If you are looking for a VPN for Windows, then you are in luck! As the most popular operating system in the world, pretty much every VPN out there will have a version for Windows.
Of course, this does mean it can be a struggle to narrow it down and choose the best one. Hopefully, this article will help you choose which is the best VPN for your Windows computer.
Top Picks: Rated VPNs For Windows
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What Is A VPN And Why Should I Use One?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that allows a user in one network to connect to another network, using a secure connection, over the internet. The connection is encrypted meaning that it is incredibly hard for anyone to see the data that is being sent.
Originally this technology was used to allow remote workers to access an office network. More recently, it has gained popularity on a consumer level as a way to secure and anonymize everyday browsing.
When used in this way all web traffic sent from a computer or device is sent through an encrypted tunnel to a VPN server in another location. This traffic then goes onto the website it was originally trying to reach. As the traffic returns from the website to the computer, it is once again sent to the VPN server and encrypted before reaching the user.
This has a number of uses including:
- Increasing the security of a connection
- Increasing a user’s anonymity
- Allow a user to access geo-restricted content
Increasing The Security Of A Connection
When you access the internet using a VPN, all your data is sent through an encrypted tunnel to the VPN server. This means that if anyone is trying to spy on your data, they will have a much harder time doing so.
If you frequently use unprotected public networks then it can be a great idea to use a VPN because of this security benefit.
Increasing A User’s Anonymity
As well as encrypting your data, a VPN sends your data to a server in another location. This means that if governments or agencies are checking who is using a certain website, they will only see the IP address of the VPN server.
Likewise, if your ISP is trying to see what you are browsing, they will only see encrypted data because of the tunnel.
Allow A User To Access Geo-Restricted Content
A second benefit of the fact that your data passes through another server is that it appears as if you are browsing the web from the location of the server. This means that if you want to access content that is only available in certain countries or blocked in your country then you should be able to use a VPN to do this.
The most important part of a VPN is the protocol that is used. The protocol that the VPN provider chooses to use will ultimately have a big effect on the overall speed and security of the VPN.
OpenVPN is an open source VPN protocol and is generally considered to be the most secure of all VPN protocols. As well as this, it is usually faster than the other protocols on this list making it perfect for browsing the web. Many of the VPNs reviewed in this article will use OpenVPN.
L2TP/IPSec is a combination of the VPN protocol L2TP and the encryption protocol IPSec. By combining the two protocols you are able to get a protocol that works as an encrypted VPN.
However, it isn’t thought of as being quite as secure as OpenVPN and it is also a little slower due to the extra time it takes data to be converted separately by IPSec. It is widely available however and most operating systems provide the option to configure L2TP/IPSec VPNs without any extra software.
PPTP is the oldest of the three types of VPN protocol. It has known security issues and it is not advised to use this protocol. Because of this, it is rare for VPN providers to use this protocol anyway.
Can I Use A Free VPN?
Really you should look at two questions here, can you use a free VPN, and should you use a free VPN?
Free VPNs will often (although not always) perform some of the same functions as a paid VPN. They may unblock geo-restricted content, they may provide some encryption for your data, and they may help you browse the web anonymously.
Because of this, yes, you can use a free VPN to provide some of the benefits gained from using a VPN.
However, realistically, should you use a free VPN? Let’s take a look at the most popular reasons to use a VPN. These are usually:
- Access region restricted video content
- Browsing the web anonymously
We all know how annoying buffering and streaming problems are when watching videos online. Because of this, you need the fastest, most reliable connection possible.
You are very unlikely to get this from a free VPN.
Using a VPN can seriously slow down your connection. The best VPNs out there make sure that their servers are reliable and work as quickly as possible. This can cost a lot of money. Free VPNs just can’t compete with the type of speeds and reliability that paid for VPNs offer.
As well as this, paid-for VPNs will generally have a much larger number of servers available for you to use. This can be incredibly useful when it comes to unlocking content from a number of different countries or for using different servers in the same country if one of them happens to go down.
Basically, if watching video is important to you you’d be far better off paying for your VPN.
The second two reasons to use a VPN are security and anonymity. Really, it should be quite obvious why paying for a VPN if these two things are important to you would be a good idea.
Paid for VPNs offer the best encryption levels for your data. They have clear policies regarding whether or not they log your data. They are far less likely to have been set up as a way to harvest your data or to have had their servers hacked.
Free VPNs, on the other hand, are known to have had problems with security and malware. As mentioned above, it can be expensive to run a VPN and anyone running one will need to make money.
Whether this is through charging you for their service, through showing you intrusive ads, or through using your connection as a proxy. As the well-known saying goes, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or VPN”.
How To Set Up A VPN In Windows
Luckily, with Windows being the dominant operating system used by much of the world, you will struggle to find a VPN that isn’t optimized for Windows.
When it comes to setting up a VPN you have three main options. These range from super easy, to fairly complicated. Let’s take a look at them now.
Using Software Provided By Your VPN
This is the easiest way to a complete VPN experience on your Windows computer. Pretty much all VPN providers provide software that you download and install on your Windows computer.
When setting up the VPN, once you have signed up and paid for the service, usually all you will have to do is:
1. Install the software
2. Choose a VPN server to connect to
3. Press connect
Yes, it literally is usually that easy. You will usually have a range of servers to choose from in a variety of different countries. The best server for you will usually be one that is either closest to your home (for speed) or in a country that will allow you to access certain geo-restricted content.
Of course, it is possible to try a few servers to see which one works best for your needs. This is especially useful if one country has numerous servers in different cities.
There will often be some settings you can mess around with such as a turning on a VPN kill switch, turning on leak protection, and choosing your connection type. However, this isn’t necessary for the VPN to work.
Manually Installing The VPN
As well as installing an app, Windows 7 to 10 allows you to manually configure your VPN using software built into the operating system.
This is mainly beneficial if your VPN provider doesn’t supply you with any software (unlikely) or if you simply don’t want to download their software onto your computer.
It is fairly easy to do although you will need to contact your VPN to get the configuration settings from them. This will include:
- VPN type
- Server name or address
- Type of sign-in info
Once you have this information you can follow the instructions below depending on your operating system.
Setting Up VPN: Windows 8
1. Type “VPN” into your search bar
2. Go to the results found in the settings section and click “Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection
3. Fill in the information as above
Setting Up VPN: Windows 7
1. Click “Start”
2. Type in “VPN” and access the “Set up a virtual private network (VPN) connection wizard
3. Complete the required information
Set Up A VPN On Your Router
The final (and most difficult) way to use a VPN with a Windows machine, is to set up a VPN on your router. The major advantage to this is that all devices that access the internet through the router with the VPN will have their data sent through the VPN.
This can save you the hassle of having to install a VPN on every device you own and will also allow devices that don’t have the option to have a VPN installed on them to get the benefits of a VPN.
You will then have to manually install the VPN on your router using settings obtained from your VPN provider.
VPN Plans - Daily, Monthly, Quarterly, Annually
When signing up for a VPN you will have a few options for the length of the plan you sign up for. Generally speaking, the longer you sign up for, the cheaper your monthly fee will be. Depending on the VPN you choose and the length of time you sign up for, your VPN will generally cost between five and fifteen dollars a month.
Short Term Plan: Daily and Monthly
Daily plans (if available) or monthly plans will usually be the most expensive plan you can buy. However, they are a great way to fully try out a VPNs service and get to know the ins and the outs of the VPN before you sign up to a longer plan.
With these plans, you also have the advantage of being able to change to another VPN if the one you like suddenly stops providing as good a service as you were hoping. For example, they may stop being able to unblock certain websites or they may lose server locations.
Medium Term Plans: Quarterly, Bi-yearly
Medium term plans, such as those that last for between three and six months will allow you to save some money when compared to short term plans but you still won’t be signed up for a long contract. This means if you choose to move to a different VPN provider you either won’t have to wait long to switch or won’t lose much money.
Long Term Plans
Plans lasting a year will generally offer the best value for money. Some yearly plans even offer discounts of up to 50% when compared to a monthly plan. These plans are best for people who are confident in their VPN provider and who want to save some money.
Best VPNs For Windows
IPVanish features in our recommended list of VPNs often, and for good reason.
It supports the usual suspects of VPN protocols (OpenVPN, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2) and strong AES 256-bit encryption. Strong encryption is great for protecting your data flows from potential hackers.
If you aren’t worried so much about privacy, but want to mask your IP, you can use the free SOCKS5 Proxy server. Using this service will hide your real IP, but it won’t encrypt your data by default. You can also connect to a VPN at the same time however, if privacy is also important.
IPVanish support a zero logs policy. They won’t keep your connection logs, and more importantly, they don’t hold onto your usage logs either. A zero logs policy is an extra ‘peace of mind’ for those of you who want to remain anonymous when using the internet.
Movie and music distributors could come chasing if you’ve been downloading media without their permission. Hide what you’ve been doing with a VPN. Your ISP won’t be able to log anything (except the VPN IP).
If you have several internet users in the home, it’s not a problem. IPVanish permits up to 5 simultaneous devices to connect to the one account.
There’s also a Kill Switch, which cuts off the internet connection if the VPN accidentally drops – helping to stop a leak of your real IP.
The NAT firewall helps stop DDoS attacks. Normally your home router would look after this function, but VPNs tunnel through the router, taking away this basic security feature. IPVanish puts it back for you.
Also features DNS Leak protection.
Searching for one of the 750+ servers across 60 countries is made easier with the intuitive and easily searchable Windows app. You can display a ‘List’ view, or a ‘Map’ view, which cleverly and quickly shows clusters of servers within a convenient world map. Click into this to quickly connect to the best server, or drill down further if there’s a specific destination you need to connect to.
It’s also possible to filter on protocol, country or latency.
PureVPN have a large pool of VPN servers to choose from. Over 750 in 140 countries. That should be enough to keep you going!
The app works well with Windows (along with iOS, Linux and Android), allowing up to 5 concurrent logins to its range of servers. It’s also compatible with consoles, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast, Roku along with laptops, smartphones and tablets. Because it has no data caps, you can use it as much as you like (keep an eye on your ISP’s limits!)
Other cool features include the Virtual Router. This allows a Windows device to be used as a ‘router’ for the rest of your household. You can connect up to 10 devices to the Virtual Router, which then connects each device to the VPN server of your choice. This is a great way to ramp up the 5 connection limit!
There’s also a Split Tunneling option. Split Tunneling lets you choose if a device can send/receive some traffic down the VPN, while the rest accesses the internet as normal (unencrypted). This can be really good if, for example, you wanted to download media down the VPN (torrents, or otherwise), but wanted to access media from your own country at the same time.
PureVPN does not log customer usage (what websites were accessed etc). But it does log the connections (when you connected to a VPN server). This isn’t a problem, unless you want to remain very strictly private.
Private Internet Access
Ok, so PIA doesn’t have the plethora of countries to connect to (25+), but it does have a shedload of servers to… over 3000. The major countries are in there (for media content), but if you have a specific country you need to connect to you should check up on the available countries before signing up.
All the major protocols are supported with up to 256-bit encryption. There’s also a SOCKS5 Proxy option for IP masking (with compatible applications).
Yet again, the option to connect up to 5 devices at the same time is there, and there are no data caps.
PIA offers the kill switch feature to help stop IP leaks. And there’s the NAT firewall to stop any probing from the outside world.
VyprVPN (Golden Frog) have been in the game a few years now (VPN-wise since 2011 and as a software company, since 1994).
With over 700 servers available to choose from in 70 countries, VyprVPN is another solid choice for a Windows VPN.
All the main protocols are supported, along with Chameleon (Vypr’s own) which is useful for getting around any VPN blocks put on traditional protocols by any websites or hosts.
There is a no logging policy, although connection logs are held on the app. Note that these logs are only sent to Golden Frog if the customer chooses to do so (in a troubleshooting scenario for example).
There’s a NAT firewall to help stop external intrusion, and there’s no bandwidth usage caps. Just remember any limits you have on your own ISP connection. Of course, this still accumulates when you use the VPN and it’s easy to forget about it and hit the limit unintentionally.
VyprVPN is available as a 3-day free trial, so you can try it out before you buy.
With access to almost 100 countries, ExpressVPN is next up on our list.
It has the very useful ‘Speed Test’ feature, that helps you pick the best server to connect to. Using the Speed Index, you can gauge which server to connect to from your list, compiled by a weighted metric based on latency and download speed, from each server to your location.
There’s also a Split Tunneling option for those that want to route some of their traffic down the VPN, while routing the rest directly out their ISP.
ExpressVPN also have the kill switch option, like others on the list. And there’s the suite of protocols, offering up to 256-bit encryption.
Be aware that, like PureVPN, ExpressVPN do log some connection activity (no usage logs however). Also, you can only connect up to 3 devices at the same time. This is only really a problem with bigger households with privacy-concerned inhabitants, but it needs to be highlighted.
Using a VPN on Windows is a great idea to way to help secure your data and browse with a little more privacy and more choice. There are a load of top quality VPNs out there that will work on your Windows laptop or computer.
We've highlighted some of the ones we liked, and the features that you should be looking out for.
Hopefully, you have found this article useful. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments section below.