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OpenVPN Review 2022 - Keep This in Mind Before Buying

Author Image Ivana Sarandeska'
Ivana Sarandeska | Updated on 5th August 2022 Cybersecurity Researcher

OpenVPN is one of the fastest, most secure protocols. It provides secure online access from point-to-point and is completely free of charge. Thanks to its open-source nature, and the fact that it’s free, OpenVPN has attracted a lot of attention. The balance between security, functionality, and reliability, topped off with its unrivalled ability to bypass firewalls has propelled it to become the industry standard.

While manual configuration of OpenVPN is technically complex, nowadays you can also connect to the protocol easily using a VPN. Subscribing to a top-tier VPN provider that includes the protocol as standard will save you the trouble of configuring and maintaining everything yourself.

I decided to take Open VPN for a spin, and find out whether it performs as well as people say.

Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings

OpenVPN Features — Updated in August 2022

5.8
💸 Price 0 USD/month
📆 Money Back Guarantee 30 Days
📝 Does VPN keep logs? No
🖥 Number of servers 34+
💻 Number of devices per license 10
🛡 Kill switch Yes
🗺 Based in country United States
🛠 Support Ticketing system
📥 Supports torrenting Yes

Streaming — Does Not Unblock Any Platforms on Its Own

OpenVPN can bypass geo-restrictions and give you access to any streaming platforms, but only when it’s combined with reliable servers. Since OpenVPN only provides a client, it won’t be able to access anything by itself. You need to either use your own or third-party servers.

Another option is using the OpenVPN community free servers. But if your goal is to use the VPN for streaming, keep in mind that these servers are not guaranteed to provide you access to geo-blocked content. Plus, no one can vouch for their security, meaning that your identity may be exposed to the apps and websites you access.

To test the protocol, I used ExpressVPN’s manual OpenVPN configuration. With the combination of ExpressVPN’s server network and OpenVPN’s robust security features, I could access various streaming platforms.

I unblocked Netflix libraries, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, and more. However, this happened because the VPN I used has good servers. In other situations, I may not have been able to access any platforms.

If you need a reliable way to access geoblocked platforms, then I recommend you take a look at these VPNs that unblock hundreds of streaming services.

Speeds — Fast Speeds when using UDP

OpenVPN provides fast speeds when you use the UDP protocol which prioritizes speed. The other protocol supported by OpenVPN – TCP – prioritizes safety and security, but is significantly slower.

When your goal is to use a speedy and safe connection for streaming, or doing several things simultaneously such as online transactions or sending files, you should go for UDP. When you need an even safer connection, need to bypass strict firewalls, or send sensitive data, and speed is not as important, you should use the TCP protocol.

To test OpenVPN’s speeds, I used ExpressVPN’s servers and the UDP protocol.

First, I tested my base connection. My base speed was 48.42 Mbps download, 2.33 Mbps upload, and an 8 ms ping. After establishing the baseline, I started testing the VPN.

On most servers, I got download speeds of around 40 Mbps which is great. You can expect a drop of 10-20% when you connect to a VPN, so I was happy with this result of a 17% decrease. European servers, which are closer to me, gave me a ping under 100 ms. This is great as a ping speed of under 150 ms coupled with fast Mbps allows you to successfully game online and download large files. However, my ping skyrocketed to 245 ms when I connected to an Australian server.

Note that my results may be because ExpressVPN has a network of superfast servers. If you are using the OpenVPN client with another provider, you might get different results.

Graphic showing OpenVPN speed test results

Even distant servers gave me good speeds

While OpenVPN is one of the most secure protocols, it is not the fastest – WireGuard is much faster. This is because OpenVPN uses a very high level of security and advanced unblocking technologies which make it one of the few protocols capable of bypassing strong firewalls and censorship.

I recommend you take a look at these superfast VPNs that provide fast and reliable connections. This way, you’ll be able to connect them using the OpenVPN client and browse, stream, and download without interruptions.

Are OpenVPN’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Depends

The OpenVPN protocol, when combined with the servers of a top-tier VPN, can give you blazing-fast speeds and low enough ping for smooth, lag-free gaming.

The servers I tested provided me with great speeds and log latency on most locations. However, not all servers and VPN providers will offer you the same performance. Check out these VPNs offering the best gaming connections.

Server Network — No Official Servers

OpenVPN does not have a server network you can use. You need to use either your own servers, the third-party servers maintained by the OpenVPN community, or you can connect to another VPN’s servers using the OpenVPN app.

The servers provided by the OpenVPN community are generally free, but these are not official servers released by the company itself. There’s no guarantee of the safety or privacy the servers provide.

There are many other alternatives for finding reliable servers if you know where to look. But if you find it difficult to get free servers that can bypass censorship or allow you to torrent safely, I recommend you use a VPN subscription. For example, getting an ExpressVPN subscription will provide access to a wide network of safe and reliable servers.

Security — One of the Safest Protocols

OpenVPN is one of the safest protocols. It supports multiple encryption levels, such as AES, Camelia, Blowfish, CAST-128, and more.

As a standard, it works on 256-bit OpenSSL encryption — an implementation of the industry-standard AES-256 bit encryption, which is virtually unbreakable. Moreover, it uses authentication certificates and provides IPv6 support.

To secure the transfer of information between devices, OpenVPN also uses SSL (secure sockets layer) and TLS (transport layer security) encryption protocols. This is the same technology that’s used to protect HTTPS websites.

When using OpenVPN to bypass geo-blocks or firewalls, your online traffic looks like regular web traffic, making VPN detection much harder. The SSL/TLS technology offers additional benefits to OpenVPN, such as allowing it to confirm the server you’re connecting to is safe, verifying data hasn’t been modified, and allowing it to create and share new encryption keys to protect the data in the session. Moreover, OpenVPN uses OpenSSL to support almost all encryption algorithms, hash functions, and public-key cryptography technology.

This means that when you are using OpenVPN, your data is secured and you are completely protected from possible cyber attacks.

For actual data transfer, OpenVPN uses UDP (User Data Protocol) and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).

The TCP protocol checks the data carefully to ensure the transferred data is received accurately. UDP, on the other hand, is a lot faster because it sends the data immediately before performing any checks. This can make it less reliable.

Usually, UDP is the default OpenVPN protocol, but if the connection becomes unstable, it automatically switches to TCP. This ensures you keep using a secure, stable connection.

Kill switch and Auto-connect

In addition to the protocol choices, OpenVPN has a built-in kill switch that turns off the internet completely in case the connection is failing. This means that even if your VPN malfunctions, you will be protected from data leaks.

There’s also the auto-connect option that turns OpenVPN on together with your device. This is convenient if you want to be protected at all times, (for example, if you’re using a public network) and don't want to worry about protection each time you open your laptop or switch on your phone.

IP and DNS Leaks

OpenVPN has excellent IP and DNS leak protection. But the protocol you use is not the only factor that keeps your data safe. You also need a reliable server network that successfully changes your IP address to the desired location and tunnels your data through without any leaks.

In my tests, I used ExpressVPN’s servers. In combination with OpenVPN’s safe data transfer protocols, my personal data was protected.

Graphic showing no DNS or IP leaks using OpenVPN

OpenVPN kept my personal data and locations safe

When the VPN fails to assign you a new IP address correctly, your IP address may leak. If that happens, the websites you visit may see your real IP address and your location. Similar to an IP leak, when a DNS leak happens, your browsing history gets exposed. So it’s important to use a VPN that protects this information.

Privacy — Depends on the Servers You Use

OpenVPN itself does not collect any data, and you can use it only with an email address — no personal info or payment details are required.

But, depending on the servers you connect to, they may collect data, so be very careful. OpenVPN does not claim responsibility for what happens to your data when you are using third-party servers. And it has no authority over server owners and what they can do with the data.

If you use the servers of a top-tier VPN such as ExpressVPN, you can rest assured your privacy won’t be compromised.

Torrenting — Allowed, But Use With Caution

OpenVPN has air-tight security and solid speeds when you use UDP, but whether you should use it for torrenting depends on the servers you connect to.

While you may be able to find free servers that allow torrenting, my recommendation would be to get a reliable VPN provider. They usually have wide networks and a no-logs policy. Some of them even have dedicated torrenting servers.

Beware though as torrenting is not allowed in some countries and torrenting copyrighted material is punishable by law. My team and I don’t condone illegal torrenting. Stay safe and always double-check the material you are about to download.

Does OpenVPN Work in China? Yes

OpenVPN is one of the few protocols that work from inside China's mainland and can bypass the Great Firewall. In fact, most VPNs that use OpenVPN recommend you use the TCP protocol when you want to bypass geoblocks in China.

But a VPN’s ability to work in China also depends on the servers you use and encryption protocols. Reliable VPNs, such as ExpressVPN, have vast server networks and top-of-the-line security which allows you to access anything you want, even if you are in China.

Simultaneous Device Connections — Unlimited

OpenVPN can be set up on an unlimited number of devices. Be warned that manual configuration can be time-consuming and inconvenient for many inexperienced users. Instead, I recommend you use a VPN provider that comes with OpenVPN manually configured.

If you choose to use the protocol through a VPN provider, it may have limits on how many devices you can connect under one subscription. Always check that what is offered in your plan is a good match for you.

Installation & Apps

5.6

Device Compatibility — Can be Used on Almost Any Device

OpenVPN has excellent device compatibility and offers dedicated apps for all major operating systems. You can set up OpenVPN on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

While this may not seem like much, remember OpenVPN is just a protocol, not a VPN provider. But many VPNs that use OpenVPN offer browser extensions, and support for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices including router connection. This allows you to use the VPN on most non-supported devices, such as smart TVs and games consoles.

Set-Up & Installation — Not Great For Beginners

There are 3 options for setting up OpenVPN — manually using your own devices or servers, manually with a VPN subscription, and automatically.

Each one of these setup options comes with its own benefits and downsides. So make sure to understand what each setup involves, and whether it’s the right one for you. Complete manual setup is aimed at tech-savvy networking professionals or SMBs. When you opt to use a provider, both manual and automatic setup are far more convenient. Particularly for VPN users with little or no experience at all.

Manual Set Up Without a VPN Subscription

The manual setup without a VPN subscription is the most difficult option. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners as this setup requires a lot of technical know-how, experience in networking, and dedication of significant time and effort. It’s mainly aimed at professionals.

Screenshot of OpenVPN's warning that setting up the protocol manually requires a lot of technical knowledge

In the manual setup instructions, you are warned that you’ll need a lot of technical knowledge

In short, you’ll need to install the app, set up the servers, create IP addresses for different devices connected to the network, set up authentication, and so on.

Screenshot of the manual setup process for OpenVPN using your own server network

Setting up OpenVPN manually is a lengthy technical process

If your main goal for getting a VPN is so you can unblock streaming platforms, such as Netflix or Hulu, I’d recommend you get a VPN subscription.

Manual Set up With a VPN Subscription

Setting up OpenVPN with a VPN subscription is much simpler. Usually, your VPN provider will have detailed setup instructions for how to use OpenVPN with the service. But it still requires going through a few more steps compared to automatic setup.

Using OpenVPN with a VPN subscription looks similar regardless of which provider you choose. You need to download and install the right app for your OS, get the .ovpn server file(s), then upload them to the app.

For example, when I was testing OpenVPN with ExpressVPN’s server, setting it up was easy. ExpressVPN offers a detailed guide on its site. But if you haven’t had experience setting up a VPN with OpenVPN manually, it may seem intimidating.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN's manual setup guide for OpenVPN

Setting up OpenVPN manually with ExpressVPN is easier than it looks

First, ExpressVPN allows you to choose and download the servers you want to use. After downloading the .ovpn files for all the servers you intend to use, you need to choose the device for which you are setting up OpenVPN. After the app is installed, configure (add) the servers. Lastly, you need to set up DNS leak protection.

Graphic showing how to connect to servers with OpenVPN

Right-clicking the OpenVPN GUI in the system tray will allow you to connect or disconnect easily

Once you go through all these steps, right-click the OpenVPN GUI from the system tray. Hover over the desired server location, and in the menu that opens click “Connect”. To end your connection, repeat the steps, and choose “Disconnect”.

Automatic Set Up

This is the easiest way to use OpenVPN - simply download the app for your OS, install it, and log in. Before establishing a connection, check which protocol is selected. Most VPNs that offer OpenVPN have it as default, though. If it isn’t, select OpenVPN UDP or OpenVPN TCP, pick a server location, and click connect. Voila! You are using OpenVPN!

Pricing

1.6
Free
$ 0 / month per month
Yearly Plan
$ 6 / month per month
Monthly Plan
$ 7.5 / month per month

The OpenVPN software is open-source. As such, you can download the OpenVPN connect apps for free on all your devices. Though setting it up manually requires a solid amount of technical knowledge.

There are also 2 paid versions of the software aimed at businesses – Access Server for use with your own self-hosted servers, and OpenVPN Cloud which uses OpenVPN’s cloud server network. They have progressive pricing dependent on the number of simultaneous VPN connections you need.

If you are a small-to-medium business owner, the paid version of OpenVPN might be a good choice. But if you need a VPN only for unblocking media sites or the occasional P2P file sharing, getting the free OpenVPN Connect app and perhaps a VPN subscription might be the best option for you.

Reliability & Support

3.6

OpenVPN does not have typical support, such as live chat or email.

Though, there’s a Support Center where you can submit a ticket and a lot of articles about OpenVPN Cloud and Access Server on its web pages. You can also find a Resource Center that offers numerous case studies, videos, and quick start guides. But again, these are focused on paid services.

If you need assistance with the free OpenVPN Connect app, you should be able to find all the info you need in the Community section. It contains the following topics: Downloads, Source code, Documentation, Wiki, and Forum. In them, you will find detailed documentation, articles, FAQs, and books that cover anything you may need for setting up and using OpenVPN.

Compare OpenVPN With The Top Alternative VPNs

The Bottom Line

Final Verdict

OpenVPN is one of the most used protocols in the marketplace today and is a great choice for anyone looking for a safe and reliable VPN connection.

Tech-savvy users and small to medium businesses would benefit from the complete manual setup that allows them to use their own devices and servers to create a secure private network. On the other hand, more casual VPN users can simply get a VPN subscription from one of the numerous VPN providers that offer OpenVPN in their services.

Regardless of your installation choice, OpenVPN will enable you to bypass strong firewalls and keep you protected at all times. The combination of strong security features, including 256- bit OpenSSL encryption, 2 data transfer protocols, and an auto kill-switch, make OpenVPN one of the safest VPN protocols of today.

FAQs on OpenVPN

Is OpenVPN safe?

Yes, OpenVPN is one of the safest protocols you can use. It has 256-bit OpenSSL encryption that supports authentication certificates, UDP and TCP protocols for data transfer, and auto-kill switch and auto-connect features. It is one of the best and safest VPN protocols available.

Can I use OpenVPN for free?

Yes, OpenVPN is free open-source software. You can configure it manually with your own devices and servers and use it completely free. You can also subscribe to a VPN provider that has the OpenVPN protocol, such as ExpressVPN, and avoid the complex setup process for a small monthly fee.

Will OpenVPN slow my speeds down?

Yes, every VPN (protocol) is expected to slow your speeds down 10-20%. OpenVPN is one of the safest, but not the fastest protocol. There are ways to boost speeds when you adjust its settings — if you prefer a speedy connection, choose UDP. If you need added safety, go with TCP.

  • Powerful 256-bit encryption
  • Free
  • Allows multiple simultaneous connections
  • Multi-platform support
  • DNS and IPv6 leak protection
  • WebRTC protection
  • Support for API
  • Allows you to setup your own VPN
Money Back Guarantee (Days): 30
Mobile app:
Number of devices per license: 10

OpenVPN User Reviews (User reviews are not verified)

2.0
Based on 2 reviews in 1 languages

Write a Review on OpenVPN

Please rate VPN.

Taras Roskishnyi
Taras Roskishnyi
2/10
Scammers and totally dishonest people

I bought this service in March but suddenly came up that they don't provide any service for old versions of Mac Os. So I asked for refund. They still haven't given me any of it and keep charging me for nothing!!! Special "hi" to David Lam who I talked to about it - you didn't help!

Robert Franklin
Robert Franklin
2/10
It didn't change my IP/ didn't work/ staying with windscribe/you get what you pay for.

It didn't change my IP, I checked on the Xmyip site. Tried to start it after killing it & a popup notice said "program still running" It also couldn't bypass a DMCA user id / reconnect page from Century Link which I received courtesy of a P2P'ing roommate. Windscribe cut through it like a hot knife through warm butter AND changed my IP. I only wish there was a negative star rating available for this software - I'd give it a minus 80. I'll have to settle for one star, strictly as a "bless their short bus riding & wearing a helmet without being on the football team little hearts" affirmation for their sorry attempt, as apparently, everyone gets a trophy just for trying these days.

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