VPN speed test

When you connect to a VPN, it must encrypt your data and route it through a remote server location. This will slow down your internet and introduce lag, but not all VPNs are created equally. Some VPNs are fast, which makes them good for streaming and gaming. Others are slow, making them a constant source of frustration.

Many VPNs have slow servers and aging VPN protocols. These VPNs slow down your internet substantially, which makes them unsuitable for doing data-intensive tasks. Other VPNs lack enough servers, so their network gets congested.

Before switching providers, check whether your VPN is slow or if the problem lies elsewhere. Running a speed test will let you see exactly how the VPN impacts your internet speed, and it takes just a couple of minutes.

How to run a VPN speed test

The easiest way to check your VPN speed is to use an online speed test website. Even better, you can download the Ookla speed test app for Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android. If you prefer to use the website you can follow this link.

Once you have the speed testing tool or website ready, follow the steps below to carry out the VPN speed test:

  1. Make sure that you are NOT connected to your VPN. Launch the speed-testing app or website. If you are using the website, be sure to refresh the window when the VPN is off. This will ensure that Ookla finds the optimal test server.
  2. Press the big “Go” button to begin the speed test.
  3. Wait for the test to complete and make a note of the download speed you achieved. This is the speed of your internet without using a VPN. Close the speed test application.
  4. Now that you have a baseline speed, you are ready to connect to the VPN. Choose the VPN server or location that you want to test and click Connect. Wait for the VPN connection to be established.
  5. Now launch the speed testing app again. It is important to close the app and relaunch it to ensure that Ookla finds the optimal test server again. If you are using the website, then refresh the page while connected to the VPN.
  6. Click the big “Go” button, like you did the first time. Make a note of your download speed. This is your speed while connected to the VPN.

With these test results, you will know the difference between your internet speed with and without the VPN. This gives you an idea of how your VPN is performing. If it is very slow, you may need to consider switching providers. However, there are a few things you can try first, to check that your VPN is running as quickly as possible.

Why is my VPN running slowly?

A VPN may perform badly for a variety of reasons, and these aren’t always the VPN’s fault. To help you out, we have included a troubleshooting guide you can use to iron out any issues before deciding to switch providers.

If your VPN is running slowly, you can use the checklist below to see if it improves your speed:

  • Check that your device has enough processing power. If your device is old or has very little processing power, VPN software may be pushing it to its limits. This can cause performance issues, which means you may need to run your VPN on a different device.
  • Check that your baseline internet speed is fast enough to cope with a VPN. If you are paying your ISP for very slow internet, you may struggle to do everyday tasks like streaming or video conferencing while connected to the VPN. Even if you have a fast VPN that only slows your internet slightly – it could still be enough to cause buffering.
  • Switch VPN protocol. If your VPN offers the WireGuard protocol, we recommend switching to it for the fastest speeds. Also, check to see whether your provider has a custom protocol, as these are often designed to give you faster speeds.
  • Connect to a different server. Using a server closer to you or the web service you are using can help you get faster speeds. Consider which server is best suited to the task, and test a few different servers to see how their performance compares.

Can a VPN speed up my internet?

Generally speaking, the answer to this question is no. To provide you with online privacy, a VPN must encrypt your traffic and route it to a proxy server. This incurs some overheads, increases lag, and slightly reduces the speed of your internet.

The fastest VPNs are so-called because they provide fast protocols like Wireguard and Tier-1 servers capable of quickly handling huge amounts of data. This allows the VPN to route your traffic to its final destination as quickly as possible – meaning that it only slows down your internet a small (often imperceptible) amount.

The good news is that there is one specific circumstance when a VPN can speed up your internet. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) throttle bandwidth during peak hours to prevent network congestion. These ISPs use automated technologies to throttle users who are engaged in tasks that take up a lot of bandwidth, such as torrenting or streaming Netflix.

When you connect to a VPN, it prevents your ISP from detecting what websites and services you are using. This stops the ISP’s automated system from discriminating against specific activities, websites, or apps.

If you’ve hit your monthly data cap and your ISP is throttling all of your internet, however, a VPN won’t help.

Can I get a free VPN that is fast?

Most of the free VPNs available in app stores have a small network of servers that quickly get congested. These free VPNs are overrun with users from all over the world, which puts those resources under pressure and results in very sluggish speeds. Many free VPNs have outdated apps and protocols, which results in unreliable security and speed.

Even reputable VPNs that have a basic free plan only provide a couple of servers for those free users. The free version of the VPN is much slower than the premium version.

Ultimately, if you want a fast VPN that offers watertight online privacy and data security, we recommend sticking to a paid VPN account. The performance difference between a premium VPN and a free VPN is like chalk and cheese.


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How to run VPN speed tests – FAQs

Can I run a VPN speed test myself?

Yes. You can run a VPN speed test by using a speed test website or a standalone speed test program that you download from the internet.

In this guide, we have provided all the steps required to test your internet speed with and without your VPN. You can use these results to check whether your VPN is slowing down your internet, and by how much.

Must I have fast internet to use a VPN?

Using a VPN doesn’t require you to have fast internet, but it definitely helps. If your internet connection is slow, the additional delay introduced by a VPN could result in frustration, particularly when streaming and doing other data-intensive tasks.