Best VPN Services

If you obsess about your privacy, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service might be something you are considering. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between a client device and a Local Area Network (LAN), and while those packets may traverse the open Internet, they are encrypted. Further, a VPN service manipulates the header data in the packet stream, replacing your PC's IP address with one of its own, masking the origin of the information you are sending. 

In The Pros And Cons Of Using A VPN Or Proxy Service, we covered some of the basic criteria for VPN service purchasing considerations, including the number, speed and location of VPN servers, personal data retention policies, client support, cipher and protocol support, and payment methods. We've also conducted some of our own testing of these services, and we've asked for your input on them as well.

* Note: Data was obtained directly from the VPN vendors.

In our introductory article, we asked our readers to tell us what they like and don't like about VPN services they've used, and to rate each on a scale of 1-5. For the past several weeks, the readers have been going to our survey and we've had over 500 responses so far.

In our survey, we provided a choice of 10 popular VPN services: Hide My Ass! (HMA!), IPVanish, Private Internet Access (PIA), TorGuard, BTGuard, Mullvad, NordVPN, OctaneVPN, PeRiQuito AB and ClickVPN.

We also had an option for write-ins, of which you gave us 20. Of the 30 total services, only seven received at least 10 responses (our cut-off to be included). At this point the seven that received at least 10 responses include the top five which we've already evaluated (AirVPN, HMA!, IPVanish, PIA and TorGuard), along with BTGuard and CyberGhost.

PIA received the largest number of responses (227), by a wide margin, making it our de facto "most popular." Last time, TorGuard and IPVanish had slightly higher scores based on the average ratings, but we were right in feeling those scores weren't stable — TorGuard had only garnered 14 responses, and IPVanish only 29. The updated scores include the latest reader ratings and put TorGuard and IPVanish lower than PIA with a score of four stars each at 31 and 43 ratings, respectively.

New to this list, AirVPN racked up a score of 4.76! However, with only 21 responses thus far, we'll continue to monitor the ratings of this service before considering it for an award.

Our cutoff for award consideration is at least 50 reader ratings, and this time HMA! topped that mark, but with an average score of only four stars, it doesn't receive one.

Given its popularity and its high reader rating, PIA is our Reader Recommended pick. Private Internet Access also has the best overall results according to our tests, the details of which are enumerated in our reviews and summary data below. The company's policies are in-line with other providers, it offers solid support and compatibility, the price is right and the speeds are great (occasionally amazing).


MORE: VPN Services in the Forums

William Van Winkle is a Senior Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering News. Follow him on Twitter.

Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • firefoxx04
    I use Tor Guard myself. It works really well and is available on most platforms. VPN servers that are not that far away barely affect my max bandwidth and latency.

    Also, they have deals pretty often and seem to lock you into that price. For example, my 6 month cost is only $15 for 5 devices.

    If you want something that just works, I think its a great option.
  • Kwuarter
    Lol @ Hide My Ass.
  • thebigt42
    HMA does NOT fully hide you! If you torrent you will continue to get nasty grams from your Internet provider
  • JacFlasche
    Well I primarily use a VPN for torrent traffic, and found PIA to be a total bust. The speeds, if you could even call it that, were horrendous. I paid for a year and never use it because it is so bad. I went back to ipredator which is way better.

    If you sign up for PIA be careful because you will automatically be signed up for ongoing yearly charges, and you will not want this service again after you find out how bad it is. So you will have to stop their access to your credit card or other account.

    If you are not actually testing these services for torrents it is meaningless to most people.

    Let me repeat that, MEANINGLESS.

    And there is really no reason not to test these services on torrents. Many torrents are so called "legal" downloads.
  • Mike_109
    I use BT Guard, they don't keep records of any kind. They also DONT automatically re-charge your credit card each month. So if you sign up for 3-months, they notify you 3 days prior to expiration date, if you don't renew it, they just Cancel it. They keep your username, but that's it. Also, don't expect customer service, it's just 1 guy running the company probably...My download speeds are always good, I've had the VPN for like 6 months now, and I think my service cut off 1 or 2 times. Usually my download speeds average 700k-1.5mbps. There's TONS of VPN's out there probably getting better speeds(and worse), but at least I don't have to worry about this company shelling out data records....because 75% of the VPN's today are potentially Shady, I wouldn't trust them unless you do Serious research for what Your Needs are.
  • drtweak
    Me personally i use VPNExpress. I looked long and hard and tired out a few (PIA being one of them as JacFlasche Said, it SUCKED). VPNExpress is the fastest offering 37Mb down and 10Mb up. Using them I can hardly tell I am using a VPN service with my 25/25 FiOS!
  • Scarlett_1
    I use PureVPN for streaming purpose. It works really good for me and is available on any device. Their server speed is decent. They offer 65% off on their yearly package which is quite affordable as compare to any other.

    In my opinion, PureVPN is a great option.
  • no1adamg
    I use ExpressVPN and have done for past 2 years now and i have no problems with speed or getting emails anymore for movie downloads,
    tom can you test this next time you test
  • house70
    Using AirVPN and happy with it. Watching some foreign TV channels ("not available in your country") and never slowed down.
  • John_184
    AVOID privateinternetaccess !!!!!!

    predicable slow download and upload speeds 7pm-1am (EST) everyday. tech support tried to blame my verizon service. i got a new VPN service (expressvpn) and now no problems. ALSO, WILL NOT ENTERTAIN A REFUND!!!!!!

  • sssmaja1
    SCAMMERS. DO NOT USE PrivateInternetService I tried the service, quality was terrible, cancelled that day. Then after cancelling, they give you the run around so as not to refund you your money. See other examples below. PIA is a lousy VPN provider. Read their Terms of Service ... Shame on you Toms Hardware
  • datum9
    I've been using PIA for 4 yr or more, no problems, good speeds even with faraway servers. I haven't been torrenting lately, but a couple of years ago I ran a 24/7 sharing box (BT and other protocols) with absolutely no problems. The only problem I've experienced is that since they don't track you or log your use, when your subscription runs out service just stops, there doesn't seem to be any "renew" mechanism. So mark your calendar a year ahead (a year's sub is the best deal) to remind yourself to re-subscribe.

    I'm on a 9/6 DSL connection, maybe if you've got a faster connection your experience might be different.
  • JacFlasche
    Users of EXpressVPN or PIA are either easily pleased or shills for the companies they are reporting on.

    If you are using a VPN for watching porn or email or even Netflix your demands are low if you are pleased with these services.

    However, If you are using it for P2P, ExpressVPN is not a complete ripoff like PIA.
    I bought a months worth of Express to compare it to iPredator on the advice of a Tom's reader. The sites on ExpressVPN vary somewhat in their speed, but not much.

    I am getting an average speed of 600B/s on P2P using Express which is about half of what I get using iPredator. You can try iPredator for free so check this out for yourself.

    But this is a limitation of my ISP and not iPredator. I know this because when I am visiting a local university I am able to get speeds around 2,000 B/s over iPredator.

    IPredator has one price no matter how many months you purchase as opposed a marketing scam to sell you more months of service: it is eight dollars per month. The same monthly price as if you bought an entire year on Express, and as I said IT"S FASTER.

    I guess I am just bummed-out at the entirely unreliable comments and the entire review itself that are found here.

    I can't really blame the people who think that they are getting 60,000B/s or more over their VPN, or even those who think that a VPN service is fast and reliable because you can use email or NetFlix. But you are telling people that something like PIA or even ExpressVPN are good if not great services. Express is sort of OK, but it is not fast, and certainly not the fastest VPN in the world as they claim on their site, and they insist that you pay for a year in advance for the same price as iPredator does by the month!

    And yes I have been using iPredator for years, and it was recommended by my previous VPN service which I had also been using for years when I began having problems with payments in Sweden because of a change in Swedish banking regulations a few years ago.

    I have had no such problems with iPredator in any way, and soon as my $12 month on Express is over, it's back to iPredator, with no big loss due to paying for a year to get the best price, just the loss of half my VPN bandwidth and four dollars more for the one month of service over ExpressVPN.

    See the LEGAL INFO on iPredator's site about the things that are actually important to private individuals who need a VPN, as oppossed to Toms review, which not only contains nearly no significant info, but is mostly misleading due to the opinions of people who have only ever used one or two different services and have no real high bandwidth needs, or understanding of how most VPN services are not secure despite claims that they are.
  • JacFlasche
    Anonymous said:
    I've been using PIA for 4 yr or more, no problems, good speeds even with faraway servers. I haven't been torrenting lately, but a couple of years ago I ran a 24/7 sharing box (BT and other protocols) with absolutely no problems. The only problem I've experienced is that since they don't track you or log your use, when your subscription runs out service just stops, there doesn't seem to be any "renew" mechanism. So mark your calendar a year ahead (a year's sub is the best deal) to remind yourself to re-subscribe.

    I'm on a 9/6 DSL connection, maybe if you've got a faster connection your experience might be different.

    Your rhetorical question makes no sense. If I report a slow speed for PIA and a much faster one for iPredator and Express VPN over the same ISP why would the speed of my ISP be the issue? Rethink this.
  • rgbrgb
    I signed up for PIA a year ago. Mostly satisfied. A few months into it I could not use the PIA itself for some reason and they advised me to use Open VPN, which solved the problem.
    But one thing I do not like is the automatic renewal, which happened this week. I don't recall this being stated. And there is no other good payment option.
    Gift cards are not a good option and they cost more. And they likely don't work where I live.
    And they have my credit card info, all year long.
    I'd be much happier with PIA if they offered the option of notifying me in advance so that I could choose whether to renew.
  • mikepool
    I have been using the services of a particular VPN company for a few years. Everything was great up till a couple of months ago. Now, when I download a file between the approximate hours of 1:00 PM to 6:00 AM, it is extremely slow. I'm talking dial-up speed on a very fast connection. From 6AM-1PM, I get up to 5Mbps. I'm not using a crappy test meter such as I'm talking about actual download speeds. I tried PIA and got similar results with all EU servers. The servers I like to use are in the Netherlands. I'm posting here to see if others are getting the same results. I believe there is a bottle neck in the route from EU to US and not so much an issue with some of the VPN providers although I do believe some of the VPN providers’ servers are over saturated. Anyone else experiencing this issue? Anyone getting fast speed from EU to US no matter the time of day?
  • neonphelps
    I used PIA based on this review. My finding were very different and therefore I believe that a lot has changes since 2015 and these results are now outdated. I would LOVE for Tom's to conduct another test and provide a review. I would be more than willing to help as I have beta tested many products and know how to test.
  • neonphelps
    Terrible Tech Support: Virtually Non Existant Tech Supoort,
    Terrible Speed tests to their servers with & without VPN= Terriblle. Tests using other's speed tests=Terrible with VPN engaged. Test conducted with both Wired & VPN
    Terrible 7 day cancellation policy, misleading and don't know whose "we've got your back" they got" but certainly not mine...:
    Here is the only support email I received from them (other than automated ack they received my emails): "When you cancel your subscription, all that is cancelled is the automatic renewal of the account. The account will remain active for the time you have already paid for (I paid for 1 year) , and then terminate at the end of the 11 day grace period following the due date instead of renewing. As customers can choose this option and still continue our service without requiring a refund, funds would not be remitted automatically, only by request.
    Best Regards,
    xxx tech's name removes"
    Customer Support Agent
    Private Internet Access™
    Private Internet Access: We've Got Your Back