Teacher pointing at a VPN shield icon and books about security and privacy
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What is a VPN: A Brief Overview

A VPN is a service that creates a secure connection between your device and the internet. It does this by changing your real IP and encrypting your internet traffic, thereby making it difficult for others to track your online activities or identify your location.

Additionally, a VPN allows you to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions by connecting to servers in different locations, giving you access to blocked content.

We recommend the industry-leading NordVPN as the best VPN for beginners and experienced users. It’s easy to use, offers cutting-edge encryption, it’s super fast, and bypasses restrictions on Netflix, and other popular streaming platforms.

You can find out how to set up a VPN connection and what a VPN can do for you in the full article below.

VPN Icon covering up IP addresses

A VPN is like a private tunnel that safeguards your online activities and keeps your sensitive data secure. Using a VPN encrypts your internet connection and hides your information from others who may try to snoop on you or track your online behavior.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what a VPN is, how to use it to protect your online activities, and how to bypass geo-restrictions enforced by online services when using a virtual private network.

What Is a VPN?

VPN connection

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When you’re using the internet, your device is constantly exchanging data with other parties on the web.

Without even realizing it, you’re often giving websites access to your real IP address (which gives away your true location), browsing history, operating system info, device identifiers, and plenty more.

A VPN service like NordVPN assigns you a new, anonymous IP address, reroutes your internet connection through a web server in its network, and encrypts your data.

VPNs create a secure tunnel between your device (like your smartphone or laptop) and the internet. They also mask your identity and online traffic from your internet service provider (ISP), government authorities, and hackers.

Here’s a video we put together as a visual explainer.

Why Use a VPN?

Why You Need a VPN icon

There are major advantages to using a VPN. While some VPNs are more security and privacy-geared, others are just generally useful and can help you pull off cool tricks like unblocking a streaming service’s entire international catalog or accessing discounts on international shopping sites.

Below, we’ve listed a few of the main benefits of using a VPN.

1. Have complete anonymity online

Online anonymity icon

Without a VPN, your location and identity can be easily traced using your IP address. Your IP address is unique to your internet connection and can pinpoint your exact location. It’s like a digital address. So, websites, ISPs, trackers, and hackers can determine whether you’re at home or elsewhere. Your IP also connects your online behavior and activity back to you.

A VPN hides your IP address and, therefore, your real location. When you use a virtual private network, your internet traffic is rerouted through an encrypted virtual tunnel, and your online activities can only be traced back to the IP of the VPN server, but no longer to you and your real IP address.

Reliable VPN providers have strict no-log policies, meaning they don’t keep any record of your activity or browsing history, so it’s like your session never existed.

By using a good virtual private network like NordVPN, you ensure that websites, marketers, streaming services, governments, and cybercriminals can no longer identify you or know your real location. Connect to a VPN server in the Bahamas, and for all they know, that’s where you’d be.

2. Prevent companies from tracking you

Red triangle with white exclamation mark

Advertising networks are constantly gathering information about you through your online traffic. You might be shocked to find out what Facebook knows about you, not to mention Google and Twitter. With this data, they can show you tailored ads, but more importantly, they are free to sell this information to a third party.

By encrypting your data using a VPN, these networks will have a harder time collecting information on you. Which means they will also have less influence on what you see online.

3. Protect yourself against hackers and governments

Government building with hackers on the roof icon

A virtual private network scrambles your data traffic through strong encryption protocols, which make intercepting and reading your information almost impossible.

There are many different parties that are interested in your internet traffic. Among them are governments, advertisers, and cyber criminals.

The security offered by a virtual private network makes it a lot harder for them to look at your data. However, we must mention that a VPN isn’t the ultimate solution to all things cybercrime.

We always recommend combining a VPN with a good antivirus solution so that you’re covered on all bases. A VPN can’t protect your device against malware-injecting malicious links, for example.

4. Browse securely on public networks

Secure browser icon

Using a public Wi-Fi network, like at an airport, hotel, or cafe, can be risky. Other users on the same network (for example, those hackers and cyber criminals we mentioned) can easily tap into your data and personal information.

Since you don’t want others to have access to, for instance, your email login, images and files, or credit card information, it’s wise to use a VPN connection on these hotspots.

A virtual private network like NordVPN, our highest-ranked provider, encrypts all of your data while you use a public Wi-Fi network. A hacker will only see encrypted matter and won’t be able to see or use your personal information.

5. Get secure access to your company’s network

Secure network icon

We’ve seen more and more companies giving people the opportunity to work from home or wherever they like. In such instances, a remote access virtual private network can be very beneficial, as it lets employees connect to a company’s internal network from anywhere, safely and efficiently.

There are many VPNs, especially for business use. While they might not serve to unblock streaming services abroad, they are certainly useful in protecting private and sensitive company data.

Of course, some people may work for smaller companies that don’t operate under strong cybersecurity protocols. Connecting to their company’s internal system with a VPN would offer the layer of protection needed to protect sensitive company data from malicious actors.

6. Overcome online censorship

Get around censorship icon

Governments heavily censor the internet in many countries. For example, there is strict online censorship in China and Russia.

Countries that impose heavy censorship block access to certain internet services and websites. Examples of apps and websites that are often banned are WhatsApp, Google, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Skype, Spotify, and Facebook.

Moreover, news websites and journalist platforms are frequently blocked because they are seen as a threat to the sitting government. In these countries, this censorship heavily impacts the freedom of speech of their citizens.

NordVPN, a top VPN provider, can help you bypass censorship and restrictions by allowing you to connect to a server in a different country. By doing this, you can go online as if you were there. This way, you can gain access to websites, services, and apps that are not available in your own country.

7. Bypass geographical restrictions

Geographic restrictions icon

It’s not just countries that impose restrictions on the internet. Some online services also restrict access to their content in certain regions. This happens with streaming services like Netflix or Peacock TV that have broadcasting or licensing rights in certain countries and not others.

If you are on holiday or you moved to a different country, you might be unable to view your usual streams. A VPN will enable you to connect to the internet via its servers in your home country, so you can watch your favorite show or access blocked websites like you never left.

It also works the other way around: if you want to gain access to websites or streaming services from a different country (for example, to watch a different version of Netflix), you can do so with a virtual private network.

8. Download torrents anonymously

Downloading torrents is illegal in some countries, and downloaders are tracked down and sometimes even prosecuted.

Of course, we are not advocating any illegal actions. However, we do understand people want online privacy and anonymity, not just when browsing the internet but also when uploading and downloading files.

You can use a virtual private network, such as NordVPN, to make sure nobody knows what you are downloading. Because of the encrypted traffic and the rerouted IP address, NordVPN will help you download the files you want to access anonymously.

How Does a VPN Work?

VPNs create a secure encrypted connection, also known as a VPN tunnel, between your device and the remote server that you connect to. This ensures the safe and secure transfer of data.

Once the VPN connection has been established, here’s how your data is transmitted through an encrypted tunnel:

How Does a VPN Work Illustration
  1. The VPN software on your computer encrypts your data traffic and sends it to the VPN server through a secure connection.
  2. The encrypted data from your computer is decrypted by the virtual private network server.
  3. Your data is then sent to the internet and receive a reply based on your query.
  4. This reply is encrypted again by the VPN server and sent back to you.
  5. The VPN software on your device will decrypt the data so you can actually understand and use it.

Which VPN Should You Choose?

We’ve already tested dozens of virtual private networks to find the best VPN providers for you. Below, we’ll give a brief summary of our top three picks.

1. NordVPN: Best overall VPN

Screenshot of NordVPN website homepage with added logo in the corner


  • Super easy to use
  • 5,000+ servers in 60+ countries
  • Solid security features
  • Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more
  • Compatible with Windows, MacOS, Linux, iPhone, Android, and more

NordVPN is our highest-ranked virtual private network. During our tests, we discovered that it offers great security and privacy without compromising on speed. It allows up to six simultaneous connections on a single subscription. This means you can protect up to six devices and also share the subscription with family and friends.

We found its apps are incredibly user-friendly; it only took us one click to connect to a server. We were also very pleased to see that NordVPN offers advanced options like dedicated IP addresses that are only used by you and obfuscated servers that hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. These features made it easier for us to circumvent geo-restrictions.

On top of that, NordVPN offers a free trial in the form of a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you can try out the service and get a refund if you’re not satisfied.

NordVPN currently has a 56% discount on all subscriptions, so it is definitely worth trying it out.

Our choice
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$ 2.99
  • Fast and large worldwide network of VPN servers
  • Perfect for privacy and streaming
  • Trusted by many, with over 14 million users
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If you’re interested, you can read our full NordVPN review to learn more about its many benefits.

2. Surfshark: An affordable VPN provider for an unlimited number of devices

Screenshot of Surfshark Christmas homepage deal


  • Budget-friendly
  • 3,200+ servers in 100 countries
  • Protect unlimited devices with one subscription
  • Browser extension that blocks ads and malware
  • Accommodates Windows, MacOS, Linux, iPhone, Android, and more

Surfshark is the second-best virtual private network we’ve tested. It’s fast, secure, and offers 3,200+ servers in 100 countries. This provided us ample options for bypassing censorship and restrictions on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.

This VPN provider is available on all major devices and is easy to use. Moreover, Surfshark allows you to connect unlimited devices under one subscription. We were able to use Surfshark on all our devices and share the subscription with others at no extra cost.

Furthermore, Surfshark has a browser extension that offers plenty of additional features like CleanWeb. In our tests, we enjoyed browsing the internet ad-free, and the extension automatically blocked malicious sites. Overall, it’s a great choice for beginners and experienced users alike.

The best part is that it is incredibly affordable. You can also give Surfshark’s free trial a try using their 30-day money-back guarantee.

Deal Save 86% + 3 months free and pay only $1.99 a month
$ 1.99
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
Visit Surfshark

Check out our Surfshark review for a deep dive into this provider. We go into more detail about its privacy and security features, speed tests, and more.

3. ExpressVPN: A VPN service with dedicated firmware for routers

Screenshot of ExpressVPN website page with added logo in the bottom right corner


  • 3,000+ servers in 94 countries
  • Stream on any device with MediaStreamer
  • Easy to install on routers
  • Connect five devices with one subscription
  • Accommodates Windows, MacOS, Linux, iPhone, Android, and more

Although pricier than NordVPN and Surfshark, ExpressVPN is one of the world’s largest and most popular VPN services. It offers almost everything you could want in a VPN provider, such as 3,000+ stable servers in 94 countries, great speeds, and top-notch security.

You can stream and torrent anonymously and use it on various devices and operating systems, including Android, Windows, iPhone, Mac, and Linux. Another major plus is that the app is available in over 10 languages. Moreover, ExpressVPN stood out in our tests for its dedicated firmware for routers. It was easy to install it on our router and protect all our devices at once!

To test ExpressVPN’s speeds, we installed it in a PS5 and played GTA 5 online without lags thanks to its incredible 5-11 ms ping. It’s also one of our best VPNs for Minecraft.

ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the service before committing to it, and if you want to cancel ExpressVPN, you can contact their live chat support. They are quick to respond, and the refund takes less than five days to hit your account.

Deal Exclusive deal: Get a yearly plan for $6.67 per month (49% off)!
$ 6.67
  • Very easy-to-use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e., Netflix)
  • 3,000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN

To learn more about ExpressVPN, check out our in-depth ExpressVPN review.

What to look for in a VPN provider

When trying to find the best VPN for you, there are several factors you must consider like the security features it offers, whether it is fast, and if it keeps any logs. Here is what we pay attention to when considering the quality of a virtual private network:

  • Server network: A global network of servers allows you to browse without restrictions.
  • Privacy and security: VPN security features are important. A VPN should use secure AES 256-bit encryption to protect your data. Moreover, it should include features like a kill switch to prevent you from accessing the internet if the VPN malfunctions.
  • Speeds: A good VPN should offer your top speeds even when you are trying to access distant servers to stream content from another country, for example.
  • No-logs policy: Good virtual private networks are independently verified to ensure they don’t store your data.
  • Jurisdiction: The virtual private network should be based in countries with strong privacy laws and away from the 5/9/14 eyes countries.

How to Set Up a VPN on Different Devices

Setting up a virtual private network is usually quite straightforward. All it requires is signing up for a VPN provider of your choice, installing its VPN apps on your devices, establishing a secure VPN connection, and then using the internet as usual.

Below we discuss how to install a virtual private network on the most common operating systems and devices.

How to use a VPN on Windows

Installing a VPN and privatizing your online activities on Windows is super easy. The majority of VPNs have an app for Windows since it’s the most popular operating system on the planet.

We recommend NordVPN for its ease of use, fast speeds that cater to all Windows users’ needs, and cutting-edge security features.

Here’s how to install NordVPN on Windows:

  1. Navigate to NordVPN’s website and get a subscription.
  2. Download the NordVPN app for Windows PC or laptop.

    NordVPN download Software Screen
  3. Click the NordVPN installer for the installation to start.

    NordVPN .exe file
  4. Use your login details from step 1 after launching the NordVPN app.

    Screenshot of NordVPN, login screen
  5. Tap “Quick Connect” to connect to the optimal server for you. Otherwise, tap the drop-down arrow to pick a server of your choice.

    NordVPN software connected to a server in the United States
  6. Surf the internet securely and anonymously.

If you’re interested in installing a virtual private network manually, our comprehensive guide on how to set up a VPN connection on Windows 10 will give you step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

How to use a VPN on a Mac

Mac computers are generally secure. However, Apple and other tech companies collect your data for marketing and other purposes. We recommend NordVPN for a Mac to keep your data private.

Here’s how to download and install NordVPN on a Mac:

  1. Go to NordVPN’s website and get a subscription.
  2. Download NordVPN for Mac.

    Screenshot of NordVPN, download a VPN app for Mac
  3. Run NordVPN after the installation is finished and tap “Quick Connect.” Or you can search for a server of your choice, as shown below.

    NordVPN's macOS app showing servers in the UK
  4. Browse the internet with peace of mind.

How to use a VPN on iPhone and iPad

You can find apps for the top-rated VPNs in the Apple App Store. We recommend ExpressVPN for its seamless compatibility with iOS, blazing-fast speeds, and security for your iOS device.

Here’s how to install ExpressVPN on iPhone and experience total internet freedom:

  1. Navigate to ExpressVPN’s website and get a subscription.
  2. Download ExpressVPN from the Apple App Store.

    Screenshot of iPhone app store, ExpressVPN
  3. Open ExpressVPN and sign in with the credentials from step 1, then tap the power button to activate ExpressVPN.

    Screenshot of ExpressVPN, Connected to Japan server
  4. Use your iPhone to surf the web fully protected.

You can also manually install a VPN on your iPhone or iPad using our detailed best VPNs for iPhone and iPad guide.

How to use a VPN on Android

Android is the most popular mobile phone operating system in the world. For this reason, Android devices are a prime target for hackers, advertisers, and big technology companies like Facebook and Google.

To protect your data, we recommend using an Android VPN. We tested dozens of VPNs to come up with the best in terms of privacy and security, high speeds, compatibility with Android, affordability, and user-friendliness.

Surfshark ticked all these boxes hence why we recommend it to Android users. Here’s how to install Surfshark on Android:

  1. Visit Surfshark’s website and get a subscription.
  2. Download Surfshark from the Google Play Store on your Android device.

    Screenshot of Android app store, Surfshark VPN
  3. Open Surfshark and tap “Quick Connect” to connect to the optimal server for you.

    Screenshot of Surfshrak, home, Android app
  4. Continue your online activities, as you are now protected from prying eyes.

You can learn more about Android VPNs in our best VPNs for Android guide, which also includes free VPN options for Android users.

VPN Limitations

A virtual private network has a lot to offer when it comes to privacy and security. However, there are limitations on what a virtual private network can do to protect you.

Below, we’ve listed five possible limitations to consider when opting for a VPN.

Infographic showing VPN limitations

1. Big tech profiling

Let’s say you’re logged into your Google account. You can be connected to a virtual private network on the other side of the world, and Google will still be able to create a profile of you as an internet user.

After all, they’ll simply correlate your search history with your account information, regardless of whether you change your IP address or not. The same is true for services like Facebook.

2. GPS tracking

There are more ways in which online entities can determine your identity, which a VPN doesn’t protect you from. When using Google Maps, for instance, you’re often required to turn on your GPS.

This means Google Maps can see exactly where you are. There are also more advanced ways that are used to identify internet users, such as browser fingerprinting. This method uses your browser’s and device’s settings to distinguish you from other internet users.

3. Slower internet speed

Your internet speed may decrease if you use a virtual private network. Your data has to be sent through the VPN server, which means it can take slightly longer to end up where it needs to be. However, there are several effective ways to increase internet speeds while connected to a VPN, like choosing a different server or closing background apps you don’t need.

4. VPN blockades

Sometimes VPN users are actively thwarted, especially in countries where virtual private networks are banned. For example, Iran was planning to restrict the sales of VPNs at the beginning of this year.

There are also websites, apps, and services that will deny you access if they detect you are using a virtual private network. However, a VPN with obfuscation technology might do the trick in this case and allow you to access the site you want.

5. Poor service providers

You should be especially cautious about free VPNs. These are notorious for compromising your security and selling your data to third parties, which can be even worse than not using a virtual private network at all.

You should always do your own research and never just pick a virtual private network at random. Our list of the top five best VPNs of the year is an excellent start.

6. Collection of your data

Some VPNs, like Hola VPN and Tuxler VPN, log your data and sell it to third parties. Also, steer clear of the majority of free VPNs and stick to the best free VPNs, as they have similar logging policies as top VPN providers.

Is VPN legal icon

Final Thoughts: Why Do You Need a VPN?

You need a VPN because it hides your identity and online activity from your internet service provider, governments, and the websites you visit. This ensures greater online privacy and security.

In addition, virtual private networks help to circumvent censorship and geographical blocks to ensure a world with more internet freedom, no matter where you are.

For the most part, VPN usage is safe and legal. However, sometimes certain websites and apps may not be accessible via VPN connections. Moreover, some countries ban virtual private network usage, and you may get in trouble if found to be using one.

At the same time, you should be cautious about choosing a VPN because there are many shady companies out there that compromise your privacy under the guise of providing you with their service. Therefore, it’s important to do your research before signing up for any virtual private network.

if you want all-around protection for your online activities, we recommend trying NordVPN. It has excellent security features, is very user-friendly, and unblocks popular streaming platforms. NordVPN will give you great speeds no matter your location and allow you to browse the internet anonymously.

Want to learn more about VPNs and why you should use one? Check out our other articles below:

What Is a VPN: Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a burning question about VPNs, we might be able to help you out. Simply click one of the queries below to see the answer.

How much does a VPN cost?

There is a large price difference between the various VPN providers. This makes it difficult to give a a clear answer to this question. That said, premium VPNs will cost between $2 and $7 per month.

There are also free VPNs. You don’t pay for these, but limits on data or speed may apply.

Should I use a free VPN?

We do not recommend using a free VPN. Some free apps don’t secure your connection very well, while others might even install malware onto your device. We have tested free VPNs to see which ones can be trusted. Take a look at out best free VPNs article.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a secure connection between you and the internet. This connection is sent through an external VPN server, meaning your IP address, location, and data traffic remain hidden. Moreover, you’ll often be able to choose from different server locations, allowing you to access the web as if you were in a different country.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN creates an encrypted VPN tunnel between your device and the internet. All your online traffic is sent through this tunnel, meaning no one on the outside will be able to see what you’re doing online. The VPN also alters your IP address by changing it into the IP of the VPN server you’re using.

Therefore, your location will no longer be visible to everyone on the internet. The encrypted VPN tunnel is able to keep your data secure because it uses high-level encryption protocols.

Can I use a VPN to watch Netflix?

Yes, you can use a VPN to watch Netflix. The best VPN for Netflix will allow you to watch movies and series that may not be available in your country.

Leave a comment

  1. Remlap

    Hi David – I came across your excellent VPN guide just by chance while desparately searching for a way to deactivate one of Windows 10’s annoying apps (MS Edge). I’ve just moved up to Windows 10 after happily running Win7 on a very old HP 32bit laptop for the past 12 years. I use Kaspersky antivirus, and Kaspersky keeps trying to get me to use its VPN app, but I’m wary of doing that cos I’m not 100% sure I can trust that company not to log my activity and traffic for commercial ends. What do you think about their integrity and reliability on that score ?
    It would be much more convenient to use the same company and interface for 2 entirely different functions

    • Priscilla Sherman

      Hi! Kaspersky VPN’s logging policy is indeed not the best out there. You can read more about this in our Kaspersky VPN review. Because of this, we’d definitely recommend other VPNs if you want to go for better logging policies and levels of privacy. If you’re looking for a good VPN that also has an antivirus option (so you only have to use one service), we recommend Surfshark. You can have a look at our review of their VPN and their antivirus. We hope this helps!

  2. James

    Ok, so I activate my VPN with my cell phone. How do I use VPN for my desktop, smart TV, wi-fi extenders, routers, Ethernet devices? You make it sound simple but I suspect to the novice (think 5 yr old) will have problems and questions.

    • David Janssen

      Hi! Installing a VPN on desktop is relatively easy: you go to the provider’s official website, download the software, install it, then switch it on. For Smart TV and routers, the process can be slightly different. We have all sorts of useful installation guides on our website, like these ones for Windows, MacOS, Smart TV and routers. We hope this helps!

  3. Jeff Johnston

    I live in USA and have a friend who lives in China. She has a VPN and profile on Facebook. Would I need a VPN for her to receive a message there ?

    • David Janssen

      No, you don’t. If your friend uses a VPN to access Facebook, she’ll be able to use it the same way you would without a VPN. If you send her a message on the right account, she should be able to read it as long as she has access to that account.

  4. John

    NetBlock is an Android App that uses a VPN, would you know which VPN this App uses and is it secure?

    • David Janssen

      Apps like NetBlock don’t use any branded VPNs to work. Instead, they use settings of your Android’s built-in VPN client. On newer versions of Android, you can set up a VPN profile manually (name it, choose a protocol, and enter server addresses). Apps like NetBlock simply configure this local Android VPN client and provide a handy user interface to block the apps. The traffic within the tunnel will be encrypted, but Android’s native VPN only supports PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and solo IPsec, so it’s not the safest. Moreover, the destination itself is not in the tunnel, so you pretty much can’t count on these apps for protection. They use Android VPN to function but they are not VPNs themselves. On top of that, you won’t be able to use a regular VPN on top of this app.
      NetBlock doesn’t inspire much confidence, to be honest. Based on this short research, I would recommend going with something like NetGuard instead. It offers better features and doesn’t throw a ton of ads at its users (NetBlock does, apparently).


    Fantastic article my question: currently I don’t have VPN installed, I’m using ADSL connection on my Router but want to install VPN and also change to VDSL to increase download speeds.
    I assume the VPN software will operate effectively on either.

    • David Janssen

      Yes, it will. It should work like a charm. ADSL and VDSL are basically the same type of connection as far as VPNs are concerned, so you’ll just get faster speeds!

  6. rogerdodger

    This is an excellent resource and features a brilliantly simple explainer video. However, the article contains one important error. It states that OpenVPN doesn’t work on macOS. That’s not correct. The OpenVPN client is available for macOS from the OpenVPN website and the OpenVPN client is available for iOS on the App Store.

    • David Janssen

      Thank you for taking the time to point this out, rogerdodger! We rectified the error and updated our article.

  7. Fred

    Recently and most unusually I tried to make contact with European sites…..all not available. Days later, I attempted again to contact the European sites……all available. Struggling to understand this development, I happened to notice that my VPN was off. Exploring further I noticed that when I turned on the VPN, the internet thru my provider was not connected. How can that be….I have to connect to my wifi and my provider for the VPN to be turned on initially? Is is possible that the internet is available via only one at a time…..my provider….or my VPN? It makes some sense that the VPN would protect me by routing everything thru it only. Tried US, Canadian and Mexican sites with VPN on….all available. European sites not available via VPN but are via my provider with VPN off. Is this normal, does any of this make sense?

    • David Janssen

      Did you use the correct VPN server locations? Your VPN will usually allow you to choose from a list of locations. If you want to reach European websites, your best bet is to use a European server, for example one in Germany. If you’re trying to reach a website in Mexico, a Mexican server will be able to help you out. All these different servers are available with just one subscription – at least for the VPNs mentioned in this article. You can change from one server to another with a simple click. Hopefully, this information will help you access different websites with your VPN. Good luck!

  8. Steve B.

    I use Avast but it continually blocks my connection. It’s possible that I’ve set it up incorrectly, but it’s annoying when you click on a link and can’t access it. I then have to manually turn the VPN off to get through.

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      Some VPNs seem to do that, which turns out to be a problem for some VPN users. A solution might be to use the VPN’s “whitelister” or “split-tunneling” function. This allows you to select which sites or apps you want to open through the VPN, and which ones you want to open with your regular connection.

  9. Ben

    Hi David, I recently purchased a VPN for gaming specifically to reduce ping as I heard it can do that when routing me through the USA where the server is, however it makes the ping slightly worse! Do you have any advice for using a VPN for this purpose

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      Although it’s true that a VPN might not reduce your speed or ping, it will also not increase your speed or ping unless there’s some kind of throttling in place. A lot of sites state that a VPN will increase your connection speed and ping, while the opposite is usually true. In most cases, if your internet speed and ping aren’t throttled by your ISP, a VPN will not increase your connection speed or ping. You can, however, use a VPN to access content in a game that’s ordinarily geo-restricted.

  10. Will

    Where do they get the new IP addresses? I’ve heard that when you give the VPN companies your IP address that they will use it for their other clients is this true? If it is, doesn’t this defeat the entire purpose of having a VPN?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      Genuine VPN providers usually work with data centers all over the world to make sure they get new IP addresses. Most of them don’t use the connection of their users. However, there are some malicious VPNs that do use their users’ devices as endpoints for their connections, such as Hola VPN. We would advise you to stay as far away from these types of VPN providers.

  11. nigel p.

    Hi David. Many thanks for a great, well researched and informative review. The software side of vpn makes sense, but do you have any thoughts on vpn hardware that could be used between the wall and the router for home WiFi? The reason I ask is mainly because we don’t have a smart TV, and use add-ons like chromecast. Then presumably all laptops, phones and tablets using WiFi from that router would be covered? My additional dilemma is that my network signal at the office is extremely poor and annoying, so am considering a mobile router on another network, and wondered if this could perhaps be incorporated with a vpn?
    Many thanks,

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      If you install a VPN on your WiFi router, then all devices connected to that router should be connected via VPN. This may improve the security (because everything is connected to the VPN), but also gives you less control over the connection on each individual device. It depends on your preferences what the best call to make is in this case. About the mobile router, it depends on the router itself whether it supports VPN or not. You could check out our ‘Installing a VPN on your router‘ article, maybe that will answer some of your questions.

  12. RT

    what should it look like when I hover over the wifi?

    mine shows :

    Internet access

    Unidentified network
    Internet access

    Is this normal?

  13. Bea M.R.

    Hi – I have a couple of questions here because this is all new to me. Is it best to use the VPN on all devices or just some? Should it be used all the time or some of the time – I have heard mixed feedback on this. And, I was told that when banking online it’s not a good idea, not sure why. thank you for a very thorough article.

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      Hello Bea,

      I’ll do my best to answer your questions to the best of my ability. When you sign up for a VPN, you generally get to connect multiple devices with a single subscription. If you use a VPN for safety and privacy purposes, I’d just use it on all your internet-connected devices and all the time. It’s a comforting thought that all your internet traffic is secured and private as standard by having your VPN connections enabled. If you use a VPN for unblocking purposes, you might only have to use the VPN on the device you want to access content with though. And you can generally safely use a VPN when banking online, I don’t know why people have told you otherwise. I’m happy to hear the article was able to help you!

  14. Peter H.

    Nice website – do you have a little more detail of exactly what happens after the packets are decrypted at the VPN server? Like between the VPN server and the final website on the internet.
    Thank you!

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      After the packet is decrypted it should act like any non-encrypted packet. The traffic between the VPN-server and the server it’s communicating with should be similar to that of a device without a VPN to the same server. The difference being that the server the VPN server is communicating with sees the VPN server as the point of origin, and not your device.

  15. Dianne

    If you are connected to work via VPN, but use your home browser to go online can your work track what your doing on your home browser?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      If all the internet traffic goes through your work VPN, then, in theory, it is possible. However, in most cases, workplaces will not have this kind of monitoring active. On top of that, they’re probably not allowed to track your activity on a non-work computer.

  16. Brad

    I guess I’m sort of a geek as I don’t understand your following statement:

    “When you use a VPN, your online actions can only be traced back to the VPN server, but no longer to you (unless, of course, you’re logged into a certain website such as YouTube or Google). Many VPN providers won’t disclose or even monitor what you do via their servers. You’ve thus become much more anonymous on the internet, since you can’t be identified or traced through your IP address.”

    I say this because YouTube and Google are two websites that I would most prefer to be anonymous with and protected from. I also don’t understand how I can have a VPN on my smartphone or computer and NOT be protected – in other words how can I log into either one of these websites DIRECTLY and not being going thru my VPN? Thank you, Brad

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      If you use Google and YouTube while using a VPN you should be anonymous, unless you log in. That’s the gist of it. When you log in, your IP doesn’t matter as much anymore, they can just link your activity to your account instead of your IP-address.

  17. mosabi

    If the pc is connected to VPN by software, does the data traffic on the hdd connected(usb) to the router also pass through VPN, or need a separate VPN setting for the router?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      If the HDD is connected to the PC, it should pass through the VPN of the PC, no extra steps required. If it is connected to the router, you have to set up the VPN on your router if you want its data to be protected.

    • Nancy T.

      I downloaded NordVPN on my Apple iPad. I found I couldn’t open my App Store with the VPN on. It said “the server cannot be found”. When I disconnected the VPN I was able to open my App Store?

      • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

        Hmm, this is a problem we haven’t encountered ourselves. It’s best to contact NordVPN’s customer support in this case. They should be able to help you fix this.

        • Monku

          So is it totally impossible to trace the origin of an email that was sent via VPN or are there means to trace the author? If possible any suggested programs

          • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

            Emails are a bit of a different story because you have to log in to an email service provider in order to send one. We’re working on an article about sending email anonymously, but the easiest step to send an anonymous email is by using a burner email account and a secure email service provider such as ProtonMail. Also, be sure not to use any of your personal information when making the email or sending one. For extra IP address privacy, you can use a VPN when making and logging into your burner email.

  18. Pete C.

    My question is when a VPN asks whether it can make changes to your device do you say yes or no?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      Usually yes is the right answer. A VPN needs to modify your network settings so it can set up the tunnel properly. However, we don’t know which VPN you’re using and there are a lot of malicious VPNs out there. If you’re using a well known VPN such as Surfshark, NordVPN, ExpressVPN or others it should be fine to allow them to make changes.

  19. dv

    When I am connected to my VPN, it says I am connected through Dallas. I sometimes get stopped when logging onto various websites I’ve used successfully before the VPN; I am asked for authentification and often am told my IP address is in the Washington DC area. Is my VPN running correctly? Does this just mean the VPN server is in Dallas and the website sees me as in DC rather than my real location?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      The extra step to authenticate yourself when using a VPN is common. We sometimes get these as well, though this usually lasts only a little while and depends on the VPN-server. With regards to the Dallas/DC question. Websites use different ways of seeing where you’re coming from. This can be IP (which is referenced to a certain database). It could be that the site you’re trying to visit is using an outdated IP address databse. Looking up someone’s location purely based on IP address is not flawless, so it could be a problem with the site. If you want to check the location of your VPN’s IP, you could use our IP address tool.

  20. Mandy

    When using a VPN, can someone tell what time zone I’m in? For example, if send an email from New York but my VPN is connected through a server in London, does the time stamp on the email show New York time or London time?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      A VPN doesn’t change the timezone settings on your computer, nor does it change the timezone settings in your email provider. If you have your time set to New York time, then the timestamp should read the New York time. Though if someone else has their email set to a different time zone, they will ee the time they received your email according to their time zone. A VPN doesn’t influence your timezone settings or that of the person you’re mailing.

  21. Chris

    I have a VPN, but if I go to another country like China who doesn’t let most IP addresses from around the world through, and I email somebody in the United States, do they have to have a VPN to email me back?

    • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

      You use a VPN to unblock a site such as Gmail. As long as you gain access to a site, you can use it to send and receive emails. The other person doesn’t have to have a VPN in order to send or receive any of your emails. For example: if you are in China and I am in the US, I can just send you emails and these will be sent to your inbox. You can’t access them in China without a VPN, but they are delivered to your inbox. You only need VPN to gain access to your email provider in order to open your inbox and read and send emails. So in short: no, the person sending you emails doesn’t need a VPN in order to send or receive your emails.

  22. Bill

    Very informative, Thanks!
    I use a point-to-point VPN client (Pulse Secure), installed on the laptop to connect to the company network – I have no other option for work from home. I want to upgrade the old router with something I can install a VPN on.
    Should I expect problems running the point-to-point tunnel through a VPN on the router?

    • David Janssen

      Assuming you want to install a VPN different from Pulse Secure on your router, this could cause some problems. Your laptop will be using a double VPN, which doesn’t always work well, especially when using different providers. Chances are that this double VPN connection will keep your laptop from getting access to the internet at all. The best thing would be to run your laptop’s internet through the old router when you’re using Plus Secure, and use the new router for private use, where all your data traffic will be protected by the private VPN you use.

  23. Aron Pacey

    As you listed, there are unlimited benefits of VPNs. Most of the business VPN providers offer discounts as well. My question is, despite of so many benefits, why is it banned in many countries?

    • David Janssen

      Some governments across the world limit internet freedom and want to block certain parts of the internet, such as social media platforms and news websites. These governments could turn to a VPN ban as well, in an attempt to further control the information available inside the country’s borders. You can read more about the legality of VPNs across the world right here.

      • Aron Pacey

        Thank you so much. I got the point.

      • Lynn

        If I have a VPN on my I phone will my other devices also be protected or do I need to connect the iPad, PC, and Roku separately? And if so how do I do that.

        • David Janssen VPNOverview.com

          IF you have the VPN installed on your phone, only your phone’s connection is protected via VPN. If you want to protect your other devices, you should install it on those devices seperately. Usually you can just download a VPN app on iPad and PC. So for example, if you have ExpressVPN, you can download ExpressVPN’s software on your PC and iPad via ExpressVPN’s website. We have guides for installing a VPN on iPad here and on PC here. As far as I know there’s no VPN app for Roku, so you would have to connect it to a router or virtual router that has a VPN on it. We have a guide for setting up a virtual router here.

  24. Mishen

    Thank you for article!
    But I missed newcomers. I mean there are a lot of shady free VPNs in the market right now, but recently I found Atlas and it seems to be quite alright. I used it for a couple of days and still do not have any issues. Works good with streaming services. Did you heard about them? They are saying they don’t do any tracking or data collecting. I think it deserves a try, would appreciate if any experts could review Atlas in near future to check whether it’s safe to use?

    • David Janssen

      We’ve recently tested Atlas VPN and will be adding our review to our platform as soon as possible, so keep an eye out for that! In the meantime, we can tell you that, sadly, Atlas does log information, namely your IP address among other data. We’ve also found that it doesn’t work very well with Netflix, so you might not be able to watch that specific service when using Atlas. If you’re looking for free VPNs that don’t collect your data and still work well, you can always have a look at our top 5 free VPNs.

  25. Julio Talaverano

    I actually wanted to know more technical details, like does the VPN software overwrite the customer network settings? Does it define additional interfaces? Why don’t some of them have an exception for local addresses? I’m using e.g. pihole, a local DNS server that prevents connections on a DNS basis, depending on blacklists. If the VPN software overwrites my settings, I can’t use my local DNS to protect myself against malicious web sites. Thanks

    • David Janssen

      Thank you for your interesting questions! Whether a VPN allows you to set up custom DNS, depends on the provider. One VPN that does allow this, and will therefore make it possible to work with both your local DNS server and the safety of the VPN, is ExpressVPN. If you want to do this, you’ll have to follow the step-by-step guide they’ve provided on their website to manually configure these settings.

  26. Carlos Sousa

    Good afternoon

    I would like to know information about everything that is necessary to implement a VPN network in the company

    • David Janssen

      We have some information about security for businesses on this page. When it comes to VPNs that work well for corporate networks, there are many options. Both NordVPN and VyperVPN offer business accounts, and aside from that, there are specialised corporate VPNs such as Perimeter81 that you could choose. If you wish to set up a VPN on your router, so everyone in the office can use it, you can check out this article. We are constantly working to update our content and add new information to the business section of our website, so make sure to keep an eye on that, as well!

  27. Tom

    If I understand correctly, my communication with the VPN server is encrypted. But the communication is decrypted by the VPN server before being sent to the target website, minus of course my IP address. That means that the communication can’t be directly attributed to my machine. However, anyone intercepting the decrypted communication might be able to deduce who I am and what some of the information is, I think. Is correcting the vulnerability of decrypted communication from user machine to website the role of the https protocol?

    Do I understand correctly?

    • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

      This is quite right. A VPN protects you by hiding your IP address and encrypting your data between your computer and the VPN server. However, if you, for example, log in on a website that doesn’t use a secure HTTPS connection, your login details could still be vulnerable. A VPN secures your internet connection and make it anonymous, but that stops when you willingly send personal information, such as login details or an email address onto the internet. This is why it’s so hard to stay completely anonymous online while using platforms such as email and social media. However, if you use a VPN, make sure the websites you visit are valid, and don’t give out personal information on any page that doesn’t use HTTPS, you should at least be secure and safe from many prying eyes.

  28. Esther Mach

    How useful is VPN if you are traveling to Ethiopia?

    • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

      We would definitely advise you to use a VPN. Ethiopia is known to block internet access as well as access to specific apps (WhatsApp, Telegram) at times. Therefore, a VPN might be useful when travelling to Ethiopia. It might help you unblock certain web pages and social media. Even if there isn’t any (relevant) internet censorship at the time of your trip, a VPN will still help you protect your online identity and privacy.

    • Jsimmons

      I connect to my employer through a VPN using my Windstream internet service. I constantly get dropped. (Message says connection was disrupted.) Any troubleshooting ideas? I can’t figure out if it’s the provider (they seem to constantly have issues in my area) or my employer. Any guidance is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

      • David Janssen

        Firstly, we’d advise you to check whether this problem is caused by your internet connection. Does the internet work properly when you aren’t connected to the VPN? If so, you’ve already ruled out your internet service. Secondly, try to browse the internet through the VPN, without trying to reach any job-related pages or documents. If this works, the problem isn’t with the VPN provider, but with your employer. If it doesn’t, the VPN itself isn’t working. Depending on your situation (which VPN you’re using, how you and your employer arranged the VPN connection) we’d advise you to either contact the VPN’s support team directly or talk to your employer so they can help you. Good luck!

  29. Thierry

    Can I use email (gmail) anonymously with a VPN?

    • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

      Using a VPN while emailing won’t make you anonymous. After all, you’ll be logging into your Gmail-account, which is likely connected to your name and other personal information. However, a VPN can still be useful during emailing. Some countries won’t give you access to Gmail. Using a VPN in those countries will allow you to log in to Gmail, even when your access should be blocked. If you want to email anonymously, it’s best to create a new, anonymous email address that can’t be traced back to you. A good email provider to use for this purpose is ProtonMail.

  30. Dean

    Hi, nice share, how do you think for this vpn product: VPNGO, is it also working in China?

    • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

      We have not (yet) tested out VPNGO for ourselves. Seeing as it’s a VPN that comes with a free version, we expect there to be quite a few limitations. Looking at their privacy policy, it appears they make their money from (third party) advertisements, which is something to be wary of. Their official website also doesn’t appear to work for us. If you’re looking for a good VPN to use in China, we’ve got an article written about exactly that topic. NordVPN, for example, is quite cheap and has obfuscated servers that can help you get around China’s firewall.

  31. Madge

    My husband has jst left to work in China can he set up a vpn acc whilst there? Sorry, a not v tech savvy wife ?

    • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

      Sadly, it’s going to be quite hard for your husband to set up a VPN account once he’s already in China. The Chinese government blocks most VPN websites, making it almost impossible to get a VPN if you don’t already have a VPN account to get around those restrictions. If he already has a VPN, however, he can likely use that to easily get around any censorship. IF you want some more information about online restrictions in China, you can read this article. Hopefully this helps!

      • Ejaz

        I would like to improve my overall streaming speed.
        Just curious, will a VPN improve my streaming speed? Or would I have to buy a wifi booster? Also how do I connect a VPN to my current router? Would I need special equipment?

        • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

          A VPN could potentially increase your internet speed, if this speed is being throttled by your ISP or purposefully restricted in another way. If this isn’t the case, however, a VPN will not increase your speed and could even slow it down somewhat. But don’t worry: if you pick a good, fast VPN (for example ExpressVPN), the chances of your streaming speed dropping dramatically are slim. To connect a VPN to your router, you’ll need DD-WRT. You can read all about this here: Installing a VPN on Your Router – a Simple Guide for DD-WRT.

  32. batuhan

    why isnt there a mention of pure? you guys should check out their halloween deal, its as good as those mentioned above

  33. TRINI

    What about using the VPN provided by Lts say Bitdefender or Webroot, Does it do the same job as explained above.

    • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

      Yes, the VPNs by Bitdefender and Webroot both work in the same way as explained in this article. Each VPN has its own strengths and weaknesses, even though they all try to do the same thing, namely making your internet experience safer, more anonymous and more free. This means that some VPNs could be better for you to use than others. In order to help you figure out the difference, we review VPNs on our platform. You can have a look at the different reviews we’ve done so far on this page.

    • Jackie

      Is there a VPN that works in Morocco?

      • David Janssen

        Yes, there is. Many decent VPN providers will work in Morocco and allow you to unblock services and websites. You’ll find a list of the very best ones right here. If you want a VPN that specifically has servers in Morocco as well, we recommend CyberGhost.

  34. curious_squirrel

    My brother got a vpn and was kind of making fun out of me that I didn’t know what it was and why it was needed, I thought that I should read about this matter a bit more so that next time I reply something with expertise and take him by surprise. This was the first website that I stumbled upon and it had great explanations (many thank you’s to the author)! Thanks, for the insights they were great, I might get a vpn myself (or just use my brothers Surfshark account)!

    • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

      We’re glad we could help! Good luck with your VPN!

  35. Kevin

    thank you did not know what a VPN was. Is the one that windows has built in good for a free one

    • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

      The built-in VPN that Windows offers via PPTP can help you up to a point, but is not as safe and secure as a normal, premium VPN. That’s why we generally advise to use a VPN from a third party, for example ExpressVPN or Surfshark. With these VPNs, you can be absolutely sure that the service you’re getting is decent, secure, and makes you anonymous. If you want to have a look at the free options, you can check out our article on the best free VPNs of this moment.

      • Joyce Peterson

        I’m traveling to China on Monday and have Express VPN. Currently I’m connected in the US but when I’m in China do I stay connected to US or connect to Hong Kong or Japan? I’m not clear as to how that works

        • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

          You can do either. If you stay connected to a US server when you’re in China, you’ll have access to the same websites and services as you usually would. A server in Hong Kong or Japan could give you a quicker connection (since the distance between China and these servers is smaller than that between China and the US), but might not give you the same access. However, the most important thing to realise is that China can clamp down hard on VPN connections. If your VPN doesn’t seem to work while you’re there, you can try using different servers and different VPN protocols. Also make sure your ExpressVPN software is updated before you go, so you have the latest technologies to help you. Good luck!

  36. Billybob

    Thanks, informative but still I’m not that savvy. Will ask nerdy friend for more explanation !!

    • Roy

      Wow what a great lesson this has been.
      Thank you

      • Poulami roy

        I am using ExpressVPN.
        When I connect uploading and downloading is showing on the app.
        Does it upload my personal image and videos too?

        • Priscilla - VPNOverview.com

          No, these mentions of uploading and downloading simply mean that ExpressVPN is sending your data onto the internet through a secure connection and receiving data it can show you. This is how you get a functioning and safe internet connection. Unless you choose to upload a personal picture of video of yourself onto the internet, ExpressVPN won’t touch any of that information, so you don’t need to worry.

      • Alan Taylor

        Great article, thanks. I do have something I don’t understand. If I install vpn app on iPhone or iPad that are accessing internet through cell data, is this vpn protected or only when they are hooked up to wifi?

        • David Janssen - VPNOverview.com

          The VPN will protect both your iPhone and iPad no matter how you go online. It works both when you’re using cell data and when you’re using Wi-Fi, as long as you’ve got the VPN switched on.

    • Rob

      Can the IT dept of your employer track your location through their provided VPN

      • David Janssen

        If you are using a VPN connection set up by your employer or the IT department, they could be able to see your real IP address even when you’re using that VPN. With that information, they will also know your location. However, if you’re using a VPN provided by another company (such as NordVPN or another external provider), your employer will (very likely) be unable to see this information.

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