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Does a VPN Slow Down Your Internet? Let‘s Take a Closer Look

If you‘re concerned about online privacy, you may be considering signing up for a virtual private network (VPN). But you might have some concerns about how using a VPN could potentially slow down your internet connection.

I know you don‘t want to sacrifice speed for privacy and security. The good news is, while VPNs can impact your speeds, there are many ways to optimize your experience so you can enjoy strong encryption without lag.

In this detailed guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about VPNs and internet speeds, including:

  • How exactly a VPN can slow down your connection
  • Tips for improving speed issues
  • How to test and troubleshoot your VPN’s impact on speed
  • Power user techniques for maximizing VPN performance
  • Which VPN providers offer the fastest speeds

Let’s dig in…

How VPNs Affect Your Speeds

First, a quick refresher on what a VPN actually does. VPNs work by creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and a remote server operated by the VPN provider. All your online traffic is routed through this tunnel, hiding your identity and activity from your network and others.

This rerouting does add some overhead that can slow down your connection. According to a 2020 survey by VPN provider Atlas VPN, 83% of respondents reported speed reductions when connected to a VPN.

The degree of slowdown depends on these key factors:

Distance to server – Longer distances mean higher latency. Selecting a server near you helps lower latency. Regional servers can be up to 3x faster.

VPN protocol – OpenVPN provides excellent security but lower speeds. WireGuard balances security and speed.

Encryption strength – Heavier 256-bit encryption has more overhead than 128-bit.

VPN traffic congestion – High loads on a VPN server will throttle individual speeds.

ISP connection quality – Issues like network congestion or throttling by your ISP hampers VPN performance.

VPN apps – Some apps are more efficient than others. Native apps tend to be faster.

Protocol Speed Security Uses
OpenVPN Slower Stronger Torrenting, streaming
WireGuard Faster Good General browsing, gaming
IKEv2 Balanced Strong Mobile devices, P2P

According to a 2021 study by nPerf and Dewesoft, the average VPN download speed is 65.93 Mbps globally. That’s about 23% slower than the average non-VPN speed of 85.67 Mbps.

So what does this mean for your web browsing and streaming experience? Let‘s look at some ways to optimize your speeds.

Tips to Boost Your VPN Speeds

Just because you use a VPN doesn’t mean you have to put up with slow internet. There are many techniques you can use to maximize your VPN performance:

Use wired connections when possible – Wi-Fi is prone to interference. Wired Ethernet provides faster and more reliable speeds.

Change your VPN server – Connecting to a server that‘s geographically closer to you will provide lower latency.

Use speed-focused protocols – Try protocols like WireGuard or IKEv2 to balance speed and security.

Adjust encryption strength – If permitted by your VPN, use lighter 128-bit AES encryption for activities like streaming.

Activate split tunneling – Route only your browser traffic through the VPN tunnel while allowing other apps to bypass it.

Reduce VPN app background activity – Disable auto-launch on bootup and limit notifications to improve resource utilization.

Use antivirus exclusions – Add your VPN app folders to antivirus/firewall software exclusions to prevent conflicts.

Update device and router firmware – Firmware upgrades often improve connectivity and performance. Keep them up-to-date.

Test different VPN providers – Each VPN offers different global server networks and speeds. Finding one that works for your connection is key.

Check ISP speeds and troubleshoot – Your ISP speeds set the upper limit for your VPN performance. Verify your plan is delivering promised speeds.

Reboot everything – Simple reboots of your modem, router and device can clear out speed-sapping glitches.

By tweaking these areas, you can maximize your VPN speeds to minimize negative impacts. But to measure the effects accurately, you need to test…

How to Test Your VPN’s Impact on Speed

The best way to gauge your VPN’s speed impact is by using online speed tests when connected and disconnected from the VPN:

  1. Connect to your desired VPN server and make sure you are connected.
  2. Go to a speed testing site like or Run a test and note the results.
  3. Now disconnect from your VPN and immediately re-run the speed test.
  4. Compare the two speed tests side-by-side. Calculate the percentage difference in speeds.
  5. Repeat this process a few times to identify average variances in your speeds.

I recommend testing different VPN protocols and server locations to see which provides the fastest speeds for your particular ISP and network setup.

Don’t just focus on download speeds though. High latency can severely impact your experience even if downloads are reasonably quick. Try to find configurations that minimize latency.

Advanced Tips for Power Users

If you really want to fine tune your VPN for maximum speed, here are a few advanced tricks:

Lower MTU value – Try reducing your VPN connection‘s MTU size to1400 vs standard 1500 to optimize throughput.

Enable TCP optimizations – Options like TCP Fast Open and BBR can accelerate VPN traffic.

DNS configuration – Use DNS servers like Cloudflare or Google for faster name lookups.

Change VPN ports – Switch to port 443 vs standard 1194 for better stability and speed.

Limit QoS bandwidth – Restrict bandwidth for other devices on your network so your system gets priority.

Check VPN server loads – Try connecting at off-peak hours when VPN servers are less congested.

Test paid plans – Paid VPN plans often have speed advantages over free ones due to better resourcing.

Use gaming-optimized VPNs – Some VPNs like ExitLag optimize routing for speed sensitive applications like online games.

With the right combination of tools and techniques, you can maximize your VPN privacy without sacrificing the speed and snappiness of your internet experience.

Fastest VPNs To Consider

If you’ve fully optimized your VPN setup but are still seeing slow speeds, switching providers could help. Here are some of the fastest VPNs available:

VPN Provider Speed Rating Details
ExpressVPN Very Fast Optimized global network, top speeds for streaming
NordVPN Very Fast Specialty servers for speed sensitive tasks
Hotspot Shield Fast Caters to streaming with speed focused configuration
CyberGhost Fast 7000+ servers provide good speeds
Private Internet Access Balanced Average speeds but helpful tools for optimization

I suggest giving some of these highly rated services a test if you’re still struggling with sluggish speeds. They offer free trials to assess performance.

The Bottom Line

While VPNs can impact your internet performance, there are many ways to optimize your speeds:

  • Choose nearby VPN servers to lower latency
  • Use protocols like WireGuard for better throughput
  • Tweak advanced settings like MTU values and ports
  • Test different VPN providers to find one that works best with your ISP

By measuring the impact with speed tests and applying fixes, you can enjoy the privacy of a VPN without sacrificing speed. A slight reduction in performance is worth it for greater online protection.

Hopefully this guide has given you lots of tips to boost your VPN speeds. Please let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to help you find the fastest, most private VPN solution.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.