vpn split tunneling

Looking for the best VPNs that offer split tunneling? Not many VPNs offer this feature, so we’ve created this article to list those quality providers that do. We also explain how to use them and answer your questions, including what split tunneling is, why you might want to do it, and some main pros and cons.

What is split tunneling?

When you connect to a Virtual Private Network, data travels between your device and the web via a proxy server that acts as a middleman. But suppose you don’t want all of your traffic to travel through the VPN server. This is where split tunneling comes in, it allows you to choose which apps, websites, or devices use the VPN and which use a direct connection to the internet. That way, your sensitive data is kept to yourself and away from prying eyes, while low-risk activities can operate normally.

We’ll discuss each of the VPNs that offer split tunneling in more detail later on, but in case you’re in a rush, we’ll start with a quick summary.

Best VPNs for Split-Tunneling:

  1. NordVPN Our first choice VPN for split tunneling. Gives you the option of only tunneling web traffic. Plus, it has strong security and privacy features, great connection speeds, and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
    TIP In our testing we found that the cheapest NordVPN plan (Standard) works perfectly for split tunneling.
  2. Surfshark Our top budget VPN with split tunneling. Fast and privacy-conscious, with several advanced features, this VPN lets you tunnel your apps or specific websites. Allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
  3. ExpressVPN Offers a variety of split tunneling methods in both its apps and its custom router firmware. Superfast servers in 100+ countries, top-notch privacy, and a strict no-logs policy.
  4. CyberGhost Beginner-friendly provider. Easy-to-use. Vast server network. Includes “smart rules” that divert different apps through different servers.
  5. IPVanish Offers split tunneling on its Android and Fire OS apps. Popular provider for Kodi users and torrenters. No device limit.
  6. Private Internet Access Supports split tunneling on all platforms except iOS. Steady speeds, customizable security features, and no connection limit.
  7. PureVPN Boasts better-than-average speeds and beginner-friendly apps, with split tunneling functionality on Windows and Android. Great for streaming, torrenting, and more.
  8. ProtonVPN A freemium provider that lets you split tunnel without paying anything. Impressive performance and security, but for the best experience, you’ll want to upgrade.

How we chose the top split tunneling VPNs

It is possible to set up split tunneling on various operating systems, even if it’s not built into your VPN. But it’s far simpler to configure if it’s integrated into the VPN app. However, not all, and in fact not many, VPN providers offer this service.

But it’s also not as simple as just finding any VPN that offers split tunneling because there wouldn’t be much point if other areas of the service were below par.

So, when we searched for the best VPNs for this list, we also looked at a number of other criteria. These include:

  • Delivers a fast, reliable service
  • Strong focus on security and privacy
  • Prompt and knowledgeable customer support
  • Wide global server selection
  • Securely accesses major international streaming services (Netflix, BBC, Amazon Prime Video, etc)
  • Knowledgeable customer support should you need it.

All of our selected VPNs for split tunneling meet these standards and more. You can read in more detail about how we test the VPNs we recommend in our methodology section below.

TRY THE TOP-RATED VPN RISK FREE

NordVPN is offering a fully-featured risk-free 30-day trial if you sign up on this page. You can use the VPN rated #1 for split tunneling with no restrictions for a month – great if you want to test out the service before making a commitment.

There are no hidden terms – just contact support within 30 days if you decide NordVPN isn't right for you, and you'll get a full refund. Start your NordVPN trial here.

Best VPNs for split tunneling: at a glance

We’ve compared the most important features of the top VPNs here. Prefer to read the in-depth reviews? Start with NordVPN – our #1 choice for split tunneling.

No valueNordVPNSurfsharkExpressVPNCyberGhostIPVanishPrivate Internet AccessPureVPNProton VPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.comExpressVPN.comCyberghost.comIPVanish.comPrivateInternetAccess.comPureVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Ranking for split tunneling:12345678
Streaming ServicesNetflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
HBO
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
HBO
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
HBO
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Avg Speed (Mbps)100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps100+ Mbps400 Mbps100+ Mbps
Popular Sites Unblocked95%88%86%85%85%70%80%87%
Simultaneous Connections10Unlimited87UnlimitedUnlimited10Free: 1, VPN Plus: 10
Activity logs No identifying dataNo identifying data
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$2.19
SAVE 83% on the 2 year plan + 2 months free!
$1.99
SAVE 85% on the 2 yr plan + 3 FREE months
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan
$2.11
Up to 82% off the 2-yr standard plan + free months
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Best VPNs for split tunneling

At Comparitech, we never recommend a VPN that we haven’t used and tested personally. The following reviews are based on our first-hand experiences.

Here’s our list of the best VPNs for split tunneling

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Jun 2024 offers Split TunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

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

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN is our top choice VPN for split tunneling. This veteran provider offers excellent security and the ability to securely access a wide range of streaming services and geo-restricted content. It has a network of more than 6,000 servers in 100+ countries, and you get 10 simultaneous connections per account.

NordVPN has apps available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android devices. However, it’s the service’s browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that will give you the ability to implement split tunneling. You can choose which websites use the VPN and which use a direct internet connection.

Note that to do this, you must leave the desktop app off and turn the browser extension on. All your browser traffic will go through the VPN tunnel while all other apps on your device remain unprotected.

NordVPN speed test data

No valueNordVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)354 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)262 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)284 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE

Pros:

  • Split tunneling available on browser extensions
  • Wide network of over 6,000 servers in 100+ countries
  • Excellent speeds for streaming
  • Works with Netflix USA and other streaming sites
  • Strict no-logs policy
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Occasional slow server

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST VPN FOR SPLIT TUNNELING:NordVPN is our top pick for split tunneling. Having the chance to use split tunneling as well as enjoying extra security features makes this VPN a strong choice. NordVPN offers a 30-day fuss-free money-back guarantee with each subscription.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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2. Surfshark

Surfshark offers Split TunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is a budget-friendly VPN with split tunneling included. It runs 3,200+ servers in more than 100 countries, which makes it easy to obtain a high-speed, low-latency connection wherever you are. It’s capable of securely accessing popular services like Netflix US and Amazon Prime Video from anywhere in the world, and as there’s no connection limit, you can secure every device you own with a single account.

This VPN’s split tunneling feature allows you to let specific apps or websites bypass the VPN entirely. There’s also 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch (in all versions), and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, as well as a NoBorders feature that bypasses country-wide internet blocking. Surfshark doesn’t log any data that could identify you, but if you’re concerned, you can sign up almost completely anonymously using cryptocurrency and a throwaway email address. Support is on-hand 24/7 over live chat in case of any issues.

Surfshark provides apps for iOS, Windows, MacOS, Android, and Linux devices. Wireless routers are also supported but must be configured manually.

Surfshark speed test data

No valueSurfshark
WebsiteSurfshark.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)521 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)702 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)561 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

Pros:

  • Servers located in 100+ countries
  • Lets you protect all of your devices at once
  • Puts major emphasis on security
  • Doesn’t keep any logs
  • Lets you pay with Cryptocurrency

Cons:

  • Some features require an additional payment

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

BEST BUDGET OPTION:Surfshark has no connection limit, a no-logging policy, fast connection speeds, and cutting-edge security features, all for a reasonable price. A 30-day money-back guarantee is also included.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN offers Split TunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN is very thorough when it comes to split tunneling. This feature is available in the Windows and macOS desktop apps. In both cases, the settings area of the VPN app includes a split tunneling definition page. You can send all traffic through the VPN, send only traffic originating from specified apps, or send all traffic except for that originating from specified apps. These are known as ‘split-include’ and ‘split-exclude’ options. Most VPNs that implement split tunneling only work on one of these methods, but with ExpressVPN you get both.

ExpressVPN is one of the few providers that includes an app to install on your flashed Wi-Fi router. This app includes options to implement another type of split tunneling. You can specify which devices in your home will have all of their traffic channeled through the VPN and which will be left unprotected. The router split tunneling screen lists all recently connected devices and shows an on/off toggle next to each – the devices don’t have to be connected at the time of nomination.

Standard features on ExpressVPN include strong encryption, access to servers in 100+ countries (with local IP addresses), an allowance of eight simultaneous connections, and the ability to securely access Netflix and many other streaming services. Apps are available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

ExpressVPN speed test data

No valueExpressVPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)319 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)303 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)278 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

Pros:

  • Split tunneling per device at the router level
  • Both split-include and split-exclude are possible with the desktop apps
  • Very good speeds
  • 24/7 live chat customer support
  • Works with Netflix and other streaming platforms

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than other providers
  • Streaming servers aren’t labeled

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

GOOD ALL-ROUNDER:ExpressVPN is a great choice VPN with split tunneling and gives you a lot of options. Fast connection speeds and strong security complete the package. A 30-day no-fuss money-back guarantee means you can try it risk-free.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost offers Split TunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost‘s split-exclude option lets you pick which websites should use the VPN and which should use a direct connection. If you prefer a website-based split tunneling feature in addition to an app-based one, this is the VPN for you.

The split-include option lets you decide which applications should be covered by the VPN. You can specify a different server location for each app that you nominate for protection. Split tunneling can be accessed through the Preferences tab of the desktop app. The Smart Rules section of the Preferences settings has two versions of split tunneling.

This VPN gives access to servers in 100+ countries (with local IP addresses). It works with a wide range of streaming services, including Netflix. Apps are available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick. You can connect seven devices at a time, and the 45-day money-back guarantee is a generous addition to an already reasonable price.

CyberGhost speed test data

No valueCyberGhost
WebsiteCyberghost.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)449 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)269 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)167 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
SAVE 83% on the 2 year plan + 2 months free!

Pros:

  • Split-exclude feature for websites and split-include feature for applications
  • Ability to connect to multiple servers simultaneously on the same device
  • Fast, reliable service
  • Vast network of over 10,000 servers in 100+ countries
  • 45-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work in China or the UAE
  • Lack of advanced configuration options for power users

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

STRONG SECURITY:CyberGhost offers excellent flexibility when it comes to split tunneling as well as high-grade encryption and anonymous accounts. The company gives a generous, no-questions-asked 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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5. IPVanish

IPVanish offers Split TunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish has some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen, which makes it great for streaming and torrenting. The company provides apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux Mint, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire Stick. The VPN can be set up manually on Ubuntu, Kali, and Fedora Linux, and select routers and set-top boxes. It’s a favorite among Kodi users.

The IPVanish apps for Fire OS and Android include a split tunneling feature. This lets you have some applications running through the VPN while leaving other traffic outside of the tunnel. For example, Kodi can run through the VPN, while Netflix uses a direct connection. IPVanish explains that its split tunneling feature was developed specifically to enable users to securely access services like Hulu and Netflix outside of the VPN connection.

In the Settings menu, the Split Tunneling section of the Connection preferences leads to a list of all apps detected on the device. Any applications that you mark with a check box on this screen will be excluded from the tunnel.

IPVanish operates servers in 60 countries. Users get an unlimited number of simultaneous connections.

IPVanish speed test data

No valueIPVanish
WebsiteIPVanish.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)277 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)237 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)352 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$1.99
SAVE 85% on the 2 yr plan + 3 FREE months

Pros:

  • Split-exclude available on Fire OS and Android apps
  • Very fast speeds
  • No-logs policy
  • Allows you to connect all of your devices at once

Cons:

  • Customer support is a little slow
  • Doesn’t accept cryptocurrencies

Our score:

4 out of 5

SPLIT EXCLUDE ON ANDROID AND FIRE OS:IPVanish is a good choice for split tunneling on Android and Fire OS devices. Its fast speeds make it excellent for streaming and downloading, and you can use it on all your devices simultaneously. Gives a 30-day money-back guarantee on each subscription.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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6. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access offers Split tunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

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

Website:  www.PrivateInternetAccess.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Private Internet Access is a quick and capable service that lets you split tunnel on any device (except for those running iOS). It has servers in 90+ countries and works with a huge range of geo-blocked platforms, from Netflix to BBC iPlayer. What’s more, it recently scrapped its connection limit, meaning you can secure an entire household with just one account. 

This VPN shields your data from snoopers using powerful encryption, a kill switch, and leak protection. Additionally, it lets you switch DNS servers, connect via a random port, or use a multi-hop server for a second layer of anonymity. Private Internet Access doesn’t keep any logs, and we know this for sure because it’s been independently audited. Customer support is available around the clock over email or live chat, so you’re never more than a few minutes away from getting help. 

PIA has apps for Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, and Android. You can also manually install it on some routers.

Private Internet Access speed test data

No valuePrivate Internet Access
WebsitePrivateInternetAccess.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)93 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)58 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)200 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Pros:

  • Split tunnel on most devices
  • Connect as many devices as you like
  • Impressive set of security tools

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer split tunneling on iOS devices
  • Some outdated information in the website’s support section

Our score:

4 out of 5

LOTS OF CHOICE:PIA has a large network, steady connection speeds, and a wide range of customizable privacy features. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and live chat is available 24/7 in case of any issues.

Why not read our full Private Internet Access review?

Private Internet Access Coupon
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7. PureVPN

PureVPN offers split tunnelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PureVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 31 DAYS

PureVPN is a highly versatile service with more than 6,000 servers around the world. Whether you’re looking to stream, torrent, or play online games, it’s a fantastic choice thanks to its exceptionally fast speeds and unparalleled unblocking ability. Split tunneling is supported on Windows and Android devices but unfortunately, doesn’t work with the WireGuard protocol for the time being. On the plus side, staff are on-hand via life chat if you need help getting set up. Users can protect up to 10 devices simultaneously with no bandwidth limits.

This service takes the stress out of keeping yourself safe. It uses unbreakable encryption, protects against IPv6 and DNS leaks, and can even block trackers automatically (provided you chose the Plus Max plan). Better yet, PureVPN comes with an independently-verified zero-logs policy which means there’s no need to worry about anybody monitoring your activities. It even works in places like China, where censorship and surveillance are rife. We would, however, like to see some anonymous payment options introduced, as this is a fairly common way to provide additional peace of mind.

PureVPN apps are available for Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, and Linux. If you’d prefer, you can manually install the service on most home routers.

PureVPN speed test data

No valuePureVPN
WebsitePureVPN.com
Avg Speed (US)628 Mbps
Avg Speed (UK)324 Mbps
Avg Speed (Asia)246 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.11
Up to 82% off the 2-yr standard plan + free months

Pros:

  • Ultra-fast servers in 65 countries
  • Works just about anywhere in the world
  • Strong security and privacy credentials

Cons:

  • Couple of limitations on split tunneling feature
  • Can’t block ads

Our score:

4 out of 5

RELIABLE OPTION:PureVPN is speedy, security-conscious, and capable of just about anything. Includes split tunneling functionality as standard and has one of the largest networks around. Best of all, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on all paid plans.

Read our full review of PureVPN to learn more.

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8. ProtonVPN

Proton VPN offers split tunelingTested Jun 2024

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.protonvpn.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN includes split tunneling functionality in its Windows and Android apps, even if you’re using the free version. That said, we strongly recommend upgrading to a paid plan as soon as possible – these are significantly faster (averaging 330 Mbps in our latest tests), grant access to over 5,000 servers in 85 countries, and allow you to unblock a whole host of popular streaming platforms including Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. You’ll also be able to connect 10 times as many devices and speak directly with support staff should anything go wrong.

Split tunneling isn’t ProtonVPN’s only advanced feature. It has an automatic ad and tracker-blocker, speed booster, and port forwarding functionality (though this costs extra), as well as multi-hop servers stored in high-security data centers. This VPN doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, has been externally audited, and accepts multiple anonymous payment methods. Naturally, it has all of the safeguards you’d expect from a high-quality service, including unbreakable encryption, a kill switch, and leak protection.

ProtonVPN has its own Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, and MacOS apps. Further, it provides manual configuration guides for a wide range of routers so you can protect an entire network.

ProtonVPN speed test data

No valueProton VPN
Websiteprotonvpn.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)390 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)306 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)295 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Pros:

  • Free VPN with split tunneling support
  • Exceptional speed and streaming ability
  • Plenty of advanced security tools

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work in China
  • Secure Core servers noticeably slower than general-purpose ones

Our score:

4 out of 5

QUICK AND SECURE:ProtonVPN is a great choice for users hoping to split tunnel on Windows or Android devices. Free plan is decent but an upgrade offers exceptionally high speeds and access to most streaming platforms. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Check out our detailed ProtonVPN review.

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Methodology: how we found the best VPNs for split tunneling

Comparitech aims to publish the most accurate, useful, and comprehensive VPN reviews and recommendations on the internet. To do that, our team personally uses and tests each VPN based on expert analysis, real-world experience, and several performance and security tests. When it comes to this list, we looked for the following features in addition to split tunneling:

  • Speed: We measure download speeds and consistency on connections to VPN servers located around the world to ensure the VPNs we recommend are fast enough for day-to-day tasks like streaming, torrenting, gaming, and browsing.
  • Security: Split tunneling can introduce serious security risks if not implemented properly. We ensure VPNs use adequate encryption and are free of data leaks.
  • Streaming: We conduct real-world tests to find out which VPNs can reliably access popular streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
  • Devices: We know not all consumers use the internet in the same way, so you want a VPN that works with a variety of devices. We look for providers that support major operating systems like Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS at a minimum. But we also look for them to work with other platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Linux, and Wi-Fi routers. We also like providers that offer browser extensions.
  • Customer support: Our reviewers contact each VPN’s customer support staff as secret shoppers to gauge response times and quality.
  • Privacy: Every VPN we recommend has a no-logs policy. We inspect each provider’s privacy policy and terms of use for any language or lack thereof that could indicate the logging of online activity or personally identifiable information while using the VPN.
  • Value for money: It’s not unusual for low-quality providers to come at a high price. We favor VPNs that offer more bang for your buck and don’t engage in shady billing practices. We also look for the VPNs we recommend to offer free trials and/or money-back guarantees

Learn more about how we rate and review VPNs on our testing methodology page.

What is split tunneling, and why use it?

Split tunneling is a VPN feature that allows you to choose which data goes through the encrypted VPN tunnel and which uses a direct, unencrypted connection.

Split tunneling is useful in situations where only certain activities need to be protected by the VPN. While torrenting, for example, you can set your torrenting app to use the VPN while your web browser uses a normal internet connection.

Different types of split tunneling

VPN split tunneling can take a few different forms depending on how it decides what goes through the VPN and what doesn’t.

Most of the providers we recommend above let you split tunnel by app. You decide which apps use the VPN and which use a direct, unencrypted connection to the internet.

If you set up your VPN on a router, you could split tunnel by device. You can, for example, set your phone to use a normal connection and your PC to use the VPN.

Lastly, you can split tunnel according to your destination on the internet. The VPN could be configured to only kick in when you visit certain websites, for example. This is much less common than the other two types.

Pros and cons of split tunneling

The advantages of split tunneling are numerous:
  • You can simultaneously use a direct connection and a VPN connection
  • Conserves VPN bandwidth
  • You can still access your local network, including printers and smart home devices
  • Latency won’t suffer on non-VPN apps and devices.

In contrast, there are few disadvantages of split tunneling. The main issue is security.

  • In theory, an attacker could exploit split tunneling by using it as a back door. An attack on your direct, non-VPN connection could infiltrate your VPN-protected connection through your device. But so long as it’s configured properly, split tunneling is safe for most users.

How to use a split tunneling VPN

The exact process for split tunneling varies by VPN, but below is a general guide.

Here’s how to use a split tunneling VPN:

  1. Open your VPN app (we recommend Nord VPN) and sign in if necessary.
  2. Before you connect, find the split tunneling setting in your app’s menu
  3. Add the apps that you want to go through the VPN to the list (or, if inverse split tunneling, the devices you don’t want to connect to the VPN)
  4. Ensure split tunneling is enabled. You might need to check a box.
  5. Connect to the VPN.

See also: How to split tunnel VPN traffic on Windows, MacOS, DD-WRT, and Tomato

Split tunneling VPNs: FAQs

Can I use a free VPN for split tunneling?

Although there are quite a few free VPNs available, we advise against using them. The facility for split tunneling is only available in very few VPNs, and none of those specialized VPNs are free to use.

Free VPNs typically can’t get past location blocks on video streaming sites, and they can really slow down your connection.

Be cautious of free VPNs because a lot of them are scams. One of the key services included in VPNs is encryption to prevent strangers from snooping on your internet activity. Many free VPNs don’t include any encryption at all. These are not only useless but dangerous because they give people a false sense of security.

Although some VPNs are free of charge, they are not charities. Some make money by forcing their users to watch adverts before they connect. Others sneakily inject adverts into the web pages that they channel. Some free VPNs even track the internet activities of their users and sell that information to marketers. This is ironic because one of the main selling points of VPNs is that they are supposed to protect your privacy on the web.

All-in-all, you are better off avoiding free VPNs and opting for a quality VPN service instead.

What can I do with split tunneling?

Split tunneling boasts a number of advantages and is quite handy in a lot of situations:

  • Users in China can access foreign-only and China-only content at the same time. Works for other countries as well.
  • Set which apps use the VPN, such as those that require more privacy. Your web browser can use a direct connection while your torrenting app uses the VPN, for example.
  • If your Wi-Fi router supports split tunneling (e.g., ExpressVPN’s router firmware), you can choose which devices use the VPN and which do not. Game consoles can use a direct connection with less lag, for example, while your phone and laptop use the VPN.
  • Access local network devices such as printers, smart home devices, and routers while using the VPN.
  • Connect to local-only resources in a school or office while at the same time accessing websites and apps from behind a web filter.

What is inverse split tunneling?

Inverse split tunneling functions the same way as normal split tunneling in most respects. Normal split tunneling protects all connected apps or devices except for those specifically excluded.

Inverse split tunneling only protects specified apps or devices, and everything else is excluded by default.

Just think of the difference between a whitelist and a blacklist; it’s conceptually the same thing. The “list” might be a list of devices, apps,  websites, or even port numbers that connect—or do not connect—to the VPN.

Is split tunneling safe?

Split tunneling is perfectly safe, assuming it’s well-implemented and you are fully aware of what data travels through the VPN and what doesn’t.

Can a VPN be restricted to a single site?

It depends on how split tunneling is implemented in your VPN app.

CyberGhost, for example, only allows for split tunneling of entire apps, and not specific websites.

Surfshark, in contrast, allows users to split tunnel specific websites and even IP addresses. You can enter which websites and IP addresses bypass the VPN while split tunneling is enabled (note: Surfshark calls this feature a “Whitelister”).

Does split tunneling add latency?

Apps and websites that bypass the VPN through split tunneling have no added latency or ping time.

Apps and websites that do route through the VPN will have the usual added latency that you would get with any VPN connection.

Are there any security risks of split tunneling?

Yes, split tunneling does come with some security risks. Put simply, attackers can infiltrate your device through the non-VPN connection, which in turn gives them access to your VPN connection as well as the sites, apps, and services you use while on the VPN.

Consumer VPNs generally don’t restrict or monitor users’ traffic and give open access to the internet, so the security risks are not too severe in most cases. This is a bigger concern for corporate environments using enterprise VPNs for, say, remote workers. Split tunneling could allow attackers to access a company’s private server through the client’s unencrypted connection.

Which protocols do/ don't support split tunneling?

Split tunneling is usually achieved with OpenVPN, but the feature is not really limited to any specific protocol. It can also be set up with Wireguard or IKEv2, for example.

Is split tunneling difficult to set up?

It’s not at all difficult to set up split tunneling. The best VPNs for split tunneling make it quick and easy to do from within the VPN app. You should be able to find the split tunneling feature within the settings menu where you’ll be able to toggle it on or off. 

Usually, you need to add the apps that you want to go through the VPN (any apps not selected will not have data encrypted). In the case of inverse split tunneling, all traffic is encrypted by default and you need to specify which apps you don’t want connected to the VPN.

See also: Best VPNs for routers