We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

What VPN Protocol Should I Use? (Easy Guide - Updated 2024)

Kristina Perunicic Updated on 20th October 2023 Managing Editor

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are an invaluable solution to a prevalent issue today – preserving your anonymity and security while on the Internet. The inquisitive bunch among the millions of VPN users is most likely interested not only in obtaining a VPN but learning more about its ins and outs. This article is directed at those of you who want to get a better idea of VPN protocols, as well as which ones you should look and opt for.

We already gave an in-depth explanation on the various VPN protocols, along with their pros and cons. If you wish to get acquainted with them in detail, make sure to take a look. This article will provide more concise, information for those who want a quick and simple answer on the best overall VPN protocol.

Protocol Basics

In case you’re starting from scratch, a VPN protocol in the simplest of terms is the bread and butter of every VPN service. They are the backbone consisting of transmission protocols and encryption standards that grant you fast and secure access to VPN servers and back. There are five major VPN protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and SSTP<. As time has passed, the benefits of some services have put them in the forefront, while the flaws of others have marked them as ones to avoid. However, there are cases where one protocol may be superior to others. Here is a quick summary:

  • OpenVPN should be your go-to protocol. It’s the most well-rounded option, delivering a perfect balance between speed, security, and reliability – in fact, most VPN services use it by default.
  • IKEv2 is great on mobile devices due to its ability to automatically reconnect in case you lose connection to the Internet (e.g. traversing a mountain pass or going through a tunnel). Speed is a big advantage for this protocol, but it comes at the cost of limited platforms and a challenging setup process.
  • L2TP/IPSec is a decent alternative if, for some reason, you can’t use OpenVPN. The ideal example of a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none, this protocol is a solid choice for non-critical purposes.
  • SSTP can prove to be all you need as far as VPN protocols go, provided you are running Windows. As part of the OS, it’s fully integrated and simple to use – and it enjoys Microsoft support. However, setting an SSTP protocol on other platforms is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The fact that it’s Microsoft’s proprietary tech may also be of concern for some.
  • PPTP - Try not to use this protocol unless you absolutely have to. It is the most dated protocol and time hasn’t been kind to it in the slightest. Despite its decent speed, security is practically non-existent. Avoid this VPN protocol if you value your privacy.

Protocol Details

Here are the most important aspects of each VPN protocol:

OpenVPN

  • Relatively new open-source protocol, considered as the “gold standard” due to its reliability.
  • Extremely popular with third-party services, no native support on any platform.
  • Supports a wide array of algorithms, ensuring the best level of security.
  • One of the fastest protocols available – speed depends on encryption level, but regular users won’t feel hindered in the majority of cases.
  • Setup may seem tricky at first glance, but every worthwhile VPN service comes with an automated process requiring minimal user input.

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange v2)

  • IPsec-based tunneling protocol, developed by Microsoft and Cisco.
  • Stable and secure thanks to reconnection capabilities and support for a variety of algorithms.
  • Delivers in the speed department. It’s relatively faster than L2TP, SSTP, and PPTP.
  • Supports Blackberry devices, but otherwise limited platform availability
  • Proprietary tech, so your opinion depends on your overall sentiments towards Microsoft; however, identical open-source versions exist.

L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)

  • Originated from Cisco’s L2F and Microsoft’s PPTP.
  • Does not offer any security on its own, which is why it’s usually paired with IPSec.
  • Built-in on all modern VPN-compatible devices/operating systems.
  • A decent all-around protocol, but recent leaks point towards it being compromised by the NSA.
  • Doesn’t offer any real advantages when compared to OpenVPN.

SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)

  • First introduced in Windows VIsta SP1 by Microsoft.
  • Entirely integrated into Windows – other platforms may not be able to use it.
  • Bypasses most firewalls with ease.
  • As Microsoft’s own technology, it offers little reassurance as to where your data is going.
  • Fast and relatively secure, but vulnerability to backdoors makes it one of the least appealing protocols.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)

  • The first VPN protocol supported by Windows.
  • Supported by every VPN-capable device.
  • Very fast due to lower encryption standard.
  • Extremely insecure – known to be easily cracked by the NSA for a long time;
  • Despite Microsoft patching PPTP, they still recommend using other protocols such as SSTP or L2TP/IPSec.

Conclusion

To wrap up, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and IKEv2 are dependable choices for non-critical daily usage. SSTP might also be a good fit if you use Windows, but we advise caution due to possible security risks. This warning also applies to L2TP and IKEv2; their security effectiveness largely relies on your confidence in Microsoft. Even if you're a die-hard Microsoft fan, we suggest resorting to PPTP only as a last resort, given its somewhat outdated privacy preservation capabilities.

To ensure utmost security, you should opt for a protocol with a proven track record of being devoid of recognized vulnerabilities. Presently, OpenVPN is the only protocol that meets this criterion. Additionally, it's one of the handful of secure protocols accessible across multiple platforms.

Vital as it is, knowing what the best VPN protocol is won’t matter if you don’t choose a service that supports it. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the best VPNs available on the market — each and every one of them has OpenVPN and other fast, secure protocols fully integrated into their services, along with easy setup processes for a  smooth VPN experience that will meet your expectations. Take a look:

Rank
Provider
Our Score
Discount
Visit Website
1
medal
9.9 /10
9.9 Our Score
Save 49%!
2
9.7 /10
9.7 Our Score
Save 77%!
3
9.5 /10
9.5 Our Score
Save 84%!
Privacy Alert!

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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.

Visit ExpressVPN

We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

About the Author

Kristina Perunicic is a former editor for vpnMentor. She’s a cybersecurity expert with an interest in VPNs and their importance in the digital privacy landscape.

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