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.
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Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
OpenVPN Features — 2024 Update
Money Back Guarantee
Does VPN keep logs?
Number of servers
Number of devices per license
Based in country
Streaming — Does Not Work With Any Platforms on Its Own
OpenVPN can work with your local streaming platforms, but only when it’s combined with reliable servers. Since OpenVPN only provides a client, you won’t be able to use it with 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 to bypass ISP throttling and stream content in HD, keep in mind that these servers are not guaranteed to work with your streaming accounts. 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 make it work with the streaming platforms in my country.
Our international team also had no issues with their local Netflix libraries, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, and more. However, this happened because the VPN we used had good servers. In other situations, we may not have been able to make it work with any platforms.
If you need a reliable way to enjoy streaming platforms securely and in HD, then I recommend you take a look at these VPNs that work with hundreds of streaming services.
Important: vpnMentor opposes copyright infringement. We advocate for VPNs providing secure, no-logging services for privacy, not illegality. Always adhere to streaming platforms' rules and local laws when using a VPN.
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.
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.
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
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.
In the manual setup instructions, you are warned that you’ll need a lot of technical knowledge
To summarize, the process involves several steps such as installing the application, configuring servers, generating IP addresses for various devices linked to the network, implementing authentication procedures, and other related tasks.
Setting up OpenVPN manually is a lengthy technical process
If your main goal for getting a VPN is streaming in HD or simple online privacy, 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.
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.
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!
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