The Best VPN Services for 2024

The Best VPN Services for 2024

The Best VPN Services for 2024

Your data is wanted by everyone, including advertisers and governments, and many people, including your internet service provider, may be eager to sell it.The good news is that a growing number of people are aware of the risks associated with allowing governments and corporations to track what we say and do online and are motivated to take action. However, what steps can be taken?

Although there isn’t a simple solution to the surveillance capitalism issue, you can restore some degree of privacy with the aid of a VPN provider. After extensive testing, these are the best options out of all the ones we’ve looked at so far. These are followed by the features to consider when selecting the best VPN app.

Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

  • Proton VPNProton VPNBest Overall VPN5.0 OUTSTANDINGWhy We Picked ItProtonVPN does it all. It includes multi-hop connections and access to the Tor network via VPN, in addition to the usual VPN capabilities. It also sports a reimagined app interface for a pleasant user experience. While the core paid vpn service has a dead-on average price, it also has the best free VPN subscription we’ve yet seen. The company behind Proton VPN recently revamped its entire product line. Now, an account with Proton VPN will also grant you access to other products in the Proton, including Proton Mail and Proton Drive. This includes free accounts. It’s an excellent value-add. We are also impressed by its recently released Stealth feature, which is designed to provide additional security to particularly endangered users in countries like Iran and Russia. Proton VPN receives a rare 5-star rating.Who It’s ForProton VPN is truly a strong overall option. Experienced users will find the features they’re looking for, and first timers will find a straightforward experience. It has a great free option, and its paid subscriptions are still an excellent value despite a recent price increase.
    • PROS
      • The best free VPN subscriptionNumerous advanced privacy toolsStrong customer privacy stanceSlick, accessible clientExcellent speed test scores
      • Awkward ChromeOS implementation

  • NordVPNNordVPNBest for Premium VPN4.5 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItNordVPN has long taken a “kitchen sink” approach to its VPN and includes a little bit of everything. From the start, it has included features such as multi-hop connections and access to Tor over VPN, both of which are still rare among competitors. In the still-newish world of VPNs, NordVPN has also managed to set itself up as an established player that now buys other companies and adds entirely new products in addition to improving its VPN.NordVPN has always been a solid product to use and has kept up a consistent and modern design across all its platforms. It’s not afraid to change, however, being one of the first VPN companies to fully embrace the new WireGuard VPN protocol and RAM-only servers. All this comes at a price, though, as NordVPN charges quite a bit above the average monthly price we’ve seen across the industry.Who It’s ForNordVPN’s greatest strength is that it has something to offer everyone. Privacy wonks appreciate its set of rare tools. People looking to access an otherwise blocked streaming service are empowered by NordVPN’s large selection of servers and the ability to select server locations and even specific servers. First-time users should have no trouble getting started, and they may also be intrigued by NordVPN’s growing list of additional services—including storage protected by encryption and a password manager.
    • PROS
      • Multi-hop, split tunneling, and Tor connectionsExcellent designTraffic routing and file-sharing with MeshnetBuilt-in antivirus tools
      • ExpensiveLackluster malware-blocking resultsLimited utility of free Meshnet traffic routing

  • Surfshark VPNSurfshark VPNBest for Protecting Many Devices4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItSurfshark is a relative newcomer to the scene, but hit the ground running with a slick product that iterated quickly to match the competition. While it doesn’t have all the features of its competitors, it does offer multi-hop connections and supports the WireGuard protocol.Its blue color scheme and higher-than-average monthly cost invites comparison to another blue VPN: NordVPN. That company recently purchased Surfshark VPN, but both continue to operate independently. Surfshark VPN has also expanded and now offers antivirus protection, at an additional cost.Who It’s For Surfshark has a good collection of features, but its real value is that it places no limit on the number of devices you can use with a single subscription. Most VPNs limit you to just five. Large families, or just households with lots of devices, can protect everything with just one subscription.
    • PROS
      • Unlimited simultaneous connectionsLarge global server presenceMulti-hop and split tunneling toolsIntriguing potential in Surfshark Nexus
      • High monthly priceSome issues with IP rotator feature in testingPrivacy policy needs clarification

  • TunnelBear VPNTunnelBear VPNBest for First-Time VPN Users4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItIt’s easy to dismiss TunnelBear VPN with its funny bear-themed app, bright colors, and limited feature set. It lacks much of the muscle found amongst our top choices. But that does TunnelBear VPN a grave disservice. This VPN is extremely easy to use and features a limited free subscription option, making it an excellent choice for anyone unfamiliar with VPNs. TunnelBear VPN also has one of the most transparent audit processes in the industry, making it a name you really can trust.Who It’s ForTunnelBear VPN is a great choice for anyone new to VPNs, thanks to its simple and friendly interface. It’s also a strong option for anyone who just needs a general purpose VPN and isn’t going to fuss with network settings.
    • PROS
      • Unlimited simultaneous connectionsExcellent privacy policiesAnnual independent auditsFriendly, approachable design (with bears!)
      • No multi-hop connectionsSplit tunneling not available on all platformsData limit on free subscription

  • ExpressVPNExpressVPNBest for Global Location Spoofers4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItExpressVPN recently redesigned its app, but it’s not just a pretty thing to look at. ExpressVPN has a very large presence that stretches across 94 countries, and uses very few virtual servers in the process. While it has eschewed the new WireGuard VPN protocol, it instead uses its own technology called LightWay along with the open-source OpenVPN protocol.Who It’s ForWith numerous server locations, ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for anyone living or traveling outside the US. Anyone keen on spoofing their location (to listen to the BBC iPlayer, perhaps) should be well served, too.
    • PROS
      • Large, diversely distributed fleet of serversStrong privacy and security practicesSplit tunnelingStylish interface
      • Expensive compared with VPNs with similar feature setsNo multi-hop connections

  • Private Internet Access VPNPrivate Internet Access VPNBest for Customizers4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItPrivate Internet Access used to be known for its bargain-basement pricing and terrible interface. For better and worse, neither thing is true today. Private Internet Access now has a snazzy interface that lets you customize the experience. It has also significantly increased its monthly subscription cost, but to only a hair above the average we’ve seen across products we’ve tested. It also has useful privacy features, like multi-hop connections. The customizable interface comes into play here, giving you easy access to advanced settings or tucking them away out of sight. Who It’s ForWith its customizable interface, Private Internet Access appeals to anyone who needs to have their workspace just so. Privacy wonks will appreciate its features, and its unlimited simultaneous connections mean it will cover every device in a household.
    • PROS
      • Unlimited simultaneous connectionsSplit tunneling and multi-hopNumerous server locationsCompleted third-party audit
      • ExpensiveNo free version

  • CyberGhost VPNCyberGhost VPNBest for Frequent Travelers4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItCyberGhost VPN has, perhaps, the largest collection of VPN servers available. That alone isn’t an indicator of quality, but coupled with its large collection of server locations in 90 countries, CyberGhost VPN becomes a strong contender for anyone in need of VPN coverage across the globe. It’s not the complete package, however, as it lacks multi-hop connections and the company has yet to release the results of a third-party audit.Who It’s ForWith its large collection of server locations and enormous server network, CyberGhost VPN gives you the best chance of finding a nearby VPN server no matter where you go. It also provides myriad options for spoofing your location. Although its monthly subscription rate is higher than the average we’ve seen, its annual rate undercuts most of the competition.
    • PROS
      • Large, well-distributed server fleetAllows up to seven simultaneous connectionsSeveral add-ons, including antivirusOutstanding speed test scoresNewly completed third-party audit
      • ExpensiveConfusing privacy policies

  • Mullvad VPNMullvad VPNBest for Bargain Hunters4.5 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItAs we said above: Mullvad VPN and IVPN share two unique features: a privacy-protecting account system and the ability to purchase the service with anonymous cash payments. Mullvad VPN goes further than IVPN, however. Mullvad VPN no longer accepts recurring payments, meaning that they know nothing about their customers. Mullvad VPN is also radically transparent, giving customers an enormous amount of information about how their service works. Best of, Mullvad VPN is flat rate and extremely affordable—just 5 Euro ($5.09 at time of writing) per month.Who It’s ForMullvad VPN’s service is all about knowing as little about its customers as possible, and that does come with some drawbacks. It also doesn’t have the best interface we’ve seen. But it’s a great price for an excellent service that packs all the features of the best VPNs on the market.
    • PROS
      • AffordableRequires no email or account informationRadically transparentMulti-hop, split tunneling, and port forwarding
      • Awkward desktop interfaceServers in a small range of countriesPay-as-you-go system may confuse some customers

  • IVPNIVPNBest for Strong Privacy on a Budget4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItIVPN and Mullvad VPN have two important features no other VPNs can claim. First, they both use a privacy-protecting account number system that requires very little personal information. Second, they both accept cash payments sent to their respective HQs. IVPN is pricier than Mullvad VPN, but it offers a unique system that lets you choose any entry and exit point for a multi-hop connection.Who It’s ForIVPN will appeal to the person who is keen to reveal as little about themselves as possible and wants a VPN company that will do the same. Some of the advanced features of IVPN are sure to appeal to anyone who wants tight control of their network security.
    • PROS
      • Flexible, affordable pricingPowerful multi-hop systemPrivacy is baked into its account systemStrong stance on transparency
      • Offers few server locationsMulti-hop and account ID features might confuse some

  • Mozilla VPNMozilla VPNBest for Supporting an Open Internet4.0 EXCELLENTWhy We Picked ItMozilla is best known for the Firefox browser, and for being a champion of a freely accessible internet. As a non-profit, Mozilla lacks the same motives for data gathering as other companies, and has looked for other ways to support itself—such as subscription payments for its VPN service. Straightforward but surprisingly snazzy, Mozilla VPN is easy to use and a good choice for anyone in need of a VPN.Note that Mozilla licenses Mullvad VPN’s service to power Mozilla VPN, so it has strong security and privacy under the hood as well.Who It’s ForMozilla VPN is a solid service with a simple interface. Although it does cost more than Mullvad VPN by itself, all your money goes to support a non-profit. That warm and fuzzy feeling may be of limited value, depending on the customer.
    • PROS
      • Helps support nonprofit Mozilla
      • Powered by privacy hawk Mullvad VPN
      • Simple, classy design
      • Multi-hop and split tunneling
    • CONS
      • Few server locations
      • Gathers some user information
      • Expensive compared with Mullvad VPN

Buying Guide: The Best VPN Services for 2024

What Is a VPN, and Why Do I Need One?

Using a VPN routes your internet traffic through an encrypted connection to a server controlled by the VPN provider. From there, your traffic exits onto the web as usual. If you only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will remain encrypted, even after leaving the VPN. It sounds simple, but VPN usage can improve your online privacy.

Think of this: when your car pulls out of your driveway, someone can follow you and see where you’re going, how long you spend there, and when you return. They might even peek into your car to learn more about you. With a VPN app, it’s like driving from your house into a tunnel, exiting into a closed parking garage, switching to a different car, and driving out. No one who was following you can know where you went.

Similarly, when you utilize a VPN connection, no one prying into your network can see what you’re doing. Public Wi-Fi networks that are easy to access are also easy targets for hackers. For instance, how do you know that the Wi-Fi network at “starbucks_wifi-real” is the real one? Creating a network with the same name as a well-known, free service and watching how many devices connect automatically is a common security researcher joke.

You may not want to trust your internet service provider (ISP), even if you are trusting. Your ISP in the US has vast access to information about your online activities. Congress has declared that your ISP is permitted to sell your anonymized surfing history, which exacerbates the situation. Given that you are already paying for the service, selling your data seems outrageous. A VPN prevents even your ISP from keeping tabs on you.

Another VPN benefit is that your true IP address is hidden behind the address of the VPN server. This makes it harder to track you. Even dedicated observers have trouble telling whose internet traffic is yours because your data is mixed in with everyone else’s using the server. 

Hiding your IP address has another benefit: it makes it harder for snoops to figure out your location. You can use this to your advantage and connect to distant VPN servers to spoof your location. You might also want to hide your whereabouts if you’re using BitTorrent.

It’s important to understand that if your VPN connection goes down, the privacy protection you rely on goes with it. For this reason, most VPNs offer a kill switch feature, which shuts off your network traffic when your VPN connection drops. The only catch? This feature is generally turned off by default, so you might want to toggle yours on in your VPN app when you set it up—or at least familiarize yourself with how it works and turn it on when your privacy is critically important. You can read more about this essential security feature in our kill switch explainer.

Note: VPNs are not the same thing as proxies, with which they are sometimes confused. To learn more, read our explainer, VPNs vs. Proxies: What’s the Difference?

What Are the Limitations of VPNs?

VPN services, while helpful, don’t provide every kind of threat protection. A VPN can’t help if you download ransomware, nor can it give up your data in a phishing attack. We strongly recommend using local antivirus software, enabling multi-factor authentication wherever available, and using a password manager to create and store unique, complex passwords for each site and service you use.

There are also limitations to how anonymous you can be with a VPN. Advertisers have many tactics to gather data on you and track your movements—from online trackers to browser fingerprinting. We recommend using the anti-tracking features in your browser and installing dedicated ad or tracker blockers.

Many VPN services also provide their own DNS resolution system as a security feature. Think of DNS as a phone book that turns a text-based URL like “pcmag.com” into an IP address computers can understand. Savvy snoops can monitor DNS requests and track your movements online. Greedy attackers can also use DNS poisoning to direct you to bogus phishing pages designed to steal your data. When you use a VPN’s DNS system, it’s another layer of protection. Read How (and Why) to Change Your DNS Server for more on DNS and your security.

There’s debate among security experts about the efficacy of VPNs. Since most sites now support secure HTTPS connections, much of your online experience is already encrypted. Secure DNS products like Cloudflare exist precisely because some feel VPNs are overkill. Still, a VPN covers the information not already protected by HTTPS, places a buffer between you and the people controlling internet infrastructure, and makes online tracking harder. 

VPNs are useful for improving individual privacy, but there are also people for whom a VPN is essential for their safety. Journalists and activists often rely on VPN services to circumvent local government censorship and safely communicate with the outside world. Check the local laws before using a VPN in China, Russia, or any country with repressive internet policies. Another place people might want to use a VPN is in a war zone such as Ukraine, where hiding locations might well be a matter of life and death.

You’ll want to access the free Tor network for comprehensive anonymization of your traffic. While a VPN tunnels your web traffic to a VPN server, Tor bounces around your traffic through several volunteer nodes, which makes it much harder to track. Using Tor also grants access to hidden dark websites, which a VPN cannot do. Some services, such as NordVPN and ProtonVPN, offer Tor access on specific servers. Note that Tor will slow down your connection even more than a VPN.

A determined adversary will almost always breach your defenses one way or another. A VPN protects you against mass data collection and the casual criminal vacuuming up user data for later use.

How Do I Choose a VPN?

The VPN market has exploded in the past few years, growing from a niche industry to an all-out melee. Many VPN service providers are capitalizing on the general population’s growing concerns about surveillance and cybercrime, which means it’s getting hard to tell when a company is providing a useful service and when it’s selling snake oil. Fake VPNs have even popped up, so be careful. 

When you read reviews looking for a good service, don’t just focus on connection speed since that’s the factor you (and the VPN) have the least control over. Since nearly all VPN companies offer some mixture of the same technologies, consider value when looking for your best VPN service. How can you get the most for the least? Look for extra VPN features like split tunneling, multi-hop connections, and so on. You may not always need these, but they’re helpful when you do.

Nearly every VPN service provider has its own app with a full GUI for managing connections and settings, and we recommend using it. You might dismiss such things as mere chrome, preferring to manage your VPN connections manually. This works, but doing so is tedious, requires manual updating, and won’t give you access to the additional privacy tools many VPNs provide. When considering a VPN, decide whether you can stand looking at it.

The best way to know if a VPN works for you is to try it in your own home. See if you can access all the sites and services you need. Find out if the interface is usable and if the speeds in your area are acceptable. Some VPN services provide free trials, so take advantage of them. Make sure you are happy with what you signed up for, and use any money-back guarantees if not. 

This is why we recommend starting with a short-term subscription to ensure you are happy with the service. Yes, you may get a discount by signing up for a year, but that’s more money at stake should you decide the service doesn’t meet your performance needs.

Sometimes, a VPN will be tacked on to another service as a sweetener. These are tricky to compare since they often have different features than the average VPN. The VPN included with Google One lacks many of the tools we expect with a VPN but also comes with 2TB of cloud storage—unmatched by any VPN service we’ve seen. In cases like this, it’s best to consider what you want to use a VPN for and whether a tacked-on VPN meets those needs.

Is There a 100% Free VPN? 

Not all VPN services require you to pay. There are, in fact, many excellent free VPNs. But every free VPN we’ve tested has limitations. Some limit you to a few simultaneous connections or devices on an account. Others restrict your data or limit you to a handful of servers. Still others do all of the above.

Finding the best free VPN is an exercise in balancing those restrictions. TunnelBear, for example, lets you use any server on its network but limits you to 500MB-1GB per month. Editors’ Choice winner ProtonVPN has the unique distinction of placing no data restrictions on free users, but it does limit which servers you can access.

For those of you who are at least willing to put down some cash, we also have a roundup of the best cheap VPNs.

Can I Trust My VPN to Protect My Privacy?

If you’re using a service to route all your internet traffic through its servers, you have to be able to trust that service. It’s easier to trust companies that have been around longer simply because their reputation is likely to be well-established. The trouble is that the VPN industry is young, and some VPN companies play dirty. In this environment, figuring out who to trust is difficult.

At PCMag, we give special attention to the privacy practices of VPN companies and not just the technology they provide. We read the privacy policies in our testing and discuss company practices with VPN provider representatives. We look for a commitment to protecting user information and practices that gather and retain as little user information as possible.

As part of our research, we also determine where the company is based and under what legal framework it operates. Some countries don’t have data-retention laws, making it easier to keep a promise of “We don’t keep any logs.” It’s also useful to know under what circumstances a VPN provider will hand over information to law enforcement and what information it would have on hand to provide if that were to happen. For more about VPN logs, check out our explainer on the subject here.

The best VPN services have a privacy policy spelling out what the service does, what information they collect, and what they do to protect said information—ideally in plain English. Some companies explain they collect some information but don’t inform you how they intend to use it. Others are more transparent.

What Are the Best VPNs for Streaming and Banking?

Some security-conscious companies like banks may be confused by your VPN. If your bank sees you logging in from what appears to be another US state or even another country, it can raise red flags. Expect to see captchas and more frequent multi-factor authentication requests when your VPN is on.

Since a VPN can access content that is region-locked, Netflix and other streaming services frequently ban VPN access. Regretfully, a service that functions well today might not function well tomorrow, and vice versa. Although the majority of you seem to use VPNs for security, about 25% of you use them exclusively for streaming, which could be a problem for many readers.

We discovered that using a VPN has generally made it easier for users to access streaming media. Finding a VPN that allowed you to view Netflix material from outside of the US was uncommon in past years. Remember that there may be terms of service violations associated with accessing region-locked streaming video, and PCMag is unable to provide legal counsel in such cases.

Pornography is another type of region-locked content that may become more and more dependent on a VPN to see as more states enact age-restrictions laws. Pornhub, for instance, is preventing visitors from Utah. See our guide on how to watch pornography safely for advice on how to view adult content on the internet nowadays.

Finally, it is frequently hard to access local devices on the same network when using a VPN since it encrypts your data as it is transmitted from your device. The Google Chromecast media streamer is a prime example. You cannot use a Chromecast if you are using a VPN. It’s possible that you’re using a different WiFi network. Split-tunneling is a feature of several VPNs that lets you choose which websites and apps can access from outside the VPN network. Others consist of

How Many Devices Can My VPN Protect at Once?

Some important things to look for when shopping for a VPN include the total number of simultaneous connections the VPN service allows, the number of servers it has, and its server location count.

Most VPN services allow you to connect up to five devices with a single account. Any service offering fewer connections is outside the mainstream. You’ll need to connect every device you wish to protect to the VPN service, so a mere two or three licenses will barely be enough for even one person, let alone a connected couple or family.

This paradigm may be changing, however. Many services now offer far more than five simultaneous connections. Some have even done away with the restriction entirely, offering protection for unlimited devices. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, IPVanish VPN, Editors’ Choice winner Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN all place no limit on the number of simultaneous connections.

(Editors’ Note: IPVanish is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s parent company.)

Naturally, a home contains more than just phones and computers. The internet is required for game consoles, tablets (including Chromebooks), and smart household appliances like refrigerators and lightbulbs. Many of these devices are unable to use VPN software independently. A VPN would protect every device on the network, and some VPN providers offer setup instructions for routers. Whether or if this will result in even more unanticipated problems is up for discussion. We would only advise a skilled and patient tinkerer to use this solution.

Where Are My VPN’s Servers?

The distribution of VPN servers is a key consideration. Having numerous servers in diverse locales means that, no matter where you travel, you should be able to find a nearby VPN server. The closer the VPN server, the better the speed and reliability of the connection it offers. Remember, you don’t need to connect to a far-flung VPN server to gain security benefits. Depending on where you live, a server down the street is as safe as one across the globe.

We also look at how many virtual servers and virtual locations VPN companies use. A virtual server is just what it sounds like—a software-defined server running on server hardware that might have several virtual servers onboard. A virtual location is a server configured to appear somewhere other than where it is physically located.

While neither approach is inherently problematic, it’s worrisome to choose one location and discover your server is somewhere else entirely. Some VPN companies take a smart view of virtual servers, using them to provide VPN support for regions where it might be too risky to house a server physically. When VPNs use these technologies, we prefer they be transparent about it.

What’s the Fastest VPN?

Your online data travels a longer path than usual when a VPN is running, which frequently leads to slower upload and download speeds as well as higher latency. Fortunately, utilizing a VPN won’t likely bring back memories of your dial-up days.

We use the Ookla speed test tool to evaluate VPNs. Metrics for upload, download, and latency are provided by this test. Depending on your demands, any one of these metrics may be significant, but we generally consider the download speed to be the most crucial. We are, after all, a digitally consuming age. For all the specifics, please read our article on How We Test VPNs.(Note: Ziff Davis is the owner of PCMag.com’s parent company.) Ookla.

The chart below shows our most recent speed test results, and we have an entire piece dedicated just to the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. For an update that talks about how the pandemic has affected our tests, you can read COVID-19 Upended How We Test VPN Speeds


Should You Use a VPN?

Using a VPN is a simple way to protect your privacy online and can help circumvent unwanted internet restrictions, too. None of the services listed here are perfect, and there will surely be times when using a VPN won’t make sense. All that said, a VPN is undoubtedly a valuable tool. It’s well worth having one in your personal security toolbox.

Click through the review links of the best VPN service providers above for detailed analysis and performance results. Once you’ve picked, be sure to read our feature on how to set up and use a VPN to get the most from your chosen service.Max Eddy contributed to this story.

COMPARE SPECSThe Best VPN Services for 2024

Our PickProton VPNSee ItNordVPNSee ItSurfshark VPNSee ItTunnelBear VPNSee ItExpressVPNSee ItPrivate Internet Access VPNSee ItCyberGhost VPNSee ItMullvad VPNSee ItIVPNMozilla VPN
Blocks Ads
Simultaneous VPN Connections106UnlimitedUnlimited5Unlimited7575
500+ Servers
Server Locations67 countries59 Countries100 Countries23 Countries105 Countries84 Countries90 Countries38 Countries32 Countries37 Countries
Geographically Diverse Servers
Free Version
Free Version Data LimitUnlimitedNo Free VersionNo Free Version500MB – 1.5GB Per MonthNo Free VersionNo Free VersionNo Free VersionNo Free VersionNo Free VersionNo Free Version