Review

Private Internet Access VPN Review


Our Private Internet Access Review found a provider at the forefront of the VPN market - and for good reason. Superlative encryption, a high degree of user choice in everything from protocol options to client setup, and a low price point come together to form a VPN service worthy of including the word "private" in the company name. 
Visit PrivateInternetAccess
Disclosure: compensated affiliate: click here for more information
VPN by :
Private Internet Access
Version:
Monthly VPN
Price:
6.95

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On May 18, 2016
Last modified:November 21, 2016

Summary:

Read our Private Internet Access VPN review to discover if this provider the best network for your security needs.

Pricing & Plans

Plans for the Private Internet Access VPN come with discounts proportionate to the length of time that you subscribe for, starting at $6.95 per month. If you’re satisfied with the service, or trust your research and would like to take immediate advantage of some savings, you may opt for the $5.99 per month six-month plan, or the $39.95 one-year plan (which averages out to a paltry $3.33 per month!). We know it’s not an insignificant sum, but in the context of the features discussed below and in comparison to the wider VPN market, it might well be considered a great deal.

PIA Pricing

There’s a seven-day money-back guarantee in place for those wishing to try out the service risk-free, which enhances the already appealing pricing model that Private Internet Access has in place.

PIA Payment Methods

You may pay with any major credit card, Paypal, cash money, or even Bitcoin – allowing for a near perfect degree of anonymity – in addition to the other options shown in the image above.

Conclusion

  • ProsPROS
  • Slightly above-average price
  • Topnotch encryption
  • Varied protocol options
  • Highs speeds
  • ConsCONS
  • Small wait For support responses

Video Review

We’ve put together a Private Internet Access VPN review video, which you can watch below.

Features

Despite being a subsidiary of London Trust Media Inc. (which might lead you to assume UK connections), Private Internet Access is based in Michigan in the US. There isn’t any glaring attempt to hide this – slightly disconcerting from a ‘Five Eyes‘ surveillance standpoint – company tie in any way, unlike some providers that hide or make it extremely difficult to find their registration and headquarters locations.

Private Internet Access VPN Review

There are servers for Private Internet Access VPN in place in 25 countries and counting, with North America and Europe well-covered. Additionally, Asia and the Middle East are represented, and the servers in Australia and New Zealand are definitely a welcome touch. What’s more, you’re allowed up to five simultaneous device connections, so all your devices can be covered.

PIA Servers

A handy server page on the main website shows clients and prospective buyers alike server counts, locations, and bandwidth stats, as another example of the design team’s client-facing attitude. Click the jump below to try out the service, or continue reading this Private Internet Access VPN review for some points on security.

Visit PIA »

Security & Privacy

Private Internet Access VPN has some of the best security measures and quite possibly the widest range of choices on the market. You may choose from PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, or OpenVPN. That said, the latter is undeniably best option available, so it wouldn’t make much sense to make any other choice (accounting for times when security is of little to no importance where speed and unblocking concerns trump all else).

What’s more, you may encrypt your data with up to AES-256, authenticate it with SHA256, and handshake with RSA 4096 (though you will take a speed hit on account of this last one). The wide variety might sound overwhelming to a novice, but Private Internet Access’ design team have done a great job of leaving tips and mapping out the different potential results of choosing one security blend over another. More on how this was accomplished can be found on both the PIA website, as well as in the sections below.Private Internet Access Review

Private Internet Access’ legal terms clearly state that the service is entirely logless. However, if a reasonable government or court-ordered request came for user data, the folks in charge may be compelled to comply. Thing is, they don’t collect anything in the first place and have never been forced to do so, as evidenced by the recent FBI subeonas to which PIA simply said some variation of: “We can’t hand over what was never stored.”

As with any other service, there is an element of good faith in the providing entity to keep from abusing any power it may have over you, for any form of gain. That said, we have every reason to hold Private Internet Access in high esteem. Numerous reviews on this site and elsewhere share this sentiment.

PIA Logs

The website

Browsing the Private Internet Access website left me with good impressions overall. The top banner has basic informational links, contact info, and subscription pathways.Private Internet Access VPN

Meanwhile, the bottom portion of the page shows more in-depth links, as well as legal information which should be part of your essential reading if it isn’t already.

PIA Website Bottom

There’s also a link to the weekly updated (or more) Private Internet Access VPN blog, written by the founder of both PIA and the Swedish Pirate Party, Rick Falkvinge. The blog comes as a strongly recommended read from us here at BestVPN, whether you ever sign up for PIA or not.

PIA Blogs

Support

Unfortunately, live chat support has been done away with since our last Private Internet Access VPN review, so you’ll have to settle for ticket-based support. On the flip-side, the step by step video guides found in the Knowledgbase are quite comprehensive and range from simple setup to DD-WRT or Tomato routers.

PIA Support

There are also just over 300 articles on anything and everything relating to VPNs in general, as well as specific discussion on PIA’s service. Support was helpful if not particularly fast at times.

The Process

Signing Up

Setting up the Private Internet Access VPN is a matter of registration and payment, with the degree of anonymity entirely depending on which aforementioned payment method you choose. Afterwards, you head to the download area and follow the setup instructions for your platform. Now let’s discuss the client.

The PIA Windows VPN client

PIA Windows Client

The Private Internet Access client for Windows is one of the best in terms of performance and baked-in options, if not the most eye-popping in terms of style. Everything you’d need is within a half-wrist flick, and you can either expand or compress the settings in the right half portion of the client using Simple/Advanced button in the bottom left corner. Keeping it simple shows the right-hand portion of the total client with login boxes and a drop-down menu for server selection as seen above.

Private Internet Access Software Client
Hitting Advanced gives you the Encryption choice menu discussed earlier in this review. While clicking on the Connection button brings up some useful options such as port forwarding (useful for P2P but somewhat less secure). It’s also great to see a killswitch in case your connection drops for any reason, and both DNS and IPv6 protection which we’ll discuss in the Testing Section below.PIA Windows Clent Connection Settings

Save your settings, then navigate to the system tray (on your taskbar, by the time) and right click on the Private Internet Access icon. Click connect to engage with a server. The last one you chose will be at the top with the balance of server choices just below.

While the client isn’t anything remarkable to look at, it works smoothly at all times, and has such a wealth of built-in options that it’s worth a special commendation for being, frankly, excellent.

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

Speeds were nothing to sneeze at averaging a shade under 10 Mbps downstream on UK servers, with a bump up to 12Mbps when using Dutch servers. Most impressively, US speeds showed almost no drop-off from testing with or without a VPN, and averaged in the 6 Mbps range, which is more than adequate for any browsing any high-def streaming needs, but may be a bit tougher on the P2P front. Then again, geo-proximity contributed to the slower speeds for US servers in my testing.

PIA Upload
Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.

DNS leakage was – like our last Private Internet Access VPN review – non-existent. There were no DNS or WebRTC leaks found using ipleak.net, nor IPv6 leaks from test-ipv6.com. Additionally, nothing came back from doileak.com, sort of a mix of the other two tests. While nothing was amiss during testing, it’s always good practice to test your connection periodically and make sure everything is in working order.

Other Platforms

Private Internet Access VPN is compatible with Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, in addition to the Windows client, DD-WRT, and Tomato.

PIA Platforms

The crucial point is that the same level of attention, setup information, FAQ support, and functionality is available across every platform, as you’d rightfully hope for and expect.

Android

The dedicated Private Internet Access Android App is a close to perfect replica of its Windows brother, with a killswitch and the same spiffy encryption options from which to choose. The same goes for auto-connect and SSL. This is where the ability to choose TCP rather than UDP comes into play, as you’ll more than likely be connecting to Wi-Fi at some point in your daily life or travels. As with the Windows client, there’s the built-in internet killswitch and options to specify type and level of encryption and the same choice to auto-connect when you power on your smartphone.

Private Internet Access Android Client
The speeds were more than adequate for Soundcloud and YouTube, in addition to regular browsing. The entire process being streamlined for mobile while still having decent security is no small feat. Read on for some final remarks on Private Internet Access.

Private Internet Access VPN Review Conclusion

I liked

  • Encryption strength & overarching variety
  • Same client across platforms
  • Logless
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Competitive pricing
  • Money-back guarantee

I wasn’t so sure about

  • Rare performance fluctuations
  • Support responses can be slow

I hated

  • Nothing

In a crowded VPN marketplace with marketing tricks and design-over-security-shrouds galore, Private Internet Access stands out for its simplicity and focus on fulfilling its simple adherence to user privacy. It does this through logless policies, rigorous encryption, and anonymous payment options, to say nothing about the abundance of choice overall. No live chat might be a source of frustration for some, but PIA’s low price, seven-day risk-free trial, and security alone might make it worth your while.

Visit PIA »


Dimitri M Expat in Europe - pathos for good conversation and Italia's Grande Juventus.

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34 responses to “Private Internet Access VPN Review

  1. I have been used it for about 3 years and i like it very much.
    I never had problems and most servers are pretty fast. Great service for a little price.

  2. I am surprised at the negative comments here. I have used PIA as my VPN for 3 years on various Linux boxes with excellent speed of download. In those 3 years, I could probably count my dropped connections on one hand. All of my connections are set up manually on OpenVPN since I want Network Manager to do the heavy lifting and don’t want to use the PIA client (I think it is kind of ugly and unnecessary). I use the PIA .ovpn files under ‘Import a saved VPN configuration’ in Network Connections, and setup is a breeze for several servers in different countries. I wonder if most of the noted problems are due to Windows? I know it sounds like I work for PIA, but I assure you I do not. I don’t know about their customer service since I never use them. For me, I have no complaints, except they are making it more difficult to do your own installs without their client.

  3. In my first year subscription of PIA. Works well, except for one major design flaw, and I will not renew. They require a Windows user to have admin privileges. No one should require having admin privileges, because if you are hacked the consequences of the hack can be much more severe if you are an admin. You should always run as a standard user. Run specific apps in admin mode if you need them for that app. But that’s not what PIA requires. You trade off getting some security protection with PIA versus additional 24/7 security concerns running in admin mode. You bring that to their attention and they don’t understand, which means they don’t understand security so you should use it.

    1. The reason for the escalated privileges are so it can disconnect your internet connection in case your connection to the VPN drops. I know it may seem ‘fishy’ but it’s a security feature.

      1. Hi ManTaboo,

        But any VPN client that uses a firewall based kill switch can do this without the need for admin privileges.

  4. An important thing to note that is not mentioned in this review.

    After a good look around the web it seems to me that PIA is not a good choice for getting around geo-locking or for streaming video/tv services. There are also reports that all of their servers have been blocked by Netflix so you’ll need to turn to (most likely) a more expensive provider like expressVPN if this is what you want to get out of using such a service.

    That being said they look pretty high quality for a budget service and if all you need is browsing the internet in privacy or some occasional p2p.

    1. Hi James,

      Netflix is trying to block all VPN users, and whether one works or not these is very hit and miss. Most of BestVPN’s recent reviews (and all of mine) include a “Netflix test” (and BBC iPlayer).

  5. Well, I read some mixed reviews about PIA. In the end I gave it a try to have my own experiences. I used the Linux version, which means I downloaded the Linux client and installed it – so far so good. First: Connecting issues because of DNS. After I solved this, I could connect to the service. Once I connected, some ip checking sites still showed me my own ip. I even tried the network-manager-vpn-setup version of PIA, but I had some connecting issues this way as well. This service did not convince me. I applied for money back.

    Excellent security no dns or webrtc leaks, some fast servers, some slow, very good price for 1 year.

  6. PIA has one of the worst teams ever. It’s a notch higher than a free VPN. Their apps are outdated, buggy. Plus, the security is so terrible that there seems to be hackers using their services to the point that their servers/IPs are getting blocked by many sites unlike every other VPN i use.

    1. Hi Mario,

      PIA cannot really be blamed for the actions of its customers. How would you suggest it improve its “security” to prevent this happening?

    This VPN just randomly drops it’s connection from time to time and during that time you are unprotected. I have had numerous “copyright infringement” emails because while PIA drops it’s protection, BitTorrent and the likes just keeps on downloading.

    This turns otherwise good software into useless garbage.

    DO NOT WASTE ONE PENNY ON THIS GARBAGE…..

  7. The problem with PIA is that their VPN goes down randomly, then stays down… so now you’re using the network unprotected, and there’s no warning. It’s very unsafe, it’s not real protection.

      1. Douglas can you show details on setting up the internet kill switch on a mac without PIA shutting off the firewall? When I use the PIA software it shuts my mac firewall off. Thanks

        1. Hi JT,

          I’m afraid that I don’t have a Mac. In Windows the PIA client does not turn off any firewall that is running, but I do not think doing so on a Mac is anything to worry about. The PIA client uses its own firewall to ensure that no traffic can enter or exit your Mac outside the VPN connection. This acts as both a kill switch and DNS/IP leak protection. It should also do everything that OSX’s built-in firewall does.

    1. Hi kolawole,

      Simply visit the PIA website, subscribe to its service, and follow the instructions PIA then sends to you.

  8. Target, JC penny etc. have been blocking USA IP addresses pf private internet access s give below:
    Access Denied
    You don’t have permission to access “http://www.cuddledown.com/itemdy00.aspx?” on this server.
    Reference #18.a6711f45.1464020493.7ca903e
    While using PIA US California198.8.80.40
    —————————————————————-
    Access Denied
    You don’t have permission to access “http://www.target.com/store-locator/state-listing” on this server.
    Reference #18.893819b8.1464102530.1268ab6e
    While using PIA US Silicon Valley 104.156.228.162
    ————————————————————————–
    Access Denied
    You don’t have permission to access “http://www.jcpenney.com/index.jsp?” on this server.
    Reference #18.365df6d8.1464102723.ab
    While using PIA US Silicon Valley 104.156.228.162
    ————————————————————-
    Access Denied
    You don’t have permission to access “http://www.jcpenney.com/for-the-home/home-decor/chair-cushions/cat.jump?” on this server.
    Reference #18.2a951645.1464148322.19f3765
    While using PIA US Silicon Valley 104.156.228.162
    ———————————————————————————————
    The reply of PIA customer service is give below”
    Hey Dharam,
    Thanks for reaching out to us!

    Online content providers have provisions in their terms of service that allow them to detect the ip address you broadcast when you connect to their services.

    When you use a VPN to connect to one of these service providers website, they detect that you are using a shared IP.

    That being the case, they block said IP. They can’t tell if you are actually in the USA , Canada or Russia. Only that you are using a service that allows you to appear to be somewhere else.

    This is why you may not have access to the services like OLG and other geo-locked sites, as they reserve the right to protect this content using the detection of shared ip addresses to determine if you are connecting through a proxy/VPN.

    If you wish to make sure that your service is working properly you can go to our website:
    https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/

    At the top left, in the green bar will be the status of your connection.

    I apologize for any inconvenience,
    Best of luck!

    Hailey E, Tier I Support
    Private Internet Access™

    Ticket Details
    ________________________________________
    Ticket ID: SKD-688-63546
    Department: Tier I Technical Support

    1. Hi dharam,

      Hmm. The sites you mention do require you to be located in the US, but I just tested them using my VPN (AirVPN) connected to a US server, and can access them without issue. They must have blacklisted PIA’s IPs…

  9. I bought your service just under a year ago. I found it nothing but a pain in the ass!
    Are your reviews generated by yourself?
    Everytime I needed to use it, it needed re-install and configuration…imo, its a time consuming app thats more trouble than anything else.
    Sorry I bought it.

    Hope you can handle criticism.

    1. Hi skybandit,

      We are a review website, and have no particular connection to PIA. I used to use PIA, but stopped mainly because O do not trust any US based service (NSA spying).

    2. I agree whole heartedly with skybandit. This VPN sucks and they offer you no recourse. They continually take funds from your bank account, all the while, revealing your true geographical location. You are wasting your time and money if you rely on Private Internet Access. Shame on them for such “shoddy” business practices. I will continue to complain to every agency available until this issue is solved. I don’t mind paying but I darn well want what I paid for. PIA does not deliver.

  10. I am a PIA user and am pleased with it. I have however been having connection drop-outs lately. Curious if anyone else is having the same problem.
    One thing you did not cover was the “Kill Switch” option. They pop up a rather cryptic warning dialog box when you select it and I have run across several complaints about recovering the network connection after a kill event. Would appreciate additional information concerning this feature if possible.
    Thank you,
    David

    1. Hi David,

      I no longer use PIA, but I used to, and I remember experiencing this problem from time to time. In order to re-establish my internet connection once the kill switch had kicked in, I would have to right-click on the internet connection -> Troubleshoot problems. This resets the internet connection.

      1. Hi Douglas,

        I notice you’ve mentioned a couple of times that you no longer use PIA, would you mind sharing the name of the service you use now? Interested in real user experience rather than just that of reviewers.

        Thanks!

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