The days when VPN’s were just an attribute of the cyberpunk culture are long gone. Today, virtually everyone should be using a VPN to protect private data because the traditional antivirus/firewall bundle is simply no longer effective.

From the moment you go online, a few dozen entities begin profiling you. Your very own ISP, search engines, social networks, ad agencies, data dealers, app developers, the Five Eyes, the hackers – each have a reason to collect your data and trade it. So tools that protect your private data are just about as vital as locking your front and back door at night.

Got Windows? You’ve Probably Got Problems

Windows, being the world’s most ubiquitous operating system, is also one of the most targeted. After all, the more widely-adopted an OS is, the more attention it attracts from nefarious actors because the cost of an exploit kit is cheap and its ROI is high.

Windows 10, which was released back in 2015, came bundled with privacy issues, including DNS leakage, and extensive data collection settings. True, Microsoft religiously releases patches and fixes, and with proper digging, you can disable some of the privacy-invasive settings. But if you are a Windows user, you need to understand that your OS is one of the most highly-targeted, and protect your security and privacy accordingly.

VPN’s add a solid layer of protection to your browsing activities. They encrypt your traffic, let you access location-restricted websites like Netflix, and conceal your browsing activity from the curious eyes of your ISP

What to Look for in a VPN for Windows

Weeding through a dozen VPNs is daunting, I know, but since at the end of the day, you’re choosing a security tool, you really should take your time. To help you with the research, I’ve created this roundup of features you’ll want to pay particular attention to when choosing a VPN for a Windows-based device:

  • Provider Location - Depending on the data laws governing the geographic location of where the company is headquartered, a VPN provider may or may not be able to protect your data, irrespective of published zero-logging policies.

  • Logging - If privacy is one of your major concerns, you’ll want to pay careful attention to zero-logging providers. Transparent providers always state their logging practices up front – no evasive waffling or fine print clauses.

  • Encryption - AES-256 encryption is the current golden standard for VPNs, complete with Perfect Forward Secrecy.

  • Speed - Since VPNs encrypt data and route your traffic through servers located around the world, you may notice a drop in connection speeds. Reliable providers, however, have means to mitigate this negative side-effect and give you the speeds you need to stay productive.

  • Price - Reliable providers are always transparent about their pricing structure, offer free trial periods, money-back guarantees, accessible support and/or comprehensive FAQs.

  • Server Locations - A wide range of server locations means you can switch IPs with ease, and bypass location-locked websites.

  • Limitations - Some providers cap bandwidth or do not support P2P, so if you’re planning to torrent, check the feature set carefully.

VPN’s are extremely convenient and efficient tools for both savvy and novice users concerned about privacy and security. They let you use public WIFi safely, access region-restricted streaming websites, hide your browsing activity from your ISP and enjoy encrypted browsing. The providers I included on my list provide a reasonable combination of flexibility and ease of use so you can enjoy hassle-free browsing without compromising on security.


1. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is a robust VPN service based in a country that’s home to an extremely privacy-friendly climate: Switzerland. VyprVPN has an impressive network of 700 servers in 70 different locations, and 200,000 IP addresses allow for unlimited switching. So, accessing sites like Netflix, Hulu or BBC iPlayer is a no-brainer. They own and operate their servers, so no third parties can mingle with your privacy. On top of that, they deploy a unique Chameleon technology to bypass state-imposed censorship blocks.

VyprVPN does not cap bandwidth, nor restrict torrenting of any file types. The Windows client is easy to set up and use, with neat and self-descriptive buttons that provide fast access to VPN’s many features.

Just as refreshing as their feature set is the fact that the payment structure is straightforward. Once you register, you can test the service for three days for free. Three subscription levels are available – Basic, Pro, and Premium – all with a monthly or yearly billing option. The Basic plan starts at $5 per month for an annual subscription and Premium comes in at $6.67 per month. Both the Pro and Premium plans grant you the protection from Deep Packet Inspection.

Overall, VyprVPN offers robust security, intuitive controls, and extra perks, but its low-tier plan is limited to only three devices, which can be a bit of a hassle if you’re anything like me.

Pros:

  • Based in Switzerland (some of the most stringent pro-privacy laws)
  • Up to five simultaneous connections form different devices in high-tier plans
  • Unlimited data
  • Great security in top-tier plans
  • Supports most platforms and most security protocols
  • Supports P2P torrenting
  • Kill Switch
  • Paid subscriptions come with advanced features
  • Good support
  • Accepts payments via Alipay

Cons:

  • Not for gaming
  • Not quite slated for anonymous payments, does not accept Bitcoin
  • No ad blocking
  • Uneven speed-test performance
  • Lower-tier plans allow only three devices

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, outside the “14 Eyes” jurisdiction. The company maintains a strong stance on privacy and offers OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption to scramble your traffic and conceal it so your ISP can’t read or log it. They don’t log DNS requests, traffic or IP addresses, but they do log timestamps and bandwidth.

Express VPN offers ease of use, good speeds and a wide range of servers across 87 countries. P2P and torrenting is allowed, so this VPN works well for data-intensive tasks, and streaming is both smooth and seamless. Top this off with a sleek and easy-to-use client, ability to pay with Bitcoin, fast and friendly support service with live chat, and you get a hassle-free experience that even the most tech-challenged will probably love.

They unfortunately limit users to three devices, but do support many platforms so you can run it on both desktop and mobile devices.

Express VPN has three subscriptions starting at $12.95/month, which drop down to $8.32/month if you subscribe to a 12-month plan. This definitely isn’t the cheapest service on the list, but it offers a decent combination of privacy, speed, and ease of use.

Pros:

  • Intuitive interface
  • Strong encryption
  • Supports OpenVPN protocol
  • Geospoofing
  • Anonymity
  • Multiple server locations
  • Responsive support
  • Fast
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Allows P2P torrenting
  • Accepts Bitcoin

Cons:

  • BVI is outside the jurisdiction of the 14 Eye countries, but it is a British territory
  • Not the cheapest on the block
  • No ad-blocking
  • Logs non-identifiable metadata
  • Connects 3 devices per user only

3. NordVPN

NordVPN is a Panama-based provider with an impressive set of features and a reputation of excellence. The speed and performance of NordVPN is top-notch, with 830+ server location across 57 countries - and counting. It’s easy to switch servers, access streaming websites like Netflix, and bypass region-based restrictions. Plus, you can choose servers to deliver specific types of content (ultra-fast, ultra-secure). Nord doesn’t cap your bandwidth or restrict any file types, and the Windows client is easy to set up and use.

NordVPN deploys a unique, double-encryption tactic, adding another layer of protection to your data. They also state a zero-logging policy, use their own DNS servers and offer a Kill Switch, so if your VPN connection suddenly disconnects, the Kill Switch will shut down any website or program you specify. Nord allows up to six devices per user, so you should be able to cover all your VPN needs with just one account.

The prices aren’t the cheapest, and a 1-month subscription will set you back $11.95 monthly. This drops down to $5.75 per month if you buy a 12-month subscription, and your purchase comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 2-year subscriptions offer very steep discounts.​

Pros:

  • Sleek, intuitive client, comprehensive setup tutorials for any OS
  • Double encryption
  • Wide range of servers (1000+), including ultra-fast and ultra-secure
  • Allows up to six simultaneous connections
  • Allows P2P torrenting
  • Excellent customer support
  • Private
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Supports OpenVPN and a variety of other protocols
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • No bandwidth caps

Cons:

  • No ad blocker
  • Does not block trackers
  • Rather expensive
  • Connection speed was not as stellar as I would prefer in my tests, but your mileage may vary

4. Buffered

Buffered VPN is based in Hungary, which is a pro-privacy country that lacks mandatory data retention laws or Five Eye surveillance. They have servers in 37 countries, and the streaming speeds are great for Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer. You can torrent, use up to five devices simultaneously, and install Buffered software on as many devices as you like, all using just one subscription, which is great for families.

Advanced VPN users like Buffered for its speed, pricing and feature set, including the Port Discovery Mode, which scouts WiFi networks for open ports. Once an open port has been located, you can then connect to that WiFi network, regardless of whether you have a password. If you’re on public WiFi regularly, you may find it extremely convenient to be able to connect safely through a capable and robust VPN. The company’s desktop and mobile apps are also easy to set up and a breeze to use.

Buffered has three subscription plans, each of which offers the same level of service. The only difference is the discount subscribers appreciate by committing to longer-term plans. Single month plans are $12.99 and an annual subscription runs $8.25 per month.

Pros:

  • Fast speed, great for streaming Netflix
  • Intuitive, sleek UI
  • Very useful Port Discovery Mode
  • Excellent performance
  • Secure, with OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption
  • Allows P2P torrenting
  • 24/7 live chat support, helpful guide
  • Polished, intuitive software
  • No logs policy with central servers in Netherlands
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Top-notch support

Cons:

  • Monthly plans are expensive, but yearly subscriptions are great
  • Keeps some connection logs (IP address, time and duration of connection), but only for 30 days
  • Does not accept Bitcoin
  • No kill switch

5. IPVanish

IPVanish is a Phoenix-based provider offering 256-bit AES encryption, a zero-log policy, unlimited bandwidth and a laundry list of perks like anonymous unlimited torrenting, coupled with fast speeds and flawless performance. IPVanish has servers in 60+ countries, and provides smooth streaming from BBC iPlayer and Hulu. You can bypass region restrictions, remain anonymous, enjoy high speeds and conceal your traffic from your ISP.

Subscriptions start at $10 per month in a monthly plan, and decrease to $6.49 per month if you commit to service for 12 months. The trial period is seven days and their Windows client is a breeze to use. Overall, it’s very user-friendly, and supports most platforms, while allowing up to five simultaneous connections from different devices per user. Since the company’s headquarters are based in the US, privacy-intrusive legislation is unfortunately applicable.​

Pros:

  • 24/7/365 support
  • Zero-log policy
  • P2P
  • Prevents Deep Packet Inspection
  • Intuitive interface
  • Good speed
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • SOCKS5 web proxy, OpenVPN
  • Up to 5 simultaneous connections from multiple devices

Cons:

  • US-based
  • 7-day money-back is not a con per se, but compared to other services’ 30-day guarantee it seems a bit restricting

6. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is a US-based VPN provider offering both Free or Elite subscriptions. The free version has ads, bandwidth cap, and won’t let you stream Netflix or BBC iPlayer. Elite subscribers can choose between the 6, 12 or 24-month plans. No monthly subscriptions are available at this time. That said, a one-year subscription starts at just $2.49.

If you’re okay with a US-based provider, you should be able to appreciate the virtues of Hotspot Shield, which include OpenVPN, and AES-256 encryption. Hotspot Shield does not log activity but does maintain some connection logs.

Support, is ticket-based, which means if you run into problems, you’ll need to be patient. The Windows client is finely tuned for beginners, but unfortunately, advanced features like a kill switch and an option to track bandwidth aren’t available.

Both Free and Elite subscribers will enjoy great speeds and performance, and absence of DNS leaks, but only Elite users can switch servers. Overall, Hotspot Shield is a great choice for novice users and those who use VPN occasionally and don’t want to commit to a paid subscription.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Simple interface
  • Robust encryption
  • Free extensions for Chrome and Firefox
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Offers free accounts with bandwidth cap and ads
  • Affordable long-term plans
  • Five simultaneous connections in Elite plans

Cons:

  • US-based
  • Evasive logs policy
  • No Perfect Forward Secrecy
  • Slow support, limited FAQs
  • Lacks subscription flexibility
  • Free version comes with ads and restrictions (no streaming Netflix)
  • Does not accept Bitcoin

7. VPNArea

VPNArea is a Bulgarian provider hosted in Switzerland and is tough on privacy with a strict no-log policy, AES-256 encryption, and a kill switch. They have you covered if you’re into advanced tweaking and things like a dedicated IP address or a private server add-on as well.

VPNArea is heavily geared toward gaming, streaming, and torrenting, so expect consistently fast speeds and smooth performance. Support is extremely helpful and friendly, although they seem to be on a nine-to-five type of schedule.

The installation was a little bumpy for me, but your mileage may vary. The Windows client requires admin access, and hovers on top of every other program once installed. Depending on how you feel about the hovering window, it’s either great or a nuisance. At the same time, the client looks polished and offers advanced customization, which is exactly what counts if you’re looking for a flexible solution.

VPNArea offers three plans – the monthly membership will set you back $9.90, the 6-month plan is worth $50 while a yearly subscription lands you a $59 deal. Unfortunately, they don’t offer a free trial, but all plans come with a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • Great privacy features including OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption
  • Great speed
  • Up to 6 devices
  • Does not log traffic
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Friendly customer service
  • P2P supported

Cons:

  • Confusing download instructions
  • DNS leaks detected during my tests
  • Requires admin access
  • Support is not available 24/7