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How to Get a VPN and Why You (REALLY) Need One in 2022

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an app that enhances your online security and privacy. By redirecting your internet traffic through a private server, it establishes an encrypted tunnel that hides your identity, data, and browsing activity. It can also unblock geo-restricted sites like Netflix and overcome internet blocks and tough firewalls, providing more online freedom.

Downloading and setting a VPN up is straightforward, making it easy to get into. No technical knowledge is required, meaning anyone can start using one in no time. Simply download the app, find a server, and connect to it to enhance your online safety.

If you're ready to get started, I recommend giving ExpressVPN a try. Out of the 150 VPNs my team and I regularly test, it's one of the most user-friendly and all-rounded, making it well-suited for any purpose. And since it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can test all of ExpressVPN’s features risk-free. You can claim a refund if you don’t end up liking it.

Get Started With ExpressVPN

Quick Guide: How to Get a VPN in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Choose a VPN provider. I recommend ExpressVPN because it's easy to use, secures your data, and produces fast and reliable speeds.
  2. Download and install the VPN. Go to your VPN provider’s website, download the app for your device, and install it.
  3. Connect to a server. Open your VPN app and log in. Then, find a server and click on it to connect.

Why Do I Need a VPN?

The internet is full of unwanted dangers that threaten your online privacy and security. Most notably, malicious parties can collect your data, track your online activity, and intercept your connection. Some networks also have restrictions blocking certain websites, significantly reducing your online freedom.

A VPN is a worthy investment if you take your online privacy and security seriously. It keeps you safe from privacy breaches and provides access to blocked websites. It also encrypts your connection so Google, Facebook, or your ISP can’t track your online movements. With that in mind, here are some reasons why you should get a VPN.

VPNs Encrypt All of Your Data

A VPN encrypts your connection when you connect to its private servers. It scrambles your data, making your online behaviors and activities unreadable to outsiders. Since most VPNs use military-grade encryption, it’s basically impossible for anyone to see what you’re doing online.

Therefore, no one can see your browsing activity or intercept your connection — including your ISP — because it looks like a random string of numbers. It also means your ISP can’t throttle your speeds if you’re engaged in high bandwidth activities like gaming. But it’s even more crucial on public WiFi networks because hackers can easily penetrate your traffic to acquire passwords, credit card numbers, and more.

Most VPNs use AES-256 bit encryption, the strongest encryption level available. 256 is the longest encryption key, and the longer the key the more time it takes to decrypt. It’s used by leading security agencies and governments to protect highly sensitive data.

VPNs Hide Your Actual Location

Your actual IP address is visible without a VPN, which means unwanted parties can use it to determine your actual location. (Your IP address is kind of like your phone number, but for your internet connection.) This is dangerous when combined with other personal data because it becomes easy to identify you, making you vulnerable to online attacks. Intrusive parties like advertisers can also use this information to target you with ads, while your ISP could store it and hand it over without your knowledge.

A VPN hides your actual IP address by replacing it with another one, protecting your online privacy. Therefore, you can use a VPN to conceal your real location and online identity, regardless of your location. But keep in mind that illegal activities are still prohibited with a VPN, so always be careful.

Hide Your IP Address Now

VPNs Have Other Benefits

Some VPNs can block ads and prevent malicious sites from infecting your device with malware and trackers. These features can usually be turned on in your VPN settings. They let you enjoy websites like YouTube without annoying ads and further protect you against hackers and tracking, which is very handy when torrenting.

Another benefit is being able to bypass regional geoblocks on geo-restricted sites like Netflix. The content that’s available to you on these platforms depends on the location of your IP address, so changing it can give you access to different content. This is especially handy if you’re traveling abroad and want to watch shows from back home.

VPNs can give you access to international gaming servers and unblock regionally restricted games. This enhances your gaming experience by letting you compete against different opponents. Additionally, you can get different game packs and bonuses that might not be available in your region.

A VPN will also help to get around online restrictions and network firewalls to restore your online freedoms. This even includes firewalls like the Great Firewall of China. It overcomes these problems with obfuscation features and protocols, which mask your VPN traffic and tunnel through firewalls as a result.

How Does a VPN Keep Me Secure?

A VPN’s main security functions are to encrypt your connection and hide your actual IP address (and in turn, your actual location). While these measures secure your connection and personal data, there are other privacy and security features a VPN should have to ensure these basic functions actually will keep you safe.

Strict No-Logs Policy

Getting a VPN that’s serious about your privacy is crucial because it has full access to your online activity. The most important privacy feature is a strict no-logs policy, which guarantees your VPN won’t track or collect your data. It means there won’t be anything to hand over if government authorities request it as part of an investigation or if its servers are compromised.

Many VPNs claim to be a no-logs VPN, but only some of them actually are. The most trustworthy VPNs undergo regular audits, where security companies analyze the VPN's privacy policy against its practices. This ensures the VPN provider really does abide by its promises to keep your data private.

Another factor to consider is where the VPN is located, as it’s always subjected to the data retention laws of its home country. It’s best to choose a VPN in a place with friendly privacy laws and not located in the 14-Eyes Alliance. This means even if a government requested that a VPN hand over your data, the VPN wouldn’t have to comply.

Leak Protection

It’s always possible that a VPN could accidentally leak your DNS requests and IP address since vulnerabilities can occur with any software. IP/DNS leaks defeat the purpose of using a VPN since this is the information it’s supposed to mask. The safest VPNs have an in-built leak protection system to prevent any DNS/IP leaks from happening.

To test your DNS/IP leak protection, head over to a website like ipleak.net after connecting to a server. Then, wait for a few seconds until it reveals the IP address your device is connected to. As long as it only shows you the IP of the VPN, it means you’re fully protected.

Kill Switch

VPNs form an encrypted tunnel to secure your data between your device and the server. Since your security completely relies on this connection, your privacy could be threatened if it drops unexpectedly or you change servers. A kill switch automatically blocks your internet access if your VPN has connection issues, making it your last line of defense.

It then waits until your device has established a connection again before reconnecting the VPN, so you’re essentially protected at all times. It’s especially important while torrenting, or when on unsecured public WiFi.

Just a little tip: not every VPN comes with the kill switch already enabled, so it’s best to check the settings menu to make sure it’s turned on. The kill switch in particular, it stops your internet traffic when you’re changing networks, so it’s also useful when connecting to public WiFi networks.

Advanced Security Protocols

Protocols determine how a VPN transmits data between your device and the VPN server. They’re a set of rules that determine security and stability. A decent VPN will let you choose from different protocols, which provide different balances of speed and security. Some are more advanced and better than others, so selecting the right one is essential.

Here are some of the most common protocols of a VPN (ordered from safest to not as safe):

  • OpenVPN — An opened-source protocol that’s well-known for its reliability and security. Being open-source means that its coding is public and anyone can recommend modifications to make it more secure. It’s very popular and encrypts usage on both ends, meaning only the sender and receiver have the encryption key. It’s also regularly upgraded and improved upon, which enhances security.
  • WireGuard — Another open-source protocol that’s faster than OpenVPN and just as secure. It’s highly recommended for streaming, gaming, and video calls. But it might have some undiscovered vulnerabilities because it’s still relatively new.
  • IKEv2 — A reliable protocol that has similar speeds to OpenVPN. It can protect you while you change from a mobile network to WiFi because it’s very stable. However, it’s less secure than OpenVPN and WireGuard, so it’s best used as a backup option.
  • SSTP — An older protocol for Windows that’s similar to OpenVPN because only the receiver and sender can decrypt the connection. It’s good for bypassing firewalls, but its speeds aren’t great.
  • L2TP/IPSec — An outdated protocol that’s mainly used on smartphones. It doesn’t provide encryption, and its speeds are slow, so you should avoid it.

WiFi Protection

Some VPNs offer extra WiFi protection, to ensure your safety on public networks. If you’re planning on using the internet outside of your home, then this feature is a must-have. This means that even when you’re connected to a public WiFi network — for example, at a café — your data will be safe.

VPNs are designed to protect you on public networks the same way they protect you at home, but some have additional features that go above and beyond. For example, some will automatically connect when they detect a public WiFi connection, or send you notifications about unsecured networks.

Stay Protected With ExpressVPN

Tips on Choosing the Best VPN for You

You should choose a VPN that suits your online needs. VPNs have many uses, so depending on the situation, you might want different features. However, no matter what your specific needs are, you should always look for a VPN that offers reliable customer support (especially 24/7 live chat). In addition to that, make sure the VPN is compatible with all the devices you want to use it on and offers enough simultaneous connections to use it on all your devices at once.

Below are some common uses for VPNs and the features most useful for each one. You can use the listed criteria to narrow down your options and select the best VPN for you.

What to Look For in a VPN for Streaming

Since shows and movies are protected under different licensing agreements in different countries, what you can watch varies depending on your location. A VPN for streaming lets you bypass geoblocks to access streaming platforms unavailable in your region (or opens new region-specific libraries of content).

If streaming is your priority, then look for a VPN with the following features:

  • Fast speeds — It’s normal for a VPN to reduce your speeds due to your increased encryption. But a streaming VPN should be able to produce speeds well above 25 Mbps, which is the minimum required for smooth Ultra HD streaming. Speeds of at least 5 Mbps are fast enough for HD.
  • A vast network of global servers — You’ll need to use a VPN with servers in the location where the content you want to watch is available. If you need to access your Netflix US or Hulu accounts, then you need a VPN with servers in the US. If you want to access your BBC iPlayer account, then you need servers in the UK. The more servers, the better, since that leads to less congestion and better streaming speeds, too.
  • Streaming device compatibility — In addition to working with laptops, tablets, and smartphones, you should go for a VPN that is compatible with media players like Apple TV, smart TVs, and Amazon FireStick. Smart DNS is a feature that makes unblocking streaming platforms on gaming consoles and smart TVs easy (since these devices don't work with VPN apps).
  • Streaming optimized servers — Some VPNs make it extra easy to find servers for streaming by specifically marking and maintaining servers to access specific streaming platforms. This is especially helpful if you’re new to VPNs or don’t want to spend time searching for servers based on location.

Start Streaming With ExpressVPN

What to Look For in a VPN for Privacy and Security

A VPN with top-notch security and privacy features is crucial if you’re serious about protecting your online identity. Without adequate protection, your personal data is visible to anyone who might want access to it, including hackers and cybercriminals.

These features are also vital if you want to protect your anonymity, as unwanted third parties like your ISP can easily see what you do online and collect that data.

If privacy and security are your priority, then get a VPN with the following features:

  • Military-grade encryption — This includes either AES-128 or 256-bit encryption, which are the strongest encryption standards. Both are essentially impossible to break and are used by top security agencies, but 256-bit is the strongest.
  • No-logs policy — It ensures your browsing activity won’t be recorded by your VPN, further protecting your online movements. Some VPNs claim to be “no-logs”, but have been proven not to be in the past. So it’s also important to choose VPNs with no-logs policies that have been audited and verified to be trustworthy.
  • Advanced protocols — These let you customize your connection, so you can increase or decrease security accordingly. Some of the safest protocols include OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2.
  • Kill switch —This feature prevents the accidental exposure of your data if your VPN suddenly disconnects. In other words, it’s your final line of defense if your VPN malfunctions. It also protects your connection when you switch servers.
  • Obfuscation technology — This hides the fact you’re using a VPN by rerouting your traffic through an obfuscated server. It’s helpful for overcoming firewalls that block VPN connections.
  • DNS/IP leak protection — Your DNS requests and IP address can be accidentally revealed at any time, which is the result of a malfunction in the VPN software. But a solid VPN prevents any DNS/IP leaks with its built-in leak protections.
Graphic showing ExpressVPN leak test

A secure VPN won’t accidentally expose your personal information

Stay Protected With ExpressVPN

What to Look For in a VPN for Torrenting

Torrenting is risky since you’re sharing files with plenty of strangers, who can easily identify your IP address through the P2P software you use. Therefore, you need a torrenting VPN to hide your actual IP address, so no one can trace your IP address back to you.

Keep in mind that using a VPN to hide your torrenting activity doesn’t make downloading copyrighted content legal — you shouldn’t break any laws. However, in some cases your ISP could flag you even if you’re downloading legal files. In that case, using a VPN will prevent that from happening.

Graphic showing CyberGhost with uTorrent

A VPN that enables torrenting will keep you safe from malicious attacks

If torrenting is your priority, then get a VPN with the following features:

  • Torrenting and P2P support — Get a VPN with dedicated P2P servers or one that enables P2P sharing on all of its servers. Either way, you should be able to torrent without any restrictions on P2P clients like uTorrent and websites like Popcorn Time.
  • Robust security features — These include military-grade encryption, advanced protocols, and a kill switch, which all protect your data while torrenting.
  • Reliable speeds — Fast upload and download speeds are essential for torrenting, so make sure your VPN provides unlimited bandwidth and has plenty of servers near your actual location for faster download speeds.
  • No-logs policy — This ensures that your VPN provider takes your privacy seriously and won’t record your torrenting activity, either.
  • Split tunneling — This is an extra feature some VPNs offer that allows you to choose which apps use the encrypted VPN connection. By connecting the VPN only to your torrent software, it can boost speeds since it won’t be encrypting every app on your device.
  • Torrenting-specific extras — Some VPNs come with extra features that allow you to boost your torrenting speeds, such as port forwarding or SOCKS5 proxy access. Port forwarding allows you to connect to a larger number of seeders for better speeds, while SOCKS5 hides your IP, but uses less encryption. Neither of these are as safe as using the regular VPN connection, though.

Torrent Safely Today

3 Best VPNs for Beginners in 2022

1. ExpressVPN — The Overall Best VPN for Speed, Safety, and Streaming

  • Lightning-fast speeds that provide lag-free streaming
  • AES-256 bit encryption and no-logs policy keep you private
  • 5 simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Apple TV, and more
ExpressVPN Offer May 2022: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

ExpressVPN is one of the most all-rounded VPNs available — it’s the fastest VPN I’ve tested, super easy to use, has top security features, and it unblocks tons of streaming sites. I connected to 3 US and UK servers for my speed tests and recorded an average download speed of 49.8 Mbps, and 48.4 Mbps, respectively. Since you only need 25 Mbps to stream in Ultra HD, you can enjoy watching shows without any lag and download large files in minutes.

For security and privacy, ExpressVPN has military-grade encryption, a kill switch, DNS/IP leak protection, and a verified no-logs policy. The military-grade encryption makes it impossible to intercept your connection, while the kill switch and leak protection ensure your data won’t be exposed accidentally. And by strictly adhering to an audited and verified no-logs policy, no one can see what you do online. To add to that, its location in the British Virgin Islands means it doesn’t abide by any data retention laws.

Bypassing geoblocks is easy, too. ExpressVPN’s server network consists of 3,000 servers in 94 countries. Having many servers means there are plenty of options to access geo-restricted sites from anywhere. When I tested its US and UK servers, I unblocked US Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer without any issues. All I had to do was connect to a server and go to the site.

The only downside of ExpressVPN is that its plans are a bit pricey compared to other VPNs, as prices start from $6.67/month. However, it has regular deals that provide generous savings. I even got my first 2 months for free when I signed up.

If you aren’t sure, then you can try all of ExpressVPN’s features risk-free, as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested this policy by asking over 24/7 live chat to cancel my subscription. After telling them that it wasn’t for me, they proceeded with my request without question, and I was fully refunded after 4 business days.

Try ExpressVPN Now

2. CyberGhost — Easy-to-Use and Great for Streaming

  • Superfast speeds
  • 7,909servers in 91 countries, including streaming-optimized servers
  • 7 simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Apple TV, and more
May 2022 Deal: CyberGhost is currently offering 82% off its most popular plan! Take advantage of this offer now and save more on your CyberGhost subscription.

CyberGhost’s streaming-optimized servers make it one of the easiest VPNs to use for streaming. It has specialized servers for sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, which are designed to provide easy access from anywhere. They can be found under the “For Streaming” tab on the CyberGhost app. When I tested its servers for Netflix France and BBC iPlayer, I unblocked both sites in under 10 seconds each time.

Its speeds are also more than fast enough for torrenting large files and streaming in high quality. During my speed tests, I tested 3 US servers and a couple of German servers, and my speeds never went below 45.7 Mbps the entire time (almost double what you need for Ultra HD). I’m more than 10,000 km away from both countries, so I was impressed because longer distances usually result in slower speeds.

From a privacy perspective, CyberGhost hides your personal information with its AES-256 bit encryption and further protects it with its no-logs policy. The military-grade encryption scrambles your data to make it unreadable, while the no-logs policy stops your online behavior from being recorded. Also, CyberGhost’s headquarters are located in Romania, a privacy-friendly nation without any data retention laws.

One downside is that its short-term plans are expensive and come with a shortened money-back guarantee (14 days vs. 45 days). However, the long-term plans are really affordable — you can get a subscription for just $2.29/month.

Additionally, its money-back guarantee ensures that you can get a full refund if you’re not fully happy with CyberGhost. To see if the policy is trustworthy, I used its 24/7 live chat to cancel my subscription and it was no trouble. I was asked a question about my experience before they approved the return, and I got all my money back after 4 business days.

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3. Private Internet Access — Great for Privacy With Customizable Security Features

  • AES-128 or 256-bit encryption and advanced protocols
  • 29,650 servers in 84 countries
  • 10 simultaneous device connections
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Vudu, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Apple TV, and more
May 2022 Update: PIA doesn't usually have deals or discounts (it's already so affordable), but right now you can get a new subscription for a crazy 82% off!

Private Internet Access (PIA)’s customizable security features make it a solid VPN for security and privacy. You can choose between AES 128- and 256-bit encryption and from several of the safest protocols. This is great because it allows you to find an optimal balance between speed and security. When I tested its US servers on ipleak.net, no IP leaks were detected, meaning PIA’s IP/DNS leak protection works. This also makes it a great choice for safe torrenting.

PIA’s Next Generation Network is built for speed, so you get fast and reliable connections. When I tested 4 US servers, I recorded an average download speed of 44.6 Mbps while watching Netflix. Even though it’s not quite as speedy as ExpressVPN, it was still more than fast enough to stream in Ultra HD. I also downloaded a 720MB torrent file in less than 5 minutes using its UK server.

A concern of PIA was that its home base is in the US, which is at the heart of the 14 Eyes Alliance. However, its no-logs policy has been proven in 2 court cases in the past. No data was ever shared (even when the government asked for it) because PIA adheres to its no-logs policy, meaning your privacy is safe.

Upon looking at its plans, I discovered that its long-term plan provides the best value at $2.19/month. A short-term plan is also available with the same features, but the long-term plan lets you save more over the long run.

It’s also backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can fully test PIA for free. I asked them to cancel my account when I was done testing. After I gave my reason for canceling, I was refunded after 4 business days.

Try Private Internet Access Now

How to Get a VPN on Your Devices

Downloading and installing a VPN is a straightforward process that usually takes under 3 minutes. In most cases, you just need to create an account, download the app, and connect to a server. But it can get a bit trickier for devices that don’t support native apps, such as home routers, gaming consoles, or streaming devices.

Regardless of your device, the VPN I recommend is ExpressVPN because it has vast compatibility. It works with tons of devices and operating systems (and it’s easy to use on all of them). Plus, it has a special MediaStreamer feature that provides a simple setup for devices that don’t support VPN apps, like gaming consoles and smart TVs.

How to Get a VPN on Desktops and Laptops (Windows, macOS, and Linux)

  1. Choose a VPN. All of the VPNs I’ve shortlisted above are great options for any online activity, but make sure to choose one that suits your needs.
  2. Sign up for a subscription. Head to your VPN's website and sign up. Usually, the longest subscription plans are the cheapest.
  3. Download the app. Make sure you choose the correct operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux).
  4. Follow the installation prompts. These are straightforward and very similar to other apps.
  5. Use your VPN. Load the app, log into your account, and connect to a server to protect your privacy, stream geoblocked content, and torrent safely.

How to Get a VPN on Smartphones (Android and iOS)

  1. Choose a VPN. I’d recommend one that comes with a lightweight app and security features to preserve battery life. ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol was designed with phones in mind, so it’s a top choice.
  2. Sign up for a subscription. It’s best to do this directly through the VPN website. Signing up through the Google Play or Apple App stores can disqualify you from the money-back guarantee (you have to then abide by Google/Apple’s refund policy).
  3. Go to the App Store. Search for the VPN’s name in your App Store on your phone and download the app.
  4. Install the VPN. This usually happens automatically, but you might have to tap a couple prompts allowing the VPN to alter your network settings.
  5. Use your VPN. Open the app, log in with the credentials you got during sign up, and connect to a server to protect your iPhone or Android device.

How to Get a VPN on Your Home Router

Installing a VPN on your home router connects all your devices on that network to the VPN. This even includes devices that don’t have a VPN installed on them, like smart TVs, streaming devices, or PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

If you plan to do this, make sure your router is VPN-compatible (most ASUS, Linksys, and Netgear models are, but there are others that work, too). Each VPN and router combination will have different installation instructions, but you can usually find them in detail on your VPN provider’s website.

Here’s a general guide:

  1. Get a VPN and a VPN-compatible router. If you’re certain you want to install a VPN on your router, choose a VPN that has a native app for them. It makes it much easier to navigate and configure the VPN once it’s set up.
  2. Download the VPN’s router firmware. This will usually be available in the dashboard of your VPN account page. Each VPN will have detailed guides that show you how to download and install the firmware.
  3. Install the firmware. Make sure your router is connected to the internet, then open the router configuration page by typing “192.168.1.1” into your browser’s search bar. There should be an option to “Upgrade Firmware”. Just upload the firmware you downloaded, follow the prompts, and you’re set.

Most VPNs also offer routers with the VPN software already installed, so if you want to skip the setup (and have some extra cash), you can just purchase one. In addition, some VPNs are easier to use on routers than others. ExpressVPN has a native app for routers that makes it easy to change servers and settings. Many other VPNs require manual setup and server switching (and don’t offer as many features as their VPN apps).

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How to Set Up a VPN and Use It

Once you’ve installed a VPN on your device, there’s not much to do other than find a server and connect to it. But some servers will be better than others depending on your needs, so knowing how to find the right one is important.

You can also customize your security settings to enhance your experience, but this isn’t usually necessary. Most VPNs come with pre-configured settings that secure your connection automatically.

How to Choose the Right VPN Server

Not all servers are equal, as some are better suited for certain activities than others. Here are a few examples to help you choose the best VPN server depending on your online activity:

  • For security and privacy: Any server will provide you with the same level of privacy and security protection. So, the best option is to choose a VPN server closest to your location to maximize speed and performance.
  • For streaming: If you’re trying to unblock a streaming site, then you’ll need to connect to a server that’s in a licensed country of your site. For example, a US server is required for US Netflix. Some VPNs have streaming-optimized servers like CyberGhost, so you should use them if possible. It’s also best to connect to a nearby server if you can, as close distances produce faster speeds for better streams.
  • For torrenting: Make sure you choose a P2P-enabled server to be able to download torrents. Another option is to use a P2P-optimized server, which is specifically used for torrenting only. Like streaming, you should choose a nearby server to get the fastest download speeds. Or, if you’re concerned about privacy, then connect to a server in a privacy-friendly nation like Switzerland.
  • For bypassing firewalls: Select an obfuscation server, which uses a special algorithm to bypass firewalls and restrictions. This algorithm jumbles your data to hide your VPN use, so even the fact you’re using a VPN is hidden. These servers are often labeled as “stealth” servers and usually need to be toggled on under the VPN’s security settings.

How to Configure VPN Settings

There’s usually no need to configure your VPN’s settings since they’re already pre-configured in most cases. But if you want to customize and enhance your connection, then it’s worth considering. These are a few common security settings that most VPNs have:

  • Kill switch — A last line of defense that disconnects you from the internet if your VPN isn’t connected, preventing accidental leaks. It’s especially handy when changing networks or using public WiFi. It usually comed already turned on, but some VPNs do require you to activate it manually.
  • Protocols — A set of processes that generate a secure path between your device and the VPN server. Most VPNs have several protocols to choose from, which all differ in speed and security.
  • Split tunneling — A feature that can help with speeds and device performance; it lets you choose what traffic goes through your VPN and what doesn’t. For example, you can set the VPN only to encrypt your Bittorrent traffic and use your local connection for everything else.
  • Malware/tracking/ad blockers — This is used to block ads on websites and apps as well as domains that are known to contain trackers. It can also detect malware-infected files and warns you if you try to download one.

If you ever need help with customizing your settings, then you can check out the help section of your VPN or ask them a question directly. Most VPNs have tutorials and step-by-step guides on their website about changing your settings.

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Are There Any Disadvantages When Using a VPN?

First of all, you should know that the benefits of using a VPN strongly outweigh any potential disadvantages. That said, there are a few things you should be aware of before connecting to a VPN server.

  • It might reduce your speeds — Some VPNs will slow your internet speeds more than others, but the best ones won’t make any noticeable difference. This is because your data has to be encrypted and travel to the VPN server.
  • Some VPNs can compromise your privacy — Free VPNs are especially guilty of this, but even some paid VPNs have been caught lying about being “no-logs” VPNs. It’s best to choose a VPN that adheres to a strict no-logs policy that’s been independently audited by security firms.
  • VPNs cost money — It’s no secret that VPNs are subscription-based services that charge ongoing fees. However, most VPNs are only a few dollars per month, so they’re really affordable. Plus, they usually offer money-back guarantees that let you test out the service first and get a refund within a specific timeframe. That way you don’t have to commit to a subscription until you’re sure you’re happy with it.
  • Poor VPNs have limited servers and IP addresses — Some VPNs have small server networks or outdated infrastructures. If a VPN doesn’t have the means to update their IPs and servers, it’ll probably slow your speeds down a lot and won’t be able to access much streaming content. VPNs like ExpressVPN constantly update their networks. Say Netflix blocks one of the VPN IPs and it stops working — ExpressVPN will replace that IP with one that does within a few days.
  • Some countries either restrict or ban VPNs — Certain countries like China, Russia, and Iran either restrict or outlaw VPNs, so you could get in trouble for using one there. If you plan on going to one of these countries as a tourist, you should download and install a VPN before traveling. Some VPN websites are banned in places like China, so it’s best to read up on the most recent local laws surrounding VPN use before using one there.

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FAQs on VPNs

Are VPNs really necessary? Is a VPN worth it?

If you’re at all concerned about your online security and privacy, then VPNs are definitely worth it. Since a VPN encrypts your connection and hides your IP address, it protects sensitive data and stops third parties from tracking your online activity. Additionally, it can bypass geoblocks by rerouting your traffic through a private server in another country, which also masks your actual location.

But not every VPN is safe, so you should get a VPN that has a strict no-logs policy. This prevents your online activity from being recorded and collected. I also recommend choosing a VPN that’s based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. For example, ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands and CyberGhost in Romania — both countries have no data retention laws, so they don’t have to follow any legislation that might require them to store your data.

What devices can I use a VPN on?

You can use a VPN on most WiFi devices, including

  • Mac
  • Windows
  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Smart TVs
  • Roku
  • Amazon Fire Stick
  • Apple TV
  • Xbox
  • PlayStation
  • Kodi

If your device can run VPN apps, such as a PC or smartphone, then you can just install the app directly. It takes a few minutes at most and lets you connect to a server with one click. No technical knowledge is required either. Most VPNs will also let you use it on many devices at the same time under a single subscription, regardless of the operating system. Usually, you’re allowed 5-10 device connections, depending on the VPN.

If you’re using a device that doesn’t support VPN apps, then you can install a VPN on your home router or create a VPN hotspot on your personal computer. Installing a VPN on a router takes time to set up, although it protects every device connected. Using your computer as a VPN hotspot also protects every device that’s connected, plus it’s less expensive and can be easier to set up. However, this method can slow your speeds because of multiple device connections and you have to keep your computer running the entire time.

Does a VPN bypass blocked websites?

Yes, you can get a VPN to access blocked websites from anywhere. Whether the site is unavailable because of a firewall, network restrictions, or geo-restrictions, a reliable VPN will be able to bypass the block allowing access. In all cases, the VPN’s ability to encrypt your traffic and mask your IP is what does the trick. Some VPNs even offer special stealth (obfuscation) features that are designed specifically to bypass even the toughest firewalls and network restrictions.

One of the most popular reasons to use a VPN is to access different streaming content on Netflix, for example. Since the shows and movies available differ by region, a VPN can change your virtual location and open up content normally not available to you. In addition, it works to access streaming platforms (and websites) only available in certain countries. Hulu is only available in the US, but connecting your VPN to a server in the US can give you access to it even if you’re not currently located there.

Should I get a VPN for free or pay for one?

While a free VPN might seem like a good idea, they can be unsafe and come with limitations paid VPNs don’t have. Unlike a free VPN, paid VPNs don’t impose restrictions like data caps or speed limits. In addition, free VPNs often have a smaller server network with slow speeds due to congestion. Plus, they usually lack the advanced security features paid VPNs have.

Paid VPNs are usually really affordable and come with money-back guarantees so you can easily get a full refund (usually within 30 days of purchase). For a few dollars a month, you get fast speeds, robust security and privacy features, and vast server networks that no free VPN offers.

Is using a VPN legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries, but there are exceptions. Countries with strict censorship laws like China, Russia, and Iran have outlawed or restricted VPNs. They usually only allow the use of government-approved VPNs, which don’t protect your privacy since you can still be tracked using them.

If you’re traveling to one of these countries, then it’s best to download a reliable VPN before setting foot in your destination. Places like China ban VPN websites so it’s not possible to get a VPN while you’re there. If you plan to use a VPN in a country with a lot of internet censorship, I advise that you look into the most up-to-date local laws first so you don’t accidentally break them.

Should I get a VPN router?

You should get a VPN router because it’s the best way to protect all the devices on your home network. This means there’s no need to install a VPN on each device and connect separately. You can either install a VPN on your existing router (if it’s compatible), or buy a router with the VPN pre-installed on it.

VPN routers are especially handy if you use devices that can’t run VPN apps, like gaming consoles and smart TVs. However, a certain amount of configuration is required when installing a VPN on your router. Each router and VPN will have different setup methods, but the VPN provider will usually have instructions for this on its website, which makes the process a lot easier.

If you want to change servers, then you’ll usually need to manually change servers in the router firmware. Or, some VPNs (like ExpressVPN) have native apps that let you change servers more easily.

Can I use a VPN with Tor?

Yes, you can use a VPN with Tor and it’s easy. All you need to do is connect to your VPN, open the Tor browser, and start using it normally. The benefit of combining the 2 is the increased privacy because it prevents the first Tor server (the entry node) from seeing your actual IP address. But keep in mind that using a VPN with Tor is usually slower than using Tor without a VPN. This is because a VPN adds more encryption, which slows speeds.

Is a VPN different from a proxy server?

VPNs are different from proxy servers because they use military-grade encryption and proxy servers generally don’t. Both of them can be used to bypass geoblocks since your IP address is changed, but only a VPN will encrypt your data and protect you under a no-logs policy. This means no one can see what you do online, including your ISP. In contrast, a proxy server will hide your actual IP address but won’t provide strong encryption. Proxies tend to only work in your internet browser as well, whereas a VPN protects every app on your device that uses the internet.

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Protect Your Online Privacy Today

As the internet becomes more prevalent in our lives, the need for proper security and privacy measures continues to grow. A VPN is one of the most reliable and cost-effective ways to protect your personal data and privacy while online. It can also access blocked websites, prevent bandwidth throttling, and keep you safe when torrenting.

Of the 150 VPNs my team and I regularly test, ExpressVPN is the top choice whether you’re new to VPNs or not. It's user-friendly, superfast, and one of the most reliable VPNs I’ve tested. And thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try ExpressVPN without any risk. If it’s not for you, then you can get a full refund.

To summarize, the 3 best VPNs for beginners are…

9.8/10
9.8/10
9.6/10

Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

Your Internet Provider:

The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.

VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 49% off.

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About the Author

Ren is a technology researcher and writer. He is a strong advocate for online privacy and digital freedom.

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