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Fastest VPN 2024: Speedy performers ranked

When looking for a top-notch VPN, the two most important things to look for are privacy and speed. While privacy is crucial to a good VPN, speed should not be overlooked. Faster speeds mean quicker file downloads and website load times, a better streaming experience, and just a better all-around experience.

We’ve tested numerous VPNs and put their servers from all over the world through countless speed tests to determine the fastest services based on their network averages. We highlight not only the fastest download speeds, but also the fastest upload speeds. Read below to see our curated list of the fastest VPNs available now.

Why you should trust us: Here at PCWorld we’ve been testing computer hardware, software, and services since the 1980s. We’re continually testing all of the major VPNs on the market and many lesser-known services in order to curate a list of the very best VPNs across a variety of categories. For a more in-depth guide, you can check out our article on how we test VPN services at PCWorld. Below you’ll find our favorite lightning-fast VPNs and, below those, additional information about how we test these services as well as helpful advice about what to look for when choosing a fast VPN on your own.

If you’re looking for even more VPN options, check out our comprehensive roundup of the best VPNs in all categories.

Updated April 30, 2024: Check out our latest review of Mullvad VPN. Still the undisputed privacy king of VPNs, Mullvad has only improved since our last review with an expanded server network and migration to RAM-only diskless servers for enhanced security.

Hotspot Shield – Fastest VPN

Pros

Very fast Large country selection and plenty of servers

Cons

Domain visits are recorded, though not tied to you Expensive Price When Reviewed:$12.99 per monthBest Prices Today:$12.99 at Aura

Why we like HotSpot Shield

To readers of our VPN reviews this first choice will come as no surprise. The fastest VPN we’ve tested is HotSpot Shield and it’s not even close. HSS is in a class of its own, retaining 67 percent of the base speed. That is simply a standout score. HSS has its issues, as we haven’t been fans of the company’s privacy policy, though it’s slowly getting better. Of course, it may simply be that to provide the speeds that it does HSS requires the analytics it collects. We can’t really say.

Who should buy HotSpot Shield

Simply put, if you’re interested in pure download speeds and nothing else matters then HotSpot Shield is the one you want. You’ll get some other nice features, but speed is the name of the game here and HSS delivers.

Read our full Hotspot Shield review

ProtonVPN – Second-fastest overall, fastest upload speeds

Pros

Fantastic speeds Easy-to-use multi-hop feature Supports TOR over VPN connections

Cons

Expensive Price When Reviewed:$9.99Best Prices Today:$9.99 at ProtonVPN

Why we like ProtonVPN

The second-place winner is ProtonVPN, which is still quite a ways back at around 57 percent of the base download speed. ProtonVPN is expensive compared to other services, but the privacy policy is better than HSS in terms of the amount of data collected from its users. It’s not as fast as HSS, but ProtonVPN is about as close as you can get with an improved privacy policy.

Upload speeds are a different story. In that competition, HSS doesn’t even crack the top 20. Proton, however, is the leader there, retaining more than 80 percent of the base upload speed. ProtonVPN also has extra features that may interest some, such as a multi-hop VPN, called SecureCore, support for Netflix and other streaming services, and a few TOR-friendly routers to boot.

Other honorable mentions for upload speeds include Ivacy, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Private Internet Access. Any of those VPNs will do the job nicely if upload speeds are a bigger concern than downloads. These services also promise features similar to ProtonVPN such as Netflix compatibility, multi-hop VPNs, and more.

Who should buy ProtonVPN

If you want something that offers a higher degree of privacy, and has top-rated download and upload speeds, then ProtonVPN is a good option. Particularly if you’re looking to upload data securely over a VPN connection, ProtonVPN should be at the top of your list.

Read our full ProtonVPN review

Mullvad – The most private speed demon

Pros

Good speeds Inexpensive monthly plan Unrivaled anonymity Open-source

Cons

Struggles with unblocking streaming services Smaller server network Lacks some extra features that other VPNs offer Price When Reviewed:$5.37 per month

Why we like Mullvad

If you don’t want to compromise on privacy and anonymity, while still getting solid speeds, then Mullvad is the best choice. This super-simple VPN supports connections via 41 different countries, and it costs just 5 Euros per month (around $5.40 at this writing). Mullvad should be considered the “Swiss bank account” version of a VPN, as it actively resists obtaining any of your personal information and provides premium service. Instead of signing up for an account with the standard email and password, Mullvad assigns you a random account number and that’s it. No birth date or anniversary passwords to give you away. One number and that’s it.

In our tests, Mullvad performed well in download and upload speeds, maintaining around 48 percent of the baseline with each. That puts it firmly in the top half of all VPNs we’ve ever tested and it’s plenty fast enough to do just about everything you’d want to do. There may be a few faster VPNs on the market, though they won’t provide the same amount of anonymity as you’ll get with Mullvad and sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a little speed for a whole lot of privacy.

Who should buy Mullvad

Mullvad is ultimately designed for the privacy-conscious user. That being said, it does offer good speeds, so even if privacy is your main concern, you need not sacrifice speed in order to enjoy your anonymity.

Read our full Mullvad review

ExpressVPN – The bronze medalist

Pros

Consistently good speeds Easy-to-use desktop program Broad device support

Cons

Logs data transfer amounts More expensive than many competitors Price When Reviewed:$6.67 per monthBest Prices Today:$6.67 at ExpressVPN

Why we like ExpressVPN

Our current all-star as the best VPN overall is a good choice for speeds. It ranks third overall in our download speed tests, retaining more than 53 percent of the base speed in our testing. For uploads, it ranks in the top 20, though the differences in speeds there are much slimmer than in downloads. ExpressVPN is one of the more costly VPNs out there at $100 per year. For that money, however, you get solid speeds, a promise to work with Netflix, split tunneling, and a wide range of device support. The app is also pretty easy to use and there are a wide range of country locations to choose from.

Who should buy ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a truly great VPN for everyone. It gives you everything you could want from a top-tier service including privacy, security, and speed. It might not be as fast as our top picks on this list, but it’s still plenty fast enough for most online activities.

Read our full ExpressVPN review

NordVPN – Honorable mention

Pros

Excellent speeds Enough features to appeal to power users and novices No-logs policy Diskless servers

Cons

Expensive Price When Reviewed:$3.49 per monthBest Prices Today:$3.49 at NordVPN

Why we like NordVPN

Nord regularly appears at the top of many VPN rankings, and it’s no surprise to see it here. In our tests, NordVPN retained 49 percent of the base speed, which is plenty fast. It’s also inside the top 10 for upload speeds. Of all the VPNs here, NordVPN also has to be one of the most feature packed, rivaling ProtonVPN. It supports multi-hop connections, TOR over VPN, ad and tracker blocking at the server level, and a variety of other options.

Who should buy NordVPN

With all of the great features included with NordVPN, it can appeal to a wide audience. You’ll need to sacrifice some speed for those features though. However, the speed loss is pretty minimal and you’ll still be able to do everything you want to do while connected.

Read our full NordVPN review

What to look for in a fast VPN

The first thing to consider in a fast VPN is, of course, speed. This may be tricky to do since you aren’t likely to be able to test connection speeds without paying to use the service. That’s where online reviews come in. Look for reviews, like ours, that give you a relative average of connection speeds rather than direct Mbps speed comparisons.

Next, you should look at a VPN’s server network including the number of servers and locations. It’s difficult to judge any VPN by just one feature, but a semi-reliable way to tell if a VPN is even worth your time is to look at the server spread. Anything with 1,000 or more servers and 30 or more country locations will do.

You’ll also want to read up on a VPN’s privacy protections. Does it have a no-logs policy? Has it undergone any independent audits of its servers? Where is the VPN company located? All of these will give you an idea of whether or not a VPN is transparent with its data collection policies and if it’s subject to government data sharing requirements.

Other factors you’ll want to take into consideration are the overall ease-of-use, user experience, and any additional features. Some of these features, such as split-tunneling and kill switches, can be extremely useful for certain purposes and might sway your subscription decision one way or the other.

Finally, as with all subscription services, you’ll want to review the price of a VPN service. Do you want a monthly or yearly subscription? Some top VPNs might be pricey month-to-month, but actually become quite affordable with long-term plans.

How we tested

Our method for testing VPN speeds is rather straightforward. We average the connections between different global locations for any given VPN and then compare them to our baseline internet speed to get a good picture of the overall connection speeds.

We continue this process over multiple days of testing and then average the daily speeds together to get an overall average. We test a total of three days at different times of the day to account for any variation. That overall average is then expressed as a percentage of the base speed. That way the test results provide a sense of how much speed a VPN retains versus hard numbers, which can vary based on internet service providers, routers, and other equipment, time of day, and so on.

FAQ


1.

What does a VPN do?

A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your internet traffic and disguises your identity while browsing the internet. A VPN will anonymize your online traffic and keep your ISP or other third parties from snooping on your internet browsing.

Additionally, VPNs allow you to connect to servers all across the world. So if you’re looking to access location-restricted content, such as streaming services, you can connect to the appropriate country’s server and gain access that way.

2.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN hides your IP address by redirecting it through a remote server hosted by the VPN company. To anyone looking in, the VPN server then becomes the source of your data instead of yourself. These remote servers can be in your own country or located in different countries around the world. All of your network traffic from your computer to the VPN is sent over a secure and encrypted connection. 

When connected to a VPN while browsing the internet, the VPN acts as a middleman between your computer and a website. Your computer sends a request to the VPN which then passes it on to a website. The website then sends its response back to the VPN which forwards it through the secure connection to your computer. All of the traffic rerouted through the VPN shows as coming through their server rather than your own computer. This keeps your ISP and other third parties from snooping on your internet activity.

3.

Can you use a VPN to watch Netflix?

Yes! If you’re located in a country where particular Netflix content isn’t accessible, you can use a VPN server located in a different region to access that content. While certain streaming services try to prevent VPN connections, you can usually find a server that isn’t blocked.

Good VPN companies offer thousands of servers in which to connect to from all over the world. If your intended use for a VPN is to watch a streaming service such as Netflix, connection speeds and unblocked server availability will be the most important factors to look out for. (See our roundup of the best VPNs for our recommendation for Netflix streaming, as well as a host of other use cases.)

4.

Will a VPN affect my internet speeds?

In the past, VPNs were notorious for slowing down internet speeds. But nowadays it’s the exception rather than the norm.

When you connect to a VPN, it reroutes your traffic through its own servers. Depending on where these servers are located, the extra distance can lead to a higher ping. While one of the great features of VPNs is to encrypt your data, this can lead to slower download and upload speeds because it takes time to encrypt and decrypt your data—affecting everything from page load times to video buffering speeds. Thankfully, advances in encryption technology and server optimization by modern VPN providers have significantly lessened these impacts.

5.

Do VPNs protect against malware and computer viruses?

Unfortunately, no, a VPN will not protect you from malware or viruses. If you use a VPN and accidentally click on a malicious link or download a file containing a virus, there isn’t anything a VPN can do to help. In conjunction with a VPN, it is highly recommended that you use an antivirus program. Alternatively, you can find a VPN provider that offers additional threat protection features to help keep you safe.

Sam Singleton is a tech editor and PCWorld’s jack of all trades. When he’s not on the hunt for the best computer deals he’s covering VPNs, productivity software, laptops, and a wide gamut of consumer-grade hardware and software.

Recent stories by Sam Singleton:

Best VPNs for Android 2024: Our picks for phones and tabletsProtonVPN review: Great paid plan, even better free planTunnelVision hack allows attackers to bypass VPN protections

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