The 10 Best VPNs for Data Security & Privacy

The options can seem infinite when selecting the best VPN for your needs. We tested dozens of providers for speed, privacy & reliability. Save time on research and check out our top picks!

Disclaimer: Softonic receives a commission for purchases made through the links on this comparison.



ExpressVPN lives up to its name, getting high marks on speed – even for servers located far from your physical location. It also excels in terms of privacy, maintaining a strict "no logs" policy whereby no details regarding your identity, location or IP are stored. It is also located in the British Virgin Islands which has very strict privacy protection laws.

Easy, Safe & Fast

ExpressVPN's main app is extremely user-friendly, enabling users to connect to the VPN service in a single click. ExpressVPN also offers split tunneling for users who want to access both foreign and local internet services at the same time, something not offered by all VPN services. You might want to do this if you are streaming content from your home country while traveling, and still using a local connection for everything else. In short, a split tunnel allows you to tell the VPN service which connections you want encrypted and which you want excluded. This can allow you to maintain speedy local connections for non privacy-related surfing while hiding more sensitive online activity.

Another top feature offered by this VPN service is its router-level protection, which is available thanks to an app that is easy to configure and lets you protect all your connected devices at home. By setting up your VPN service at the router level, it means that all communications and connections leaving your house will automatically route through the VPN service, so you don't have to worry about remembering to turn it on or off as you surf or switch devices. Plus, if your connection drops, ExpressVPN also offers a kill switch that terminates all internet traffic while your connection is unprotected.

With servers in 94 countries, chances are that ExpressVPN will have a location ideally suited for either speed or browsing country-specific content (geo-unblocking). ExpressVPN offers a whopping 160 servers in these locations.

The company also excels at allowing access to streaming services, and gets high marks for its ease of use and unblocking ability with Netflix, Hulu and other entertainment services.

On top of all that, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat support, making it perfect for first-time VPN users. A no risk 30-day money-back guarantee is also offered. All of that combines to make it our top VPN choice.

Ultra secure, with best-in-class encryption
Fast servers, reliable connectivity
Unblocks Netflix and more geo-restricted content
Unlimited bandwidth, supports P2P/Torrenting
30-day money-back guarantee, 24/7 Live Chat
Not the least expensive option
No free version offered
Best VPN For First-Time Users


It's hard to beat NordVPN's sheer number of protection protocols. The company is also located in Panama, whose laws protect your privacy even more.

Super Safe

Because NordVPN is physically based in Panama, it is not subject to the EU and US data-collection rules that prevail over some other providers. As a result, NordVPN only retains your username and session time – but only for 15 minutes after you disconnect from the server.

Although the company is headquartered in Panama, it offers its users about 5,200 servers located in over 62 countries, making it a top VPN in terms of server inventory.

One of the ways in which NordVPN truly stands out as one of the best VPN services is the fact that it has specialized servers, which facilitate the usual activities such as using BitTorrent over VPN, but it also takes things a step further by allowing you to connect to the TOR Network. For those who don't now, TOR is an anonymous browser that hides your activity and also allows you to access the dark web. While connecting to a VPN and a TOR browser might be overkill to most, those who are extremely worried about anonymity will welcome this feature.

Adding to its suite of protection protocols is what NordVPN calls "Double VPN," meaning your connection to the internet is routed through two different remote servers. So if somehow one of them failed or was breached, you'd still be safe behind the other one.

NordVPN also offers browser plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox to secure things at the browser level, as well as something it calls "CyberSec," a feature that blocks ads and warns you about malware-hosting sites.

In terms of device connectivity, NordVPN is on par with most other VPN services, allowing up to six devices to connect at once.

Some reports have said that NordVPN servers can be a bit sluggish, but that might just be the price you pay for such high levels of security. Indeed in our own speed tests, NordVPN's download speeds were near the bottom of our list, while the upload speeds were quite competitive.

However, in April 2020 the company introduced NordLynx, their version of the WireGuard protocol. WireGuard is the Next Big Thing in VPN services, providing lean and secure tunnels that dramatically increase surfing speeds. According to tests by the company and others, NordLynx should rocket the provider to the top of the list of VPN services in terms of speed.

Finally, NordVPN offers the opportunity to buy a static IP address. One of the issues with using a VPN is that your IP address will constantly change. This is what keeps your browsing anonymous, but it's also what can trip up some security protocols. If you connect to your company through the internet, for example, you can buy a static IP so that it can be whitelisted so that you can always gain access. What's more, a static IP makes you look "stable" to financial companies that might otherwise lock you out if they notice you are constantly signing in from IPs around the world.

Not subject to US and EU reporting requirements
Exceptional security protocols
Specialized servers for activities like BitTorrent
Six multiple connections
Kill switch for when VPN drops
NordLynx speed booster
Double VPN
Can purchase static IP addresses
Monthly plan is pricey
No split tunneling
Best Overall VPN for 2020

Hotspot Shield

If speed is important to you, HotSpot Shield should be your first choice as it gets raves for offering very little latency and, in fact, can even improve surfing speeds. A generous 45-day guarantee period makes it even more attractive, despite its higher-than-average price.

Could be Called "Hotspeed Shield"

When using a VPN, chances are good that your surfing speeds will slow because your activity is being encrypted and you are bouncing your connection through an offsite server. Thanks to its use of its own protocol called Catapult Hydra (you can't choose your own protocol with this service), HotSpot Shield doesn't suffer from this lag time. In fact, connections are often faster than non-VPN surfing when routing through one of their 3,200+ servers in over 80 countries thanks to a proprietary algorithm specifically designed to boost speeds. Catapult Hydra is based on the OpenVPN protocol, which is the leading VPN protocol at the moment.

The company also offers an impressive number of servers in cities around the world to which you can connect, and it provides servers in China, which is a location that not all VPN services have access to.

On top of that, the software is easy to install and one of the more straightforward to use. When you start the VPN service, you are connected to a server in your country, but then have the option to switch to any other country you'd like. After you make your choice, the service remembers and will connect there the next time you activate it.

Hotspot Shield Premium has also recently become available on any smart TV that has access to the Google Play Store, and Amazon’s Fire TV via your Fire TV Stick.

It too offers a kill switch, supports P2P and video streaming, and unlike many of its competitors, HotSpot Shield offers a 45-day money-back guarantee. It can also be installed at the router level, which is helpful as the Premium level contract only allows up to five devices to connect at one time. Upping that to the even more expensive Family package gets you 25 devices--but that's still capped at five devices for up to five users. It's on the higher end of the pricing scale though, especially if you choose a month-to-month contract. But if speed is important to you, you really can't do much better as it is our top VPN in this category.

There's also a free version that lets you get familiar with the product, but it only allows you to connect one device, limits the data it protects, and only provides one server, which is located in the US.

Super fast speeds
Kill switch
Military-grade encryption
Free option available
45-day trial period
Router-level installation possible
Servers in China
Can't choose your own protocol
Monthly package is relatively pricey
Hotspot Shield
Fastest VPN Provider

CyberGhost VPN

If you're a regular streamer, CyberGhost makes a lot of sense. It has servers in over 60 countries and is specially configured to work with major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer. It also comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

Super Streamer

CyberGhost is a top VPN provider when it comes to the number of devices you are able to connect to the service. It allows you to extend its protections to seven different gadgets, which means that one subscription will likely cover all of the devices in your home. Also, just like ExpressVPN, the service can work at the router level, protecting all online activity that flows out of your home.

CyberGhost is also one of the best VPN services because it not only has special servers for torrenting and P2P activities, but it has special streaming services that allow you to watch from your platform – such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer – no matter where you are tunneling in from.

In terms of security, CyberGhost offers double encryption, scrambling both the authentication connection and the VPN connection. The encryption itself is military grade, the company keeps no logs or tracking data, and is headquartered in Romania, a jurisdiction that has no legal requirement to maintain data on those using its service.

If that's not convincing enough, the company also offers No-Spy servers that are physically located inside the company's headquarters to take advantage of Romania's privacy protections.

While you can feel confident that all of your activity is encrypted using CyberGhost, the No-Spy server offers slightly more protection as your connection doesn't bounce around the world. It also offers dedicated bandwidth, faster uplink speeds and even its own dedicated hardware, and it lets you connect to the TOR network to access the dark web. What's more, the No-Spy servers can not be accessed by the "14 Eyes," an intelligence-sharing pact between the following countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, US, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden. Of course, you'll pay for this extra protection, on top of the regular subscriptions fees.

Beyond its No-Spy servers, CyberGhost also offers one of the highest number of servers seen in the market. It has over 6100 different servers in 90 countries, including some of the more rare ones like Vietnam, UAE, Turkey, Qatar, Pakistan, Russia and more. It's important to note that some of these servers are "virtual servers," which means that the physical server is not located in the country indicated, but the location is spoofed, so that it appears that you are surfing from that country. Most users won't notice any difference but if the location of physical servers is important to you, you'll want to look deeper into the offerings from CyberGhost or, indeed, any other VPN service.

6100+ servers in 90 countries
Top end in speed tests
Optimized servers for torrenting/P2P traffic
Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more
Each subscription can be used on 7 devices simultaneously
Strong NO logs policy & no IP, DNS, WebRTC leaks
At the higher end of the pricing scheme
Need to pay for access to No-Spy servers
CyberGhost VPN
Best VPN for Streaming

Private Internet Access

With a name that says exactly what it does, Private Internet Access is a solid and affordable VPN service for guarding your online privacy. While it lacks all the bells and whistles of other providers, it makes up for it with a customer service policy that has earned it a loyal following.

Simple, Fast, Streamlined

If you're like most computer users concerned about privacy, you want a simple and effective VPN service to safeguard your surfing. Private Internet Access delivers exactly that, along with a few other bonus features that helped land it on our list.

Aside from having a one-click connect function, the software also provides a "snooze" feature. This allows you to suspend the VPN service for a certain period of time after which it will turn back on. This is helpful if you are trying to stream content or engage in a financial transaction in which it would be beneficial to use your actual IP address from your home country.

Private Internet Access also allows you to engage in P2P sharing and BitTorrent streaming without restricting the particular sites allowable, as is the case with some other VPN service providers. However, at this time the service only unblocks Netflix from the US, Germany and Japan, so if you are looking to access the streaming service in other countries, you might want to use a different provider. Streaming from other services around the world is less problematic and good speeds mean smooth video rendering.

In terms of servers, Private Internet Access is a top VPN with a whopping 10,806 servers in 94 locations across 74 countries. It also allows split tunneling, which lets you encrypt all or only part of your online activity. And, like nearly all VPN services, a kill switch comes baked in that stops your surfing should the VPN go down. Plus, it stands out for the fact that 10 different devices can make use of the service at once – which is far more than the industry average of 5-6.

Of course, when you're using a VPN service, one of the main concerns is privacy, and Private Internet Access does well here too. It makes use of the cutting-edge WireGuard technology which encrypts all your data while still offering speedy connections. In our tests, the company scored as a top VPN in terms of both upload and download speeds.

And, even though the company maintains a strict "no logs" policy, meaning it doesn't store information on your browsing activity, it is important to note that Private Internet Access is physically located in the United States, a country that has the ability to subpoena any information the company does maintain. Yet despite several subpoenas over the years, the company has never had any information to provide to authorities, because it simply doesn't gather any.

Snooze feature
No logs policy
Uses cutting-edge WireGuard protocol
Fast connections
Impressive number of servers
Kill Switch
Support for BitTorrent and P2P sharing
Affordable annual plans
Allows simultaneous connection of up to 10 devices
Only unblocks Netflix in US, Germany & Japan
Based in US, which doesn't have privacy-friendly laws
Private Internet Access
Best Overall Value VPN


ZenMate offers great pricing, a simple interface perfect for beginners, and specialized servers for streaming and torrenting. Although it's affordable, it doesn't skimp on protection. You get the same bank-grade encryption used by all the best VPN services.

Take the Tunnel to the Stream

As one of the most affordable VPN providers on this list, you might expect there to be some kind of restriction on your service, such as how many devices you can connect at once. But astoundingly, ZenMate has zero caps on device usage. That's right, zero. So you can connect as many gadgets and gizmos as you want and they will all be protected by serious encryption and no logs will be kept on your surfing activity.

With a simple interface, ZenMate is one of the best VPN services for those new to the game. However, for those who want to dive deeper into the software, there are plenty of options. You can choose your own VPN protocol; choose to activate or disable a kill switch so that your connection to a site is terminated if the VPN fails; and you can select servers for P2P or streaming activities. ZenMate also offers an extension for the Opera and Firefox browsers (in addition to Chrome), nice bonuses not offered by all other top VPN services.

ZenMate has 3,500 servers in 74 different countries, which puts it on par with the other VPN services on this list and in speed tests, download rates were stellar, while upload rates suffered a bit of lag. In terms of encryption protocols, ZenMate uses OpenVPN, which is basically the gold standard of tunnel protection until WireGuard comes into more widespread use.

The wide geographic spread of ZenMate's servers make it a good option for streaming, as you'll have plenty of countries you can tunnel into. In particular, ZenMate provides for the unblocking of Netflix in the US, France, Denmark and the UK, plus it allows access to YouTube, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and lots of other services. The service also excels at unblocking live sporting events from around the world and it supports torrenting.

Unlike many of the other VPN services on this list, ZenMate also provides a free version of its software, something not offered by even the top VPN services. Although it will only allow you to connect to servers in four locations and has a cap on its speed, it still offers a chance to get familiar with the interface to see if you want to take the plunge and purchase the very affordable Premium package.

Strong NO logs policy
Works with Netflix, BBC iPlayer & many streaming services
Allows P2P sharing and torrenting
Unlimited device connectivity
Apps available for all platforms including Android TV, Amazon FireStick, Linux, and routers
Very affordable
Doesn't use WireGuard Protocol
Not the fastest upload speeds
No split tunneling
Best VPN For Multiple Devices


Owned by security giant Avast, HMA hits the sweet spot for VPN services between functionality and price, and it has the most server locations of any provider on this list. It also offers a rarity in the VPN space: a 7-day free trial.

It's Everywhere!

HMA (formerly known as the racier – and funnier – Hide My Ass) is the hands-down winner on this list in terms of the distribution of servers across the globe. It trounces even PureVPN (with 140 countries) with its 1100 servers located in over 190 countries – including servers in China, Russia, and over 50 countries in Africa. This broad distribution of servers means that you can always find one nearby no matter where you are in the world, which can greatly speed up your connection. It also means that you can access streaming services pretty anywhere you need to.

Beyond that, HMA offers all of the standard fare you'd expect in a top VPN service. They are a no-log provider, offer a kill switch and split tunneling, and use top-of-the-line OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols to hide you from even the most determined cyber spies. You can also install the software on all major platforms and across multiple devices, which are, unfortunately, capped at five. And you also get optimized P2P servers.

But they also have a few things that set them apart.

For starters, they offer DDoS and DNS leak protection baked in, not as an additional ad-on, which means you are shielded from attacks in which your computer is roped into attacking a server to make it crash and your IP address is fully shielded. It also offers automatic connection rules that let you tell the software under which circumstances you want it to start up and when you'd prefer that it lay low.

HMA's "Lightning Connect" lets you find the absolute fastest connection on the planet based on your location and time of request, or it can determine the fastest hookup based on a specific geographic request. Finally, the software employs "IP Shuffle" which automatically changes your IP address every 10 minutes, once a day, or anywhere in between based on preferences you choose yourself.

The interface is simple to use, the speeds are solid and you get to try it all for seven days completely free of charge (although you will have to give a credit card and remember to cancel before the week is up). After that, yearly plans bring the effective monthly rates down to among the best on this list. And with Avast behind it, those worried about privacy should have extra peace of mind knowing they're with one of the best VPN providers.

Best global distribution of servers
No logs + military-grade encryption
Lightning Connect picks fastest server
IP Shuffle continuously changes IP address
DDoS and DNS leak protections included
7-Day free trial
Optimized P2P servers
Very affordable based on yearly plans
Only offers connections for five devices
Based in UK, a 5-eyes member with weak privacy protections
Best VPN for server locations


PureVPN is near the top of this list in terms of geographic diversity, with over 2000 servers in over 140 countries. A wide range of customization options also makes it ideal for power users.

Purely Different

Start up PureVPN and it immediately looks a bit different than other VPN services, as you are presented with five selections to begin your anonymized browsing experience: Stream, Internet Freedom, Security/Privacy, File Sharing and Dedicated IP. Choosing your preferred path allows PureVPN to optimize its settings for your activity. Choose "Stream," for example, and the service will prioritize speed over safety, while "Security/Privacy" will do the opposite. While it's not quite clear what you're gaining and giving up with each choice, if you're looking for an easy way to navigate a top VPN, PureVPN offers it up.

Options-wise, the service also lets you choose your VPN protocol based on speed and security (including OpenVPN, but not WireGuard just yet), or PureVPN can choose the best option for you. Alternatively, you can also use a map to choose your preferred country. PureVPN offers over 2000 servers in more than 140 countries – trouncing even ExpressVPN in terms of geographic diversity. Although it's worthwhile to note that representation in both China and Russia is missing.

Speaking of geography, PureVPN is headquartered in Hong Kong, so there are no concerns with intrusion from the 5-, 9-, or 14-eyes jurisdictions.

You can also get under the hood to make all the adjustments and changes you can think of, to make sure the VPN service works exactly the way you want it – a nice feature for more advanced users. One of the more unexpected options is that you can not only set the service to connect automatically upon startup, but you can have it launch your favorite browser as well.

And speaking of browsers, PureVPN only offers plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox, although it does have apps that are compatible with all major operations systems and the ability to set it up at the router level and on TV streamers including Rokus, Android TV, Chromecast and Amazon FireStick as well as PlayStation and Xbox. All of that device compatibility is complemented by PureVPN's generous 10 device connection policy.

Included in your monthly subscription is the usual bag of goodies offered by the best VPN services, including split tunneling, a kill switch, optimized streaming servers, dedicated P2P servers, and DNS leak protection. On top of this, you have the option to add on a dedicated IP address, port forwarding, and DDos Protection (which guards your computer from being co-opted into a denial of service attack) for nominal monthly charges.

And about those charges. PureVPN is a bit on the pricey side as it only offers a maximum of a one-year plan. While this brings the effective monthly price down a bit, it still comes in on the high side. By offering longer commitment periods, other VPN services on this list do better at getting the effective monthly rate significantly lower. Still, if you want every feature imaginable in a top VPN provider, you can't do much better than PureVPN.

Loaded with useful features
Unique usage profiles to choose from
Best geographic server locations
Can be installed on a myriad of devices
Works on all major platforms
Dedicated streaming servers
Dedicated P2P servers
Unblocks Netflix and other entertainment providers
Not the least expensive option
Doesn't allow TOR access
Best VPN For Customizing Options

Fastest VPN

Most users want their VPN provider to work quickly, easily and as unobtrusively as possible. FastestVPN delivers on all fronts.

Easy Does It

This VPN service is super simple to set up. After you create your login credentials and download the app, you simply click on the country of your choice then hit the "click to connect" button and you're good to go within seconds. Alternatively, you can click on the "Smart Connect" button and the service will tunnel you into the best location for speedy surfing.

What's more, Fastest VPN has just completed a complete revamp of their apps from the ground up – making the interfaces clean and responsive, and baking in a host of new features seen in the best VPNs.

Fastest VPN offers servers in over 31 countries, router-level protection, and device compatibility across Mac, iOS, Windows, Android, Android Box, Smart TV, Firestick, making it a one-stop solution, although its server locations are on the low side.

Plus as its name implies, Fastest VPN offers speeds that compete with the very best VPNs, letting you surf with virtually no lag, no matter where you connect.

Fastest VPN also allows full access to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu along with the option to connect 10 different devices at one time, a benefit that's often unseen even in offerings from top VPN companies. This basically means you can surf, stream, torrent, and use your apps wherever you are, whenever you want with no noticeable disruptions or data caps.

When you're accessing the internet from someone else's server, you want to make sure that it encrypts all your data both when connecting to it, and when accessing the web. FastestVPN gets the job done with 256-Bit AES encryption, just about the highest level of encryption offered anywhere, so your data stays secure at all times.

Plus, Fastest VPN doesn't keep a log of your activity, so even if they were asked to provide user data to an investigative entity like a government, there's no way for them to link you to your browsing activity.

You get malware blocking, ad blocking, firewall protection, servers that are optimized for P2P sharing and streaming, and unlimited bandwidth and server switching. Plus, the software comes with a built-in kill switch so that your internet activity is halted if the VPN server goes down – something that's pretty unlikely because the company reports an uptime of 99.9 percent. That all comes at one of the most affordable prices in the industry based on a three-year contract.

On the downside, our tests have indicated that the VPN connection is often dropped. Thanks to the kill switch, our internet connection is terminated every time that happens, but that means we constantly get messages that our connection has been terminated. It comes back up quickly, but it is still an annoyance.

Malware and ad blocking
Streaming-optimized servers
Military-grade encryption
24/7 Live support
Works on most devices
10 Simultaneous connections
Most affordable monthly price with three-year contract
VPN connection breaks frequently
Not a lot of customization possible
Fastest VPN
Most affordable VPN


As an online security software maker, you can rest assured that Panda will keep your digital activities away from prying eyes with its Hydra military-grade encryption. It also offers a rarity: a one-year contract with extremely reasonable rates.

This Panda Knows Security

The Spanish firm Panda started out as a security software provider, so the move into VPN services was a logical next step. The Panda VPN service is relatively straightforward with very few under-the-hood options that can be adjusted by users, making it well suited for everyday users with simple VPN needs.

Although it's simple, Panda still allows P2P and BitTorrent activities and unblocks some Netflix servers, which extends the functionality of the service. Panda VPN also uses the same Catapult Hydra encryption technology as HotSpot Shield, which not only sounds cool, but offers you military-grade encryption and fast connection times. The VPN service can also circumvent the Great Firewall of China, which means that if you are traveling to that country, you'll be able to tunnel out and use the internet as usual.

A 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 support rounds out the offerings from this very user-friendly provider. The company also offers a free version of its software to try it out, although in our tests, we were not able to download the iOS version due to – of all things – a security warning from the Chrome browser.

While it's clear that Panda knows internet security, due to the fact that the VPN service is clearly an outgrowth of their antivirus offerings, it does at times feel that the company launched this arm of their company as an afterthought rather than a VPN service built from the ground up.

For example, there are only servers in 23 countries, which pales in comparison to companies such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Also, the software doesn't offer a kill switch, which has become pretty much a standard offering for VPN providers. Panda also doesn't provide its own DNS servers, which may not matter to all but the most security focused shoppers, but this means that your ISP may be able to know your true location when you are tunneled in. It also only offers connections for up to five devices and has a bare-bones website where it is hard to get at information; for example, we could not find out even the basic information of how many servers the company offers in its 23 countries.

Hydra: military-grade encryption
P2P/Torrenting friendly
Fast connection speeds
Zero-logs policy
Servers in only 23 countries
No kill switch
No DNS servers
Connections capped at five devices
Best VPN for use in China

Our Thoughts

So now that you know what our picks are for the top VPN services, how do you go about picking one that's right for you? It depends.

Now that VPN services are becoming so popular and the field so competitive, it's hard to find factors that distinguish one provider from another. So the best approach is to figure out what matters most to you.

If you travel a lot to different destinations, server location might be the most important criterion for you. If so, then PureVPN or Private Internet Access would be a good bet. Do you prize security above all else? While every provider on this list will hide your identity and anonymize your browsing, CyberGhost offers built-in double encryption and lets you access the TOR network while NordVPN offers the most complete security package on the list and it too allows TOR access.

Are you a speed demon? You might be if you will be using your devices to stream video content. HotSpot Shield would be a good choice for you, as would ExpressVPN (our top VPN) which not only got our top mark for overall offerings, but also scored the best in our speed tests. Are you concerned about taking advantage of the most cutting-edge VPN technology? If so, you'll want to use a VPN provider that is taking advantage of the new WireGuard technology like NordVPN or Private Internet Access.

Then again, because all of these best VPN service providers are recommendable, you might choose to make your decision based on price.

It's always a bit tricky to sort out VPN pricing because each company offers different options based on the length of time you choose to sign up for. That being said, at the time of publication, Private Internet Access, ZenMate, Panda, CyberGhost and HMA all had good monthly pricing based on some kind of annual plan, and the cheapest option of all was Fastest VPN. Plus, all VPN services on this list – with the possible exception of Panda (we couldn't find their guarantee) – offer some kind of multi-day money-back guarantee, with CyberGhost and Hotspot Shield leading the pack with its 45-day trial period. This means you can feel safe trying them out and canceling before the term is over to find exactly the one you like best.

Overview of Best VPNs

System ExpressVPN NordVPN Hotspot Shield CyberGhost Private Internet Access ZenMate HMA VPN PureVPN Fastest VPN Panda VPN
Label Best VPN For First-Time Users Best Overall VPN for 2020 Fastest VPN Provider Best VPN For Streaming Best Overall Value VPN Best VPN For Multiple Devices Best VPN For Server Locations Best VPN For Customizing Options Most Affordable VPN Best VPN For Use In China
Ranking 10/10 10/10 9/10 9/10 8/10 8/10 8/10 8/10 7/10 6/10
# of Servers 160 servers in 94 countries 5,361 servers in 59 countries 3,200+ servers in 80+ countries 1,250 servers in 90 countries 2,000+ servers in 46 countries 3,500 servers in 74 countries 1,100+ servers in 190+ countries 2,000+ servers in 140+ countries 250 servers in 37 countries 1,000 servers in 20+ countries
Platform Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Router, Chrome, Firefox, Gaming Consoles Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, Firefox Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, Chrome, Android TV, Linux, Router Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV, Router Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, iOS, Android Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chrome, FireFox, Edge Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Router, Apple TV, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Router, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Kodi, Roku, Xbox, PlayStation Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire Stick, Chrome, Firefox, Xbox, Linux, Router, Kodi, Hulu Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Android TV
Privacy - VPN split tunneling
- Private DNS
- Network lock kill switch
- Strict no-logs policy
- AES 256-bit encryption
- IP address masking
- Strict no-logs policy
- Automatic kill switch
- IP address masking
- Private IP address
- No data leaks
- Automatic kill switch
- Identity theft protection
- Malware and phishing protection
- Strict no-logs policy
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Hides IP address
- Encrypted WiFi
- Strict no-logs policy
- Private IP address
- Advanced firewall for blocking unwanted connections
- Anonymous browsing
- Anonymous VPN
- Strict no-logs policy
- Automatic kill switch
- Private IP address
- Strict no-logs policy
- Automatic kill switch
- Split-Tunneling
- IP Shuffle
- Data leak protection
- 256-bit encryption
- Data encryption
- Data security
- Anonymous browsing
- NAT Firewall
- Strict no-logs policy
- 256-bit encryption
- Free Adblocker
- Automatic kill switch
- Data encryption
Cost/Contract Length - Monthly - $12.95
- 6-Month Plan - $59.95
- Annual - $194.20
- 30-day Free Trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Monthly - $11.95
- 6-Month Plan - $9.00
- 2-Year Plan - $286.80
- 30-day Free Trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Monthly - $12.99
- Annual - $95.88
- 7-day Free Trial | Offers free basic plan
- 45-day money back guarantee
- Monthly - $12.99
- 6-Month Plan - $47.94
- Annual - $49.50
- 1-day Free Trial
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Monthly - $11.95
- Annual - $39.95
- 2-Year Plan - $69.95
- 30-day Free Trial
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Monthly - $10.99
- 6-Months - $32.34
- Annual + 6 months deal - $39.96
- 7-day Free Trial | Offers free basic plan
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Annual - $59.88
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  • What is a VPN?

    A VPN or virtual private network is a server found somewhere other than your physical location. Before getting online, if you are using a VPN service, you will "tunnel" to that server and do all of your surfing from there. Because the server is located at a remote location, your IP address is replaced with one from the VPN service provider and, thanks to a range of encryption technologies, your browsing activity is hidden.

  • What are the different types of VPNs?

    There are three basic types of VPN services: remote access, mobile, and site-to-site.

    Remote access VPN services are the most popular for consumers and the ones you are most likely to encounter. These services provide a secure connection from your computer, to a remote server, and on to the internet. This pathway is known as a tunnel and the best VPN services provide complete security and encryption throughout the entire tunneling process. All of the VPN service providers we feature in our list of the 10 best VPNs are considered remote access.

    Mobile VPN services are really the same as remote access VPNs. You still connect to a remote server and all of your browsing activity and personal data is encrypted and protected. The difference here is that the VPN is specifically designed to work on mobile devices which means it can handle network switching without breaking the connection. Virtually all VPN service providers offer mobile VPNs for phones and tablets. If you find one that doesn't, or that doesn't work on your device, keep looking because there are dozens that will.

    Site-to-site VPN services are primarily used for business. There are extranet site-to-site networks that allow a set of businesses to securely tunnel into each other's systems and intranet site-to-site systems that allow remote employees to tunnel into their company's intranet and conduct their electronic business as if they were onsite.

  • How Do VPNs Work?

    VPNs work by creating a tunnel between the device you are on and your connection to the internet. In terms of the specifics of how they do this, you might want to think of a simple internet search coming from your home computer as a person looking for information out there in the ether.

    If you are using a VPN service, that "person" gets wrapped in a disguise and sent to a server that is maintained by your provider. The disguise is known as encrypted encapsulation.

    Once the "person" reaches the server, the VPN provider – and only the VPN provider – can recognize the person beneath the disguise and get it to where it needs to go on the internet. But before it leaves, it is once again wrapped up in an encrypted packet. The process works in reverse as the information you requested is sent back to you. And it's all done in a matter of seconds.

    There are a variety of protocols that different VPN services use to encrypt data but the most secure and popular at the moment are OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec. If your VPN service uses these, then you know your activity is being encrypted by the same technology used by militaries around the world. WireGuard is an upcoming VPN technology that is poised to become the new gold standard thanks to its improved speed, but at the moment, there are only a handful of companies using it.

  • Who Needs a VPN?

    Obviously, anyone concerned about protecting their identity and surfing activities needs a VPN. But the benefits of a VPN go even further. Because your IP address is anonymized everytime you connect to the internet, your activity can't be linked to you which means those annoying ads that seem to follow you everywhere based on your search history will no longer be able to do so. It's also much harder for you to become infected with malware when you are inside a secure VPN tunnel.

    Also, if you need to access content or networks in other countries a VPN can be your best friend. That works both if you are traveling and want to access content in your home country like Netflix or your online banking, as well as if you want to watch a program on a service in a different country. VPNs make it appear that you are actually surfing from whichever location you choose, so it's a surefire way to get access to a much greater portion of the world wide web.

  • Do I Need a VPN for my Phone?

    Of course, you don't strictly need a VPN for any device, but if you are at all concerned about privacy, then a VPN is a must for your mobile devices. In fact, based on your surfing habits, it might even be more important to install VPN protection on your phone if that's how you primarily shop, look up information or interact with the internet in a myriad of other ways. You might not always realize how often your phone connects to the internet because it's not always clear when apps are doing so, but your VPN service will have you covered.

  • Is It Safe to Use a VPN?

    Yes. Above all VPNs have safety and security as their main mission, so it is exceedingly safe to use them. If you are concerned about safety, then be sure to always look at a VPN's privacy policy to ensure that they do not monitor your data or activity in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable. As a further assurance, you can check to see if the VPN service conducts regular audits, which is a sign that they are super-reliable and trustworthy.

  • Are VPNs Legal?

    They certainly are! Of course, they are just the route onto the internet. What you do there still requires your judgement in terms of local and international laws.

  • Which Is Better: A Free or Paid VPN Service?

    The short answer is that a paid service is better. No matter which free service you use, you will encounter restrictions such as data caps or limited access to servers. While free VPN services offer you a chance to try out the offerings from different companies, to truly take advantage of all that the technology can offer, you will need to go with a paid service.

  • What Are the Limitations of a VPN?

    As VPN technology improves and providers proliferate, the downsides of a VPN are dwindling. That being said, one of the things you'll want to be aware of is that your surfing speeds may slow down a bit. Remember, when you use a VPN, your internet requests are encoded, sent through a server somewhere on the globe, forwarded to the internet and then the process is reversed. That takes time. It usually only takes seconds, but depending on where you're connected, the time of day and other factors, it can slow things down.

    You also need to know that some services can get a bit wonky when using a VPN. Let's say you are tunneled into a server in France, for example. If you head your favorite shopping site, you may suddenly find that all of the prices are in euros. Also, if you try to access online banking, certain streaming services or other types of sites, you may be blocked depending on the country you're tunneled into and the policies of the provider. In such cases, you would need to drop your VPN service temporarily, or connect to one in the right country.

  • Can You Use a VPN for Streaming?

    Yes, but it of course requires the proper subscriptions. Let's say you're a Netflix subscriber living in the US and are on vacation in Japan. If you try to watch your shows using a Japanese server, you will likely be blocked by Netflix. Tunnel into the US, however, and all should be well. That being said, Netflix and other streamers have gotten wise to VPNs, which are sometimes used by people in other countries accessing content that isn't available where they live. So even if you are tunneled into the country in which you have a subscription, you might still be blocked. That's why, if you have a specific streaming need, it's always best to see if your VPN provider guarantees your access to the service, which many do.

  • How Do I Decide What Is the Best VPN for me?

    First, figure out what's most important to you. The top concerns to consider are: safety protocols, speed, price, streaming access, and number of servers. If you're on a budget, there are plenty of great VPN services you can still afford. If money isn't as much a concern, then you'll be able to access the companies offering maximum security, speed, and server locations. If you have a specific streaming need, you might be able to find a VPN provider that is both budget-friendly and need specific.

  • How Do I Set Up a VPN?

    Your first step is to sign up with a VPN provider. It will then walk you through the instructions on how to download its software to your devices step-by-step. Thanks to more user-friendly VPN services than ever before, once the software is installed, usually all it takes is a simple click or tap to activate it. More advanced settings are always available and your provider will explain what they are and how to access them.