Does a VPN slow down internet speed? Before you forgo security for speed and possibly choose an inferior VPN, finding out the answer to that question is important.
Sometimes, a poorly-built VPN can be the culprit that causes your internet connection to grind to a halt. However, there are other factors that could equally put a dampener on your internet speed.
Still, it’s never a good idea to shun using a VPN just because you’ve heard that it adds latency to the connection speed. Instead, you can make better choices by understanding how, or if, the VPN is to be blamed.
What Kills Internet Speed?
We’re two decades into the 21st century. Slow internet ought to be a thing in the past. Yet, there are occasions where you’ll get frustrated by the intermittent buffering or a video call that’s constantly dropping.
Internet connection ought to be rocket speed today. For some reason, speed issues that belonged to the past decade continue to plague some of us.
Technically, there are a few factors that contribute to a slow internet experience.
1. Signal Strength
Unless you’re connected with a LAN cable, the signal strength between your device and a router or cellular tower could affect the connection speed. If you’re using the home WiFi, the signal strength drops when you move further away from the router.
When you’re accessing the internet via mobile devices, you’re dependent on the cellular signal strength. While city dwellers will have generally decent coverage, those in the suburban or rural areas may struggle with slow cellular internet speed.
2. Network Congestion
Despite ISPs guaranteeing a particular bandwidth, you’re likely to experience a drop in speed when the network is congested. It’s quite common to experience slow connection speed after dinner, where families are probably hogging the internet for Netflix or gaming.
If your device is infected with malware like a virus and trojan, you could possibly see a noticeable drop in connection speed. These malware programs may attempt to connect to the Internet in the background and rob you of the allocated bandwidth.
4. Aging Hardware
You can subscribe to the fastest VPN plan but if you’re using a 10-year old laptop, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the best of what your ISP offered. Electronics deteriorate after years and chances are, your laptop is filled with multiple apps that are draining the limited resources. It’s unrealistic to expect a fast internet connection if you’re sticking with the same laptop for years.
5. ISP Throttling
It’s an open secret that some ISPs limit your bandwidth to cater to more users at peak periods. Some ISPs may also throttle internet connection when users are found to be downloading via P2P software. There’s very little you can do to bypass ISP throttling, except using a good VPN.
Does a VPN slow down the internet speed? Well, some do. If you’re using one of the lesser-known or “free” VPNs, you may find that it’s quite impossible to have a decent streaming experience.
How Does a VPN Affect Internet Speed?
A VPN works by encrypting an internet connection and routing data packets from a device to a VPN server before entering the internet network. Both processes are added steps to how a device usually connects and passes data on the internet.
Therefore, when wondering does a VPN slow down internet speed, it is natural to expect a certain degree of latency, which varies on the types of encryption, protocol, and server technologies. Encrypting data with AES-256 takes longer than the same process with AES-128 or simpler, but less secure, encryption algorithms.
VPN speed is also affected by the server’s distance that you’re connected to. If you’re in the US, connecting to a New York server will get you better speed than one in Melbourne. However, you’re unlikely to notice the differences on premium VPNs, as they are optimized for speed and security.
Premium VPNs are built to strike a balance between speed and security. Most of such VPNs use OpenVPN, a protocol that’s proven to be secure while ensuring low-latency data transfer. Top VPN providers also ensure an adequate number of servers in cities that have more users.
Best VPNs for Internet Speed
With 160 locations in over 94 countries, ExpressVPN boasts unparalleled speed across its servers. You’ll get an uninterrupted streaming experience on top of top-notch security from this leading VPN based in the British Virgin Islands. Only a minor increase in latency is observed when connecting to servers that are far from the origin point.
2. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield billed itself as the “world’s fastest VPN” and it lives up to the reputation. Rather than using the de-facto OpenVPN protocol, it uses its proprietary Catapult Hydra, which promises faster server connection. You’ll be able to game, stream and download with ease when connected to Hotspot Shield.
NordVPN is an unmistakable name in the VPN industry and for good reasons. Besides offering military-grade security, it’s also one of the fastest VPNs around. You’ll barely notice that you’re connected to a third-party server at all as you enjoy HD-quality streams with the Panama-based VPN.
4. Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access boasts 23,652+ servers in 77 countries, a formidable network to ensure decent VPN speed for users around the world. Not only does it grant you a low-latency connection, but Private Internet Access is also effective to bypass ISP throttling.
ClearVPN is an industry newcomer with a different take on a VPN. It's an intuitive app with a personalized VPN to accommodate different types of users. The app also assures a fast connection when browsing or streaming on the Internet. It’s also one of the few VPNs that allow access to content like Netflix and Disney+.
So, does VPN slow down the internet? Not if you’re using our recommended ones.