Fastest VPNs

VPNs are the linchpin of a secure and private online experience, but they come with a catch: they can slow down your internet connection. But do they have to? You’re not alone if you’ve endured constant buffering while streaming your favorite shows or waited endlessly for downloads. We’ve been there, and we decided to tackle this challenge head-on by taking a close look at the fastest VPNs on the market.

After rigorous research and extensive testing, we’re here to unveil the best VPN experience in 2024 that optimally balances speed with security. Plus, we’ve unearthed some powerful yet straightforward tweaks to elevate your online speed, without costing you a dime.

Delve deeper, and we’ll show you our meticulous VPN speed testing protocols and the distinctive strengths of individual providers.

But, for those in haste, seeking the best VPNs for blazing-fast downloads or uninterrupted streaming, glance through our top curated picks right here:

These are the fastest VPNs based on our tests:

  1. Surfshark: The fastest VPN in 2024. Budget performer with unlimited simultaneous connections. Works with most streaming services and allows torrenting. In our tests, it handily beat the competition.
  2. Mullvad: Mullvad is as fast as it is secure, but doesn’t work with most streaming services.
  3. PureVPNPureVPN has made huge strides when it comes to speed and privacy in recent years.
  4. ProtonVPN: Great all-rounder. Improved speeds and works with many popular streaming services.
  5. IPVanish: High speeds on a Tier-1 network. Private, secure, and easy to use. Unlimited simultaneous connections.
  6. Hotspot Shield: Hotspot Shield has improved nearly every aspect of its service in recent months, from speed to its privacy policy.
  7. NordVPN: Huge speed improvements thanks to a new protocol dubbed NordLynx. The best all-rounder for speed, streaming and privacy.
  8. ExpressVPN: The new Lightway protocol vastly improves bandwidth. It can access streaming services, uses strong security, and works in China.
  9. CyberGhost:  Beginner-friendly service that’s great for streaming. The biggest server network on the market.
  10. HideMyAss: A solid VPN with fast speeds, security, and unblocking ability.
  11. TunnelBear: An easy-to-use VPN with fast connection speeds and a limited free tier.
  12. VyprVPN: A fast veteran VPN provider that works in China and can unblock most streaming services.

Our criteria for fast VPNs

All of the VPNs in the above list article averaged more than 200 Mbps down in our tests.

Each VPN’s speed test result is an average of nine tests: three times of day spread at least four hours apart, and across three different locations: North America (nearest), Europe, and Asia. Exact locations depend on each VPN’s available servers. We also measure the speed at each time without a VPN connection as a control. The results of these nine tests are then averaged.

Our tests are run on minimum 1 Gbps connections on sufficient hardware to max out each VPN’s download speed. We cover our testing methodology in more detail later in this article.

Fastest VPNs in 2024

Below we’ve listed our top fastest VPNs tested in the last year, out of dozens premium providers. Our speed tests factor largely into this list, but other non-quantifiable parameters based on our personal experience are also taken into consideration. These include how well they stream HD video and download torrents.

Note that the evaluations of speeds disclosed aren’t necessarily indicative of the performance you’ll experience on your device and are only intended to provide context between providers.

Here is a detailed look at the fastest VPNs in 2024:

1. Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark is the fastest VPN in 2024. It rose up the ranks and trounced the competition with an average download speed of 595 Mbps in our tests. That’s over 200 Mbps faster than the runner-up. The Wireguard protocol and infrastructure upgrades have resulted in huge speed improvements. This budget-friendly VPN allows for an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, making it a great option for a family or group of housemates with lots of devices.

Surfshark’s security meets all of our standards, and it keeps no logs. It’s great for streaming Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+, among others. It allows torrenting. Live chat support is available around the clock.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Fire TV.

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:

  • The fastest VPN
  • Unlimited connections
  • Works in China
  • Great streaming potential

Cons:

  • Requires installing extra features not included with the VPN subscription (Surfshark One)
  • Collects advertising IDs on mobile

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

FASTEST VPN:Surfshark always makes our list of the fastest VPNs and is one of very few that allows unlimited connections. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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2. Mullvad

Mullvad VPN

Mullvad was the fastest VPN last year, but fell down to second this year with an average global download speed of 390 Mbps in our tests. That’s enough to stream 4K video on multiple devices, play online games, and quickly download large files.

On top of that, Mullvad boasts extensive security features to keep your online activity safe and private. Mullvad doesn’t store any logs of what you do online. It even works in China and other censorship-heavy countries.

The downside is that Mullvad doesn’t work well with streaming services. It works with US Netflix, but if you plan to unblock anything else, then you might want to keep reading.

Mullvad makes apps for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and some wi-fi routers. You can connect up to five devices at once.

No valueMullvad VPN
Websitemullvad.net
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)645 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)303 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)223 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$5.50
$5.50/mo

Pros:

  • 2nd-fastest VPN
  • Extremely secure
  • No logs
  • Works in China
  • IPv6 support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work with most streaming services
  • Lackluster customer support

FAST AND SECURE:Mullvad consistently ranks near the top of the fastest VPNs. Plus, it boasts top-notch security and comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Mullvad review.


3. PureVPN

PureVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.PureVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 31 DAYS

PureVPN has invested heavily in its server infrastructure and recently joined the WireGuard bandwagon. Those changes have resulted in massive speed improvements that put it on the podium. It averaged 400 Mbps across all times and locations tested.

PureVPN allows torrenting and doesn’t store any identifying logs. It employs strong encryption and prevents data leaks over DNS and IPv6.

It can unblock most popular streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video from any country. You can connect up to 10 devices at a time, with apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, android, and fire TV.

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:

  • Very fast, especially on US servers
  • Can access wide variety of streaming services
  • No logs
  • Allows torrenting

Cons:

  • Past privacy issues
  • Lackluster support

MOST IMPROVED:PureVPN is improving by leaps and bounds. Get fast connections for streaming and torrenting from anywhere. Comes with a 31-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full PureVPN review.


4. ProtonVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.protonvpn.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN is a provider mainly known for its high standards of privacy and security, but the service is fast, too. It shot up the ranks by reaching an average of 331 Mbps globally in our speed tests.

Several tiers of service are on offer. ProtonVPN works with Netflix and many other popular streaming platforms.

Security is airtight thanks to leak protection, a kill switch, and military-grade encryption. It allows peer-to-peer filesharing and never logs any of your online activity.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

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:

  • Good speeds
  • Strong security
  • No logs
  • Works with Netflix and other popular streaming services
  • 24/7 Live chat support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work in China
  • Some advanced features can be confusing for novices

FAST AND PRIVATE:ProtonVPN is a solid option for users who want speed without sacrificing privacy or security. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full ProtonVPN review.

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5. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish’s recent upgrade to the Wireguard protocol resulted in massive speed improvements. It averaged 314 Mbps in our tests, which is more than enough for even the most bandwidth-intensive activities like video conferencing and live streaming in HD and 4K. IPVanish doesn’t put a limit on how many devices you can connect at once, either.

In addition to speed, IPVanish boasts good security. It’s leak proof, meets all of our encryption standards, and doesn’t keep any identifying logs.

IPVanish isn’t the most adept when it comes to accessing streaming services. It works with US Netflix, but you’ll want to test it out using the money-back guarantee before committing if you plan on streaming other services.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire TV.

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)$2.99
SAVE 76% on the 2 yr plan

Pros:

  • Exceptional speeds
  • Very secure
  • No logs
  • Unlimited connections
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Doesn’t unblock some popular streaming services
  • Based in USA

Our score:

4 out of 5

UNLIMITED CONNECTIONS:IPVanish outperformed the competition in our latest round of speed tests without compromising users’ privacy. Try it out with a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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6. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Hotspotshield.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.

Hotspot Shield made our list of the fastest VPNs for the first time this year with an average download speed of 304 Mbps. We tested it using the paid subscription, which includes access to servers in 80 countries.

Hotspot Shield allows torrenting, has a kill switch, and doesn’t store identifying logs of your online activity. It works with most popular streaming services like Netflix.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Fire TV. By default, Hotspot Shield uses its proprietary protocol Hydra, but we found it achieved the best speeds on WireGuard.

No valueHotspot Shield
WebsiteHotspotshield.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)353 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)335 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)224 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE 77% ON THE 3 YEAR PLAN

Pros:

  • Fast speeds on WireGuard
  • Torrents protected by a kill switch
  • Strong encryption
  • Split tunneling

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Based in USA
  • Collects advertising IDs on mobile

UP AND COMER:Hotspot Shield is an easy-to-use VPN with a free plan and blazing fast speeds on the paid plan. It comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Hotspot Shield review.


7. NordVPN

NordVPN

Apps Available:

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

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN pegged an average download speed of 300 Mbps across all times and locations tested. Its fast speeds can be attributed to the launch of NordLynx, a custom VPN protocol built on Wireguard that delivers data more efficiently without impacting security or privacy. NordLynx nearly doubled NordVPN’s throughput in our latest tests.

NordVPN performs well in other areas, too. It works well with a wide range of streaming services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video. This provider’s security consists of uncrackable military-grade encryption, an app-specific internet kill switch, and airtight leak protection.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Fire TV.

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:

  • Faster VPN
  • Works with most streaming services
  • Works in China, UAE
  • Strong security
  • Zero logs privacy policy

Cons:

  • No kill switch on Android
  • Streaming servers aren’t labeled
  • Collects advertising IDs on mobile

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

ALL-ROUND FAST VPN:A well-rounded VPN that outperforms most of competition by a wide margin in our speed tests. Best combination of speed, features, security and value for money. Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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8. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN’s average global download speed rose to 300 Mbps in our latest tests. After a dip in last year’s tests, we’re happy to see the results rebound.

Many VPNs jumped on the WireGuard bandwagon to increase their speeds, but ExpressVPN aimed higher. It created its own open-source protocol dubbed Lightway, which has resulted in huge speed increases—double the bandwidth of OpenVPN—without sacrificing security or privacy.

ExpressVPN is a great all-round VPN. It can access a wide range of streaming services including Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. It works in China. Robust security includes strong encryption, data leak prevention, and a kill switch. ExpressVPN keeps no identifying logs. Live chat support is available 24/7, year-round.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, and certain wi-fi routers.

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:

  • Fast speeds
  • Strong security
  • No identifying logs
  • Can securely access all of your usual services
  • Works in China

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than rivals

FAST VPN:ExpressVPN is the one of the fastest VPN we've tested yet, and it performs well on all other fronts, too. Try it with a risk-free, 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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9. CyberGhost

CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost recorded an average download speed of 295 Mbps across all locations and times tested. That’s almost the exact same result as our previous tests, so kudos for consistency. Like many others, it employs Wireguard, a faster and more efficient VPN protocol that doesn’t sacrifice security.

CyberGhost is great for streaming region-locked content from abroad. It works with Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more. And with speeds like this, you can enjoy viewing everything in 4K UHD resolution. It even labels servers for specific streaming services in the app.

CyberGhost adheres to a no-logs policy and uses strong encryption to keep your online activities private. You can connect up to seven devices at a time on a single plan, with apps available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Fire TV, and Linux.

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:

  • Fast VPN
  • Great for streaming
  • Strong security
  • No logs
  • Live chat support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t reliably work from China or UAE

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

FAST ALL-ROUND VPN:CyberGhost is the one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, and it doesn’t skimp on streaming or security, either. It comes with a risk-free 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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10. HideMyAss

Hide My Ass VPN

HideMyAss posted an average speed of 238 Mbps in our tests. Although we ran into a couple of slow servers, bandwidth was more than enough on the whole.

HideMyAss had its privacy issues in the past but has since overhauled its privacy policy and logging practices. It uses strong encryption and keeps no identifying logs. On the downside, it doesn’t work in China.

HMA is great for streaming the majority of your favorite video services from abroad. It offers live chat support and lets you connect up to five devices at once.

No valueHide My Ass VPN
WebsiteHideMyAss.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)295 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)231 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)188 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
Get 75% off the 36 month plan

Pros:

  • Good speeds
  • Works with most streaming services
  • Solid security

Cons:

  • Past privacy issues
  • Doesn’t work in China

FAST DOWNLOADS:HideMyAss offers a solid all-round service with fast speeds at a low cost. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full HideMyAss review.


11. TunnelBear

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android

Website:  www.Tunnelbear.com

Money-back guarantee: None

TunnelBear has risen in the ranks of the fastest VPNs with an average download speed of 222 Mbps. It’s one of just two VPNs on this list with a free version, though it’s capped at 500 MB per month. This is a novice-friendly VPN with easy-to-use apps for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android, plus a handy Chrome extension.

TunnelBear employs strong encryption and sticks to a strict no-logs privacy policy. It doesn’t reliably work with streaming services like Netflix, but it’s a solid option for torrenting, private browsing, and bypassing censorship in places like China. You can connect up to a maximum of five devices at once.

No valueTunnelBear
WebsiteTunnelbear.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)245 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)221 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Japan)200 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.33

Pros:

  • Good speeds
  • Limited free version
  • Works in China
  • Strong privacy and security

Cons:

  • Doesn’t reliably work with Netflix and other streaming services
  • Money-back guarantee is shorter than others

Our score:

3.5 out of 5

FAST BEAR:Fast and easy to use, TunnelBear comes with a seven-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full TunnelBear review.

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12. VyprVPN

VyprVPN

VyprVPN is a veteran provider that averaged 215 Mbps globally in our most recent tests. It made our list largely thanks to the adoption of the Wireguard protocol, which vastly improved its speeds over the aging OpenVPN.

Vypr is a reliable go-to VPN for users in China. It works pretty well for unblocking region-locked streaming services.

VyprVPN’s encryption meets all of our security standards. And it has an updated no-logs policy to ensure your online activity is always private.

Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. You can connect up to five devices at once.

No valueVyprVPN
WebsiteVyprVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)373 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)192 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)79 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$5
SAVE 50% on the annual plan

Pros:

  • Solid speeds
  • Works in China
  • Can unblock most streaming services from abroad
  • Strong security and no-logs privacy policy

Cons:

  • Pricier than others on this list
  • Smaller server network

FAST EVERYWHERE:VyprVPN works everywhere even in China, allowing users to stream and download without interruption. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full VyprVPN review.


VPN speed test results 2024

You can see the average global download speed for every VPN we’ve tested in the past year below (click to enlarge):

Speed Test Results

Testing methodology: How we find the fastest VPNs

All tests are performed using the provider’s Windows app from the USA on a minimum 1 Gbps connection. Speeds are measured using the Speedtest.net desktop app. Outliers are thrown out and retested if they are more than three standard deviations away from the mean result.

We only report download speed. We do not test latency, as this is more an indicator of our proximity to the server than the VPN’s available bandwidth. We also do not test upload speed.

We always advise readers to take VPN speed tests with a big grain of salt. Too many variables are at play. We’ve stated as clearly as possible, there is no such thing as the “fastest VPN,” no matter how many companies make such a claim.

VPN speed is one of the most difficult factors to accurately quantify because we can’t test every server in every location every hour. We always run speed tests as empirically as possible when we review a VPN provider, but the fact of the matter is that the fastest VPN for where you live is not necessarily the fastest VPN for where I live. The fastest VPN for streaming video might not be the speediest for online gaming. Even the fastest VPN service at noon probably isn’t the quickest at midnight.

Note that some providers could not be tested alongside the other VPNs due to technical limitations, but scored well in separate speed tests.

The benefits of using a fast VPN

If a VPN works, you might be wondering whether speed actually matters. The truth is that it depends on what you plan on using it for. You might not need the fastest VPN on the market if you’re casually browsing, but you’ll encounter issues if you then go on to stream or game.

Here are some of the main benefits of using a fast VPN:

  • Streaming in HD without any lag or interruption. For example, a fast Netflix VPN will keep you connected even during the longest content binges.
  • Gaming online with a stable connection. This means you will join lobbies faster and never drop out of an important game on FIFA, Call of Duty, and many others. More on this in our guide to ping and latency.
  • Downloading files and torrents in significantly less time
  • Uninterrupted browsing, including enjoying videos on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram

Peak versus average speed

In the 2017 State of the Internet report from Akamai, the average peak connection speed across both North and South America is 44.6 Mbps, but the global average internet connection speed–not peak–is a mere 7.2 Mbps. That’s just one-sixth of the peak average. So what does this mean for VPN providers?

We all share the internet, and we can’t all get the maximum speed advertised by our Internet Service Providers every second of every day. Network congestion plays a huge role in your download speed both on and off the VPN, but it’s twice as likely to take a toll when connected to a VPN.

When you download a file from a server without a VPN, there’s a chance you will encounter network congestion, most likely on your nearby ISP network or at the download server itself. When you use a VPN service, you add a third potential bottleneck to the route. Whether because of server load or congestion on the network surrounding the server, there’s a higher chance that your speed will be affected while connected to a VPN.

When choosing a VPN server, take these factors into consideration. VPNs are subject to the same peak-versus-average conundrum as everyone else. If possible, choose a VPN server in a time zone that’s in off-peak hours. Some VPN apps have built in speed tests or show the current server load in real time, which can give you an indication of whether you’ll be able to max out your allotted download speed.

Security versus speed

Adding security to a VPN connection inevitably results in a loss of speed. Using a stronger encryption algorithm, for example, means it takes longer to encrypt data traveling through the VPN and longer to decrypt it once it arrives at its destination. Similarly, more secure VPN protocols tend to be slower than less secure ones. PPTP, despite being the oldest protocol, it still offers significantly faster connections than OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec. However, it also has known security vulnerabilities.

You don’t necessarily need the strongest available security all the time when using a VPN, but there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed in order to increase speed. We recommend against using PPTP and advise readers to opt for a protocol that uses SSL (OpenVPN) or IPSec encryption (L2TP, IKEv2).

Most VPN providers don’t give you the option, anyway, but don’t disable encryption altogether. Additionally, 128-bit AES is the minimum strength encryption necessary for a VPN to do its job and keep your data safe. It’s effectively un-crackable and is slightly faster than 256-bit AES encryption, which is also common. A handful of VPNs use Blowfish encryption, which tends to be slower than its AES counterpart. We recommend at least 448-bit Blowfish encryption if you go that route.

How much of a speed boost you’ll get out of tweaking encryption and VPN protocols depends on your hardware. More powerful devices will be able to encrypt and decrypt data more quickly.

UDP versus TCP

When using the OpenVPN protocol, many VPN apps will give you the option of using either the TCP or UDP protocol. TCP is the protocol that you normally use to browse the web and download files. UDP is more common for streaming applications such as video, music, and gaming. The difference is in how computers and servers send network packets, the unit of data used to exchange information over the internet.

A common misconception is that UDP is always faster than TCP. While this is often the case, it’s more of a guideline than a rule.

TCP uses error protection and guaranteed delivery to ensure that every data packet is identical to the original and sent in the correct order. If there is an error, the flow of internet traffic is stopped until the previous packets are sent successfully. This is important if you’re downloading a file or loading a web page.

UDP doesn’t have these protections. Collisions, errors, and missing packets are all common, and sometimes packets arrive out of order. The emphasis is on speed, not being perfect. It is preferable to miss a packet than delay all of the other packets following it.

So, if you use your VPN primarily for online gaming, streaming video, or listening to music, then switch to UDP. Otherwise, stick to TCP.

Stability trumps speed

In our humble opinion, the primary performance factor when choosing a VPN service shouldn’t be speed. It should be stable. More often than not, it’s volatility that brings down test scores rather than a slower overall download rate.

Every VPN will occasionally have a bad day or just a few bad hours where service is slow on a particular server or set of servers. Some VPNs have more high traffic periods or downtime than others. These are the ones to be avoided. Unfortunately, the test period for our reviews rarely lasts more than two weeks, so it’s difficult to predict what VPNs will encounter more issues in the long term at the time of writing.

That being said, the boxplot below (from some older tests) can give some indication of how volatile a VPN’s performance is. A larger blue box means more volatility, even if the mean (red dot) and median (thick black line) download times are low, a lot of volatility will probably cause more frustration than a slightly slower connection.

vpn speed test nordvpn

Unless you’re on a fast (100+Mbps) internet connection, the chances of maxing out the bandwidth available is pretty slim. Almost all VPNs these days advertise unlimited bandwidth.

Speed shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing a VPN. Depending on what you plan to use it for, you may want a VPN that’s best for torrenting or streaming Netflix or gaming. Those aren’t necessarily the fastest, and they don’t need to be. They just have to be fast enough.

VPN alternatives for faster speeds

VPNs secure your traffic and route it through an intermediary server so it can’t be traced. But if privacy is not of chief concern to you, then there are other alternative proxy methods that offer faster speed. A SOCKS proxy, for example, does pretty much the same thing as a VPN without encryption. Without having to encrypt and decrypt traffic, SOCKS proxy users can get faster connections and still mask their IP address.

Read more: SOCKS5 Proxy vs VPN – What’s the difference? Which should you use?

Then there are smart DNS proxies. These proxies only re-route your DNS requests to make it appear as though you are in a different physical location, rather than all of a device’s traffic. This means you still get the full benefit of a direct internet connection, but not the privacy or security of a VPN.

Which VPN protocol is the fastest?

If you are trying to get the best speeds for gaming, torrenting, streaming, making video calls, or other data-intensive tasks, you will want to choose the fastest VPN protocol available to you. This may differ depending on your provider because a few VPNs have a proprietary VPN protocol specifically designed to give you faster speeds. If your VPN has a proprietary protocol, this may be the best place to start.

Proprietary protocols aside, the fastest VPN protocols are as follows:

  1. WireGuard. This is a modern VPN protocol that was designed to offer both high levels of security and better speeds than older VPN protocols. Since its inception, it has quickly been added to many leading VPN providers offering to allow them to provide even faster speeds to their users.
  2. OpenVPN UDP. This is a mainstay of the VPN industry, often considered the most secure VPN protocol available. The protocol has been independently audited on various occasions, to ensure it remains free of vulnerabilities, and it is known to provide exceptional reliability and fast speeds.
  3. IKEv2. This protocol is often offered to cater to users on iOS and macOS. It is a highly secure and reliable protocol that is easier to implement on Mac devices and is known for providing decent speeds for streaming. Not as fast as our top two picks, but still worth testing when trying to get optimal speeds on your devices.

Fastest VPN FAQs

Are there any fast free VPNs?

We recommend against using any so-called free VPN. Free VPN services tend to be significantly slower than their premium counterparts. Their servers are usually congested and the apps often impose bandwidth limits or data caps. Server selection is more limited as well. Besides speed, free VPNs often use shady practices to make money, such as collecting your browsing data to sell to third parties and injecting ads into browsers. Some even carry malware payloads to infect your device.

How do I get the fastest server for gaming?

If you’re an online gamer who uses a VPN to access another region’s servers (or because you got IP banned), the most important factor in choosing a VPN is latency, also called ping. The ping time between the game servers and your computer or console is mostly what determines how much lag you’ll experience. If you want to stay competitive, figure out where the game’s regional servers are hosted and choose the VPN’s closest server. Download rate is also important, but gaming requires less bandwidth than you might think. The first priority should always be reducing latency.

How do I run ping tests for gaming through a VPN?

If you want to know how much lag to expect when gaming through a particular VPN server, you can run a simple ping test. To do this, you will need to know the domain or IP address of the game server that you’ll be playing on. This might require some digging—most games do not publicize their server IP addresses. Many online games display your ping in real time, so this might not be necessary.

Once you’ve found an IP address or domain for the server region you want to connect to, just open up Command Prompt (Windows) or Terminal (Mac) and enter the following command:

ping 104.160.131.3

Then connect to your VPN and run the same command again. Note the difference in time.

This example uses a League of Legends server in North America. You’ll need to replace it with the server IP or domain for the game and region you want to play.

The results will show the roundtrip time in milliseconds that it takes for the ping to reach the server and return to your computer. For most competitive online games, you’ll want a ping time of less than 100ms as a good rule of thumb.

See also: Best VPNs for gaming

Should I avoid "speed boosters"?

Some Android apps, iOS apps, and desktop browser extensions claim they can speed up your VPN connection times. These are almost undoubtedly scams.

There is simply no way for a third-party app to increase the internet speed of your VPN connection beyond what we’ve outlined above, especially not for free. More likely, these apps are used to mine your data or serve ads.

The closest you might get to a real speed booster is to subscribe to an optimized gaming network, which ensures that your internet traffic is taking the shortest and least-congested route available to give you a better ping time. But these are paid subscription services, not free apps, and even then their effectiveness is questionable.

Does a VPN help with buffering?

A VPN can help prevent video streams from buffering in a few specific cases, but generally a VPN will not help with buffering. Buffering means either your internet connection is too slow or your device isn’t powerful enough to decrypt and decompress video as quickly as it’s played back. A VPN can only be as fast as your base internet connection, and it requires even more system resources for encryption and decryption, so it typically won’t help.

The exception is if your internet service provider or local network administrator is throttling bandwidth from the video source. Comcast, for example, has throttled mobile video and Netflix streams in the past. A VPN can hide the contents and source of your internet traffic so that your ISP cannot discriminate based on what type of data is being streamed or where it comes from.

Will a VPN browser security extension slow down my surfing?

Yes. All VPNs slow down your internet speed to some degree, and a VPN browser extension is no different. Data must still be encrypted, routed through the VPN server, and decrypted. All of that adds extra time it takes to send data between your device and its destination.

That being said, some VPNs are much faster than others. Be sure to stick to our recommendations if you want a fast VPN.

Can a VPN reduce lag?

Generally, no, a VPN won’t reduce lag. Because a VPN routes your data through an extra server before sending it to its final destination, the time it takes data to travel is increased. That means higher latency, also known as ping time or lag. In a few rare cases, your VPN might provide a more direct route than your ISP connection, but it would be an exception to the rule.

How do I maximize torrenting speed on a VPN?

Many VPNs come with NAT firewalls built into their service. A NAT firewall is what allows multiple users connected to the same VPN server to share a single public IP address. This adds a significant layer of anonymity and security because internet traffic going to and from the VPN server can’t be traced back to a single user. They also prevent unsolicited requests from reaching individual users.

Most VPN’s NAT firewalls allow torrenting to some extent and many users will not notice a difference when connected. In fact, a VPN can allow you to bypass a NAT firewall on your local network that might be more strict, improving torrenting speeds.

When it comes to privacy, security, and anonymity, NAT firewalls have a positive impact. In some cases, however, they can impede torrenting.

BitTorrent relies on users being able to freely connect to each other to share files. NAT firewalls often reject BitTorrent requests from fellow torrenters uploading or downloading the same file.

That means you might not be able to seed (read: upload) files through BitTorrent, because peers who want to download the file must make unsolicited requests that get blocked by the NAT firewall. Conversely, you might not be able to connect to as many peers when downloading a file, slowing download speeds considerably.

If you’re struggling to connect to peers in a torrent swarm, some VPNs allow users to disable their NAT firewall in the settings. Others allow port forwarding, wherein the VPN provider designates a specific port to be used for P2P traffic. Users can configure their BitTorrent clients to use this port. You might have to check your provider’s website or ask customer support what port number should be used for P2P filesharing.

Disabling the NAT firewall or setting up port forwarding means compromising on security, so do so with caution and only if necessary. On top of that, because you’re using a special port, your internet traffic is more easily distinguished from other users, making you easier to track.

See also: Best VPNs for torrenting

Is FastestVPN legit and really fast?

As we stated in our FastestVPN review, FastestVPN offers respectable speeds but it’s by no means the fastest VPN we’ve tested. Across all locations and times tested, we had average speeds of 32 Mbps. This is fast enough for streaming and torrenting although when you consider that the fastest VPNs we’ve tested reach speeds of 548 Mbps (CyberGhost) and 488 Mbps (IPVanish), then it’s clear that FastestVPN doesn’t even come close.

Despite this, FastestVPN is a legitimate VPN service in that it was established in 2016 and does offer some benefits. In particular, we were able to use it to access Netflix US. It also allows up to ten simultaneous connections (most VPNs only allow a handful) while there’s even 24/7 live chat and email support. However, there are better VPNs on the market, particularly when it comes to speed and security which are two of the most important factors.

How can I increase my VPN speed?

There are a number of things you can do to increase your VPN speed. A good start is signing up with one of the fastest VPNs as listed in this post! Otherwise, you should try connecting to a server close to your physical location. Another thing you can do is to change your VPN protocol. Many major VPN providers now offer WireGuard which is the fastest VPN protocol around. Last but not least, you can always try a wired ethernet connection.

Can I use these fast VPNs for torrenting?

You can use any of these fast VPNs for torrenting safely. All providers on this list employ a zero-logs policy, meaning your p2p activities and anything else you do online are never recorded. Additionally, these fast VPNs use military-grade encryption to keep your connection watertight from the likes of ISPs that usually monitor and report torrenters.

Will these VPNs throttle my speed or bandwidth?

No quality paid VPN will throttle your speed or bandwidth. Indeed, the fastest VPNs listed in this post all offer unlimited bandwidth. Bandwidth throttling is something that is more likely to happen if you choose a free VPN (which we don’t recommend). 

What you will find is that with any VPN you use, the encryption process and re-routing of data to the VPN server may slow your connection somewhat. However, with the fastest VPNs, the difference is likely to be so small that you won’t notice — even when streaming and torrenting.