- Buying Guide
Best VPNs for Windows 10
There are several reasons you might want to use a VPN. You might want to avoid snoopers while going online from a hotel, cafe or airport lounge. You may want to stream video or play online games available only in other countries. You may want to connect to Facebook from class, but your school Wi-Fi blocks the site. Or you may suspect that your internet service provider (ISP) collects your browsing history.
Fortunately, nearly every commercial VPN service has client software for Windows devices. Some of it's easy to use, and some of it offers a ton of customization options. Based on our in-depth VPN reviews, which include testing in multiple countries, here are our top picks for Windows VPNs broken down by use case.
Best Windows VPN Overall
Our top VPN pick overall is Private Internet Access (PIA). It's the cheapest, it's tied for first place for speed, and it gives you a dizzying choice of platform compatibility, connection servers, and privacy options; it even lets you mix and match VPN protocols and levels of encryption on the fly.
PIA's customization opportunities may be overwhelming for VPN newcomers, but overall, it's a great choice for anyone who travels a lot for business or doesn't mind getting into the nitty-gritty of a VPN connection. The small user interface is very basic, but the company website has tons of guides and explainers to answer all your questions.
PIA is the cheapest paid VPN service we've tested, costing $6.95 per month or $39.95 per year. A two-year deal costs $69.95. There's no free tier, or even a free trial, but PIA offers a money-back guarantee through the first seven days. As with most VPN services, you can have up to five VPN connections running at once.
Best VPNs for Newbies, Students and Casual Travelers
If you're just getting started with a VPN or you want something to use while you're on vacation or at school, then you need something that's reliable without being too complicated.
Our top pick in this category is Windscribe, a Canada-based service that lets you use 10GB of data for free every month if you give the company a valid email address. (If you don't, it's 2GB per month.) That's plenty of data for checking email and doing some light web surfing by the hotel pool or for checking social media from the school library.
You can connect to servers in nearly a dozen countries. If you want unlimited data, unlimited device connections, more servers and access to Windscribe's "Windflix" servers, that will run you $9 per month or $49 per year.
Best VPN for Gamers (with Deep Pockets)
We don't normally advise VPN services for PC gamers, as almost every service will slow down your traffic. However, one actually speeds it up. If you have an LTE modem on your laptop or desktop, or you tether your smartphone, then Speedify can combine that cellular data connection with your local Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to deliver phenomenally fast download speeds.
The catch is that you'd better have an unlimited LTE plan, or at least one with a high data cap, as gaming or video transfers over Speedify may burn through low data caps mighty quickly. Speedify costs $9 per month or $50 per year, not including the cost of your monthly cellular-data service.
Best VPN for Video Streamers
Netflix's streaming selection varies widely among different countries due to licensing and copyright restrictions. Similarly, you can't access BBC iPlayer from the U.S. A VPN service can help you dodge such geographic restrictions, although there's no guarantee it will work, as the top streaming services try to find and block new VPN servers.
CyberGhost, a Romanian VPN service, has preset configurations to connect directly to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services worldwide, and nearly as many bells and whistles as PIA overall. CyberGhost also blocks online ads, browser trackers and malicious websites; has servers all over the world; and lets you connect up to seven devices at once.
In our own informal tests with CyberGhost, French Netflix worked fine, while BBC iPlayer didn't; your mileage may vary. You can try CyberGhost for free for seven days; after that, it's $12 per month or $60 per year.
Best VPN for Privacy Fanatics
A VPN service can give you only so much additional privacy. It may hide your browsing history from your ISP, but the VPN service itself knows exactly where you go. Likewise, VPN encryption goes only halfway; once your traffic exits the VPN server, it's on the open internet. The only thing the VPN service hides is your IP address, but many services keep IP activity logs that can be subpoenaed.
So if you're trying to hide your online activities from your ISP or from law enforcement agencies, choose your VPN service wisely. (Don't bother trying to hide from the National Security Agency; you can't.) You'll want a VPN service that collects as little information about you as possible.
With that in mind, your best choice might be Mullvad, a very privacy-minded VPN service based in Sweden, where it's out of reach of the FBI. This service doesn't ask for your name or an email address; you simply go to the website and generate a random number that becomes your username and password.
Credit: Amagicom ABMullvad does take payment in credit cards, which will blow your cover, and Bitcoin, which may not. You can also mail cash to Mullvad along with your account number, and you'll get wholly anonymous service, as long as you don't put a return address on the envelope. Mullvad costs 5 euros (about $6) per month, which adds up to about $72 per year.
Screenshots by Tom's Guide except where noted.