One of the biggest concerns about VPNs or virtual private networks is that they reduce your internet speed. The truth is actually more complicated than this. You need to know how they work and the different ways you can use them to get a true understanding of how they impact your networking speed.
Ultimately, if you are using a top-tiered VPN for Windows or Mac, you should only see about a five or six percent decrease in overall internet speed. However, many factors might determine this. So let’s take a look:
How VPNs Work
The best way to understand VPNs is thinking of them as an intermediary between your device and the website you want to connect to. For example, if your home is in China where there are many internet restrictions, and you want to stream content from Netflix what you do is connect to a server in Canada, and then it connects to Netflix from there. Your ISP will only see your connection to the first server and none of the traffic after that.
Factors That Affect Connection Speed
Before you do anything, run a speed test without a VPN so you can understand how fast your connection is. Many things may affect your internet speed while using a VPN for Windows. Here are four of the most common ones:
1) Encryption Strength– Generally, the stronger the encryption, the more speed may take a hit. Most VPNs will give you a choice of how strongly you want to encrypt your connection. These days the best companies utilize an AES-256 bit encryption, which is one of the best security standards in the world.
If you have a good VPN, you shouldn’t see a severe decrease in speed, but this type of encryption may eat up a good chunk of your CPU power, particularly on older computers. Try to find the right balance for you. For example, if you are connected to a secure server like Amazon Prime or Netflix, you can lower your encryption while you might want a stronger one for doing financial transactions.
2) Server Location– The farther the data has to travel, the slower your speed will be. If you’re in Canada connecting to a server in the US will be much quicker than connecting to an Australian one. You should select a company that has a wide variety of server locations. So you can find reliable locations that are close to you.
3) A Large Number of Users– This typically is a problem that arises only with a low-quality VPN for Windows. Too many users connected to one server swallows all the bandwidth. Be sure your VPN company has a large number of servers—at least 750—so you can always get fast speeds. NordVPN seems to be the one who leads in that regard.
4) Overall Slow Speed– If you have an already slow internet speed, there’s nothing you can do. That’s a problem with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Using a VPN, in this case, will only cause slower speeds in an already slow environment.
What You Can Do to Speed Up Your VPN
Before you settle for one VPN or another, you should take advantage of trial periods to see which VPN works fastest for you. You’re not going to find a very fast free VPN, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay more than $5-12 per month. When shopping around, make sure you consider some of these important features:
Running a VPN through a Router
VPNs that you can install on your router offer the highest level of security and privacy. This means that all of your internet connections go through the VPN. However, this can be a large trade-off in speed. As the internet is going to all your devices through this one channel, they are all competing for the same bandwidth. Thus, it might choke up your speed.
There are ways you can play with this. You can set the VPN on only one or two devices but keep things like Smart TVs, which don’t need as much protection, off the VPN. Or you can shut down inactive devices while you do things like stream videos or torrent until you are finished.
This an exciting feature that allows you to divide your network traffic into the apps where you want an encrypted connection and those that you don’t. For example, you may select to use Netflix, banking, and email through the VPN, but keep YouTube and Instagram unconnected. By doing this, you automatically increase your speed because fewer things need to be encrypted saving both bandwidth and computing power.
When it comes to a great VPN for Windows, reliability is always essential. Whenever you connect to the internet, your data is transferred in packets. You don’t need to know all the technical jargon, just be on the lookout for VPNs that provide 0% packet loss. This means you’re getting the same data transfer capability you would without running a VPN.
Ensuring the Best Speeds with a VPN
Whether you stream movies, play games, or simply browse the web, speed is king. However, with the growing number of digital threats and hacks, you can’t be too careful. That’s why it’s essential to find the best VPN for Windows, Mac, and all your devices so you can get the speed you want with the safety you need.