Disadvantages of a VPN

Desktop computer with VPN shield icon on the screen and thumb down icon next to it on a dark background
Click here for a summary of the disadvantages of a VPN
What are the Disadvantages of a VPN?: a Short Summary

While VPNs are a great tool for increasing anonymity and improving security online, they do have disadvantages. We’ve summarized the main disadvantages of using a VPN below:

  1. Some VPNs may slow your connection speed.
  2. You could be blocked from using certain services or websites, like Netflix.
  3. VPNs are illegal or tightly controlled in certain countries, such as China.
  4. There’s no way to tell just how encrypted your data is when using a VPN.
  5. Some VPNs – particularly free VPNs – may log and sell your browsing activity to third parties.
  6. You could experience breaks in your connection.
  7. A VPN could give you a false sense of online impunity, leading you to take risks when browsing online.
  8. Free VPNS can often be worse than not using a VPN at all.

Choosing the right VPN will help you overcome most of these disadvantages. Even so, it’s good to be aware of the possible downsides of VPNs. For more context and information, read the full article below.

A VPN might seem like the perfect solution to many online privacy problems. After all, it hides your IP address, encrypts your data, and unblocks geographically restricted content. In short, it provides you with safety, anonymity, and freedom. Why shouldn’t you use a VPN?

Well, everything has its disadvantages, and you should know all of the pros and cons associated with a piece of software before using it. Below, you can read about the disadvantages of a VPN, as well as the shocking difference between free and paid VPNs.

The Pros and Cons of VPNs

Before we dive into the disadvantages of a VPN, you should know that there are many advantages too. In our opinion, the advantages of VPNs far outweigh the disadvantages, as many of the drawbacks are easily canceled out by choosing the right VPN provider.

For example, while some websites block VPNs, some VPNs can easily get around these blocks. CyberGhost is ideal for accessing Netflix in America, for example, even though Netflix participates in actively blocking certain VPNs. Additionally, some VPNs still log your data even when they say that they won’t, but ExpressVPN and NordVPN have a truly zero-logging policy. Finally, while using a VPN can lead to a slight reduction in your connection speed, this change is usually unnoticeable when you’ve picked a good VPN.

Below, you can find more information about each of the possible drawbacks of a VPN. We explain why you might experience a decrease in speed and how a VPN can cause you to get blocked. Additionally, you can read about the legality of a VPN in different countries.

1. A VPN may decrease your speed

Speed and bandwidth iconBecause a VPN reroutes and encrypts your connection to the internet through the VPN server, your connection speed might drop slightly. This is why it’s important to test your VPN speed when trying out a new provider. Most premium VPN services such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN won’t slow down your internet too much, but the speed rarely stays the same.

That said, most internet users won’t notice the difference. It may affect you when you’re doing something that’s bandwidth intensive or requires a faster connection. For instance, gamers who want to play online multi-player games should look into the best VPNs for gaming to make sure they don’t experience any lag. You can also find a large section on connection speed in all of our VPN reviews.

2. You risk being blocked by certain services

Censorship icon

There’s a lot of content online that you can only access from within a certain region, which includes streaming services like Netflix. These services lock out internet users from countries where they aren’t allowed to broadcast content. This is due to contracts with movie distributors that only allow content to be shown in specific regions.

In addition to Netflix, other services that use region blocking include BBC iPlayer and HULU, for example. Meanwhile, some governments also block content because it threatens their values. In such cases, you can turn to a VPN to bypass regional blocks. However, in addition to blocking online content, some services, websites, and governments also try to actively block VPN connections. This means that even with a VPN, you might find yourself locked out.

Netflix simply blocks IP addresses that access their service with a large number of connections simultaneously. Since VPN users share a server – and therefore an IP address – Netflix can accurately guess when you’re using a VPN, which can be super annoying if you just want to watch a movie. Similarly, certain governments have started to ban known IP addresses that are associated with VPN providers.

Luckily, some VPN providers make sure there’s always a server you can use to watch Netflix. If you want a premium VPN that allows you to use Netflix, take a look at ExpressVPN and NordVPN. With thousands of servers available, these providers are also excellent for finding VPN servers that aren’t blocked by governments. You can read more about this in point 3, below.

Is VPN legal iconThe use of a VPN is legal in most countries. In fact, most big companies and corporations use a VPN as part of their security. There are some exceptions, though. Some governments want complete control over the things their citizens get to see on the internet. Because a VPN can be used to bypass government censorship, the tool has been made illegal in some totalitarian countries.

In certain countries, like China, you can only use government-approved VPNs. The use of a VPN isn’t necessarily illegal there, but they want to keep control over it. Some quality VPN providers such as NordVPN though, have developed special “obfuscated servers,” which should still be usable in countries like China, even if it’s not allowed by the government. In other countries, like North Korea, the use of a VPN is completely banned. If you live in one of the countries that restricts or bans the use of VPNs, it can be extra difficult and even dangerous to guard your online privacy, safety, and freedom.

4. It’s difficult for consumers to check the quality of encryption

It can be difficult to check whether VPN providers really do what they promise. You’ll only really find out whether they’re breaking promises when it goes wrong. The average PC user isn’t too knowledgeable on cryptography, which is the practice of encrypting data. This means that your average VPN user doesn’t know how VPN encryption works. Therefore, they also won’t know whether the VPN service being provided really is all that secure.

For this reason, reviews are quite important for this technology. Before you commit to a subscription with a VPN provider, it’s smart to read some (user) reviews.

In our reviews, we try to make the VPN market a little more transparent. You can find out what logging policy a VPN provider has and read more about the overall quality and safety of the VPN. This includes a brief explanation of what protocols and types of encryption are used by the VPN provider. You can find reviews of all the big VPN providers on our website, but you might also want to take a look at our top recommendations.

5. The logging and potential resale of your internet habits to third parties

What is Data Broker iconWhen you connect to a VPN provider, your internet traffic is routed through their servers. They encrypt your data and also hide your IP address, replacing it with a new one. You have essentially bought greater security and anonymity. However, this means that you need to trust your VPN not to manipulate or abuse the data that travels through their servers. Many VPN providers keep their end of the bargain and completely ignore your personal data; they don’t log your actions nor store your data.

However, some VPN providers do log data. Many free VPNs do this (more on this below), and some providers make it clear in their license agreement that they might log your browsing activity. This, of course, defeats the entire purpose of getting a VPN service at all. Even so, these aren’t the worst offenders.

The really troubling cases are paid VPN providers who claim they do not log but have been found later to do so. For example, in June 2021, a free VPN server called DoubleVPN had its servers, data, and customer logs seized as a result of an international sting by the National Crime Agency (UK), Polisen (Sweden), Europol (the EU’s law enforcement agency), and others. This was due to suspicion of illegal activities on the dark web.

DoubleVPN’s website has been taken down, but it used to be advertised as a “no logs” VPN: “Order DoubleVPN! No logs or statistics kept!” As it turns out, DoubleVPN kept logs anyway, which are now in the hands of officials. This cautionary tale once again reminds us that we should critically look at multiple sources and VPN reviews before paying for a subscription with a VPN provider.

6. You may experience connection breaks

WiFi Icon with alert iconMany VPN providers include a kill switch in their software; this is a very useful feature. In the event that your connection to the VPN server drops, you’re suddenly left without the protection and anonymity that your VPN offers. From here on, your online behavior is linked to your actual IP address.

In order to prevent this, the kill switch immediately severs your entire connection to the internet and only gets restored once your connection to the VPN is back up and running. Of course, the downside to this is that you’ve lost your connection to the internet. Quality VPN providers very rarely encounter this issue, though.

7. An unwarranted sense of online impunity

There are some people who believe that their VPN connection makes them completely anonymous and unaffected by malware. This leads to the false belief they are untouchable on the internet. This is obviously not the case, as malware often gets onto your computer by doing something that you shouldn’t – regardless of your connection.

Even with a strongly encrypted and stable VPN-connection, you can still:

  • Be followed across the web by advertisers, trackers, hackers, intelligence agencies, and so on (although to a much lesser degree than without a VPN).
  • Fall prey to phishing attacks by clicking on malicious links in emails or messages.
  • Get infected with some type of malware by downloading malicious files or visiting dodgy websites.
  • Get locked out of certain networks, databases, deep web pages, and so on.

VPNs make sure that your data is encrypted, your IP address is hidden, and that you can gain access to content that was previously blocked in your region. However, if a skilled hacker or an intelligence agency wants to track you down, there are other ways of identifying you besides your IP address; your IP is only the first clue they might look for. As such, a VPN connection is anything but a license to participate in derogatory, illegal, or reckless behavior on the internet. Always use your common sense and be careful.

8. Free VPNs: sometimes worse than none at all

Free VPNs to avoid iconEveryone likes to get something for free, which is why some people choose to try out a free VPN service before paying for one. Unfortunately, many free VPN providers are not concerned with protecting your privacy and anonymity online, but just want to make money.

A prime example is Hola VPN, a VPN service you should think twice about using. These kinds of VPNs aren’t in the business of selling a VPN service. Rather, they sell your personal data to third parties. This is in contrast to VPN providers with a subscription model, which make money from monthly user fees.

This is another reason why paid-for VPN providers are much safer and more secure. With a free VPN provider, your data could end up in the hands of advertisers, or worse. If your choice is between a bad, free VPN and no VPN, you’re better off not having any VPN service at all. Instead you should install an Adblocker along with other security features.

Many free VPN providers also have data limits, speed limits, advertisements, and download restrictions. Due to these limitations, it’s simply not an enjoyable experience. What’s more, many free VPN apps aren’t safe, as they have spyware or malware hidden away in the download file.

The bottom line is, be careful if you decide to try out any free VPN services. Before you make your choice, please check our top free VPN providers article. The VPNs mentioned in this article are all trustworthy, even if they do come with limitations. One free VPN that has our stamp of approval is PrivadoVPN.

What are the Advantages of a VPN?

While some of the disadvantages above might have given you cause for concern, the truth is that there are more pros than cons to using a VPN. For example, you can access blocked websites in your region, increase your anonymity online, and protect your data with encryption.

What’s more, most of the disadvantages of a VPN are cancelled out when you choose a fast, reliable, and trustworthy provider. NordVPN and ExpressVPN, for example, do not capture any logs, are lightning fast, and offer excellent speeds across thousands of servers. Essentially, VPNs are the perfect tool for increasing your personal freedom, privacy, and security online. For more information, check out this full article on the advantages of using a VPN.

What is the Best VPN?

Best VPN iconIf you’re simply looking for a high-quality VPN and want to avoid many of the potential disadvantages, it’s worth investing in a VPN service like ExpressVPN. It’s not the cheapest provider, but you get a great service and excellent customer support in return. That’s why it’s our preferred VPN right now.

What’s more, if you’re not completely sold on its benefits in the first 30 days, there’s a reliable money-back guarantee. If you want to download ExpressVPN, simply head over to their official website and follow the simple steps below to download their software:

Installing ExpressVPN Step by Step Desktop

Great discount on annual subscription + 30-day money-back guarantee!
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN

If you’re interested in seeing some other highly-praised VPNs, check out our up-to-date list of the best VPNs. You’ll also find a quick-reference guide on how to download a VPN in 3 easy steps right here.

Alternatively, to weigh up the pros and cons of each VPN provider, read some of our reviews on the best VPN providers. We’ve done all the legwork for you so you can quickly and easily see the advantages and disadvantages of each VPN. 

Final Thoughts on the Disadvantages of a VPN

The main disadvantages of a VPN can be frustrating to deal with, but they don’t necessarily affect most users. The truth is, most problems are encountered when using free or bad quality VPN services.

For example, while VPNs can result in slower connections, it’s possible that your connection speed could increase after connecting to a VPN provider. This can happen when your ISP throttles – slows down – your connection due to overuse. However, as a VPN service encrypts your data and masks your IP address, you’re far less likely to be affected. In this scenario, your connection is both safer and faster.

Also, while some websites and services block VPN connections, this isn’t always a problem. Take Netflix for example: they can’t and don’t block all VPN servers. So, while some VPNs won’t work with Netflix, others have fast and easy access to the streaming service from countries across the globe.

In summary, while there are definitely some potential disadvantages to using a VPN service, many of these likely won’t affect you if you’re using a quality provider. This is why it’s so important to compare VPN providers and take into account all of the advantages and disadvantages of using a VPN.

The Disdvantages of a VPN: Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re looking for more information on the disadvantages of a VPN, check out some of our most frequently asked questions below.

The internet can be a dangerous place, so you’re right to do your due diligence before downloading a VPN. Here’s a quick summary of the main disadvantages of a VPN:

  • With some VPNs, your connection can be slower.
  • Certain websites block VPN users.
  • VPNs are illegal or questionable in certain countries.
  • There’s no way of knowing how well a VPN encrypts your data.
  • Some VPNs log and sell browsing data to third parties.
  • You might suffer connection breaks.
  • VPNs can give you a false sense of online impunity.
  • Free VPNs can often be worse than no VPN at all.

For more information on each of these drawbacks, see our full article on the disadvantages of a VPN.

There are lots of advantages to using a VPN. Here’s just a quick summary of a few of the benefits:

  • VPNs encrypt your data, giving you more security when using public Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • They allow you to bypass regional website blocks and get greater freedom online.
  • They increase anonymity by changing your IP address to one not tied to your real identity.

For a more detailed breakdown, take a look at our full article on the advantages of a VPN.

Right now, our preferred VPN provider is ExpressVPN. While it’s not the cheapest VPN service, they offer a huge range of servers and fast connections. Other high-quality VPN providers include:

  • CyberGhost
  • Surfshark
  • NordVPN

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of the best VPNs, check out our breakdown of the best VPN providers of 2021.

Cybersecurity journalist
Chris is a tech journalist with many years' experience covering the latest news in online privacy and cybersecurity. He's also a published author and works as a Product Manager for some of the most innovative software development companies.
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  1. Is it possible to turn off the VPN if you are being blocked from certain websites or having trouble sending emails?

    • You can turn the VPN on and off as you please, so that wouldn’t be a problem. Also, some VPNs have the option for ‘split tunneling‘ also known as ‘whitelisting’. This option allows you to choose whether you want to connect to a site using your regular connection or the VPN’s connection when using the VPN.

  2. I recently installed ExpressVPN and Bitdefender for antivirus protection. Bitdefender comes with its own VPN but I did not want to enable it. After installing on iOS device I could not enable security and continue to use my ExpressVPN. It disables ExpressVPN and prompts you to use Bitdefender VPN. Is there a good option for antivirus software that works well with existing VPN across PC, Mac, iOS, and Android?

    • We’ve been using Bitdefender together with ExpressVPN without problems, maybe it has something to do with the settings on your iOS device? Perhaps it’s trying to default to the Bitdefender VPN for some reason. Maybe one of our readers has the answer, or you could ask ExpressVPN’s support.

  3. Hello, I am looking at subscribing for a VPN simply for streaming occasionally foreign TV from the Uk and from France to UK TV say. So small user. Are you able to give me any advice please?

    Many thanks, Mrs BP

    • In this case it’s probably best to go for a cheaper VPN (seeing as you’re not going to be a heavy user) that’s also good at unblocking and streaming. We could recommend either CyberGhost or Surfshark in this case.

  4. Hello, I noticed that you rated VPN-only providers. What about bundled providers where VPN is one of the services? In my case, specifically Bitdefender.

    • We haven’t tested most of these bundled providers because, usually, they offer way less in terms of options and servers than VPN-only providers. On top of that, the focus of these companies (such as Bitdefender), is different from VPNs that provide privacy and unblocking. Usually, this means that they are situated in countries that are not necessarily privacy-focussed, which also poses a problem in terms of keeping logs. Their business is not privacy-related, so the services they provide that focus on privacy are not as good as the services VPN-providers provide that focus solely on privacy.

  5. While VPNs can provide some level of privacy, if you go to a bad website, doesn’t a VPN still provide a connection back to your computer for a bad actor to potentially try to do something harmful? Can/does a VPN prevent man in the middle attacks – or any other type of attack for that matter, or is a user still susceptible to everything they’d normally be exposed to with a regular browser page load?

    • A VPN helps against MiTM attacks to some extent because it encrypts and anonymizes the data between your device and the VPN-server. This ensures protection against attacks aimed at specific users or attacks performed by ISPs or network admins. This means that only general MiTM attacks to visitors of a specific website could work.

  6. Slow internet connection while using VPN is one of the drawback which I have experienced myself. I think it’s maybe due to using a free VPN. Correct me if I am wrong.

    • That could definitely be the case. Since a VPN redirects your internet traffic via an exteral server, using a VPN could slow down your connection. However, there are many good premium VPNs out there that offer stable and fast connections, anyway. Most free VPNs aren’t capable of offering such services. Moreover, many free VPN services enforce speed limits or have servers that become too crowded at times, so using a free VPN could definitely slow down your internet connection significantly.

  7. I installed VPN offered by my antivirus security system a few months ago. However I noticed I could not send any emails while VPN was switched on. I could receive emails, but just not send them. The moment I turned off VPN I could send emails again. This was so bothersome that I cancelled my VPN for a refund. Could you comment please.

    • Hi George,
      In some cases, emailing indeed gets more difficult when you use a VPN. Certain email providers, such as Gmail, treat shared IP addresses from VPN servers differently from a ‘normal’ IP address. Usually, this means your emails will take longer to arrive or end up in a spam folder. It seems that your email provider is blocking your emails entirely. One way to solve this, is to get a dedicated IP address. You can read more about dedicated IP addresses in this article. A VPN provider that offers these addresses and has lots of extra features that might help you out in the future, is NordVPN. If you’re considering getting a different VPN, you might want to check them out!

  8. Hello.

    Thank you for your post. In case my internet connection gets even faster after connecting to a VPN provider, will my MB or GB finish faster?

    If for example i have 5 GB to use as wifi and, with normal usage, it takes me 1 week to use all, will it now finish faster in this case ?

    Thank you

    • Good question! The only thing a VPN will do if it increases your internet speed, is make the websites you visit load faster. This means you will only go through your MBs or GBs faster if you actually visit more websites, use apps for a longer time, and so on. If you do the exact same things online with a VPN as you’d do without, you’ll have used exactly as much data. The only change is that your loading times will be less.

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