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Top VPN – 'virtual private network' for Use



The best VPN – short for 'virtual private network' – is software traditionally used to help keep you anonymous online and virtually change your location. As they've become more well-known, though, countless users are discovering there's much more to VPNs than just staying private online.

From securing your sensitive information and avoiding trackers to circumventing content blocks on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and sports streaming sites, you don't have to be a hardcore techy to appreciate their potential. Plus, the top providers have apps for just about any device, so even if you're mobile-first or use your PlayStation for everything, you can stay secure and stream more with ease.

The only difficulty is choosing the best VPN for the job – and we're here to help you find a balance between speed, streaming, security and, of course, value for money.
What is a VPN?

The primary function of VPNs is to encrypt and anonymize anything and everything you do online by rerouting your traffic through its own secure servers and hiding it from your ISP. Good security credentials and proper logging practice should be at the top of your list.

Many people also use VPNs for unblocking websites on restricted networks like schools and workplaces, while others use them to avoid government censorship in countries like China. For this, you'll want to make sure you've got plenty of servers to choose from, dotted around the globe.

However, one of the most popular uses for the best VPN is to access geo-blocked streaming content on sites like Netflix, and to watch live sports for cheap, or even for free, by changing your location. If you're a big streamer, you'll want to ensure your chosen VPN will be able to access every streaming site you need, as well as making sure connection speeds are up to scratch.
What is the best VPN available today?

The competition to be crowned best VPN gets tougher every day, but there's still a clear winner that's head and shoulders above the rest – ExpressVPN.

One of ExpressVPN's main assets is that it's incredibly easy to use on any platform – be it your phone, PC, or even PlayStation and you can enjoy using Warzone VPN. It also performed well in our streaming tests, easily getting around the geo-restrictions of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video – and, because it provides such swift connections, you'll be able to watch in HD or 4K just like usual.

To top it off, you'll also be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee which means you can effectively test-drive the service and its 3,000+ servers for a whole month before you buy – you can find out all the details in our full independent ExpressVPN review.


Just want the best VPN service? Look no further




1. ExpressVPN – hands-down the best VPN available
In our testing, ExpressVPN came out on top in just about every area. Not only does it provide stellar security features, but it's unrivalled when it comes to connection speeds and unblocking streaming content. Its 30-day money-back guarantee lets you trial the service risk-free, and Tom's Guide readers can claim three months free – plus 1 year free of backup software Backblaze.




2. NordVPN – big name offers serious security
Arguably the biggest name in the VPN industry, it's quite likely you'll have heard of NordVPN. Thankfully it's not all hot air, as Nord delivers a premium service that's hugely secure and great for streaming – and at just $3.30 a month plus three months free, it's decent value




3. Surfshark – best-value VPN on the market
If you're after a premium service for as little money as possible, Surfshark is perfect. With top streaming performance and intuitive apps on just about every device, it's the best VPN on a budget at just $2.49 a month – and its unlimited connections policy will cover all your devices.

The best VPN services today at a glance

ExpressVPN – Excellent privacy, streaming and simplicity make ExpressVPN the best VPN today 

NordVPN – Impressive security features that can rival the very best VPN services

Surfshark – The best VPN if you're looking for premium performance on a budget

Hotspot Shield – If you're after a superfast, no-frills service, Hotspot Shield is a good choice

CyberGhost – Some of the best VPN features when it comes to streaming, but can't unblock everything

Private Internet Access – Great features like port forwarding make for one of the best VPNs for P2P

IPVanish – Unlimited connections and cheap short plans make for a very flexible service

VyprVPN – Chameleon protocol makes this one of the best VPN services for using in China

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Best VPN FAQ
How do I choose the best VPN service?



Choosing the best VPN for can be a tricky process – that's why we've put together this comprehensive guide. However, for most people, we'd recommend our #1 VPN ExpressVPN as the best choice.

It works great as a Netflix VPN, a torrenting VPN, and even a China VPN, so whatever you need your VPN to do, it's got you covered – all the while keeping you protected with its rock-solid encryption.



When testing VPNs, we check every aspect that might be of concern. To begin with, we look at what personal details a service needs, and any essential features like encryption. Then we consider pricing, and whether money-back guarantees are on offer, and whether it works on other operating systems as a Mac VPN or Linux VPN as well as on Windows.

During the physical testing, we test speeds over a number of servers, check for DNS leaks, test kill switch functionality plus any and all other additional features, and measure connection time and if the apps crash.

Finally, we review how easy the apps are to use, and test the services on desktop and mobile devices. 
Is it illegal to have a VPN?



Short answer – no.

Using a VPN is not illegal, and it's perfectly legitimate to want to protect your data and activity. Having one on your computer and using it regularly in pursuit of watertight web security and location spoofing is in no way unlawful.

However, using a VPN to hide illegal activity doesn't make you above the law, so downloading copyrighted material is still illegal even with a VPN. Similarly, using a VPN goes slap bang against Netflix's Ts&Cs, and the provider has the right to terminate your subscription if they catch you – although that's never actually happened.

Countries like China and the UAE have made laws against VPN use, but due to their use in business it's impossible to outlaw VPNs outright. However, in those cases it's well worth reading up on what you may or may not be permitted to use a VPN for, and consider if the very small risk is worth taking.
What are the VPN dos and don'ts?



The best VPN can make it look like you're located somewhere you're not. It's a well-worn practice to evade online censorship, as is done in some countries, or to tap into US streaming services while in Europe or Asia. We've used VPNs to read the New York morning paper in Beijing, and watch US TV in London.

But there are some caveats. A VPN will give you more privacy, but not more security. If you end up on a website harboring malware, the VPN can't prevent you from being infected. 

If you just want to evade geographical restrictions on streaming content such as BBC iPlayer or Hulu, you don't necessarily need a VPN to do so. You just need a proxy service that will make it look like you're in the right country. There are many free proxy services available, but do your homework before choosing one – some are a bit dodgy.

Finally, Netflix and the BBC are cracking down on VPNs and proxy services. There are no guarantees that a particular service will evade geographical restrictions on a particular day.
What makes a great VPN?



The most basic qualities you should look for are speed, privacy and ease of use. These might seem like basic attributes, but in reality few providers have found a happy medium.

Connection speed relies on having a wide range of well-maintained servers. This allows the VPN to provide excellent speed and bandwidth to everyone using its servers. 

Having excellent security is a fairly basic requirement, but hard to get right. If you're concerned about that, make sure your VPN has an airtight privacy policy, and a no-logging policy is even better. Some services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have also been independently audited to prove their claims.

Finally, although many users might be au fait with tech, more and more newbies are looking to start using VPNs. If that's you, it's definitely worth making sure that your provider has well-designed apps on all the devices you expect to use with the service. 
Are no-fee VPNs any good?



Naturally, free services are very popular products because everyone likes to save their money. And, they can be handy bits of software if you're not somebody that's likely to keep their VPN turned on all the time and just want it for occasional use for staying safe on public Wi-Fi. Oh, and if you don't mind ads...

For most people, though, free services provide a false economy. They tend to have limited servers in just a handful of locations, often restrict you to a single device and almost always have a limit on the amount data you can use per day or month.

Those data limits rule out using your VPN for streaming or torrenting, and if you want to keep your VPN running 24/7 for a permanent privacy layer, a no-fee VPN just isn't going to work.
What VPN protocols are there?



There are several different VPN protocols, not all of which are used by all of the VPN services we reviewed. Most operating systems have built-in support for at least one of these protocols, which means you can use that protocol – and a willing VPN service – without client software. The full-fledged VPN services have online instructions for how to do this, as well as how to set up routers to connect directly to the services.

OpenVPN: OpenVPN is very secure, open-source and widely used. Most VPN services support it, but except for Chrome OS and Linux, few operating systems do. This protocol can be used in either TCP (web) or UDP (streaming) mode; the latter is sloppier but faster. You'll need either the VPN service's client software or one of the many free alternatives. Either way, you'll still need to pay for the VPN service.

L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security): L2TP is not secure itself, so it's generally paired with the IPsec secure-networking standard. The combination of the two was once thought to be very secure when properly implemented, but some VPN services suggest that you use OpenVPN instead. L2TP/IPsec has native support in Windows, OS X/macOS, Android, Chrome OS and iOS. Most VPN services support it.

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2, generally with IPsec): This is a new-ish standard that is very secure when properly implemented. It has native support in Windows, iOS and recent versions of OS X/macOS.

SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol): SSTP is a Microsoft protocol with native support on Windows Vista and later versions. It's thought to be quite secure, but only Microsoft knows for sure.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol): This standard is largely obsolete, with many known security flaws, but it's fast. It has native support built into Windows, Android and older versions of Mac OS X and iOS; Apple dropped support with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. Use PPTP only for streaming content, as it won't protect your data.

WireGuard: The newest of these protocols, WireGuard combines reportedly excellent security with great speeds. Developed from the ground up, it uses far less code than its predecessors, meaning a better, simpler user experience. However, it's not yet supported by many VPN services, although as it gains traction more and more are beginning to implement it. Some, like Mozilla VPN, solely use WireGuard.