metadata and traffic. However, since all logs are written to a null device, essentially nowhere, they would comply with any such orders by turning over nothing as they have done in the past.
What kind of encryption does Private Internet Access offer to users of their VPN service? They implement OpenVPN as their primary default protocol in their Windows, Mac OS X, and Android clients. TLSv1.2 is used for server authentication and control. By default, it uses 2048 bit key exchange and 2048 bit RSA certificate for verification that the key that the actually came from a PIA server. Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman (DH) exchange really happened with a Private Internet Access server. This ensures forward secrecy for the encrypted traffic since the keys are randomly generated and used for a short time before being completely destroyed. All certificates are signed using SHA512. Also by default, all data is encrypted and decrypted using a AES-128-CBC cipher initialized with a 128 bit key and SHA1-160 bit is used for HMAC authentication. Their iOS app defaults to the IKEv2 protocol which is considered to be just as secure as OpenVPN but is good for mobile devices because it reconnects easily and maintains the VPN session when the connection is lost or changes. This is due to its support of MOBIKE. This means you can always be assured that all of your Internet traffic is securely encrypted with a reliable connection when accessing the PIA VPN network.
Private Internet Access Support
PIA provides 24/7/365 email ticket support for any problems you may have with an average turn around according to their website counter of about one hour and forty minutes. You must first choose which department your ticket concerns before filling it out and sending it. Your choices include tier 1 technical support, billing, and sales. Once you have chosen the department and pressed the “Next” button, you will then be directed to another page to create and send the ticket.
The ticket is very basic and its template is shown above. It requires your first name, email address, and subject followed by as detailed as possible description of your problem and any supporting files. Next verify the ticket so they know you are not a bot and then click on the green “SUBMIT” button.
Client Software and Mobile Apps
Private Internet Access has custom software for Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and a just released beta for Linux. You can download these custom clients from the PIA client support page of their website. Access the software by clicking on “Support” at the top of the site and then “Client Download and Support” as is shown below.
Once the support page opens, click on the “Download” button for your operating system to download the Private Internet Access client installer to your system. It will transfer you to the iTunes App Store or Google Play to get the mobile apps.
They also have manual setups here to configure the VPN for OpenVPN. L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP on Android, iOS, Linux, Tomato routers, DD-WRT routers, and Pfsence. Once you sign up for an account, they will send you a welcoming email with your username and password so that you can connect to their VPN network. The client software has a lot of setup options. We have full guides for each operating system. Some are quite long so rather than include them in our PIA review, we have links to each guide in the sections below.
Let’s start with Private Internet Access for Windows (PIA Windows Setup Guide):
The PIA Windows software is similar to the OpenVPN client when it comes to connecting to servers. You can access it from the taskbar and select any server location. The power comes from the wide range of settings available to users. When you first see the interface it might seem like there isn’t much to it but looks can be deceiving. The Private Internet Access team has been on the forefront of innovation when it comes to adding privacy features.
You can use our guide to help with the settings as we detail each option. We simply want to highlight the main features in our review. For starters, PIA members can set the VPN kill switch in the Windows client to protect your privacy anytime the VPN disconnects. This feature is especially popular with torrent fans. We recommend enabling DNS leak protection and IPv6 leak protection. This will ensure that you don’t leak DNS information while using the VPN. You can also enable port forwarding and set a custom port number.
There is another area that isn’t shown in our image above. You can view our guide for full details, but the PIA Windows app gives you the ability to set the data encryption level, data authentication, and handshake. These settings give you full control over the security used when connecting to the PIA network. This is for advanced users. If you don’t know what the settings mean then I suggest you leave the defaults. The PIA team also provides explanations to help you in this area. You can also contact support with any questions.
Next up is Private Internet Access for Mac (PIA Mac Setup Guide):
Mac users will find a very similar user interface for PIA. You don’t need any past experience with VPN to use the app. It looks similar to the open-source OpenVPN client. As you can see above, the client displays a list of server location. You can simply click on any location to connect. That’s all there is to using the app. Like it’s Windows counterpart, there are several options that can be set to enhance your privacy. Our guide will walk you through the details but we’ll take a quick look at some of the top features.
The PIA mac client uses the OpenVPN protocol. You can choose between UDP and TCP. We recommend UDP for faster speeds. You can also set a remote port to tunnel traffic through. As strong privacy proponents, the PIA team has several features to secure your connection and protect you in case it ever fails. Mac users can set the VPN kill switch to stop communication until the VPN reconnects. You can set port forwarding through a few select gateways. The app also has IPv6 leak protection and the ability to use small packets which can help you get around some network or firewall issues.
Ready for mobile? Let’s look at Private Internet Access for iOS (PIA iOS Setup Guide):
This is an area where PIA falls behind in terms of features. The iOS app will leave iPhone and iPad users without the advanced features offered in their Android app. However, the iOS app has a nice user interface and is easy to use. You can select any server location and quickly see the connection status. Simply slide the on / off toggle to use their network. The Private Internet Access iOS app uses IKEv2. This is good news as the protocol is secure and well suited for mobile users. The protocol works well when you switch between Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
The final app we’ll look at is Private Internet Access for Android (PIA Android Setup Guide):
Private Internet Access shines when it comes to their support for Android. They have one of the best apps on the market. It is very well designed and includes a number of advanced features. As you can see above, the app will let you select the server you want to tunnel through to and give you status updates as the VPN connects. I suggest you read our guide as there are a lot of advanced features available to Android users. The settings are similar to those included in the desktop versions.
The PIA Android app uses OpenVPN UDP by default. This is a great choice. It also supports TCP and gives you an option to use it if needed. You can block LAN traffic to keep other systems from communicating with your device. The app will let you change the remote port to 1194, 8080, 9201, or 53. We’re really excited to see the app include support for Internet kill switch. Taking things a step further, you can request port forwarding. This leaves you less secure so only use port forwarding if you want to let others connect to your device.
Private Internet Access Speed Test
We were very pleased with the overall performance of Private Internet Access. You can see from the speed test below that their service performed great. As expected, there was some speed loss while connected to one of their VPN servers. This is expected due to the overhead that encrypting the VPN traffic incurs. However, this was very acceptable in the case of Private Internet Access.
As you can see from the images above, the encrypted connection lowered our base ISP download speed from 60.33 Mb/s to 53.96 Mb/s. This is a drop of about 10.5% to a server in Miami, FL which is acceptable and among the top ones we have observed. This minimal loss in connection speed is well worth the security and peace of mind offered by being able to encrypt all of your Internet traffic using some of the best encryption algorithms available today.
Private Internet Access has been in the VPN business since 2009. Their network consists over 3300 servers spread across 24 different countries. They have multiple fast servers in popular countries like the US, the UK, Canada , and The Netherlands. They do not log any information about their users while using their services. Everyone is on the honor system regarding their TOS. Despite their parent company name, London Trust Media, Inc., they are based in the United States. They are VoIP and P2P friendly and state that if requested by judicial authorities for user activity information, they will comply by turning over nothing as they do not log their subscribers activities while using their VPN servers.
PIA offers custom software apps for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, and a new beta app for Linux. These apps are easy to install and allow their users to connect to VPN servers in the Private Internet Access network with just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the screen. Their Windows, Mac OS X, and Android apps include some of the more advanced features available for VPNs including DNS leak protection (Windows only), port forwarding, a variety of remote ports, IPv6 leak protection, and kill switches.
All of their apps provide some of the best encryption available in the industry in AES-128 and AES-256. All but their iOS app default to OpenVPN because of its speed, the security it offers, and its overall reliability. Their iOS app uses IKEv2 which is considered to be as fast, secure, and reliable as OpenVPN. Additionally, because of its support for MOBIKE, it is an ideal choice for iPhone and iPad users because it makes reconnection to the VPN easier when changing Wi-Fi hotspots or transfering from home networks to cellular data.
PIA provides manual tutorials and visual setup guides to connect to their service using Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Ubuntu, and DD-WRT and Tomato routers. Their support begins with an extensive FAQ database and extends to a 24/7/365 email ticketing system. They officially say that they do not log any of their VPN users activity while accessing their network. This includes metadata.
What we liked most about the service:
- They have clients for Windows, Mac OS X, and a new beta for Linux.
- They have mobile apps for iOS and Android.
- They have kill switches in their Windows, Mac OS X, and Android software.
- They have other advanced features like firewall protection, DNS leak protection, small packets, port forwarding, and IPv6 leak protection.
- The have a 7-day money back guarantee with no limitations.
- They have competitive pricing and offer our reader a special discounts.
Ideas to improve the service:
- Add live chat support
- Add graphical interfaces to their Windows and Mac OS X clients
- Add more server location to their network. (regional servers for Africa)
The Private Internet Access includes most continents. They have servers in Europe, North America, Central and South America, Asia, and Oceania. They have a fast VPN network. They are offering an extra discount to our readers. They offer a 7-day money back guarantee so you will have plenty of time to test their service and see if it fits your needs. Give them a test run and see what you think. If you like their VPN service, you can sign up for unlimited access from just $3.25 per month with our discount.