VPNs for Beginners – What you need to know

What is a VPN and what does VPN mean?

A Virtual Private Networks (VPN) allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this "VPN server" is securely encrypted. As a result of this setup, VPNs: vpns_for_beginners

  • Provide privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP (and government)
  • Allow you to evade censorship (by school, work, your ISP, or government)
  • Allow you to “geo-spoof” your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location (or when you are on holiday)
  • Protect you against hackers when using a public WiFi hotspot
  • Allow you to P2P download in safety.

In order to use VPN you must first signup for a VPN service, which typically cost between $5 – $10 a month (with reductions for buying 6 months or a year at a time). A contract with a VPN service is required to use VPN.

Note that using a VPN service does not replace the need for an Internet Service Provider, as it is your ISP that provides your internet connection in the first place.

A note on commercial vs. corporate VPN

VPN technology was originally developed to allow remote workers to securely connect to corporate networks in order to access corporate resources when away from the office. Although VPN is still used in this way, the term now usually refers to commercial VPN services that allow customers to access the internet privately through their servers.

This article (and the BestVPN website) deals exclusively with these commercial VPN services, and use of the term VPN here should not be confused with private corporate networks, which are an entirely different kettle of fish (despite similarities, and crossovers in the underlying technology.)

How does it work?

vpns_for_beginnersNormally, when you connect to the internet you first connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which then connects you to any websites (or other internet resources) that you wish to visit. All your internet traffic passes through your ISP’s servers, and can be viewed by your ISP.

When using VPN you connect to a server run by your VPN provider (a “VPN server”) via an encrypted connection (sometimes referred to as a “VPN tunnel”). This means that all data traveling between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted so that only you and the VPN server can “see” it.

This setup has a number of important consequences:

1. Your ISP cannot know what you get up to on the internet

  • It cannot see your data because it is encrypted
  • It cannot know which websites (etc.) you visit because all internet activity is routed through the VPN server. Your ISP can only see that you are connected to the VPN server.

Your ISP can only see that you are connected to the VPN server.

2. You appear to access the internet from the IP address of the VPN server

  • If the VPN server is located in a different country to you, then as far as the internet is concerned you are located in that country (most VPN services run servers located in many different countries).
  • Anyone monitoring your internet activity from the internet will only be able to trace it back to the VPN server, so unless the VPN provider hands over your details (more on this later), your real IP address is hidden. This means that websites etc. cannot see your true IP address (just that of the server).

3. It is safe to use public WiFi hotspots

Because the internet connection between your device and the VPN server is encrypted. Even if a hacker somehow manages to intercept your data, for example by tricking you into connecting to an “evil twin” hotspot or packet-sniffing your WiFi data, the data is safe because it is encrypted.

4. Your VPN provider can know what you get up to on the internet

  • You are therefore shifting trust away from your ISP (which has no interest in, or commitment to, protecting your privacy) to your VPN provider who usually promises to protect your privacy.
  • More privacy-minded VPN services mitigate this issue by employing various technical measures to know as little as they can about you. More on this later.

5. Your internet will slow down because:

  • Encrypting and decrypting data requires processing power. This also means that, technically, the stronger the encryption used, the slower your internet access. However, given the power of modern computers, this issue is relatively minor compared to…
  • The extra distance traveled by your data. Using VPN always introduces another leg to the journey that your data has to travel (i.e. to the VPN server), and thanks to the laws of physics, the further your data has to travel, the longer it takes.

If you connect to VPN server located geographically nearby in order to access a website also located nearby, then you can expect around a 10 percent hit to the internet speed you get without using VPN. If you connect to a server half way across the planet, you should expect a much greater hit.

It is also a case that some VPN providers do better than others when it comes to speed performance, which is why every review we publish includes detailed speed tests This is due to factors such as server processing power, available bandwidth, and load (how many other people are using the server at the same time as you).

All other things being equal, for best performance when using VPN you should connect to the VPN server closest to the website or service you wish to use, and then as close as possible to your own location.

For example, if I want to access US Netflix from the UK I would connect to a server located in the US, but as close as possible to the UK (somewhere on the northern East Coast, such a New York, would be ideal).

Is it legal?

Yes. In most countries citizens have a legal right to privacy, and as far as I know simply using a VPN service is illegal pretty much nowhere.


More repressive countries such as China and Iran, who understandably do not like the unrestricted and largely unaccountable access to the internet that VPN allows,do ban VPN services from operating in their country, and attempt to block users from accessing overseas VPN services.

Even in China, however, which has the most sophisticated internet censorship system in the world, such blocks are only partially successful (and we have yet to hear of anybody getting into trouble just for using VPN).

In Europe the threat of terrorism has been seized on by a number governments to introduce wide-ranging surveillance laws, and in many countries (such as France and the UK) VPN providers are required to keep logs of users’ activity. VPN users looking for privacy should therefore avoid any services based in such countries, and use servers located in countries where logs are not legally required.

Where do I start?

There are now a huge number of VPN services vying for your attention, and unfortunately not all VPN providers are created equal (far from it!) The first thing you should do, therefore, is to check out reviews and recommendations on sites such as BestVPN (hey, it’s what we’re here for!).

Probably the first thing to consider is what you mainly want a VPN for. Is it for privacy while surfing the internet? To download without looking over your shoulder? To evade the Great Firewall of China? Or just to access geo-blocked TV streaming services from abroad?

Although pretty near all VPN services cover the main basis to some extent, there is no such thing as a perfect VPN service. Things you should be looking out for include:

  • Price (of course!)
  • Speed – VPN always entails some internet speed loss due to extra distances traveled and the processing demands of encryption/decryption (as discussed earlier).
  • Privacy – all VPN providers promise privacy, but what does this actually mean? See “Does a VPN make me anonymous?” below for a discussion on this
  • Security – how good are technical measures used to prevent an adversary (hackers, the NSA, etc.) forcing access to your data. Again, see below for more details.
  • Number of servers/countries – If you need to connect to servers located all over the place, then the more the better, and the more likely it is that a server will be located where you want it to be.
  • Number of simultaneous connections – Some providers will only let you connect one device to their service at a time, while others allow you connect your PC, laptop, phone, Xbox and girl/boyfriend’s tablet all at once. The more the merrier!
  • Customer support – Many VPN users are still learning the ropes, so customer support that a) actually answers your questions in a reasonable timeframe, and b) knows what it is talking about, can be invaluable.
  • Free trials and money back guarantees: Perhaps the best way to decide if a service is for you is to try before you buy!
  • Software – VPN clients should not only look good good and be easy to use, but can add lots of funky features. The most useful of these are VPN kill switchesand DNS leak protection
  • Cross-platform support – a service is no use if it can’t run on your device/OS. Support can include detailed setup guides for different platforms, or dedicated apps (as is increasingly common for iOS and Android devices).
  • Other bells and whistles – Some providers offer “stealth servers” for evading the Great Firewall of China, free SmartDNS or cloud storage, fancy security options (such as VPN through Tor), and more.

VPN is available for almost all computer-type devices, including desktops, laptops, smart phones, and tablets.

Just about every provider fully supports Windows, Mac OSX, Android and iOS platforms, and many also support Linux and Chrome OS (if only indirectly). Support for Blackberry OS and Windows Mobile devices, however, is much patchier.

To signup for a VPN service, simply visit its website and follow the links. Your provider will give give you instructions on what to do next, or our full reviews all have a “The process” section that runs through the whole process for each provider.

Interestingly, there does not appear to be much correlation between what you pay for VPN and the service you receive, so I again suggest that you read our reviews (including readers comments sections) and take advantage of any free trials and money-back guarantees to help you decide.

Free VPN

vpns_for_beginnersFree VPN services do exist, but these are almost severely limited in some way, or cannot be trusted not to just sell your data. Running a VPN service is not cheap, so you have to ask yourself how a free service can afford to operate. As the old saying goes, if you don’t pay for a product, then you are the product…

That said, some reputable free VPN services do exist, most notably CyberGhost’s free offering, which while limited, is enough for many casual users, and is transparently funded through its premium offerings. VPN Gate is another option, and is run by volunteers.

You should be aware, however, that no free VPN will give you anywhere near the performance or privacy benefits of a good commercial service.

Given that VPN typically costs the price of a beer or so per month, I strongly recommend splashing out on a fully featured service.

Does a VPN make me anonymous?

vpns_for_beginnersNo. VPN does not make you anonymous because the VPN provider can always* know who you are, and can see what you get up to on the internet. Privacy-oriented VPN services go to great lengths, however, to protect their customers’ privacy, which is why we say that VPN provides privacy (rather than anonymity).

Empty promises

The first thing to note is that while many providers promise to protect users’ privacy, such promises are not worth the digital ink they are printed on if they keep logs. No matter what they say, no VPN provider staff will go to jail (or ruin their business) to protect a customer. If the data exists, any VPN provider can be compelled to hand it over. Period.


If you want to use VPN to provide privacy, then only a ‘“no logs” provider will do. Unfortunately, when a provider claims to keep no logs, we just have to take its word for it (which is why the Edward Snowden’s of this world prefer to use Tor).

Choosing a VPN provider therefore comes down to a matter of trust, so how do you know a provider can be trusted? Well… privacy orientated VPN providers have built their business model on promising privacy, and if it becomes known that they failed to do this (for example by keeping logs even when they promised not to, and then being compelled to hand these over to the authorities), their businesses would be worthless (and they might find themselves liable for legal action by the compromised individual).

Real-time tracking

It should be understood that even when a provider keeps no logs, it can and will be able to monitor users’ internet activity in real-time (this is essential for trouble shooting etc. – all the more so when no logs are kept).

Most no logs providers also promise not to monitor users’ activity in real-time (unless necessary for technical reasons), but most countries can legally demand that a provider start to keeps logs of an individual (and provide a gag order to prevent the company alerting their customer of this).

This is, however, a specifically targeted demand or request (most providers will happily cooperate when it comes to catching pedophiles, for example), so only specific individuals already identified by the authorities need be too concerned.

Shared IPs

In addition to keeping no logs, any company that cares about protecting their users’ privacy also uses shared IPs. This means that many users are assigned the same IP address, so matching identified internet behavior with a specific individual is very difficult to do, even if a provider should wish (or is compelled) to do so. This goes a long way towards addressing the privacy issue outlined above.

What does ‘no logs’ actually mean? Usage logs vs. connection logs

When many providers claim to keep no logs, what they really mean is that they keep no (what we term) ‘usage logs’. They do however keep ‘connection logs’:

  • Usage logs – details of what you get up to on the internet, such as which web sites you visit etc. These are the most important (and potentially damaging logs)
  • Connection logs – many ‘no logs’ providers keep metadata about users’ connections, but not usage logs. Exactly what is logged varies by provider, but typically includes things like when you connected, how long for, how often etc. Providers usually justify this as necessary for dealing with technical issues and instances of abuse. In general we are not too bothered by this level log keeping, but the truly paranoid should be aware that, at least in theory, such logs could be used to identify an individual with known internet behavior through an ‘end to end timing attack

Some providers claim to keep no logs of any kind (“no logs providers”, and it is these that are generally considered best for protecting privacy. It should be noted that some critics argue it is impossible to run a VPN service without keeping logs, and those who claim to do so are being disingenuous.

However, as mentioned above, with a VPN provider everything comes down to trust, and if a provider claims to keep no logs at all we have to trust its ability to run to run the service in this way…

Mandatory data retention

Something to be aware of when choosing a privacy-friendly VPN provider is where it is based (i.e. under which country’s laws does it operate). Many countries (including many European countries) require communications companies to keep logs for a certain amount of time, although whether these laws apply to VPN providers can vary somewhat (in Europe the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, and Sweden are popular places to base a VPN service because VPN providers in these countries are not required to keep logs).

If a VPN provider is based in a country which really requires it to keep logs then it will do so, no matter what other impression it tries to give.

Paying for VPN anonymously

More privacy-minded VPN companies allow you pay for their services anonymously. The most common method is using Bitcoins**, but companies such as Private Internet Access will accept anonymously purchased store cards, and Mullvad will even take cash sent by post!
This adds an extra layer of privacy, as the VPN company does not know your real name, address, or banking details. It will, however, still know your real IP address*

In addition to the direct privacy benefits of paying anonymously, accepting anonymous payment is often a good indicator that a VPN takes privacy seriously (this is hardly a guarantee, but not accepting anonymous payment is definitely poor show!)

** Paying by Bitcoin is not inherently anonymous, but if the correct steps are taken then a high degree of anonymity can be achieved. Please see my guide to Buying Bitcoins to pay for VPN anonymously for more details.

An exception to the rule*

An exception to the rule that VPN providers always know who you are is if you use VPN through Tor. This means that you connect to the VPN service via the Tor anonymity network, so that your VPN provider cannot see your true IP address.

If you also signup using Tor, and use an anonymous payment method, you can achieve a very high level of true anonymity with this setup. Do be aware, however, that doing this combines the speed hit of both VPN and Tor, making internet connections very slow.

At the time of writing, only AirVPN and BolehVPN support VPN through Tor (as far as I am aware). For more details please checkout my article on Using VPN and Tor together.

So… am I “safe” if I use VPN?

Using a good no logs VPN service does provide a high degree of privacy. It will protect you from blanket government surveillance, prevent your ISP knowing what you get up to on the internet, prevent you being tracked by copyright owners when pirating stuff, and will even provide a fair bit of protection when engaged in low level criminal activities.

It will not, however, protect you if the police, your government, or the NSA, are specifically interested in you, and are willing to spend time and resources investigating what you do on the internet.

Journalists, whistleblowers, and others who need a very high level of anonymity should therefore use Tor instead (although VPN through Tor does provide some concrete benefits).

How secure am I?


VPN protects your data using encryption. I have two core articles discussing VPN encryption and the various terms used to describe it. They are rather technical for this beginners guide, but if the subject interests you then please do check them out:

The TL:DR version, however, is to use OpenVPN (or maybe IKEv2) wherever possible. L2TP/IPsec is fine, but PPTP should be avoided at all costs (in my view it is irresponsible for a provider to even offer customers PPTP as an option!).

As a point of reference, the minimum default settings for the OpenVPN protocol are:

Handshake: RSA-2048
Hash authentication: SHA-1
Cipher: Blowfish-128

This is more than sufficient for most users, but if you are the sort of person who worries about the NSA, then my minimum recommendation for a “secure” VPN connection that should be resistant against any known form of attack for the foreseeable future is:

VPN Protocol: OpenVPN with Perfect Forward Secrecy enabled
Handshake: RSA-2048
Hash authentication: SHA256
Cipher: AES-256

IP leaks & kill switches

If your VPN is working properly then it should completely hide your IP address from any website you visit. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this is not always the case. If a website can somehow detect your true IP address even when using VPN, you have what is known as an IP leak.

To determine if you are suffering an IP leak, visit If you are connected to a VPN and you can see your true IP address (or even just your ISP’s name) anywhere on this page then you have an IP leak. Note that does not detect IPv6 leaks, so to test for these you should visit

If you detect a leak please consult A Complete Guide to IP Leaks in order to find out why its happening, and how to fix it.

A related issue is VPN dropouts, as every VPN connection will occasionally fail. With a good VPN provider this should not happen very often, but it occasionally happens even to the best. If your computer continues to remain connected to the internet after a dropout,, then your real IP will be exposed.

The solution is a “VPN kill switch” which either monitors your internet connection and shuts it down when it detects a VPN dropout, or uses firewall rules to prevent any internet traffic leaving your computer outside of your VPN connection.

Many VPN providers include a kill switch as part of their VPN software, but third party options are available. Alternatively, if feeling brave you can configure your own using firewall rules. Please see here for more discussion on kill switches, including how to configure OpenVPN for Android as a kill switch.

Can I torrent safely using VPN?

vpns_for_beginnersYes, as long as you use a provider that permits it (not all do, so check!) With VPN your data is encrypted so that your ISP cannot see what you are doing online, and your IP is shielded by your VPN provider.

When P2P downloading via BitTorrent (or streaming using Popcorn Time) everyone else downloading the same file can easily see the IP address of everyone else who is downloading that file (hence the names P2P and filesharing!) When using a VPN, someone tracking that file will only see the IP of your VPN server, not your real IP address.

VPN companies get bombarded with DMCA-style copyright infringement notices due to users’ activities all the time. Some prefer to cooperate with copyright holders, to the point of handing over the names of infringing customers for further legal action, while others simply try to keep copyright holders happy by issuing warnings, and ultimately disconnecting repeat offenders.

Some providers, however, are happy to let customers P2P download, and make a good business out of protecting their identities (keeping no logs is always a good start here!) If your VPN provider allows P2P then you can download in safely.

Perhaps more than anyone, however, downloaders should be careful to use a VPN kill switch as they often leave torrents to download unattended for hours at time…

When SmartDNS is better

vpns_for_beginnersMany people use VPN primarily to evade geo-restrictions in order to watch TV streaming services that are blocked to international users (or which offer better catalogs to users in certain countries).

If this is the only reason you want VPN for, and you are not interested in the privacy and security advantages that VPN brings, then you may be better off using a SmartDNS service instead.

SmartDNS uses much simpler technology and does not encrypt your connection, which makes it faster than VPN (so fewer buffering issues, but distance remains an issue). It can also be configured on many internet devices that cannot run a VPN client, such as Smart TV’s, media streaming devices, and games consoles (as every internet capable device has DNS settings that can be changed).

SmartDNS services are also usually cheaper than VPN ones. For more information please visit our sister-site

Does VPN work on mobile devices?

vpns_for_beginnersYes, but…

VPN is well-supported on the iOS and Android platforms, and as with desktop computers will encrypt you data and hide your IP address for all internet connections. When accessing websites through your website’s browser for P2P downloading, therefore, you are fully protected when using a VPN.

However… mobile apps have many ways other than your IP address to determine your identity, and know what you are doing online. Apps often have access to GPS data, contact lists, Google Play/Apple Store ID, and more. Many apps send this and all sorts of other personal data directly to their parent companies (thereby bypassing your VPN).

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the ads used in many apps as a way for developers to monetize their product are whole privacy nightmare just by themselves!

To gain the full benefits of VPN on a mobile device you should therefore access websites and services via their web page or web interface using your browser (preferably the open source and privacy-friendly Firefox), rather than through dedicated apps.

Please always be aware, however, that smartphones (even more than WiFi-only tablets) are inherently insecure, and there is very little you can really do to make them secure.

What VPN does not do

Using VPN does meaningfully improve your privacy and security, but it is important to understand what it will not help with:

  • vpns_for_beginnersVPN does not provide anonymity – as already discussed. If the NSA is after you, VPN will not help, and we consider any VPN provider that says VPN will make you “anonymous” (as many do) to be highly irresponsible.
  • VPN does not prevent tracking by websites – hiding your IP address with VPN helps a bit, but most tracking performed by websites and by marketing & analytics companies is performed using tracking technologies such as cookies and worse (including browser fingerprinting), which VPN will not help with. The best defense against this form of tracking is to use various browser add-ons andtweaks.

Beginners VPN Guide Conclusion

VPN is a very versatile tool, and one that for a few bucks a month will greatly enhance your internet experience, decrease your chances of being hacked, and prevent your government from watching everything you do online (this last point is why I personally use VPN religiously).

My hope with this guide is that you will now be able to make informed choices about which VPN service is right for you. If any terms here still confuse you, we have a Glossary designed to help.

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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128 responses to “VPNs for Beginners – What you need to know

  1. i want to work online on a site but its not available in my country. can i get access of all feature of that website using vpn by changing my location to a country where it works?

    1. Hi hussy,

      Yes :). A problem you may have if you are working online via this website, however, is payment. If the service is not available in your country, then it may refuse to pay into bank accounts etc. based in your country. So do make sure that a payment method is is available that you can access.

    We live in London and on a 4 week holiday in Benidorm Spain. UK TV is available in Spain but as my wife is a bit deaf she needs subtitles ( or CC ) for the UK soaps Eastenders, Correy, Doc Martin etc. Our holiday apartment did not have subtitles on the UK TV so she used her IPad and signed up on ExpressVPN for a month for 12 Dollars ( paid by PayPal ).
    At first we had trouble getting BBC Player and ITV HUB to work because ExpressVPN has a SMART select for location of servers so Switzerland was preferred server ( players not working ) we then manually selected France server ( still players not working ).
    Then had LIVE CHAT with ExpressVPN rep and he told us to select the UK server. Did that and now both players work perfectly including SUBTITLES. So our first choice ExpressVPN is excellent but we will cancel after a month but will sign up again for our next holiday in USA but will not forget to select the UK server to get the players to work. Dave & Brenda.

    1. Hi Dave,

      I’m glad you got it all sorted out. Yup, in order to access BBC iPlayer you need to fool the iPlayer website into thinking that your are actually connecting from a UK location. This known as geospoofing. This usually requires that you connect to a VPN server located in the UK.

    1. Hi CJ,

      Using a VPN will hide what you get up to on the internet while using your school WiFi. Note that schools often try to block VPNs for just reason. If this is the case at your school, you may want to check out my How to Bypass VPN Blocks guide. Please be aware, however, that getting caught could land you in trouble with the school authorities.

  3. Hi

    I would like to know if the vpn provider can read my emails. I use Gmail and outlook.
    Also, if I use a vpn, do I need to pay for antivirus or is the vpn enough. Thank You 🙂

    1. Hi Britt,

      – If you connect to an HTTPS website then a VPN provider cannot see what you get up to on that website. This means that VPN providers cannot read your Gmail or Outlook emails.
      – Google and Microsoft, on the other hand, can and do read your Gmail and Outlook emails.
      – Using a VPN is not a substitute for good anti-virus software.

  4. Hi, Doug. Im trying to sign up for Neo2 Binary options trading software but my country Nigeria is restricted, please can you recomend the best VPN provider for me thanks. The sotware provider i think is based in USA.

    1. Hi Victor,

      In theory, any VPN with servers in the US should work as far as signig up is concerned. A bigger problem, however, is that you will probably need a US bank account. You should also be aware that breaking its Terms of Service may give give the company the legal right to deny you service while keeping hold of any any money you have given it…

  5. Hi, i have bought an android box for streaming and it seems ok but still a lot to learn about it. I also have two laptops inuse both using linux (mint). Q1 what VPN would be best for everything. Q2 should I pick a VPN that is located out of the 14 eyes or by picking a location such as the Netherlands.

    1. Hi Geoff,

      1. If the Android box is running a fairly normal version Android, then any VPN service that supports both Android (almost all of them) and Linux will do. If it runs Kodi then OpenVPN for Kodi should let you use any VPN service that supports OpenVPN.
      2. That depends entirely on your threat model. The Netherlands is fine if you are just worried about about copyright issues, while outside the Fourteen Eyes is best if government surveillance worries you. That said, other matters are at play. I care about government surveillance but use AirVPN, which is based in Italy (a 14EY, but not FVEY country). For me, AirVPNs dedication to privacy and top-notch technological security outweigh any 14EY concerns. YMMV.

    1. Hi Chris,

      No.If you are using a VPN over a Wifi network then you not not get charged for mobile data use.

  6. Hi Douglas,

    Great piece, very informative.
    Can you tell me, how does a VPN or Tor work when hot spotting your phone to either your laptop or iPad?

    1. Hi Clark,

      Running a VPN or Tor on your phone does not affect your the connections of any devices tethered to it (via USB, Bluetooth or hotspot). So you will not gain the benefit of using the VPN or Tor. To use a VPN or Tor you should run the software on the actual devices, not on your phone (which works just fine).

  7. Hello. Would a VPN be beneficial with my Amazon Firestick that contains Kodi and add on apps that allow me to view movies and tv shows, sporting events, etc…through streaming methods.

    1. Hi Steve
      You can’t run a VPN on a FireStick (as far as I’m aware) but you can run the VPN on your router and use it that way. Hope that helps.

  8. Hi Doug. Thank you for your article. I recently took a “security test” on the Webroot website and came up with 3 wrong, one being that I don’t use a VPN. I didn’t even know what that was, which led me to your well written explanation. I’ve only really become concerned about security since the Yahoo password etc hack broke in the news. I’ve been letting Google save my passwords because it made things so much easier. Going to change all that today. What I use is a desktop pc, a desktop Mac, a laptop pc for work, an android tablet and an iPhone for me, an android phone for my husband. We also have a roku for our TV. I thought I was safe if I just stuck with https websites for any sensitive information and used security Webroot on the devices. Obviously I’m not tech savvy. Do I really need a VPN? And is there one you’d recommend for all these devices? Thank you for your time. I can’t imagine why you do this, but I’m quite grateful to have someone to ask.

    1. Hi Leigh,

      – Most VPN services support all the devices you mention, except for the Roku (which does not include a VPN client). It is possible to share a VPN connection with your Roku, but if security and/or privacy is your only concern (rather than geo-spoofing) I probably wouldn’t bother. This is because your TV viewing habits are unlikely to present a major security or privacy threat.
      – Sticking to HTTPS websites does provide a fair degree of protection, although your ISP will be able to see that you have visited those websites (but not what you look at or get up to once there).
      – Check out our list 5 Best VPN Services. FWIW, I use AirVPN.

  9. Hi
    this is badal from united arab emirates here all sites are blocked even now a days it”s very tough because we can not use social apps calling feature like( messenger, imo, viber ) etc without vpn connection so I am using some free vpn from play store in my tablet, so it is safe to use does vpn connection really hides ip address in android tablet, it is safe to use some block sites?? if they caught here its illegal offence and huge amount fine please let me know before I start on it thank you.

    1. Hi badel,

      Using a VPN will hide your IP address as long as there are no IP leaks. Your ISP however, can see the IP of the VPN server you connect to. If it knows that server belongs to a VPN provider, it will know that you are connecting to a VPN. You should therefore uses a provider that obfuscates VPN use, such as the ones discussed in 5 Best VPNs for China. D please be aware, however, that there will always be some risk.

  10. Just want to add to the conversation about HOXX. Sounds like Alan wasn’t ready to hear the truth. He said he called them and they said no they didn’t share information – of course they did! They are a bit trickier, actually. THEY don’t share the information but let their advertisers have access to your information whether or not you click on their links. Though they do say that you can opt out… good luck on that one. They exist only because they allow third party advertisers access to your browsing info. Here is their statement on this, found way on down the privacy policy:

    Advertisers and advertising networks place ads (including sponsored links in search results) on our website. These companies, as well as data analytics companies who service them, may use cookies, pixel tags, mobile device IDs and other similar technologies to collect data about you when you visit our website. They use the data to enable them to track your activity across various sites where they display ads and record your activities, so they can show ads that they consider relevant to you. You may opt-out of receiving targeted online advertising from advertising networks that is delivered on our website.

  11. Hi Doug,

    And tankyou for a great read.
    I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on nordvpn?
    I’ve been reserching for a while after a good vpn service. And I’ve come to the conclusion that nordvpn seems like a excellent candidate.

    1. Hi Lenny,

      NordVPN is good in many ways, but it can be very slow. With some trial and error, however, you should be able to find a fast server.

  12. Hi, we are from the uk, my daughter is working in a school in spain, she wants to just watch itv hub but it is only allowed in the uk. She has been looking and thinks she needs a ghost ip address. I am not not tech savvy at all and wandered if she does need a ghost ip address and secondly if she will able to as I know schools are very good with privacy. Has anyone got any ideas or help. Thank you

    1. Hi uk,

      – Your daughter will be able to access ITV Hub with using any VPN service that offers UK servers almost all of them) or, alternatively, using a Smart DNS service.
      – Different schools have different policies regarding the use of VPNs. If they are prohibited or even blocked then there are ways around this, but it is up to your daughter to decide if she wants to pursue them.

  13. Hi Doug, this is a great read. Which VPN servicer would you suggest for streaming kodion a firestick and also protecting privacy working from home?

  14. Great article! Thanks for making this topic understandable. One question, I read your comments about mobile devices but I’m s little confused. Are you saying that it’s practically pointless to utilize s VPN on a mobile device? i.e. Smartphones, iPads, tablets

    1. Hi Sharon,


      No. What I am saying is that using a VPN on a smartphone (and to a lesser extent on Wifi-only tablets) is useless if you access services via their apps (as these byapss the VPN and talk directly to their developers and third party advertisers). Using a VPN provides all the usual benefits when surfing the internet and accessing services via their web portals using your mobile browser.

  15. Hi Douglas , great read for a newbie such as myself about to try the VPN network from Australia,
    Can you tell me if you already have a Netflix account or any other subscription that is based in the US/UK or anywhere really while based in Australia prior to obtaining a vpn ,what happens when you log into your account using the vpn ?.Does it give you the full US programmes or as you have used your login – still restrict you to the Aus limited programmes?.
    Do you have to acquire a new Netflix account etc and cancel the current account to get full access please ?.

    1. Hi Robert,

      If you have a Netflix account and login to while connected to a US VPN server then you will usually have access to the full US Netflix catalog. Your existing Netflix account is fine. Netflix is trying to block VPN users at the moment, however, so not all VPN services work. A little trial an error is therefore needed, and I strongly suggest that you take advantage of any free trials and money back guarantees in order to find a service that does work for you.

  16. Hi, great article. I use kodi via a fire stick and am looking into getting a vpn. The problem I’ve run into is that I have a gateway that isn’t compatible (according to ISP) with a VPN. If using one for business, I would need separate software. I obviously don’t want it for business. In order to have all of my devices protected, I would need to have my computer connected via Ethernet to my gateway OR connect another router. These are important issues you may want to mention before someone goes out and purchases a router. Only certain models are supported depending on the company.
    I could put a vpn on my computer but that doesn’t help my kodi issue since my device is connected to my tv. I’m stumped and am not sure what my options are besides buying another router and putting my gateway in bridge mode.

    1. Hi Teags.

      Thanks! It is true that not all routers include a VPN client. Thanks to the shear number of router models out there (many tied to a particular ISP), when we talk about routers we concentrate on ones flashed with DD-WRT (or to lesser extent with Tomato). This is also common practice among VPN providers, and means that a much wider range of routers can support OpenVPN configurations. In this Beginners Guide to VPN I decided not to include any mention of VPN on routers for the sake of keeping things simple, but this may have been an oversight. When I have a little spare time I will add a short section on using routers with a VPN.

      As for using a VPN with Kodi, I use Kodi on a Raspberry Pi 2, and use open source OpenVPN for Kodi Add-on. It works a treat! It uses standard OpenVPN configuration files, so should work with almost any VPN provider.

  17. I travel quite a bit and am curious about using a VPN in other countries. If I sign up for a VPN in the US will it not protect me in Europe or Asia?

    1. Hi Maryjo,

      Yup – VPN services generally work fine anywhere in the world (unless they are actively blocked, as is the case in places such as China). If you travel a lot then choose a provider with servers all over the world (such as ExpessVPN or IPVanish), and connect to a server nearest to your location for the best connection speeds.

  18. I enjoyed your article-it included info that I could understand and could use. I’m considering a VPN service but wondering if doing a overkill with VPN.

    Recently retired, I’m spending a lot of time online; shopping and researching anything that comes to mind. Noticed a couple of “weird” emails talking about sending 600 or 900 checks but nothing on the amount desired. Then on my Iphone favorites, there was a new entry with just a phone number, looks like an OR area code.

    I’m now concerned. Do I get a VPN for my apple laptop, iPad and phone? Saw that VPN wouldn’t protect iPhone and iPad as they are mobile devices? What do you advise? I’m not a techie…

    1. Hi Trudie,

      – I must admit that I am not 100% sure I understand your problems, but I don’t think the weird emails are an issue (they are probably just spam and should be ignored). The other problem sounds more serious, but I am unclear about wehat is going on. By “iPhone favorites” do you mean Address book favorites, Safari favorites, or something else?

      – VPNs work just fine on iPads and iPhones, but they are not the solution to the problems you seem to be having. If you can provide more details, I will try to help determine what the solution is.

  19. Thank you for a very educational article!

    I’m on Linux Mint 17.3 KDE and am using BolehVPN.

    When switching from my regular ISP account to my VPN connection one of the desired effects is the change of my IP Address.

    When accessing the Thunderbird e-mail client this message will pop up:

    Microsoft account
    Verify your account
    We detected something unusual about a recent sign-in for the Microsoft account ka***** For example, you might be signing in from a new location, device, or app.
    To help keep you safe, we’ve blocked access to your inbox, contacts list, and calendar for that sign-in. Please review your recent activity and we’ll help you take corrective action. To regain access, you’ll need to confirm that the recent activity was yours.
    Review recent activity
    The Microsoft account team”

    Only after accessing each of my accounts on web-mail and completing all security steps can I access my mail accounts again in Thunderbird.

    This happens each time I change vpn server location. Even when reverting back to my ISP account I am denied accessing my e-mail access through my e-mail client until completing the security steps.

    This is a royal pain as I have several e-mail accounts.

    I brought this issue to the attention of Mozilla, Microsoft and BolehVPN but have not received any positive responses; My technical knowledge is too limited as to who might be responsible for this occurrence and I am not discounting the fact that all this is of my own making…

    Any suggestions for a fix or workaround avoiding this inconvenience?

    1. Hi Kay,

      Unfortunately some companies are rather too proactive in their efforts to protect your accounts. If you normaly access your email from one place, and then suddenly access it from another country, this automatically triggers a security response. The best thing you can do is to stick with using a favorite server location when accessing your email accounts.

    1. Hi Salty,

      BestVPN has not yet reviewed, and I am not personally familiar with the “anonymous” audio and video conferencing software. Given that it is proprietary, that very little actual detail is provided on its own website, and that is not a product talked about by the security community, however, it is unlikely that I would be too excited about the service.

  20. Hi Douglas Crawford,

    Thanks for the wonderful article. What is your view about using a vpn in India for downloading movies where internet speed is pathetic and netflix is absent? Ninety percent of people use pirated windows. Do you think it is absolutely necessary while the vpn companies are not giving any payment option in INR? What is the chance of getting caught in India and be punished? If possible suggest a true no log VPN service.

    1. Hi AM,

      To be honest, you probably have a better idea about what the situation “on the ground” is like in India than I do. Slow connection speeds make streaming via Netflix etc. wildly impracticable, but torrenting will work just fine as long as you are patient a d you are not charged per GB. I suspect the chance of getting caught and punished while downloading is very low, but Indian ISPs are becoming increasingly aggressive over this issue (including threats of up to 3 years in jail for offenders!). I would therefore advise using a VPN to protect yourself when downloading, and just accept the speed hit. For a list of truly no-logs providers, please see 5 Best Logless VPNs.

  21. This is really a good read. Thanks for sharing this wonderful knowledge about VPN. It is truly a great help for me.

  22. Hi… Thanks for the information. However, I have one query. I use my android cell phone internet on laptop through Hot-Spot. So what should I buy? VPN for phone ot laptop ?

    1. Hi Ricky,

      Running a VPN on your Android phone will not protected your PC tethered to it, so to protect your laptop use a desktop VPN client. Note that most VPN service allow more than 1 simultaneous connection, so you can happily run a VPN on both devices anyway.

  23. Hi Douglas,
    Great article. I’m in the USA & want to use a VPN for streaming in Europe. Hoxx VPN gets excellent reviews as an Add-on for Firefox & Chrome. Are you familiar w/ it?

    1. Hi Alan,

      I’m afraid not, but as Hoxx is a free browser add-on, there is no harm giving it a try. I would disable the add-on (or use another browser) when not streaming, however, as it is not entirely clear how Hoxx monetizes its free service.

      1. Hi Doug,
        I’ve been using Hoxx free for a few days & have been very satisfied. I get virtually no decrease in speed & it works great. No problem streaming. They also have great support.
        Pretty amazing for a free VPN.

        1. Hi Alan,

          “Pretty amazing for a free VPN.” Indeed. This is why I have some concerns over how Hoxx makes money.

          1. Hi Doug,
            Well, if you look on their website they do say that they have the free version in the hope that you’ll get the paid version. I’m sure they will be trying to get me to sign up for the paid version. Whether you get a paid or free VPN you only have their word that they don’t use your info. To some extent it seems like a crap shoot. So far, so good. Maybe you could contact them & see what they have to say about your misgivings.


          2. Hi Alan,

            – I’m sure they are, but Hoxx’s focus appears firmly on its free product. I know that I am very possibly being over-cautious, and will email Hoxx to see what they say.
            – It is true that you only have a provider’s word for what it does with your info, but paid-for service’s model relies on them honoring their word, and it is clear how they make their money.

          3. Hi Doug,
            That would be great if you make contact w/ Hoxx. I’d be very interested in what you find out. Hopefully they’re on the up & up.

          4. Hi Alan,

            Looking through the website pretty much answers my questions – in its FAQ Hoxx says “How do you make money? We try to convert our free clients to premium ones.” In its privacy policy, however, its is clear that Hoxx collects a great deal of information about its users, and shares this with its advertising partners. You doubtless agree to this in the small print before using the service.

          5. Hi Doug,
            Per your last reply I contacted Hoxx & asked them about the concerns you mentioned. Here is their reply:

            “we do not share user data with any advertisement provider or any other source. We only use them internally to improve our overall system, this is done automated by our servers. So we do not share your private information.”


  24. Hi. I’ve been poring over lots of reviews for vpns. It seems like Express VPN gets consistently good reviews. I am pretty good with computers and protection but want to take that next step. Not knowing enough about them tech wise, it seems like this would be an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t want to tinker too much. I really want it for that extra layer of protection. I do all of my financial transactions online and even though I use Norton Security and Malware Bytes, this is something I am interested in. What do you think and recommend? Thank you.

    1. Hi Gary,

      As a general purpose customer-focused VPN, ExpressVPN is very hard to beat. There are more secure and privacy-focused VPNs out there, but ExpressVPN should than meet you needs in these regards.

  25. Great post Douglas, Yes VPN is an awesome technology. I am using Business VPN for secure remote access and VPN make us anonymous.
    I am using PureVPN business solution one of the best thing of PureVPN is that they give 500+ servers in 144+ countries.
    here you can check other feathers of it.

    1. Hi John,

      Unfortunately, PureVPN is responsible to more complaints we receive that just about all other VPNs put together! This fact is bourne out in our new PureVPN Review.

  26. Hi nice article was just wandering a few things:
    in all surcumstances dealing with a tech savvy person and a free but good vpn service
    -can they decrypt what websites you are visiting and your activity on the web?
    -know you are using a vpn?
    – block the vpn?
    -find out somehow what you are doing on the web?

    If any of these are possible would like to know if there are fixes for these problems or not thx.

    1. Hi Charlie,

      – Basically, no – using a VPN hides what you do on the internet, but it depends somewhat on who “they” are. The VPN provider itself can see what you get up to (although good ones keep no logs of this and use shared IPs to confuse the issue). The NSA might be able to spy on you if it has deliberated targeted you as being of special interest.
      – Your ISP can see the IP of the VPN server you connect to. If actively looking, then it could quite easily find out that the IP belongs to a VPN company. It is also not too difficult to use deep packet inspection (DPI) to determine that internet traffic is encrypted using a VPN protocol. Check out 5 Best VPNs for China for a discussion on how to hide the fact that you are using a VPN. Websites can also determine that you are using a VPN simply by knowing that the IP address you connect tpo the website from belongs to a VPN provider.
      – Places such as China try to block VPN use, but are only partially successful (at best).
      – Using a VPN will hide what you get up to on the web against most adversaries. Your VPN provider, however, can always know what you get up to, and can be forced (e.g. by a court order or subpoena) to start logging or monitoring communication in reatime (even if it normally keeps no logs).
      – VPNs provide a high level of privacy when using the internet, but if you require true anonymity then use Tor instead.

  27. I’m going to a repressive country to teach for a few months. I was told it to bring a bible. Should I use a vpn so I can read my bible app? Should I use one of those apps that hides apps or photos and decoys itself as a calculator? Thanks.

    1. Hi June,

      My first instinct is to suggest that exercising a little cultural sensitivity might be the best course of action. You will be a guest in a foreign culture, so perhaps you should consider respecting the mores and wishes of that culture? After all, it is only for a few months, and I would guess that you are quite familiar with the Bible’s contents anyway. If you do feel a need to read the Bible during your stay, then yes, using an app that hides your Bible app may be the best course of action. If you use an offline Bible app, a VPN connection (or even an internet connection)is not necessary. Alternatively, you can use a VPN to access the Bible via online websites. The advantage of this approach is that you will at no point be carrying an actual copy of the bible with you.

    1. Hi Tommy,

      ExpressVPN is a very professionally run operation that is aimed squarely at mainstream users. It is particularly great at customer service, and its 30-day money no-quibble back guarantee is 100% genuine (unlike some others on the market). It does, however, keep connection logs and is nowhere near as secure technically as AirVPN (for example). ExpressVPN is therefore a great choice for the vast majority of VPN users, but real privacy-heads should look elsewhere.

      1. Hi Douglas,

        I noticed in the reply you made to Tommy you mentioned that ExpressVPN keeps log, however in your review article for them on a Mac OS you say that ExpressVPN do NOT keep logs. Can you clear up this confusion?

        I am also curious to know if you accept any finance from any VPN companies?

        Many thanks

        1. Hi Alex,

          I did not write the 5 Best VPNs for Mac article, but it is in error (now corrected). ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs (details of what you get up to on the internet), but it does keep quite extensive connection (metadata) logs. You might be interested in checking out my article on What does ‘no logs’ mean?

  28. What’s the best vpn in your opinion for Saudi Arabia? I’m going to be working there for a year and my agency suggested I get one so I can watch Netflix, hulu, hbo now etc. I have no idea how to set it up, should I arrange it before I leave in 2 weeks? I’m not very tech savvy – I don’t even know what to do about my phone situation lol! I have to bring along an unlocked phone so I can’t use my current iPhone 6 while I’m there. I also have a kindle fire hd so how does that work between my laptop and kindle and setting up a vpn? Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Yolanda,

      It’s a little old, but much of the information in 5 Best VPNs for Saudi Arabia should still be relevant. To setup, simply signup for a service, download, install and run its software (most VPN services have detailed guides for this). Yes, it is a good idea to signup and install the software before arrival in Saudi. And taking an unlocked phone and then buying a local sim card is a very good plan. Most VPN providers have either an Android app or good setup instructions for configuring either OpenVPN for Android or OpenVPN Connect manually, but the Kindle Fire is somewhat awkward because it does not (by default) allow access to the Google Play Store. See here for more details and solutions. Some VPN services (such as ExpressVPN) explicitly support the Kindle Fire (no root). Please be aware that a VPN will geospoof your location when using your mobile browser, but may not work in apps as these can use a variety of other methods to determine your true location.

    1. Hi Joseph,

      BestVPN ( is blocked in China. We get around this by this by running another domain name ( that is not blocked there (so far). In theory China could block this special URL at any time, but so far it has not (and we have used this domain for the last 2 years). If it did, we could always purchase a new domain and use that instead.

      Another option is to publish your website on the Tor Hidden Services darkweb – much as Facebook has done. A .onion web address is impossible to block, and can be accessed by anyone using the Tor Browser.

  29. Hi Douglas,
    My question is the reverse of most here, we have a very tech savvy child.
    If he’s using a VPN is there any way to block that being used from our IP to safeguard him online.


    1. Hi Paul,

      That depends on how tech savvy your child is, and whether you have direct access to his or her computer. Depending on your router, it may be possible to implement firewall rules to block ports routinely used by VPN connections. But there are ways around this. On a broader note, however (and without knowing how old your child is), I think you should consider internet blocks very carefully. Censorship is a very blunt tool, and one that can backfire badly. You cannot protect your child from the world forever, and if he/she is old enough to understand how a VPN works, then it may be time to take a step back.

      A far better approach, IMO, is to maintain a dialogue with your child, so that he/she has the moral framework and social/political understanding necessary to contextualize material he/she encounters on the internet. At some point he/she will become exposed to this content anyway, and it far better IMO that children feel able to approach their parents and talk honestly and frankly about material that disturbs or challenges them in some way. This is far better than feeling a need to hide what they get up to on the internet, and which will deny you the opportunity to provide the support that your child needs.

      It is a big bad world out there, and I believe it is better to prepare children for its challenges, than to censor it from them (which won’t work in the long run anyway).

  30. Very interesting stuff, cheers. Quick Q, from your Ultimate guide it mentions “It is obvious to observers that you are using VPN” – any way round that? Thx

    1. Hi Dan,

      Yup. Check out 5 Best VPNs for China. Simply running an OpenVPN (or SSTP) connection over TCP port 443 can make OpenVPN traffic look just like regular HTTPS traffic. This enough to defeat more casual checks. Some VPN providers also offer “stealth” servers or “Chameleon” encryption to defeat more thorough Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). These typically employ obfuscation technologies such as obfsproxy bridges, or hide OpenVPN connections inside SSL or SSH tunnels.

  31. Hi,
    I am wondering if using a VPN would make my on-line financial dealings more secure esp while traveling. I don’t understand how, if my data is encrypted when it leaves my computer, is it decrypted when it gets to the bank (for example) and does it work in reverse from the bank?

    1. Hi Ian,

      VPNs are useful for many things (as discussed in this guide), but are not very useful for what you want. As you say, your internet connection with the bank website is protected using HTTPS encryption (both ways). VPN will provide an extra layer of security (encryption) when using public WiFi hotspots, but this should really be necessary as long as you connect to HTTPS secured websites (which all banks are).

  32. Im Looking for advice richard.i download some films, books, and music. Not a lot say 5gb a month. While im away working i watch the films,read,listen to new music.when i am in the uk on leave,should i now get a vpn subscription,or can i buy/use a vpn router. I dont profit or copy but want to keep myself legal in what i do. Any advice would b a great help.

    1. Hi Les,

      Downloading copyrighted content in the UK is illegal. The chances of getting caught are low, but using a VPN will protect you (as long as you choose a VPN provider that permits P2P and offers a kill switch – please see see 5 Best VPNs for Torrent Downloads. I can’t really see the advantage of you buying a VPN router (which still requires a subscription) – and software VPN clients are any almost always much faster because the processor in your PC or even mobile device will be much faster than the processor in a router.

  33. Any comments about VPN in Cuba?
    Or using a corporate VPN based in Usa
    May work if I visit Cuba, no for privacy
    Sake,but to be able to comunicate with
    Usa via wi fi ?

    1. Hola Juan,

      Please see 5 Best VPNs for Cuba. The reason that I put a question mark after the title is that internet access remains very basic and limited in Cuba (so discussing VPNs may be a little premature), although no doubt this is changing fast. I am not clear why using a VPN will help you to communicate with the USA via WiFi. Perhaps you could explain more?

  34. Hi Douglas
    I’m struggling with Surfeasy and VyprVPN – both are being detected – I live in the Middle East and want to get access to at least some decent television. I use a Macbook. Do you recommend AirVPN for Mac also?

    Many thanks in advance

    1. Hi Kativa,

      Are you trying to access US Netflix? If so, I can confirm that AirVPN works, and that it works well on a Mac.

  35. I don’t agree with this, if the VPN is in a country where there laws does not ALLOW them to give out information, the NSA can’t do shit. They can’;t force or make a VPN provider from an entirely different country who’s laws may be more strict on protecting privacy, I mean what are they going to do. Prosecute a foreign VPN service Provider service for not complying?

    1. Hi Xavier,

      I’m not quite sure exactly what you are not agreeing with, but the NSA’s reach is considerable . All members of the Fourteen Eyes spying alliance regularly exchange information with it, and mutual law enforcement treaties mean that most governments will cooperate with legal requests made by police etc. from other countries (think Interpol).

      1. (think interpol) : their task is to collect information about wanted person at the opposite of a private company. I guess you think about special force from abroad that you name interpol (umbrella).
        what about vpn in ireland ? are they considered ‘unsafe’ , And with the victory of the brexit , do the rules about vpn/privacy are the same ?

        1. Hi rexvia,

          The point I was making is that police forces and security organizations routinely cooperate with those of other nations, giving them a reach that goes well beyond their direct jurisdictions.
          Regarding Ireland, you might find this article interesting…

          1. Hello,
            It is embarrassing : regarding Ireland, the article does not learn me a lot.
            Like your last answer, it is general concept, opinion, idea …

            The question was : “They can’;t force or make a VPN provider from an entirely different country who’s laws may be more strict on protecting privacy, I mean what are they going to do. Prosecute a foreign VPN service Provider service for not complying?”
            Someone decided with the help of machines to decrease the errors made by the humans being , all the data are transmitted for a better decision. In the real life, cooperate means strictly doing his job (e.g mannings/non-compliance) and not , following the laws, because data have none frontier and are collected from the world to one place – the place where lives this ‘someone’. So, saying that police forces and security organizations routinely cooperate with those of other nations, giving them a reach that goes well beyond their direct jurisdictions is a tale for a young blind child … The machines do not need authorization.

            A vpn provider is not protected by the laws (stronger or not than the power of the 12:nsa) ; but by the chain of trust. The real danger is not in this clear plan of ‘someone’ ; but like it is yet written on this blog (news), in the misuse and abuse of personal data for a personal usage.

            The nations are not organized or structured for a state surveillance ; they rent a service for money , the service is manipulated for their own interest more often than serving the ‘international cooperation’. It is often false information and fake identification, a machine do not make the difference. It sold as true.

            So, i agree with Xavier ; if the privacy laws are stronger than 12:nsa ; ‘someone’ will fail to collect data because the chain of trust do not allow it (e.g startmail , proton e-mail) but if your live is in danger, which vpn will you choose , which vpn take your privacy seriously, is a vpn able to be ‘resistant’ against nsa ?
            In turkey (news), a courageous will is spreading the world : us go home.

          2. Hi rexvia,

            How resistant a VPN service is to foreign pressure depends a lot on your threat model. If you are using a VPN to evade censorship in Turkey, then pretty much any EU-based VPN provider will provide a high level of protection. If, on the other hand, your are a US citizen who is running a child porn website, simply using an EU-based VPN service is unlikely to protect you from the FBI. In countries where VPN providers can operate a “no-logs” service, they cannot be compelled to hand over logs that they do not have, but they can still be issued with court orders to start logging or to allow monitoring of communications in realtime. Such court orders are usually accompanied with a “gag order” to prevent companies alerting customers about this, which is why warrant canaries were invented. For reasons discussed here, however, I am dubious about the value of warrant canaries. Governments will often issue court orders at the request of other (friendly) governments.

    2. you are right but you forgot a detail : communication/complacency ; every body can ask who, when, where to his provider and that without none authority.

  36. Hi there.
    Great reviews.
    I am using pia.
    There are some technical problems with win client.
    Is there another service offering good speeds,security and ability to activate internet kill switch without buggering up os network settings or being unable to connect after hibernating?
    Being able to stream bbc would be great but this may reduce security obtained by using shared ip addresses which are being blocked

  37. Many thanks for a clear and simple explanation. Most descriptions of vpns are apparently written in Martian.

  38. Doug,

    Found your article extremely helpful.

    Does a VPN also make a personal hot spot using my I phone safer?

    1. Hi John,


      – If your PC (or whatever) is running a VPN when connected you phone’s personal WiFi hotspot, then your PC gains all the normal benefits of using a VPN (as discussed in this article).
      – If you connect your PC to your phone and your phone is running a VPN, this will not hide your PC’s true IP address.

  39. Great article Douglas. My all questions about VPN has been answered. Thank you very much. Keep up the good work. ?

  40. Aloha and mahalo Douglas for your extensive and informative article. It really helped me understand VPN much more. Keep up the good work.

  41. Douglas:
    I am such a 77 yr, old newbie, totally not a techie. You will see that quickly enough! I live in Ecuador, a wonderful little country, which has no English (or French) bookstores. I love to read! A niece’s 18 yr old showed me how to download books via Kickass torrents. I am in heaven. The downloader, for lack of a better name, has been warning me that I should be using a VPN. I tried one, then another; was horrified at what they did to my marvellous fiber optic ISP’s speed. Now, the reason for this long intro : is it or not a good thing for someone like me to go to the trouble of getting and setting up an VPN?

    1. Hi Richard,

      I visited Peru last year, which is not so far from Ecuador! I am no expert when it comes to South American (let alone Ecuadorian) copyright enforcement, but I strongly suspect that it is pretty much non-existent. If your only concern is “getting caught” while downloading ebooks (or other torrented content), then you probably have very little to worry about. Personally, I wouldn’t bother in your situation. If are still worried, then try to connect to a VPN server as close to your physical location as possible in order to minimize slowdown (for example, many VPN providers operate servers out of Panama, and ExpressVPN even runs one from Ecuador itslef).

      1. Douglas:
        I can’t thank you enough! I thought it was perhaps overkill to bother with a VPN, in my quite limited amount of web traffic and you corroborate that for me. I may give Express VPN a look, but you have made me feel much better. Muchas gratias!

    1. Hi Runyourownserver,

      Because I do not feel that running your own VPN server is a suitable topic for a beginners guide to VPN, especially as reviewing commercial VPN services is the purpose of this website (which this guide is primary designed to help explain). I do, however, have a guide to setting up your own server, and which also goes into the pros and cons of doing so – How to roll your own OpenVPN server on a VPS using CentOS 6.

  42. Hi Douglas
    Having just read your comments on VPN I have decided that I wouldlike to add it to my TV streaming system. MY system consists of a MX111-G Box running Android 5.1 but after emailing several companies supplying VPN none have suggested that it could be installed onto a MX111-g Android box. Could you comment as to if such software can be made to work on my equipment and if so who could I contact to help Sorry if this is not in your remit.

    1. Hi Bryan,

      Adding a VPN to your streaming system is a very good idea! Since your MX111-G TV Box runs regular Android, you should be able to use pretty much any VPN service – just follow a provider’s regular Android setup instructions. If your TV box does not have the Google Play Store installed you can always download OpenVPN for Android using F-Droid, and use regular OpenVPN config files with it. Most providers offer a free trial or money back guarantee, so why not just download their Android app (or follow their Android setup instructions) and take advantage of this to ensure the service works with your MX111-G before coughing up real money?

  43. Hi Douglas, as always a very informative write-up. I found your comment; “This is, however, a specifically targeted demand or request (most providers will happily cooperate when it comes to catching pedophiles, for example), so only specific individuals already identified by the authorities need be too concerned.”, interesting for a number of reasons. That is because corrupt ‘governments and police departments’ will use the ‘pedophile’ claim to demonize political dissidents or people who they have a personal vendetta against. VPN providers are in an unfortunate position if they forward a complete log of the ‘suspects’ surfing habits, they may very well be helping corrupt governments, police departments screw a completely innocent person.

    1. Hi Rick,

      The thing is that a good “no logs” company should have no logs to forward. Any government, however, can legally demand that a provider start keeping logs on a named individual (hence the “specifically targeted” comments). Unfortunately, there is nothing a VPN provider can do if served with a such a legally valid demand, except a) shut down (and even this may be seen as contempt of court) or comply.

  44. Perhaps you could do a website on secure email handlers. No one I know will agree to use encrypted emails, however there must be an in between. Much of my email is from someone who wants to sell me something, or someone who I have done business with, so I can not expect privacy from them. Sometimes it would be nice to have an email, where I could disguise who I am, where I am, from being open on the internet. There are a bunch of services, some of which are really poor in terms of security. Some cost money, which makes it hard to disguise who I am, Than again no free service is for long going to stay both free, and secure.

    Using a VPN where the emails make it easy to identify me, diminishes why one might use VPN. Also using one of those services with, say a family member defeats the how private the service is. One could see how a VPN could index an email name scrambler, wherein I have different email names for different send to addresses. (also supposing I do not allow this thing to be used as a spam email address for all those who send me, “Buy this from us.”

    I suspect you have a better concept of what might be useful than I do.

  45. Hi,

    as a noobie from the block. You are saying that some VPN-servers, depending in the country they are working, have to keep logs. Do you then mean the location of the compagny, or the location of the VPN-server?
    For example; MULLVAD operates in Sweden (I think so..), but have servers in The Netherlands, Germany etc. In your blog you say to avoid countries as Germany for the required logging due to law regulations.

    The bottom line: can I can connect to countries as Germany, The Netherlands and using PopcornTime (or XBMC :))?


    1. Hi Roelant,

      This is something of a grey area. When I asked AirVPN about its UK server, they told me that AirVPN keeps no logs, and if the UK government demanded that they do, it would go to the European Court of Justice, which has ruled mandatory data retention illegal. I recommend using a server in country that does not require compulsory data retention to be on the safe side. The Netherlands is a good location for a VPN server, as VPN providers are not required to keep logs there.

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