The best VPN services of 2023

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a privacy tool that protects your device and information when you're online. The best VPNs encrypt your data and route it through a secure server—giving you a new IP address, and making it appear as though you're in a location of your choosing. This makes it easier to unblock streaming services and restricted content abroad.

However, there are hundreds of VPN providers to choose from, and unfortunately, most of them don't offer the privacy and security you need. In TechRadar's 15 years online, our experts have conducted constant testing, and regular reviews, on over 100 VPN providers. We compared the technical security, privacy policies, features, unblocking capabilities, server locations, and (most importantly) value for money to curate this list of the top 10 VPNs in 2023. 

In this guide, we'll help you decide which VPN provider is worth your hard-earned cash, and compare the best apps side-by-side in plain English. If you're looking for a quick answer, here are our top three VPN services right now: 

reliable password manager</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>It's pricier than competitors like NordVPN, but ExpressVPN makes up for it by offering <strong>1 year of unlimited cloud storage</strong> and <strong>3 months of extra protection for free </strong>on a 12-month subscription. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can put it to the test without risking a penny.</p>" data-widget-type="deal" data-render-type="editorial">
1. ExpressVPN: the best VPN service in 2023

1. ExpressVPN: the best VPN service in 2023
ExpressVPN is the perfect blend of performance, reliability, ease of use, and 24/7 customer support. It even comes with a built-in and reliable password manager

It's pricier than competitors like NordVPN, but ExpressVPN makes up for it by offering 1 year of unlimited cloud storage and 3 months of extra protection for free on a 12-month subscription. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can put it to the test without risking a penny.

best VPN for Netflix</a>.&nbsp;Take advantage of NordVPN's, <strong>30-day money-back guarantee</strong> and see how it compares to ExpressVPN totally risk-free.</p>" data-widget-type="deal" data-render-type="editorial">
2. NordVPN: the best VPN security suite

2. NordVPN: the best VPN security suite
NordVPN offers an all-in-one VPN solution with built-in ad blocking and malware protection as standard. Combine that with rapid server speeds, lots of customization, and fantastic features, and you can see why it's a close runner-up to ExpressVPN. 

While NordVPN isn't the best for torrenting, it's greatest strength is streaming, and it currently tops our list as the best VPN for Netflix. Take advantage of NordVPN's, 30-day money-back guarantee and see how it compares to ExpressVPN totally risk-free.

3. Surfshark: the best cheap VPN

3. Surfshark: the best cheap VPN
Currently topping our charts as the fastest VPN around, Surfshark keeps giving us reasons to recommend it. It's a high-value, low-cost option that's easy to use, full of features, and excellent at unblocking restricted content. 

With servers in over 100 countries, you can stream your favorite shows from almost anywhere. Best of all, Surfshark costs as little as $2.30 per month, and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee to try it out.

May 24, 2023 update notes

In our latest round of updates, we decided to make things simpler, cutting our list from the top 16 to the top 10, and including our VPN industry rankings list as a way to give honorable mentions to popular services in the industry, and show how they all rate after our testing.

We expanded our product reviews of the top 5 services to give a deeper overview and help you pick the right VPN. Alongside this, we added quick and easy summary boxes to help you take away key information in clear, bite-size chunks.

As always, we double-checked the accuracy of VPN server counts, locations, pricing, and ongoing deals to make sure you're always given the most up-to-date information when considering our recommendations.

The best VPN services in 2023

See how our top picks compare in the following analysis and reviews as we discuss reasons to subscribe, reasons to avoid, our test results, and what we liked most about each provider.

The best VPN overall

The ExpressVPN app running on a a PC, laptop, and mobile devices with a TechRadar Editor's Choice logo

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The best VPN in 2023 - a quality service with lots of features

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Hulu | Available on: Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, Linux (command-line only), Routers, almost everything else | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 3,200 | Server locations: 160 | Countries: 94 | Simultaneous connections: 5

Easy to use for beginners
Apps for almost everything
Fast servers in over 94 countries
Ultra-reliable security features
Expert 24/7 live customer support
An expensive choice
Not as fast as NordVPN or Surfshark
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a VPN that you can set and forget: ExpressVPN's auto-connect feature means that you connect once, and you're always protected.

✔️ You're wanting to access content everywhere: with over 160 locations around the world to choose from, you'll be able to access local content no matter where you are.

✔️ You need a VPN you can trust with your life: between ExpressVPN's regular audits and no-logs policy, you can be certain your information is safe from oppressive regimes.

Don't subscribe if:

 You're on a strict budget: in a cost of living crisis, ExpressVPN is an expensive choice If you can't afford its prices, we'd recommend looking towards NordVPN or Surfshark.

❌ You need a full security suite: ExpressVPN prides itself on being the best VPN, and that's where it focuses its attention. If you need an all-in-one solution with built-in antivirus capabilities, Express may not be the right pick for you.

❌ You want a Linux app: while ExpressVPN supports Linux installations, it only operates a command-line interface. If you need a graphical user interface (GUI), you should consider Surfshark or Private Internet Access.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 ExpressVPN strikes the perfect balance between security, usability, performance, and unblocking capability, all while offering exceptional customization. Try for yourself and see why it's our #1 pick with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth ExpressVPN review for a closer look at the service, and see why it's our top VPN pick for 2023.

ExpressVPN has been setting the standard in the VPN industry for the past few years, giving amazing speeds, untouchable security, and a wealth of features to keep you safe. I love that it comes with a built-in password manager to further enhance your privacy when you're out and about and cut out the hassle of remembering countless passwords when you switch from your phone to your computer.

Everything is laid out in a simple and clear design that makes it great for beginners. With one-click connect, you just tap the power button and you're instantly protected. ExpressVPN also shows suggested servers for the fastest connection, as well as your recent connection history and amount of time protected.

Try ExpressVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Be sure to set up the auto-connect and kill switch functions if you want to make sure your device and data are protected at all times. This means that even if your VPN connection is interrupted, your data will still be protected, and you won't accidentally reveal what you were doing online. I use it on my phone so I know I'm always protected when I'm out and about.

If you're looking to access content abroad, ExpressVPN's server library is enormous. With 160 locations across 94 countries, that's more than almost any other provider. Whether you're wanting to watch the latest series on HBO Max or stream your favorite shows on BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN has plenty of servers in the US and UK. 

It also has servers throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, so you'll always find a nearby server to connect to. It's worth noting that our most recent round of testing showed Express unblocked a large percentage of international Netflix libraries, but NordVPN was slightly better.

ExpressVPN offers some amazing speeds, but it does have its drawbacks. Unfortunately, it's not as fast as NordVPN or Surfshark. However, the speeds it offers are still over 20 times what you'd need for streaming in 4K ultra-high-definition and gaming online. On top of that, despite lowering its prices, ExpressVPN is expensive. In the cost-of-living crisis, not everyone can justify opting for the best of the best, over high-quality, low-cost options like Surfshark or Private Internet Access.

ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best VPN overall because of the sheer quality of its service. For the everyday user, ExpressVPN will go above and beyond your needs to protect your device and data. It's the best VPN for most use cases, and focuses on providing a service that people can trust with their lives—and many of its users do. With so many many high-quality security features, ExpressVPN gives genuine peace of mind while you're using the internet.

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ExpressVPN test results:
DesignA clean and simple design that gives you everything you need, exactly when you need it⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIntuitive apps with auto-connect functionality make life easier⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFast enough for anything you could throw at it, but slower than NordVPN and Surfshark⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly gives you access to content around the world⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyExpress offers military-grade protection for total peace of mind⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAlways available, friendly, and helpful⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceMore expensive than leading competitors⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN security suite

2. NordVPN

The best VPN with built in antivirus and ad blocking

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 5,670 | Server locations: 80 | Countries: 60 | Simultaneous connections: 6

Excellent security tools
Reliable Netflix unblocking
High-speed NordLynx protocol
Meshnet secure network as standard
Apps can be a bit confusing for beginners
Fewer server countries than ExpressVPN
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want an all-in-one security suite: NordVPN comes with ad blocking and malware protection as standard with its VPN subscription.

✔️ Streaming Netflix is your primary use case: NordVPN currently tops our list as the best VPN for Netflix, so you can access streams anywhere in the world.

✔️ You want a blend of quality and cost: NordVPN offers plenty of features, amazing speeds, and additional security tools, all at a mid-range cost.

Don't subscribe if:

 You want to torrent: our recent testing has shown NordVPN can be quite slow with torrenting. If that's your primary use case, we'd recommend ExpressVPN or PIA.

❌ You want a super simple interface: NordVPN's map-style interface can be a lot of fun, but if you want a more plain design without the bells and whistles, our other top picks all have cleaner apps.

❌ You want to access content everywhere: with servers in 60 locations, you get a lot of options, but compared to our other top picks, NordVPN is more limited in countries and locations.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 NordVPN strikes the perfect balance between security, usability, performance, and unblocking capability, all while offering exceptional customization. Try for yourself and see why it's such a close runner-up with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth NordVPN review for a closer look at this all-in-one security solution.

NordVPN may have been fractionally edged into second place in our rankings again, but there's still plenty to love about the service. It's incredibly fast (up to 820 Mbps), immensely capable of unblocking streaming sites, and filled to the brim with features to protect your devices and information.

What really sets NordVPN apart from the competition, though, is its all-in-one approach to security. Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers built-in ad-blocking and antivirus protection to keep you safe and streamline your online activity. On top of that, NordVPN also offers its NordPass password manager, data breach scanner, and NordLocker secure cloud storage to users on the Complete plan.

Try NordVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

With the introduction of NordVPN's Meshnet feature, you can create secure private networks in your own home and protect as many as 60 devices at any one time. This makes it perfect for secure file sharing, gaming, and virtual routing as you can direct your traffic through a device of your choosing (such as a router or computer). 

What's more, NordVPN now offers free Meshnet for all users—most companies would charge a premium on top of the regular subscription fees for a service like that. With NordVPN's customizable pricing, you can choose what you need, and reduce the cost by not paying for features you don't want. 

Despite the amazing array of features on-hand with Nord, it lacks the sheer attention to detail that comes with ExpressVPN. The map-style interface can be as awkward as it is novel, and I find some of the in-app pop-ups, notifications, and nagware a little frustrating. The quality of NordVPN's features is undeniable, but this is just a minor element that everyday users may find irritating.

Overall, NordPVN is an amazing middle-ground for people who want an all-in-one solution, but don't want to invest in ExpressVPN. If you're just after a Netflix VPN that goes the extra mile to keep your device secure, then NordVPN is an excellent value-for-money option that doesn't skimp on quality or functionality.

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NordVPN test results:
DesignA fun design that can be a little busy for some people⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEverything is easy to find, but the map interface can be off-putting, and there isn't much attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of our fastest VPNs⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingPerfect for Netflix and other streaming sites⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyEvery bit as strong as ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportFriendly, supportive and professional⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceFantastic value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best cheap VPN service

Surfshark VPN app running on several devices

3. Surfshark

The best cheap VPN - amazing speeds for just $2.30/month

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 3,200 | Server locations: 143 | Countries: 100 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

The fastest VPN according to our tests
Unlimited connections
Pause VPN feature
Apps can look a little complicated
Windows kill switch is still buggy
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want the best budget VPN: Surfshark is the perfect blend of cheap and cheerful, with lots of features, unbelievable speeds, and a reliable network—all at a low price.

✔️ You need the fastest VPN around: currently topping our charts with over 950 Mbps average speeds, Surfshark isn't just fast, it's faster than all of our top picks.

✔️ You want a cheap security suite: much like NordVPN, Surfshark comes with an array of internet security tools to keep you safe.

Don't subscribe if:

 You need a bulletproof kill switch: our testing showed some issues with Surfshark's kill switch. If an accidental IP leak could put you in danger, we'd recommend ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

❌ You need even more server locations: If 143 locations still isn't enough for you, you're better off with ExpressVPN.

❌ You only want to torrent: while Surfshark supports torrenting on its service, it doesn't hold a candle to the likes of Private Internet Access or ExpressVPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Surfshark is an exceptional value-for-money VPN. With unparalleled speeds and unlimited simultaneous connections, you get a lot of VPN for a low price. Try for yourself and see why it's our favorite cheap VPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Surfshark VPN review and see why the fastest VPN is also our #1 budget pick.

Surfshark isn't just a cheap VPN, it's a whole security suite that really takes a bite out of the competition. With built-in ad-blocking, antivirus, tracker-free web browsing, and even a data breach notifier built in.

Surfshark recently launched its latest innovation, Incogni: a service that automatically requests the deletion of personal data stored by data brokers. I love this tool because it finally gives us the tools to reclaim our digital privacy from invasive data-tracking practices and companies.

Try Surfshark with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

With unlimited simultaneous connections, you can protect every device you own on a single subscription, as well as every device your friends and family own, too. Admittedly, we've not tried to test how many devices we could install Surfshark on, but that's because it would require everyone at TechRadar to spend all of their time installing the software until Surfshark sent asked us to stop—and that would take far too much time to do.

If you're one of the many Linux users looking to shore up their privacy with a VPN, you'll be glad to know that Surfshark has a dedicated Linux GUI for some of the most common distros. It's one of the few leading VPNs that offer more than the standard command-line interface for Linux, and it shows the genuine love and care the service has for its users.

Where Surfshark falls short, however, is its torrenting and unblocking capabilities. Once marketing itself as the VPN for streaming, it struggles to compete against the likes of NordVPN in recent tests. That said, it's not incapable. We were able to reliably unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and more in our latest round of tests.

Because of this amazing blend of capability, features, and immense speed, it's no surprise that Surfshark tops our charts for the best cheap VPN and the fastest VPN. It's the perfect pick for anyone looking to protect the devices of everyone they know.

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Surfshark test results:
DesignElegant, simple, and intuitive⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useGreat for beginners, and seamless connections⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFaster than all of our top picks⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingGood content unblocking, but not amazing⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacySome kill switch issues, and the built-in ad blocker and antivirus wasn't as good as we were expecting⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportLots of supporting articles, but awkward to navigate to when you need help on the fly⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceThe best cheap VPN on the market⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best VPN for Linux

Private Internet Access working on a range of devices

(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

4. Private Internet Access (PIA)

The best VPN for Linux with a dedicated GUI for most distros

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Hulu | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 20,000 | Server locations: over 100 | Countries: 84 | Simultaneous connections: 10

More server options than any other VPN
Dedicated IPs available
Lots of features and customization
Dedicated streaming servers
Apps can be overwhelming for beginners
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a VPN that's proven its claims: PIA is one of the only VPN services that can say it's proven its no-logs policy in court—not once, but twice.

✔️ You need a dedicated Linux GUI: with apps for the most popular distros and over 10 years in the industry, it's a long-standing favorite in the Linux community.

✔️ You need a customizable torrenting VPN: port-forwarding and a mountain of torrent-friendly servers make PIA an excellent pick for P2P file sharing.

Don't subscribe if:

 You want the easiest VPN to use: PIA's technical prowess is both a blessing and a curse, and its orientation towards technical users means that it isn't the easiest for absolute beginners.

❌ You want a built-in password manager: unlike ExpressVPN and NordVPN, PIA doesn't offer a password manager for users.

❌ You want the fastest VPN: PIA offers good speeds for torrenting and is comparable to ExpressVPN, but it is nowhere near the speeds on offer with NordVPN and Surfshark.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Private Internet Access is an industry veteran, and a long-standing favourite of privacy purists like myself. Put it to the test with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Private Internet Access VPN review and see why this low-cost option is also great for Linux.

Private Internet Access has over a decade of experience in the industry and has outlasted the majority of its competition for one simple reason: it does exactly what it says on the tin. While most leading services will commission regular third-party audits, PIA goes a step further and makes its software open-source so anyone in the world can view, audit, and verify its privacy claims.

If that's not enough, PIA is perhaps the only VPN that has proven its no-logs claims in court, twice. When American authorities presented a warrant for information, PIA gave them absolutely nothing, because there was nothing to give in the first place. If you need a VPN that will genuinely protect your digital privacy, nothing gives peace of mind like having your policies proven true.

My favorite feature is the utterly enormous network on offer. There are tens of thousands of servers to connect to—giving you plenty of opportunities to access content in the country you want. Dedicated streaming servers make it easier to unblock your favorite shows around the world, and with more IPs on offer than any other pick on our list.

All subscriptions come with a free email breach scanner and Boxcryptor license to encrypt and secure your cloud storage. Both of these come as standard with all PIA subscriptions, and when you factor in that most competitors would charge extra for those same features, its value-for-money increases exponentially.

The mobile and tablet apps are easy enough to use and are absolutely rammed with features and security tools, but the desktop apps are better suited to more technical users. As such, it generally lacks that intuitive feel and attention to detail that comes with ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark. Plus, PIA is one of the few VPN services with a Linux GUI (visual app), rather than a simple command-line interface like ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

While it definitely suits advanced users best, PIA has an absolutely impeccable record and comes with built-in threat protection and ad-blocking functionality. It's easy to see why privacy purists are so fond of the service. 

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Private Internet Access test results:
DesignLots of customization, but could do with some attention to detail⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the best for beginners, but great for advanced users⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceGood speeds, but generally average compared to industry leaders⭐⭐⭐
Unblockingdedicated streaming servers and tens of thousands of servers to help you unblock anything and everything⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThe latest and greatest in VPN tech, and a proven no-logging policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportA mass of knowledge online and expert support on-hand at all times⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceBudget-friendly and offering plenty of value for money⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The best of the rest

CyberGhost VPN app running on iPhone, iPad, and Android

(Image credit: CyberGhost)

5. CyberGhost VPN

A great value VPN with plenty of features

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 45 days | Number of servers: over 9,260 | Server locations: 116 | Countries: 91 | Simultaneous connections: 7

Above-average WireGuard speeds
Can be used on almost anything
45-day money-back guarantee
Audit is hard to access
Annoying device limit scheme
Support site isn't the best
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want an easy-to-use VPN: a clean and intuitive interface makes CyberGhost VPN a great choice for beginners.

✔️ You need a budget VPN: under three dollars per month makes it an excellent cheap pick.

✔️ You want more than a month to test it: CyberGhost VPN offers the longest money-back guarantee on the market at a spectacular 45 days.

Don't subscribe if:

 You need a Disney Plus VPN: in our latest round of testing, CyberGhost VPN struggled to unblock the popular streaming service.

❌ You need in-depth support: while the customer support agents are friendly and helpful, CyberGhost's support site lacks the depth on offer with PIA, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN.

❌ You want to install it on more than seven devices: most services have a limit on the maximum number of simultaneous connections, whereas CyberGhost VPN only lets you have up to 7 installations at any one time.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 CyberGhost VPN is a popular choice for beginners with easy-to-use apps and a whopping 45-day money-back guarantee.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth CyberGhost VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

CyberGhost VPN has a mighty network of over 9,260 servers (mostly torrent-friendly) spread across an impressive 91 countries. There are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and other smart TVs, and Smart DNS support allows you to set it up on game consoles, too.

Streaming proved another highlight, as CyberGhost VPN effortlessly unblocked US Netflix (but unsuccessfully in catalogs further afield), Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. CyberGhost failed to unblock Disney Plus and UK Netflix this time around, despite having dedicated streaming servers for the platforms. I love that the apps have dedicated servers for streaming Hulu, HBO Max, and more.

Although the apps are generally easy to use and intuitive, they have one or two very basic omissions. The Windows app still doesn't display a notification when it connects or disconnects, for instance, so unless you're looking at the app window, you won't know for sure when you're connected or if the VPN drops.

Unfortunately, CyberGhost VPN removed its password manager due to a lack of interest from users, so if that's a deal-breaker, you may want to consider ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but it's fair to say that CyberGhost isn't wasting time or money on features that its users don't really want or need.

CyberGhost's maximum speed is impressive, but was lower than our previous testing, with WireGuard connections sitting around 730 Mbps (down from 850 Mbps) in our most recent tests, and OpenVPN reaching 400 Mbps and more. This is still incredibly fast, and more than enough for gaming online, torrenting and streaming in 4K, so you'll be glad to know it won't slow you down.

If you're willing to commit to a longer plan, there's exceptional value for money on offer, and with its enormous network, you don't need to worry about busy servers slowing you down.

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CyberGhost VPN test results:
DesignSimple, intuitive, and easily customizable⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of usePerfect for beginners and anyone wanting a simple experience⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceDecent speeds that are great for torrenting, streaming and gaming online⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDedicated streaming servers, but struggled to unblock Disney Plus and Netflix UK⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyRobust and reliable with a third-party audit from Deloitte⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAgents are helpful, but the on-site content could be better⭐⭐⭐
PriceExcellent value and competitive pricing⭐⭐⭐⭐

PrivadoVPN app running on mobile and PC

(Image credit: PrivadoVPN)

6. PrivadoVPN

The best free VPN in 2023

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Smart TVs | 24/7 support: Website and email | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 300 | Server locations: 63 | Free locations: 13 | Countries: 48 | Simultaneous connections: 10

Unblocks plenty of streaming services
Excellent features, even on the free version
Fast WireGuard-powered apps
No security audits
Single-month plan is pricey
Fewer servers than Express, Nord and Surfshark
Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a reliable free VPN: PrivadoVPN doesn't hide its most important features behind a paywall like ProtonVPN, so you get a reliable service without spending a penny.

✔️ You want to stream Netflix: a dedicated geo-unblocking team means that even free users benefit from reliable Netflix unblocking.

Don't subscribe if:

 You want lots of server options: while the free service has 13 locations, it's still incredibly limited, and the same can be said for the premium service compared to the likes of PIA and Surfshark.

❌ You need more than 10 GB of data per month: PrivadoVPN's free service has a data limit on its uncapped server speeds, but after that's used up, you go into "over quota mode" where you're limited to 1 Mbps. If you need unlimited data on a free VPN, I recommend Proton VPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 PrivadoVPN offers a decent mid-tier premium service, but it's hands-down the best free VPN on the market right now.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth PrivadoVPN review and see why this free service is so good at unblocking Netflix.

PrivadoVPN is a mid-tier premium VPN with an unbeatable free version. On a premium subscription, you get 10 simultaneous connections, a SOCKS5 Proxy to help access geo-restricted content, a zero-Log policy, an ad blocker, parental controls, and even threat protection to help keep your devices safe from malware.

When it comes to the free version, some of these features are locked behind the enticing premium paywall. But you still get plenty of customization.

Our latest round of testing showed a decent 350 Mbps download speed, which is plenty for streaming in 4K, gaming online, and seamless torrenting. It even handles its own bandwidth and transit routes, so you get fantastic speeds and almost no server congestion—even on free servers.

I spoke with one of PrivadoVPN's representatives about how pleased I was that they offered WireGuard encryption on the free plan, and they responded with "of course. We wouldn't want to lock something so important behind a paywall." This just goes to show how much they value users, regardless of whether or not they're premium customers.

Its easy-to-use and reliable apps allow for plenty of customization. You can utilize one-click connections and a kill switch to make sure you're always protected, even if your VPN connection drops.

PrivadoVPN has a dedicated geoblocking team, that constantly looks to bypass censorship and regional content restrictions. What's more, it doesn't make free users suffer with sub-par servers—making it one of the only free services that can reliably unblock Netflix, iPlayer, and Disney+. 

PrivadoVPN has yet to verify its privacy credentials with an independent audit. Privado told us that an audit would require months of standstill for development, and that would prevent them from delivering on the needs of their users. Privado plans to pursue an audit as soon as possible, but it needs to make sure it's offering the best service it can at all times.

I liked that PrivadoVPN doesn't give you a reduced priority if you're a free user. if you find yourself stuck, Privado has 24/7 email and live chat support for customers—regardless of what plan they're on. 

In a cost-of-living crisis, it's refreshing to see a VPN provider go so far with its freemium plan. Digital privacy is a right, and one that PrivadoVPN clearly defends.

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PrivadoVPN test results:
DesignA simple yet colorful design⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEasy to use and clearly laid out⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceThe low end of average for a leading service, but generally fast enough for anything you could throw at it⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingIts dedicated unblocking team does a great job⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyGood scores on paper, but currently lacking an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportDecent email support, but not a lot of of on-site help⭐⭐⭐
PriceNothing beats free⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Proton VPN app for various platforms side by side

(Image credit: Proton VPN)

7. Proton VPN

A VPN that continues to advocate for internet freedom everywhere

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 30 days - free version available | Number of servers: over 2,900 | Server locations: 85 | Countries: 67 | Simultaneous connections: 10

Open-source apps
Free plan with unlimited bandwidth
100+ servers on free plan
Improving speeds and coverage
More expensive than most
Customer support needs improvement
WireGuard Windows connection time is slower than most
Subscribe if:

✔️ You need a free Linux VPN: Few VPNs offer serious Linux support, and Proton VPN is the only service to offer a GUI for freemium Linux users.

✔️ You want a totally unlimited free VPN: if you need lots of data every month, ProtonVPN doesn't limit your monthly usage.

Don't subscribe if:

 You need a fast VPN: Windows connection speeds were a bit slow in our testing, so we'd recommend ExpressVPN or Surfhark if speed is a deal-breaker for you.

❌ You want lots of locations to choose from: while Proton VPN has improved greatly, it still offers a limited range of locations and countries to choose from—especially on its free plan.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

🔒 Proton VPN is a well-known brand and a popular free Linux VPN that even offers protection for hackers on Kali.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Proton VPN review and find out how it keeps up the fight for internet freedom.

Proton VPN's network exploded in size from a just few hundred servers in 14 countries a few years ago, to over 2,900 servers across 67 countries today. You can access these servers via a wide range of apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, and Chromebook. 

Trust is important when you're choosing a VPN provider, and Proton VPN does more than most to reassure you that your privacy is safe in its hands. You can pay anonymously via Bitcoin, even cash. Proton VPN's apps are open-source, allowing anyone to inspect the code, and they've been independently audited, too.

Technical privacy and security features start with strong encryption and the best protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2) MultiHop VPN passes your traffic through several VPN servers for extra safety, and a rock-solid kill switch keeps your identity safe if the VPN drops.

Our test results saw Proton VPN peak at an above-average 510 Mbps (down from 670 Mbps) for WireGuard. Not quite top ten material, but more than fast enough for most people, and a well above average of 440 Mbps with OpenVPN.

Proton VPN's support site still has some overly complicated articles, and although the company has added live chat, agents aren't always available. When you do get ahold of someone, though, we've found them to offer top-notch advice, and email questions usually get helpful replies within a few hours.

Proton VPN may focus on its privacy-protecting abilities, but it also knows how to have fun. Our latest tests allowed us hassle-free access to content from US, UK, Aussie, and Canadian Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Unlike PrivadoVPN, Proton VPN doesn't offer the same unblocking reliability to both premium and free users.

However, on March 3, 2023, Proton partnered with Deutsche Welle to create free, dedicated servers to help people access the popular German media outlet. This is just another example of Proton's commitment to an open and free internet.

Proton VPN isn't cheap, but it's open and superbly transparent, with plenty of features and great unblocking abilities. Plus, a generous ten-device limit—more than the likes of Express or Nord—means it's likely you can connect and use all your hardware at the same time.

Proton VPN being used on a Windows laptop

We found Proton VPN's clients to be "dependable, with only one connection drop during testing" (Image credit: Proton VPN)
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Proton VPN test results:
DesignIf you like dark mode, you'll love this interface⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useFairly easy on mobile, but a bit more complex on desktop⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceQuite a lot of variation, but overall decent⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingLimits unblocking to premium services but otherwise good⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyStrong encryption and plenty of security add-ons available⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportAgents can be hard to get ahold of, but there's a lot of very technical support available⭐⭐⭐
PriceModerately expensive premium plans, but a great free plan⭐⭐⭐⭐

Windscribe logo on a laptop screen

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

8. Windscribe

A popular free VPN with open-source apps

Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (CLI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 3 days - free version available | Number of servers: over 400 | Server locations: 112 | Countries: 69 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Unlimited device connections
Crammed with advanced features
10 GB a month free plan
Open-source apps
No 24/7 live chat support
No security audit
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a free VPN with more than 3 locations: unlike Proton VPN, Windscribe offers 11 countries to choose from on its free servers.

✔️ You want to pretend you're in Antarctica: that's right, Windscribe has a fake Antarctica server, so you can pretend to be a penguin accessing international content.

Don't subscribe if:

 You're paying for a subscription: it's a great service, but even Windscribe's cheapest premium plan just doesn't offer the same value for money as the likes of Surfshark of PIA.

❌ You want an audited VPN: Windscribe is open source, so anyone can audit, but it has yet to commit to a proper, independent third-party audit.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 Windscribe offers an amazing free plan, but its premium service struggles to compete with the industry leaders in terms of value.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Windscribe VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

Windscribe is a capable Canadian VPN with a stack of interesting features, and plenty of appeal for just about every type of user.

Lots of hardware to protect? There are stylish open-source apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux, along with powerful browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. A subscription covers unlimited devices, too, so you can likely connect your entire home with one Windscribe plan.

If streaming overseas content is a priority, you'll love Windscribe's ability to unblock US Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer. Notably, in our latest test, we were unable to unblock Netflix Japan, however. 

Experts get access to unusual advanced features. Windscribe doesn't just have basic ad blocking, for instance; it can also block trackers, malware, fake news, porn sites, and more, and you can configure every detail to get the precise protection you need.

Compared to our last round of speed tests, Windscribe is up to 700 Mbps from 490 Mbps, pushing them further up in our rankings.

There's no 24/7 live chat support, unfortunately, although you can send emails or use the company's own Subreddit. Although Windscribe has taken a big transparency step recently by open-sourcing its desktop apps, we'd like to see it go further by putting the service through an independent security audit.

Windscribe has some issues, but it is still a significant value, and experts in particular get plenty of interesting features to explore. What’s more, the free plan gives you 10 GB a month and access to all the main features, so if you’re tempted, you can try the service out risk-free, to see what it can do for you. 

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Windscribe test results:
DesignGenerally simple, but quite cluttered⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIntuitive, but may feel complicated for beginners⭐⭐⭐
PerformancePretty average for WireGuard⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingAbsolutely fantastic, despite issues with Japanese Netflix⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyRobust and open-source, but lacking an independent audit⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNo live chat, but helpful on-site content and quick responses to emails⭐⭐⭐
PriceWe always love free plans, but the premium plan is quite expensive⭐⭐⭐

IPVanish app running on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android

(Image credit: IPVanish)

9. IPVanish

A speedy VPN with lots of customization

Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 2,200 | Server locations: 75 | Countries: 50 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited

Blistering WireGuard-powered performance
Independently audited
Unlimited simultaneous connections
Dedicated Linux GUI
Desktop apps have some usability issues
Below-average OpenVPN speeds
Doesn't unblock Netflix AU or CA
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a Linux GUI: IPVanish is one of the few VPNs that offer a dedicated app for Linux users.

✔️ You have a lot of devices to protect: much like Surfshark, IPVanish offers unlimited simultaneous connections.

Don't subscribe if:

 You don't intend to cancel your renewal: initial pricing is pretty cheap, but if you allow the service to renew, you might just break the bank.

❌ You want to stream Japanese Netflix: IPVanish has pretty reliably unblocking capabilities, but it struggled to access Japan's Netflix catalog in our latest round of testing.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 IPVanish is a budget-friendly provider with plenty of great features and unlimited simultaneous connections, but if those were my two decision-making criteria, I'd opt for Surfshark instead.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth IPVanish VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

IPVanish is a capable VPN that delivers more than you’d expect in several important areas but also stands a bit lacking in some others. The company doesn’t just rent its servers, it owns them—for maximum control over how they’re managed. There are no device limits, so you can have as many simultaneous connections as you need. And it’s just passed a no-logs audit, a reassuring sign that the company is properly protecting your privacy

The desktop apps stand out for their intuitive and easy-to-use map interface—though it appears to have fewer features than it did in previous testing—while a capable kill switch is on hand to protect you if the VPN drops, and the hyperefficient WireGuard protocol is available on all platforms. IPVanish makes the most of it, too, with blistering test results earning it a place in our top five fastest VPNs.

The service currently unblocks US Netflix (only, we found that it struggles with other territories), BBC iPlayer, C4, ITV, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. No luck with Netflix in Canada or Australia, however. 

Although the apps are stuffed with features, we think this can make for a cluttered interface, and the desktop editions have some usability issues. Nothing major, they're just not quite as polished as we'd like.

It's a similar story elsewhere, with IPVanish delivering where it matters in most areas, but with a few small issues just spoiling the effect. WireGuard speeds are lower than before (720 Mbps down from 890 Mbps) and as we've mentioned, OpenVPN is also below par. Live chat support is ultra-helpful, but the support site can't match the best. And while the prices are fair, you can't pay by Bitcoin.

IPVanish could be a smart choice for anyone who has a lot of hardware to protect and can use its eye-popping WireGuard speeds, at least as long as they're not concerned about the occasional unblocking issue. The 30-day refund period gives you a risk-free way to find out more, but beware, it's for annual plans only—monthly billed users aren't covered. 

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IPVanish test results:
DesignDark and edgy, but generally complicated⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useSome usability issues and a complex interface⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceIncredibly fast Wireguard speeds⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingSolid unblocking with a couple of hiccups⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThoroughly audited and reliable encryption⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportSupport articles aren't as helpful as they should be and generally say the same thing⭐⭐⭐
PriceRenewal prices are quite a sting to users⭐⭐⭐

Mullvad VPN app running on a Mac

(Image credit: Mullvad)

10. Mullvad

A fast VPN that prioritizes security over streaming

Streaming sites unblocked: None | Available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), routers and more | 24/7 support: No | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: over 650 | Server locations: 72 | Countries: 43 | Simultaneous connections: 5

Sign up without handing over any personal information
Super-fast speeds
App and infrastructure audits
Accepts cash payments
Not designed for streamers
Apps could use some improvement
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want to pay with cash: One of the only services that let you pay by cash for increased anonymity.

✔️ You want total VPN anonymity: Mullvad offers the option for a zero-knowledge account. Simply generate an account and pay by cash and you can hide your personal information.

Don't subscribe if:

 You're on a budget: Mullvad has one price, and it's not exactly cheap.

❌ You want to unblock Netflix: Mullvad prioritizes anonymity and security over unblocking streams, so if you plan on accessing foreign content, you'll be better off with ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Bottom line ⭐⭐⭐⭐

🔒 Mullvad is an incredibly reliable service that people can trust with their lives, but if you're hoping to stream shows abroad, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

Want to know more?

Check out our in-depth Mullvad VPN review to find out more about this popular VPN provider.

Every VPN claims it cares about privacy, but Mullvad goes further than most. You can open an account without handing over any personal details, for instance, then pay by crypto, or even post a cash-stuffed envelope (no, seriously) ensuring the company knows nothing about you at all.

Mullvad scores for transparency, too, putting its entire infrastructure—apps, servers, websites, and more—through comprehensive security audits, and promising to repeat these regularly.

It's not all good news, though. The apps are a little basic in many areas; Mullvad couldn't unblock US Netflix or any of our other test streaming sites; there's no live chat or 24/7 support; its single 5 Euros a month plan is great if you're happy with the monthly billing, but there's no discount if you're happy to sign up for longer.

If performance is your top priority, though, Mullvad's 770 Mbps (down from 820 Mbps at last testing) peak speed is near twice some of the competition. That said, OpenVPN speeds were nearly triple what we would normally see from the competition. Privacy purists who are still skeptical of the latest protocol can have peace-of-mind knowing that the OpenVPN speeds are some of the fastest in the industry.

Valuable features include port forwarding, a reliable kill switch, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a variety of stealth options. The apps are top-quality, too, fully leak-free and with a rock-solid kill switch keeping us safe in every situation.

Feeble unblocking and basic support mean this isn't a VPN for the average user. High speeds and excellent privacy make Mullvad a solid pick for P2P, though, or for anyone who's looking to maintain maximum anonymity online.

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Mullvad test results:
DesignA fairly basic design that does away with the usual bells and whistles⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useNot the easiest for beginners⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceSolid speeds, even on OpenVPN connections⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingEffortlessly gives you access to content around the world
Security and privacyMeticulously audited, with lots of attention to detail⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportNo live chat, but we saw speedy responses from email tickets⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceExpensive, but the price doesn't shoot up on renewal like other providers⭐⭐⭐

TechRadar's VPN rankings

There are hundreds, if not thousands of VPNs out there, and you've likely heard the names of countless services. Check out our rankings below of popular services and see some honorable mentions that can't currently compete with what's on offer with our top services.

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Our rankings for VPN services across the industry:
1. ExpressVPNThe best VPN overall and our top pick for most use cases.
2. NordVPNThe best VPN security suite. An all-in-one solution with ad blocking and malware protection.
3. SurfsharkThe best cheap VPN, and also the fastest in our tests.
4. Private Internet AccessThe best Linux VPN. A dedicated GUI for Linux, and a no-logs policy that was proven in court twice.
5. CyberGhost VPNThe best of the rest. A popular and easy-to-use platform that's great for beginners.
6. PrivadoVPNThe best free VPN. It even unblocks Netflix.
7. ProtonVPNA popular free VPN service with a history of advocating for the freedom of the internet.
8. WindscribeA fast service with a popular browser proxy.
9. IPVanishAn up-and-coming provider that supports Linux.
10. MullvadGood for Linux, and you can even pay in cash.
11. Hide.MeA speedy service with plenty of customization.
12. TunnelBearA reliable free VPN but no support for content unblocking.
13. Atlas VPNA new player in the VPN industry that's already making waves.
14. PureVPNOne of the cheapest premium VPNs on the market.
15. Hotspot ShieldA lightning-fast VPN service with lots of great features.
16. StrongVPNAnother mid-range VPN that continues to improve.
17. PrivateVPNAn excellent cheap service that offers plenty of support for streaming and torrenting.
18. VyprVPNA reliable VPN with a dedicated protocol for bypassing even the most severe censorship.
19. AstrillVPNA mid-range VPN that's popular for bypassing Chinese censorship.
20. AirVPNBuilt by hacktivists, for hacktivists.
21. Goose VPNAn incredibly cheap mid-range VPN.
22. TorGuardA torrent-friendly VPN that's good for accessing foreign content.
23. UltraVPNFast and secure with plenty of server locations.
24. Le VPNLots of locations to choose from and integrated SmartDNS technology.
25. VPNAreaA mid-range VPN that struggles to hold up against the industry leaders.
26. Norton VPNKnown for its popular security suite with a lacklustre VPN.
27. Mozilla VPNA well known brand with a VPN that currently underperforms.
28. ZoogVPNA fairly underwhelming VPN from Greece.
29. FastestVPNMaking its way up the list, but not yet living up to its name.
30. Google OneGoogle's history with data doesn't give us much faith in the service.

How to choose a VPN

Finding the right VPN starts by focusing on your main needs. Will you be streaming content? Keep yourself safe online? Doing some gaming? 

Location: Choosing a provider with many locations as well as apps for every platform is a good start, but all that really matters at the end of the day is if it covers the locations and platforms you'll actually be using.

Features: If streaming movies or TV is a top priority for you, look for a VPN which unblocks your favorite services like Netflix or iPlayer. Torrent users will obviously want P2P support on as many servers as possible, in addition to an effective kill switch to keep their identity secret, and an audited no-log policy to make sure all of your online activities stay private.

Get what suits you best

Our experts have reviewed hundreds of VPN providers and curated this list of the top services, but it's up to you to choose which one fits with your own needs and budget.

Connections: Many VPNs also limit you to connecting a specific number of devices at the same time. If you have multiple mobile devices, laptops, smart TVs or other hardware to protect, you will absolutely want to go for a provider that supports more simultaneous connections—or maybe has no limits at all.

Support: One of the best ways to spot a good (or bad) VPN is to check its support site. Look for lots of detailed and well-written content that you feel would help you in whatever tricky situations you may find yourself in. Live chat support is welcome, too, though not essential. Email support can be surprisingly speedy, with some providers responding in minutes.

Price: And of course, there's the cost to consider, too, though we'd suggest concentrating on functionality, first. If price is a key concern, take a look at our list of the best cheap VPNs and bear in mind that you don't always have to compromise on quality.

In short, look for a VPN with everything you want to actually do. That doesn't have to be expensive – there are some great value deals on this list—and you can always use price later to prune your shortlist down to a final choice.

How we test VPN services - our review methodology

While our experts use the above VPNs every day, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of the top 30 VPN services every 6 months. TechRadar's VPN reviews begin at the provider's website, where we take an initial look at the provider's site and claimed offerings. 

As we review the site, we look at the presence of tracking cookies and ask ourselves a series of questions. What security tools does the provider offer? Does it promise the world, or is it more realistic? Does the privacy policy clearly say how your data is handled? Are there any catches in the small print? Is the pricing open and honest? Ultimately, we're considering not just what the provider says it gives you, but what it really gives, and whether you can trust it with your data.

After signing up for a plan, we install and test the Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux VPN apps, as these are the most popular platforms. Then, we move on to testing the features, like the kill switch, looking for data leaks, and generally confirming everything works as advertised.

As we do this, we play around with the different encryption protocols on offer, connect to different servers, throw malware at it, and generally look for any way we can stress test the service. If anything breaks under any of our tests, we report it back to the provider so they can fix the issue, but we make sure to include both the issue and the provider's response in our results.

We measure VPN speeds from a US home and a UK data center with a 1Gbps connection. Every VPN has its speed checked at least 120 times across two sessions, using different protocols, speed test websites, and tools, and we take the average of the best session as the provider's peak speed.

nPerf performance benchmark for VPNs

Our VPN speed testing in progress (Image credit: nPerf)

A good VPN should be able to unblock multiple streaming services. To check this, we try to access geo-exclusive content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and BBC iPlayer, repeating the test from three different locations to get an idea of how the service performs in real life.

In our day-to-day testing, we take a more focused approach depending on the needs of the specific use cases we're writing about. Such as whether the VPN is good for FireStick, or if it works on Ubuntu. We carry out constant real-world testing to make sure our analysis is always accurate and relevant.

However, we don't just trust what we see on the surface of a VPN provider's website.
We'll view the contents of its RAM, even decompile and browse its source code (if we can) to find out what's going on behind the scenes and whether the service gives genuine protection or just a false sense of security.

Want more details? We have a much deeper explanation on our VPN testing methodology page.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the best VPN?

Currently, ExpressVPN tops our list of the best VPN. The reasons are many (and explored in depth in this article) but in short, it's because it delivers reliable fast server connections; is jam-packed with security smarts; is a joy to use whether on desktop, mobile, or other devices; has a proven track record of unlocking blocked websites and streaming services; and in the unlikely event that you do run into difficulties, has fantastic, human customer support available 24/7.

You can try it out for 30 days risk-free thanks to its completely no-quibble money-back guarantee. And when you sign up for an annual plan now, it also throws in a whole year of secure, unlimited cloud backup—courtesy of Backblaze.

ExpressVPN on multiple devices

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

What can I use my VPN for?

VPNs are surprisingly easy to use and despite all the technical-sounding terms, they bring all kinds of benefits to even the greenest of network newbies.

Staying safer and more anonymous online

Accessing public Wi-Fi can pose all kinds of dangers, for instance, from snoopers monitoring your internet traffic to malicious hotspots redirecting you to dangerous websites. Connect to a VPN with one tap and your traffic is encrypted, ensuring no one else can see or interfere with your browsing. It's also the reason why so many people use VPNs for torrenting.

App unblocking

Some networks block access to YouTube, social media, or other sites they'd rather you didn't access. Use a VPN and the network can't see which sites you're visiting, so isn't able to block you, and you're free to browse wherever you like.

Getting around government censorship

China and other privacy-unfriendly governments try to block some websites countrywide. Connecting to a VPN first may get you access, although this doesn't work in every case: China, in particular, works hard to detect and block VPNs—only the best China VPNs can surpass the Great Firewall of China.


Ever seen an 'unavailable in your region'-type error on a streaming site? Many sites block access if you're not in an approved country. But if, say, you connect to a VPN server in New York, then you can often access US-only content, even when overseas. That's really handy if you want to watch TV shows and movies that you are only streaming on overseas services, or you wish to watch a live sporting event that isn't being broadcast where you are. VPNs for Netflix are particularly popular and have helped lead the explosion of the software's growth lately, while they're also handy for watching BBC iPlayer from abroad.

Avoid cookie-based price manipulation

The ability to appear as though you're in another country has other advantages. Hotels, airline tickets, and many other goods and services can be priced very differently around the world. If your region is towards the costly end of the spectrum, appearing to be from somewhere else can bring you real savings, and might repay the cost of the VPN all on their own.

Online privacy

Even without these specific advantages, browsing with a VPN brings assorted privacy benefits. It's more difficult for websites and advertisers to track you, for instance, and with the VPN's strong encryption shielding your activities, even your ISP won't be able to see or log your browsing history.

VPN in red writing against a gray tiled background

(Image credit: Pixabay)

How do I get the best VPN?

Once you've taken your pick from the best VPN for you from the list above, the next stage is easy. Click on the link to the one you like and follow the easy steps on-site to sign up, using the payment method you're most comfortable with—some even let you pay with cryptocurrency these days.

Going for a longer-term subscription will save you money in the long run, but one thing to note—even though the prices will be described in monthly terms, you'll still have to pay for the full amount upfront.

Once signed up, you can download the clients and apps on whatever devices you want to use your new VPN on. So for mobile, get yourself over to the App Store or Play Store, download, and you'll be connected in seconds.

Once installed, you can then get extensions added to your chosen web browser, and go about adding functionality to your various devices. That includes your computer and mobile phone of course, but also your games console, tablet, TV streaming devices—even your internet router.

When is the best time to buy a VPN?

The short answer here is that there isn't any one perfect time. You can mostly guarantee that there will always be great VPN deals available all year round.

Yes, most providers have now caught the Black Friday bug, and so there tend to be some eye-catching prices around November and December. But the likes of NordVPN, Surfshark, and PIA frequently have discounts here and extra free months of use there.

Which VPN is fastest?

It's a well-trodden sales technique for VPN providers to claim that they have the fastest speeds—but they clearly can't all be the fastest. That's why we test the speeds on offer from all the top VPNs across different global servers and on a variety of protocols.

Below are the speed results for the top VPN services, during our latest tests:

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Row 0 - Cell 0 WireGuard (or Proprietary)OpenVPN
ExpressVPN540 to 560 Mbps375 to 385 Mbps
NordVPN700 to 820 Mbps220 to 250 Mbps
Surfshark720 to 790 Mbps130 to 140 Mbps
PIA320 Mbps170 to 190 Mbps
Proton VPN360 to 670 Mbps200 to 440 Mbps
CyberGhost830 to 850 Mbps300 to 415 Mbps
Hotspot Shield300 to 310 Mbps200 to 210 Mbps
Hide.me550 to 900 Mbps440 to 450 Mbps
IPVanish880 to 890 Mbps120 to 160 Mbps
Windscribe200 to 490 Mbps120 Mbps
Mullvad740 to 820 Mbps480 to 490 Mbps
TunnelBear310 to 380 Mbps
PureVPN180 to 640 Mbps120 Mbps

Paid VPNs vs free VPNs: which should I get?

There are all kinds of features to look for when you're choosing a VPN, but one word attracts more attention than the rest of them put together: 'free.' And it's easy to see why. Who wants to pay $50-$100 up-front when you can apparently get the same service from a freebie?

The problem: it won't be anything like the same service. Running a good VPN is expensive, with fast servers to run, skilled developers to create and update reliable apps, and an expert support team on hand 24/7 to help you out when required. None of this comes truly for free.

What you'll usually get is a basic app, maybe not updated in years, connecting to slow servers, then drowning you in ads, exposing you to the very same privacy risks that you hoped a VPN would block.

Some free services go much further. We've seen one which sends screenshots of your device back to the developer, allowing it to see the sites you're visiting and the apps you're using. Not much privacy protection, there.

That doesn't mean freebies are always bad. If you just need one to unblock a streaming site, then you might not care if it displays ads when you connect and disconnect. But our advice would be not to use them all the time, or for anything privacy-critical. It's not worth the risk, especially when you can sign up with a quality paid service for $2-$3 a month. And if you do end up going down the free route, be sure to check out our list of the best free VPNs before you go and download one.

Are VPNs legal?

VPNs are legal in North and South America, Western Europe, Oceania, and most of the rest of the world, but in some countries, it's a far more complicated story.

China and Russia don't ban VPNs entirely, for instance, but they only allow you to use government-appointed providers. To encourage you, they've also banned just about everyone else: Russia's latest banned list includes ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Proton VPN, IPVanish, and more.

For most of the world, it's not the VPN that might be illegal, but what you do with it could still land you in trouble. If you're committing crimes while you're using a VPN, you're still breaking the law, and a VPN won't excuse that.

Turkey similarly hasn't tried to ban all VPNs, but it might block access to the sites or servers of providers that don't follow its rules. UAE and Oman have laws that might get you into trouble in some VPN-related situations. Iraq, North Korea, and Turkmenistan are more extreme and ban VPNs entirely.

It's a complex area, where the situation might change at any time as countries introduce new laws. It's unlikely you'll get into big trouble for, say, accessing Twitter from a foreign hotel room—repressive governments get enough flak over free speech issues already, without attracting more—but it can't be ruled out entirely. "But I didn't know" isn't a strong defense, though, so if you're traveling somewhere you might run into trouble, be sure to do a little research before you go, and find out what you can do and what you can't.

Do you need a VPN?

In our opinion, yes, everyone should use a VPN. With the ever-evolving threat of cybercrime, digital warfare, and invasive tracking, it's becoming increasingly essential to protect your digital privacy and secure your internet use. Couple that with the rise in censorship and the need for freedom of speech and freedom of the press to provide genuine and unbiased truth, and a VPN is a vital tool in the fight for our digital rights and privacy.

How much does a VPN cost?

VPNs aren't expensive, and you can get a premium service for as much as a cup of coffee per month. There are even some free services that are worthwhile alternatives if you're struggling to justify the expense.

How to reduce the cost of a VPN

The easiest way to make a VPN cheaper is to opt for a longer subscription. VPN services regularly offer significantly reduced rates for longer commitments.

For example, while a single month of ExpressVPN can cost over $12.95, opting for a 12-month subscription lowers the price by 49% to $6.67/month. Some providers even offer longer subscriptions, like PureVPN's 5-year offer at just $1.33/month.

How to check if your VPN is working

The easiest way to check if your VPN is working is to open an incognito/private browsing window and search "What is my IP address" to find an IP checker. Run the test before you connect to your VPN and you'll get your real IP address. Close the incognito window and connect to your chosen VPN, then open a new incognito window and repeat the same process. If your IP is the same, you may not be connected properly or your VPN may have a DNS leak.

Are VPNs safe?

The services in this guide are safe. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands of providers out there, and a significant portion of them wouldn't meet our standards for us to consider them safe. Many unscrupulous VPNs track your internet usage and log your IP so they can sell your data and hand over your information to anyone who comes knocking. 

In order to make sure your VPN is safe, you should ensure it has the following features at a minimum: 

A no-logs policy: ensuring the service isn't tracking your IP or internet usage.

AES 256-bit encryption: the industry standard for security, so no one can snoop on you.

A kill switch: disconnecting your internet if your VPN connection drops and protecting you from unsuspecting data leaks.

Secure encryption protocols: we recommend using the latest and greatest in encryption technology (WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2) as some older protocols aren't as secure as they once were (IPSec, L2TP).

Will a VPN slow my internet speed?

Encrypting and decrypting your traffic, as well as routing it through an extra server, is a lot of extra work, and if you don't pick a provider with decent speeds, they'll likely drop your performance.

Top VPN providers keep this to a minimum by using well-designed apps and the most efficient protocols (the rules a VPN app and server use to transfer data). We regularly see the best VPNs reach 800Mbps and more, so if you choose your provider carefully, you may not even notice any difference in speed.

What is a VPN?

A VPN (also known as a virtual private network) is a security tool used on your internet-connected devices to encrypt your internet usage and protect you from cybercriminals.

This means that no one can snoop on your data and see what you're doing online, and because of the sheer volume of users among VPN services, you get improved privacy and anonymity thanks to strength in numbers.

But choosing the right VPN is essential. If you pick a provider that's not secure enough, you could be acting under a false sense of security, and some of the more suspect VPN services will even track your activity and sell on your information.

Andreas Theodorou Editor-in-Chief Tech Software
Andreas Theodorou

Andreas is our Editor-in-Chief of Tech Software and an expert on digital privacy, VPNs, antivirus software, and other cybersecurity tools. He supports the strategy, production, and improvement of news, reviews, and guides content across TechRadar, Tom's Guide, and more. He's previously written for and directed tech and software strategy at ProPrivacy, Business2Community, and The Tech Report. 

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.

With contributions from