best desktop VPNs

Whether torrenting, streaming, gaming, or just browsing, a VPN will make your desktop (or laptop) more private and secure. The best desktop VPNs provide you with powerful features like split tunneling and ad and malware blocking.

This post will help you choose the desktop VPN best suited for your needs. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here is a summary of our top picks:

  1. NordVPNThe best desktop VPN. With support for OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2, it’s hard to go wrong with NordVPN. No logs, fast speeds, excellent security, and extensive streaming support. Includes a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Surfshark – Excellent support, great speeds, a vast VPN network, and low prices are just some of the features that grant Surfshark a top spot.
  3. ExpressVPN – ExpressVPN provides access to over 3,000 servers in more than 94 countries. High-speed connections to secured VPN servers with strong encryption.
  4. CyberGhost – CyberGhost provides incredible speeds, has a strict no-logs policy, and includes an ads and tracker blocker in all its apps.
  5. IPVanish – IPVanish is a fantastic choice for security-minded users with its excellent privacy policy, robust encryption, and great speeds. It provides mobile and desktop client apps and supports unlimited simultaneous connections.

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Below you’ll find the criteria we used to choose the best VPNs for desktops:

  • The VPN should not log any identifying information about its users and their use of the service
  • Robust and up-to-date encryption standards
  • Easy-to-use and well-designed desktop apps
  • Fast, reliable connection speeds
  • DNS leak protection
  • Decent-sized server network
  • Torrenting support
  • Streaming support (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.)

Best desktop VPNs

Here’s a list of the best desktop VPNs:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN May 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN is our number-one choice. Based in Panama, it has no mandatory data retention laws. It supports only secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, NordLynx, and IKEv2) over its 5600 servers that span 60 countries.

NordVPN’s privacy and security practices pretty much set the bar for commercial VPNs. Its strong no-logging policy ensures it doesn’t collect any data about your online activities or how you use the service. It uses modern and robust encryption and wasn’t vulnerable to either IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our testing.

NordVPN provides very functional desktop apps that use a computer’s larger display real estate. All of its apps (desktop and mobile) include a kill switch, preventing any traffic from exiting your device if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly. NordVPN provides an ads and malware blocker in all its apps.

Regarding speed, NordVPN emerged as one of the fastest VPN providers we tested. That’s great for both torrenting and high-bandwidth streaming (4K/8K), and NordVPN supports both exceptionally well.

NordVPN provides native clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon FireTV. It also supports NAS devices and routers.

Pros:

  • Excellent speeds
  • Extensive streaming support
  • Strong privacy and security practices
  • Jurisdiction has no mandatory data retention laws
  • Only supports secure VPN protocols
  • Impervious to IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Drilling down to specific servers can be unintuitive at first

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST DESKTOP VPN:NordVPN is our top choice. It only supports secure VPN protocols and doesn’t collect user logs. Its speeds are excellent. It supports torrenting and streaming and also provides its users with an ads and tracker blocker. NordVPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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2. Surfshark

Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is another fantastic VPN provider we can recommend as a great desktop VPN. While Surfshark may not have been around as long as our other top providers, this Netherlands-based VPN provider provides one of the best VPN services.

While the Netherlands doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws, it’s still part of the Nine Eyes. However, thanks to Surfshark’s strict no-logging policy and excellent privacy policy, it would come up empty-handed if law enforcement tried to compel it to disclose user data.

Surfshark supports OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPsec. It uses 256-bit AES encryption along with a SHA512 authentication hash and 2048-bit DHE-RSA key exchange that supports perfect forward secrecy (PFS). Our tests show that Surfshark isn’t vulnerable to IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

All of Surfshark’s apps include a kill switch. Should you purchase a Surfhark One subscription, you’ll add on antivirus software and other features along with the VPN.

Surfshark’s streaming support is hard to beat. The service works from China and also allows for unlimited simultaneous connections. Surfshark provides apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Amazon FireTV.

Pros:

  • Fantastic streaming support
  • Surfshark One bundle provides useful desktop features
  • Allows for unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Excellent privacy and security policies
  • Works in China
  • Not vulnerable to IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks

Cons:

  • Jurisdiction may be off-putting despite its no-logging policy

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VALUE VPN:Surfshark's secure VPN provides a massive network of 3,000+ servers at low prices. Surfshark gives you fast speeds, unlimited simultaneous connections, and works from China. And you get some genuinely helpful desktop features with its Surfshark One subscription. All its subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is not part of the UK, despite what one might assume.

ExpressVPN supports three VPN protocols, all of which are deemed secure: OpenVPN, Lightway, and IKEv2. Lightway is ExpressVPN’s custom VPN protocol, which is open source and can be audited. And all protocols are supported across all of its (3000+) servers.

ExpressVPN’s desktop apps (and mobile apps, for that matter) are intuitive and easy to understand while providing advanced functionality to more experienced users. So all users, regardless of individual tech-savviness, should find what they need.

Part of the reason for ExpressVPN’s success is its high-security standards. It uses AES-256 encryption, 4096-bit RSA keys, and SHA256 authentication, supporting perfect forward secrecy (PFS). ExpressVPN runs all of its servers from volatile memory (RAM), guaranteeing no remnant data (logs) can exist on the system’s hard drives. All its apps include a kill switch, so you’ll remain safe if the VPN disconnects suddenly. In our tests, ExpressVPN didn’t suffer from IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.

ExpressVPN’s high standards also apply to speed. It’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. It also provides excellent streaming support and even works with services known to be more difficult to access over a VPN.

ExpressVPN provides native apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and some routers.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Excellent streaming support
  • Very high security standards
  • Large server network
  • First-rate privacy practices
  • Easy-to-use desktop apps

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support WireGuard

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

EASY-TO-USE:ExpressVPN's VPN network provides you with over 3,000 servers in more than 94 countries. You get high-speed connections to highly secure VPN servers with robust and modern encryption. Streaming support is excellent, and the service provides easy-to-use apps and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our complete ExpressVPN review.

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4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost offers slick and intuitive desktop apps that provide users access to its vast server network at fantastic speeds – one of the fastest we tested. It supports torrenting and supports the overwhelming majority of streaming sites as well.

Despite being purchased by an Israeli company based in the UK, CyberGhost has stated that it will remain an independent company based in Romania. So your data should be safe from British law enforcement. This is strengthened by CyberGhost’s strong privacy policy and its robust no-logging policy.

CyberGhost only supports the most secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2. It uses AES-256-bit encryption and 2048-bit keys with SHA256 authentication while supporting perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for OpenVPN and IKEv2. ChaCha20-Poly1305 encryption, which is also highly secure, is used for WireGuard. CyberGhost suffered no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in our leak tests.

CyberGhost provides apps for Windows, macOS, Linux (CLI), iOS, and Android. Manual connections can be configured on supported routers. All of CyberGhost’s apps include a kill switch and an ads and tracker blocker.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Very good streaming support
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • Ads and tracker blocker

Cons:

  • UK ownership may be problematic for some
  • Apps are quite basic, with few settings exposed to users

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

EXTRA FEATURES VPN:CyberGhost is another great VPN provider for desktops. It provides great speeds, has a strict no-logging policy, and also includes an ads and tracker blocker. Torrenting and streaming are well supported, and a 45-day money-back guarantee backs all subscriptions.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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5. IPVanish

IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish goes the extra mile. Its privacy policy is one of the best I’ve seen: it explicitly lists the data points it will not collect while clearly disclosing what it does collect. It collects aggregated and anonymous performance data for troubleshooting and optimization purposes—as little user data as possible.

Its desktop apps are well-designed and provide a balance between customization, advanced configuration, and ease of use. Once logged into the app, you can choose between several secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, or SSTP (Windows-only).

You get AES-256-bit encryption, SHA512 authentication, and DHE-RSA 2048 key exchange that supports perfect forward secrecy (PFS) for OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, and SSTP. WireGuard, for its part, uses the more modern ChaCha20-Poly1305 ciphers. In our testing, IPVanish provided excellent speeds and wasn’t vulnerable to DNS, IPv6, or WebRTC leaks.

Streaming support is very good. An extensive server network of more than 2000 VPN servers located in over 75 countries helps on that front. IPVanish allows for unlimited simultaneous connections.

It provides native apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS, and Amazon Fire TV. Linux is supported too, but only with a manual configuration.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Excellent privacy policy and security practices
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections

Cons:

  • Streaming support could be better

Our score:

4 out of 5

GREAT SECURITY:IPVanish adheres to an excellent privacy policy, secures its connections with solid encryption, and still manages to get above-average speeds. With its support for unlimited simultaneous connections, you can connect as many devices as you want. The service also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all subscriptions.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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How to use a VPN on desktop

Using a VPN on a desktop (or laptop) computer doesn’t require any special instructions. The same instructions apply to all devices.

Here’s how to use a VPN on desktop:

  1. If you still need to do so, sign up for one of the VPN providers above. NordVPN is our top recommended choice.
  2. Download the provider’s app for your device.
  3. Refer to your provider’s setup instructions. It should be as simple as choosing a server and tapping a “Connect” button. Your VPN provider can help you with any issues you might encounter.
  4. That’s it. The VPN app remains connected in the background.

Methodology used for testing

Below you’ll find the criteria used to assess the VPNs we review. It’s essential to be consistent across the board so that our reviews are reasonably objective and that we’re not comparing apples to oranges. For that reason, we disclose our criteria.

  • Speed – Speed is one of the most crucial factors for any VPN. Aside from being annoying, slow speeds can prevent you from streaming or browsing the web. Our recommended VPNs scored very high in our most recent speed tests to ensure we address this issue.
  • Servers worldwide – Access to various geographical regions is essential to VPN users. It helps when you want to bypass geo-restrictions. And it makes it easier to find a server that’s close to your actual location to maximize your speed.
  • Multiple protocols – You want a provider that supports multiple secure VPN protocols because, in certain situations, one may be more beneficial than another. OpenVPN, for example, can use TCP, which can help to bypass restrictive firewalls in some cases. So having a good choice of protocols is essential. The majority of our recommended VPNs support IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard.
  • Ease-of-use – The VPN needs to be easy to use and accessible to all, whether they’re tech-savvy or not. We make sure our recommended providers provide simple and straightforward desktop apps so you can be up and running in minutes.
  • Streaming services – Accessing streaming sites over a VPN is more challenging than ever. Many VPN providers claim to work on streaming sites, but their success rates can vary. Before recommending a VPN provider for streaming, we test VPNs against various popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, etc.
  • Torrenting – Many VPN users are avid file-sharers, but not all VPN providers allow torrenting over their network. Others provide dedicated P2P servers. We look at each VPN’s policy around torrenting – ensuring it’s supported – and run tests on those to see how well they handle file-sharing.
  • Security & privacy – That’s why VPNs exist in the first place. We ask essential questions like: What is the provider’s privacy policy like? What is its logging policy? What encryption protocols does the VPN support? Does it use strong ciphers? Does it support Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS)? Is it vulnerable to IP address or DNS leaks? These are all crucial questions, and we answer them all when assessing VPNs’ privacy and security practices.

The above represents a high-level view of our methodology. For more details, look at our full VPN testing methodology. This data-driven approach helps us better understand the services to recommend the right VPN to different users.

Desktop VPNs FAQ

Are there free desktop VPNs?

There are free desktop VPNs available. But I recommend not using them for a few reasons. 

  1. The server networks made available by free VPNs tend to be extremely small. Because of that, big chunks of their users wind up on the same servers. When large amounts of traffic appear to come from the same IP address, online services will typically interpret that as VPN use and block the connection. 
  2. And free VPNs tend to provide very slow speeds and have poor security practices, so we usually don’t recommend them. This 2020 study found that close to 40 percent of the free VPNs tested suffered from personal information leaks.

Will a desktop VPN slow my connection down?

A VPN will always slow you down to some degree, whether on mobile or desktop. And you can’t really do anything about that beyond picking a provider that does its best to keep the slowdown to a minimum. 

By using a VPN, you’re sending all your traffic to the VPN server before it goes off to its actual destination. That pitstop at the VPN server is going to inevitably slow you down. Further, your data needs to be encrypted and decrypted as you conduct your online activities. And that will slow you down further. 

But, as mentioned above, a high-quality and well-established VPN provider will provision its servers with more bandwidth and perform various optimizations to make its service as fast as possible.