Using a VPN to increase your privacy or access blocked websites doesn’t have to come at the cost of a fast Internet connection. Here’s how to get the best speeds when using a VPN.
It goes without saying that the best way to get good VPN speed is to pick a provider with solid service. But even with a great VPN company, there may be more you can do to optimize VPN performance, including:
- Switch to a different VPN protocol. No one VPN protocol is faster than the others in all configurations. But in certain situations you may find that OpenVPN out-performs L2TP/IPsec, for example, or vice versa. If you don’t like your download and upload speeds, see if choosing a different protocol makes a difference.
- Choose a different server. This may also seem like a no-brainer, but if your VPN provider lets you select from among many different servers when connecting, switching to a different one could speed things up. Keep in mind that advertised speeds for each server are not necessarily accurate, so the best way to know which servers give the best speeds is to test for yourself.
- Use a VPN router. This can help improve performance on tablets or phones because it shifts the work of decrypting VPN traffic from your device to the router. Phones and tablets without a lot of processing power may struggle to process encrypted traffic quickly even with good network connectivity. Modern routers can often decrypt VPN packets faster.
- Change routing settings so not all of your traffic passes through the VPN gateway. Good VPN providers often provide tools that let you do this in their VPN apps, or you can do it manually by changing routing settings on your operating system. (Exact configuration instructions vary — look forward for a future post on this topic.) If you only need the VPN to access certain websites or apps — because, for example, you are traveling in China and are using a VPN to access Twitter or Netflix — you can route the rest of your traffic through your local gateway. That will reduce the network load on your VPN and provide faster overall speeds. Keep in mind, however, that any traffic not routed through your VPN may be read by other people. If privacy is crucial, don’t play with routing or DNS settings unless you are sure you know what you are doing.