Also: Your friends and family would love these phones For those traveling or out and about, the first function is critical because most public Wi-Fi is unencrypted – so anyone on the network can see what you were sending. VPNs also hide your IP address, replacing the address logged on servers with one in a different location – even a different country. For those worrying about stalking or living under an authoritarian government, this feature could save lives.  But most people want to use a VPN for more simple tasks. VPNs are useful for streaming because they unlock access  – with in some cases dubious legality – to content and sports blacked out in their location. And they are essential tools for protecting your mobile devices’ connection when you’re using public Wi-Fi. Let’s take a look at ZDNET’s top VPN providers for a wide range of devices and uses.  Also: The best cheap VPNs: VPN services under $2 per month ExpressVPN is our choice for the best VPN service. It’s one of the most popular VPN providers out there, offering a wide range of platforms and protocols. 
Platforms include:
You can also manually set up ExpressVPN to work with some gaming consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch) and TVs (Apple TV, Roku, etc.) that do not support its app. Read the review: Our ExpressVPN review: A fine VPN service ExpressVPN has an expansive network with servers in 94 countries. It also delivers a speedy and consistent connection, which helped ExpressVPN find its way onto our list of fastest VPNs. Also: How does ExpressVPN work? Plus, how to set it up and use it The company doesn’t log your browsing history, IP address, or traffic destination, but it does collect some information about how the service is used. The amount of data transferred, the dates you connected to the VPN (not times), and the location of the VPN server are all logged. That said, we give credit to ExpressVPN for being upfront about this and being transparent about the information they collect.
Exclusive offer: Get 3 extra months free. Surfshark has a solid VPN with a good price for the two-year plan and with the current Black Friday sale, it costs under $2 a month (paid upfront). We didn’t find any leaks in our Surfshark VPN review and testing, which is exactly what you want to see. It also makes security a priority with AES-256-GCM, Perfect Forward Secrecy, and RSA-2048 encryption. And Surfshark offers a browser plugin designed specifically to stop WebRTC leaks. Also:

ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN: Which is best?NordVPN vs. Surfshark: Which VPN is best for you?

Surfshark’s performed better than Norton Secure VPN and NordVPN but below IPVanish and ExpressVPN. With that in mind, we appreciated its complementary and inexpensive add-on features, such as anti-tracking, a search engine that doesn’t log your information, and a scanner that searches data breach lists for your email. You can also connect through two VPN servers with Surfshark’s multihop option. However, not all of these features are available for Apple devices. Also: How does NordVPN work? Plus, how to set it up and use it NordVPN is one of the most widely used consumer VPNs available. For most users, it checks all the boxes: Secure, good for streaming, and all the bells and whistles you’re likely to need. We’ve found it to be one of the fastest VPNs with the most consistent speeds. Read the review: Our NordVPN review We like all of the features beyond a basic VPN that Nord offers. It supports P2P sharing and has an option for a second layer of encryption through what it calls Double VPN. You can set up a dedicated IP address if you want to run a VPN that doubles as a server. Not only that, but its Onion over VPN unlocks TOR capabilities over its VPN. NordVPN can run on all of the major platforms and a number of home-network platforms. The company also provides VPN and cybersecurity services to businesses through its NordLayer product (formerly NordVPN Teams). In testing, NordVPN performed well enough, but the ping speeds were on the slower side, and playing a twitch video game isn’t something I’d want to do over this VPN. Although this isn’t a challenge unique to NordVPN, the majority of VPNs have pretty miserable ping speeds. Still, it’s a strong choice, and you can always try it for 30 days and get a full refund. IPVanish may present itself as a plug-and-play solution, but it’s a capable and very flexible product. In my opinion, the company is undervaluing itself in doing this. At a glance, IPVanish may seem like a relatively generic VPN, but there’s more to the story. Read the review: Our review of IPVanish IPVanish’s user interface has some excellent performance graphics and an extensive selection of servers to choose from, with useful status information. As far as protocols go, there is a wide range of options. Its app also has an extensive array of configuration options. Looking at how it performs, the connection speed was insanely fast, and the transfer performance was good. One problem with security is I wasn’t able to obscure that I was connecting with a VPN. However, there was a secure data transfer.  The bottom line is that IPVanish is a product with a good user experience and is solid overall, as long as you don’t need to keep the fact that you’re using a VPN hidden. Also, while many VPNs offer discounted rates for a two-year commitment, IPVanish only offers a discounted one-year plan before the price increases. We really like the Proton VPN story. The company was created by engineers and scientists who met at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research – where the Web was invented) with a focus on creating encrypted email and VPN communications with the idea of protecting the communication of activists and journalists. The company is also headquartered in Switzerland, which has very strong privacy laws. In terms of product, Proton VPN has a belt-and-suspenders approach to security, layering strong protocols on top of perfect forward secrecy on top of strong encryption. Not only does Proton VPN have a kill switch, but it also has an always-on VPN, which attempts to restore VPN service if it’s dropped mid-communication. Finally, we like that all apps are open source, and the company reports that they are independently audited.  Also: ProtonVPN gets serious speed boost with VPN Accelerator Proton VPN recently announced the development of a new VPN protocol it developed – Stealth. This protocol is designed to bypass internet censorship and VPN blocks by making your VPN traffic look like a normal connection. It is built differently than most popular VPN protocols, which gives it a unique advantage in avoiding internet filters. Finally, the company offers a very generous free VPN service, allowing one machine to connect at medium speed, but there doesn’t appear to be any limit to the amount of data used in the free plan. Some of the prices listed below are lower than normal due to Black Friday sales.

  1. Pay attention to trial period times and use them: Every VPN performs differently, and every user experience is going to be different still. Your ISP will offer different speeds than mine. Your favorite coffee shop has a different network connection than mine. You’re even likely to be connecting to different countries and definitely different sites. Before committing to a VPN provider, test candidates thoroughly in your real-world environment. That’s what the trial times and money-back guarantees are for.
  2. Avoid free VPN providers: Running a VPN is expensive, and if the VPN provider doesn’t make money from your service fees, they’re going to make money from your data – sometimes even stealing your personal information and selling it. Stick with the proven commercial vendors we’ve tested.
  3. Don’t worry about the country of jurisdiction unless: There are generally two classes of VPN users, those who need to protect their coffee shop surfing and those counting on a VPN to protect their lives. VPN often provides a level of security theatre where folks get bent out of shape if a country has any form of data jurisdiction. But as I showed in this article, many countries outside of the so-called Five Eyes are Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties signatories and will share data with the US and other countries anyway. If you’re using a VPN to protect your life, research this a lot more than reading a review article.
  4. Finally, don’t sweat warrant canaries and no log policies: Most of you are going to use a VPN to protect your data stream from being hijacked by someone sharing your network. All of these big legal and jurisdictional issues get in the way of the simple fact that you want fast transfers and an encrypted tunnel from your spot in the airport to the website you’re trying to access.

Also: Reader question answered: If I have https, do I need a VPN? Also: Fastest VPN: How we rated the top services Many of the providers recommended in this list have been subject to in-depth testing and reviews, written either by CNET’s product evaluation team or by me. For those, we have tangible testing numbers. Other VPNs have been ones we’ve been talking about for years, spoken with their management and their users, and have developed a generally positive impression. But here’s the thing: All these vendors have solid money-back guarantees, and we would not have recommended them otherwise. We do test VPN services from multiple locations, but we can’t test from all locations. Every home, every community, every local ISP, and every nation has a different infrastructure. It’s essential that once you choose, you test for all your likely usage profiles and only then make the decision to keep the service or request a refund. One thing to consider is whether you’re looking for a solution for working at home vs. traveling. For example, if you travel rarely (even before COVID-19), have strong bandwidth at home, and have a NAS or a server box, you might want to VPN to your home server from your machine’s native client and then out to the world. If you’re new to working from home and your company has a dedicated VPN, you’ll want to use whatever process they’ve set out for you. Also: How to install and set up a VPN on iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android  But, generally speaking, it doesn’t hurt to have a VPN provider already set up and in your kit bag. Most home-based traffic won’t require VPN usage, but having a VPN provider is a good idea if you’re on any sort of shared connection. Also, having a VPN provider can be a win if you ever think you’ll need to access the Internet from out and about – like a hospital or doctor’s office. Likewise, if you want to obscure where you’re connecting from (this might be more important now that we’re always in the same place all day), a VPN provider might help. Finally, don’t expect miracles. Your home-based pandemic broadband pipes are likely to be more clogged than ever before. Everyone is at home, many people are streaming movies to stay sane, and there are only so many bits that can fit at any given time. If you experience traffic slowdowns, be sure to check not only your VPN but your Wi-Fi connection between your device and your router, your connection to your broadband provider, and even their connection to upstream providers. VPNs are useful in unblocking geo-restricted content and can be a vital tool for accessing information in countries with repressive governments. And they are important services for anyone that wants to maintain a high level of safety and privacy online. However, because they are anonymous (or at least should be) they can also be used to hide illegal online activities such as pirating content. You can find out your IP address and location using Just compare the IP address and location when you’re connected with a VPN vs. without a VPN. If they are different, then your VPN is doing its job. It’s also possible that your VPN is leaking your data and potentially exposing your online activity. To ensure your VPN doesn’t have any issues with DNS leaks or IP leaks, you can run tests on a site like DNS Leak Test. There are plenty of tools that allow you to test for leaks, but many are owned by VPN providers and it may not always be clear who developed the tool, which could be a conflict of interest. So you may want to run tests with several different sites and compare the results. Apple provides VPN support for High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina, and now Big Sur. Just pop open System Preferences, head over to the Network tab, and either import the configuration file you were provided or hit the plus button and add a VPN interface. Here’s a handy tip sheet from Apple that will walk you through the process. Windows also allows you to host a VPN server by creating a new incoming network connection, choosing the users who can connect, and telling Windows that the incoming connection is across the internet. You’ll also have to configure your router to allow traffic to your computer.  That said, if you’re rocking a Chromebook, all you need to do is open Settings and then Network. Click Add Connection. Then all you need to do is choose between OpenVPN and L2TP over IPSec. Google has a handy cheat sheet right here to guide you through the process.  Also: Linux’s WireGuard VPN is here and ready to protect you So what do you need to set up WireGuard? More and more of the VPNs we spotlighted support WireGuard right out of the box. You can download it for Linux. But you can also download a package for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and FreeBSD. It’s like most open source products, in that you’ll need to do some reading and thinking to make it work. But it’s free, solid, safe, and, as Linus says, “Can I just once again state my love for it.”  Now, before you choose a VPN service, free or paid, I want to make it clear that no one tool can guarantee your privacy. First, anything can be hacked. But more to the point, a VPN protects your data from your computer to the VPN service. It doesn’t protect what you put on servers. It doesn’t protect your data from the VPN provider’s VPN servers to whatever site or cloud-based application you’re using. It doesn’t give you good passwords or multifactor authentication. Privacy and security require you to be diligent throughout your digital journey, and VPNs, while quite helpful, are not a miracle cure. There are also plenty of free VPNs for iPhone, but as much as you may want to save money, these typically aren’t a great option. Free VPNs come with the increased risk of security flaws. Not only that, but free VPNs under perform compared to premium services and are often riddled with ads or have severe data or bandwidth limitations. In the worst cases, free VPN providers may make money selling your data. Also, most (but not all!) of the VPN providers we spotlight limit the number of devices you can connect to simultaneously, so you may have to pick and choose which home devices to connect to. Here are three worthwhile options: CyberGhost VPN has excellent pricing on the three-year plan ($2.29/mo) and a 45-day money-back guarantee, but the performance was just adequate.  VyprVPN is owned by the Swiss-based company Golden Frog, one big advantage to this service is Golden Frog owns and manages its own infrastructure. So they don’t have to worry about issues with third-party providers, like what happened with NordVPN back in 2018. Private Internet Access VPN has excellent coverage for the US, with servers (physical & virtual) located in all 50 states.