Using the internet on a Windows PC exposes your browsing history, downloads, and personal information to your internet service provider, hackers, and government surveillance. The best way to take back control of your privacy is to use a virtual private network (VPN).
After thorough testing, I recommend Surfshark as the top VPN for Windows in 2023. In this guide, I‘ll explain what a VPN is, the benefits of using one on your Windows computer, and how to set up and configure Surfshark VPN for the optimal privacy and security experience on your PC.
What is a VPN?
A virtual private network, or VPN, encrypts your internet connection and routes it through a remote server run by the VPN provider. This hides your IP address, making your online activities anonymous.
Instead of your traffic going directly from your computer to websites you visit, it first goes through an encrypted tunnel to the VPN server. This prevents your internet service provider, government agencies, hackers and websites from tracking your location or spying on what you do online.
VPN services typically have thousands of servers located around the world. Connecting to a server in a different country allows you to access region-restricted content and websites as if you were in that location.
VPN tunnel diagram (Credit: Explain That Stuff)
Popular VPN protocols used to secure the connection include WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. The encrypted VPN tunnel protects your traffic from prying eyes.
Why You Need a VPN on Windows
There are several important reasons to use a VPN on your Windows PC:
Your internet service provider can see every site you visit and file you download if you aren‘t using a VPN. They can legally sell this data to advertisers without your consent. A VPN prevents your ISP from logging your activity and hides your browsing history from the rest of the internet.
Secures Public Wi-Fi
Free public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops, hotels, airports and other locations are often insecure. A VPN protects you from man-in-the-middle attacks that can intercept your data and steal passwords, emails and credit card numbers.
Some internet providers deliberately slow down bandwidth speeds for streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube. A VPN masks what type of traffic you are sending, preventing anti-consumer throttling practices.
Downloading torrents without a VPN exposes your IP address publicly in the swarm. This makes you an easy target for copyright trolls to track. A VPN hides your IP to keep DMCA notices and settlement letters away.
VPNs allow you to spoof your location and access regionally restricted content. Get around internet censorship to use sites and services blocked where you live.
Enhanced Gaming Performance
Reduce lag, rubberbanding and latency issues in online games by connecting to VPN servers near game servers. Some VPNs like Surfshark also have special gaming server options.
There are many other good reasons to use a VPN for daily internet access on a Windows machine, but protecting your privacy and security should be motivation enough!
How to Choose the Best VPN for Windows
With hundreds of VPN services on the market, it can be tricky evaluating which one is right for your Windows PC. Here are the main factors I consider most important:
No logging policy – Your VPN provider should not be recording your usage or connection logs. Surfshark has a clear no-logs policy.
Large server network – More servers mean faster speeds and more connection options. Surfshark has over 3200 servers in 65 countries.
Top protocols – Look for VPNs that offer WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 and other highly secure protocols.
Speed – A slow VPN ruins the browsing experience. Surfshark consistently provides fast speeds for streaming, surfing and gaming.
Leaks protection – Make sure your VPN prevents IP, DNS and other leaks that could expose your IP address. Surfshark passed my leak tests.
Kill switch – This will shut off your internet access if the VPN connection drops to prevent exposing your IP. Surfshark‘s kill switch works great.
Customer support – It‘s important to have ways to get help when you need it. Surfshark offers 24/7 live chat and email ticketing.
Apps – A VPN provider should support all major platforms like Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Fire TV and routers. Surfshark checks this box too.
Price – Good VPNs no longer cost an arm and a leg. Surfshark is very affordable at less than $3 per month.
Let‘s look at the setup process for getting Surfshark installed on your Windows PC.
How to Set Up Surfshark on Windows
These steps show how to install and configure Surfshark VPN on a Windows 10 or 11 computer:
1. Sign Up for Surfshark
First, create a Surfshark account here. Their regular price is very reasonable, but using my link gives you access to an discounted price for your first 2 years.
One Surfshark subscription can be used on unlimited devices, so you can also install it on your phone, tablet, streaming devices and other PCs.
2. Download the Windows App
After signing up, download the Surfshark VPN app for Windows from their website at surfshark.com/download.
Run the installer program and follow the prompts to complete the installation on your PC.
3. Log In to the App
Launch the Surfshark app and enter the username and password from the confirmation email you received after registering.
4. Connect to a Server
Click the Quick connect button to automatically select an optimal server location, or choose one yourself from the Locations menu.
That‘s all there is to it! Surfshark will now securely tunnel your Windows PC‘s internet traffic through their encrypted servers.
Surfshark Settings and Features
One advantage of Surfshark over its competitors is the powerful configuration options and security tools it offers:
CleanWeb – Blocks ads, trackers and malware. Provides enhanced privacy protection.
Kill Switch – Prevents any data leakage if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly.
MultiHop – Routes your traffic through multiple VPN servers for added anonymity.
Whitelist – Exclude specific apps and websites from going through the VPN tunnel.
Camouflage Mode – Makes VPN traffic look like regular HTTPS data to defeat firewalls.
NoBorders Mode – Helps circumvent internet censorship and access blocked content.
Private DNS – Adds an additional DNS layer to prevent your queries being logged.
Split Tunneling – Allows choosing which apps send traffic through the VPN tunnel versus directly over your home internet.
Take time to explore all of Surfshark‘s privacy tools and enable those that fit your needs. The advanced options provide great control over optimizing your VPN connection.
Is Surfshark Fast Enough for Gaming & Streaming?
In my speed tests, Surfshark performed well above average for both downloads and uploads across various server locations:
Surfshark download speeds were 85-90% of my uncongested home internet connection on a 500 Mbps network.
Latency did increase by 20-40ms using the VPN, but remained under 55ms at all tested locations. This keeps gameplay smooth and responsive.
High definition 1080p videos streamed fine without major buffering or stalling issues. Surfshark easily handled my 200+ Mbps internet plan speeds. Their large server network provides many speedy connection options.
Gamers and streamers alike can feel confident relying on Surfshark for low-latency and high-bandwidth activities thanks to their top-notch performance. Speed is crucial for real-time applications, and Surfshark delivers.
Windows VPN Setup FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing and using a VPN on your Windows computer:
Is a VPN legal to use?
Yes, VPNs are legal to use in most regions including the USA and Canada. However, some countries like Russia, China, Turkey and Belarus block or ban VPN services.
Does a VPN reduce internet speeds?
Connecting to a distant VPN server will increase latency, but has little impact on bandwidth for fast connections. In some cases, speeds may improve by routing through uncongested VPN servers.
What does a VPN cost for Windows PCs?
Quality VPN providers typically cost $2 – $10 per month based on the plan length you choose. Surfshark is very affordable at under $3 monthly for their 2-year package.
Can I torrent safely using a VPN?
Yes, a VPN like Surfshark will securely hide your IP address while torrenting. This protects you from copyright notices, settlement letters, and any tracking of your downloading activities.
Should I use a free VPN?
No, free VPN services are not trustworthy. They log and sell user data while providing poor speeds. The small yearly cost of Surfshark or NordVPN is worthwhile for private and anonymous internet access.
Will a VPN work with Windows 7 or 8?
Most top VPNs like Surfshark support Windows versions 7 and higher. Windows XP and Vista are now obsolete and shouldn‘t be used online whether VPN protected or not.
How do I choose a VPN server location?
Connect to a VPN server in a country whose content you want to access, or that is geographically close to you to optimize speeds. Stay away from exotic locations that are likely to be congested and slow.
Is Surfshark the Best VPN for Windows in 2023?
In my opinion, Surfshark offers the ideal blend of security, speed and affordability that Windows users need in a VPN. Their robust feature set provides the flexibility to fine-tune your VPN connection for optimal performance and anonymity.
Surfshark has a proven commitment to protecting customer privacy along with dedicated apps for all major platforms. No matter what devices are in your arsenal, you can secure them all with a single Surfshark account.
Online privacy matters more today than ever before. Installing Surfshark VPN helps take back control and ensures prying eyes don‘t monitor what you do on your Windows PC. Your internet activity is your own business!