China is an authoritarian state that heavily censors internet usage in a bid to prevent certain ideas opinions on the Chinese policies and culture. This move prevents interfering with the government and influencing Chinese citizens.
For a long time, many Chinese citizens managed to circumvent this censorship by using a VPN. The state, however, has started to wise up to this and has begun blocking VPNs in China.
With this country-wide blocking, it is getting harder to find a reliable VPN. Luckily, though, NordVPN has obfuscated servers that can be used to get around this block. It’s not as simple as downloading NordVPN and getting to it, though—there are some steps that need to be taken first.
Making NordVPN Work in China
Looking through NordVPN’s list of servers and locations, you may notice that China isn’t there. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work in China, though. This is simply a method being used by NordVPN to remain off the Chinese government’s radar and avoid being spotted and blocked.
You may be thinking “But Hong Kong is there, that’s in China” and while this is correct, there is very little internet censorship in Hong Kong. This is because Hong Kong is a Chinese “special administrative region” and not strictly part of China itself. It was, for many years, under British rule and has been heavily influenced by the West.
How to Use NordVPN in China
One crucial advice you need to follow: if you want to use NordVPN in China it is important that you download, install, and configure it before you get there.
NordVPN’s website is blocked in the country and downloading it can be very difficult while you are there. Also, by doing this you reduce the chance of being caught by the Chinese authorities trying to download a VPN. Remember, the internet in China is not only heavily censored, but heavily, heavily monitored.
Alternatively, you can load the NordVPN installation files onto a USB stick, external drive, or your device itself before getting there.
Once you have downloaded NordVPN (before arriving in the country, if possible) it is very easy to configure NordVPN so that it can be used seamlessly in China and bypass censorship.
All you need to do is set up NordVPN so that it uses their obfuscated servers that are optimized for usage in China. These only work on Windows, Android, and macOS devices, though. If you are an iOS user, you will need to manually configure OpenVPN and be aware that NordVPN has said that there can be authentication issues for macOS users.
Some users have reported this method doesn’t work – but they have found that NordVPN support has another way of configuring the services for China. Make sure you contact NordVPN before going to China. Take a look at our comments section for more context. Regardless, contact NordVPN support before going so they can deliver on their promises!
Setting Up NordVPN’s Obfuscated Servers
It is very easy to do this—user friendliness is one of the many things that makes NordVPN such a great service.
1. Open up NordVPN and head to Settings in the top-left
You will be met by this impressively long list of configuration options.
2. Scroll down to “show advanced settings” and click on it
NordVPN might ask if you are sure you want to continue, just click on “Proceed”.
3. Find “Obfuscated Servers” and toggle it from Off to On
4. Exit out of settings by clicking “Servers” and then press “Obfuscated Servers” on the left
5. You can then either let NordVPN choose a server for you, or select from the drop-downs
Some users have trouble connecting to NordVPN’s obfuscated servers. Personally, we had no trouble on multiple devices…
Before you run into problems, we recommend contacting NordVPN’s customer support team. There are lots of different support channels available and responses are quick and informative!
All NordVPN’s obfuscated servers work in other sketchy countries such as Russia and the UAE, however, it is worth keeping in mind that they are designed and optimized for use in China.
Try Out NordVPN for Yourself
Heading to China soon or just want a VPN on your side that works and is trustworthy?
You can try out NordVPN for yourself completely free.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (no questions asked), giving you an entire month to try out NordVPN and decide whether it’s right for you without losing any money.
Now, let’s run a comparison to answer the question that needs to be answered- which one is better?
NordVPN and PIA Comparison
You want it cheap but at the same time, you also want to protect your privacy.
Yes, reviews might provide details about a VPN but it’s not always an easy walk towards privacy protection and safe browsing activities.
Don’t worry, at the end of the day, both options are fantastic. But make no mistake, there is only one winner between this comparison.
Servers and Locations
When it comes to server count, both VPN services offer an amount that’s hard to keep up with – NordVPN with over 5000 servers and PIA with over 3500. Region-wise, both are also reliable, with NordVPN being available in 61 countries while PIA in 31 countries.
NordVPN’s server offering may be a big boost compared to PIA’s because of the presence of its virtual servers around the world in 61 countries. Although the latter’s region accessibility is not at par with the former, offering 31 countries is impressive nonetheless.
Server locations matter because maybe you want to access localized content which is available in your area. If you’re in an English-speaking country, then you’re lucky because both offer extraordinary services in the US, CA, UK, NZ, and other English-speaking countries.
But if you’re residing in a region which is not that populated, you’re going to have to place your bet on NordVPN since there’s a higher chance of your country being on the region list.
And if you’re in heavily-censored countries such as Russia, you can also count on NordVPN. PIA falls short in this particular category since it doesn’t offer any servers in Russia, primarily because of the new VPN laws recently implemented there.
In addition, let’s also not forget about TOR integration. Both premium services allow you to access .onion sites without prying eyes.
All in all, when it comes to servers and locations, NordVPN clearly outperforms PIA, as it offers more servers on more locations – even those heavily-censored ones.
VPN Speed and Performance
In case you haven’t read any of our detailed VPN reviews: we have an extensive method of testing all features including speeds. We test speeds from three different continents using a 100 Mbps connection.
Both offered fast “enough” speeds, but there is a clear winner here.
NordVPN showed around 10-25% speed reduction whereas PIA saw reductions between 25-30%.
NordVPN optimizes your browsing experience by connecting you to the fastest server available based on your location.
We believe their smart routing system gave an edge over PIA. The latter is commendable, but if speed is your deciding factor for switching to a VPN, then NordVPN wins in this category by a single-digit margin.
One of the reasons why the “premium” label exists for a VPN is most likely due to having Netflix access. Having the option to unlock region-locked content is sometimes the #1 priority for people.
After all, 57% of Netflix’ customers are from outside of the US. Region-locking affects over half of Netflix customers!
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for unblocking Netflix, advertising region-unblocks for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Japan.
As for PIA, it no longer unlocks Netflix. Private Internet Access made a policy stating that it does not support unlocking of geo-restricted content a while ago. We know this may sound a bit ironic since its primary selling point was its access to Netflix through its servers.
While the guarantee no longer exists, you can still find yourself having Netflix content available sometimes.
However, with Netflix aggressively blocking VPNs, PIA’s servers get blacklisted quite fast and are not reliable for Netflix. We can only hope that this feature will become available again in the near future. But for now, PIA isn’t the best choice if you’re into unlocking geo-restricted content.
Overall, it’s a bit disappointing because, with no competition available, NordVPN clearly wins on this one hands-down.
If you’ve been reading our reviews and guides, you know that we do not condone piracy or torrenting of copyrighted shows.
Fortunately, both support a secure p2p connection.
However, there were no mentions on the PIA website about any policies concerning torrent downloads, nor were there any indications that they promote it – as opposed to NordVPN which clearly lays flat all guidelines concerning torrenting on its lengthy Terms of Service.
A little trivia: PIA has built in its reputation of being torrent-friendly over the years, so people consider it as a good VPN for torrenting minus the policy.
On the torrenting front, PIA is the winner.
Pricing & Plans
In terms of pricing plans, there’s no debate that both offer a premium service at a cheaper pricing point than others. But the question is, how cheaper?
If you’ve read our review, you probably know that NordVPN is our no-brainer VPN because of its pricing point. But PIA’s plans, although a bit pricey, are also worth considering.
For longevity, the best plan for PIA is $3.49 per month on average for 2 years, while NordVPN is at $2.99 per month for 3 years. If you’re looking to use a cheaper VPN for an extra year, then you’re certainly going to go for NordVPN. Then again, it’s only 50 cents difference per month. What can you even buy with 50 cents?
If you do the math, NordVPN’s package is cheaper at the end of the day. You can’t deny that fact.
When it comes to monthly plans, PIA wins over NordVPN with flying colors, as it is priced at $9.99/month compared to NordVPN’s $11.95/month.
Above that, apart from these plans, both offer VPN for businesses with rich features.
Taking all these into consideration, if you want a longer subscription, go with NordVPN. For monthly, you can try PIA.
It’s a tie here.
If you’re dissatisfied with both VPNs (which is highly unlikely), then don’t worry.
Both provide refund policies as long as you sign up on their website and not a reseller.
The only drawback on this one is the duration of the money-back guarantee. PIA only offers it for 7 days as compared to NordVPN’s astounding 30 days (which is a long time). This means that you’re given much more leeway to test NordVPN as compared to PIA.
If you are not satisfied with either service, simply contact support for all your money back. We’ve tested the refund system of both companies and received our money back within the week.
Simply put, it’s a hassle-free and reliable process for both, but NordVPN has a longer money-back guarantee period.
As for payments, both equally offer excellent methods.
It’s hard to differentiate between the two because both offer something that’s not on the other.
Payment with cryptocurrencies is more than just a trend; it’s one way of keeping your identity and transactions secure.
NordVPN offers a wide range of payment methods with cryptocurrencies. But in addition to Bitcoin, it also payments made through ETH and XRP. PIA, on the other hand, supports ETH, LTC and ZEC aside from the usual Bitcoin payments.
What gives PIA an advantage in this category is its ability to pay anonymously with many major brand gift cards like Walmart, Best Buy or Starbucks which NordVPN is unable to do at this moment.
PIA should win some brownie points from those who are serious about their privacy.
In terms of device usage, PIA wins by offering more simultaneous device connections. PIA allows up to 10 simultaneous connections while NordVPN only offers 6.
But in cases where your Wi-Fi enabled device does not have a configuration for a VPN; good news – you can buy pre-flashed routers for both VPN providers.
These routers are pre-configured to have the VPNs already. The NordVPN website has some instructions on configuring your routers to connect to their network while PIA has less documentation around this. On top of that, PIA doesn’t advertise this option that well. Strange.
Sign Up Process
If you value your privacy, an anonymous sign-up process is one of the main considerations for subscribing to a VPN. Luckily, both companies offer a standard sign up procedure which consists of the usual email log-ins and choosing a subscription plan.
As a side note, PIA will randomly generate a username for you if you wish which can greatly speed up the process if you’re too lazy to think of names.
Once you complete your payment, just click install then you’re good to go.
It’s a walk in the park for both.
Both UI and UX are subjective. In other words, it’s difficult to be objective in this area.
Both VPNs are easy to use across several devices – there’s your connect button, usual servers list and other configuration settings. For the aesthetics, both UIs look good and clean so there’s no debate about that.
There’s no clear winner here in terms of interacting with the product. What separates the two VPNs are the underlying services, namely: privacy, Netflix, torrenting and bypassing region-locks.
NordVPN does have a quick connect button and the service attempts to route you to the best server right away. It even includes recommendations for Netflix, which can be a bit handy for those who want to stream.
As for user experience, it’s quite similar between the two but we like NordVPN more. Again, it’s just personal preference.
You can’t deny the fact that most well-renowned VPN services offer 24/7 live chat support – including NordVPN.
This is another category where PIA entirely loses out to NordVPN.
The lack of immediate customer support is one of the main disadvantages of PIA’s service.
Be that as it may, PIA compensates for its lack of on-demand support with an above-average FAQ, blog, and website in general.
But really, don’t we all want personalized customer support who can talk us through our issues?
In terms of product documentation, both are equally commendable.
It’s not as detailed but the visuals provided in both simply provide some legitimate and thorough background in VPN or other things for first-time users.
Both companies blog about privacy issues and security. There are even recommendations on both which you can try!
If you’re a privacy advocate, pay attention to this one.
Both companies have a zero-logging policy – there’s no question about that.
The thing is, you can never 100% trust a VPN service. Fair provision for your privacy and safety can be a consideration, but risk management is a different story altogether. Which VPN can expose you to fewer risks?
Zero-log policies mean that your activity is not recorded or logged. This means that even if you use your personal information to access data on a given website, there is a little to zero chance that your activity will be recorded or logged on the VPNs database.
It’s fair to accept NordVPN’s claim that an algorithm keeps username and timestamp of the last session which is wiped 15 minutes after the session is terminated, to maintain their 6 device connection policy.
But this is where PIA stands out.
In case you didn’t know, privacy and security may not bode well for PIA because of the fact that it is based in the US which, as we all know, has some of the strictest policies regarding privacy and data handling.
However, Private Internet Access has a strong policy when it comes to protecting customer information.
Given that all premium VPNs nowadays “prove” no-logging policies through third-party audits. PIA has proved its no-logs claim in court, twice.
Yes, you’re not mistaken. Twice. In court. It’s no wonder that PIA can boast about its anonymity with users because it has proven itself as one of the most secure VPNs in the market.
If you’re concerned about privacy, PIA is the better choice simply because NordVPN’s claims are untested in the court of law.
IP and DNS Leak Test
If you’re afraid of potential leaks on your IP and DNS, then you can rest assured with these two VPNs.
There are no leaks of any kind. We tested these two and they always came clean.
Although it’s worth noting that there have been reported cases where users have dealt with the WebRTC bug while using PIA.
We remind you to just disable WebRTC in your browser to prevent it.
Always take note that if your IP or DNS is exposed, you risk exposing yourself and your activity. For instance, when you torrent, your activity, and your identity become visible to the public. We suggest that you hide your activities with a premium VPN.
Encryption and Protocols
When it comes to encryption, one can have so many preferences so these entirely depend on you.
To start, NordVPN uses AES with 256-bit keys which is the standard “military-grade” encryption. It also offers IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN as protocol options.
On the same note, PIA’s fastest encryption is 128-bit in CBC mode. There is also the possibility of using AES 256-bit in CBC mode, but this will make things a bit slower. It also offers L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN and there’s also PPTP in case you want to go old school.
With that being said, both VPN services offer a great number of choices on the encryption front. It entirely depends on what your preference is.
Are you afraid of being detected whenever there’s an IP or DNS leak on your server? Well, worry no more because both VPNs offer a kill switch to shut out all trouble.
Leaks happen but if all protocols are set up properly and the kill switch is on, there’s nothing to worry about.
When it comes to conducting business, it’s actually hard to distinguish one from the other.
NordVPN was launched in 2012 under Tefinkom & Co., S.A. in Panama. It’s probably one of the best VPNs in the market today.
PIA, on the other hand, is slightly older. It was established in 2010 under London Trust Media Inc. and has provided reliable service ever since. Furthermore, it champions among users with its no logging-policy that’s been proven in court.
There are hardly any VPNs in the market which come close to PIA on this matter.
It’s common for these types of businesses to stay private, but with PIA’s commitment to transparency, you can also see on its website the people behind the company.
Most of the time these kinds of details stay hidden, so as to prevent the government (including the Five Eyes Alliance) from identifying key people and compromising user information.
PIA thrives on the fact that they’ve been tested in court while NordVPN thrives on their jurisdiction.
When it comes to jurisdiction, you have to make sure that the VPN you choose does not operate in a country which is a member of the Five, Nine or Fourteen Eyes Alliance. It’s a no-brainer.
Thankfully, NordVPN is based in Panama, so it’s definitely away from the jurisdiction of any “eye” you’re worried about.
Panama operates as an independent country and is often not compliant or cooperative with transparency laws. As such, the likelihood of your information being compromised or investigated is close to zero. It thrives away from prying eyes so what would be the reason for it to stray away?
But for PIA… It’s bad news.
We all know it’s based in the US, and that poses a problem for so many people. As you may know, the US has one of the strictest and most privacy-related laws around the world, so it’s no surprise that users of PIA may be a bit worried about their information being leaked or compromised in any way.
As we previously mentioned, PIA had to prove in court that they had no-logging policies. Twice.
This fact may be a breather because as the decision implies, they keep little to no information about their users. However, the fact that they’re in the US may force them to hand over what little information they have – which is not good at all.
Security and Policy Audits
It’s a great deal of comfort when you know that the VPN you’re using is open to being audited for transparency and possible flaws.
Being at the top of the VPN market is no easy feat, that’s why NordVPN always makes sure that it exhibits the greatest level of transparency possible to its customers.
It was revealed on February 21, 2019, that one of the Big 4 auditing firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, performed an audit on the company. The results came out well as expected and the audit report was made available to NordVPN subscribers and free trial users.
PIA, on the other hand, does not find the need for an independent audit as of this time. Replying through a Reddit post, PIA President Jason Q. stated:
“While we consider independent audits to be valuable and important in some situations, we do not have any immediate plans to have any independent audits carried out by external parties. We feel that an audit would not add value as it would speak only to a brief snapshot of time (i.e. the period during which such an audit was conducted) but could offer no guarantees or reassurance for our users with regard to any other period of time.”
Naturally, since they are also committed to transparency, they did publish a transparency report on their website which you can find here.
At this moment, we appreciate NordVPN’s efforts in inviting auditors to review their policies. PIA’s transparency page seems a bit lacking, to be honest.
NordVPN wins this face-off hands down as the more well-rounded VPN that offers those “premium” features you may be looking for.
NordVPN has more regions, Netflix access, faster speeds and they’ve even invited third-party auditors to review their policies.
Congratulations on making it this far! Now you can enjoy the full benefits of a premium VPN for just 50 cents more per month.
Editors Note: NordVPN is the better choice versus PIA… unless you are a privacy advocate and can trust that the U.S. court is not working with PIA. PIA has proven its no log policy in court so if you’re an activist, or you’re simply into doing things outside the law then PIA is the better choice.
Just because you’re connected to a VPN doesn’t mean you’re completely secure. Say you’re browsing the internet and, suddenly, you lose connection to the VPN itself. What happens then? Are you still protected? Will your IP and information be exposed?
This all depends on whether the VPN you are using has a kill switch.
A VPN kill switch is an essential element that forms a core part of any VPN product. It is so important, in fact, that you absolutely and categorically should not use a VPN that doesn’t include one.
It doesn’t matter how fancy their site is, how slick their VPN is to use, or how good their encryption and logging policies are. If a VPN does not have a kill switch you should walk away.
VPNs themselves are not 100% reliable, so it’s the kill switch that backs you up and keeps you secure should a VPN service fail. This happens even to the best VPNs.
When you are connected to a VPN service, your traffic is encrypted and then routed through a secure tunnel. It is then decrypted when it reaches its final destination. Because your data is encrypted, it cannot be intercepted or seen by any third parties such as your ISP, hackers, or the security services.
A VPN is something that everybody who regularly accesses the internet should use, especially if you ever use public networks.
After all, the internet is a jungle full of hackers, surveillance, and chancers who want to get hold of your data. And just because you are using a private network does not mean you are 100% safe.
With a variety of encryption and tunneling protocols along with the ability to spoof your connection and physical location, VPNs provide a level of defense from anything and everything. That is if you use a good one.
There are plenty of terrible VPNs out there. You can learn more about this by reading our general VPN reviews and guides.
What Happens If or When a VPN Fails?
VPNs can and do fail, even the best ones. Aside from inherent security vulnerabilities that can be avoided by using the best VPNs available, there is the risk of a dropped connection that you need to account for.
This can happen at any time and with any VPN; there is no way for dropped connections to be avoided or prevented, they just happen.
When your connection to a VPN service drops, your traffic and IP address are in danger of being exposed. This means that whatever you’re doing, from simply watching films or downloading files through a torrent, can be found out. In this example, the danger is that your ISP can see you are torrenting and issue you a copyright notice or terminate your connection.
Now enter the kill switch. When you use a reputable VPN that has a working kill switch, it’s impossible for your IP, information, or traffic to be exposed even when your connection drops.
Why Do VPNs Fail?
Infrequent connection drops do happen and cannot be avoided. This is why any VPN worth its name will include a kill switch, to safeguard your data against this scenario.
Both your device and your VPN software send data packets to one another every so often–usually every 5-10 seconds–to see whether the connection is still active. When these data packets are not being received by your device for a specific period of time–usually 1 to 2 minutes–the VPN assumes you are no longer using the service and disconnects you.
Every now and then, it will simply be the case that your device hasn’t been receiving packets for this time period, making your connection drop.
There are many reasons why your device may not be receiving packets. However, when it comes to infrequent VPN connection failure, it is simply the case that they’re lost or temporarily blocked–there’s nothing you can do about this.
Frequent VPN connection drops, however, can indicate an underlying problem such as–
An issue with the VPN server you are connected to,
The port or protocol you are using is blocking packets,
Your device rejecting the packets, or
An unreliable internet connection.
If you use a VPN and notice frequent drops in your connection, we recommend reaching out to your VPN service’s support team.
What a Kill Switch is and How it Works
A VPN kill switch blocks all incoming and outgoing traffic should your connection to the VPN and the internet drop.
As a system, it continuously monitors your VPN connection status and immediately steps in if your connection fails. If this happens, all current internet sessions such as streaming, downloading, and browsing will be killed, hence the name “kill switch.”
This means that your real IP address and any data being sent back and forth will never be compromised or exposed to prying eyes because whatever you’re doing will be “killed” before anyone can see it.
The primary purpose of a kill switch is to protect your IP address, traffic, and online activity from being suddenly and unknowingly exposed in the case of a dropped connection. Without one there, your internet traffic would continue flowing and you may not notice your unprotected status for minutes or even hours after.
This would leave a digital trail of everything you intended to keep private! 😱
As a result, it is an extremely vital feature that needs to be included in any VPN product. The problem is that not all VPNs do include a kill switch, even some of those that claim to have one.
This is why due diligence and research is also very important when it comes to choosing a VPN. But we’ll show you how to do that in a second.
How Can I Tell if a VPN Has a Kill Switch?
This can be quite tricky.
Not all VPN providers state on their website whether they have a kill switch or not. Some do, some don’t.
While leading providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN openly discuss their kill switch, there are others that don’t. Additionally, not every VPN service calls their kill switch a kill switch–some refer to them as VPN firewalls for instance.
To add to the confusion, not all kill switches will work automatically–some require manual configuration. When using a VPN, always check that:
There is a kill switch.
Check that it’s enabled or find out how to enable it using their help guides.
Often, you can find out whether a particular VPN service has a kill switch by reading their FAQs or knowledgebase.
Alternatively, take a look at our comprehensive VPN reviews—we have reviewed over 100 different VPN services and each review details whether or not a kill switch is available.
You can even test it out yourself!
3 Great VPNs that Have a Kill Switch
If you don’t want to go searching through our reviews, we can suggest 3 VPN services right here that include a kill switch.
We have comprehensively tested all these VPNs and covered everything from speed and performance to safety and security, so you can rest easy knowing that your information will never be compromised.
ExpressVPN is by far the best VPN service available right now. It is fast, safe, and works with everything you could ever need it for. Netflix? Check. Torrenting? Check. Bypassing censorship? Check.
ExpressVPN includes a kill switch as standard with the service known as Network Lock. When Network Lock is enabled—note: it needs to be manually enabled from within the app—you will only be able to access the internet when you are connected to the ExpressVPN service.
Network Lock works by blocking your internet access when you are not connected to ExpressVPN so that your IP, data, and traffic can never be exposed. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
It’s worth noting that, at the moment, ExpressVPN does not include a kill switch on their non-desktop services such as Android, iOS, or FireTV.
You can try out ExpressVPN risk-free thanks to their 30-day money-back guarantee. Pricing starts at $12.95 monthly or $8.32 when purchased for a year.
NordVPN usually comes second in our VPN review lists. It is slightly cheaper than ExpressVPN if you’re on the 3-year plan. For those who are under a budget, this might be the better option in the long run.
In terms of safety, security, and performance, both services are comparable. Unlike ExpressVPN, you do not need to manually enable the NordVPN kill switch for the desktop version. However, you can configure it and choose which applications you want it to work for (e.g. your internet browser.)
This means that if your connection drops, only the services you specify will be killed. This prevents you from losing connection to everything when you only need protection in one or two places. In contrast, their Linux, iOS, and Android app kill switches will disable system-wide internet access.
Try NordVPN with their 30-day money-back guarantee. Pricing starts at $11.95 per month and can drop to $2.99 per month when purchased for 3 years.
PIA is one of our favorite VPN services. First of all, they’re based in the U.S.–which usually sounds off alarms in our head–but despite this fact, their anti-logging policy has stood up in court. Secondly, their servers are fast, plentiful, and secure. Thirdly, it has a kill switch.
You’ll need to enable it manually, though. You can do this by starting up PIA Manager and simply toggling it from ‘off’ to ‘on’ and restarting the VPN. After this, it will step in if your connection drops.
PIA’s pricing starts at $6.95 monthly and drops to $2.91 when paid upfront for 2 years–amazing value for such a great product!
When you install a VPN on your router, you ensure that all devices connected to your home’s network remain protected with minimal effort and fuss. Instead of downloading a native app for all devices, you can simply configure your router to protect all your devices.
However, not all VPNs are router-friendly, and not all routers support VPNs. That means you need to do two things:
There are several factors that go into deciding which VPN to use with a router. These include:
Router Support: Either the VPN lets you buy pre-flashed routers, meaning a router with the VPN already installed, or you can install the VPN on the router yourself using either native orthird-party firmware like DD-WRT or Tomato (more on that below).
VPN Speed: Since installing a VPN on your router likely means you’ll be using the VPN on a variety of devices, fast speeds are essential. All the VPNs we’ve picked have fast speeds so you won’t experience slow internet speeds on all your devices–a nightmare!
Encryption: If you’re going to rely on a single VPN service to secure all your devices via the router, you better make sure the VPN offers the best encryption. That means the VPN should offer the OpenVPN protocol (the most secure) and AES-256 encryption (military-grade).
We also consider the usual (price, features, business history, etc) as it is part of our review process.
Key VPN Router Terminology: DD-WRT vs Tomato
Two terms you will come across when researching VPN routers are DD-WRT and Tomato—these are both open-source third-party firmware that are available for free online. Simply put, they enable your router to function as a VPN client when it is installed (“flashed”) on one.
DD-WRT and Tomato both improve your security, let you use different VPN protocols, disable router manufacturers’ security loopholes, extend your Wi-Fi range, and regulate bandwidth. They do differ in some areas, though. Here’s how they stack up—
Available on more devices.
Run two VPN servers at once.
Adjust Wi-Fi signal strength.
Better bandwidth monitoring.
Prioritize certain types of traffic.
Works better with more VPN services.
Access home network remotely.
Supported by fewer routers.
5 Best VPNs for Router Installation—Our Picks
These are, in our opinion, the 5 best VPN services available on the market for use with a router. We have tested each of these services extensively, alongside 100+ others, and tested all their features to arrive at our conclusion.
All these VPNs can easily be installed and used on a router. If you get stuck during the installation phase, each service offers comprehensive guides on their website to walk you through the process. If you still need help, their customer support teams will be on-hand, usually 24/7 through live chat, to provide immediate assistance.
1. ExpressVPN – Our Top Pick!
ExpressVPN is the best all-around VPN service that does just about everything you want it to, and then some.
First of all, for those of you who want the simplest and most seamless installation process, ExpressVPN has their own powerful pre-configured router that you can use out of the box. This is a better choice if you don’t want to do any work at all and want a newbie-friendly VPN router–it costs around $50 more than it would if you bought a regular router and an ExpressVPN subscription.
If you don’t mind doing a little bit of work for yourself though, you can follow their detailed installation tutorial that provides instructions for DD-WRT router installation. With ExpressVPN’s own firmware, installing the VPN on your router and protecting all your home’s devices becomes a painless task.
In addition to this, supplementary features put you in complete control—you can pick and choose which devices’ traffic to tunnel through ExpressVPN and which can remain unprotected. There is also MediaStreamer that you can use to unblock Netflix and other services from devices that don’t natively support ExpressVPN.
In the unlikely event that you run into problems, ExpressVPN’s knowledgebase and support team will be on hand to help in minutes. You can also take a look at some of their guides. ExpressVPN has taken the time to create a comprehensive selection of guides that are tailored to each of their router offerings.
(If you do go ahead and purchase a NordVPN router, make sure you use the code NORDVPNROUTER for 20% off at flashrouters.com!)
Everything can be managed from NordVPN’s FlashRouter Privacy App. Using this, you can easily connect to and switch between servers and enable/disable the kill switch for seamless and intuitive use. This is much more preferable to having to navigate confusing router control panels each time you want to connect, disconnect, change a server, or modify other settings.
In terms of performance, NordVPN delivers good speeds across a consistently reliable server network. While there are more servers with NordVPN than ExpressVPN, NordVPN has slightly fewer locations as ExpressVPN. (At the time of writing, NordVPN’s servers are available in 62 countries whereas ExpressVPN’s are in 94.)
From $2.99/month for a 3-year subscription
Pre-flashed routers from $249.99 via flashrouters.com
3. Private Internet Access (PIA) – Best for Privacy
PIA is one of our favorite VPNs because they came out on top after two court cases where the authorities were trying to obtain a court order to force PIA to disclose information related to its users. On both occasions, PIA could not produce anything of use to the government.
This shows that their promise to never disclose information holds up in court even though PIA is U.S.-based. PIA doesn’t log anything at all, so even if they were told to hand over information, there would be nothing valuable to give.
In terms of router support, you can either buy a pre-flashed PIA router (the more expensive option) or instead follow their DD-WRT OpenVPN setup guide on their website.
It should be acknowledged that PIA’s setup process is a little more involved than that of Express and NordVPN’s–it requires more manual work and time, making it a less optimal choice for first-time users. There’s no native app for routers either, something both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have.
PIA as a service has been around for a long time now and they have an impressive server network to prove it. They offer what is by far one of the best and most reliable services at one of the lowest price points.
Private Internet Access Pricing:
From $2.91/month for a 2-year subscription
Pre-flashed routers from $249.99 via flashrouters.com
An often-overlooked service, Windscribe may not be as good as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it’s still worth considering. The main talking point here is that Windscribe lets you connect an unlimited number of devices to the network.
Judging by Windscribe’s website, we can see that they have put a lot of thought and effort into their router support.
The VPN can be installed on a router or you can get a pre-configured model. However, you won’t have much of a choice if you want a pre-flashed router. We only found one available at the time of this writing.
For users who want to install the VPN client on their own, Windscribe provides three comprehensive guides to walk you through the process: DD-WRT, Tomato, and Asus.
When we tested out Windscribe, we found that the service’s performance varied quite a bit. This isn’t going to be ideal if you need a consistently reliable service that is always fast and on point. In terms of security, Windscribe uses AES 256-bit encryption alongside OpenVPN and we found no leaks.
It is worth noting that Windscribe offers a free version with a monthly 10GB data transfer limited. However, it can only be used with routers when you subscribe to their Pro version as this is the only version that offers OpenVPN.
CyberGhost has managed to grow its users to almost 20 million in just under a decade and when you look at the service, it is easy to see why.
If you want to install CyberGhost on your router, their website offers lots of useful guidance and tutorials to help you do just that. Their knowledgebase covers every single type of router installation possible and if you get stuck, their support team are on-hand to help 24/7.
For example, this is a part of their knowledge base that teaches users how to configure OpenVPN on one of their pre-flashed routers (CyberGhost doesn’t use OpenVPN by default.)
This guide is very extensive and walks you through the process step-by-step with up-to-date information and screenshots highlighting exactly what you need to do.
With a constantly growing network of servers offering a fast and reliable global reach and router setup that is 100% painless, CyberGhost had to feature somewhere on our list. Again, it’s not as good as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but their service will probably match your expectations.
From $2.50/month for a 3-year subscription
Pre-flashed routers from $249.99 via flashrouters.com
For those of you still deciding on which VPN router to get, here’s a short guide on the three different types of VPN routers.
The general rule of thumb is that most ISP-provided routers are heavily restricted and cannot be flashed with VPN firmware. If your router is the same one that your ISP provided, you will need to swap it out for a different one.
The three options are—
1. Manual configuration
Manual configuration (or manual flashing) is where you configure your own router for VPN installation. This can usually be done with routers made by reputable manufacturers such as Asus and Linksys but not always. It is worth double-checking with the manufacturer whether your router supports VPN installation.
2. VPN-compatible routers
VPN-compatible routers come ready to be set up with a VPN out of the box. They have an easy-to-use interface, support OpenVPN, and can easily have firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato installed on them, meaning you can start the setup process with your chosen VPN client right away.
3. Pre-configured routers
Most of the time, pre-configured routers will come with a VPN already installed on them. This means they can be set up and used with minimal effort. However, they can be more expensive. A good example is ExpressVPN’s own DD-WRT router.
These routers are sold through a third-party vendor known as FlashRouters, a company that takes the very best routers available on the market and loads them with VPN software ready for out-of-the-box use.
To sum up, you can go about it in various ways but it usually breaks down into two things:
1. Are you tech-savvy enough to configure your own router? Then just follow our step-by-step guide on how to install a VPN on a router.
2. You don’t want to go through all the trouble of setting up your router? Then you have plenty of choice, just get ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
Let’s get it out there right now, torrenting in most situations is an illegal activity. While we do not condone it, we simply have to recognize that this is one of the main reasons people use VPNs.
If you are the average person who may regularly illegally pirate a movie or album then you really need a VPN; even if you occasionally participate in torrenting this is a must.
In fact, not protecting your IP and covering your tracks online as a regular torrenter would be grossly irresponsible.
First, What is Torrenting?
Torrenting (BitTorrent) is a widely popular file sharing protocol that has its basis in peer-to-peer technology. It allows a large network of users to connect and share content, typically pirated movies and other stolen content, without having to rely on a single source for downloads.
Torrenting exists because companies who hold rights to these works are quick to shut down sites that host their files for downloading. When a network of thousands or even millions of people across the globe are all chipping into one user’s download, it is impossible for these companies and rightsholders to stop it from happening.
Whether you are in the mood for downloading movies, an entire TV series, or the latest video game, torrenting makes this possible. Although it is easy to do, it is also very easy to get caught, particularly if you are a prolific participant in torrenting and are not careful.
It has many inherent risks and if you want to do it, you need a VPN—this is not an option.
What Happens If I Torrent Without a VPN?
First, you share file (download AND upload)
As we mentioned earlier, torrenting’s backbone is peer-to-peer networking—for torrenting to work, multiple PCs and devices are connected and share resources with one another without having to go through a separate server or network, e.g. a download site’s servers.
Second, you reveal yourself to the public
While peer-to-peer networking is pretty nifty, it is also incredibly dangerous when you don’t take the right precautions. When participating in torrenting, your information, including your IP address, can very easily be found out by anybody else who is part of the peer-to-peer “swarm” who is sharing the same torrent as you.
This may not sound too sinister. However, there is a lot more to it than that and it is not necessarily hackers you need to worry about.
Third, everyone is tracking you now
Government agencies, your ISP, and snoops—bots whose purpose is to simply harvest IP addresses—can find out your IP and, if you are unprotected, you can easily be traced back to.
Don’t see how this is a problem? If you have participated in any form of torrenting recently without a VPN, head on over to iknowwhatyoudownload.com and see for yourself. If you have a static IP address–you most likely do–you will see a list of activities that have been logged.
Everything you’ve downloaded on your server is ripe for public viewing.
3 Potential Consequences of (Unsafe) Torrenting
Still not convinced that you need to be using a VPN? Here are some of the potential risks and consequences of torrenting without one—
1. Legal issues
One of the biggest dangers of unprotected torrenting isn’t an immediate threat and is likely something that will come to haunt you many months down the line after being caught.
Today, lots of popular torrents of copyrighted content are regularly monitored. By not hiding your identity, you are basically inviting your ISP to send you threatening letters or for the copyright holders to bring proceedings against you.
Even a single trace of downloading torrent files that are protected by copyright laws can lead to anything from the termination of your internet service to cease and desist letters to fines – including jail time.
When using a VPN, your ISP and other parties cannot see what you are doing. While they can see the data transfer, they cannot see where it is going to or coming from. This prevents them from being able to identify the copyrighted material and thus you cannot get into trouble for it.
2. Vulnerability to hacks and leaks
Although torrenting itself does not pose an immediate danger, it does expose you to the risk of hacking attempts if you don’t have protection from a VPN.
As we have already mentioned, torrenting unprotected exposes your IP address and, in many cases, other pieces of data. This is especially true if you connect to an unsecure public WiFi network.
When you are behind a good VPN that does not leak information, nobody can see your IP address, who you are, or get access to any of your data.
3. Compromised data
Over time, your information will be collected and pieced together. Everything will be used to the advantage of a hacker.
Your name, date of birth, address history, email addresses, and online banking information can all be exposed without your knowledge. Once people have access to this data, there is no telling how much damage can be caused.
Torrenting Safely: How a VPN Helps to Protect You
By far the best way you can protect yourself while torrenting is to use a VPN.
A VPN works by encrypting all your traffic before it leaves your network and sending it to its destination through an encrypted tunnel. That’s not all. Your traffic is also re-routed through one of the VPN service’s servers–one you have chosen–that changes your IP address to the same one being used by hundreds if not thousands of other people.
This adds an extra layer of anonymity by covering your IP address and also prevents your data being compromised by encrypting it.
When you are connected to a VPN service that is fast, secure, uses the latest standards in encryption and tunneling, and does not leak any information, you are protected. Nobody can see what you are doing or who you are, and not even your ISP can eavesdrop on your connection.
With a network that spans over 62 different countries and over 5,000 servers, NordVPN is naturally the best VPN service when it comes to torrenting. All their servers are fast, so your files will download quickly should you also have a fast internet connection.
Torrenting is allowed on all NordVPN’s servers and they also have servers that are specifically optimized for torrenting.
With AES 256-bit encryption used alongside OpenVPN, there is no chance of your data or information being revealed when you are connected to the network.
Should your connection to NordVPN stop, the kill switch will step in and terminate your connection to a peer-to-peer network. During our comprehensive review, we also found that it did not leak any IP or DNS information.
You can try NordVPN free for 7 days and there’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Although ExpressVPN usually tops the list of any VPN review, it comes in second here for two reasons—first, NordVPN has a larger network of servers and second, NordVPN is cheaper. Again, all these servers are fast and can be used for torrenting.
One place where ExpressVPN comes out on top of NordVPN is location choice—ExpressVPN offers servers in over 90 countries whereas NordVPN offers them in just over 60. More servers mean that there is more choice for users located in different parts of the world.
All traffic is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption alongside the OpenVPN tunneling protocol and no leaks were found during our testing.
Although they offer no free trial, you can try ExpressVPN out risk-free with their 30-day money-back guarantee.
A great all-around VPN that is still relatively unknown is Windscribe. Like the other VPNs on this list, Windscribe supports torrenting and its large and fast server networks allow you to download files quickly, safely, and securely without any hassle.
If you are a fan of aesthetics and user interfaces, you will be a big fan of Windscribe—a lot of thought has gone into both their website and app, both of which are a breeze and joy to use.
When we tested out Windscribe, we did not detect any IP or DNS leaks and we were very impressed by how well their servers performed overall. Their strong firewall will also prevent anything from falling outside the network even if a leak did occur.
With a free trial on offer for new users, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider Windscribe. It is, however, a newer brand than the three mentioned above.
Reddit, the so-called “front page of the internet,” is a U.S.-based social aggregation site that features content covering almost everything from serious breaking news to entire boards (‘subreddits‘) dedicated to specific countries, cities, and even cute cat videos.
Known for their honest, unbiased, and transparent opinions on almost every topic, Reddit users are often a brilliant source of information. Simply Googling a query and attaching “reddit” at the end will almost certainly pull up a discussion thread on the website.
VPNs are no exception. Reddit has a dedicated subreddit for VPNs, where users post about their experiences with various VPN providers. Since Reddit is a site powered by end-user content, all the information you will find there is usually entirely impartial and not funded through an affiliates scheme.
Of course, you will see a VPN service’s representative posting every so often, but this is usually easy to spot.
If the Information is Already There, Why Should I Read This?
While Reddit is a truly magnificent site, there is one problem that users can face—information overload. There are pages upon pages upon pages of VPN-related content on the internet; our own top recommendations for the best VPNs for torrenting isn’t an exception. Because of this, researching a VPN through Reddit can be a time-consuming process.
Despite the fact that the best posts and comments are upvoted on the site so they’re easier to spot, duplicate threads surrounding the same topic often surface over time. This is particularly true when you search for the ‘best’ of anything.
This is why we’ve done all the hard work for you and scoured the various posts and subreddits to find out which VPNs real Reddit users recommend for peer-to-peer activities and torrenting.
What Makes a VPN the Best for Torrenting?
There are a few key factors that we can sum up briefly—
A strong server network with some servers optimized specifically for P2P. These servers are fast and don’t slow down your download speeds – you’re able to download the best quality with the speeds you should be getting;
No logging of information and, preferably, headquartered outside 14 Eyes – you’re able to torrent safely and undetected by anyone;
Confirmed approval of torrenting and P2P activities by the VPN provider – you’re not breaking the rules and are safe from the VPN providers closing your account.
Keeping these criteria in mind, let’s move on to the meat.
The 4 Best VPNs for Torrenting in 2019 According to Real Reddit Users
So, here we go—these are the 4 best VPNs for torrenting in 2019 according to Reddit, and we agree entirely with their thoughts and opinions.
One of our favorite VPNs, NordVPN, seems to be very popular on Reddit especially when it comes to torrenting, being the go to VPN for most.
Redditors say that they love NordVPN because they are able to participate in torrenting on every single server and, so far, nobody has received a letter or email from their ISPs telling them off for torrenting.
Of course, ExpressVPN had to come second if not first. There’s a reason why we love it, and it is a firm favorite among Redditors, too.
As we’ve said, the debate between ExpressVPN and NordVPN comes down to personal preferences since they’re both the best in the market and you can’t go wrong with either one.
But Redditors noted ExpressVPN’s vast server network (over 90 countries) as a plus that beats out NordVPN’s offerings. All these servers are super quick and support torrenting thanks to their P2P-optimized server network.
Where ExpressVPN failed to impress Reddit users is that they do not include a kill switch on their Android app. We can’t figure out why. Still, this probably isn’t going to be a deal breaker for many, because an Android phone or tablet isn’t the first device of choice for torrenting anyway.
This Redditor sums up the differences between NordVPN and ExpressVPN nicely:
While it loses out to NordVPN or ExpressVPN, it still has a lot to offer in terms of P2P activities and torrenting. Although PIA is based in the U.S., it operates an anti-logging policy that has been upheld in court not once, but twice.
PIA offers a decent server network that offers respectable speeds and they all support P2P activities. There’s also additional support for port forwarding, something that can be useful for people who want to improve torrent performance.
Some more tips from Reddit about improving torrent speeds: Card
It’s worth noting that PIA is best used on desktop devices—their mobile apps are quite low in terms of features and have been the subject of criticism in the past.
What we love about PIA—
Ultra-secure with the latest encryption and tunneling
Over 3,000 different servers across 30+ different countries
Desktop app blocks ads, malware, adware, and other nasty things
Although Windscribe does not have a kill switch, they operate a strong firewall that prevents leaks from falling outside their encrypted VPN tunnel. This means that users don’t need to worry about their information being compromised or forgetting to toggle a kill switch when connecting to a server.
What we love about Windscribe—
Actively supports torrenting and even provide guides for it using Windscribe
Operates an anti-logging policy
Uses AES 256-bit encryption alongside a strong tunneling protocol
Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer seamlessly and consistently
Uses AES 256-bit encryption alongside a strong tunneling protocol
Can connect to an unlimited number of devices simultaneously
One of the few VPNs that work very well in China and other censor-heavy countries
Just like many Redditors, we agree NordVPN is the best service for it. Of course, this is our own opinion—there’s a lot of personal preference at play here.
We like NordVPN because their servers are specifically optimized for torrenting and P2P activities. All the servers we’ve used so far have delivered consistently reliable, fast, and high-performing service that’s perfect for heavy-duty activities like streaming and downloading torrents.