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How to Test a VPN at Home and Make Sure It Meets Your Needs

Ben Taylor

Ben Taylor

December 1, 2017

So, you’ve decided to subscribe to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service? Great! You’ve taken a wise step towards maximising your online privacy. You’ve also given yourself the ability to use the internet in exactly the way you want, regardless of your location.

Now it’s time to test everything out and make sure you’re happy with the service you’ve chosen. That’s what this article is all about.

Here at BestVPN.com, our experts put considerable time and effort into testing the best VPN solutions on the market, to help our readers make informed choices on which services to use. Our best VPN services list is a good starting point if you’ve yet to make your choice.

If you’ve chosen a service and wish to put it through its paces, this article will show you how. Just as you might like to take a new car for a “good run” on a fast road, or try out all the features of a smartphone when it’s shiny and new, it’s only natural that you should want to check out your new VPN fully.

How to Use a VPN’s 30-day Money-back Guarantee to Test the Service

test a vpn

Most of the best VPN providers offer a money-back guarantee. This (in most cases) lasts for 30 days. As such, it’s wise to  check out a VPN service thoroughly when you first sign up.

By trying everything out in this period, you can change your mind and get your money back if the service fails to meet your needs. In our experience, the best VPN providers out there are very professional about honouring their guarantees, so it’s reasonable to expect a “no quibble” attitude if you decide to cancel your subscription.

In addition, some VPN providers offer a free trial, in addition to (or as an alternative to) a money-back guarantee. You’ll find a list of our favourite VPN’s with a free trial here.

In the interest of fairness, we don’t condone using these guarantees and trials to make use of VPN services without paying for them. Quite rightly, providers have mechanisms in place to prevent the same people abusing a trial or guarantee by taking advantage of it on multiple occasions. Furthermore, continually installing and uninstalling VPN software from multiple providers on your devices isn’t particularly wise. Given the low cost of a top-quality VPN solution, this also seems like rather more effort than it’s worth!

By following the steps below, you can make sure your chosen solution meets your needs. If it doesn’t, you’ll have a fair reason to claim on the guarantee.

Note: The steps below are intended to be simple enough for beginners to follow. It’s possible to delve into this issue in far more detail. Links to more technical articles have been provided to allow enthusiasts and experts to do just that.

1. Ensure the VPN Hides Your Location and Doesn’t Leak Information

The fundamental thing a VPN service does is encrypt your internet data and shield your real-life location and IP address from the websites and online services you use.

There’s a simple test you can perform to check that your VPN service is doing just that. First, visit www.whatismyip.com  without activating your VPN connection. This should reveal your genuine IP address, and probably the name of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). While the location it shows may not be specific to your exact town, it’s likely it will show somewhere geographically close to you.

Next, connect your VPN service, using a location of your choice. Visit the same website again, and make sure your IP address, ISP details and locations have changed. This tests the core functionality of your VPN connection.

If you want to go slightly more advanced, you’ll also want to check whether you are “leaking” your IP address. You’ll find a detailed guide to that here.

2. Try Out the Mobile Apps

test a vpn

Almost all quality VPN services include client software for Windows and Mac, as well as apps for mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads. Most solutions also support multiple installations, allowing you to use your VPN service on more than one device.

If you first installed your VPN on a computer, it’s also well worth trying it out on your mobile device(s). Often it’ll be on these devices that you most frequently want to use a VPN. For example, you may wish to protect your privacy when using public WiFi on your phone, or change your location so you can access your favourite streaming services while you’re abroad.

Download the relevant app(s) (which is always a simple process), then play around with them on your mobile devices. It makes far more sense to do this before you need a VPN for travelling than when you’re already away.

3. Test Your VPN Works for Streaming

For many, streaming services for music, TV programmes and sports are a big motivating factor behind buying a VPN. Whether this means accessing streaming services from home whilst on holiday, or gaining access to content from other countries, a VPN’s ability to choose where in the world you appear to be makes many things possible.

If this is one of your reasons for owning a VPN, it makes good sense to check it works! So spend some time with your VPN solution and your favourite streaming services, to make sure you’re happy with performance and accessibility.

Note that BestVPN.com does not condone copyright infringement. While we are aware that VPNs can be used to spoof your location to another country, and thus overcome geo-restrictions, their primary purpose is to provide you with online security and privacy. First and foremost, this is why we recommend using a VPN.

4. Look at Your Speeds

test a vpn

We are extremely passionate about VPN speeds here at BestVPN.com. We’ve recently put significant work into new systems that allow us to continually test the real-life speeds of all the major VPN providers. You can read about this work and check out all the latest speeds here.

We understand that you’ll probably want to test out the speed impact of using a VPN for your specific situation. While it’s not nearly as scientific as our methods, using a speed testing website such as www.speedtest.net both with and without your VPN service connected can give you an approximate idea of the impact of using the VPN in your specific situation. To give this any degree of accuracy, you’ll want to ensure nothing else is using your internet connection at the time of your tests. As with checking your IP address, you’ll want to compare results with and without the VPN connected.

As our speed testing page explains, there are many factors that mean testing in this way is far from accurate. However, it is a quick test that you can perform at home. You can also look at our published results, or even request that we perform speed tests for you.

5. Use Your VPN On the Move

To give your new VPN service a through workout, it makes sense to try to simulate the work it will need to do over the long term.

So, if you travel abroad, make sure you try it out at the airport and at the hotel. When you next pop into your local coffee shop, connect to the Wi-Fi and use your VPN service to protect your online privacy. By trying out your VPN in as many locations as possible, you can gain confidence that it will help you in as many situations as possible.

Conclusion

If your new VPN service passes all the above tests with flying colours, then hopefully you’ll feel confident in subscribing to it long-term. If you do experience any snags, give the VPN’s support department an opportunity to help you out – as this will give you an idea of what level of customer service to expect.

There are some great VPN companies out there, delivering world-class services. Hopefully the ideas in this article will give you confidence that the provider you’ve chosen is delivering exactly what you need.

Image credits: spaxiax/Shutterstock.com, Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock.com, siiixth/Shutterstock.com

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