Best VPNs for Windows

Our experts tested out dozens of VPNs to find which ones worked best on Windows

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 28, 2020

A few years ago when we met up in a coffee shop on a Sunday to get a little work done, we sat down, connected to the Internet on our computers, and realized that we had no idea how secure the connection would be. While Mac computers enjoy built-in security and have a reputation of being, “virus-proof”, Windows computers don’t enjoy that luxury. That’s why when we use our Windows Vivobooks on the go, it’s essential to connect to a VPN to protect our browsing history and allow access to sites that are geographically blocked. It’s true that even with all of the selection of VPNs out there, they’re not one size fits all. That’s why we took the time to find the best VPN for every Windows user and price point.

Our Top Picks

Best VPN for Windows Overall

IPVanish

Editor's Rating
9.0
/10
An ultra-fast VPN with strong encryption policies and up to 10 simultaneous connections, we were huge fans of how IPVanish performed on Windows. Couple high performance levels with stellar customer service and we have a perfect combo for Windows users.

Best Windows VPN for Chrome

ExpressVPN

Editor's Rating
9.5
/10
With very high speeds, split tunneling, and a robust policy in terms of logging, we enjoyed everything ExpressVPN had to offer. A highlight was the ability to access both public and private networks at the same time. On top of all of this, ExpressVPN has excellent apps for iOS and Android devices, plus Netflix access worldwide.

We take Internet security incredibly seriously. Even though VPNs don’t keep you entirely anonymous when searching online,1 because sites may be able to use any identifying information you directly share with them to track you, like your email address, they’re crucial for a robust personal digital security portfolio. That’s why we put each VPN through a rigorous testing process on macOS and Windows to connect each service to its best use case. For us, speed and security are the names of the game, because if your VPN isn’t fast and it doesn’t keep your browsing secure, then what’s the point?

Although the product itself is the most important determining factor of our recommendations, we also take the company that delivers it into account. We try to ask the important questions, like, what government regulations are the company bound by, and did they have any recent security breaches? With all of this information, we’re happy to say that IPVanish is the best VPN for Windows users.

Did You Know: Online retailers like Amazon provide different goods depending on what country you are in! So if you’re traveling abroad but need to place an order, if you use a VPN server in your home country, you’ll be able to access all of your usual items.

Best VPNs for Windows in 2020

The Best VPN for Windows Compared

VPNIPVanishExpressVPNNordVPNPrivate Internet AccessWindscribe
Overall Ranking1st2nd3rd4th5th
Ratings9/109.4/109.5/108.9/108.7/10
Minimum Monthly Cost$4.12$8.32$2.99$2.91Free
Money-Back Guarantee (in days)7303073
Contract Length (in months)1 – 121 – 121 – 361 – 241 – 12
Split TunnelingYesYesNoYesYes
NetflixYesYesYesNoUS & UK Only
TorrentingYesYesYesYesYes
IP AddressesDynamicDynamicDynamic, shared or dedicatedDynamicStatic, shared
Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes MemberNoNoNoYesYes
ReviewIPVanish ReviewExpressVPN ReviewNordVPN ReviewPrivate Internet Access ReviewWindscribe Review

FYI: If protecting yourself on your computer is the goal, some of the biggest risks come from connecting to public networks from your mobile device! Make sure that any VPN you select has a highly-rated mobile option.

A Deep Dive on the Best VPNs for Windows

  • 1. IPVanish - Best VPN for Windows Overall

    Editor's Rating
    9.0
    /10

    IPVanish exceeded our expectations on the Windows tests. They boast strong encryption methods, split tunneling, and fast download speeds, allowing us to work and stream music without a problem. What really separated IPVanish from the pack is its fantastic customer service. While most VPN options only offer live chat or email support, IPVanish offers 24/7 support over email, phone, or live chat, impressive additions.

    What we like
    • Up to 10 simultaneous connections
    • Fast download speeds
    • Split tunneling
    • Torrenting
    What we don’t like
    • Based in the US
    • Does not work with Netflix
    • History of sharing customer logs with authorities
    • High-quality iOS and Android apps

    Fantastic Customer Support

    If there was a “Best VPN for Customer Support” category, IPVanish would have won that section as well. With a 24/7 live chat, a deep FAQ section, and a phone line for direct calls, IPVanish separates themselves from the pack of VPNs. The responses to our request came in around five minutes and it’s safe to say that we were very impressed.

    IPVanish Data Logging Policy
    IPVanish Data Logging Policy

    Kill Switch

    Kill switches are one of the most essential aspects of a VPN. When our VPN failed while we were connected to the WiFi on the subway platform, our search windows closed, saving our IP address and web activity from exposure. IPVanish goes one step further by allowing us to choose when to turn the kill switch on and off, just in case we were working on or downloading something and can’t afford to lose connection. That came in handy when we were rushing to download a movie before a plane ride, because we do not want to get stuck reading Sky Mall for the thousandth time.

    Remote Servers

    IPVanish boasts some of the most remote servers in the VPN world, and in places where they can’t support their own hardware, they actually rent server space, expanding their reach even further. So, if you ever wanted to know what it was like to search the web out of Albania, now is your chance.

  • 2. ExpressVPN- Best Windows VPN for Chrome

    Editor's Rating
    9.5
    /10

    ExpressVPN works incredibly well across Windows, Macs, PCs, Androids, and iPhones, making it one of the most versatile VPNs on our list. As millennials with quite a few devices that run on more than one operating system, this versatility makes ExpressVPN an ideal VPN option for us. With fast speeds and the ability to connect to public and private networks simultaneously, ExpressVPN is one of our favorite VPNs for Windows.

    What we like
    • Based in the British Virgin Islands
    • Access to Netflix
    • Great app ratings
    • Torrenting
    What we don’t like
    • No multi-hop option
    • Only five simultaneous connections
    • Slower Mac speeds
    • No Internet Explorer browser extension

    Elite Personal Data Security

    ExpressVPN checks both of our boxes when it comes to personal data security. First, they have an incredibly strict logging policy, which means they only recorded the most basic information about our use. ExpressVPN does not track location, browsing history, the content of uploads, downloads, or any other user data. All ExpressVPN knows is the app and version we used, the time of day we used their VPN, the server we connected to, and how much data we transferred. On top of that, as a company based out of the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is not subjected to any data retention laws.

    ExpressVPN Kill Switch
    ExpressVPN Kill Switch

    OpenVPN

    OpenVPN is, arguably, the best VPN software on the market. Its code is crowdsourced and updated almost constantly to avoid infiltration and degradation. OpenVPN is ExpressVPN’s default, and although this required us to download a separate third-party software, the security, speed, and performance were well worth the time!

    Split Tunneling

    Accessing both public and private networks simultaneously typically means switching off our VPN, but not with ExpressVPN. The split tunneling functionality of ExpressVPN allowed us to stay protected through the private network and access the public network at once, a super convenient function. Anything that saves us a few extra clicks will always get a VPN a few brownie points!

  • 3. NordVPN- Best Windows VPN for Added Security

    Editor's Rating
    9.4
    /10

    As one of the world’s most popular VPNs, we had high expectations for NordVPN and it did not disappoint. NordVPN performed extraordinarily well in our speed tests and allowed us to do just about everything a VPN should. From Netflix streaming to torrenting, we did it all with little to no slowdowns in speed. NordVPN is also based in Panama, meaning the company is under no legal obligation to hand over our data to the government if the authorities ask.

    What we like
    • Not subject to international surveillance alliances
    • Multi-country Netflix access
    • High app ratings
    • Low prices
    What we don’t like
    • No split tunneling
    • Kill switch doesn’t always work on macOS
    • Static IP addresses
    • Sub-par customer support

    Robust Encryption

    NordVPN is unique in that it uses a double VPN. A double VPN means that our web traffic was encrypted twice through multiple servers, and although this isn’t necessary to have a secure connection, it speaks to NordVPN’s commitment to providing an ultra-secure product. This encryption package is perfect for folks who work in areas with high levels of surveillance, like activism or journalism, or folks who are really concerned with their privacy.

    NordVPN Support
    NordVPN Support

    Netflix Access

    NordVPN made it easy to access Netflix across all of its apps and all of our devices. Happily, Netflix works from NordVPN’s servers in the U.S, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. We accessed awesome content that was otherwise blocked while just searching on our standard connection!

    Strict Logging Policy

    We loved NordVPN’s commitment to not logging or collecting our web activity data. They flat out refuse to collect IP addresses, servers used, websites visited and the files we downloaded. And thankfully, they’re based in Panama and are not subject to any of the international surveillance alliances (Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes), meaning our data was safe with them.

  • 4. Private Internet Access - Best Mobile App VPN for Windows

    Editor's Rating
    8.9
    /10

    Well, it’s all in the name! With solid apps on iOS and Android devices plus blistering speeds on Windows, we thought Private Internet Access’ service was absolutely stellar. Although they are based out of Denver, Colorado, and subject to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes,2 we were confident in trusting our information with Private Internet Access due to their logging policy. Most importantly, Private Internet Access was extremely customizable, allowing us to choose exactly how our security protocols functioned.

    What we like
    • Strict logging policy
    • Netflix access
    • Fast on Windows
    • Kill switch
    What we don’t like
    • Member to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes
    • Slower on Mac
    • Less than stellar customer support
    • No split tunneling

    Dynamic IP Addresses

    Every time we connected to Private Internet Access, they gave us a new IP address. That was preferable to a static IP address, as it makes it harder to track and shore up our privacy online. While there is no surefire way to completely protect ourselves against hackers and other cybercriminals, access to a dynamic IP address is a leg up in the fight to protect our data.

    Connecting to Private Internet Access
    Connecting to Private Internet Access

    Encryption Options

    Private Internet Access is one of the few VPNs that allows users to choose their encryption methods, authentication modes, and handshakes. By allowing customization of how the VPN actually works, Private Internet Access lets us choose the best method for us depending on our needs at the time. With four customization options, default, speed, security, and no authentication at all, we shaped our VPN encryption depending on our activity. We recommend using the speed option for streaming and the security option for any downloads!

    Exceptional App Reviews

    Mobile security is often overlooked, but it’s arguably the most important aspect of a robust personal online security package. Having highly-rated apps is a terrific way for VPN providers to separate themselves from the pack, and Private Internet Access does just that. With remarkable ratings on both their Android and iOS app, you can trust Private Internet Access to protect you on the go.

  • 5. Windscribe - Best Free VPN for Windows

    Editor's Rating
    8.7
    /10

    Windscribe is an interesting and rare type of VPN that provides multi-hop encryption. This means that our web traffic was encrypted at least twice while we were searching online. Windscribe performed surprisingly well during our Windows tests, and there’s a free option for users in the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, and other countries. Although Netflix is only available on servers in the U.S. and U.K., Windscribe is still a superb VPN with lots of optionalities.

    What we like
    • Multi-hop encryption
    • Free subscriptions in certain countries
    • Fast on Windows
    • High app ratings
    What we don’t like
    • Subpar speed on Macs
    • Limited Netflix accessibility
    • Looser than normal logging policy
    • Member to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes

    Free Options

    Although it is limited by which servers you connect to, Windscribe has a robust free option that worked really well for all of our needs. As long as we connected to servers in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Romania, Norway, Switzerland, or Hong Kong, we were clear to use Widscribe without paying a dime! Starting at $4.08 per month for an annual subscription, we could add an additional 40 countries’ servers. A quality product at a bargain price; we couldn’t ask for much more.

    Windscribe App
    Windscribe App

    Double-hop Encryption

    We can’t talk enough about how important the added encryption capabilities of Windscribe are. With a double VPN, our real IP address was masked twice instead of just once, giving us peace of mind from all potential security breaches.

    Bonus Features

    For only $9 per month (we got the monthly instead of the annual deal), we received a slew of other helpful digital security features, including an ad tracker and a malware blocker. Not only that, but we also got unlimited data usage and the ability to configure our IP generator to our needs.

Methodology

Below we’ve run down the metrics we use to evaluate each individual VPN. That way, everyone will be able to understand exactly what we were looking for in a VPN and why our ratings landed where they did. We begin our testing process with a deep dive on each VPN’s features, looking specifically for things like how well our IP addresses are masked, if the VPN has 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), whether or not the VPN is logging our data, and more. If the VPN checks the standard boxes that we believe that every VPN should, we then run it through our speed and security tests.

Speed

NordVPN Speed Test Brussles
NordVPN Speed Test Brussles

Our first step is always testing the speed of each VPN. We test all of our VPNs on the private Optimum network at our office in Brooklyn. We use our Internet speed without any VPN activated to serve as the control, and we only connect one device at a time before testing. We test all of our VPNs on two different machines and operating systems to make sure we cover more of our readers. For these tests specifically, we used a Macbook Air and a Windows Vivobook on the website SpeedTest.net. On Speedtest.net, we tested each VPN’s download speed, upload speed, and ping (latency). First, we performed the tests with the VPN, and then immediately without. Download and upload speeds are measured in Mbps or megabits per second while latency is simply measured in milliseconds. After we record the speeds of each, we identify the differences in terms of a percentage as Macs and Windows computers have naturally different connection speeds.

We understand that there are a lot of factors that impact a speed test: the operating system, device type, and even distance to the server, but we need to make sure that the speed tests have no more than a 40 percent difference in any of our categories with the VPN turned on and off.

Security

The key feature and reason to use a VPN is to protect web traffic, specifically, to protect our web search history and IP addresses. In a nutshell, we needed to know that our private IP addresses weren’t being leaked with the VPN on. IP addresses are typically leaked due to a default feature of most browsers (Chrome, Edge, and Opera) called WebRTC, which allows browsers to communicate directly with each other.

ExpressVPN DNS Leak Test
ExpressVPN DNS Leak Test

We test for DNS leaks through DNSLeakTest.com. We compare the IP addresses of our computer to the IP addresses provided on the website and use that to determine if there was a DNS leak while using the VPN or not. We then test for WebRTC leaks by leveraging a tool on ExpressVPN’s website. Similarly, we use a tactic where we look at the local and Public IPv4 IP addresses to discover any potential WebRTC leaks.

Next, we concentrate on the company’s privacy jurisdiction and data logging policies. Geographically speaking, it matters a lot where the company is headquartered. Their location determines what international surveillance alliances they are a part of. These alliances are called Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes and compel companies to hand over customer data to the government if there was a legal reason to do so. In a perfect world, the VPN company would not be based in a country subjected to these agreements, but if they are, we prefer that they keep only essential data from their customers. Ideally, companies would only retain account information like names, emails, and payment info. There’s really no reason why a VPN provider should retain any additional information related to users’ web history or private IP address; that defeats the point of having a VPN in the first place!

Our reviews also dive into each VPN’s encryption methods and Internet protocols to be sure that they meet industry standards. The gold standard is VPNs with AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN, the most secure encryption methods out there.

Finally, we check to see if the company offers unique or completely anonymous IP addresses to decrease the likelihood of any potential tracking. If a VPN provider offers dynamic IP addresses, they will essentially shuffle the IP address deck each time we log in. This makes it extremely difficult to track our Internet history, which we prefer. The opposite of that is a static IP address, meaning the IP addresses don’t change and are thus less desirable. Another integral feature which we always make sure to check on is a kill switch, which will close out Internet browsers if the VPN fails.

Torrenting and Netflix

A huge benefit of getting a VPN is using it to stream, watch, or otherwise access media like movies and television. That’s why we pay close attention to VPNs that allow access to torrenting and Netflix. However, the Netflix portion proves to be a little more challenging as Netflix is constantly updating their code to block VPNs, so we can’t guarantee that it will always work.

Split Tunneling and Multi-Hop Encryption

NordVPN Android Split Tunnel
NordVPN Android Split Tunnel

Another key aspect of VPN specs is split tunneling. This capability allows us to use both the VPN and a public network simultaneously. Lower bandwidth creates faster browsing and streaming speeds. It’s even better if the VPN is double or multi-hop, as the software encrypts data multiple times through multiple servers.

Subscriptions

At the end of the day, the cost can make or break a purchasing decision. That’s why we give our readers straightforward cost information while leveraging our expertise in digital security to decide whether or not the price is reasonable or worthwhile. Some VPNs are very cost-effective, costing under $1 a month with long-term commitments, while others can be as pricey as $15 per month. We’re especially receptive to companies with high levels of flexibility in their pricing packages, like a month-to-month price point, or a longer-term subscription for a cheaper monthly rate. It’s even better if the VPN has a free trial period or a money-back guarantee. Finally, we run through and explicitly spell out what a subscription actually entails from the number of server switchers to the number of devices we can run on the service at once.

IPVanish Customer Support
IPVanish Customer Support

Customer Support

Nothing is more frustrating than a fantastic product with suboptimal customer support should something go wrong. That’s why we test the capabilities of each VPN company’s support system to ensure that they are easy to contact. Typically, VPN providers offer a live chat feature as well as an online help center or FAQ section. If they do offer a phone line (how retro), we view it as a huge plus. Not many VPN companies spring for that sort of support.

App

Last but certainly not least, we review the mobile apps for both iPhones and Androids, taking into consideration our user experience as well as the app store ratings. An app store rating below three stars disqualifies an app from being recommended to our readers. For the best VPNs for Windows, we took into account the Windows apps, as well.

Private Internet Access App
Private Internet Access App

FAQs About Windows VPNs

  • How do I use a VPN on my PC?

    First, you download the VPN onto your PC, click through to the opening screen, log in and turn the VPN on; it’s really that easy! If you want an even easier option, change the presets on the VPN to activate automatically upon opening your PC.

  • What is the best free VPN for Windows?

    According to our research, the best free VPN for Windows is Windscribe. There are many free options for a VPN, but Windscribe fits the use case for Windows perfectly. We still recommend going for a paid option as it gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of the number of servers to use, access to customer service, and customizable security options.

  • Does Windows 10 have a built-in VPN?

    Windows comes with the built-in function to serve as a VPN server, at no additional charge. This is possible by using the point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP); however, it can be really difficult to set up if you’re not too tech-savvy.

  • Should I use a VPN on my PC all the time?

    Yes, you should keep your VPN on at all times, but especially when you are using the Internet on public networks. This will help to keep you safe from hackers, data breaches, leaks, and targeted sellers. VPNs also encrypt or obscure your web traffic and keep your data private from cybercriminals and third parties.

Citations
  1. Federal Trade Commission. (2020). Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps.
    consumer.ftc.gov/articles/virtual-private-network-vpn-apps

  2. Reuters. (2019). ‘Five Eyes' security alliance calls for access to encrypted material.
    reuters.com/article/us-security-fiveeyes-britain/five-eyes-security-alliance-calls-for-access-to-encrypted-material-idUSKCN1UP199