When it comes to the best VPN for Windows, there are many choices. From NordVPN to Hotspot Shield, the number available can be daunting. That’s why we’ve taken the top contenders and created this guide, so you can determine which is best for your needs.
What Makes the Best Windows VPN
- Dedicated Windows app
- Reputable and reliable service
- Set of features in Windows app
Most web-based VPNs have Windows options as it’s still the most widely used OS worldwide, but there are features that make some VPNs stand out above the rest.
Dedicated Windows App
The best Windows VPN is obviously going to have a dedicated Windows App. That means an app that was designed specifically to be used on Windows.
However, this app should also include some mandatory features:
- Kill switch
- Fast connection speed
- Quick internet speeds
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) support
A kill switch is much like it sounds: If you somehow lose your connection to your VPN server, the kill switch will stop your device (or any apps you have specifically chosen) from getting back online without the VPN.
Lastly, the best VPN for Windows 10 will give P2P service. This will allow you to share your files without compromising your security or privacy.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s incredibly important. A VPN that frequently loses connection has little purpose and offers spotty privacy protection at best. After all, a VPN is a key part of staying safe online.
One way to ensure you get the coverage you want is to see if the VPN that you have chosen uses cluster-technology or offers load-balancing. This way, you’ll have access to your VPN even if part of their equipment fails.
Of course, the best VPN for PC will have some nice bonuses and advanced features to make it competitive. This includes:
- Double VPN
- Static IP
- Split Tunneling
- Choice of VPN Protocol
A double VPN, also called VPN server chaining, is a VPN PC service that allows you to use two servers rather than just one. This provides extra privacy protection for you.
Most IP addresses change frequently, but a static IP stays the same. This is good for VPNs specifically as some specific IP addresses may be whitelisted, thus allowing added security.
Split tunneling lets you funnel some of your apps through an encrypted VPN tunnel while you exempt access for others and go online without the VPN. For example, you may want your banking app to use your VPN but not Instagram.
Your VPN protocols will define how your data moves through the internet. Some protocols focus on speed, while others target encryption for added security. Being able to pick which you want in the moment can be important.
VPN Protocols for Windows
Now that we’ve gone over protocols let’s take a closer look at those available for Windows.
While Windows 10 has its own built-in VPN client, it’s not necessarily the most comprehensive. However, it has four basic protocols that most VPNs rely on:
- Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
- OpenVPN Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/OpenVPN User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
- Layer Two Tunneling Protocol/Internet Protocol Security (L2TP/IPSec)
But what does each mean? Let’s break it down.
PPTP allows your device, be it a computer or smartphone, to connect to another point: The remote network or the VPN itself. It connects one point directly to another through tunneling.
The tunnel is another protocol that protects you even as you use the internet to contact the VPN. Tunnels are typically Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocols, which lets two devices (or points) talk to each other over long distances.
While this is one of the most common protocols, it’s also incredibly vulnerable to some pretty concerning security issues.
L2TP combines PPTP with Layer Two Forwarding Protocol (L2F), with the added security of Internet Protocol Security (IPSec).
L2TP/IPSec uses a 256-bit key, compared to PPTP’s 128-bit key. This just means you get enough protection so that even top-secret communications remain secure.
Typically, this protocol is only vulnerable when using pre-shared keys.
This particular protocol belongs directly to Microsoft, which is why it’s also called Microsoft Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (MS-SSTP). And yes, it’s only available on Windows devices.
With SSTP, your device connects to the VPN through a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, passing through proxy servers and firewalls. It’s incredibly secure and has little vulnerability to attack.
There are two protocols when it comes to OpenVPN: OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP.
However, before we get ahead of ourselves, OpenVPN is one of the few open-source protocols with a GNU General Public License. That means that anyone can use the source code.
That may seem scary, but it’s a great way to identify security flaws thanks to the huge community using it. Plus, SSL/TLS and 256-bit encryption add to a user’s protection.
This protocol combines TCP with Internet Protocol (IP). TCP is widely used across the internet, and it’s one of the most reliable. However, because each bit of data is verified before another is sent, it can be on the slower side.
This is similar to TCP, but it sacrifices verification of arrival of data for speed. While less reliable, if you need a fast connection, this is the better choice of the two.
The Best VPN for Windows
While there are many VPNs available for Windows, the best PC VPN is going to be one of the following five. Let’s take a look at what each one offers and what sets it apart from its competition.
Possibly the best VPN for Windows, NordVPN is one of the most popular options available.
Because it’s located primarily in Panama, NordVPN is able to take advantage of their local privacy laws. These include how companies can only collect data when they have the consent of the individual. If information is collected, it must be confidential and stored no longer than seven years.
Should a company wish to transfer that data to another country, they must first get permission from the individual. However, the individual can remove information (or modify it) at their whim.
The best part of NordVPN is its many features. Of course, they have the basics, like a kill switch, auto-connect, P2P support, and a fast connection.
They also offer NordLynx, a WireGuard protocol similar to OpenVPN. However, it’s faster and safer thanks to a smaller codebase.
Plus, you get a double VPN, giving you the option of two layers of encryption to keep your data even more secure.
You’ll also get a dedicated IP address, which can help when doing online banking.
For even more security, they offer CyberSec, a combination of suspicious website blocker and ad blocker, which can protect you against phishing or malware.
If you’re interested in streaming, they offer SmartDNS. This won’t act as a VPN, but it will unlock geo-restricted content that you’d like to access (like the British version of Netflix while you’re in Canada).
Lastly, they have a dedicated app specifically for Windows 10, 8, and 7. It includes CyberSec, so you can get extra security as you browse.
You can choose your own custom DNS, pick your protocol (between TCP and UDP), and specify which apps or programs you want the kill switch to affect.
Additionally, you’ll get browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome, if you choose.
ExpressVPN has been around for more than a decade. In that time, it has expanded into over 90 countries, with well over 3,000 servers in some 120 locations and extensive device support.
The app itself is easy to use, and the subscription comes with 24/7 customer support. Besides a desktop application, ExpressVPN for Windows comes with dedicated extensions for Firefox and Chrome.
While already offering fast connections and reliability, the app has recently developed its own Lightway protocol that promises to further improve its speed.
When it comes to privacy and security, ExpressVPN boasts enterprise-level encryption. In addition, it features DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and split tunneling.
It also maintains a strict no-logging policy, ensuring that your data and sessions are never recorded by the app.
Aside from Windows, ExpressVPN works well on multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and even Blackberry. In addition, it can easily be used on Playstation, Xbox, and Amazon Fire TV.
They claim to lead the industry on connection stability across the globe. Further, they say they are continually optimizing their servers to give clients the fastest speeds available.
Another benefit of using ExpressVPN for Windows is that you’ll get their split tunneling feature, allowing you to pick which apps need to be on ExpressVPN and which don’t.
However, one drawback to this is that it only accommodates five simultaneous device connections. That’s one less than many of its competitors, but depending on what you and your family need, it can be plenty.
If you’re on a budget, then Surfshark offers excellent value without sacrificing features.
The VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, but it has options for over 60 countries and about 3,200 servers in total. They have servers in 20 cities in the United States alone, giving you plenty to choose from when looking for a fast connection.
Surfshark has automated the process of finding the right server for streaming services. This means you don’t have to manually go through connections just to play a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime, which you may have to do with other VPN services.
In terms of privacy, Surfshark may not have all the features of some higher-priced VPNs. However, its AES-256 encryption and split tunneling will keep you secure online.
A Surfshark subscription provides for 24/7 customer support and allows for unlimited devices. That means you won’t find yourself having to switch off your VPN on your phone if you want to use it on your laptop and Amazon Fire TV stick.
In fact, Surfshark doesn’t just provide an app for Windows devices. It also works on Android, iOS, Linux, and Mac.
Unfortunately, they are one of the few VPN companies that doesn’t have a robust security audit available to the public.
So, instead of being able to verify if their security is as good as they say it is, we simply have to rely on their word that it’s safe.
However, for a discounted VPN, it’s still a quality package. It’s fast, has a kill switch, and even something called Shadowsocks, which helps clients get around any VPN blocking.
Though Hotspot Shield is well-known for its free VPN, it also has a features-laden subscription-based app. This premium version offers subscribers full access to more than 130 server locations in over 80 countries, including China and Russia.
Performance-wise, Hotspot Shield delivers unlimited bandwidth and some of the fastest speeds available through a VPN.
Even in distant locations, download speeds don’t experience any significant lag or latency. This is made possible through Hydra, a proprietary protocol that delivers an optimized experience for subscribers.
Hotspot Shield provides support for devices running Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, and Linux. In addition, it offers a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that provides additional configurability compared to the Windows desktop app.
The app itself is limited to five devices using the VPN simultaneously, but it does come with some extras as well as 24/7 customer support. Those extras include the password manager 1Password, a spam blocker, and Identity Guard for protection against identity theft.
However, the availability of those services will depend on your location.
One up-and-comer in the field of best VPN for Windows is PrivateVPN. For those who are not comfortable with technology, this VPN is meant to be easy to use.
It may not have many features, but it doesn’t store logs, offers P2P support, has a reliable connection, and gives the security we need.
If you’re a big Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or Amazon Prime Video aficionado, then this may be your top choice as it has dedicated servers specifically for these streaming sites.
It’s widely customizable without being overwhelming, and the Windows version includes a kill switch (though the kill switch is only available on Windows).
The company is based in Sweden, which has robust privacy laws. The only information they keep about customers is their email address.
Unfortunately, unlike other companies like NordVPN, they do not do public audits, so we largely have to take their word for things.
The main drawback is how small their service is. You won’t get 24/7 support, and they only boast over 150 servers, whereas other VPNs offer thousands.
That being said, you still will likely see quick connection speeds, but you may have to play around and jump to different servers to find the fastest one.
However, their protocol options are varied, and you’ll get a stealth mode to help get around any VPN blocking you may encounter.
It doesn’t offer an adblocker, but you can easily download a third-party app to do that for you if you haven’t already.
Just because it has a simple setup doesn’t mean it isn’t customizable. If you want to dig in deep, you can always select their advanced mode to really pick and choose what you want (such as which protocol or encryption method you’d like).
All in all, for those who want a simple experience or need something that handles streaming well, PrivateVPN might be your best VPN for Windows.
The Best Free VPN for Windows
If you’re not ready to fully dive into a VPN service, you may be interested in trying out a free service. While there are plenty of options available, even the best free VPN for PC will often lack the same depth of features as paid alternatives.
However, they’re a good means of seeing if using a VPN could be helpful for you!
If you’re looking for a free VPN that has no data restrictions, then ProtonVPN could be your best free VPN for Windows 10.
Unusual for a free service, the app places no limitations on a user’s data allowance. Considering how small many of these data limits are, this could be useful for users looking to try out a VPN.
Alongside Windows, ProtonVPN works with Android, iOs, Linux, and Mac. You can sign up with an email address while the VPN maintains a no-logging policy and doesn’t feature ads.
Despite that privacy and unlimited data, there are plenty of drawbacks. Perhaps most glaringly is that it only offers a few server locations and limits free users to a single device.
Moreover, users may have to contend with speed throttling as there is no P2P support that could offset the already limited selection of servers that handle the VPN’s traffic.
What that means is that paid subscribers are likely to be prioritized, with free users left to deal with speed drops during peak usage times.
This limited bandwidth could affect users looking to utilize the app on video platforms like Youtube since a decent connection is vital for viewing content.
Though the speed limit could be bypassed by using the app during non-peak hours, that might not be practical for all. So, while unlimited data may be advantageous, it has to be weighed with the likelihood of slower speeds.
Typical for many free VPNs, Windscribe has a data usage cap. This ranges from two gigabytes without an email address to ten gigabytes if one is provided. You can even tweet about the app to receive an additional five gigabytes of data.
Of course, if you’re a heavy internet user and intend to use the VPN continuously, it could be easy to burn through that allowance.
Beyond the Windows app, it works on Android, iOS, Linux, and Mac, and has no limits for the number of devices you can connect to simultaneously.
Servers are more varied but nevertheless still limited. You can choose from ten locations, including North America and Europe.
While the application is easy to use and set up, it should be noted that both the free and premium versions of Windscribe do lack 24/7 customer support.
Winscribe has a no-logging policy, and the data that it does collect when you’re actively connected is erased within minutes of a session being ended.
If you want to use this VPN to access streaming services, then Windscribe may not be for you. Combined with its limited data allowance, the app, like most free VPNs, is unlikely to make a successful connection to a service, such as Netflix.
While Hotspot Shield has an “Elite plan,” which essentially means a paid subscription service, they also offer a free plan.
This can be a good option for those who want to test out their services or those who aren’t really sold on paying for a subscription yet.
That being said, don’t expect the free service to be of a similar quality as the paid subscription.
Whereas you get multiple server locations with the Elite plan, the free service only lets users access US servers.
You’ll also have to deal with ads and slower speeds than those with a subscription.
There’s no support for those using the free version, and you’ll hit a payment wall if you try to stream video content.
Perhaps worst of all, you’ll be limited to only 500MB of data a day, which can put a damper on your internet usage if you’re online frequently.
If you want to stream any video content, that 500MB will be used up quickly, and you’ll have to deal with the pesky Premium Payment Wall notice as you watch your content.
However, if you’re only using a VPN for a specific purpose, such as to do online shopping securely or to use your social media safely without revealing your location, the free choice can be a good option.
Just be sure that if you are using social media that you aren’t using something data-hungry, like Facebook or Instagram. You may still hit the daily limit fairly quickly otherwise.
Edge VPN Browser Extensions
If you predominantly use Edge as your browser, Firefox and Chrome extensions may not help.
That being said, if your VPN has a Windows App, you won’t necessarily need an extension to connect safely.
Instead, a VPN browser extension is simply a quick (and lightweight!) way to connect your browser to the VPN itself.
Instead of installing the entire VPN application on your machine, the extension is a plugin that protects your browser (and only your browser). It’s fast, and won’t take up gobs of space on your machine.
Thankfully, ExpressVPN has extension option for Microsoft Edge specifically.
To install the extension, all you need to do is go to your provider’s website and download the extension. Then, you can install it and log in with your VPN credentials.
Once it’s fully installed, you can then pick a server location and connect!
Often, your extension will have an auto-connect feature, so you get instantaneous protection. However, you’ll still be able to go in and pick a server location if you want to unlock specific geo-blocked material.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to pick an individual server the same way you would with the actual full application.
Other Windows Security Tips
Having a PC VPN isn’t the only way to secure your Windows machine. Let’s take a closer look at the different ways you can increase your safety when online.
Use a Firewall
A firewall acts as a protective shield for your computer. If someone tries to cyber-attack your machine, the firewall shields your network from that malicious traffic or software. They protect specific locations (such as your network address), certain applications, or ports.
Update Software Frequently
One of the primary functions of software updates is to keep the security of your device in check. Often, malicious individuals adapt their tactics to infiltrate machines and collect data.
These updates ensure that your machine is protected against the most recent developments of malware and phishing.
Use Reputable Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is another layer of protection against phishing and malware. Fortunately, Windows 8 and 10 include their own antivirus software called Windows Defender.
It will detect and block any application that could be unsafe, even those that aren’t detected as malware. It’s cloud-based, which means you get real-time updates to ensure your security is top-notch.
Keep Passwords Secure
One of the most dangerous aspects of using a machine is having a compromised password. To keep yours safe, don’t reuse passwords for multiple accounts.
Additionally, you should make sure your password is complex enough to be difficult to guess. A good way to remember each one is to physically write it down on a piece of paper in a secure location.
Don’t keep a record of your passwords on your computer, as if your machine is compromised, every account listed will be vulnerable.
No matter which VPN for PC you pick, you’ll want to run through the features to see which works best for you.
For example, someone who only wants something to help them stream Netflix is going to need something entirely different than someone who wants to securely bank online while out on their lunch break.
The Best VPN for Windows may be unique to each client, but each VPN on our list is secure and reliable, with quick speeds to keep your online experience positive.
Still have questions? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our most frequently asked questions to answer any concerns you may have.