Updated: November 6, 2017
Want definitive answers to the most common questions users ask about VPNs before/after/in-the-process-of using one? Questions like Are VPNs legal? Are VPNs safe? And are VPNs free?
Then you have come to the right place. on this page you will find answers to all of the most common (and important) questions about VPNs. We give you the option to read short, sweet and to-the-point answers, or dive deeper into our detailed answers for each question -- since we figure some of you just want a quick answer, while others like to really dig into the nitty-gritty why's and how's of such answers.
So check out our list of the most commonly asked questions on VPN services below, with the option to get fuller answers on each just a click away. We hope our answers satisfy you!
Are VPNs Legal?
Yes. VPNs are legal in 99% of countries around the world, but online activities through a VPN are subject to local laws, so check these carefully if you are in doubt.
Since the revelations made by Edward Snowden of the scale of US government snooping into the online activities of its citizens, interest in VPNs, which offers users totally privacy and anonymity whilst online has peaked. But many people exploring the prospect of getting a VPN are concerned about whether or not the service is legal or not. In this article we hope to clarify and explain the legal position VPN users find themselves in.
So are VPNs legal or not?
The simple answer to this question is, at least for people in most countries, using a VPN service is completely legal. A VPN service reroutes your internet traffic via another server and changes your IP Address in the process. For a comprehensive overview of VPNs check out our Ultimate Guide to VPNs here.
Most users will have signed up to take advantage of the extra privacy and security that a VPN offers and nothing about this is illegal in most countries. Indeed, many large companies and academic institutions will routinely provide a VPN services for their employers and students to help protect confidents files.
Where are VPNs illegal?
Unsurprisingly, the countries where the state are keen to control the online activities of the citizens are the ones where using a VPN is illegal. There are specific bans or restrictions of the use of VPNs in countries such as China, Iran, and North Korea, to name but three.
However, this does not mean that VPN services are unavailable in these countries, and indeed in China, the use of VPNs is widespread, especially amongst expat communities. Despite the billions of dollars, the Chinese Government spends each year on their Great Firewall Project, they seem to turn a blind eye to this type of use for the most part, although users will complain that their service is blocked during a major political event, or on dates with a sensitive historical relevance.
So if you are in one of these countries, you are using a VPN at your own risk. But if you are located anywhere else, using a VPN is totally legal.
What about using a VPN to access Netflix or another streaming service?
Many readers will be aware of the current clampdown being implemented by Netflix against VPN users.
But to watch Netflix, or any other streaming service in the country where you are located, through a VPN, is completely legal too. As long as you have paid for the service and are within the terms and conditions of the provider, you are not breaking any laws or copyright agreements.
Indeed, Netflix itself has advised users in the past to use a VPN to access their service in order to boost their privacy and security, although their current attempts to block VPN users are making this harder to do for many.
Is using a VPN to access geo-blocked content or streaming services in other countries illegal?
The reason for the Netflix clampdown is to try and stop users from one country accessing the Netflix service of another country. Netflix and other streaming services hold the rights to different shows in different countries and are not permitted to broadcast shows outside the regions they hold the rights to.
However, the question of whether using a VPN to circumvent geo-blocking to access such sites is illegal is a rather grey area.
In Australia, official guidelines suggest that it is not illegal to use a VPN to access overseas content. In most countries you are certainly not going to be perceived as breaking the criminal law, so another short answer to this question would have to be, No.
But it is possible that you might be seen to be breaking a civil agreement, namely your contract with Netflix. This is not something you are likely to be arrested for or anything like that, but Netflix do have the right to block your service if they can, or indeed cancel your account if they choose to do so.
What about downloading torrents?
VPN are popular amongst users who like to download music, movies, and other media using BitTorrent services. In most countries such sites are illegal as they are seen to be in breach of copyright laws. If this is the case where you are, then whether or not you use a VPN you are still going to be in breach of the law.
In recent years’ record companies and film studios have been fairly proactive in chasing down some BitTorrent users to make an example of them in an effort to dissuade other from doing the same thing. This means that a fine or even a prison sentence is possible for BitTorrent users.
However, using a VPN masks your identity online which will make it much harder for them, or law enforcement agencies to identify BitTorrent users. This of course does not change the legal status of what they are doing, and most VPNs will caution as much in their small print.
So is everything I do on a VPN legal?
Using a VPN does not of course give you free reign to do whatever you choose and there are of course some uses of a VPN which are illegal, as they are in other areas of life.
These include things like hacking websites or computer systems, buying and selling drugs and weapons, accessing child pornography, committing fraud, and spreading viruses or other malicious software.
VPNs will make it clear to users that such activity is not permitted, and some will cancel the accounts of people who use their service for illegal ends. Some VPNs do keep logs of user activity and will hand these over to law enforcement agencies if requested to do so. Even if your chosen VPN has a ‘no-logs’ policy, they will have to give some information when presented with a warrant or other types of official legal requests.
In short, using a VPN is not illegal in most countries around the world, but users online activities through their VPN are subject to local laws, so check these carefully if you are in doubt.
Are VPNs Safe?
Yes, VPNs are safe*
*However, not all VPNs are created equal. So some VPNs are much safer than others with protecting your online privacy. If you care about privacy protection most (rather than using a VPN to unblock restricted content) then check how sophisticated and secure the VPNs encryption methods are before use.
People exploring the idea of installing a VPN for the first time, or looking to change or upgrade their existing VPN are by nature very safety conscious people. The explosion in VPN awareness and usage that has followed the Edward Snowden revelations about systemic mass surveillance of the internet activity of ordinary US citizens is as a direct result of people valuing their online privacy and safety so highly.
But if you are new to the concept of a VPN, one of the questions likely to come into your mind, and one of the questions we here at Fried.com get asked on a regular basis, is whether using a VPN does actually make you safer. Hopefully this short article will give clear answers to any questions you might have about the safety of VPNs.
So are VPNs safe?
To answer this question in a single sentence, I would have to say, yes, VPNs are safe. When you connect to the internet via a VPN, the connection between your device and the VPN server you are using is an encrypted pathway. This means that any data or activity taking place is secure, but is also scrambled so if anyone did gain access to it, it would be incomprehensible to them.
This means that no outside body, such as a hacker or a Government intelligence officer trying to snoop on your online activity can see your online data. It also protects you from various forms of cyber-attack, such as sniffing passwords, session hijacking, ISP spying, and hotspot poisoning.
But are all VPNs safe?
The answer to this question is a rather more complicated one. What I have said above applies to all VPNs without exception, but the point still has to be made that some VPNs are safer than others. Which is why it is important to use Fried.com to research your VPN provider and understand the level of privacy and security they can offer you. To help you get started with this, check out our thoroughly reviewed list of the best VPN services currently on the market here.
Your relationship with your VPN is one of trust, and the best way to trust your VPN provider is to know as much about them as possible.
If privacy and security online is your main reason, we would of course recommend you read our VPNs reviews thoroughly before signing up. But we do also understand that your time is precious and you may not be able to study every word of our thorough and details reviews. There are therefore a couple of key things you should be particularly looking out for:
1. No Logs:
Some VPNs will keep a record of their user’s internet activity for a period of time. They will say that this is to make sure you are not doing anything illegal on their network, or that you are not doing anything that might damage their network. But if the reason for getting a VPN is to take advantage of the additional online privacy and anonymity they offer, signing up with one that keeps detailed logs rather defeats the point.
The most secure VPN providers are the ones which keep zero logs of the activity of their users. This means that no matter who might try and extract information form them about the activity of their users, they simple have no information to give.
We have written recently about the FBI trying to gain logs on the activity of a Private Internet Access user, in a case which proves that they do not keep records of user activity. Other prominent names which also make the claim include NordVPN and IPVanish, but there are of course plenty of others.
A note of caution here though. The definition of what constitutes ‘zero-logs’ can vary from one provider to another, so be sure to read the small print (and our reviews) carefully to ensure you are happy with precisely what they offer.
2. Geographic Location:
Even though VPNs offer servers located all over the world, they are nevertheless all based somewhere. And as with all companies headquartered in a particular country, they are subject to the local laws of that country.
This factor can influence the extent to which they are able to offer a ‘zero-logs’ policy as discussed above. In some countries (and US States) online companies are required by law to keep records of user activity for a certain period of time.
It is therefore worth looking into where your provider is headquartered before signing up with them.
To give you a couple of examples of VPNs located in countries which allow them to offer users higher levels of online security and privacy, Buffered is based in Hungary which allows them to offer very high privacy settings, and NordVPN is headquartered in Panama which allows them to guarantee they keep ‘No Logs’.
On the flipside, IPVanish are located in the USA where there are much stronger laws about what information they must retain about user activity.
So in conclusion we can say with some certainty that it is safer to use a VPN than not to use one. But it is also the case that some VPNs offer a much higher degree of privacy and online security than others, and if this is your priority reason for signing up for one, it is strongly advisable to do your research before parting with any money.
Are VPNs Secure?
In a word, yes. VPNs are secure.
However, there are a large number of different VPN providers offering different levels of service, and working with different business plans, in different countries. This means that inevitable some VPNs are more secure than others. It is therefore highly advisable for customers to conduct thorough research into their prospective VPN to understand the level and sophistication of security it offers. That is where our Reviews can help you, as we dissect the offerings of all the major VPNs on the market and tell you what’s good, and what’s not so good, about each of them.
For the most part, VPNs offer a secure connection to the internet. A VPN works by diverting your internet connection via an external server. The server itself changes you IP Address and allows you to get around things like geo-blocked sites and state censorship. The connection between your device and that server is an encrypted one, and this is what makes the connection secure and brings with it all the privacy and security benefits a VPN can offer.
However, your VPN provider can still see all of your online activity, and knows your original IP Address and other details about you. The level of security you VPN offers is therefore dependent on what your provider does with this information. And this is why it can differ depending on which VPN provider you use.
So I am more secure using a VPN than not using a VPN?
Quite simply, yes. Regardless of which VPN you sign up for and whether you decide to pay for a high-end premium service or use a free one, you are definitely much more secure than if you log onto the internet without using a VPN.
Every VPN offers an encrypted pathway between your device and their server, and this in turn means that your data is much more difficult for any outside party, such as a hacker or a government surveillance unit, to access.
What do providers do differently then?
Different providers offer different levels of privacy and security, and this is where the answer to this question becomes a little more complicated. The level of security your VPN provider can offer you depends on a number of factors including local laws in the country where they are based, their policy of retaining logs of their user’s activity, and the level of encryption they provide.
To explain this a little more, I have addressed these three key areas in a little more details below:
a. Local Laws: Every VPN provider has to be based somewhere, regardless of where in the world they can offer servers to their clients. And wherever they are in the world, they are subject to that countries local laws.
And when it comes to things like privacy and online security, the differences between then can be considerable. For example, some countries require companies to keep logs of all the user’s activities for a set period of time, while others may have to allow law enforcement agencies to have certain information if requested, or even to keep a backdoor into their security settings.
It is therefore wise to keep a close eye on where you chosen VPN is based and what the local law will mean for the level of security they can offer you. For example, ExpressVPN is based in Hungary which allows them to offer very high privacy settings, and NordVPN is headquartered in Panama which allows them to guarantee ‘No Logs’.
b. No Logs: A VPN which keeps a record of the online activity of their users seems like a contradiction in terms, but a surprising number of them still do so, either because local laws require as much of them, or because it is an internal policy within the company. Some will argue it allows them to ensure users aren’t doing anything which might damage their network for example.
If they are keeping a log of your activity, this is obviously susceptible to falling into the hands of others. Law Enforcement officials could demand to see it, the VPN provider itself might sell the data, or a hacker might breach the provider’s security and steal the data. Either way, if privacy and security is a key reason for getting a VPN, the situation is not ideal.
It is therefore advisable to seek out a VPN which has a verifiable ‘No Logs’ policy. We wrote recently about the FBI trying to gain logs on the activity of a Private Internet Access user without success, while other VPN providers such as NordVPN and IPVanish also make the claim. It is still advisable to read our reviews and do plenty of research before you sign up with a provider though.
c. Encryption Levels: Different providers can offer different levels of protection to your connection, and for those who value their online privacy the level of encryption offered can be very important.
If you are signing up with a free VPN for example, you cannot usually expect a high level of encryption, while more expensive ones will generally offer a much better level. It doesn’t allows follow the price of the service though, so it is once again important to research providers thoroughly before choosing yours.
In short, all VPNs will make you more secure online, but there are big differences between providers and some will make you more secure than others. How do you know which one to go with? Read the Fried.com reviews thoroughly and be sure you have done sufficient research before signing on the dotted line.
Are VPNs Free?
Yes, there are a number of free VPNs available.
But there is a big caveat to this one. Because although there are a number of free VPNs available, there is usually a compromise users have to accept. Often there is a limitation on the amount of traffic you can use through the VPN in any one month, while others will naturally priorities the traffic of paying customers and so users will often have to put up with slow connections. There is also less guarantee of privacy as your data is a way in which companies can make money in exchange for you using their service.
So, if you want to use a VPN on the odd occasion for specific tasks, a free VPN is a worthwhile tool. But if you plan to use your VPN for streaming content, downloading content, or for all of your online activity day-to-day, we strongly recommend you to part with a pretty small amount of cash each month for a much better service.
In this day and age everyone is looking to get something for nothing, or as close to nothing as they can get away with. We download music and films for a fraction of the price we used to pay for DVDs and Films; nightclubs are closing down as people choose to buy alcohol in shops and drink at home; and bargain basement supermarkets are thriving at the expense of their costlier rivals.
So it is no real surprise that one of the most frequent question posed to the Fried.com teams is whether free VPNs are available, and whether they are worth the effort?
There are some pretty quick and simple answers to the questions but to give you the whole picture, we really need to explain a number of hazier areas, and I would strongly recommend you read this article in its entirety before doing anything else.
Can I get a VPN service for free?
Yes, you can. There are a number of providers who offer a free VPN service and as the demand for VPNs continues to grow this number is only likely to increase.
So why on earth would I pay for one?
Just because one thing is available for free and another one costs money doesn’t mean the two are comparable. The simple fact is that VPN providers are running a business and have to make money from somewhere to cover their costs if nothing else.
This means that if you are getting your service for free, there must be another way that the business is making money. In other words, you will have to compromise or sacrifice something in order to get a free service.
What sort of compromises do you mean?
In our experience, if you are signing up for a free VPN, there are three areas where you service might be inferior to a paid VPN service.
a. Quantity: A number of free VPNs will limit the amount of traffic free VPN users can use in a month. This means that the free service is effectively like a trial run, allowing you to see how good the service, in the hope that you will quickly use up your capacity and decide to upgrade to a paid package to keep the VPN working.
This type of free VPN service is ideal if you just want to undertake certain simple activities online with the added security and privacy a VPN offers you. They are no good for downloading or streaming content, or regular everyday usage.
b. Connectivity: Many free VPN services are offered by the same providers that have a number of paid packages as well, and if they do not limit the amount of traffic free users are allowed, they are likely to be offering you a slower service.
This is because, quite understandably, their paid customers are more valuable to them, and therefore if their servers are busy, it will be the paid customers who take priority. Slow and interrupted connections are not uncommon with all VPNs, and most providers will not be too worried about this, as customers not paying for a service have little scope for complaint.
c. Security: Perhaps the biggest sacrifice many free VPN users are making is with their own security and privacy. Most people sign up for a VPN to help them surf the web anonymously and with the increased security that a VPN usually offers.
However, a look at the small print of a free VPN agreement will often show that the provider is still entitled to keep logs of your online activity and can use this data commercially. Why would they do this? Well such data is quite valuable, and if you are not paying for your service, this is how they can meet their costs and make a profit from your business.
So should I use a Free VPN at all?
Make no mistake, a free VPN is still better than no VPN at all, and you are adding an extra level of security and online privacy that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
And we do of course appreciate that for some internet users, even the cheapest of paid VPNs might still be out of their price range. For those users, we would certainly recommend using a VPN, and suggest you take a look at our guide to the best free VPNs to help you make your choice.
But if you can afford to spend just a few dollars’ month on a paid VPN service, we would strongly recommend it for the extra level of privacy and security they offer, as well as fast and reliable connection speeds and unlimited usage amounts. It really is a service that offers terrific value for money.
Are VPNs Worth it?
Yes. They are. They really are!
You may think us biased, but the rapidly growing number of people using a VPN to connect to the internet, combined with the number of IT security experts who argue people not using VPNs are stupid rather makes the case for us.
A VPN offers you an encrypted online connection at all times, it offers you an anonymous presence online meaning no-one else can see what you are doing online, it offers an increased level of security over a regular connection, and it also allows you to watch geo-blocked content from almost any country around the world, use public Wi-Fi securely, the list just goes on and on. Definitely worth it.
Since the revelations by Edward Snowden of the extent of US Government surveillance over the internet activity of all their citizens, demand for VPN has increased exponentially, and not just in the USA, butall over the world.
The story has helped people to finally cotton onto the idea of how insecure they are online, and what risks they are taking by doing things like internet banking, and sending personal content without taking a few basic security precautions.
A VPN offers a simple, cost-effective solution to most of these concerns, but to take advantage there are of course one or two concessions you have to make.
What sort of concessions are we talking about here?
Well firstly, to take advantage of one of the best VPNs on the market, with all of the privacy and security functions that people are looking for from a VPN, there is a price to pay.
This price is typically no more than $5 or $6 a month, but of course for many people around the world that is a large amount of money to part with. Free VPNs are available, but they usually require users to sacrifice something in the service to make up for the cost-free offer.
Beyond financial costs, there is a connectivity sacirifice as well. The fastest VPN connections these days are pretty damn good, and they are getting better all the time, but the very process of rerouting your connection via another server is always going to lead to your connection being a bit slower than it is without the VPN being active. These differences are getting smaller all the time, but they are still there.
So, if I have to pay for a slower service, are VPNs really worth it?
The answer to this is an emphatic yes. Certainly there are small concessions you have to make to run your internet activity through a VPN, but there are also a huge number of significant advantages, and I shall outline just a few of the key ones briefly for you now!
a. Online Privacy: A VPN provides users with an encrypted connection to a third party server which in turn gives you a different IP Address to use online. This means that you can use the internet as if you were totally anonymous, and depending on the VPN provider you sign up with, there can be absolutely no record of your online activity available to be exploited by Government agencies or hackers.
b. Bypass Web Censorship: Sadly, as cheaper technology makes the internet available to more and more people around the world, so authoritarian and non-democratic regimes are taking increasingly desperate steps to censor free internet access to their citizens and control the information they can both give and receive online. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in China, the world’s most populous country, where the Communist regime sends billions of dollars each year on their great firewall project.
Fortunately, a VPN is a simple way to get around such state censorship, as all you have to do is to connect to a server in a country where internet access is not restricted, and you can visit all those sites your Government doesn’t want you to look at.
c. Watch streaming services anywhere in the world: Many live TV streams and dedicated streaming providers restrict access to their services depending on where in the world you are. This is known as geo-blocking and is common practice.
However, with a VPN you can fool geo-blocked service into thinking you are in their locality by connecting to a server in that country and therefore access all their content, no matter where in the world you are.
d. Use search engines without logging: Every search engine you are likely to use will routinely log every search that you make. This information is tied to your IP Address and then used to tailor advertising or even your future search results.
But if you are using a VPN, these searches are tied to another IP Address and therefore completely unconnectable to you, meaning any embarrassing or revealing bit of information about you that might be revealed is lost in the ether with everyone elses.
e. Cloak your VOIP Calls: If you like to use online services such as Skype to speak to friends or work colleagues then a VPN should be an essential part of your kit. It is worryingly easy for hackers, intelligence agencies, or anyone with a modicum of IT knowledge to listen into your calls with the most minimum of effort. With a VPN, this becomes a whole lot harder to do as you are adding in an encrypted connection.
f. Use Public Wi-Fi safely: Public Wi-Fi is extremely insecure and not recommended for doing many day-to-day online tasks such as checking confidential emails, online banking, and even private browsing. Even the most amateur of hackers can see your activity on public Wi-Fi, but connecting through a VPN makes the service encrypted and therefore secure to use just as if you were at home.
There are plenty more advantages to using a VPN which I could detail here, but I think even the most skeptical of readers will agree that these six reasons alone more than compensate for the expenditure of a few dollars a month and a slightly slower connection.
Are VPNs worth it? Categorically, yes!
Does a VPN Work Without WiFi?
No, a VPN needs a Wi-Fi connection in order to work.
To be precise, a VPN needs an internet connection to function, and this could come from an Ethernet cable or perhaps a hotspot from your mobile phone, but in this day and age the overwhelming majority of people use Wi-Fi to access the internet, and without this connection, your VPN will not work.
We recommend using only the most reliable, tested and top-quality VPN service providers. For this reason, we suggesting checking out ExpressVPN:
The purpose of a VPN is linked to your online activity. It is a tool to enable you to have a more secure internet connection, or a more private internet connection. It enables you to get around efforts by your Government to control what online content you can look at, or sites which don’t want you using their online service unless you are located in a certain country. It is a tool to improve your internet connection and therefore an internet connection of some kind is required.
So a Wi-Fi connection is essential?
Yes. You need to have an internet connection to make use of a VPN service, and for most of us, this means having a Wi-Fi connection. A VPN is not another way of connecting to the internet, it is a way of securing the connection you already have.
Your VPN offers an encrypted connection from your device to one of your provider’s external servers. This connection helps to increase the security of your online activity, and also renders you totally anonymous online meaning that no external eyes, such as those of hackers or surveillance officers, can trace your online activity back to you.
The principal purpose of a VPN is therefore to make you more secure and private online, and it goes without saying that to take advantage of that you need to be online in the first place?
I use a hardwired internet connection, is that ok?
Absolutely fine. A VPN service requires an internet connection and these days the majority of people will hook up to the internet using Wi-Fi. But there are of course other ways and if you make use of an Ethernet Cable to get online, then you need not worry. You VPN is going to function in just the same way as it would if you were using Wi-Fi.
What about a Public Wi-Fi Connection?
Again, as long as you are connected to the internet in some capacity, you can make use of a VPN. So Public Wi-Fi is also absolutely fine.
In fact, one of the major advantages of using a VPN is the extra security it can bring to users when connected via a Public Wi-Fi hook-up.
Public Wi-Fi is notoriously insecure, with no meaningful levels of security built into the connection at all. This means that it is highly inadvisable to use any type of Public Wi-Fi connection, whether it be on offered for free in a coffee shop or shopping centre, or even one you have had to pay to access, for any activity online you wouldn’t want to be wider public knowledge.
Even the most novice of hacker is able to access a Public Wi-Fi network and see what you are doing there, so even the simplest things like sending emails is very inadvisable.
This is where a VPN can help, as if you use your VPN while connected to a Public Wi-Fi network, you are adding the same level of encryption to your internet connection as you would have with a VPN on your home Wi-Fi network. This therefore makes a public Wi-Fi much more secure as all your activity will be encrypted as well as totally anonymous.
In short, to use a VPN service you need to be connected to the internet, as the VPN does not offer that connection itself. For most people that will mean being connected to a Wi-Fi network, but others might still use a fixed connection such as an Ethernet cable.
A VPN will not work without some form of internet connection being available, but as the purpose of a VPN is to make your internet connection more secure, private, and flexible, there is little reason to want to use the service without being online.
Does a VPN use Mobile Data?
Yes, but only a teeny tiny bit.
The way a VPN works requires that a couple more "packets" are transmitted every time you perform an action online (to actually encrypt your data), which uses up a fraction more data than transmitting without a VPN connection. So on your mobile phone 3/4G internet connection, if you are on a VPN, yes, your VPN will be using data -- just a super small amount.
We recommend using a trusted VPN provider to make sure your mobile data is not being used up (some VPNs do this without your knowledge). For this reason, we suggest using a VPN like ExpressVPN.
VPNs are arguably one of the most essential applications to have installed and running on your smartphone in today's heavy surveillance and data-monitoring climate. There are a huge selection of highly sophisticated VPN services available, 99% of which offer incredibly inexpensive plans to use their service.
In this detailed answer to the question, "does a VPN use mobile data?" we will answer this question as fully as possible -- along with all follow up questions surrounding this common query.
So does a VPN use my mobile data?
Yes it does. A VPN achieves its goal of privatising and cloaking your online behaviour by adding a layer of encryption to every data packet that is transmitted. A data packet is -- to super-over-simplify it -- each group of 'bits' of information that is sent from and to your smartphone each and every time you perform an online action like going to Google.com, opening an app, downloading/uploading anything, etc.
So to have each of these packets privacy-protected, a VPN places a few extra bits of data onto each packet to encrypt them accordingly. These extra bits of encryption obviously equal more bits of data being transmitted in the end, which adds up to more mobile data being used.
Thus, technically it is true that a VPN uses mobile data. However, it is important to understand exactly how much mobile data a VPN uses on average. So let's go into this now.
How much mobile data does a VPN use?
Understanding how much of your mobile data a VPN uses is vital, since this is basically what you really want to know by asking the main question in this post.
The amount of mobile data that a VPN uses depends entirely on the type of protocol you choose to connect to the VPN through. You see, every VPN provider offers multiple protocols to connect via, with the most common being L2TP, OpenVPN and PPTP.
Each of these protocols attribute differing levels of "overhead" to each data packet transmitted on your mobile device. To put this another way, L2TP uses more data than OpenVPN, with PPTP using the least data of the three.
A practical example of this was done by Quora user Rose Ab. She tested and tracked the VPN on her mobile device to monitor the difference in MB traffic when downloading the same file both with and without a VPN connection. Her results showed that by downloading a single 50.4MB HTTP file without a VPN, 51.5MB of data was used; whereas 57.7MB was used to download the same file when connected to a VPN.
This is just one such example that potentially shows the level of data usage a VPN takes up, however there are a lot of variables to consider in order to really define the exact percentage of data usage a VPN takes up. With that said, lets take a look at some ways you can minimise the amount of data your VPN will use.
What can I do to minimise the amount of mobile data my VPN uses?
There are ways to reduce the overall amount of data your VPN will use up, so it's worth looking at these and seeing the pros + cons between each recommendation.
First and foremost, as mentioned in the last section, you have the option of different protocols you can connect to your VPN through. Each of these protocols differ in the amount of data they use, thus, if you really care about reducing the (already small) amount of data used by your VPN, then you can connect through an L2TP protocol and save some precious extra data bits.
However, one important caveat with basing your protocol choice on data usage alone, is that each protocol uses less or more data than the other for a very good reason: level of encryption.
That's right, the reason L2TP uses less data than OpenVPN is because OpenVPN offers a higher level of encryption to your connection, and higher encryption = more privacy protection security. With privacy protection being the main reason 99.999% of people choose to use a VPN on their mobile device, it would be quite counter intuitive to compromise on this for the sake of decreasing an already negligible amount of data usage incurred by using the VPN.
Another even less significant consideration to reduce the mobile data used by your VPN is to connect to a server location as close to your actual physical location as possible. Why? By doing this you reduce the "ping" time of your connection, which means you increase the speed of your connection. This makes a difference by proxy (pun intended!) to decrease VPN data usage simply by reducing the overall time-intensiveness of any one online action you perform.
To conclude this answer I will reiterate the main takeaway -- that yes, a VPN will use your mobile data, however the actual usage amount is insignificant, especially considering the incredibly sophisticated level of encryption (privacy protection) that is given to you in that tiny data usage increase.
If you want to try out some VPNs on your mobile device, a great place to start is our list of the top ten best VPN providers, which you can find right here.
We recommend using the VPN provider ExpressVPN, as this provider has proven to be the best for users worried about their VPN using mobile data.
Does a VPN Affect Speed?
Yes. When you connect to the internet through a VPN, you will experience some speed loss on your network connection. The level of speed loss you experience will vary depending on the VPN service provider you use, which server location you connect to, and the sophistication of encryption you place on your network connection.
A VPN is the best solution to any online user that wants to optimise their privacy protection and unblocking of online content without requiring a significant amount of technical "know how" or a big budget.
With that said, if you place very high priority on having the most optimal connection speeds (i.e. you place this higher than you online privacy protection) then a VPN may not align with this. The very nature of VPN technology is such that losing internet speed is inevitable, as encrypting your data requires a more sophisticated internet connection.
However, the speed loss suffered by using a VPN does not have to be significant at all. How much speed loss you incur depends highly on the VPN provider you choose and how you go about connecting to the VPN. Let's look at this in more detail now.
How significantly does a VPN affect speed?
This is real question to ask when discussing VPNs and the speed loss incurred therein. Why? Because although speed loss is inevitable; you can minimise it to make the actual loss incredibly insignificant. I will explain this in the next section, but for now here's a general overview of why and how much speed loss is generally suffered when connected to a VPN:
Generally speaking, you can expect to lose anywhere between 10 to 15% speed on your internet connection when connected through a VPN. However, this can be as low as 2% speed loss depending on a variety of factors that are well within your control.
All in all, a solid 80% of VPN providers available today will give a loss of speed that really does not affect your online experience in any real significant way. You websites will load mere milliseconds later than normal, downloads/uploads will take a fraction longer than a non-VPN connection and video calls may experience some quality degradation.
What can I do to minimise the speed loss?
Here is where you have a lot of say in just how much speed loss you need to deal with when using a VPN. Personalising exactly how you connect to your VPN can make a big difference to the amount of speed loss produced. These fall into five factors that you have the ability to customise:
When you choose a server to connect through, if you select a server located as close to your actual location as possible, this will reduce the "ping" time. Basically, your online behaviour is transmitted via whichever server you choose, so by reducing this distance you will reduce the time it takes to transmit each and every action you perform online.
Before connecting to your VPN, you will have the option (with 99% of high quality VPN providers) of which protocol you want to connect through. Most common protocols are OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP. Between these -- and any other your specific VPN may offer -- there is no real consistently "fastest" protocol to connect through, but if your VPN is causing too much speed loss for you then it's definitely worth disconnecting and reconnecting through a different protocol. Be aware though, that each protocol comes with its own pros and cons, especially regarding level of encryption.
There are a variety of factors based on your standard ISP (Internet Service Provider) connection quality and limitations that can affect the level of your VPN speed loss. Essentially, if your ISP offers a specific speed (very high/average/low) or you connect via a specific method (wireless/3G/cable) then this will make a difference on your speed loss through a VPN. For example, it is quite common to experience much more speed loss through a VPN if your ISP offers very high speeds, like 75-100Mbps (VPN can drop this to almost 40% slower) than you would experience with a more modest ISP speed of say 50mbs (VPN can drop this just 10-15%).
Firewall setup on your device
Not a major factor to VPNs, but worth checking -- many devices have a default firewall setup that won't directly affect a VPN connection but may be affecting the actual CPU of your device, which can cause some speed loss to your internet connection in general.
Lastly, it will serve you well to do some research and try a few VPN providers before settling on the one that gives you the most consistent performance. Performance consistency between each VPN provider definitely varies. Some VPNs place much more emphasis on encryption sophistication, while others choose to not go so deep with this in order to give a more consistent connection speed and reliability across all servers offered on their VPN service. You want to find that sweet spot between these two so you get a reliable-yet-still-highly-privacy-protecting VPN connection.
Is there an alternative way to protect privacy and/or unblock websites without losing speed?
That will protect your privacy like a good VPN does? No. There is not.
However, if you are looking for a way to get access to geo-restricted content and care not for protecting your privacy, then there are definitely alternative methods outside a VPN that will accomplish this for you. Namely, SmartDNS and proxy services. These will effectively allow you to change your IP address, which will allow you to access various blocked online content and services.
In conclusion, although speed loss when using a VPN is inevitable, it does not need to be significant at all. By taking some extra time to choose a top quality VPN provider and setup your connection through a server located as close to you as possible, through a protocol that best suits your priorities of speed against encryption sophistication -- you can definitely minimise this loss down to a very insignificant level.
Does a VPN Change Your IP?
Yes. A VPN works by rerouting your internet connection via an external server operated by the VPN Provider. When you visit a website it is the IP Address of that server which the site can see, not the IP Address of your own internet connection.
Your IP Address works a bit like an electronic identity card for you while you are online. It includes various pieces of information about your internet connection, including where in the world you are located when you are logging on.
It is also unique to your connection meaning that anyone wanting to snoop in on your internet activity can trace which sites have been visited by a particular IP Address and know that you (or at least a device using your internet connection) was the one that went there.
There are a variety of different reasons why an Internet user might want to change his IP Address, and whilst some may be related to criminal intent, there are also a whole host of perfectly legitimate (and legal) reason too. And a VPN is the easiest, and most cost-effective way to do it.
Why would I want to change my IP Address?
There are any number of perfectly legitimate reasons why you might want to change your IP Address using a VPN. Some of the most common ones we have come across here at Fried.com are:
· Privacy: The revelations a couple of years ago of the extent of US Government snooping into the internet activity of their own citizens woke a lot of people, both inside and outside the USA, to the reality of the level of privacy users can expect online.
The aftermath of his expose saw a huge spike in the number of VPN users. So how does a VPN protect your privacy. It routes your internet activity through an encrypted pathway, and it changes the IP Address which the sites you visit can see. What they can see is the IP Address of the server you have come through before visiting the site, and this makes it all but impossible for your visit to be traced back to you.
· Censorship: As technology and connectivity improves, so does the desire of some despotic and authoritarian regimes from around the world to control it, and limit what their citizens can view online.
This online censorship is now becoming more and more common, and users in countries such as China and Iran have their online freedom severely restricted. How can they get around this? Well the simplest way is by using a VPN to change you IP Address to one that indicates you are logging on from another country.
If your IP Address says you are in the USA, you can view any site that is permitted in the USA, regardless of whether you are physically there yourself or not. A VPN can allow you to do this and so fool either websites that are voluntarily restricting access to some content, as LinkedIn does in China for example, and also sites that are blocked by state bodies or local ISPs.
· Accessing geo-blocked content: More and more people are watching online streaming services these days, and many have noticed that they are not the universal offerings that some had initially imagined. Services like Netflix and Hulu offer different programs and services to users in different countries. It is all down to what shows they hold the rights for in each country.
The prime example of this is Netflix, whose US service, despite costing the same as the UK version (for example) has almost twice as much content, including many of their most popular shows. Many users therefore want to pay for the US version of Netflix, but Netflix will still look at your IP Address to determine your location and block you from doing so if you are not in the USA.
By using a VPN to give yourself a US IP Address, you should be able to watch Netflix USA wherever you are in the world and doing so is perfectly legal too.
How does a VPN change my IP Address?
The way a VPN changes your IP Address is very simple. Connecting to a VPN, means you are connecting via an encrypted pathway, to a server located somewhere else (they can be anywhere in the world).
When you connect to a website, that website can see the link back to that server, but it cannot see beyond that server back to your own personal internet connection. Therefore, the only IP Address it can see is that belonging to the server.
This means you are serving the web anonymously, as there is no way to connect you with the IP Address that you are using.
There are a variety of different reasons why you might want to change your IP Address. But whatever those reasons are, the easiest and most cost-effective way to do it, is by using a VPN. And yes, one of a VPNs primary functions is to change your IP Address. This is why many people sign up for them in the first place.
Can VPNs be Blocked?
No. A VPN cannot be blocked as such. Despite all the headlines you may have read about Netflix blocking VPN users from accessing their service, this is a distortion of what is actually happening. What Netflix are doing is blocking IP Addresses which they believe come from a VPN. It is an impressive and highly labor intensive technique, which for most VPN providers will only disrupt service temporarily.
Most people who are asking us this question at the moment are users of US Netflix located all over the world. Netflix, like many other streaming services, geo-blocks its sites because of rights issues over the content it streams. Earlier this year, they proudly announced a global expansion which meant that Netflix was now available in every country on earth apart from China, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea.
Shortly afterwards they made a very big fuss about their claims to be blocking VPN users from accessing their sites. This garnered a great deal of publicity, and indeed a number of VPNs reported that their users were finding themselves blocked from accessing the US version of Netflix from overseas.
However, it was widely believed to be impossible to block a VPN as there is no real tell-tale sign to a site as to whether a user is using a VPN or not. So can a VPN be blocked? And if not, what exactly are Netflix doing?
What is Netflix’s problem with VPNs?
As a streaming service, Netflix buys the rights to those programs on its service which it doesn’t make itself. These rights are purchased on a country-by-country basis and this means that Netflix can only show some shows in certain countries.
This is a problem for Netflix because although they can offer their service almost globally now, no two countries have exactly the same offering. And a a US-based company, it will come as little surprise to learn that the US version of Netflix offers far more than any other one.
This in turn means more people want to sign up for the US version of Netflix, and as the service is geo-blocked because of the rights reasons discussed above, they have turned to a VPN to fool US Netflix into thinking they are in the USA.
Now as Netflix looks to expand and buy up more rights, they have come under increased pressure from the rights holders to stop this from happening. Previously it is something they had turned a blind eye to. But now they have decided to devote time and resources in an attempt to stop it happening.
Can Netflix block a VPN?
No. There is no magical piece of technology which allows Netflix to identify and block any user who is looking to access their service via a VPN. As an individual user, there is nothing to distinguish a VPN user from a non-VPN user. The only identifying feature each individual user has is their IP Address.
So what are Netflix doing then?
If Netflix cannot block a VPN, you may wonder how a number of VPN users are finding their access to Netflix blocked. The answer is simple. Netflix is dedicating a huge amount of time and money into identifying the individual IP Addresses which are related to the biggest VPNs.
They are then blocking these IP Address from using their service. It is something they are perfectly at liberty to do with any IP Address should someone attempt to damage their system in some way, or break their terms and conditions.
The problem with this approach is that it can only ever be temporary because there is nothing to stop VPN providers from changing IP Address that have been identified by Netflix, meaning they have to start their search all over again.
The other problem Netflix has is that there are hundreds of different VPN providers out there and it is almost impossible for them to block all the different IP Addresses of all the different providers.
How is the Netflix approach working?
Netflix are using a form of ‘shock-and-awe’ warfare to try and wrest back control of the situation. They are investing big on the problem and targeting the big VPNs which dominate the marketplace. They are then relying on word-of-mouth and their rather slick PR assault to spread the word that VPNs can no longer watch Netflix from another country.
This will no doubt put off a number of casual VPN, or potential VPN users. But those who do their research will realize there are plenty more VPN providers out there that can still offer access to Netflix.
Take ExpressVPN for example. They are a relatively new player on the VPN market and have been making great strides in their performance in recent times, as well as offering excellent security provisions. They are also totally unaffected by the Netflix VPN ‘clampdown’.
A spokesperson told me that Buffered is “optimising their service to bypass the VPN blocks Netflix is working hard to globalise right now.” Despite not going into detail, I know from personal experience that it is working for them, and there is plenty of online testimony which suggests other smaller VPN providers are also not having problems.
So in essence, Netflix will have to spend big and on an ongoing basis to reign in VPN use effectively It seems highly unlikely that they will do this. What is more likely is that they will undertake a short-term campaign to try and spread the message that VPNs don’t work on Netflix. This will placate their rights-holders for a while, and before long the status quo will return.
Other streaming services may try a similar approach in the future as well. But none of them will be able to permanently block VPN users forever, because this is quite simply impossible.
Why is my VPN so Slow?
There could be a number of reasons why your VPN connection seems to be quite slow. These can range from problems with your internet connection or your device, being connected to a server a long way away, and interference from other software. There are usually simple solutions to many of these problems, and in this article, we will outline a few of the most common ones for you.
Quite simply, there could be a number of different reasons why your VPN connection seems slow. Some of these are related to the VPN itself, others may be as a result of different factors. But in most cases there are a few simple tips you can follow to try and improve things.
However, the first thing all VPN users should note is that using a VPN is always likely to slow down your internet connection a little bit.
A VPN connection involves routing your internet connection down an encrypted pathway to a remote server, and then onto the site you are trying to visit. Both the diversion and the additional security provisions of encrypting all of the data being sent and received by your machine are likely to have a small impact on your connection speed.
It is therefore a little bit like a contraflow system on a motorway. You are sent down a different route and slowed down a bit for your own safety, but in the end you still get where you needed to go.
For the most part, a VPN connection shouldn’t slow your service down more than 10% or 15%. Many users may not notice any difference at all. However, if your connection seems to be noticeably slower than this, there may another factor at play and there are a number of solutions which may help you to fix the problem.
The most common of these include:
1. Change your Server: Sometimes, if you are connected to a server a long way from where you are located, this can have an effect on the speed on your connection. This is as a result of lower latency usually, but also if the server is a popular one, congestion can also be a factor.
To get around this, by far the easiest thing to do is change servers, ideally to one closer to where you are located. Choosing one in a less popular location (usually somewhere most people are not familiar with) can also prove effective as well.
2. Improve your Internet Connection: VPNs are reliant on your internet connection. Therefore, if your Wi-Fi connection is not especially strong, this can in turn affect the function of your VPN. If you think this might be a problem, try moving closer to your router or even investing in a faster connection.
Another simple trick is to connect to the internet via a wired connection rather than a Wi-Fi one. Because Wi-Fi connection use a shared channel to transmit data, other users can slow the service. If you are connected via a wire, you are the sole user of the connection and should therefore get maximum speeds out of it.
3. Change Devices: Some devices, particularly older ones, find the encryption requirements of a VPN connection difficult to cope with and the speed on them can slow as a result. Devices that might be susceptible to this problem include early iOS and Android devices, NAS, and even some routers.
If you are using such a device and experiencing slow speeds, the only real option for you is to invest in a more modern device which is able to cope better.
4. Restart Your Modem: If your modem hasn’t been switched off in a while, this can lead to it slowing down due to issues such as memory leaks. A quick restart of the device shouldn’t take more than a few moments and can lead to a noticeable increase in your connection speed.
5. Restart Your Device: The old ‘have you tried turning it off and on again’ trick is a cliché these days, but it does work. If you leave your computer or tablet turned on for a long period of time this can lead to free memory or resources running low, and a subsequent impact on performance.
Restarting the device will solve this problem and should help the speed of your connection improve pretty swiftly.
6. Try a different connection: Sometimes there is a problem with your ISP which affects your connection speeds. The easiest way to check this out is to connect somewhere else, such as using a public Wi-Fi network or a personal hotspot from your mobile phone, and see if the service improves. If it does, the problem is likely to be with your ISP.
7. Temporarily Disable Local Security Software: Your security software can slow a VPN connection down by checking each packet of data being sent. By temporarily switching it off you can find out if this is a problem, and if it is look into finding an alternative which impacts your service less.
There are various reasons why your VPN might be running slowly, but with a few simple checks and some due diligence, you should be able to easily deduce the cause of the problem and work out how best you can resolve it.
Why Use a VPN?
Why? Because a VPN does the following:
- Protects your online privacy
- Allows you access to geo-blocked online content/services
- Protects you against hackers
Why use a VPN? Well, because it connects you to the internet through a "private network", putting a layer of encryption on all your data and allowing you access to websites and online services that you would otherwise be blocked from accessing due to your physical location.
Lets look into each of these main VPN objectives in more detail to give a more well-rounded understand of what a VPN does and some context to how each purpose is executed and achieved.
Protects your online privacy
Using a VPN protects your online privacy. What does this mean? It means that the second you connect to a VPN, all of your online activity/behaviour is given a very sophisticated level of encryption that makes it incredibly difficult/impossible for your data to be connected to your identity and physical location.
A VPN does this by placing encrypted bits onto every packet transferred between your device and your ISP. Various protocols are offered to give varying levels of encryption, trading off less encryption sophistication for faster speeds and vice-versa.
Allows you access to geo-blocked online content/services
Geo-blocked online services and websites nowadays are becoming the norm. Everyone has experienced this in some way shape or form, whether with Netflix, Hulu or a YouTube video being blocked. These geo-blocks are 99% of the time implemented by checking your IP address, so through using a VPN you are able to change your IP address to "show" your location as wherever in the world you need to be to access the content you want at any time.
By allowing you control over your IP address, a VPN gives you the freedom to access online content you would otherwise be unable to access.
Protects you against hackers
Today's online monitoring and surveillance is pretty heavy and only getting more-so. Hackers are another level of this invasion. There are many third party individuals that purposefully use highly technically sophisticated methods to hack into your most sensitive online personal data such as bank details, passwords, private messages and even your device's microphone and camera.
With this going on, a VPN can act as a great base defence against such digital hackers. By allowing you to privatise your online connection through encryption and cloak your identity+location, you are instantly making it significantly more difficult for a hacker to access your sensitive data than without a VPN connection.
So all in all the main uses a VPN provides are privacy protection, IP address freedom, and hacker defence. Connecting to the internet through a VPN will give you these benefits instantly and consistently. A VPN is a simple, light piece of software/app that you download to your device(s), open, then connect to. They are easy to use and are becoming only more and more essential in today's online climate.
How Much is a VPN?
It depends how much you want to pay. There are a number of VPNs which are available for free, whilst some can charge up to as high as $200 a year. Typically, costs for the most popular VPN services range from $6-8 a month, with discounts available if you pay in advance for a longer period of time.
Trying to answer the question how much is a VPN is similar to answering the question how much is a car, or a house, or a holiday. There are a lot of different providers and hundreds of variable factors to take into account. Therefore, giving a single, or indeed simple, answer is nigh on impossible.
A blunt response would be to say, you can pay as little or as much as you want.
There are a number of free VPNs on the market which offer a decent level of service. But if opt for one of these there are compromises you will have to make.
Equally, there are some VPN providers which charge fees way above those of their competitors. You might imagine that they are the best VPNs on the market, but that isn’t always the case either.
Why wouldn’t I just choose a free VPN?
You can choose a free VPN and they will provide you with a basic level of service and do the essential jobs you expect of a VPN. But there is usually a compromise to be made somewhere. After all, VPN providers are business and they have to make money to cover their costs and turn a profit somehow.
Therefore, if you are not paying a fee to them, they must make their money somewhere else. Some free VPNs offer a limited service and they will be trying to persuade you to upgrade your package with them. If you can live with service limitations and withstand pressures to sign up, they might be a good option for you.
But other free VPNs might make money by selling your user data commercially. As most people sign up for a VPN in order to increase their online privacy, this practice is usually not welcome, and more often than not will be buried in the small print that most of us don’t read.
To summarize, our suggestion here at Fried.com is that a free VPN is worthwhile if you really can’t afford to pay for one. Any sort of VPN is better than nothing. But there is a lot to be said for parting with even a few dollars a month for a much better service.
How much is too much to pay?
If you can afford to pay top whack, it is of course not for us to say how much is too much for you to pay. But what we can say, is that you do not need to pay the rates that some VPNs will charge you.
To pick one at random, let’s use StrongVPN as an example. They are pretty popular in the USA, but as our review makes clear, the level of service they offer does not justify the prices they charge. A delux package with them costs from $12.92 a month. But they still offer poor privacy provisions, static IP Addresses and a limit on the number of times you can switch servers.
There is no reason to part with such sums when there are market leading VPNs available at much more affordable prices.
So what should I be looking to pay?
As we have already said, the amount you pay is your decision, but there are some extremely good VPNs on the market at pretty reasonable prices.
If this seems to high, you could opt for NordVPN at a mere $4 a month.
All of these providers outperform their higher priced competitors, like StrongVPN, at a fraction of the price, and it is these sorts of prices that we would advise most Fried.com users to be paying.
The price of a VPN can vary hugely depending on the provider you choose and the level of service you desire. It is easy to pay a high price, but completely unnecessary in our view. Free VPNs are available but there is always a compromise to be made on service.
Therefore, we would recommend you opt for a mid-range priced provider, where you can expect to pay between $6 and $8 for some of the best VPN services on the market today.
Will a VPN Hide Torrenting?
Yes. A VPN makes all of your online activity completely anonymous. By routing your online traffic through an encrypted pathway and an external server, you change your IP Address and in doing so make it virtually impossible for anyone to trace your online activity, including torrenting, back to you.
Torrenting is a term used for P2P file sharing which is an incredibly convenient way to share things online. Users make files available for download on their device and other users can then download the files for free. The more popular the file is, the faster it will download.
However, as well as being convenient and free, it is also remarkably insecure and, depending on what you are downloading, or dubious legality as well. There are more and more cases of copyright holders prosecuting bittorent users for sharing copywriting files illegally.
For this reason, more and more bittorrent users (as the program itself is called) are looking to enhance their security while torrenting to minimize the security risks, and also make it harder for them to be traced.
For many a VPN is the solution they turn to, as it offers a number of features that can tackle the issues torrenters face.
If I torrent with a VPN can I be traced?
A VPN is a tool which allows users to change their IP Address whilst online. As your IP Address is the piece of data which websites, and other prying eyes, used to identify individual users and their locations, if this has been altered, you are effectively using the internet anonymously.
When you use a bittorrent site to download a file, usually everyone else in that same group can see your IP Address. There are also a number of monitoring groups which record the IP Address on some of the most popular torrent streams on a regular basis.
If you are torrenting through a VPN, the IP Address they can see is for the server you are connected to, and there is no way of them telling that you are connected to that server, because the link from your device is encrypted.
But, and there is a big but, not all VPNs can absolutely guarantee that no-one will ever be able to work out that you have been using torrenting sites?
So not all VPNs can hide my torrenting?
All VPNs will offer the level of security outlined above. But your VPN provider can still see what sites you are connecting to, and where you are downloading from, and different VPNs operate different policies in relation to this information.
Some VPNs are required by law to retain user data for a minimum period of time. Others choose to do so. But if there is a record of your online activity, this means that law enforcement agencies could gain access to it, and it could even be released if your VPN provider was hacked etc.
Therefore, if you are determined to be untraceable when torrenting with a VPN, you need to opt for a VPN with a verifiable no-logs policy. This means you want to choose a provider which keeps no logs of their user activity at all.
It is also worth noting that some VPNs will claim to have a no logs policy when that is not strictly true, so you should do some research and read our reviews thoroughly to make sure they definitely do permanently delete all user data, before you sign up.
You also need to make sure that your chosen VPN works well with bittorrent sites, because that is not the case with all of them.
So some VPNs don’t work with torrenting at all?
Using a VPN to torrent or stream media is one of the most popular reasons people will sign up in the first place. It is therefore perhaps surprising to some to learn that not all VPNs will welcome torrent users.
Because of the questionable legality of some torrenting, certain VPNs are keen to appear squeaky clean and not risk have such activity on their network. They therefore choose to block access to many of the most popular bittorrent sites.
For others, excessive torrenting can slow their whole network down as it can use up a lot of bandwidth. There might therefore take steps to limit or discourage it for the sake of their overall service,
For example, they might have a limit on how fast you can download files. With such VPNs, using bittorrent sites is possible, but the file downloads can take an awfully long time.
You therefore need to be carefully to pick a VPN that can comfortable support your torrenting usage, and which is happy to do so.
A VPN will certainly hide your torrenting activity from anyone who might have an interest in it. However, some VPNs will do a better job of ensuring your anonymity than others, and other VPNs would prefer you not to torrent on their network altogether. So be sure to choose carefully when you sign up for one.
Does a VPN Drain Battery?
No. Using a VPN should not noticeably drain your battery any faster than it runs down already. Everything that is running on your tablet or smartphone will have an impact on the battery life, and a VPN is no exception to that. But the impact should be negligible assuming you are using a relatively modern device with fully updated software.
With that said -- you want a VPN provider that takes battery power into consideration. Some VPN apps are "heavier" than others, meaning they take up more power. In our experience, ExpressVPN is a good provider for those worried about battery draining.
When VPNs were first emerging, pretty much everything we wanted to do online was done on our computer or laptop. But today the world is a very different place and for most of us, our smartphone or tablet is what we turn to first when logging on.
Needless to say, we expect the same level of security and privacy when surfing the web on these devices as we do on our computers, and of course many VPNs now offer software for the most popular smartphone and tablet operating systems.
But they are also having to handle another problem, and for many users it is the number one bugbear when using their smartphone or tablet. Battery life. The batteries in these devices are notoriously unreliable, and this means we always look to avoid running software which is likely to eat up battery life.
This has resulted in more and more people asking how much battery life a VPN should eat up.
So, how much battery life does a VPN eat up?
The short answer to this is very little. Everything you run on your device will contribute to running down your battery to some extent. This is unavoidable. But some programs are far more of a drain than others.
A VPN is a piece of software that should create minimal drain on your device’s battery. I use the word ‘should’ carefully because of course every individual VPN provider has different software that works in different ways.
The key function of the VPN to be considered is the encrypting of the data. This is a process which has the potential to use up a battery life if the software is not properly adapted to the operating system it is working on, or incorrectly setup.
However, with most VPNs now offering a version of the software for the most popular operating systems on mobile devices, it is not a problem most people should encounter.
What should I do if I think the VPN is eating up my battery?
If you suspect that your VPN is affecting your battery life, our first advice would be to check every other piece of software on the machine first, because it is highly unlikely that the VPN is the problem.
If however you are convinced it is the VPN causing the problem, the first thing to do would be to uninstall and reinstall the software and see if this improves the situation.
Another option is not to keep the VPN running all the time, but rather to switch it on only when needed. It is usual practice for a VPN on a mobile device to run in the background as this allows it to be ready if you open an app which connects to the web, or click on a link etc. Switching on and off manually will make the VPN a much less effective tool, but the option is there for you to try.
Another possible cause might be that you are still using an old piece of hardware.
Will a VPN run on older models of mobile devices?
Yes, a VPN will certainly run on any type of smartphone or tablet you might care to install it onto. But with the older devices, there is a higher risk that it could impact on the battery life. However, the cause of this is the device itself, not the VPN.
Older models will have less reliable batteries with shorter lifespans. They will also be impacted more by the running of software on the device, especially if that software has been updated to work with the later models.
It is for this reason that many people still using older iPhones, for example, will stop downloading the newer versions of the iOS operating system, because it will impact on their battery life. This is true of other software too, and many VPNs are no exception.
If this is the position you find yourself in, the best recommendation that can be made is to invest in a new device. But failing that, saying close to the mains or carrying a back-up battery with you are likely to be the only way around it.
Essentially, no, a VPN should not drain your battery life noticeably. However, if you are using an older device it is possible that it might have some impact, but no more so than any other software you might be using.
There are a lot of VPN providers to choose from, so with regards to battery power we recommend going with ExpressVPN. Why? Because the software app that they use is very light and thus is very soft on battery life.
How Does a VPN Protect Me?
There are a number of different ways in which a VPN can protect you. The two key ones are that it provides an encrypted pathway to the internet ensuring that none of your incoming or outgoing data can be easily read by snooping eyes. It also changes your IP Address, meaning that you are to all intents and purposes surfing the web anonymously.
There are various different ways in which your VPN can protect you online. It is not for no reason that VPN use is growing increasingly common as more and more people become away of the various threats they are exposing themselves to on the internet, and the number of people there are out there who are interested in what you are doing online.
It should of course be noted that each different VPN provider operates in different ways and no two are exactly alike, so whilst the ore protections a VPN can offer are available from all of them, they are likely to work in different ways, and be subject to different terms and conditions.
It is therefore highly advisable to read through our comprehensive reviews to find out the details of your chosen VPN provider before you sign on the dotted line.
But broadly speaking, these are the key ways in which a VPN can protect you:
All VPNs will encrypt all traffic heading from your device to the internet or vice-versa. Why is this a good thing? Well if data is encrypted, that makes it much harder for a hacker, or a surveillance team from seeing what you are up to online.
Encryption is a huge political issue at the moment, with security agencies lobbying hard to force tech companies to put backdoors into their software to allow them to access content when necessary. Their panic shows just how effective encryption can be at keeping your online activity secure and private. Little wonder there is such demand for it at the moment.
But not all VPNs will encrypt your data in the same way. There are various different types of security protocols they use and it’s only fair to say that some of these are more effective than others.
This is too complex an issue to go into here, but suffice to say it is worth looking into the type of encryption your VPN provider offers and making sure it meets your requirements before signing on the dotted lines. Our VPN reviews have all the information you will need.
Different IP Address
A VPN will also equip you with a new IP Address. An IP Address is a piece of data you share with every website you visit. It tells them various things about you including where in the world you are located. This means that the site knows where you are and what you are interested, which is data they can exploit commercially, or even criminally.
Changing your VPN removes any risks you might face by exposing your IP Address. It works very simply. A VPN reroutes your online activity via an external server. The connection between you and that server is encrypted meaning the sites you visit cannot see it.
Therefore, the sites you visit can only see the IP Address of the VPN server you are using, which means they have no way of linking you with your online activity. This facet of a VPN is great for watching geo-blocked streaming services or getting around government censorship of the internet, and is a popular reason why many people sign up for a VPN in the first place.
Many people desire to be totally anonymous online, and some VPNs can offer you that. Changing your IP Address makes this a possibility, but it is then all down to your VPN provider and how privacy-conscious they are.
Some VPNs will keep records, or logs, of all your online activity. This might be for their own usage, to sell commercially, or to keep in line with the local legal requirements wherever in the world they are based.
If you sign up with one of these VPNs, there is always a risk that information about your online activity could get out. Law Enforcement could request the information, and if it is there the VPN provider is likely to be obliged to hand it over.
Equally, the VPN itself could fall victim to a hacking and lose the data. Essentially, if there is a log being kept, you cannot be sure of being 100% anonymous.
But there are no a growing number of VPNs who are offering a verifiable no-logs policy, meaning they keep absolutely zero information about your online activity. For example, we wrote recently about the FBI trying to gain logs on the activity of a Private Internet Access user. They drew a blank showing that PIA genuinely does keep no logs. Similar verifiable claims are made by other VPN providers such as NordVPN and IPVanish.
If your VPN provider claims to keep no logs, and you can find evidence to support this claim, they you genuinely can be 100% anonymous online all the time.
There are various ways a VPN protects you online. In this article I have explained the three most well-known and popular forms of protection, but reading further through this site will show you there are many more ways as well.
Whichever one appeals most to you, there is little doubt that VPN users are infinitely more secure than those who continue to leave themselves vulnerable to attacks and spying.
Does a VPN Stop Throttling?
Yes, if you are using a VPN, your ISP cannot see your data and so cannot throttle your bandwidth on the basis of what you are doing. This is because all of your online traffic is encrypted, so your ISP has no idea what you are doing online.
Throttling, or Bandwidth Throttling to give it its full name, is a hugely frustrating practice of many ISPs these days and is a direct result of the ubiquitous nature of internet usage these days. Yet many people are unaware that it is a common ISP practice and in some cases even that such a practice exists at all.
Yet, with the simple addition of a VPN to your online toolkit, you can protect your data and so stop your ISP from throttling your bandwidth. It’s one of the lesser known advantages of a VPN, yet can make a significant difference to your online experience.
What is Bandwidth Throttling?
Bandwidth Throttling is a frustratingly common practice and can severely inhibit your enjoying of online streaming services. The practice is when your ISP deliberately slows down your connection speed based on what you are watching.
The rise in popularity of services such as Netflix and Hulu has seen more and more people streaming content online. This in turn has put increased pressure on ISPs to maintain their promised bandwidth in the face of significantly higher usage.
They therefore have developed the practice of examining the data of what you are doing online. When they see packets of data from online streaming services such as those above, they slow down your internet connection.
Why would my ISP want to slow down my connection?
If you put this question to your ISP directly, they will give you a relatively straightforward answer. The common claim is that bandwidth throttling is only done to reduce congestion on their networks at busy times of day.
But there is more to it than that, especially if your ISP offers a streaming service of their own. Because it is now an increasingly common practice for ISPs to deliberately slow down rival services to boost the appearance of their own. This can in some cases be occurring despite a lack of congestion and the availability of extra capacity on their network.
These are not just wild conspiracy theories we are throwing around here either. Netflix has already confirmed that it has been forced to pay fees to some ISPs in order to stop the practice being used against their service.
How do they get away with this? Well there are not many ISP providers in the market and this lack of competition allows for such practices, especially when ISP work together, as they do in the practice of Peering.
What is Peering?
Peering is a relatively beneficial practice when two ISPs are connected together and exchange traffic. It is supposed to mean that one ISPs bandwidth can be used to support the other at times, and vice-versa.
But it runs into problems when streaming services come into play as this can push traffic usage far too high and lead to the other ISP refusing to adjust their network to compensate.
How does this impact on you? Well it basically can mean your internet connectivity is much slower, regardless of what package your pay for.
So how can a VPN solve these problems?
Both the issue of throttling and peering can be solved by using a VPN.
The practice of throttling is done on an individual basis and relies on your ISP analyzing your usage data to determine what services you are using. If they see a streaming service, they can then choose to throttle your connection.
However, with a VPN, your internet connection is completely encrypted, meaning that there is no way that your ISP can see what your data. Without this information, they cannot tell if you are using a streaming service and are therefore not likely to throttle your connection. This means that your Netflix or Hulu viewing experience should be enhanced, in some cases quite significantly.
As for the related issue of Peering, this problem is solved by a VPN because your data is travelling through a different, more efficient route. Rather than being diverted through different ISPs it is on a private network and should send it down a much more direct route, meaning that any reduction is service speeds should be minimized.
Whilst they would be causing a huge public outcry if they were more commonly known, the practice of throttling, and the related issue of Peering is worryingly common these days. But with a VPN you have a simple, cost-effective, ready-made solution. And what’s more, one which brings a whole load of other benefits as well.
What Does a VPN Do?
A VPN provides users with a secure network connection which offers them increased levels of privacy and security when operating online, in addition to various other advantages. Using a VPN will provide you with a whole host of advantages, including rendering you anonymous online, and allowing you to circumvent online restrictions such a state censorship and geo-blocking, as well as evading such detrimental practices as throttling.
Since the revelations a few years ago by Edward Snowden of the extend of the US Governments surveillance program against their own citizens online activity, more and more people have been looking around for a way to ensure their online activity is both secure and private.
Few will have looked far before happening across the concept of a VPN. Yet for many the name VPN, or Virtual Private Network, to give it is full moniker, is a meaningless and highly technical sounding concept.
Yet the reality is that a VPN is a very simple, affordable, and effective piece of kit, as well as being one which is fast becoming an essential tool for anyone working online.
Yet here at Fried.com we still get asked on a surprisingly regular basis what a VPN actually does. The answer could be an enormously complex one if we were to dig down into the detail. But for most users a summary of the basic core functions is what they are looking for, and that is exactly what we are providing here:
1. Online Privacy
A VPN greatly enhancing your levels of online privacy, rendering you virtually anonymous while you are using the internet. It does this by funneling all of your online traffic through an encrypted pathway.
This encryption means that your data is indecipherable from prying eyes such as Government agencies, hackers, or even your own ISP.
Your data also goes via an external server and this helps to hide your IP Address, because websites you visit will see the IP Address of this server rather than your own connection. This means even the sites you visit cannot trace your activity back to you.
The only people who might know who you are online is your ISP provider, but with many keeping no activity logs, you can be completely anonymous online.
2. Online Security
A VPN in itself is not a security tool, but it does offer various security advantages. Central o this is the encryption we talked about above. This encryption protects your data and makes it invisible to hackers. It also servers to make many of the simplest and most common types of security breach ineffective.
With a hidden IP Address as well, using a VPN can also protect you if you visit any infected websites, or websites that might try and push you automatically onto an effective site. It also adds anonymity if you are looking to use a torrenting service.
A VPN alone will not protect you online, but it will certainly bring a number of highly desirable advantages.
3. Watch Geo-Blocked Content
Having a hidden IP Address also has the advantage of allowing you to access geo-blocked content around the world. Geo-blocking is when a site restricts access to people within particular geographic areas.
But most VPNs will offer users the chance to choose between a range of servers located around the world. These servers then broadcast their IP Address which fools the site into thinking you are in the relevant country, regardless of where you are in the world.
In this way, you can watch streaming content and visit restricted websites in any country where your VPN provider has a server.
4. Evade Online Censorship
It is no coincidence that highest proportion of VPN users in a single country can be found in Indonesia, which has one of the world’s worst internet censorship records. VPNS are now hugely popular in countries with bad censorship records such as China, Indonesia, and Iran.
A VPN can help you avoid censorship because it offers an encrypted pathway to an external server, which then lends you its IP Address. With an IP Address located elsewhere, the site will believe you are not in the country where the censorship exists, and so the site will be visible.
5. Avoid Throttling
Throttling is the growing ISP practice of limiting service speeds to people using streaming services because it uses up too much bandwidth and their networks cannot cope.
It is often done on a commercial basis to try to promote their own service and can be hugely annoying to users. But it works by your ISP reading your data packets to see what you are doing. With a VPN, encryption makes this impossible, so the ISP will not try to throttle your service.
There are many reasons to sign up for a VPN as they do a huge number of really useful things. Above we have highlighted the most popular top five functions.