What's the Best VPN for PC Users?
The Windows operating system is arguably the most widely used across desktop and laptop computers around the world. It was also one of the first operating systems on which VPNs were used by early adopters often regarded as computer geeks. However, as Windows overtook the Linux operating system, (the latter still is considered to be an operating system for people with a degree in computer science) an increasing number of VPNs became available for Windows. So, today almost every commercial VPN service has an app or program that’s compatible with Windows, even if there isn’t one for the Mac or Android for that matter. That is why the performance of these VPNs on the Windows OS matters so much.
The VPNs ranked below (in the table) are based on their performance on the Windows Operating System. Our ranking is based on factors like speed, features, stability, and ease of use. You can also find the best overall VPNs based on the various factors we’ve tested. While we have extensively tested each VPN listed above, it is important to note that your mileage may vary depending on multiple factors. Many of those factors are out of your control and is hard to test. That said the purpose of our testing is to find the best possible VPN for Windows users. The margin for error is give or take 1-2%.
Our goal with testing each VPN service is to offer a level playing field for each. We’ve tried to eliminate as many variables that affect performance as possible. However, we do admit that no test system is 100% unbiased, because some factors may be beyond our control. That said for us being able to control 99% of the test environment means that the results can be trusted.
The first thing you need to consider is what version of Windows are you running? Are you running Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 7? While most of the latest VPNs will be compatible with all of these versions, their performance may differ. So, for our testing, we’ve stuck to using Windows 10, with the October 2018 update. The reason we’ve done this is that most of our readers are using this version of the operating system. Plus, most if not all apps that are compatible with Windows 10 are backward compatible up to Windows 8. That means almost everyone is covered.
We made sure to use a test system that can be considered borderline ordinary. However, we acknowledge that not everyone will use a similar configuration. That said a VPN’s performance is rarely dependent on a computer’s specs. If you have anything above 4GB of Ram and an Intel i3 processor, there will be no performance issues.
Our Test System Configuration Consists of:
- An 8th Generation Intel i7 8700K Processor
- 16 GB of RAM
- Windows 10 October update
- A 10 Mbps internet connection
We made sure that each VPN software was installed from scratch. Plus, we tested the full version aka premium version of the software.
Each VPN software was tested for overall connection speed, content streaming abilities, P2P/torrent servers, encryption, etc. were all put to the test. We actually streamed content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Overall internet speeds were tested by connecting to the VPN server, running the speed check and then disconnecting from it. It was done 5 times for each service. A speed average was compared based on each session’s up and downtime. Plus we used the ‘quick connect’ option for each software which is purposely built in to connect users to the fastest server.
How to Choose the Best Windows VPN?
Now there are a number of things for which we are looking for in each VPN service. While you may have other requirements, these are the most common ones for the majority of users. Then there is also the fact that any VPN that does not meet these requirements is not good enough to be paid for in our opinion.
The features you should consider are:
Ease of Use:
Well there is no point of using a VPN service if it is difficult to figure out what’s going on. The good news is that VPN interfaces have improved over the years. So, finding a VPN with an easy to use interface is easier, but we help you find the best one.
Support for an array of privacy and security technologies:
OpenVPN, IPsec, etc. are some of the best security technologies used in conjunction with military grade encryption. However, the more security features a service supports, the more your identity is protected. So, apparently the more features, the better it is in this regard.
Support streaming services (the more, the better):
Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime amongst other services should be supported as it allows people from other countries to watch shows that are not scheduled for release in their region. When you are using a VPN service borders shouldn’t matter!
Offer support from P2P file sharing protocols:
Torrents is something that almost everyone is going to use, and so it stands to reason that the VPN service should support it.
A large number of servers:
The more servers a service has in different countries, the better it is because there is always something available. Low-quality services have fewer servers which can make connecting to the VPN a challenge.
VPNs do throttle your speed to a certain degree. However, slow servers and poorly configured servers can reduce your internet speeds by as much as 75%. We always measure and consider faster speed to be better since it is imperative for a good online experience.
A no-logging policy:
Logging is a breach of privacy and defeats the whole purpose of using a VPN in the first place. However, it is unfortunate that many VPN service providers store logs. Logging is often mandated by the region a VPN service is based in, and so you need to watch out for where the service is headquartered. That’s why it’s something we consider when reviewing VPNs.
AES-256 encryption is regarded as the gold standard for all VPNs.
Advanced configuration features:
We understand that not everyone who subscribes to a VPN service is a newbie. Many are advanced users and so being able to get into the software and customize it to your network’s needs is very important.
Yes! Price matters too that’s even though a monthly VPN subscription these days costs as much as a Starbucks latte. However, if you can get something better for a lower price, that means it offers more bang for your buck!
The Best Overall VPN for Windows
The Best VPN for Windows in our experience is NordVPN. The Panama based NordVPN has a truly log less policy which means that it does not retain connection or usage logs. Plus, we were more than happy with the double-hop encryption feature, kill switch and Tor over VPN. All of these can be switched on in the app settings.
Unlike the mobile version of NordVPN, the windows version of the software isn’t overwhelming. Everything is neatly tied up into a single screen with a map dead in the center. If you are new to using VPNs just click on the ‘Quick Connect’ button at the bottom of the screen. The software will then find the fastest server and connect to it.
Here is what we liked about NordVPN:
NordVPN has specific servers which are designed to help users achieve a particular task like stream video, download torrents, etc. All of which means that you’re able to accomplish the required tasks quickly and without hassle.
Dedicated P2P Servers:
Dedicated P2P servers make downloading and uploading to P2P networks very easy. If anything, it beats using regular servers in terms of speed and anonymity.
People who are living in highly regulated and conservative parts of the world would want to use the Double VPN feature. The feature works by passing your internet traffic through two VPN servers. It does slow down internet speeds, but it also ensures that the encryption is unbreakable. Nothing can be traced back to you even if the first layer of 256-bit encryption is bypassed somehow.
Most of the VPN services we tested don’t give you the option of having a dedicated IP (Internet Protocol Address). However, NordVPN does, but the only IPs available are USA, Germany, UK, and the Netherlands. That said the feature worked flawlessly and was the only VPN service we reviewed with this feature.
A Huge Number of Servers:
NordVPN has 5500 servers in 59 countries around the world. During our testing, we were able to connect to a server of our choice every time at all times of the day.
NordVPN is a Great Choice for Everyone
Whether you are new to VPNs or are an advanced user NordVPN tends to have something for everyone. It’s affordable if you go for a long-term subscription and has a ton of bells and whistles including an array of security options. In our opinion, it offers the best value for money.
The Faster VPN to Use on Windows
When it comes to overall speeds each time we were connected to the VPN, it was a mixed bag across the board with each VPN we tested. Speed of the VPN generally depends on the following factors:
- Speed of the server
- Location of the server, so servers which are further away from you are going to be slower owing to latency (the time it takes for traffic to get from your computer to the server and back)
- Type of encryption used. Some encryption algorithms tend to slow down speeds
When testing VPN speeds, we made sure that all things were equal across the board. Since we are based in Canada, we connected to a VPN in Canada or the US for each of the VPNs we tested.
In terms of sheer raw speeds, ExpressVPN came up on top. It was 10% faster than NordVPN which comes in second place and 15% faster than PureVPN.
We ran the tests an average of 5 times for each service, and the speed percentage is an average of the speeds we got each time we disconnected, reconnected and ran the speed test.
The Best VPN According to its Features for Windows
In terms of features, both NordVPN and Cyberghost are pretty much neck and neck. However, we have to give the win to NordVPN in the features department since it offers obfuscated servers and dedicated IP addresses in addition to all the features provided by Cyberghost. Plus, unlike Cyberghost streaming content from Netflix and Hulu actually worked for us. When we used Cyberghost to stream Netflix in the UK and the US, it didn’t work because the service (Netflix) could detect we were using a VPN.
NordVPN worked perfectly albeit streaming was sometimes slower than usual. Plus, the addition of obfuscated servers means that people can use the service in countries where suppressive regimes actively monitor peoples internet activities since ISPs have no idea if the person is connected to a VPN.
The Easier VPN to use for Windows
Ease of use is a big deal for everyone. The easier a VPN is to use the more someone will want to use it. While VPN services have improved their interfaces over the years, there some that are arguably easier to understand and quicker to get started with than others.
We got the entire office to vote which of the VPNs we tested was the easiest to start using. The majority of people voted for ExpressVPN. Nothing beats the minimalist interface offered by ExpressVPN. Plus the software boots in a fraction of a second and all you need to do is click on the large button in the center to start using the VPN.
Unlike other VPN services we tested ExpressVPN does not assume you know much about using a computer. Also, the interface on Windows is the same across iOS and Android devices. So, you can expect a consistent experience.
The Cheaper VPN to buy for Windows
Price is a factor that we always consider. Sure! VPNs have become cheaper, and most cost just a few dollars a month. But what if you’re looking for the cheapest VPN for your Windows computer? Well, we’ll have to give the win to IVACY at $9.95 a month, which is followed closely by PIA at $9.99 a month.
However, our suggestion for anyone subscribing to a VPN service is to get a long-term subscription. At least get a year-long subscription which can save you a good amount of money. Those who want to go for an annual subscription will probably want to opt for PureVPN which costs $2.88 a month for 2-year which happens to be the cheapest annual subscription.
The Worst VPN for Windows
Buffered VPN has to be the worst one for any Windows user or VPN user in general. To kick things off the VPN isn’t cheap starting at over $12.99 a month. Then there is the fact that they are not clear about the logging policy. The company itself is based in Gibraltar but is headquartered in Hungary, though their data is stored in the Netherlands. Both Netherlands and Hungary are required to share intelligence data plus both countries are known to log and share user logs with the authorities.
The other major issue with Buffered VPN is it’s slow. Out of all the VPNs we tested for this review, it was the slowest. At its best, the service was 25% slower than Nord VPN and 30% slower than ExpressVPN.
Plus, we ran into a couple of bugs. When disconnecting from the VPN server, the software hung up for a minute. Also, at times even after disconnecting it seemed as through our internet would stop working with a yellow exclamation mark on our Wi-Fi icon. We then had to reset our computer’s WiFi card for things to get back to normal.
All of the issues above solidify our statement that Buffered VPN is frustrating to use on Windows and certainly not cheap!
In our experience testing VPN services is tricky business mainly because many services tend to improve over time. Then there is also the fact that depending on where you live; your mileage may vary in terms of speed. However, things like privacy features, logging policies, availability of servers, etc. are all pretty much constant.
At the end of the day if you are a Windows user, find a VPN service with features that matter to you and at a price that’s affordable. That said if you’re living in a particularly suppressive country like Iran, China or North Korea, you’d want to invest in the best, most secure VPN service that offers obfuscated servers. That way even your ISP wouldn’t know if you’re connected to a VPN service.
Having said from all of the above we know still choosing one can be difficult. That’s why we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you and listed five of our favorite VPN services for Windows users. The services listed have performed the best out of our pool of VPN services. So, you can’t go wrong with them!