With a market share of more than 75 percent (as of January 2019), Windows is no doubt the most widely used operating system for accessing the Internet. That translates to roughly 1.5 billion users from around the world. Unfortunately, this also makes them a prime target for all manner of cybersecurity attacks like Phishing and Malware to more sophisticated ones such as DOS (Denial of Service) attacks and SQL injection.
Surprisingly, most people that use Windows computers are not even aware of the threat. This puts them at risk of getting their sensitive information stolen by unscrupulous third-parties. If that sounds a lot like you, then you may want to consider getting a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service to hide your online activities from prying eyes as well as bypass censorships that would normally restrict what you can and cannot do over the Internet.
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Why You Should Use a Windows VPN?
Using a VPN service on a Windows computer provides added privacy and protection on top of any antimalware/antivirus software you have installed on your device. VPNs work by encrypting all data sent from your computer with Internet security protocols like L2TP, IPSec, and AES 256-bit encryption. As a result, it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for unscrupulous individuals and organizations to intercept and steal sensitive information from your computer.
Another good reason to use a Windows VPN is that it routes all data coming in and out of your device to an external VPN server. This allows you to spoof the IP address of your computer such that neither your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or the website you’re visiting know the real IP address and location of your Windows Computer. The same feature also allows you to defeat censorships and access content that is normally unavailable from your location.
Characteristics of a Good Windows VPN
Now that we have established the significance of using a VPN service on your Windows computer, you might be wondering – how do you choose the right one? Like any other service provider, some VPN companies do a better job than others and offer more value for your money.
Here are a few characteristics that most successful VPN companies have in common:
- User-friendly and frequently updated VPN client. A VPN service is only as good as the software that they provide to users who want to connect to their VPN network
- No selling and zero logging data policy; you’d want to choose a VPN service that you can trust not to hand over your information to third-parties
- Reliable customer support may it be through phone, email or live chat
- Offers fast server speeds and a variety of server locations.
- Use of strong data encryption protocols such as AES-256 which is widely used by banks and the military
- Transparent and affordable pricing (no hidden fees) and a free trial period or money-back guarantee
- Unlimited bandwidth especially if you are to rely on your VPN to handle high data applications such as video streaming and torrenting
No clue where to find a VPN service provider that has most (if not all) of the characteristics mentioned above? Not to worry for we have you covered with a few recommendations on some of the top Windows VPNs on the market today as well as their respective pros and cons. Such information ought to prove useful in helping you choose the right VPN service for your Windows computer.
VyprVPN is a privately-owned VPN company based in Switzerland and comprised of a decent network of more than 700 VPN servers spread across 70+ server locations around the world. While their VPN network is not as extensive as others, the company is notable in that its’ one of the few VPN services to submit to a public audit of their zero logging policy. Hence users can trust their claim of not logging user information or engaging in any illicit practices such as selling user data to interested third-parties.
In terms of usability, VyperVPN’s Windows Client gives you all the information that you need about your VPN connection including your current IP address, location, and your active VPN protocol. There’s also a graph that shows your network activity (download and upload speeds) in real-time. While advanced users would likely appreciate such features, the same may not be true for beginners. At the very least, the windows client is intuitive enough to suggest the most optimal server based on your location (by default) and clicking on the “Connect” button gets you connected right away.
Of course, users can always choose a different server from a preferred region via a list of all available VPN servers sorted alphabetically as well as associated ping times and latency. Users also have the option to add servers to a Favorites list which is accessible from the home screen for easy access.
- Verified zero data logging policy
- Decent 256-bit OpenVPN encryption with proprietary “Chameleon” protocol (scrambles metadata to defeat packet inspection techniques used to detect VPN usage)
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Internet kill switch
- 24/7 live chat and email support
- Works well for accessing geo-blocked content from Netflix
- Free 3-day trial (new users only get charged after the trial period)
- Cheaper than most VPNs starting at $9.95 per month
- “Chunky” and dated-looking user interface that may overwhelm new users
- No money-back guarantee
- Users on networks that do not support OpenVPN are limited to PPTP which is less secure
NordVPN is a VPN company based in Panama with more than 12 million active users from around the world. The latter owns one of the largest VPN networks with more than 5,450 servers scattered across 60 countries. They provide all the bells and whistles that you would expect out of a successful VPN company such as OpenVPN support, DNS leak protection, and a Kill Switch. Some of their more notable features include double VPN protection and TOR support for added security.
As for their Windows client, NordVPN chose to stick with a map-based UI that highlights the various server locations available. The map is dynamic which means that you can drag, spin and zoom over the various locations using your mouse. Hovering the mouse cursor over a location will reveal the server’s name and clicking on it will initiate a VPN connection to said server. Similarly, users can also access a server list from the left side-bar sorted alphabetically by country and city then add them to a Favorites list for easy access
- Good server performance
- Military-grade encryption (AES-256)
- Unlimited bandwidth and no data logging policy
- Works well with Netflix and for accessing geo-blocked content in general
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Double VPN protection (traffic is encrypted and routed through 2 VPN servers) for additional protection
- Map-based UI isn’t very practical. Users have to pan over the map if they want to get to a server from a different region.
- More expensive than most other premium VPNs; prices start at $11.95 per month (cheaper for long-term subscriptions).
Another excellent choice for a VPN service, IPVanish is an American-based VPN company with a decent network of more than 1300 servers spread across 75 server locations from around the world. They have a reputation for providing advanced features like auto server switching and IP cycling which most other VPN companies don’t offer.
As for usability, IPVanish’s Windows client may appear overly complex and could easily overwhelm new users but it’s only because they pack in more features. Like most VPN clients, there’s a Connect/Disconnect button and most of the UI is packed with settings and status panels that provide just about all the information that you need about your VPN connection – the protocol used, connection time, server name, amount of data uploaded/downloaded and more.
- Fast servers with plenty of server locations
- Strong AES-256 encryption
- Good for accessing geo-blocked content
- Support for up to 10 devices so users not only get to protect their Windows computer but also their smartphones as well as other devices in their household.
- 7-day Money-back guarantee
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Offers phone support
- Although IPVanish claims to implement a zero logging policy, there have been recorded cases of them handing their users’ information to Homeland Security as a US-based company
- Slightly more expensive than other VPN services ($10 per month) although prices are cheaper on long-term subscriptions
- No ad-blocking
- Does not work with iPlayer (a premium BBC Internet streaming service)
Hotspot Shield is another US-based VPN service developed by AnchorFree (an Internet Privacy and Security Company) in 2005. Since then, they have grown to become one of the biggest VPN networks with 3,200 servers spread across 29 countries.
As for their Windows Client, Hotspot Shield chose to go with a dark and almost barebones UI that screams simplicity and ease of operation. The Windows app is practically just a big On/Off button. After clicking on the latter, the button shrinks and is then relocated to the top of the page to accommodate several panels that display key information about the status of your VPN connection. This includes your location (and a map), your virtual IP address and data activity (uploads/downloads). Users can change servers by clicking on the location which pops up a list of servers from different countries)
- Fast server performance
- Military-grade AES-256 encryption
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Longer 45-day Money-back guarantee
- Automatic Kill Switch
- Support for up to 5 devices at the same time
- Dedicated Live technical support staff
- Works well with Netflix and unblocking geo-blocked content for most media streaming services
- Because it’s a US-based company, Hotspot Shield is subject to “Five Eyes” jurisdiction which cast serious doubts on their zero logging policy
- Expensive monthly plan ($12.99). Although it’s cheaper if you sign up for a long-term plan
A VPN company based in Canada and has been around since 2011 and have grown to a network of more than 1800 VPN servers spread across 22 countries. TunnelBear is unique in that they have stuck to their iconic “Bear” branding which appeals to both novices and advanced users alike. Much of their popularity stems not only from their cartoonish appeal but also the free trial service that they offer that provide users with up to 500MB data per month (refreshes after 30 days).
As for the Windows client that TunnelBear provides users, it is obvious that they wanted to keep things as simple as possible. The app pops up an illustrated map that marks the different server locations available. While users can pan and drag across the map to find your server of choice, you can also take the more conventional approach by clicking on the location at the top which then shows a list of available servers.
- Unlimited bandwidth and lower cost ($8.99 per month). Even cheaper for users that pay upfront for a long-term plan ($4.99 per month)
- User-friendly interface
- Reliable no-logging policy; no history of violating the privacy of users
- Free plan for new users
- Limited server location options
- No support for multiple devices
- Does not work with Netflix
- No money-back guarantee
If you’re looking for some of the best VPN services on the market today, then you cannot go wrong with the service providers mentioned above. While they have their own strengths and weaknesses, all have their merits and have been in business long enough for their brands to warrant any consideration. At the end of the day, choosing the right VPN for your Windows computer boils down to matching your needs and financial situation with the right VPN company.