Playing online through your Xbox One takes the experience to the next level. The whole world is available to you if you know how to connect to the right games servers. However, connecting your Xbox One to the internet also introduces security risks. Once you get known out there and you become a threat to other teams, they can hit back at you through DDoS attacks or SWATTING.
Unfortunately, you can’t install a VPN on the Xbox One console. Instead, you can set it up on your wifi router. Another option is to create a virtual router using a laptop. You check out our tutorials on this topic for for Macs and Windows for more information on this trick.
Not every VPN is suitable for the Xbox One and some can actually harm your chances of winning online. You need to look out for VPNs with the following features:
- High speeds, low latency
- A large number of servers
- Servers optimized for gaming
- DDoS protection
- Multiple connection allowances
- Router compatibility
A good VPN should be able to get you around blackout and regional access blocks, too. We took all of these factors into consideration when assessing the five best VPNs for Xbox One.
Best VPNs for Xbox One
ExpressVPN can’t be loaded onto the Xbox One. However, it can be installed on routers. This is your best option because it gets all of the internet-enabled devices covered with one install. ExpressVPN is rare in the industry because it has an install wizard that will set up the provider’s custom firmware on your router for you — with others, you have to manually install a third-party firmware.
The speeds of this service are very good and the company operates VPN servers in 94 countries, which should get you into games servers all over the world. The company doesn’t specifically provide DDoS protection. However, the cloaking service of its substitute IP address should be enough to get you out of being attacked. The customer service department of ExpressVPN is second to none. Techies are available online 24/7 via a live chat window at the ExpressVPN website.
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Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN is another good bet for getting protection on your router and covering everything in your house. The website has detailed instructions to install the system on 29 different types of routers. In total, you are allowed six concurrent connections to the service and the router install will count as just one of those.
The company operates servers in more than 1,000 locations across 61 countries. The server list in the app has a ping test facility so that you can tell which is going to give you the fastest connection. Connection options include DDoS protection and you can also order a dedicated IP address if you want to run your own games server.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
IPVanish is one of the fastest VPN in the world. Speed is very important in online gaming and you can gain a winning edge if your opponents get slowed down because of their connection speed. The server list in the app can be reordered according to ping, which will give you a idea of the best server to connect to.
IPVanish has serves in 60 countries and it has a particularly large network in its home territory of the United States. The company has a total of 418 servers located in 17 US cities. You are allowed five simultaneous connections to the service and the system can be loaded onto compatible routers.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN matches NordVPN’s generous allowance of six simultaneous connections. The service can also be installed on a compatible router, which only counts as one of your connections. The company is based in Sweden, but its support staff all speaks English. They are available via live chat on the website during European business hours and if you can’t follow their instructions they can take over your devices remotely and fix the problem for you.
You get good speeds with this VPN service and the company has servers in 55 countries. PrivateVPN was originally created to serve the torrenting community, so this is a good choice if you like to download as well as play games online.
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Read our full review of PrivateVPN
Cyberghost offers really good speeds and it also offers servers optimized for gaming. You can reorder the server list so that it shows the fastest service for your location first. The app has a really great design featuring a friendly ghost. However, you will be more interested in the ability to install the service on a router, so you can get your Xbox covered.
The company operates servers in 54 countries, including the major gaming Meccas of the world. Apart from gaming, you can install the app on Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and Android devices. You get an allowance of five simultaneous connections and there are a lot of extra privacy protection features for your computers and mobile devices.
Read our full Cyberghost review.
Free VPNs for Xbox One
Don’t get caught up with the attraction of getting something for nothing. There is usually a good reason why a VPN is free and that reason is that, basically, the service is no good. Some excellent VPNs offer free versions. However, there is always a catch. Some of those free services will disconnect after a period and that could lose you the game. Many also have monthly data transfer quotas of speed limits — neither of which you want for online gaming.
VPNs that are straight-out free have sometimes been revealed to be dangerous. There are two examples of this category in the next section of this review.
VPNs to avoid
Hola is not really a VPN because it doesn’t offer any encryption. The company runs a parallel business that sells access to the VPN network. As this is a peer-to-peer system, that network is actually made up of the internet bandwidth of Hola users. The paid version of the system has very few controls, so your IP address could be used by hackers as a front for DDoS attacks and other unpleasant activities.
This free VPN has a lot of reasons not to use it. It will really slow down your connection, so it is no good for gaming. On top of that, a scientific analysis of VPNs discovered that this company injects advertising into the web pages that the VPN passes through to your browser. The company also practices URL hijacking, adding on affiliate codes for a number of the sites that you visit, so they secretly win a commission when you buy online.
Set up a VPN on your router for Xbox One
If you don’t know anything about your router and you have thrown away the box, there is a quick way to find out how to contact it.
1. Open the Task Manager and click on the Performance tab.
2. Look for the Private IP address assigned to your computer.
3. Replace the last number in the address with 1 to get your router’s address. So, in the case shown above, the address 192.168.0.10 was assigned to a computer on the network, so the router’s address is 192.168.0.1.
Next you need to open a browser tab and enter that router address in the address field. You will be presented with the login page. If you have never reset the username and password they will still be on the factory default. Try user/user, admin/password, system/admin, or sys/admin for the username and password.
Each router type has different page titles for settings. Look for WAN Settings, Network Configuration, or Basic Setup.
The field you are looking for will have a name like WAN Connection Type, as seen in the example below.
The type of connection that you want to set up will depend on the VPN service that you have subscribed to. Follow the instructions for this task that are available at the website of your VPN provider.
Set up a VPN-protected wifi hotspot on a laptop
Alternatively, you can use a laptop to create a “virtual router” that broadcasts a wifi hotspot. Any device connected to that hotspot will send its traffic through the VPN server. Check out our instructions on how to set up a VPN-protected wifi hotspot on Windows and Mac.
Online attack risk
Once you become familiar with the Xbox One controls you will probably want to move onto more complicated concepts. Onlive games with Xbox Live beckon and team games are the next level. It is possible to coordinate a match in a team play game, and that team doesn’t all need to be sitting in the same room. Voice chat facilities are available to help you coordinate your team. However, you will soon find yourself using these chat systems to goad opponents and swap tips.
Unfortunately, those chat systems are not very secure, and that new friend you make on the other side of the world may just be using the conversation as a way to find out your IP address. There is a growing trend in online gaming of attacking the internet connections of opponents to lock them out of games at critical moments. Those attacks can lose you a match and so you need to guard against revealing your true IP address.
The viciously competitive nature of some player drives them to resort to dirty tricks. You need to protect yourself against these people and thrash them in a game on equal terms. The best system you can use for this online protection is called a VPN. This service will mask your real IP address and also absorb all the force of a message flood sent to block off your access to the internet — these are called DDoS attacks.
Those DDoS attacks are also launched against games servers. To protect their servers, games companies sometimes block out large ranges of IP addresses, which they suspect includes computers that have been attacking them. This can unfairly block out innocent gamers. VPNs can help you with this problem, too, because they give you a temporary IP address that replaces your own and gets you out of the banned address range.
Another trick of sabotage that opponents will sometimes try in order to pay you back for beating them in a game is called SWATTING. This involves creating a security panic that will draw a SWAT team to your home. This is a good reason to keep your identity and your location private when you are playing online. Even though the call out of the SWAT team is not your fault, the aftermath of this hazing can cause you serious grief. In one documented case, a neighbor of the target of the prank was killed by an overhyped police squad.
Keeping your identity a secret in online gaming is an advisable precaution against being targeted.
Switch Xbox location
Not every games server in the world is available to you. You may hear that a new online game has been released, but won’t be in your part of the world for some time. You can switch your nationality easily with a VPN because these systems make it look like you are somewhere else. So, you can select a location where new releases are available and thus qualify for access.
Best VPNs for Xbox One
We put a lot of thought into compiling this list of the best VPNs for Xbox One, and then we went a step further by getting each of the providers to offer special deals. Each of the VPNs in our list offer money-back guarantees, so you don’t have to worry about having to pay out for a subscription upfront. If you don’t like the service, just ask for your money back. We have tested the refund performance of all of these VPNs and they pay up without any dodges or tricks. It is good to know that you can rely on these companies to be honorable.
Do you have a favorite VPN for Xbox One? Have you tried any of the VPNs on our list? Do you have tips to share with other gamers about using a VPN on a router? Join in the discussion by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.
See also: Speed is really important for many online activities, not just for gamers. Check out our report on the fastest VPN services.
Image: Xbox One Controller by Mack Male via Flickr