The best VPN services - or virtual private networks - are apps for your mobile, computing and gaming devices that allow you to hide your location, identity and IP address from the rest of the internet.
These VPN services encrypt all your internet traffic and pass it through a private tunnel inside secure servers all over the world so that no one can see what you're reading or downloading - not the government, not your ISP, not even the VPN service itself.
The 5 best VPN services at a glance:
- 1. ExpressVPN - Best VPN money can buy
- 2. NordVPN - World's most famous VPN is among the best
- 3. Surfshark - Fast, affordable and super simple to use
- 4. CyberGhost - Loads of features and servers
- 5. IPVanish - 10 simultaneous connections
All internet content is completely encrypted and anonymous - securely jumbled so no one could read it even if they intercepted it. A VPN's ability to encrypt traffic and change your location to be whatever you want it to be also allows you to bypass blocks, filters or restrictions on the internet or local networks. That means if there's a Tiktok block at your school, you can use a VPN to access it on your phone regardless. If you're visiting China later in the year, you'll be able to use a VPN to access Facebook and Whatsapp which are both blocked in that country. And if you're on vacation in the UK and want to access your usual US Netflix or Hulu content - a VPN makes it super easy to do.
So if you’re interested in the benefits of a VPN, on this page we have compiled our top 10 services to help you find the best VPN for you. You can also read our full reviews at the included links if you want to take a deeper dive into the pros and cons of each individual service.
What is the best VPN service?
With so much competition, you'd think that picking a clear winner would be pretty much impossible. But in truth, it's ExpressVPN that comes out on top.
The best VPN apps these days are super easy to use - there's no need to be a computing expert. They're self-explanatory and easy to work out like most other mobile apps. That's one of the main assets of ExpressVPN - whether you're using it on PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, Linux or a TV streaming device, it's incredibly easy to install and operate.
It aced all of our streaming tests, easily getting around geo-blocking from the likes of Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video. And because its connections speeds are some of the fastest out there, watching your favorite shows and films when abroad won't be dogged by buffering and glitches (assuming your Wi-Fi connection is up to scratch, of course). While the 30-day money back guarantee means that you can effectively try out the web security across its 3,000+ servers before you buy.
You can read much more about ExpressVPN and what sets it apart below. There's also information about NordVPN, Surfshark and seven of its other nearest competitors all featuring in our best VPN hit list.
The Best VPN services today
1. ExpressVPN - the best VPN money can buy
Number of servers: More than 3,000 | Speeds: Unlimited | VPN locations: 160 in 94 countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
ExpressVPN is the best VPN current available (our full ExpressVPN review is here) thanks to its fantastic apps, ease of use, superb speeds, excellent 24/7 customer-service support and wide compatibility across devices. You can use the service on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android or even Linux and BlackBerry. You can also install it on your Android TV, games console or your home router.
For anyone new to the VPN world, ExpressVPN is super-simple to use with a one-click startup option. And for those looking for more complex and advanced options, it also offers a kill switch for added security and DNS leak protection - plus you get industrial-level encryption and there's a clear no logging policy so your anonymity is absolutely guaranteed.
The service also recently fixed one of its primary drawbacks - it used to only allow three simultaneous connections per account. That has now been upped to the industry standard of five - which means you can have up to five devices connected to the VPN at the same time.
If you're planning to use your VPN to access Netflix and other streaming services like HBO Go, or Sky Go - Express is simply the undisputed champion. It has a team constantly ensuring they're providing access to the most popular sites and helping you find the right server locations - if you're struggling, the aforementioned 24/7 customer service team will sort you out with a quick chat.
One final killer addition to this service is a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, effectively, you can try this for free for 30 days, and if you don't like it you can easily cancel and walk away without having spent a dime.
Get a discount on the best VPN 2020
ExpressVPN is running an offer for Tom's Guide readers - when you sign up for a year you'll get three months free - so 15 months for the price of 12. What's more, you still get the 30 day money back guarantee if you want to try before you buy. Simply go to ExpressVPN website at from this link.
2. NordVPN - world's most famous VPN
Number of servers: 5,700+ | Server locations: 80+ in 59 countries | Maximum devices supported: 6 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
NordVPN is the biggest name in the VPN market, even if it no longer ranks top of our lists. If pure security is your need, then NordVPN is up there with the best options thanks to 2048-bit encryption that'd leave even the military impressed – and blocked out. Nord offers around 6,000 servers spread over more than 50 countries which means your connection options are plentiful. You also get strong DNS leak protection, two kill switches and excellent connection speeds - more can be found in our NordVPN review.
Features of NordVPN include proxy extensions for the likes of Chrome and Firefox, and it's easy to pay for your subscription using Bitcoin, PayPal or credit card. In addition, you get SmartPlay, which helps you get around geo-restrictions, making it ideal for watching the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or BBC iPlayer abroad. And if you run into problems, you can solve them with the aid of NordVPN's help center articles, email support or live chat support options.
On the downside, there were issues with server connections from time to time but largely we got online fine and speeds were well above average. And we must admit that our confidence in Nord was at least somewhat knocked by the reported data breach that came out in October 2019, although we're encouraged by the steps it has taken to remedy it and ensure nothing of the like happens again.
With lots of payment options available, there should be something for everyone here. But compare the price of NordVPN to the rest, and it may just be the service for you.
Click through to the NordVPN website to sign up
3. Surfshark - fast, affordable and simple to use
Number of servers: 1700+ | Server locations: 100+ in 63 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
In general, Surfshark is both fast and powerful, with advanced features (although the mobile app is more bare-bones), and is capable of bypassing region restrictions with ease - our full Surfshark review will tell you all you need to know.
The 24-month deal works out at only $1.99 a month, which is clearly fantastic value. But there’s no free trial, meaning you have to commit for two years immediately or pay for a single month first if you want to try it out.
The other problems you might want to watch out for are a lack of online support beyond set-up (although the live chat makes up for this should you want it) and the fact that some of the servers have their physical locations separated from their IP locations, meaning that depending where you’re accessing them from, you could end up with sluggish performance.
Click through to the Surfshark website to sign up
4. CyberGhost - loads of features and servers
Number of servers: 6,300+ | Server locations: 112 in 89 countries | Maximum devices supported: 7 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45 day money back guarantee: Yes
CyberGhost has a feature-loaded, user-friendly interface, with convenient buttons in the Windows client software for streaming media, torrenting files, protecting your Wi-Fi transmissions and evading censorship.
There are about 6,300 CyberGhost connection points (and rising) in around 90 countries worldwide. You don't need to provide your real name, just a working email address, and you can pay in bitcoin (should you have any) to remain nearly anonymous. As with most full-fledged VPN services, you can connect directly from your operating system's network settings or use third-party OpenVPN software to do so. You can also select from among VPN protocols and set up a home Wi-Fi router to use CyberGhost all the time.
CyberGhost is transparent about its company structure, posting photos and bios on its website of everyone from the CEO to the cleaning person, and privacy fanatics will like that the company is based in Romania rather than in the U.S. But CyberGhost's full-service subscription price is among the most expensive month-by-month — it's far better to just pay for a year at a time.
Click through to the CyberGhost website to sign up
5. IPVanish - 10 simultaneous connections
Number of servers: 1,400 | Server locations: 75 in 52 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24 live chat: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
Fifth in our rankings list comes IPVanish - a fantastic VPN service that boasts over 1,300 servers in more than 75 countries, 24/7 customer service and a whopping 10 simultaneous connections available at a time.
You may yet use those 10, as IPVanish works on lots of devices, including Mac, Windows, Android and iOS. The desktop apps offer plenty of options that will keep the pros happy, while the just-work simplicity is also there for everyone else. That it all functions with far above average speeds is a nice bonus.
The lack of a kill switch on the mobile version of the app may be a downside for some but generally everything worked well. If you do want to give this VPN a go, you're covered by a thirty-day money-back guarantee. However, its subscription price is kind of high, and its U.S. base may be a negative for some potential customers.
Click through to the IPVanish website to sign up
6. Private Internet Access (PIA) - does basics well
Number of servers: 3,300+ | Server locations: 65 in 45 countries | Maximum devices supported: 10 | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
If you've been a VPN user for a few years now, you will inevitably know the name of Private Internet Access (or PIA). It has been a highly rated service for some time.
And for good reason - it offers fast, reliable connections to servers across the globe (although, to be honest, fewer than a few of the VPN services above offer) that never disconnected during our testing. We also like that PIA's 'Detect Best Server' function takes the guesswork out of things for you, by suggesting which of its 60+ locations you should adopt at any given time.
As you'd expect from a modern VPN, it has dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS...even Linux is among its line up! And its engineers have worked hard to make these apps as secure and feature-laden as possible.
Improving on some of the competition, Private Internet Access lets you stay secure on up to 10 devices at any one time. So worth considering if you want to sort out the whole family's phones, laptops and tablets. And the long term pricing is very eye-catching, too.
Click through to the PIA website to sign up
Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 130+ in 80+ countries | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: Yes | 45 day money back guarantee: Yes (Plus limited free version)
Hotspot Shield is mostly famous for its free option but we've included it in our list of the best VPN services due to the quality of its premium, paid option. The feature it has over the competition is a super cheap price. If you can't stomach the albeit minimal cost of ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield is a decent cheap option. That being said, it does have its limitations versus the competition. For example its lack of support for the OpenVPN standard means you cannot set it up on your router, games console or Chromebook for which there are no specific apps.
Click through to the Hotspot Shield website to sign up
8. Windscribe - unlimited connections included
Number of servers: 400 | Server locations: 110 in 63 countries | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited | 24 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: No
Windscribe VPN's standout features are a very generous free service that gives you up to 10GB per month, and a moderately priced paid service that lets you connect as many devices at once as you like. Most other VPN services permit only five to 10 at a time.
Windscribe is compatible with many platforms – including routers and Amazon Fire and Kodi TV set-top boxes. The service offers a great variety of connection options, has a wide geographic reach with hundreds of servers, and presents an appealing, if minimal, user interface. It was also one of the best at connecting to foreign Netflix catalogs, if you're into that sort of thing.
Windscribe's network performance wasn’t quite as impressive, however. Our testing showed slower connection times than its competitors.
You can pay for a Windscribe subscription with bitcoin, and you don't even have to provide an email address. The service is based in Canada, which may appeal to users wary of U.S. authorities. The only feature lacking is a kill switch to stop all internet activity if the VPN connection is lost while in use. But Windscribe argues that its built-in firewall prevents data leakage.
Click through to the Windscribe website to sign up
9. TunnelBear - great option for VPN newbies
A great option for total VPN newbies and technophobes
Number of servers: 1,000 | Server locations: 23 | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat: No | 30 day money back guarantee: No (but limited free version)
Goldilocks would love TunnelBear, as it's just right for VPN newcomers. It has a friendly, easy-to-use interface; offers a limited free plan that's ideal for casual use in airports and cafes; is uncomplicated yet offers a fair number of options; has over 1,000 servers in 20 or so countries; and doles out a large helping of security and privacy.
TunnelBear's network performance and pricing are just about average compared with other services we've reviewed The company takes security and privacy seriously, explaining its policies and protocols in plain English, and you can read the results of two third-party security audits on the company website.
However, you've got no choice but to run TunnelBear's client software – unless you use Linux – which may concern some privacy-minded users, and there's no option to set up TunnelBear connections on routers or other devices. Finally,, this tiny Canadian firm is now owned by U.S. antivirus giant McAfee, which may mean TunnelBear is subject to U.S. search warrants.
Click through to the TunnelBear website to sign up
10. StrongVPN - strong on streaming and support
Number of servers: 950+ | Server locations: 60+ in 36 countries | Maximum devices supported: 12 | 24 live support: Yes | 30 day money back guarantee: Yes
StrongVPN is a solidly performing VPN, perfect for bypassing region locks. However, beyond the basics, it offers some unique extra benefits while missing out on some more obvious others.
The really attractive feature is that you can have up to 12 devices running StrongVPN at once, which is more than enough to cover all of your devices and still have some left over. But this is balanced out by a lack of details, like information in the server browser or DNS settings, and the fact you have to pay a relatively high price for even an annual subscription in comparison to rival VPNs. StrongVPN offers a 30 day money-back guarantee, too.
All the same, you do get 24/7 customer support, including a helpline with more limited opening times, plus a good speed in almost every server location, which makes it at least passable for any kind of user.
Click through to the StrongVPN website to sign up
|1. ExpressVPN||The best VPN money can buy|
|2. NordVPN||The biggest name in VPN and a great service|
|3. Surfshark VPN||Super fast, easy to use and cheap|
|4. Cyberghost||Trusted brand and a solid service|
|5. IPVanish||An ever-reliable service and office favorite|
How do we know which is the best VPN service?
If you've scrolled through the above list and still aren't quite sure which one to go for, then it's worth focusing in on what you intend to use your VPN for and then picking out the service above that best fits.
So if you just want a basic layer of extra security and the odd bit of website unblocking, then it's probably worth homing in on the price. A visit to our cheap VPN guide should help speed up this process.
If your VPN is for Netflix unblocking (or, indeed, streaming on any other services) then you'll want a service with excellent, reliable connection speeds. We'd also suggest picking out a provider that offers 24/7 live chat support, just in case you run in to any troubles locating a server that works properly.
Need the best torrenting VPN? It's all about anonymity and security (as well as fast speeds again, too). Make sure that your chosen VPN has an effective kill switch on whatever device you do your downloading, and a clear 'no logs' policy should be sought as well.
Talking of devices, most VPNs cover every device out there, but might be lacking in some areas. Do you require an excellent Android VPN app? Or are you getting a VPN for Mac? And not every VPN works in every country - that's why our best China VPN guide is so useful.
How We Test a VPN
We start by collating all of the VPN service provider options. We then narrow down the options by checking security requisites for each one, so if one requires your personal details, for example, that would be a strike against it. We then look at the features offered to further whittle the selection. We also take into account pricing, with not only the charge but how you're able to pay, and whether any money-back guarantees were on offer. Security also applies here as we look at those companies that keep your payment details private, allow you to pay with bitcoin and so on.
Then comes the testing of the VPNs themselves. We not only test performance speeds for downloads and uploads across local and distant servers using Speedtest.net but for leaks, too. Some VPNs can have DNS or other leaks that give clues to your identity, so we use IPleak.net to test that the VPNs are as secure as they claim to be.
Finally, we make sure that the client interface is simple to use but also that there are more complex options for those who need them. That includes things like tools for country, region, server, speed, filters, favorites, server load and ping time displays and so on.
VPN Do's And Don'ts
Using a VPN can make it look like you're someplace else. It's a well-worn practice to evade online censorship, as is done in some countries, or to tap into U.S. streaming services while in Europe or Asia. We've used VPNs to read the New York morning paper in Beijing, and watch U.S. TV in England.
But there are some caveats. A VPN will give you more privacy but not more security. If you end up on a website harboring malware, the VPN can't prevent you from being infected. Some of the full-fledged VPN services block known malicious websites, just as some browsers do.
Also, although your data is encrypted as it travels between you and the far-off VPN server, it won't necessarily be encrypted once it leaves the VPN server for its final destination. If the data isn't encrypted — and that depends on the website you're connecting to — then the traffic might be intercepted and read. One well-known VPN provider was accused of inserting ads in users' web browsers, which would violate users' security and privacy.
If you just want to evade geographical restrictions on streaming content, such as BBC iPlayer or Hulu, you don't need a VPN to do so. You just need a proxy service that will make it look like you're in the right country. There are many free proxy services available, but do your homework before choosing one — some are a bit dodgy.
Finally, Netflix and the BBC are cracking down on VPNs and proxy services. There's no guarantee that a particular service will evade geographical restrictions on a particular day.
Know Your VPN Types
All of the VPN services we've reviewed use the AES-256 encryption standard, which would take a well-equipped hacker with a powerful computer many years to crack. Anyone eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic in a café would see gibberish without the encryption key.
Nine of the VPN services we've tested — CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, IPVanish, Mullvad, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, PureVPN, VPN Unlimited and Windscribe — are what we call "full-featured." If you plan on running all your home internet traffic through a VPN, or you travel frequently, these are the services you should consider.
These services offer many ways to connect, including without the service's client software; support operating systems and devices, such as routers or set-top boxes, beyond just the "big four" operating systems of Windows, Mac, Android and iOS; have hundreds, or even thousands, of servers in dozens of countries; and generally let the user sign up and pay anonymously.
The flip side is that a few of these full-featured services are pretty anonymous themselves, operating behind shell companies in offshore tax havens. If you're trying to avoid government scrutiny, that's great, but you might have a hard time getting your money (or bitcoin) back in a dispute with the VPN provider.
Two more services, Hotspot Shield and TunnelBear, make you use their client software, which is limited to the big four OSes. You can't connect your home router or other nonstandard devices directly to these service's VPNs. TunnelBear makes an exception for Linux boxes.
Avast SecureLine and Avira Phantom VPN are run by antivirus companies as complements to their primary businesses. These services are also limited to Windows, Mac, iOS and Android and don't work without client software. But they offer few features, have a couple of dozen servers at most and don't let you pay anonymously. However, the companies are known quantities, and the services are handy for occasional travelers.
Finally, there's Opera VPN, which is completely free. The desktop version works only within the Opera web browser. But the mobile apps, which are made by a different company, encrypt all the internet traffic to and from an iOS or Android device. However, both the desktop and mobile versions of Opera VPN have servers in only five countries.
There are several different VPN protocols, not all of which are used by all of the VPN services we reviewed. Most operating systems have built-in support for at least one of these protocols, which means you can use that protocol — and a willing VPN service — without client software. The full-fledged VPN services have online instructions for how to do this, as well as how to set up routers to connect directly to the services.
OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.
L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.
IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2, generally with IPsec): This is a newish standard that is very secure when properly implemented. It has native support in Windows, iOS and recent versions of OS X/macOS.
SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol): SSTP is a Microsoft protocol with native support on Windows Vista and later versions. It's thought to be quite secure, but only Microsoft knows for sure.
PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol): This standard is largely obsolete, with many known security flaws, but it's fast. It has native support built into Windows, Android and older versions of Mac OS X and iOS; Apple dropped support with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. Use PPTP only for streaming content, as it won't protect your data.
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