Windows users have their pick of the litter when it comes to VPNs. As the most popular operating system in the world, almost every VPN service caters to Windows users. Most of their apps work on all recent versions of the OS including Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.
The ubiquity makes it difficult to narrow down the criteria by which to judge the best Windows VPN. The best VPN for unblocking Netflix and Hulu on Windows, for example, might not be the best VPN for torrenting on Windows.
Because of that, we looked for the best VPNs for Windows with the best all-around performance, security, design, and customer support. Note that all of the VPNs on this list should also work with recent Microsoft Surface models, which run full Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems.
A VPN, at its core, is a privacy tool. Microsoft has built in some known tracking and advertising features that impose on users’ privacy. The company has a history of cooperating with the NSA in bulk data collection, as exposed by Edward Snowden. For these reasons, we prefer VPNs that keep no logs of user activity and are based outside of the United States.
In the end, our criteria for choosing the best VPN for Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 include:
- Logging policy
- App design
- Customer support
- Ability to unblock websites
ExpressVPN is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, which is beyond the jurisdiction of both the USA and UK governments. It keeps no traffic logs and uses the strongest available security, including 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. Users can choose from servers located in 78 countries. Live chat support is available around the clock. ExpressVPN can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and HBO Now as of time of writing.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
Deal alert: ExpressVPN has a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try it risk free, they have also put together a deal for our readers that gives 3 months extra free with the 12 month plan.
Panama-based NordVPN offers customers specialized servers such as anti-DDoS for super stable connections, ultra-fast streaming for high quality video, double VPN for extra privacy, and Tor over VPN for extra anonymity. It stores neither traffic logs or metadata logs on users. NordVPN uses strong channel encryption and customer service responded quickly to support tickets in our testing. NordVPN can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and HBO Now as of time of writing.
Switzerland-based VyprVPN is the only major provider to own and operate all of its own data centers around the world. That guarantees quick speeds and top-notch stability, not to mention airtight security. Excellent apps make installation and use a breeze, and monitoring usage is simple with real-time visualized feedback. Users can live chat with customers support should they encounter any problems or concerns. VyprVPN can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and HBO Now as of time of writing.
Hungary-based Buffered features a lovely Windows app that’s novice-friendly enough for even the least tech-savvy among us to use. Speeds are reliable and fast. It relies solely on the OpenVPN protocol, which is protected by military-grade encryption. Customer service promptly responded to our support tickets. Buffered doesn’t have any mobile apps yet, but we’re looking forward to seeing them soon. Buffered can unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Now as of time of writing. Like ExpressVPN, Buffered offer a 30 day money-back guarantee when you sign-up here.
Read our full review of Buffered VPN.
LiquidVPN is based in the United States, but the company maintains a weekly warrant canary that will disappear in the event it receives a court order to which it must legally comply. It takes full advantage of the strongest security standards used among any VPN, including a modulating IP “topology” that changes the user’s IP address every time a new web server is accessed. A relative newcomer to the VPN space, servers are fast but somewhat limited to North America and Europe. Despite that, it was able to unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Now in our latest tests as of time of writing.
What about Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile?
While VPN apps are practically omnipresent for desktop versions of Windows, the opposite is true when it comes to Microsoft’s unpopular mobile operating systems. Therefore, the criteria by which to judge a VPN provider on Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile deviate from the desktop criteria.
For this reason, we’ve written a separate article detailing the best VPNs for Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile here. Likewise, we have another list made specifically for Windows 10 VPN recommendations.
Avoid “free” VPNs
So-called “free VPNs” are best avoided. While they don’t require payment like those on this list, they can actually reduce your privacy by injecting tracking cookies and advertisements into your web browser. Furthermore, they typically have data caps and bandwidth limits, not to mention a far more restricted range of servers.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not buying the product, then you are the product.
Disable IPv6 for better security
In more recent versions of Windows, the operating system sends DNS requests for web pages using both the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, simultaneously. Whichever one comes back first is used to establish a connection with a web server. This helps web pages load faster–often by only a few milliseconds–but it can cause problems when you’re trying to unblock a geographically restricted website like Netflix or Hulu.
Most commercial VPNs are only equipped to handle IPv4 requests. Those IPv4 requests go through the VPN tunnel and are resolved by the VPN provider’s DNS servers. But if the IPv6 request bypasses the tunnel and is sent over the normal non-encrypted network, it will go to the nearest public or ISP-run DNS server, revealing the user’s true location. The DNS server mismatch is a dead giveaway for websites like Hulu and apps like Netflix, which will return an error saying the user must first disable the proxy before watching a video. It also lets your ISP snoop on your activity, although to a lesser degree than if you were not using a VPN at all.
To disable IPv6 in Windows 10:
- Right-click the network icon (usually a wifi symbol) in your system tray and select Open network and sharing center
- In the window that appears, click the link with the name of your network. If you’re on wifi, it will have (Wi-Fi) in parentheses
- In the next window that pops up, click Properties
- Uncheck the entry for Internet Protocol Version 6 (TCP/IPv6)
- Click OK to save your changes and restart your computer