A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can stop others from snooping on or tampering with your Internet traffic. It does this by concealing your traffic inside an encrypted tunnel between you and your VPN provider. And because your traffic appears to join the the Internet from your VPN provider's computer and not your own, a VPN can also conceal your IP address, which disrupts tracking and helps you circumvent geo-blocks. At Malwarebytes, we have noticed an increase in VPN usage worldwide.
Despite its benefits, some people hesitate to use the technology because they believe VPNs negatively impact the performance of their Internet connection. So, does a VPN slow down Internet speeds?
Yes, it does. The encryption process, the distance to the server, and the VPN protocol your VPN uses can impact your Internet speed. But that isn't the whole story.
What really matters is: Is that slowdown noticeable? A good VPN may slow down your Internet, but only to a negligible degree. Most customers of cutting-edge VPN services find that a slight performance hit is worth the benefits, if they notice it at all.
VPN speed test
The best way to check how much a VPN is slowing down your Internet connection is to perform a VPN speed test. A VPN speed test compares your regular Internet speed with your VPN speed. Your Internet bandwidth is usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Here is a fast and easy way to perform a VPN speed test:
- Deactivate your VPN.
- Search your favorite search engine for “Internet speed test.”
- Run an Internet speed test and note down your download and upload speeds.
- Activate your VPN.
- Connect to a VPN server.
- Repeat step three and compare the results.
Bear in mind though, that you are not a machine and that what actually makes a difference to you is not the measurable lag in your Internet connection (known as latency) but how you perceive that lag (known as perceived latency). In many situations, you won't notice a small slow down. In other situations, perhaps when you're waiting on something important like a credit card transaction to complete, you will be more sensitive to changes in latency you normally wouldn't notice.
So, while objective speed tests are a useful guide, there is no substitute for actually using a VPN in the real world and seeing how it affects things you care about.
How can I make my VPN faster than before?
Pick a different server
In general, the further your traffic has to travel to your VPN provider's servers, the slower your VPN will be. Speed is also affected by how powerful those servers are, and how many people are using them at the same time, but all things being equal, distance matters.
Try picking a closer server to enjoy a faster connection. If it's experiencing heavy traffic during peak hours, pick another server nearby to improve your Internet speed. It’s a good idea to subscribe to a VPN service that offers many servers across dozens of countries to have a fast connection.
Select a VPN that uses WireGuard
A VPN protocol is the set of instructions that establishes the way your data routes from your device to your VPN server. A VPN protocol impacts the speed, security, and stability of your connection. Many service providers have switched from OpenVPN to the WireGuard protocol because it's secure, newer, and more efficient. In many studies, WireGuard is significantly faster than its competitors, including OpenVPN.
VPN speed boost
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) deliberately throttle your Internet speed during peak hours to reduce the server load by slowing down popular data packets. For example, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst found ISPs throttling streaming platforms like Netflix in their research. A top VPN service can help you bypass bandwidth throttling because it stops your ISP from examining data packets.