How to Find the Fastest VPNs

by Tracy Knauer •

In A Nutshell

  • BitTorrent: PIA. Fast all around but especially good for torrenting.
  • Anti-censorship: IPVanish. This company has an especially large network of high-speed servers in many countries, which give you fast access to content that is blocked in your location.
  • Fastest free VPN: Hola. This company’s privacy policy is lacking, but the VPN service is free and fast enough.

If you are going to purchase a VPN service, you probably want to get the best download and upload speeds possible. But finding the fastest VPN can seem difficult. However, it’s easy if you understand how to measure VPN performance. Here’s our guide to the fastest VPNs.

The Details: What “Fastest VPNs” Really Means

If you’re looking for a list of the top three or five fastest VPNs, this is not the place to find it. It would be easy for us to log into VPNs, clock their performance at speedtest.com and list the winners — and you can find plenty of such lists on other sites.

But we’re not doing that because it’s not a very meaningful way to compare speeds between VPNs. The real key to getting the fastest VPN is to understand that there is no single defining factor when it comes to being fast.

Instead, there are lots of different ways to measure VPN speed. Depending on exactly what you plan to do with a VPN, some factors will matter more than others when it comes to finding the fastest service.

So keep these facts in mind when evaluating a potential VPN’s speed performance:

  • You can’t lump upload and download speeds together. VPNs that have very good upload speeds may not have the best download speeds, and vice versa. Depending on what you are using the VPN for, you may care more about one of these categories than about the other.
  • Most VPN companies have dozens or sometimes hundreds of individual VPN servers. Some of these servers are faster than others. That means a company with the fastest servers overall may not have the fastest individual server. It also makes it very hard to do accurate VPN speed tests, since you would have to test every single server multiple times to get a good reading of a company’s speeds.
  • Your location can affect the speed of your VPN. Generally speaking, you will get the fastest VPN speeds by connecting to VPN servers that are closest to you geographically. But that is by no means a certainty. By extension, a VPN that is very fast for people connecting from one country might be slower for users based in a different part of the world.
  • The upload and download speeds of a single VPN server can fluctuate throughout the day, month or year. A company that has the fastest server one day may not have it the next.
  • Your VPN configuration affects speed. The type of VPN protocol you use, your operating system, your computer hardware and other factors can impact your bandwidth.
  • Some advanced VPN features, like cascading (which lets you route traffic through multiple VPNs), are likely to reduce speeds. If these features are important to you, you will probably need to compromise bandwidth.
  • Some VPNs can offer fast service by banning BitTorrent or other apps that would place a heavy load on their servers. Therefore the fastest VPN for BitTorrent is likely not to be the fastest VPN overall — and depending on whether you use torrents, you may or may not care about this difference.
  • Last but not least, your VPN is never going to be faster than your ISP. A VPN doesn’t magically give you more speed than your Internet connection can deliver when you are not using a VPN. If your ISP only provides limited bandwidth, paying more for a VPN that has great upload and download speeds will be a poor use of money.

Conclusion

For the reasons explained above, it is impossible to identify the fastest VPN overall. That said, here are the VPNs that delivered the best bandwidth and speed in our tests for particular types of situations.

  • BitTorrent: PIA. Fast all around but especially good for torrenting.
  • Anti-censorshipIPVanish. This company has an especially large network of high-speed servers in many countries, which give you fast access to content that is blocked in your location.
  • Privacy/identity protection: NordVPN. Offers great upload and download speeds with an aggressive no-logs policy. The service is also Tor-friendly in case you want another layer of privacy.
  • Fastest free VPN: Hola. This company’s privacy policy is lacking, but the VPN service is free and fast enough.

Again, the best way to get the fastest VPN is to evaluate your particular needs, then find the company whose performance most closely matches them. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But the list above is a starting guide to the fastest VPNs.

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